Part 10 out of 15
"I merely wanted to ask if you'd do me the honour of supping with me
She looked at him with amazement, and hesitated for a while. She saw he
"I don't mind."
He was amused that she should use a phrase he had heard so often on
Mildred's lips. He took her to one of the restaurants he had been in the
habit of going to with Mildred. He noticed as they walked along that she
looked down at his limb.
"I've got a club-foot," he said. "Have you any objection?"
"You are a cure," she laughed.
When he got home his bones were aching, and in his head there was a
hammering that made him nearly scream. He took another whiskey and soda to
steady himself, and going to bed sank into a dreamless sleep till mid-day.
At last Monday came, and Philip thought his long torture was over. Looking
out the trains he found that the latest by which Griffiths could reach
home that night left Oxford soon after one, and he supposed that Mildred
would take one which started a few minutes later to bring her to London.
His desire was to go and meet it, but he thought Mildred would like to be
left alone for a day; perhaps she would drop him a line in the evening to
say she was back, and if not he would call at her lodgings next morning:
his spirit was cowed. He felt a bitter hatred for Griffiths, but for
Mildred, notwithstanding all that had passed, only a heart-rending desire.
He was glad now that Hayward was not in London on Saturday afternoon when,
distraught, he went in search of human comfort: he could not have
prevented himself from telling him everything, and Hayward would have been
astonished at his weakness. He would despise him, and perhaps be shocked
or disgusted that he could envisage the possibility of making Mildred his
mistress after she had given herself to another man. What did he care if
it was shocking or disgusting? He was ready for any compromise, prepared
for more degrading humiliations still, if he could only gratify his
Towards the evening his steps took him against his will to the house in
which she lived, and he looked up at her window. It was dark. He did not
venture to ask if she was back. He was confident in her promise. But there
was no letter from her in the morning, and, when about mid-day he called,
the maid told him she had not arrived. He could not understand it. He knew
that Griffiths would have been obliged to go home the day before, for he
was to be best man at a wedding, and Mildred had no money. He turned over
in his mind every possible thing that might have happened. He went again
in the afternoon and left a note, asking her to dine with him that evening
as calmly as though the events of the last fortnight had not happened. He
mentioned the place and time at which they were to meet, and hoping
against hope kept the appointment: though he waited for an hour she did
not come. On Wednesday morning he was ashamed to ask at the house and sent
a messenger-boy with a letter and instructions to bring back a reply; but
in an hour the boy came back with Philip's letter unopened and the answer
that the lady had not returned from the country. Philip was beside
himself. The last deception was more than he could bear. He repeated to
himself over and over again that he loathed Mildred, and, ascribing to
Griffiths this new disappointment, he hated him so much that he knew what
was the delight of murder: he walked about considering what a joy it would
be to come upon him on a dark night and stick a knife into his throat,
just about the carotid artery, and leave him to die in the street like a
dog. Philip was out of his senses with grief and rage. He did not like
whiskey, but he drank to stupefy himself. He went to bed drunk on the
Tuesday and on the Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning he got up very late and dragged himself, blear-eyed
and sallow, into his sitting-room to see if there were any letters. A
curious feeling shot through his heart when he recognised the handwriting
Dear old man:
I hardly know how to write to you and yet I feel I must write. I hope
you're not awfully angry with me. I know I oughtn't to have gone away with
Milly, but I simply couldn't help myself. She simply carried me off my
feet and I would have done anything to get her. When she told me you had
offered us the money to go I simply couldn't resist. And now it's all over
I'm awfully ashamed of myself and I wish I hadn't been such a fool. I wish
you'd write and say you're not angry with me, and I want you to let me
come and see you. I was awfully hurt at your telling Milly you didn't want
to see me. Do write me a line, there's a good chap, and tell me you
forgive me. It'll ease my conscience. I thought you wouldn't mind or you
wouldn't have offered the money. But I know I oughtn't to have taken it.
I came home on Monday and Milly wanted to stay a couple of days at Oxford
by herself. She's going back to London on Wednesday, so by the time you
receive this letter you will have seen her and I hope everything will go
off all right. Do write and say you forgive me. Please write at once.
Philip tore up the letter furiously. He did not mean to answer it. He
despised Griffiths for his apologies, he had no patience with his
prickings of conscience: one could do a dastardly thing if one chose, but
it was contemptible to regret it afterwards. He thought the letter
cowardly and hypocritical. He was disgusted at its sentimentality.
"It would be very easy if you could do a beastly thing," he muttered to
himself, "and then say you were sorry, and that put it all right again."
He hoped with all his heart he would have the chance one day to do
Griffiths a bad turn.
But at all events he knew that Mildred was in town. He dressed hurriedly,
not waiting to shave, drank a cup of tea, and took a cab to her rooms. The
cab seemed to crawl. He was painfully anxious to see her, and
unconsciously he uttered a prayer to the God he did not believe in to make
her receive him kindly. He only wanted to forget. With beating heart he
rang the bell. He forgot all his suffering in the passionate desire to
enfold her once more in his arms.
"Is Mrs. Miller in?" he asked joyously.
"She's gone," the maid answered.
He looked at her blankly.
"She came about an hour ago and took away her things."
For a moment he did not know what to say.
"Did you give her my letter? Did she say where she was going?"
Then he understood that Mildred had deceived him again. She was not coming
back to him. He made an effort to save his face.
"Oh, well, I daresay I shall hear from her. She may have sent a letter to
He turned away and went back hopeless to his rooms. He might have known
that she would do this; she had never cared for him, she had made a fool
of him from the beginning; she had no pity, she had no kindness, she had
no charity. The only thing was to accept the inevitable. The pain he was
suffering was horrible, he would sooner be dead than endure it; and the
thought came to him that it would be better to finish with the whole
thing: he might throw himself in the river or put his neck on a railway
line; but he had no sooner set the thought into words than he rebelled
against it. His reason told him that he would get over his unhappiness in
time; if he tried with all his might he could forget her; and it would be
grotesque to kill himself on account of a vulgar slut. He had only one
life, and it was madness to fling it away. He FELT that he would never
overcome his passion, but he KNEW that after all it was only a matter
He would not stay in London. There everything reminded him of his
unhappiness. He telegraphed to his uncle that he was coming to
Blackstable, and, hurrying to pack, took the first train he could. He
wanted to get away from the sordid rooms in which he had endured so much
suffering. He wanted to breathe clean air. He was disgusted with himself.
He felt that he was a little mad.
Since he was grown up Philip had been given the best spare room at the
vicarage. It was a corner-room and in front of one window was an old tree
which blocked the view, but from the other you saw, beyond the garden and
the vicarage field, broad meadows. Philip remembered the wall-paper from
his earliest years. On the walls were quaint water colours of the early
Victorian period by a friend of the Vicar's youth. They had a faded charm.
The dressing-table was surrounded by stiff muslin. There was an old
tall-boy to put your clothes in. Philip gave a sigh of pleasure; he had
never realised that all those things meant anything to him at all. At the
vicarage life went on as it had always done. No piece of furniture had
been moved from one place to another; the Vicar ate the same things, said
the same things, went for the same walk every day; he had grown a little
fatter, a little more silent, a little more narrow. He had become
accustomed to living without his wife and missed her very little. He
bickered still with Josiah Graves. Philip went to see the churchwarden. He
was a little thinner, a little whiter, a little more austere; he was
autocratic still and still disapproved of candles on the altar. The shops
had still a pleasant quaintness; and Philip stood in front of that in
which things useful to seamen were sold, sea-boots and tarpaulins and
tackle, and remembered that he had felt there in his childhood the thrill
of the sea and the adventurous magic of the unknown.
He could not help his heart beating at each double knock of the postman in
case there might be a letter from Mildred sent on by his landlady in
London; but he knew that there would be none. Now that he could think it
out more calmly he understood that in trying to force Mildred to love him
he had been attempting the impossible. He did not know what it was that
passed from a man to a woman, from a woman to a man, and made one of them
a slave: it was convenient to call it the sexual instinct; but if it was
no more than that, he did not understand why it should occasion so
vehement an attraction to one person rather than another. It was
irresistible: the mind could not battle with it; friendship, gratitude,
interest, had no power beside it. Because he had not attracted Mildred
sexually, nothing that he did had any effect upon her. The idea revolted
him; it made human nature beastly; and he felt suddenly that the hearts of
men were full of dark places. Because Mildred was indifferent to him he
had thought her sexless; her anaemic appearance and thin lips, the body
with its narrow hips and flat chest, the languor of her manner, carried
out his supposition; and yet she was capable of sudden passions which made
her willing to risk everything to gratify them. He had never understood
her adventure with Emil Miller: it had seemed so unlike her, and she had
never been able to explain it; but now that he had seen her with Griffiths
he knew that just the same thing had happened then: she had been carried
off her feet by an ungovernable desire. He tried to think out what those
two men had which so strangely attracted her. They both had a vulgar
facetiousness which tickled her simple sense of humour, and a certain
coarseness of nature; but what took her perhaps was the blatant sexuality
which was their most marked characteristic. She had a genteel refinement
which shuddered at the facts of life, she looked upon the bodily functions
as indecent, she had all sorts of euphemisms for common objects, she
always chose an elaborate word as more becoming than a simple one: the
brutality of these men was like a whip on her thin white shoulders, and
she shuddered with voluptuous pain.
One thing Philip had made up his mind about. He would not go back to the
lodgings in which he had suffered. He wrote to his landlady and gave her
notice. He wanted to have his own things about him. He determined to take
unfurnished rooms: it would be pleasant and cheaper; and this was an
urgent consideration, for during the last year and a half he had spent
nearly seven hundred pounds. He must make up for it now by the most rigid
economy. Now and then he thought of the future with panic; he had been a
fool to spend so much money on Mildred; but he knew that if it were to
come again he would act in the same way. It amused him sometimes to
consider that his friends, because he had a face which did not express his
feelings very vividly and a rather slow way of moving, looked upon him as
strong-minded, deliberate, and cool. They thought him reasonable and
praised his common sense; but he knew that his placid expression was no
more than a mask, assumed unconsciously, which acted like the protective
colouring of butterflies; and himself was astonished at the weakness of
his will. It seemed to him that he was swayed by every light emotion, as
though he were a leaf in the wind, and when passion seized him he was
powerless. He had no self-control. He merely seemed to possess it because
he was indifferent to many of the things which moved other people.
He considered with some irony the philosophy which he had developed for
himself, for it had not been of much use to him in the conjuncture he had
passed through; and he wondered whether thought really helped a man in any
of the critical affairs of life: it seemed to him rather that he was
swayed by some power alien to and yet within himself, which urged him like
that great wind of Hell which drove Paolo and Francesca ceaselessly on. He
thought of what he was going to do and, when the time came to act, he was
powerless in the grasp of instincts, emotions, he knew not what. He acted
as though he were a machine driven by the two forces of his environment
and his personality; his reason was someone looking on, observing the
facts but powerless to interfere: it was like those gods of Epicurus, who
saw the doings of men from their empyrean heights and had no might to
alter one smallest particle of what occurred.
Philip went up to London a couple of days before the session began in
order to find himself rooms. He hunted about the streets that led out of
the Westminster Bridge Road, but their dinginess was distasteful to him;
and at last he found one in Kennington which had a quiet and old-world
air. It reminded one a little of the London which Thackeray knew on that
side of the river, and in the Kennington Road, through which the great
barouche of the Newcomes must have passed as it drove the family to the
West of London, the plane-trees were bursting into leaf. The houses in the
street which Philip fixed upon were two-storied, and in most of the
windows was a notice to state that lodgings were to let. He knocked at one
which announced that the lodgings were unfurnished, and was shown by an
austere, silent woman four very small rooms, in one of which there was a
kitchen range and a sink. The rent was nine shillings a week. Philip did
not want so many rooms, but the rent was low and he wished to settle down
at once. He asked the landlady if she could keep the place clean for him
and cook his breakfast, but she replied that she had enough work to do
without that; and he was pleased rather than otherwise because she
intimated that she wished to have nothing more to do with him than to
receive his rent. She told him that, if he inquired at the grocer's round
the corner, which was also a post office, he might hear of a woman who
would `do' for him.
Philip had a little furniture which he had gathered as he went along, an
arm-chair that he had bought in Paris, and a table, a few drawings, and
the small Persian rug which Cronshaw had given him. His uncle had offered
a fold-up bed for which, now that he no longer let his house in August, he
had no further use; and by spending another ten pounds Philip bought
himself whatever else was essential. He spent ten shillings on putting a
corn-coloured paper in the room he was making his parlour; and he hung on
the walls a sketch which Lawson had given him of the Quai des Grands
Augustins, and the photograph of the Odalisque by Ingres and Manet's
Olympia which in Paris had been the objects of his contemplation while
he shaved. To remind himself that he too had once been engaged in the
practice of art, he put up a charcoal drawing of the young Spaniard Miguel
Ajuria: it was the best thing he had ever done, a nude standing with
clenched hands, his feet gripping the floor with a peculiar force, and on
his face that air of determination which had been so impressive; and
though Philip after the long interval saw very well the defects of his
work its associations made him look upon it with tolerance. He wondered
what had happened to Miguel. There is nothing so terrible as the pursuit
of art by those who have no talent. Perhaps, worn out by exposure,
starvation, disease, he had found an end in some hospital, or in an access
of despair had sought death in the turbid Seine; but perhaps with his
Southern instability he had given up the struggle of his own accord, and
now, a clerk in some office in Madrid, turned his fervent rhetoric to
politics and bull-fighting.
Philip asked Lawson and Hayward to come and see his new rooms, and they
came, one with a bottle of whiskey, the other with a pate de foie gras;
and he was delighted when they praised his taste. He would have invited
the Scotch stockbroker too, but he had only three chairs, and thus could
entertain only a definite number of guests. Lawson was aware that through
him Philip had become very friendly with Norah Nesbit and now remarked
that he had run across her a few days before.
"She was asking how you were."
Philip flushed at the mention of her name (he could not get himself out of
the awkward habit of reddening when he was embarrassed), and Lawson looked
at him quizzically. Lawson, who now spent most of the year in London, had
so far surrendered to his environment as to wear his hair short and to
dress himself in a neat serge suit and a bowler hat.
"I gather that all is over between you," he said.
"I've not seen her for months."
"She was looking rather nice. She had a very smart hat on with a lot of
white ostrich feathers on it. She must be doing pretty well."
Philip changed the conversation, but he kept thinking of her, and after an
interval, when the three of them were talking of something else, he asked
"Did you gather that Norah was angry with me?"
"Not a bit. She talked very nicely of you."
"I've got half a mind to go and see her."
"She won't eat you."
Philip had thought of Norah often. When Mildred left him his first thought
was of her, and he told himself bitterly that she would never have treated
him so. His impulse was to go to her; he could depend on her pity; but he
was ashamed: she had been good to him always, and he had treated her
"If I'd only had the sense to stick to her!" he said to himself,
afterwards, when Lawson and Hayward had gone and he was smoking a last
pipe before going to bed.
He remembered the pleasant hours they had spent together in the cosy
sitting-room in Vincent Square, their visits to galleries and to the play,
and the charming evenings of intimate conversation. He recollected her
solicitude for his welfare and her interest in all that concerned him. She
had loved him with a love that was kind and lasting, there was more than
sensuality in it, it was almost maternal; he had always known that it was
a precious thing for which with all his soul he should thank the gods. He
made up his mind to throw himself on her mercy. She must have suffered
horribly, but he felt she had the greatness of heart to forgive him: she
was incapable of malice. Should he write to her? No. He would break in on
her suddenly and cast himself at her feet--he knew that when the time came
he would feel too shy to perform such a dramatic gesture, but that was how
he liked to think of it--and tell her that if she would take him back she
might rely on him for ever. He was cured of the hateful disease from which
he had suffered, he knew her worth, and now she might trust him. His
imagination leaped forward to the future. He pictured himself rowing with
her on the river on Sundays; he would take her to Greenwich, he had never
forgotten that delightful excursion with Hayward, and the beauty of the
Port of London remained a permanent treasure in his recollection; and on
the warm summer afternoons they would sit in the Park together and talk:
he laughed to himself as he remembered her gay chatter, which poured out
like a brook bubbling over little stones, amusing, flippant, and full of
character. The agony he had suffered would pass from his mind like a bad
But when next day, about tea-time, an hour at which he was pretty certain
to find Norah at home, he knocked at her door his courage suddenly failed
him. Was it possible for her to forgive him? It would be abominable of him
to force himself on her presence. The door was opened by a maid new since
he had been in the habit of calling every day, and he inquired if Mrs.
Nesbit was in.
"Will you ask her if she could see Mr. Carey?" he said. "I'll wait here."
The maid ran upstairs and in a moment clattered down again.
"Will you step up, please, sir. Second floor front."
"I know," said Philip, with a slight smile.
He went with a fluttering heart. He knocked at the door.
"Come in," said the well-known, cheerful voice.
It seemed to say come in to a new life of peace and happiness. When he
entered Norah stepped forward to greet him. She shook hands with him as if
they had parted the day before. A man stood up.
"Mr. Carey--Mr. Kingsford."
Philip, bitterly disappointed at not finding her alone, sat down and took
stock of the stranger. He had never heard her mention his name, but he
seemed to Philip to occupy his chair as though he were very much at home.
He was a man of forty, clean-shaven, with long fair hair very neatly
plastered down, and the reddish skin and pale, tired eyes which fair men
get when their youth is passed. He had a large nose, a large mouth; the
bones of his face were prominent, and he was heavily made; he was a man of
more than average height, and broad-shouldered.
"I was wondering what had become of you," said Norah, in her sprightly
manner. "I met Mr. Lawson the other day--did he tell you?--and I informed
him that it was really high time you came to see me again."
Philip could see no shadow of embarrassment in her countenance, and he
admired the use with which she carried off an encounter of which himself
felt the intense awkwardness. She gave him tea. She was about to put sugar
in it when he stopped her.
"How stupid of me!" she cried. "I forgot."
He did not believe that. She must remember quite well that he never took
sugar in his tea. He accepted the incident as a sign that her nonchalance
The conversation which Philip had interrupted went on, and presently he
began to feel a little in the way. Kingsford took no particular notice of
him. He talked fluently and well, not without humour, but with a slightly
dogmatic manner: he was a journalist, it appeared, and had something
amusing to say on every topic that was touched upon; but it exasperated
Philip to find himself edged out of the conversation. He was determined to
stay the visitor out. He wondered if he admired Norah. In the old days
they had often talked of the men who wanted to flirt with her and had
laughed at them together. Philip tried to bring back the conversation to
matters which only he and Norah knew about, but each time the journalist
broke in and succeeded in drawing it away to a subject upon which Philip
was forced to be silent. He grew faintly angry with Norah, for she must
see he was being made ridiculous; but perhaps she was inflicting this upon
him as a punishment, and with this thought he regained his good humour. At
last, however, the clock struck six, and Kingsford got up.
"I must go," he said.
Norah shook hands with him, and accompanied him to the landing. She shut
the door behind her and stood outside for a couple of minutes. Philip
wondered what they were talking about.
"Who is Mr. Kingsford?" he asked cheerfully, when she returned.
"Oh, he's the editor of one of Harmsworth's Magazines. He's been taking a
good deal of my work lately."
"I thought he was never going."
"I'm glad you stayed. I wanted to have a talk with you." She curled
herself into the large arm-chair, feet and all, in a way her small size
made possible, and lit a cigarette. He smiled when he saw her assume the
attitude which had always amused him.
"You look just like a cat."
She gave him a flash of her dark, fine eyes.
"I really ought to break myself of the habit. It's absurd to behave like
a child when you're my age, but I'm comfortable with my legs under me."
"It's awfully jolly to be sitting in this room again," said Philip
happily. "You don't know how I've missed it."
"Why on earth didn't you come before?" she asked gaily.
"I was afraid to," he said, reddening.
She gave him a look full of kindness. Her lips outlined a charming smile.
"You needn't have been."
He hesitated for a moment. His heart beat quickly.
"D'you remember the last time we met? I treated you awfully badly--I'm
dreadfully ashamed of myself."
She looked at him steadily. She did not answer. He was losing his head; he
seemed to have come on an errand of which he was only now realising the
outrageousness. She did not help him, and he could only blurt out bluntly.
"Can you ever forgive me?"
Then impetuously he told her that Mildred had left him and that his
unhappiness had been so great that he almost killed himself. He told her
of all that had happened between them, of the birth of the child, and of
the meeting with Griffiths, of his folly and his trust and his immense
deception. He told her how often he had thought of her kindness and of her
love, and how bitterly he had regretted throwing it away: he had only been
happy when he was with her, and he knew now how great was her worth. His
voice was hoarse with emotion. Sometimes he was so ashamed of what he was
saying that he spoke with his eyes fixed on the ground. His face was
distorted with pain, and yet he felt it a strange relief to speak. At last
he finished. He flung himself back in his chair, exhausted, and waited. He
had concealed nothing, and even, in his self-abasement, he had striven to
make himself more despicable than he had really been. He was surprised
that she did not speak, and at last he raised his eyes. She was not
looking at him. Her face was quite white, and she seemed to be lost in
"Haven't you got anything to say to me?"
She started and reddened.
"I'm afraid you've had a rotten time," she said. "I'm dreadfully sorry."
She seemed about to go on, but she stopped, and again he waited. At length
she seemed to force herself to speak.
"I'm engaged to be married to Mr. Kingsford."
"Why didn't you tell me at once?" he cried. "You needn't have allowed me
to humiliate myself before you."
"I'm sorry, I couldn't stop you.... I met him soon after you"--she seemed
to search for an expression that should not wound him--"told me your
friend had come back. I was very wretched for a bit, he was extremely kind
to me. He knew someone had made me suffer, of course he doesn't know it
was you, and I don't know what I should have done without him. And
suddenly I felt I couldn't go on working, working, working; I was so
tired, I felt so ill. I told him about my husband. He offered to give me
the money to get my divorce if I would marry him as soon as I could. He
had a very good job, and it wouldn't be necessary for me to do anything
unless I wanted to. He was so fond of me and so anxious to take care of
me. I was awfully touched. And now I'm very, very fond of him."
"Have you got your divorce then?" asked Philip.
"I've got the decree nisi. It'll be made absolute in July, and then we are
going to be married at once."
For some time Philip did not say anything.
"I wish I hadn't made such a fool of myself," he muttered at length.
He was thinking of his long, humiliating confession. She looked at him
"You were never really in love with me," she said.
"It's not very pleasant being in love."
But he was always able to recover himself quickly, and, getting up now and
holding out his hand, he said:
"I hope you'll be very happy. After all, it's the best thing that could
have happened to you."
She looked a little wistfully at him as she took his hand and held it.
"You'll come and see me again, won't you?" she asked.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "It would make me too envious to see you
He walked slowly away from her house. After all she was right when she
said he had never loved her. He was disappointed, irritated even, but his
vanity was more affected than his heart. He knew that himself. And
presently he grew conscious that the gods had played a very good practical
joke on him, and he laughed at himself mirthlessly. It is not very
comfortable to have the gift of being amused at one's own absurdity.
For the next three months Philip worked on subjects which were new to him.
The unwieldy crowd which had entered the Medical School nearly two years
before had thinned out: some had left the hospital, finding the
examinations more difficult to pass than they expected, some had been
taken away by parents who had not foreseen the expense of life in London,
and some had drifted away to other callings. One youth whom Philip knew
had devised an ingenious plan to make money; he had bought things at sales
and pawned them, but presently found it more profitable to pawn goods
bought on credit; and it had caused a little excitement at the hospital
when someone pointed out his name in police-court proceedings. There had
been a remand, then assurances on the part of a harassed father, and the
young man had gone out to bear the White Man's Burden overseas. The
imagination of another, a lad who had never before been in a town at all,
fell to the glamour of music-halls and bar parlours; he spent his time
among racing-men, tipsters, and trainers, and now was become a
book-maker's clerk. Philip had seen him once in a bar near Piccadilly
Circus in a tight-waisted coat and a brown hat with a broad, flat brim. A
third, with a gift for singing and mimicry, who had achieved success at
the smoking concerts of the Medical School by his imitation of notorious
comedians, had abandoned the hospital for the chorus of a musical comedy.
Still another, and he interested Philip because his uncouth manner and
interjectional speech did not suggest that he was capable of any deep
emotion, had felt himself stifle among the houses of London. He grew
haggard in shut-in spaces, and the soul he knew not he possessed struggled
like a sparrow held in the hand, with little frightened gasps and a quick
palpitation of the heart: he yearned for the broad skies and the open,
desolate places among which his childhood had been spent; and he walked
off one day, without a word to anybody, between one lecture and another;
and the next thing his friends heard was that he had thrown up medicine
and was working on a farm.
Philip attended now lectures on medicine and on surgery. On certain
mornings in the week he practised bandaging on out-patients glad to earn
a little money, and he was taught auscultation and how to use the
stethoscope. He learned dispensing. He was taking the examination in
Materia Medica in July, and it amused him to play with various drugs,
concocting mixtures, rolling pills, and making ointments. He seized avidly
upon anything from which he could extract a suggestion of human interest.
He saw Griffiths once in the distance, but, not to have the pain of
cutting him dead, avoided him. Philip had felt a certain
self-consciousness with Griffiths' friends, some of whom were now friends
of his, when he realised they knew of his quarrel with Griffiths and
surmised they were aware of the reason. One of them, a very tall fellow,
with a small head and a languid air, a youth called Ramsden, who was one
of Griffiths' most faithful admirers, copied his ties, his boots, his
manner of talking and his gestures, told Philip that Griffiths was very
much hurt because Philip had not answered his letter. He wanted to be
reconciled with him.
"Has he asked you to give me the message?" asked Philip.
"Oh, no. I'm saying this entirely on my own," said Ramsden. "He's awfully
sorry for what he did, and he says you always behaved like a perfect brick
to him. I know he'd be glad to make it up. He doesn't come to the hospital
because he's afraid of meeting you, and he thinks you'd cut him."
"It makes him feel rather wretched, you know."
"I can bear the trifling inconvenience that he feels with a good deal of
fortitude," said Philip.
"He'll do anything he can to make it up."
"How childish and hysterical! Why should he care? I'm a very insignificant
person, and he can do very well without my company. I'm not interested in
him any more."
Ramsden thought Philip hard and cold. He paused for a moment or two,
looking about him in a perplexed way.
"Harry wishes to God he'd never had anything to do with the woman."
"Does he?" asked Philip.
He spoke with an indifference which he was satisfied with. No one could
have guessed how violently his heart was beating. He waited impatiently
for Ramsden to go on.
"I suppose you've quite got over it now, haven't you?"
"I?" said Philip. "Quite."
Little by little he discovered the history of Mildred's relations with
Griffiths. He listened with a smile on his lips, feigning an equanimity
which quite deceived the dull-witted boy who talked to him. The week-end
she spent with Griffiths at Oxford inflamed rather than extinguished her
sudden passion; and when Griffiths went home, with a feeling that was
unexpected in her she determined to stay in Oxford by herself for a couple
of days, because she had been so happy in it. She felt that nothing could
induce her to go back to Philip. He revolted her. Griffiths was taken
aback at the fire he had aroused, for he had found his two days with her
in the country somewhat tedious; and he had no desire to turn an amusing
episode into a tiresome affair. She made him promise to write to her, and,
being an honest, decent fellow, with natural politeness and a desire to
make himself pleasant to everybody, when he got home he wrote her a long
and charming letter. She answered it with reams of passion, clumsy, for
she had no gift of expression, ill-written, and vulgar; the letter bored
him, and when it was followed next day by another, and the day after by a
third, he began to think her love no longer flattering but alarming. He
did not answer; and she bombarded him with telegrams, asking him if he
were ill and had received her letters; she said his silence made her
dreadfully anxious. He was forced to write, but he sought to make his
reply as casual as was possible without being offensive: he begged her not
to wire, since it was difficult to explain telegrams to his mother, an
old-fashioned person for whom a telegram was still an event to excite
tremor. She answered by return of post that she must see him and announced
her intention to pawn things (she had the dressing-case which Philip had
given her as a wedding-present and could raise eight pounds on that) in
order to come up and stay at the market town four miles from which was the
village in which his father practised. This frightened Griffiths; and he,
this time, made use of the telegraph wires to tell her that she must do
nothing of the kind. He promised to let her know the moment he came up to
London, and, when he did, found that she had already been asking for him
at the hospital at which he had an appointment. He did not like this, and,
on seeing her, told Mildred that she was not to come there on any pretext;
and now, after an absence of three weeks, he found that she bored him
quite decidedly; he wondered why he had ever troubled about her, and made
up his mind to break with her as soon as he could. He was a person who
dreaded quarrels, nor did he want to give pain; but at the same time he
had other things to do, and he was quite determined not to let Mildred
bother him. When he met her he was pleasant, cheerful, amusing,
affectionate; he invented convincing excuses for the interval since last
he had seen her; but he did everything he could to avoid her. When she
forced him to make appointments he sent telegrams to her at the last
moment to put himself off; and his landlady (the first three months of his
appointment he was spending in rooms) had orders to say he was out when
Mildred called. She would waylay him in the street and, knowing she had
been waiting about for him to come out of the hospital for a couple of
hours, he would give her a few charming, friendly words and bolt off with
the excuse that he had a business engagement. He grew very skilful in
slipping out of the hospital unseen. Once, when he went back to his
lodgings at midnight, he saw a woman standing at the area railings and
suspecting who it was went to beg a shake-down in Ramsden's rooms; next
day the landlady told him that Mildred had sat crying on the doorsteps for
hours, and she had been obliged to tell her at last that if she did not go
away she would send for a policeman.
"I tell you, my boy," said Ramsden, "you're jolly well out of it. Harry
says that if he'd suspected for half a second she was going to make such
a blooming nuisance of herself he'd have seen himself damned before he had
anything to do with her."
Philip thought of her sitting on that doorstep through the long hours of
the night. He saw her face as she looked up dully at the landlady who sent
"I wonder what she's doing now."
"Oh, she's got a job somewhere, thank God. That keeps her busy all day."
The last thing he heard, just before the end of the summer session, was
that Griffiths, urbanity had given way at length under the exasperation of
the constant persecution. He had told Mildred that he was sick of being
pestered, and she had better take herself off and not bother him again.
"It was the only thing he could do," said Ramsden. "It was getting a bit
"Is it all over then?" asked Philip.
"Oh, he hasn't seen her for ten days. You know, Harry's wonderful at
dropping people. This is about the toughest nut he's ever had to crack,
but he's cracked it all right."
Then Philip heard nothing more of her at all. She vanished into the vast
anonymous mass of the population of London.
At the beginning of the winter session Philip became an out-patients'
clerk. There were three assistant-physicians who took out-patients, two
days a week each, and Philip put his name down for Dr. Tyrell. He was
popular with the students, and there was some competition to be his clerk.
Dr. Tyrell was a tall, thin man of thirty-five, with a very small head,
red hair cut short, and prominent blue eyes: his face was bright scarlet.
He talked well in a pleasant voice, was fond of a little joke, and treated
the world lightly. He was a successful man, with a large consulting
practice and a knighthood in prospect. From commerce with students and
poor people he had the patronising air, and from dealing always with the
sick he had the healthy man's jovial condescension, which some consultants
achieve as the professional manner. He made the patient feel like a boy
confronted by a jolly schoolmaster; his illness was an absurd piece of
naughtiness which amused rather than irritated.
The student was supposed to attend in the out-patients' room every day,
see cases, and pick up what information he could; but on the days on which
he clerked his duties were a little more definite. At that time the
out-patients' department at St. Luke's consisted of three rooms, leading
into one another, and a large, dark waiting-room with massive pillars of
masonry and long benches. Here the patients waited after having been given
their `letters' at mid-day; and the long rows of them, bottles and
gallipots in hand, some tattered and dirty, others decent enough, sitting
in the dimness, men and women of all ages, children, gave one an
impression which was weird and horrible. They suggested the grim drawings
of Daumier. All the rooms were painted alike, in salmon-colour with a high
dado of maroon; and there was in them an odour of disinfectants, mingling
as the afternoon wore on with the crude stench of humanity. The first room
was the largest and in the middle of it were a table and an office chair
for the physician; on each side of this were two smaller tables, a little
lower: at one of these sat the house-physician and at the other the clerk
who took the `book' for the day. This was a large volume in which were
written down the name, age, sex, profession, of the patient and the
diagnosis of his disease.
At half past one the house-physician came in, rang the bell, and told the
porter to send in the old patients. There were always a good many of
these, and it was necessary to get through as many of them as possible
before Dr. Tyrell came at two. The H.P. with whom Philip came in contact
was a dapper little man, excessively conscious of his importance: he
treated the clerks with condescension and patently resented the
familiarity of older students who had been his contemporaries and did not
use him with the respect he felt his present position demanded. He set
about the cases. A clerk helped him. The patients streamed in. The men
came first. Chronic bronchitis, "a nasty 'acking cough," was what they
chiefly suffered from; one went to the H.P. and the other to the clerk,
handing in their letters: if they were going on well the words Rep 14
were written on them, and they went to the dispensary with their bottles
or gallipots in order to have medicine given them for fourteen days more.
Some old stagers held back so that they might be seen by the physician
himself, but they seldom succeeded in this; and only three or four, whose
condition seemed to demand his attention, were kept.
Dr. Tyrell came in with quick movements and a breezy manner. He reminded
one slightly of a clown leaping into the arena of a circus with the cry:
Here we are again. His air seemed to indicate: What's all this nonsense
about being ill? I'll soon put that right. He took his seat, asked if
there were any old patients for him to see, rapidly passed them in review,
looking at them with shrewd eyes as he discussed their symptoms, cracked
a joke (at which all the clerks laughed heartily) with the H.P., who
laughed heartily too but with an air as if he thought it was rather
impudent for the clerks to laugh, remarked that it was a fine day or a hot
one, and rang the bell for the porter to show in the new patients.
They came in one by one and walked up to the table at which sat Dr.
Tyrell. They were old men and young men and middle-aged men, mostly of the
labouring class, dock labourers, draymen, factory hands, barmen; but some,
neatly dressed, were of a station which was obviously superior,
shop-assistants, clerks, and the like. Dr. Tyrell looked at these with
suspicion. Sometimes they put on shabby clothes in order to pretend they
were poor; but he had a keen eye to prevent what he regarded as fraud and
sometimes refused to see people who, he thought, could well pay for
medical attendance. Women were the worst offenders and they managed the
thing more clumsily. They would wear a cloak and a skirt which were almost
in rags, and neglect to take the rings off their fingers.
"If you can afford to wear jewellery you can afford a doctor. A hospital
is a charitable institution," said Dr. Tyrell.
He handed back the letter and called for the next case.
"But I've got my letter."
"I don't care a hang about your letter; you get out. You've got no
business to come and steal the time which is wanted by the really poor."
The patient retired sulkily, with an angry scowl.
"She'll probably write a letter to the papers on the gross mismanagement
of the London hospitals," said Dr. Tyrell, with a smile, as he took the
next paper and gave the patient one of his shrewd glances.
Most of them were under the impression that the hospital was an
institution of the state, for which they paid out of the rates, and took
the attendance they received as a right they could claim. They imagined
the physician who gave them his time was heavily paid.
Dr. Tyrell gave each of his clerks a case to examine. The clerk took the
patient into one of the inner rooms; they were smaller, and each had a
couch in it covered with black horse-hair: he asked his patient a variety
of questions, examined his lungs, his heart, and his liver, made notes of
fact on the hospital letter, formed in his own mind some idea of the
diagnosis, and then waited for Dr. Tyrell to come in. This he did,
followed by a small crowd of students, when he had finished the men, and
the clerk read out what he had learned. The physician asked him one or two
questions, and examined the patient himself. If there was anything
interesting to hear students applied their stethoscope: you would see a
man with two or three to the chest, and two perhaps to his back, while
others waited impatiently to listen. The patient stood among them a little
embarrassed, but not altogether displeased to find himself the centre of
attention: he listened confusedly while Dr. Tyrell discoursed glibly on
the case. Two or three students listened again to recognise the murmur or
the crepitation which the physician described, and then the man was told
to put on his clothes.
When the various cases had been examined Dr. Tyrell went back into the
large room and sat down again at his desk. He asked any student who
happened to be standing near him what he would prescribe for a patient he
had just seen. The student mentioned one or two drugs.
"Would you?" said Dr. Tyrell. "Well, that's original at all events. I
don't think we'll be rash."
This always made the students laugh, and with a twinkle of amusement at
his own bright humour the physician prescribed some other drug than that
which the student had suggested. When there were two cases of exactly the
same sort and the student proposed the treatment which the physician had
ordered for the first, Dr. Tyrell exercised considerable ingenuity in
thinking of something else. Sometimes, knowing that in the dispensary they
were worked off their legs and preferred to give the medicines which they
had all ready, the good hospital mixtures which had been found by the
experience of years to answer their purpose so well, he amused himself by
writing an elaborate prescription.
"We'll give the dispenser something to do. If we go on prescribing mist:
alb: he'll lose his cunning."
The students laughed, and the doctor gave them a circular glance of
enjoyment in his joke. Then he touched the bell and, when the porter poked
his head in, said:
"Old women, please."
He leaned back in his chair, chatting with the H.P. while the porter
herded along the old patients. They came in, strings of anaemic girls,
with large fringes and pallid lips, who could not digest their bad,
insufficient food; old ladies, fat and thin, aged prematurely by frequent
confinements, with winter coughs; women with this, that, and the other,
the matter with them. Dr. Tyrell and his house-physician got through them
quickly. Time was getting on, and the air in the small room was growing
more sickly. The physician looked at his watch.
"Are there many new women today?" he asked.
"A good few, I think," said the H.P.
"We'd better have them in. You can go on with the old ones."
They entered. With the men the most common ailments were due to the
excessive use of alcohol, but with the women they were due to defective
nourishment. By about six o'clock they were finished. Philip, exhausted by
standing all the time, by the bad air, and by the attention he had given,
strolled over with his fellow-clerks to the Medical School to have tea. He
found the work of absorbing interest. There was humanity there in the
rough, the materials the artist worked on; and Philip felt a curious
thrill when it occurred to him that he was in the position of the artist
and the patients were like clay in his hands. He remembered with an amused
shrug of the shoulders his life in Paris, absorbed in colour, tone,
values, Heaven knows what, with the aim of producing beautiful things: the
directness of contact with men and women gave a thrill of power which he
had never known. He found an endless excitement in looking at their faces
and hearing them speak; they came in each with his peculiarity, some
shuffling uncouthly, some with a little trip, others with heavy, slow
tread, some shyly. Often you could guess their trades by the look of them.
You learnt in what way to put your questions so that they should be
understood, you discovered on what subjects nearly all lied, and by what
inquiries you could extort the truth notwithstanding. You saw the
different way people took the same things. The diagnosis of dangerous
illness would be accepted by one with a laugh and a joke, by another with
dumb despair. Philip found that he was less shy with these people than he
had ever been with others; he felt not exactly sympathy, for sympathy
suggests condescension; but he felt at home with them. He found that he
was able to put them at their ease, and, when he had been given a case to
find out what he could about it, it seemed to him that the patient
delivered himself into his hands with a peculiar confidence.
"Perhaps," he thought to himself, with a smile, "perhaps I'm cut out to be
a doctor. It would be rather a lark if I'd hit upon the one thing I'm fit
It seemed to Philip that he alone of the clerks saw the dramatic interest
of those afternoons. To the others men and women were only cases, good if
they were complicated, tiresome if obvious; they heard murmurs and were
astonished at abnormal livers; an unexpected sound in the lungs gave them
something to talk about. But to Philip there was much more. He found an
interest in just looking at them, in the shape of their heads and their
hands, in the look of their eyes and the length of their noses. You saw in
that room human nature taken by surprise, and often the mask of custom was
torn off rudely, showing you the soul all raw. Sometimes you saw an
untaught stoicism which was profoundly moving. Once Philip saw a man,
rough and illiterate, told his case was hopeless; and, self-controlled
himself, he wondered at the splendid instinct which forced the fellow to
keep a stiff upper-lip before strangers. But was it possible for him to be
brave when he was by himself, face to face with his soul, or would he then
surrender to despair? Sometimes there was tragedy. Once a young woman
brought her sister to be examined, a girl of eighteen, with delicate
features and large blue eyes, fair hair that sparkled with gold when a ray
of autumn sunshine touched it for a moment, and a skin of amazing beauty.
The students' eyes went to her with little smiles. They did not often see
a pretty girl in these dingy rooms. The elder woman gave the family
history, father and mother had died of phthisis, a brother and a sister,
these two were the only ones left. The girl had been coughing lately and
losing weight. She took off her blouse and the skin of her neck was like
milk. Dr. Tyrell examined her quietly, with his usual rapid method; he
told two or three of his clerks to apply their stethoscopes to a place he
indicated with his finger; and then she was allowed to dress. The sister
was standing a little apart and she spoke to him in a low voice, so that
the girl should not hear. Her voice trembled with fear.
"She hasn't got it, doctor, has she?"
"I'm afraid there's no doubt about it."
"She was the last one. When she goes I shan't have anybody."
She began to cry, while the doctor looked at her gravely; he thought she
too had the type; she would not make old bones either. The girl turned
round and saw her sister's tears. She understood what they meant. The
colour fled from her lovely face and tears fell down her cheeks. The two
stood for a minute or two, crying silently, and then the older, forgetting
the indifferent crowd that watched them, went up to her, took her in her
arms, and rocked her gently to and fro as if she were a baby.
When they were gone a student asked:
"How long d'you think she'll last, sir?"
Dr. Tyrell shrugged his shoulders.
"Her brother and sister died within three months of the first symptoms.
She'll do the same. If they were rich one might do something. You can't
tell these people to go to St. Moritz. Nothing can be done for them."
Once a man who was strong and in all the power of his manhood came because
a persistent aching troubled him and his club-doctor did not seem to do
him any good; and the verdict for him too was death, not the inevitable
death that horrified and yet was tolerable because science was helpless
before it, but the death which was inevitable because the man was a little
wheel in the great machine of a complex civilisation, and had as little
power of changing the circumstances as an automaton. Complete rest was his
only chance. The physician did not ask impossibilities.
"You ought to get some very much lighter job."
"There ain't no light jobs in my business."
"Well, if you go on like this you'll kill yourself. You're very ill."
"D'you mean to say I'm going to die?"
"I shouldn't like to say that, but you're certainly unfit for hard work."
"If I don't work who's to keep the wife and the kids?"
Dr. Tyrell shrugged his shoulders. The dilemma had been presented to him
a hundred times. Time was pressing and there were many patients to be
"Well, I'll give you some medicine and you can come back in a week and
tell me how you're getting on."
The man took his letter with the useless prescription written upon it and
walked out. The doctor might say what he liked. He did not feel so bad
that he could not go on working. He had a good job and he could not afford
to throw it away.
"I give him a year," said Dr. Tyrell.
Sometimes there was comedy. Now and then came a flash of cockney humour,
now and then some old lady, a character such as Charles Dickens might have
drawn, would amuse them by her garrulous oddities. Once a woman came who
was a member of the ballet at a famous music-hall. She looked fifty, but
gave her age as twenty-eight. She was outrageously painted and ogled the
students impudently with large black eyes; her smiles were grossly
alluring. She had abundant self-confidence and treated Dr. Tyrell, vastly
amused, with the easy familiarity with which she might have used an
intoxicated admirer. She had chronic bronchitis, and told him it hindered
her in the exercise of her profession.
"I don't know why I should 'ave such a thing, upon my word I don't. I've
never 'ad a day's illness in my life. You've only got to look at me to
She rolled her eyes round the young men, with a long sweep of her painted
eyelashes, and flashed her yellow teeth at them. She spoke with a cockney
accent, but with an affectation of refinement which made every word a
feast of fun.
"It's what they call a winter cough," answered Dr. Tyrell gravely. "A
great many middle-aged women have it."
"Well, I never! That is a nice thing to say to a lady. No one ever called
me middle-aged before."
She opened her eyes very wide and cocked her head on one side, looking at
him with indescribable archness.
"That is the disadvantage of our profession," said he. "It forces us
sometimes to be ungallant."
She took the prescription and gave him one last, luscious smile.
"You will come and see me dance, dearie, won't you?"
"I will indeed."
He rang the bell for the next case.
"I am glad you gentlemen were here to protect me."
But on the whole the impression was neither of tragedy nor of comedy.
There was no describing it. It was manifold and various; there were tears
and laughter, happiness and woe; it was tedious and interesting and
indifferent; it was as you saw it: it was tumultuous and passionate; it
was grave; it was sad and comic; it was trivial; it was simple and
complex; joy was there and despair; the love of mothers for their
children, and of men for women; lust trailed itself through the rooms with
leaden feet, punishing the guilty and the innocent, helpless wives and
wretched children; drink seized men and women and cost its inevitable
price; death sighed in these rooms; and the beginning of life, filling
some poor girl with terror and shame, was diagnosed there. There was
neither good nor bad there. There were just facts. It was life.
Towards the end of the year, when Philip was bringing to a close his three
months as clerk in the out-patients' department, he received a letter from
Lawson, who was in Paris.
Cronshaw is in London and would be glad to see you. He is living at 43
Hyde Street, Soho. I don't know where it is, but I daresay you will be
able to find out. Be a brick and look after him a bit. He is very down on
his luck. He will tell you what he is doing. Things are going on here very
much as usual. Nothing seems to have changed since you were here. Clutton
is back, but he has become quite impossible. He has quarrelled with
everybody. As far as I can make out he hasn't got a cent, he lives in a
little studio right away beyond the Jardin des Plantes, but he won't let
anybody see his work. He doesn't show anywhere, so one doesn't know what
he is doing. He may be a genius, but on the other hand he may be off his
head. By the way, I ran against Flanagan the other day. He was showing
Mrs. Flanagan round the Quarter. He has chucked art and is now in popper's
business. He seems to be rolling. Mrs. Flanagan is very pretty and I'm
trying to work a portrait. How much would you ask if you were me? I don't
want to frighten them, and then on the other hand I don't want to be such
an ass as to ask L150 if they're quite willing to give L300.
Philip wrote to Cronshaw and received in reply the following letter. It
was written on a half-sheet of common note-paper, and the flimsy envelope
was dirtier than was justified by its passage through the post.
Of course I remember you very well. I have an idea that I had some part in
rescuing you from the Slough of Despond in which myself am hopelessly
immersed. I shall be glad to see you. I am a stranger in a strange city
and I am buffeted by the philistines. It will be pleasant to talk of
Paris. I do not ask you to come and see me, since my lodging is not of a
magnificence fit for the reception of an eminent member of Monsieur
Purgon's profession, but you will find me eating modestly any evening
between seven and eight at a restaurant yclept Au Bon Plaisir in Dean
Philip went the day he received this letter. The restaurant, consisting of
one small room, was of the poorest class, and Cronshaw seemed to be its
only customer. He was sitting in the corner, well away from draughts,
wearing the same shabby great-coat which Philip had never seen him
without, with his old bowler on his head.
"I eat here because I can be alone," he said. "They are not doing well;
the only people who come are a few trollops and one or two waiters out of
a job; they are giving up business, and the food is execrable. But the
ruin of their fortunes is my advantage."
Cronshaw had before him a glass of absinthe. It was nearly three years
since they had met, and Philip was shocked by the change in his
appearance. He had been rather corpulent, but now he had a dried-up,
yellow look: the skin of his neck was loose and winkled; his clothes hung
about him as though they had been bought for someone else; and his collar,
three or four sizes too large, added to the slatternliness of his
appearance. His hands trembled continually. Philip remembered the
handwriting which scrawled over the page with shapeless, haphazard
letters. Cronshaw was evidently very ill.
"I eat little these days," he said. "I'm very sick in the morning. I'm
just having some soup for my dinner, and then I shall have a bit of
Philip's glance unconsciously went to the absinthe, and Cronshaw, seeing
it, gave him the quizzical look with which he reproved the admonitions of
"You have diagnosed my case, and you think it's very wrong of me to drink
"You've evidently got cirrhosis of the liver," said Philip.
He looked at Philip in the way which had formerly had the power of making
him feel incredibly narrow. It seemed to point out that what he was
thinking was distressingly obvious; and when you have agreed with the
obvious what more is there to say? Philip changed the topic.
"When are you going back to Paris?"
"I'm not going back to Paris. I'm going to die."
The very naturalness with which he said this startled Philip. He thought
of half a dozen things to say, but they seemed futile. He knew that
Cronshaw was a dying man.
"Are you going to settle in London then?" he asked lamely.
"What is London to me? I am a fish out of water. I walk through the
crowded streets, men jostle me, and I seem to walk in a dead city. I felt
that I couldn't die in Paris. I wanted to die among my own people. I don't
know what hidden instinct drew me back at the last."
Philip knew of the woman Cronshaw had lived with and the two
draggle-tailed children, but Cronshaw had never mentioned them to him, and
he did not like to speak of them. He wondered what had happened to them.
"I don't know why you talk of dying," he said.
"I had pneumonia a couple of winters ago, and they told me then it was a
miracle that I came through. It appears I'm extremely liable to it, and
another bout will kill me."
"Oh, what nonsense! You're not so bad as all that. You've only got to take
precautions. Why don't you give up drinking?"
"Because I don't choose. It doesn't matter what a man does if he's ready
to take the consequences. Well, I'm ready to take the consequences. You
talk glibly of giving up drinking, but it's the only thing I've got left
now. What do you think life would be to me without it? Can you understand
the happiness I get out of my absinthe? I yearn for it; and when I drink
it I savour every drop, and afterwards I feel my soul swimming in
ineffable happiness. It disgusts you. You are a puritan and in your heart
you despise sensual pleasures. Sensual pleasures are the most violent and
the most exquisite. I am a man blessed with vivid senses, and I have
indulged them with all my soul. I have to pay the penalty now, and I am
ready to pay."
Philip looked at him for a while steadily.
"Aren't you afraid?"
For a moment Cronshaw did not answer. He seemed to consider his reply.
"Sometimes, when I'm alone." He looked at Philip. "You think that's a
condemnation? You're wrong. I'm not afraid of my fear. It's folly, the
Christian argument that you should live always in view of your death. The
only way to live is to forget that you're going to die. Death is
unimportant. The fear of it should never influence a single action of the
wise man. I know that I shall die struggling for breath, and I know that
I shall be horribly afraid. I know that I shall not be able to keep myself
from regretting bitterly the life that has brought me to such a pass; but
I disown that regret. I now, weak, old, diseased, poor, dying, hold still
my soul in my hands, and I regret nothing."
"D'you remember that Persian carpet you gave me?" asked Philip.
Cronshaw smiled his old, slow smile of past days.
"I told you that it would give you an answer to your question when you
asked me what was the meaning of life. Well, have you discovered the
"No," smiled Philip. "Won't you tell it me?"
"No, no, I can't do that. The answer is meaningless unless you discover it
Cronshaw was publishing his poems. His friends had been urging him to do
this for years, but his laziness made it impossible for him to take the
necessary steps. He had always answered their exhortations by telling them
that the love of poetry was dead in England. You brought out a book which
had cost you years of thought and labour; it was given two or three
contemptuous lines among a batch of similar volumes, twenty or thirty
copies were sold, and the rest of the edition was pulped. He had long
since worn out the desire for fame. That was an illusion like all else.
But one of his friends had taken the matter into his own hands. This was
a man of letters, named Leonard Upjohn, whom Philip had met once or twice
with Cronshaw in the cafes of the Quarter. He had a considerable
reputation in England as a critic and was the accredited exponent in this
country of modern French literature. He had lived a good deal in France
among the men who made the Mercure de France the liveliest review of the
day, and by the simple process of expressing in English their point of
view he had acquired in England a reputation for originality. Philip had
read some of his articles. He had formed a style for himself by a close
imitation of Sir Thomas Browne; he used elaborate sentences, carefully
balanced, and obsolete, resplendent words: it gave his writing an
appearance of individuality. Leonard Upjohn had induced Cronshaw to give
him all his poems and found that there were enough to make a volume of
reasonable size. He promised to use his influence with publishers.
Cronshaw was in want of money. Since his illness he had found it more
difficult than ever to work steadily; he made barely enough to keep
himself in liquor; and when Upjohn wrote to him that this publisher and
the other, though admiring the poems, thought it not worth while to
publish them, Cronshaw began to grow interested. He wrote impressing upon
Upjohn his great need and urging him to make more strenuous efforts. Now
that he was going to die he wanted to leave behind him a published book,
and at the back of his mind was the feeling that he had produced great
poetry. He expected to burst upon the world like a new star. There was
something fine in keeping to himself these treasures of beauty all his
life and giving them to the world disdainfully when, he and the world
parting company, he had no further use for them.
His decision to come to England was caused directly by an announcement
from Leonard Upjohn that a publisher had consented to print the poems. By
a miracle of persuasion Upjohn had persuaded him to give ten pounds in
advance of royalties.
"In advance of royalties, mind you," said Cronshaw to Philip. "Milton only
got ten pounds down."
Upjohn had promised to write a signed article about them, and he would ask
his friends who reviewed to do their best. Cronshaw pretended to treat the
matter with detachment, but it was easy to see that he was delighted with
the thought of the stir he would make.
One day Philip went to dine by arrangement at the wretched eating-house at
which Cronshaw insisted on taking his meals, but Cronshaw did not appear.
Philip learned that he had not been there for three days. He got himself
something to eat and went round to the address from which Cronshaw had
first written to him. He had some difficulty in finding Hyde Street. It
was a street of dingy houses huddled together; many of the windows had
been broken and were clumsily repaired with strips of French newspaper;
the doors had not been painted for years; there were shabby little shops
on the ground floor, laundries, cobblers, stationers. Ragged children
played in the road, and an old barrel-organ was grinding out a vulgar
tune. Philip knocked at the door of Cronshaw's house (there was a shop of
cheap sweetstuffs at the bottom), and it was opened by an elderly
Frenchwoman in a dirty apron. Philip asked her if Cronshaw was in.
"Ah, yes, there is an Englishman who lives at the top, at the back. I
don't know if he's in. If you want him you had better go up and see."
The staircase was lit by one jet of gas. There was a revolting odour in
the house. When Philip was passing up a woman came out of a room on the
first floor, looked at him suspiciously, but made no remark. There were
three doors on the top landing. Philip knocked at one, and knocked again;
there was no reply; he tried the handle, but the door was locked. He
knocked at another door, got no answer, and tried the door again. It
opened. The room was dark.
He recognised Cronshaw's voice.
"Carey. Can I come in?"
He received no answer. He walked in. The window was closed and the stink
was overpowering. There was a certain amount of light from the arc-lamp in
the street, and he saw that it was a small room with two beds in it, end
to end; there was a washing-stand and one chair, but they left little
space for anyone to move in. Cronshaw was in the bed nearest the window.
He made no movement, but gave a low chuckle.
"Why don't you light the candle?" he said then.
Philip struck a match and discovered that there was a candlestick on the
floor beside the bed. He lit it and put it on the washing-stand. Cronshaw
was lying on his back immobile; he looked very odd in his nightshirt; and
his baldness was disconcerting. His face was earthy and death-like.
"I say, old man, you look awfully ill. Is there anyone to look after you
"George brings me in a bottle of milk in the morning before he goes to his
"I call him George because his name is Adolphe. He shares this palatial
apartment with me."
Philip noticed then that the second bed had not been made since it was
slept in. The pillow was black where the head had rested.
"You don't mean to say you're sharing this room with somebody else?" he
"Why not? Lodging costs money in Soho. George is a waiter, he goes out at
eight in the morning and does not come in till closing time, so he isn't
in my way at all. We neither of us sleep well, and he helps to pass away
the hours of the night by telling me stories of his life. He's a Swiss,
and I've always had a taste for waiters. They see life from an
"How long have you been in bed?"
"D'you mean to say you've had nothing but a bottle of milk for the last
three days? Why on earth didn't you send me a line? I can't bear to think
of you lying here all day long without a soul to attend to you."
Cronshaw gave a little laugh.
"Look at your face. Why, dear boy, I really believe you're distressed. You
Philip blushed. He had not suspected that his face showed the dismay he
felt at the sight of that horrible room and the wretched circumstances of
the poor poet. Cronshaw, watching Philip, went on with a gentle smile.
"I've been quite happy. Look, here are my proofs. Remember that I am
indifferent to discomforts which would harass other folk. What do the
circumstances of life matter if your dreams make you lord paramount of
time and space?"
The proofs were lying on his bed, and as he lay in the darkness he had
been able to place his hands on them. He showed them to Philip and his
eyes glowed. He turned over the pages, rejoicing in the clear type; he
read out a stanza.
"They don't look bad, do they?"
Philip had an idea. It would involve him in a little expense and he could
not afford even the smallest increase of expenditure; but on the other
hand this was a case where it revolted him to think of economy.
"I say, I can't bear the thought of your remaining here. I've got an extra
room, it's empty at present, but I can easily get someone to lend me a
bed. Won't you come and live with me for a while? It'll save you the rent
"Oh, my dear boy, you'd insist on my keeping my window open."
"You shall have every window in the place sealed if you like."
"I shall be all right tomorrow. I could have got up today, only I felt
"Then you can very easily make the move. And then if you don't feel well
at any time you can just go to bed, and I shall be there to look after
"If it'll please you I'll come," said Cronshaw, with his torpid not
"That'll be ripping."
They settled that Philip should fetch Cronshaw next day, and Philip
snatched an hour from his busy morning to arrange the change. He found
Cronshaw dressed, sitting in his hat and great-coat on the bed, with a
small, shabby portmanteau, containing his clothes and books, already
packed: it was on the floor by his feet, and he looked as if he were
sitting in the waiting-room of a station. Philip laughed at the sight of
him. They went over to Kennington in a four-wheeler, of which the windows
were carefully closed, and Philip installed his guest in his own room. He
had gone out early in the morning and bought for himself a second-hand
bedstead, a cheap chest of drawers, and a looking-glass. Cronshaw settled
down at once to correct his proofs. He was much better.
Philip found him, except for the irritability which was a symptom of his
disease, an easy guest. He had a lecture at nine in the morning, so did
not see Cronshaw till the night. Once or twice Philip persuaded him to
share the scrappy meal he prepared for himself in the evening, but
Cronshaw was too restless to stay in, and preferred generally to get
himself something to eat in one or other of the cheapest restaurants in
Soho. Philip asked him to see Dr. Tyrell, but he stoutly refused; he knew
a doctor would tell him to stop drinking, and this he was resolved not to
do. He always felt horribly ill in the morning, but his absinthe at
mid-day put him on his feet again, and by the time he came home, at
midnight, he was able to talk with the brilliancy which had astonished
Philip when first he made his acquaintance. His proofs were corrected; and
the volume was to come out among the publications of the early spring,
when the public might be supposed to have recovered from the avalanche of
At the new year Philip became dresser in the surgical out-patients'
department. The work was of the same character as that which he had just
been engaged on, but with the greater directness which surgery has than
medicine; and a larger proportion of the patients suffered from those two
diseases which a supine public allows, in its prudishness, to be spread
broadcast. The assistant-surgeon for whom Philip dressed was called
Jacobs. He was a short, fat man, with an exuberant joviality, a bald head,
and a loud voice; he had a cockney accent, and was generally described by
the students as an `awful bounder'; but his cleverness, both as a surgeon
and as a teacher, caused some of them to overlook this. He had also a
considerable facetiousness, which he exercised impartially on the patients
and on the students. He took a great pleasure in making his dressers look
foolish. Since they were ignorant, nervous, and could not answer as if he
were their equal, this was not very difficult. He enjoyed his afternoons,
with the home truths he permitted himself, much more than the students who
had to put up with them with a smile. One day a case came up of a boy with
a club-foot. His parents wanted to know whether anything could be done.
Mr. Jacobs turned to Philip.
"You'd better take this case, Carey. It's a subject you ought to know
Philip flushed, all the more because the surgeon spoke obviously with a
humorous intention, and his brow-beaten dressers laughed obsequiously. It
was in point of fact a subject which Philip, since coming to the hospital,
had studied with anxious attention. He had read everything in the library
which treated of talipes in its various forms. He made the boy take off
his boot and stocking. He was fourteen, with a snub nose, blue eyes, and
a freckled face. His father explained that they wanted something done if
possible, it was such a hindrance to the kid in earning his living. Philip
looked at him curiously. He was a jolly boy, not at all shy, but talkative
and with a cheekiness which his father reproved. He was much interested in
"It's only for the looks of the thing, you know," he said to Philip. "I
don't find it no trouble."
"Be quiet, Ernie," said his father. "There's too much gas about you."
Philip examined the foot and passed his hand slowly over the shapelessness
of it. He could not understand why the boy felt none of the humiliation
which always oppressed himself. He wondered why he could not take his
deformity with that philosophic indifference. Presently Mr. Jacobs came up
to him. The boy was sitting on the edge of a couch, the surgeon and Philip
stood on each side of him; and in a semi-circle, crowding round, were
students. With accustomed brilliancy Jacobs gave a graphic little
discourse upon the club-foot: he spoke of its varieties and of the forms
which followed upon different anatomical conditions.
"I suppose you've got talipes equinus?" he said, turning suddenly to
Philip felt the eyes of his fellow-students rest on him, and he cursed
himself because he could not help blushing. He felt the sweat start up in
the palms of his hands. The surgeon spoke with the fluency due to long
practice and with the admirable perspicacity which distinguished him. He
was tremendously interested in his profession. But Philip did not listen.
He was only wishing that the fellow would get done quickly. Suddenly he
realised that Jacobs was addressing him.
"You don't mind taking off your sock for a moment, Carey?"
Philip felt a shudder pass through him. He had an impulse to tell the
surgeon to go to hell, but he had not the courage to make a scene. He
feared his brutal ridicule. He forced himself to appear indifferent.
"Not a bit," he said.
He sat down and unlaced his boot. His fingers were trembling and he
thought he should never untie the knot. He remembered how they had forced
him at school to show his foot, and the misery which had eaten into his
"He keeps his feet nice and clean, doesn't he?" said Jacobs, in his
rasping, cockney voice.
The attendant students giggled. Philip noticed that the boy whom they were
examining looked down at his foot with eager curiosity. Jacobs took the
foot in his hands and said:
"Yes, that's what I thought. I see you've had an operation. When you were
a child, I suppose?"
He went on with his fluent explanations. The students leaned over and
looked at the foot. Two or three examined it minutely when Jacobs let it
"When you've quite done," said Philip, with a smile, ironically.
He could have killed them all. He thought how jolly it would be to jab a
chisel (he didn't know why that particular instrument came into his mind)
into their necks. What beasts men were! He wished he could believe in hell
so as to comfort himself with the thought of the horrible tortures which
would be theirs. Mr. Jacobs turned his attention to treatment. He talked
partly to the boy's father and partly to the students. Philip put on his
sock and laced his boot. At last the surgeon finished. But he seemed to
have an afterthought and turned to Philip.
"You know, I think it might be worth your while to have an operation. Of
course I couldn't give you a normal foot, but I think I can do something.
You might think about it, and when you want a holiday you can just come
into the hospital for a bit."
Philip had often asked himself whether anything could be done, but his
distaste for any reference to the subject had prevented him from
consulting any of the surgeons at the hospital. His reading told him that
whatever might have been done when he was a small boy, and then treatment
of talipes was not as skilful as in the present day, there was small
chance now of any great benefit. Still it would be worth while if an
operation made it possible for him to wear a more ordinary boot and to
limp less. He remembered how passionately he had prayed for the miracle
which his uncle had assured him was possible to omnipotence. He smiled
"I was rather a simple soul in those days," he thought.
Towards the end of February it was clear that Cronshaw was growing much
worse. He was no longer able to get up. He lay in bed, insisting that the
window should be closed always, and refused to see a doctor; he would take
little nourishment, but demanded whiskey and cigarettes: Philip knew that
he should have neither, but Cronshaw's argument was unanswerable.
"I daresay they are killing me. I don't care. You've warned me, you've
done all that was necessary: I ignore your warning. Give me something to
drink and be damned to you."
Leonard Upjohn blew in two or three times a week, and there was something
of the dead leaf in his appearance which made the word exactly descriptive
of the manner of his appearance. He was a weedy-looking fellow of
five-and-thirty, with long pale hair and a white face; he had the look of
a man who lived too little in the open air. He wore a hat like a
dissenting minister's. Philip disliked him for his patronising manner and
was bored by his fluent conversation. Leonard Upjohn liked to hear himself
talk. He was not sensitive to the interest of his listeners, which is the
first requisite of the good talker; and he never realised that he was
telling people what they knew already. With measured words he told Philip
what to think of Rodin, Albert Samain, and Caesar Franck. Philip's
charwoman only came in for an hour in the morning, and since Philip was
obliged to be at the hospital all day Cronshaw was left much alone. Upjohn
told Philip that he thought someone should remain with him, but did not
offer to make it possible.
"It's dreadful to think of that great poet alone. Why, he might die
without a soul at hand."
"I think he very probably will," said Philip.
"How can you be so callous!"
"Why don't you come and do your work here every day, and then you'd be
near if he wanted anything?" asked Philip drily.
"I? My dear fellow, I can only work in the surroundings I'm used to, and
besides I go out so much."
Upjohn was also a little put out because Philip had brought Cronshaw to
his own rooms.
"I wish you had left him in Soho," he said, with a wave of his long, thin
hands. "There was a touch of romance in that sordid attic. I could even
bear it if it were Wapping or Shoreditch, but the respectability of
Kennington! What a place for a poet to die!"
Cronshaw was often so ill-humoured that Philip could only keep his temper
by remembering all the time that this irritability was a symptom of the
disease. Upjohn came sometimes before Philip was in, and then Cronshaw
would complain of him bitterly. Upjohn listened with complacency.
"The fact is that Carey has no sense of beauty," he smiled. "He has a
He was very sarcastic to Philip, and Philip exercised a good deal of
self-control in his dealings with him. But one evening he could not
contain himself. He had had a hard day at the hospital and was tired out.
Leonard Upjohn came to him, while he was making himself a cup of tea in
the kitchen, and said that Cronshaw was complaining of Philip's insistence
that he should have a doctor.
"Don't you realise that you're enjoying a very rare, a very exquisite
privilege? You ought to do everything in your power, surely, to show your
sense of the greatness of your trust."
"It's a rare and exquisite privilege which I can ill afford," said Philip.
Whenever there was any question of money, Leonard Upjohn assumed a
slightly disdainful expression. His sensitive temperament was offended by
"There's something fine in Cronshaw's attitude, and you disturb it by your
importunity. You should make allowances for the delicate imaginings which
you cannot feel."
Philip's face darkened.
"Let us go in to Cronshaw," he said frigidly.
The poet was lying on his back, reading a book, with a pipe in his mouth.
The air was musty; and the room, notwithstanding Philip's tidying up, had
the bedraggled look which seemed to accompany Cronshaw wherever he went.
He took off his spectacles as they came in. Philip was in a towering rage.
"Upjohn tells me you've been complaining to him because I've urged you to
have a doctor," he said. "I want you to have a doctor, because you may die
any day, and if you hadn't been seen by anyone I shouldn't be able to get
a certificate. There'd have to be an inquest and I should be blamed for
not calling a doctor in."
"I hadn't thought of that. I thought you wanted me to see a doctor for my
sake and not for your own. I'll see a doctor whenever you like."
Philip did not answer, but gave an almost imperceptible shrug of the
shoulders. Cronshaw, watching him, gave a little chuckle.
"Don't look so angry, my dear. I know very well you want to do everything
you can for me. Let's see your doctor, perhaps he can do something for me,
and at any rate it'll comfort you." He turned his eyes to Upjohn. "You're
a damned fool, Leonard. Why d'you want to worry the boy? He has quite
enough to do to put up with me. You'll do nothing more for me than write
a pretty article about me after my death. I know you."
Next day Philip went to Dr. Tyrell. He felt that he was the sort of man to
be interested by the story, and as soon as Tyrell was free of his day's
work he accompanied Philip to Kennington. He could only agree with what
Philip had told him. The case was hopeless.
"I'll take him into the hospital if you like," he said. "He can have a
"Nothing would induce him to come."
"You know, he may die any minute, or else he may get another attack of
Philip nodded. Dr. Tyrell made one or two suggestions, and promised to
come again whenever Philip wanted him to. He left his address. When Philip
went back to Cronshaw he found him quietly reading. He did not trouble to
inquire what the doctor had said.
"Are you satisfied now, dear boy?" he asked.
"I suppose nothing will induce you to do any of the things Tyrell
"Nothing," smiled Cronshaw.
About a fortnight after this Philip, going home one evening after his
day's work at the hospital, knocked at the door of Cronshaw's room. He got
no answer and walked in. Cronshaw was lying huddled up on one side, and
Philip went up to the bed. He did not know whether Cronshaw was asleep or
merely lay there in one of his uncontrollable fits of irritability. He was
surprised to see that his mouth was open. He touched his shoulder. Philip
gave a cry of dismay. He slipped his hand under Cronshaw's shirt and felt
his heart; he did not know what to do; helplessly, because he had heard of
this being done, he held a looking-glass in front of his mouth. It
startled him to be alone with Cronshaw. He had his hat and coat still on,
and he ran down the stairs into the street; he hailed a cab and drove to
Harley Street. Dr. Tyrell was in.
"I say, would you mind coming at once? I think Cronshaw's dead."
"If he is it's not much good my coming, is it?"
"I should be awfully grateful if you would. I've got a cab at the door.
It'll only take half an hour."
Tyrell put on his hat. In the cab he asked him one or two questions.
"He seemed no worse than usual when I left this morning," said Philip. "It
gave me an awful shock when I went in just now. And the thought of his
dying all alone.... D'you think he knew he was going to die?"
Philip remembered what Cronshaw had said. He wondered whether at that last
moment he had been seized with the terror of death. Philip imagined
himself in such a plight, knowing it was inevitable and with no one, not
a soul, to give an encouraging word when the fear seized him.
"You're rather upset," said Dr. Tyrell.
He looked at him with his bright blue eyes. They were not unsympathetic.
When he saw Cronshaw, he said:
"He must have been dead for some hours. I should think he died in his
sleep. They do sometimes."
The body looked shrunk and ignoble. It was not like anything human. Dr.
Tyrell looked at it dispassionately. With a mechanical gesture he took out
"Well, I must be getting along. I'll send the certificate round. I suppose
you'll communicate with the relatives."
"I don't think there are any," said Philip.
"How about the funeral?"
"Oh, I'll see to that."
Dr. Tyrell gave Philip a glance. He wondered whether he ought to offer a
couple of sovereigns towards it. He knew nothing of Philip's
circumstances; perhaps he could well afford the expense; Philip might
think it impertinent if he made any suggestion.
"Well, let me know if there's anything I can do," he said.
Philip and he went out together, parting on the doorstep, and Philip went
to a telegraph office in order to send a message to Leonard Upjohn. Then
he went to an undertaker whose shop he passed every day on his way to the
hospital. His attention had been drawn to it often by the three words in
silver lettering on a black cloth, which, with two model coffins, adorned
the window: Economy, Celerity, Propriety. They had always diverted him.
The undertaker was a little fat Jew with curly black hair, long and
greasy, in black, with a large diamond ring on a podgy finger. He received
Philip with a peculiar manner formed by the mingling of his natural
blatancy with the subdued air proper to his calling. He quickly saw that
Philip was very helpless and promised to send round a woman at once to
perform the needful offices. His suggestions for the funeral were very
magnificent; and Philip felt ashamed of himself when the undertaker seemed
to think his objections mean. It was horrible to haggle on such a matter,
and finally Philip consented to an expensiveness which he could ill
"I quite understand, sir," said the undertaker, "you don't want any show
and that--I'm not a believer in ostentation myself, mind you--but you want
it done gentlemanly-like. You leave it to me, I'll do it as cheap as it
can be done, 'aving regard to what's right and proper. I can't say more
than that, can I?"
Philip went home to eat his supper, and while he ate the woman came along
to lay out the corpse. Presently a telegram arrived from Leonard Upjohn.
Shocked and grieved beyond measure. Regret cannot come tonight. Dining
out. With you early tomorrow. Deepest sympathy. Upjohn.
In a little while the woman knocked at the door of the sitting-room.
"I've done now, sir. Will you come and look at 'im and see it's all
Philip followed her. Cronshaw was lying on his back, with his eyes closed
and his hands folded piously across his chest.
"You ought by rights to 'ave a few flowers, sir."
"I'll get some tomorrow."
She gave the body a glance of satisfaction. She had performed her job, and
now she rolled down her sleeves, took off her apron, and put on her
bonnet. Philip asked her how much he owed her.
"Well, sir, some give me two and sixpence and some give me five
Philip was ashamed to give her less than the larger sum. She thanked him
with just so much effusiveness as was seemly in presence of the grief he
might be supposed to feel, and left him. Philip went back into his
sitting-room, cleared away the remains of his supper, and sat down to read
Walsham's Surgery. He found it difficult. He felt singularly nervous.
When there was a sound on the stairs he jumped, and his heart beat
violently. That thing in the adjoining room, which had been a man and now
was nothing, frightened him. The silence seemed alive, as if some
mysterious movement were taking place within it; the presence of death
weighed upon these rooms, unearthly and terrifying: Philip felt a sudden
horror for what had once been his friend. He tried to force himself to
read, but presently pushed away his book in despair. What troubled him was
the absolute futility of the life which had just ended. It did not matter
if Cronshaw was alive or dead. It would have been just as well if he had
never lived. Philip thought of Cronshaw young; and it needed an effort of
imagination to picture him slender, with a springing step, and with hair
on his head, buoyant and hopeful. Philip's rule of life, to follow one's
instincts with due regard to the policeman round the corner, had not acted
very well there: it was because Cronshaw had done this that he had made
such a lamentable failure of existence. It seemed that the instincts could
not be trusted. Philip was puzzled, and he asked himself what rule of life
was there, if that one was useless, and why people acted in one way rather
than in another. They acted according to their emotions, but their
emotions might be good or bad; it seemed just a chance whether they led to
triumph or disaster. Life seemed an inextricable confusion. Men hurried
hither and thither, urged by forces they knew not; and the purpose of it
all escaped them; they seemed to hurry just for hurrying's sake.
Next morning Leonard Upjohn appeared with a small wreath of laurel. He was
pleased with his idea of crowning the dead poet with this; and attempted,
notwithstanding Philip's disapproving silence, to fix it on the bald head;
but the wreath fitted grotesquely. It looked like the brim of a hat worn
by a low comedian in a music-hall.
"I'll put it over his heart instead," said Upjohn.
"You've put it on his stomach," remarked Philip.
Upjohn gave a thin smile.
"Only a poet knows where lies a poet's heart," he answered.
They went back into the sitting-room, and Philip told him what
arrangements he had made for the funeral.
"I hoped you've spared no expense. I should like the hearse to be followed
by a long string of empty coaches, and I should like the horses to wear
tall nodding plumes, and there should be a vast number of mutes with long
streamers on their hats. I like the thought of all those empty coaches."
"As the cost of the funeral will apparently fall on me and I'm not over
flush just now, I've tried to make it as moderate as possible."
"But, my dear fellow, in that case, why didn't you get him a pauper's
funeral? There would have been something poetic in that. You have an
unerring instinct for mediocrity."
Philip flushed a little, but did not answer; and next day he and Upjohn
followed the hearse in the one carriage which Philip had ordered. Lawson,
unable to come, had sent a wreath; and Philip, so that the coffin should
not seem too neglected, had bought a couple. On the way back the coachman
whipped up his horses. Philip was dog-tired and presently went to sleep.
He was awakened by Upjohn's voice.
"It's rather lucky the poems haven't come out yet. I think we'd better
hold them back a bit and I'll write a preface. I began thinking of it
during the drive to the cemetery. I believe I can do something rather
good. Anyhow I'll start with an article in The Saturday."
Philip did not reply, and there was silence between them. At last Upjohn
"I daresay I'd be wiser not to whittle away my copy. I think I'll do an
article for one of the reviews, and then I can just print it afterwards as
Philip kept his eye on the monthlies, and a few weeks later it appeared.
The article made something of a stir, and extracts from it were printed in
many of the papers. It was a very good article, vaguely biographical, for
no one knew much of Cronshaw's early life, but delicate, tender, and
picturesque. Leonard Upjohn in his intricate style drew graceful little
pictures of Cronshaw in the Latin Quarter, talking, writing poetry:
Cronshaw became a picturesque figure, an English Verlaine; and Leonard
Upjohn's coloured phrases took on a tremulous dignity, a more pathetic
grandiloquence, as he described the sordid end, the shabby little room in
Soho; and, with a reticence which was wholly charming and suggested a much
greater generosity than modesty allowed him to state, the efforts he made
to transport the Poet to some cottage embowered with honeysuckle amid a
flowering orchard. And the lack of sympathy, well-meaning but so tactless,
which had taken the poet instead to the vulgar respectability of
Kennington! Leonard Upjohn described Kennington with that restrained
humour which a strict adherence to the vocabulary of Sir Thomas Browne
necessitated. With delicate sarcasm he narrated the last weeks, the
patience with which Cronshaw bore the well-meaning clumsiness of the young
student who had appointed himself his nurse, and the pitifulness of that
divine vagabond in those hopelessly middle-class surroundings. Beauty from
ashes, he quoted from Isaiah. It was a triumph of irony for that outcast
poet to die amid the trappings of vulgar respectability; it reminded
Leonard Upjohn of Christ among the Pharisees, and the analogy gave him
opportunity for an exquisite passage. And then he told how a friend--his
good taste did not suffer him more than to hint subtly who the friend was
with such gracious fancies--had laid a laurel wreath on the dead poet's
heart; and the beautiful dead hands had seemed to rest with a voluptuous
passion upon Apollo's leaves, fragrant with the fragrance of art, and more
green than jade brought by swart mariners from the manifold, inexplicable
China. And, an admirable contrast, the article ended with a description of
the middle-class, ordinary, prosaic funeral of him who should have been
buried like a prince or like a pauper. It was the crowning buffet, the
final victory of Philistia over art, beauty, and immaterial things.
Leonard Upjohn had never written anything better. It was a miracle of
charm, grace, and pity. He printed all Cronshaw's best poems in the course
of the article, so that when the volume appeared much of its point was
gone; but he advanced his own position a good deal. He was thenceforth a
critic to be reckoned with. He had seemed before a little aloof; but there
was a warm humanity about this article which was infinitely attractive.
In the spring Philip, having finished his dressing in the out-patients'
department, became an in-patients' clerk. This appointment lasted six
months. The clerk spent every morning in the wards, first in the men's,
then in the women's, with the house-physician; he wrote up cases, made
tests, and passed the time of day with the nurses. On two afternoons a
week the physician in charge went round with a little knot of students,
examined the cases, and dispensed information. The work had not the
excitement, the constant change, the intimate contact with reality, of the
work in the out-patients' department; but Philip picked up a good deal of
knowledge. He got on very well with the patients, and he was a little
flattered at the pleasure they showed in his attendance on them. He was
not conscious of any deep sympathy in their sufferings, but he liked them;
and because he put on no airs he was more popular with them than others of
the clerks. He was pleasant, encouraging, and friendly. Like everyone
connected with hospitals he found that male patients were more easy to get
on with than female. The women were often querulous and ill-tempered. They
complained bitterly of the hard-worked nurses, who did not show them the
attention they thought their right; and they were troublesome, ungrateful,
Presently Philip was fortunate enough to make a friend. One morning the
house-physician gave him a new case, a man; and, seating himself at the
bedside, Philip proceeded to write down particulars on the `letter.' He
noticed on looking at this that the patient was described as a journalist:
his name was Thorpe Athelny, an unusual one for a hospital patient, and
his age was forty-eight. He was suffering from a sharp attack of jaundice,
and had been taken into the ward on account of obscure symptoms which it
seemed necessary to watch. He answered the various questions which it was
Philip's duty to ask him in a pleasant, educated voice. Since he was lying
in bed it was difficult to tell if he was short or tall, but his small
head and small hands suggested that he was a man of less than average
height. Philip had the habit of looking at people's hands, and Athelny's
astonished him: they were very small, with long, tapering fingers and
beautiful, rosy finger-nails; they were very smooth and except for the
jaundice would have been of a surprising whiteness. The patient kept them
outside the bed-clothes, one of them slightly spread out, the second and
third fingers together, and, while he spoke to Philip, seemed to
contemplate them with satisfaction. With a twinkle in his eyes Philip
glanced at the man's face. Notwithstanding the yellowness it was
distinguished; he had blue eyes, a nose of an imposing boldness, hooked,
aggressive but not clumsy, and a small beard, pointed and gray: he was
rather bald, but his hair had evidently been quite fine, curling prettily,
and he still wore it long.
"I see you're a journalist," said Philip. "What papers d'you write for?"
"I write for all the papers. You cannot open a paper without seeing some
of my writing." There was one by the side of the bed and reaching for it
he pointed out an advertisement. In large letters was the name of a firm
well-known to Philip, Lynn and Sedley, Regent Street, London; and below,
in type smaller but still of some magnitude, was the dogmatic statement:
Procrastination is the Thief of Time. Then a question, startling because
of its reasonableness: Why not order today? There was a repetition, in
large letters, like the hammering of conscience on a murderer's heart: Why
not? Then, boldly: Thousands of pairs of gloves from the leading markets
of the world at astounding prices. Thousands of pairs of stockings from
the most reliable manufacturers of the universe at sensational reductions.
Finally the question recurred, but flung now like a challenging gauntlet
in the lists: Why not order today?
"I'm the press representative of Lynn and Sedley." He gave a little wave
of his beautiful hand. "To what base uses..."
Philip went on asking the regulation questions, some a mere matter of
routine, others artfully devised to lead the patient to discover things
which he might be expected to desire to conceal.
"Have you ever lived abroad?" asked Philip.
"I was in Spain for eleven years."