Part 11 out of 15
"What were you doing there?"
"I was secretary of the English water company at Toledo."
Philip remembered that Clutton had spent some months in Toledo, and the
journalist's answer made him look at him with more interest; but he felt
it would be improper to show this: it was necessary to preserve the
distance between the hospital patient and the staff. When he had finished
his examination he went on to other beds.
Thorpe Athelny's illness was not grave, and, though remaining very yellow,
he soon felt much better: he stayed in bed only because the physician
thought he should be kept under observation till certain reactions became
normal. One day, on entering the ward, Philip noticed that Athelny, pencil
in hand, was reading a book. He put it down when Philip came to his bed.
"May I see what you're reading?" asked Philip, who could never pass a book
without looking at it.
Philip took it up and saw that it was a volume of Spanish verse, the poems
of San Juan de la Cruz, and as he opened it a sheet of paper fell out.
Philip picked it up and noticed that verse was written upon it.
"You're not going to tell me you've been occupying your leisure in writing
poetry? That's a most improper proceeding in a hospital patient."
"I was trying to do some translations. D'you know Spanish?"
"Well, you know all about San Juan de la Cruz, don't you?"
"I don't indeed."
"He was one of the Spanish mystics. He's one of the best poets they've
ever had. I thought it would be worth while translating him into English."
"May I look at your translation?"
"It's very rough," said Athelny, but he gave it to Philip with an alacrity
which suggested that he was eager for him to read it.
It was written in pencil, in a fine but very peculiar handwriting, which
was hard to read: it was just like black letter.
"Doesn't it take you an awful time to write like that? It's wonderful."
"I don't know why handwriting shouldn't be beautiful." Philip read the
In an obscure night
With anxious love inflamed
O happy lot!
Forth unobserved I went,
My house being now at rest...
Philip looked curiously at Thorpe Athelny. He did not know whether he felt
a little shy with him or was attracted by him. He was conscious that his
manner had been slightly patronising, and he flushed as it struck him that
Athelny might have thought him ridiculous.
"What an unusual name you've got," he remarked, for something to say.
"It's a very old Yorkshire name. Once it took the head of my family a
day's hard riding to make the circuit of his estates, but the mighty are
fallen. Fast women and slow horses."
He was short-sighted and when he spoke looked at you with a peculiar
intensity. He took up his volume of poetry.
"You should read Spanish," he said. "It is a noble tongue. It has not the
mellifluousness of Italian, Italian is the language of tenors and
organ-grinders, but it has grandeur: it does not ripple like a brook in a
garden, but it surges tumultuous like a mighty river in flood."
His grandiloquence amused Philip, but he was sensitive to rhetoric; and he
listened with pleasure while Athelny, with picturesque expressions and the
fire of a real enthusiasm, described to him the rich delight of reading
Don Quixote in the original and the music, romantic, limpid, passionate,
of the enchanting Calderon.
"I must get on with my work," said Philip presently.
"Oh, forgive me, I forgot. I will tell my wife to bring me a photograph of
Toledo, and I will show it you. Come and talk to me when you have the
chance. You don't know what a pleasure it gives me."
During the next few days, in moments snatched whenever there was
opportunity, Philip's acquaintance with the journalist increased. Thorpe
Athelny was a good talker. He did not say brilliant things, but he talked
inspiringly, with an eager vividness which fired the imagination; Philip,
living so much in a world of make-believe, found his fancy teeming with
new pictures. Athelny had very good manners. He knew much more than
Philip, both of the world and of books; he was a much older man; and the
readiness of his conversation gave him a certain superiority; but he was
in the hospital a recipient of charity, subject to strict rules; and he
held himself between the two positions with ease and humour. Once Philip
asked him why he had come to the hospital.
"Oh, my principle is to profit by all the benefits that society provides.
I take advantage of the age I live in. When I'm ill I get myself patched
up in a hospital and I have no false shame, and I send my children to be
educated at the board-school."
"Do you really?" said Philip.
"And a capital education they get too, much better than I got at
Winchester. How else do you think I could educate them at all? I've got
nine. You must come and see them all when I get home again. Will you?"
"I'd like to very much," said Philip.
Ten days later Thorpe Athelny was well enough to leave the hospital. He
gave Philip his address, and Philip promised to dine with him at one
o'clock on the following Sunday. Athelny had told him that he lived in a
house built by Inigo Jones; he had raved, as he raved over everything,
over the balustrade of old oak; and when he came down to open the door for
Philip he made him at once admire the elegant carving of the lintel. It
was a shabby house, badly needing a coat of paint, but with the dignity of
its period, in a little street between Chancery Lane and Holborn, which
had once been fashionable but was now little better than a slum: there was
a plan to pull it down in order to put up handsome offices; meanwhile the
rents were small, and Athelny was able to get the two upper floors at a
price which suited his income. Philip had not seen him up before and was
surprised at his small size; he was not more than five feet and five
inches high. He was dressed fantastically in blue linen trousers of the
sort worn by working men in France, and a very old brown velvet coat; he
wore a bright red sash round his waist, a low collar, and for tie a
flowing bow of the kind used by the comic Frenchman in the pages of
Punch. He greeted Philip with enthusiasm. He began talking at once of
the house and passed his hand lovingly over the balusters.
"Look at it, feel it, it's like silk. What a miracle of grace! And in five
years the house-breaker will sell it for firewood."
He insisted on taking Philip into a room on the first floor, where a man
in shirt sleeves, a blousy woman, and three children were having their
"I've just brought this gentleman in to show him your ceiling. Did you
ever see anything so wonderful? How are you, Mrs. Hodgson? This is Mr.
Carey, who looked after me when I was in the hospital."
"Come in, sir," said the man. "Any friend of Mr. Athelny's is welcome. Mr.
Athelny shows the ceiling to all his friends. And it don't matter what
we're doing, if we're in bed or if I'm 'aving a wash, in 'e comes."
Philip could see that they looked upon Athelny as a little queer; but they
liked him none the less and they listened open-mouthed while he discoursed
with his impetuous fluency on the beauty of the seventeenth-century
"What a crime to pull this down, eh, Hodgson? You're an influential
citizen, why don't you write to the papers and protest?"
The man in shirt sleeves gave a laugh and said to Philip:
"Mr. Athelny will 'ave his little joke. They do say these 'ouses are that
insanitory, it's not safe to live in them."
"Sanitation be damned, give me art," cried Athelny. "I've got nine
children and they thrive on bad drains. No, no, I'm not going to take any
risk. None of your new-fangled notions for me! When I move from here I'm
going to make sure the drains are bad before I take anything."
There was a knock at the door, and a little fair-haired girl opened it.
"Daddy, mummy says, do stop talking and come and eat your dinner."
"This is my third daughter," said Athelny, pointing to her with a dramatic
forefinger. "She is called Maria del Pilar, but she answers more willingly
to the name of Jane. Jane, your nose wants blowing."
"I haven't got a hanky, daddy."
"Tut, tut, child," he answered, as he produced a vast, brilliant bandanna,
"what do you suppose the Almighty gave you fingers for?"
They went upstairs, and Philip was taken into a room with walls panelled
in dark oak. In the middle was a narrow table of teak on trestle legs,
with two supporting bars of iron, of the kind called in Spain mesa de
hieraje. They were to dine there, for two places were laid, and there
were two large arm-chairs, with broad flat arms of oak and leathern backs,
and leathern seats. They were severe, elegant, and uncomfortable. The only
other piece of furniture was a bargueno, elaborately ornamented with
gilt iron-work, on a stand of ecclesiastical design roughly but very
finely carved. There stood on this two or three lustre plates, much broken
but rich in colour; and on the walls were old masters of the Spanish
school in beautiful though dilapidated frames: though gruesome in subject,
ruined by age and bad treatment, and second-rate in their conception, they
had a glow of passion. There was nothing in the room of any value, but the
effect was lovely. It was magnificent and yet austere. Philip felt that it
offered the very spirit of old Spain. Athelny was in the middle of showing
him the inside of the bargueno, with its beautiful ornamentation and
secret drawers, when a tall girl, with two plaits of bright brown hair
hanging down her back, came in.
"Mother says dinner's ready and waiting and I'm to bring it in as soon as
you sit down."
"Come and shake hands with Mr. Carey, Sally." He turned to Philip. "Isn't
she enormous? She's my eldest. How old are you, Sally?"
"Fifteen, father, come next June."
"I christened her Maria del Sol, because she was my first child and I
dedicated her to the glorious sun of Castile; but her mother calls her
Sally and her brother Pudding-Face."
The girl smiled shyly, she had even, white teeth, and blushed. She was
well set-up, tall for her age, with pleasant gray eyes and a broad
forehead. She had red cheeks.
"Go and tell your mother to come in and shake hands with Mr. Carey before
he sits down."
"Mother says she'll come in after dinner. She hasn't washed herself yet."
"Then we'll go in and see her ourselves. He mustn't eat the Yorkshire
pudding till he's shaken the hand that made it."
Philip followed his host into the kitchen. It was small and much
overcrowded. There had been a lot of noise, but it stopped as soon as the
stranger entered. There was a large table in the middle and round it,
eager for dinner, were seated Athelny's children. A woman was standing at
the oven, taking out baked potatoes one by one.
"Here's Mr. Carey, Betty," said Athelny.
"Fancy bringing him in here. What will he think?"
She wore a dirty apron, and the sleeves of her cotton dress were turned up
above her elbows; she had curling pins in her hair. Mrs. Athelny was a
large woman, a good three inches taller than her husband, fair, with blue
eyes and a kindly expression; she had been a handsome creature, but
advancing years and the bearing of many children had made her fat and
blousy; her blue eyes had become pale, her skin was coarse and red, the
colour had gone out of her hair. She straightened herself, wiped her hand
on her apron, and held it out.
"You're welcome, sir," she said, in a slow voice, with an accent that
seemed oddly familiar to Philip. "Athelny said you was very kind to him in
"Now you must be introduced to the live stock," said Athelny. "That is
Thorpe," he pointed to a chubby boy with curly hair, "he is my eldest son,
heir to the title, estates, and responsibilities of the family. There is
Athelstan, Harold, Edward." He pointed with his forefinger to three
smaller boys, all rosy, healthy, and smiling, though when they felt
Philip's smiling eyes upon them they looked shyly down at their plates.
"Now the girls in order: Maria del Sol..."
"Pudding-Face," said one of the small boys.
"Your sense of humour is rudimentary, my son. Maria de los Mercedes, Maria
del Pilar, Maria de la Concepcion, Maria del Rosario."
"I call them Sally, Molly, Connie, Rosie, and Jane," said Mrs. Athelny.
"Now, Athelny, you go into your own room and I'll send you your dinner.
I'll let the children come in afterwards for a bit when I've washed them."
"My dear, if I'd had the naming of you I should have called you Maria of
the Soapsuds. You're always torturing these wretched brats with soap."
"You go first, Mr. Carey, or I shall never get him to sit down and eat his
Athelny and Philip installed themselves in the great monkish chairs, and
Sally brought them in two plates of beef, Yorkshire pudding, baked
potatoes, and cabbage. Athelny took sixpence out of his pocket and sent
her for a jug of beer.
"I hope you didn't have the table laid here on my account," said Philip.
"I should have been quite happy to eat with the children."
"Oh no, I always have my meals by myself. I like these antique customs. I
don't think that women ought to sit down at table with men. It ruins
conversation and I'm sure it's very bad for them. It puts ideas in their
heads, and women are never at ease with themselves when they have ideas."
Both host and guest ate with a hearty appetite.
"Did you ever taste such Yorkshire pudding? No one can make it like my
wife. That's the advantage of not marrying a lady. You noticed she wasn't
a lady, didn't you?"
It was an awkward question, and Philip did not know how to answer it.
"I never thought about it," he said lamely.
Athelny laughed. He had a peculiarly joyous laugh.
"No, she's not a lady, nor anything like it. Her father was a farmer, and
she's never bothered about aitches in her life. We've had twelve children
and nine of them are alive. I tell her it's about time she stopped, but
she's an obstinate woman, she's got into the habit of it now, and I don't
believe she'll be satisfied till she's had twenty."
At that moment Sally came in with the beer, and, having poured out a glass
for Philip, went to the other side of the table to pour some out for her
father. He put his hand round her waist.
"Did you ever see such a handsome, strapping girl? Only fifteen and she
might be twenty. Look at her cheeks. She's never had a day's illness in
her life. It'll be a lucky man who marries her, won't it, Sally?"
Sally listened to all this with a slight, slow smile, not much
embarrassed, for she was accustomed to her father's outbursts, but with an
easy modesty which was very attractive.
"Don't let your dinner get cold, father," she said, drawing herself away
from his arm. "You'll call when you're ready for your pudding, won't you?"
They were left alone, and Athelny lifted the pewter tankard to his lips.
He drank long and deep.
"My word, is there anything better than English beer?" he said. "Let us
thank God for simple pleasures, roast beef and rice pudding, a good
appetite and beer. I was married to a lady once. My God! Don't marry a
lady, my boy."
Philip laughed. He was exhilarated by the scene, the funny little man in
his odd clothes, the panelled room and the Spanish furniture, the English
fare: the whole thing had an exquisite incongruity.
"You laugh, my boy, you can't imagine marrying beneath you. You want a
wife who's an intellectual equal. Your head is crammed full of ideas of
comradeship. Stuff and nonsense, my boy! A man doesn't want to talk
politics to his wife, and what do you think I care for Betty's views upon
the Differential Calculus? A man wants a wife who can cook his dinner and
look after his children. I've tried both and I know. Let's have the
He clapped his hands and presently Sally came. When she took away the
plates, Philip wanted to get up and help her, but Athelny stopped him.
"Let her alone, my boy. She doesn't want you to fuss about, do you, Sally?
And she won't think it rude of you to sit still while she waits upon you.
She don't care a damn for chivalry, do you, Sally?"
"No, father," answered Sally demurely.
"Do you know what I'm talking about, Sally?"
"No, father. But you know mother doesn't like you to swear."
Athelny laughed boisterously. Sally brought them plates of rice pudding,
rich, creamy, and luscious. Athelny attacked his with gusto.
"One of the rules of this house is that Sunday dinner should never alter.
It is a ritual. Roast beef and rice pudding for fifty Sundays in the year.
On Easter Sunday lamb and green peas, and at Michaelmas roast goose and
apple sauce. Thus we preserve the traditions of our people. When Sally
marries she will forget many of the wise things I have taught her, but she
will never forget that if you want to be good and happy you must eat on
Sundays roast beef and rice pudding."
"You'll call when you're ready for cheese," said Sally impassively.
"D'you know the legend of the halcyon?" said Athelny: Philip was growing
used to his rapid leaping from one subject to another. "When the
kingfisher, flying over the sea, is exhausted, his mate places herself
beneath him and bears him along upon her stronger wings. That is what a
man wants in a wife, the halcyon. I lived with my first wife for three
years. She was a lady, she had fifteen hundred a year, and we used to give
nice little dinner parties in our little red brick house in Kensington.
She was a charming woman; they all said so, the barristers and their wives
who dined with us, and the literary stockbrokers, and the budding
politicians; oh, she was a charming woman. She made me go to church in a
silk hat and a frock coat, she took me to classical concerts, and she was
very fond of lectures on Sunday afternoon; and she sat down to breakfast
every morning at eight-thirty, and if I was late breakfast was cold; and
she read the right books, admired the right pictures, and adored the right
music. My God, how that woman bored me! She is charming still, and she
lives in the little red brick house in Kensington, with Morris papers and
Whistler's etchings on the walls, and gives the same nice little dinner
parties, with veal creams and ices from Gunter's, as she did twenty years
Philip did not ask by what means the ill-matched couple had separated, but
Athelny told him.
"Betty's not my wife, you know; my wife wouldn't divorce me. The children
are bastards, every jack one of them, and are they any the worse for that?
Betty was one of the maids in the little red brick house in Kensington.
Four or five years ago I was on my uppers, and I had seven children, and
I went to my wife and asked her to help me. She said she'd make me an
allowance if I'd give Betty up and go abroad. Can you see me giving Betty
up? We starved for a while instead. My wife said I loved the gutter. I've
degenerated; I've come down in the world; I earn three pounds a week as
press agent to a linendraper, and every day I thank God that I'm not in
the little red brick house in Kensington."
Sally brought in Cheddar cheese, and Athelny went on with his fluent
"It's the greatest mistake in the world to think that one needs money to
bring up a family. You need money to make them gentlemen and ladies, but
I don't want my children to be ladies and gentlemen. Sally's going to earn
her living in another year. She's to be apprenticed to a dressmaker,
aren't you, Sally? And the boys are going to serve their country. I want
them all to go into the Navy; it's a jolly life and a healthy life, good
food, good pay, and a pension to end their days on."
Philip lit his pipe. Athelny smoked cigarettes of Havana tobacco, which he
rolled himself. Sally cleared away. Philip was reserved, and it
embarrassed him to be the recipient of so many confidences. Athelny, with
his powerful voice in the diminutive body, with his bombast, with his
foreign look, with his emphasis, was an astonishing creature. He reminded
Philip a good deal of Cronshaw. He appeared to have the same independence
of thought, the same bohemianism, but he had an infinitely more vivacious
temperament; his mind was coarser, and he had not that interest in the
abstract which made Cronshaw's conversation so captivating. Athelny was
very proud of the county family to which he belonged; he showed Philip
photographs of an Elizabethan mansion, and told him:
"The Athelnys have lived there for seven centuries, my boy. Ah, if you saw
the chimney-pieces and the ceilings!"
There was a cupboard in the wainscoting and from this he took a family
tree. He showed it to Philip with child-like satisfaction. It was indeed
"You see how the family names recur, Thorpe, Athelstan, Harold, Edward;
I've used the family names for my sons. And the girls, you see, I've given
Spanish names to."
An uneasy feeling came to Philip that possibly the whole story was an
elaborate imposture, not told with any base motive, but merely from a wish
to impress, startle, and amaze. Athelny had told him that he was at
Winchester; but Philip, sensitive to differences of manner, did not feel
that his host had the characteristics of a man educated at a great public
school. While he pointed out the great alliances which his ancestors had
formed, Philip amused himself by wondering whether Athelny was not the son
of some tradesman in Winchester, auctioneer or coal-merchant, and whether
a similarity of surname was not his only connection with the ancient
family whose tree he was displaying.
There was a knock at the door and a troop of children came in. They were
clean and tidy, now. their faces shone with soap, and their hair was
plastered down; they were going to Sunday school under Sally's charge.
Athelny joked with them in his dramatic, exuberant fashion, and you could
see that he was devoted to them all. His pride in their good health and
their good looks was touching. Philip felt that they were a little shy in
his presence, and when their father sent them off they fled from the room
in evident relief. In a few minutes Mrs. Athelny appeared. She had taken
her hair out of the curling pins and now wore an elaborate fringe. She had
on a plain black dress, a hat with cheap flowers, and was forcing her
hands, red and coarse from much work, into black kid gloves.
"I'm going to church, Athelny," she said. "There's nothing you'll be
wanting, is there?"
"Only your prayers, my Betty."
"They won't do you much good, you're too far gone for that," she smiled.
Then, turning to Philip, she drawled: "I can't get him to go to church.
He's no better than an atheist."
"Doesn't she look like Rubens' second wife?" cried Athelny. "Wouldn't she
look splendid in a seventeenth-century costume? That's the sort of wife to
marry, my boy. Look at her."
"I believe you'd talk the hind leg off a donkey, Athelny," she answered
She succeeded in buttoning her gloves, but before she went she turned to
Philip with a kindly, slightly embarrassed smile.
"You'll stay to tea, won't you? Athelny likes someone to talk to, and it's
not often he gets anybody who's clever enough."
"Of course he'll stay to tea," said Athelny. Then when his wife had gone:
"I make a point of the children going to Sunday school, and I like Betty
to go to church. I think women ought to be religious. I don't believe
myself, but I like women and children to."
Philip, strait-laced in matters of truth, was a little shocked by this
"But how can you look on while your children are being taught things which
you don't think are true?"
"If they're beautiful I don't much mind if they're not true. It's asking
a great deal that things should appeal to your reason as well as to your
sense of the aesthetic. I wanted Betty to become a Roman Catholic, I
should have liked to see her converted in a crown of paper flowers, but
she's hopelessly Protestant. Besides, religion is a matter of temperament;
you will believe anything if you have the religious turn of mind, and if
you haven't it doesn't matter what beliefs were instilled into you, you
will grow out of them. Perhaps religion is the best school of morality. It
is like one of those drugs you gentlemen use in medicine which carries
another in solution: it is of no efficacy in itself, but enables the other
to be absorbed. You take your morality because it is combined with
religion; you lose the religion and the morality stays behind. A man is
more likely to be a good man if he has learned goodness through the love
of God than through a perusal of Herbert Spencer."
This was contrary to all Philip's ideas. He still looked upon Christianity
as a degrading bondage that must be cast away at any cost; it was
connected subconsciously in his mind with the dreary services in the
cathedral at Tercanbury, and the long hours of boredom in the cold church
at Blackstable; and the morality of which Athelny spoke was to him no more
than a part of the religion which a halting intelligence preserved, when
it had laid aside the beliefs which alone made it reasonable. But while he
was meditating a reply Athelny, more interested in hearing himself speak
than in discussion, broke into a tirade upon Roman Catholicism. For him it
was an essential part of Spain; and Spain meant much to him, because he
had escaped to it from the conventionality which during his married life
he had found so irksome. With large gestures and in the emphatic tone
which made what he said so striking, Athelny described to Philip the
Spanish cathedrals with their vast dark spaces, the massive gold of the
altar-pieces, and the sumptuous iron-work, gilt and faded, the air laden
with incense, the silence: Philip almost saw the Canons in their short
surplices of lawn, the acolytes in red, passing from the sacristy to the
choir; he almost heard the monotonous chanting of vespers. The names which
Athelny mentioned, Avila, Tarragona, Saragossa, Segovia, Cordova, were
like trumpets in his heart. He seemed to see the great gray piles of
granite set in old Spanish towns amid a landscape tawny, wild, and
"I've always thought I should love to go to Seville," he said casually,
when Athelny, with one hand dramatically uplifted, paused for a moment.
"Seville!" cried Athelny. "No, no, don't go there. Seville: it brings to
the mind girls dancing with castanets, singing in gardens by the
Guadalquivir, bull-fights, orange-blossom, mantillas, mantones de
Manila. It is the Spain of comic opera and Montmartre. Its facile charm
can offer permanent entertainment only to an intelligence which is
superficial. Theophile Gautier got out of Seville all that it has to
offer. We who come after him can only repeat his sensations. He put large
fat hands on the obvious and there is nothing but the obvious there; and
it is all finger-marked and frayed. Murillo is its painter."
Athelny got up from his chair, walked over to the Spanish cabinet, let
down the front with its great gilt hinges and gorgeous lock, and displayed
a series of little drawers. He took out a bundle of photographs.
"Do you know El Greco?" he asked.
"Oh, I remember one of the men in Paris was awfully impressed by him."
"El Greco was the painter of Toledo. Betty couldn't find the photograph I
wanted to show you. It's a picture that El Greco painted of the city he
loved, and it's truer than any photograph. Come and sit at the table."
Philip dragged his chair forward, and Athelny set the photograph before
him. He looked at it curiously, for a long time, in silence. He stretched
out his hand for other photographs, and Athelny passed them to him. He had
never before seen the work of that enigmatic master; and at the first
glance he was bothered by the arbitrary drawing: the figures were
extraordinarily elongated; the heads were very small; the attitudes were
extravagant. This was not realism, and yet, and yet even in the
photographs you had the impression of a troubling reality. Athelny was
describing eagerly, with vivid phrases, but Philip only heard vaguely what
he said. He was puzzled. He was curiously moved. These pictures seemed to
offer some meaning to him, but he did not know what the meaning was. There
were portraits of men with large, melancholy eyes which seemed to say you
knew not what; there were long monks in the Franciscan habit or in the
Dominican, with distraught faces, making gestures whose sense escaped you;
there was an Assumption of the Virgin; there was a Crucifixion in which
the painter by some magic of feeling had been able to suggest that the
flesh of Christ's dead body was not human flesh only but divine; and there
was an Ascension in which the Saviour seemed to surge up towards the
empyrean and yet to stand upon the air as steadily as though it were solid
ground: the uplifted arms of the Apostles, the sweep of their draperies,
their ecstatic gestures, gave an impression of exultation and of holy joy.
The background of nearly all was the sky by night, the dark night of the
soul, with wild clouds swept by strange winds of hell and lit luridly by
an uneasy moon.
"I've seen that sky in Toledo over and over again," said Athelny. "I have
an idea that when first El Greco came to the city it was by such a night,
and it made so vehement an impression upon him that he could never get
away from it."
Philip remembered how Clutton had been affected by this strange master,
whose work he now saw for the first time. He thought that Clutton was the
most interesting of all the people he had known in Paris. His sardonic
manner, his hostile aloofness, had made it difficult to know him; but it
seemed to Philip, looking back, that there had been in him a tragic force,
which sought vainly to express itself in painting. He was a man of unusual
character, mystical after the fashion of a time that had no leaning to
mysticism, who was impatient with life because he found himself unable to
say the things which the obscure impulses of his heart suggested. His
intellect was not fashioned to the uses of the spirit. It was not
surprising that he felt a deep sympathy with the Greek who had devised a
new technique to express the yearnings of his soul. Philip looked again at
the series of portraits of Spanish gentlemen, with ruffles and pointed
beards, their faces pale against the sober black of their clothes and the
darkness of the background. El Greco was the painter of the soul; and
these gentlemen, wan and wasted, not by exhaustion but by restraint, with
their tortured minds, seem to walk unaware of the beauty of the world; for
their eyes look only in their hearts, and they are dazzled by the glory of
the unseen. No painter has shown more pitilessly that the world is but a
place of passage. The souls of the men he painted speak their strange
longings through their eyes: their senses are miraculously acute, not for
sounds and odours and colour, but for the very subtle sensations of the
soul. The noble walks with the monkish heart within him, and his eyes see
things which saints in their cells see too, and he is unastounded. His
lips are not lips that smile.
Philip, silent still, returned to the photograph of Toledo, which seemed
to him the most arresting picture of them all. He could not take his eyes
off it. He felt strangely that he was on the threshold of some new
discovery in life. He was tremulous with a sense of adventure. He thought
for an instant of the love that had consumed him: love seemed very trivial
beside the excitement which now leaped in his heart. The picture he looked
at was a long one, with houses crowded upon a hill; in one corner a boy
was holding a large map of the town; in another was a classical figure
representing the river Tagus; and in the sky was the Virgin surrounded by
angels. It was a landscape alien to all Philip's notion, for he had lived
in circles that worshipped exact realism; and yet here again, strangely to
himself, he felt a reality greater than any achieved by the masters in
whose steps humbly he had sought to walk. He heard Athelny say that the
representation was so precise that when the citizens of Toledo came to
look at the picture they recognised their houses. The painter had painted
exactly what he saw but he had seen with the eyes of the spirit. There was
something unearthly in that city of pale gray. It was a city of the soul
seen by a wan light that was neither that of night nor day. It stood on a
green hill, but of a green not of this world, and it was surrounded by
massive walls and bastions to be stormed by no machines or engines of
man's invention, but by prayer and fasting, by contrite sighs and by
mortifications of the flesh. It was a stronghold of God. Those gray houses
were made of no stone known to masons, there was something terrifying in
their aspect, and you did not know what men might live in them. You might
walk through the streets and be unamazed to find them all deserted, and
yet not empty; for you felt a presence invisible and yet manifest to every
inner sense. It was a mystical city in which the imagination faltered like
one who steps out of the light into darkness; the soul walked naked to and
fro, knowing the unknowable, and conscious strangely of experience,
intimate but inexpressible, of the absolute. And without surprise, in that
blue sky, real with a reality that not the eye but the soul confesses,
with its rack of light clouds driven by strange breezes, like the cries
and the sighs of lost souls, you saw the Blessed Virgin with a gown of red
and a cloak of blue, surrounded by winged angels. Philip felt that the
inhabitants of that city would have seen the apparition without
astonishment, reverent and thankful, and have gone their ways.
Athelny spoke of the mystical writers of Spain, of Teresa de Avila, San
Juan de la Cruz, Fray Luis de Leon; in all of them was that passion for
the unseen which Philip felt in the pictures of El Greco: they seemed to
have the power to touch the incorporeal and see the invisible. They were
Spaniards of their age, in whom were tremulous all the mighty exploits of
a great nation: their fancies were rich with the glories of America and
the green islands of the Caribbean Sea; in their veins was the power that
had come from age-long battling with the Moor; they were proud, for they
were masters of the world; and they felt in themselves the wide distances,
the tawny wastes, the snow-capped mountains of Castile, the sunshine and
the blue sky, and the flowering plains of Andalusia. Life was passionate
and manifold, and because it offered so much they felt a restless yearning
for something more; because they were human they were unsatisfied; and
they threw this eager vitality of theirs into a vehement striving after
the ineffable. Athelny was not displeased to find someone to whom he could
read the translations with which for some time he had amused his leisure;
and in his fine, vibrating voice he recited the canticle of the Soul and
Christ her lover, the lovely poem which begins with the words en una
noche oscura, and the noche serena of Fray Luis de Leon. He had
translated them quite simply, not without skill, and he had found words
which at all events suggested the rough-hewn grandeur of the original. The
pictures of El Greco explained them, and they explained the pictures.
Philip had cultivated a certain disdain for idealism. He had always had a
passion for life, and the idealism he had come across seemed to him for
the most part a cowardly shrinking from it. The idealist withdrew himself,
because he could not suffer the jostling of the human crowd; he had not
the strength to fight and so called the battle vulgar; he was vain, and
since his fellows would not take him at his own estimate, consoled himself
with despising his fellows. For Philip his type was Hayward, fair,
languid, too fat now and rather bald, still cherishing the remains of his
good looks and still delicately proposing to do exquisite things in the
uncertain future; and at the back of this were whiskey and vulgar amours
of the street. It was in reaction from what Hayward represented that
Philip clamoured for life as it stood; sordidness, vice, deformity, did
not offend him; he declared that he wanted man in his nakedness; and he
rubbed his hands when an instance came before him of meanness, cruelty,
selfishness, or lust: that was the real thing. In Paris he had learned
that there was neither ugliness nor beauty, but only truth: the search
after beauty was sentimental. Had he not painted an advertisement of
chocolat Menier in a landscape in order to escape from the tyranny of
But here he seemed to divine something new. He had been coming to it, all
hesitating, for some time, but only now was conscious of the fact; he felt
himself on the brink of a discovery. He felt vaguely that here was
something better than the realism which he had adored; but certainly it
was not the bloodless idealism which stepped aside from life in weakness;
it was too strong; it was virile; it accepted life in all its vivacity,
ugliness and beauty, squalor and heroism; it was realism still; but it was
realism carried to some higher pitch, in which facts were transformed by
the more vivid light in which they were seen. He seemed to see things more
profoundly through the grave eyes of those dead noblemen of Castile; and
the gestures of the saints, which at first had seemed wild and distorted,
appeared to have some mysterious significance. But he could not tell what
that significance was. It was like a message which it was very important
for him to receive, but it was given him in an unknown tongue, and he
could not understand. He was always seeking for a meaning in life, and
here it seemed to him that a meaning was offered; but it was obscure and
vague. He was profoundly troubled. He saw what looked like the truth as by
flashes of lightning on a dark, stormy night you might see a mountain
range. He seemed to see that a man need not leave his life to chance, but
that his will was powerful; he seemed to see that self-control might be as
passionate and as active as the surrender to passion; he seemed to see
that the inward life might be as manifold, as varied, as rich with
experience, as the life of one who conquered realms and explored unknown
The conversation between Philip and Athelny was broken into by a clatter
up the stairs. Athelny opened the door for the children coming back from
Sunday school, and with laughter and shouting they came in. Gaily he asked
them what they had learned. Sally appeared for a moment, with instructions
from her mother that father was to amuse the children while she got tea
ready; and Athelny began to tell them one of Hans Andersen's stories. They
were not shy children, and they quickly came to the conclusion that Philip
was not formidable. Jane came and stood by him and presently settled
herself on his knees. It was the first time that Philip in his lonely life
had been present in a family circle: his eyes smiled as they rested on the
fair children engrossed in the fairy tale. The life of his new friend,
eccentric as it appeared at first glance, seemed now to have the beauty of
perfect naturalness. Sally came in once more.
"Now then, children, tea's ready," she said.
Jane slipped off Philip's knees, and they all went back to the kitchen.
Sally began to lay the cloth on the long Spanish table.
"Mother says, shall she come and have tea with you?" she asked. "I can
give the children their tea."
"Tell your mother that we shall be proud and honoured if she will favour
us with her company," said Athelny.
It seemed to Philip that he could never say anything without an oratorical
"Then I'll lay for her," said Sally.
She came back again in a moment with a tray on which were a cottage loaf,
a slab of butter, and a jar of strawberry jam. While she placed the things
on the table her father chaffed her. He said it was quite time she was
walking out; he told Philip that she was very proud, and would have
nothing to do with aspirants to that honour who lined up at the door, two
by two, outside the Sunday school and craved the honour of escorting her
"You do talk, father," said Sally, with her slow, good-natured smile.
"You wouldn't think to look at her that a tailor's assistant has enlisted
in the army because she would not say how d'you do to him and an
electrical engineer, an electrical engineer, mind you, has taken to drink
because she refused to share her hymn-book with him in church. I shudder
to think what will happen when she puts her hair up."
"Mother'll bring the tea along herself," said Sally.
"Sally never pays any attention to me," laughed Athelny, looking at her
with fond, proud eyes. "She goes about her business indifferent to wars,
revolutions, and cataclysms. What a wife she'll make to an honest man!"
Mrs. Athelny brought in the tea. She sat down and proceeded to cut bread
and butter. It amused Philip to see that she treated her husband as though
he were a child. She spread jam for him and cut up the bread and butter
into convenient slices for him to eat. She had taken off her hat; and in
her Sunday dress, which seemed a little tight for her, she looked like one
of the farmers' wives whom Philip used to call on sometimes with his uncle
when he was a small boy. Then he knew why the sound of her voice was
familiar to him. She spoke just like the people round Blackstable.
"What part of the country d'you come from?" he asked her.
"I'm a Kentish woman. I come from Ferne."
"I thought as much. My uncle's Vicar of Blackstable."
"That's a funny thing now," she said. "I was wondering in Church just now
whether you was any connection of Mr. Carey. Many's the time I've seen
'im. A cousin of mine married Mr. Barker of Roxley Farm, over by
Blackstable Church, and I used to go and stay there often when I was a
girl. Isn't that a funny thing now?"
She looked at him with a new interest, and a brightness came into her
faded eyes. She asked him whether he knew Ferne. It was a pretty village
about ten miles across country from Blackstable, and the Vicar had come
over sometimes to Blackstable for the harvest thanksgiving. She mentioned
names of various farmers in the neighbourhood. She was delighted to talk
again of the country in which her youth was spent, and it was a pleasure
to her to recall scenes and people that had remained in her memory with
the tenacity peculiar to her class. It gave Philip a queer sensation too.
A breath of the country-side seemed to be wafted into that panelled room
in the middle of London. He seemed to see the fat Kentish fields with
their stately elms; and his nostrils dilated with the scent of the air; it
is laden with the salt of the North Sea, and that makes it keen and sharp.
Philip did not leave the Athelnys' till ten o'clock. The children came in
to say good-night at eight and quite naturally put up their faces for
Philip to kiss. His heart went out to them. Sally only held out her hand.
"Sally never kisses gentlemen till she's seen them twice," said her
"You must ask me again then," said Philip.
"You mustn't take any notice of what father says," remarked Sally, with a
"She's a most self-possessed young woman," added her parent.
They had supper of bread and cheese and beer, while Mrs. Athelny was
putting the children to bed; and when Philip went into the kitchen to bid
her good-night (she had been sitting there, resting herself and reading
The Weekly Despatch) she invited him cordially to come again.
"There's always a good dinner on Sundays so long as Athelny's in work,"
she said, "and it's a charity to come and talk to him."
On the following Saturday Philip received a postcard from Athelny saying
that they were expecting him to dinner next day; but fearing their means
were not such that Mr. Athelny would desire him to accept, Philip wrote
back that he would only come to tea. He bought a large plum cake so that
his entertainment should cost nothing. He found the whole family glad to
see him, and the cake completed his conquest of the children. He insisted
that they should all have tea together in the kitchen, and the meal was
noisy and hilarious.
Soon Philip got into the habit of going to Athelny's every Sunday. He
became a great favourite with the children, because he was simple and
unaffected and because it was so plain that he was fond of them. As soon
as they heard his ring at the door one of them popped a head out of window
to make sure it was he, and then they all rushed downstairs tumultuously
to let him in. They flung themselves into his arms. At tea they fought for
the privilege of sitting next to him. Soon they began to call him Uncle
Athelny was very communicative, and little by little Philip learned the
various stages of his life. He had followed many occupations, and it
occurred to Philip that he managed to make a mess of everything he
attempted. He had been on a tea plantation in Ceylon and a traveller in
America for Italian wines; his secretaryship of the water company in
Toledo had lasted longer than any of his employments; he had been a
journalist and for some time had worked as police-court reporter for an
evening paper; he had been sub-editor of a paper in the Midlands and
editor of another on the Riviera. From all his occupations he had gathered
amusing anecdotes, which he told with a keen pleasure in his own powers of
entertainment. He had read a great deal, chiefly delighting in books which
were unusual; and he poured forth his stores of abstruse knowledge with
child-like enjoyment of the amazement of his hearers. Three or four years
before abject poverty had driven him to take the job of
press-representative to a large firm of drapers; and though he felt the
work unworthy his abilities, which he rated highly, the firmness of his
wife and the needs of his family had made him stick to it.
When he left the Athelnys' Philip walked down Chancery Lane and along the
Strand to get a 'bus at the top of Parliament Street. One Sunday, when he
had known them about six weeks, he did this as usual, but he found the
Kennington 'bus full. It was June, but it had rained during the day and
the night was raw and cold. He walked up to Piccadilly Circus in order to
get a seat; the 'bus waited at the fountain, and when it arrived there
seldom had more than two or three people in it. This service ran every
quarter of an hour, and he had some time to wait. He looked idly at the
crowd. The public-houses were closing, and there were many people about.
His mind was busy with the ideas Athelny had the charming gift of
Suddenly his heart stood still. He saw Mildred. He had not thought of her
for weeks. She was crossing over from the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and
stopped at the shelter till a string of cabs passed by. She was watching
her opportunity and had no eyes for anything else. She wore a large black
straw hat with a mass of feathers on it and a black silk dress; at that
time it was fashionable for women to wear trains; the road was clear, and
Mildred crossed, her skirt trailing on the ground, and walked down
Piccadilly. Philip, his heart beating excitedly, followed her. He did not
wish to speak to her, but he wondered where she was going at that hour; he
wanted to get a look at her face. She walked slowly along and turned down
Air Street and so got through into Regent Street. She walked up again
towards the Circus. Philip was puzzled. He could not make out what she was
doing. Perhaps she was waiting for somebody, and he felt a great curiosity
to know who it was. She overtook a short man in a bowler hat, who was
strolling very slowly in the same direction as herself; she gave him a
sidelong glance as she passed. She walked a few steps more till she came
to Swan and Edgar's, then stopped and waited, facing the road. When the
man came up she smiled. The man stared at her for a moment, turned away
his head, and sauntered on. Then Philip understood.
He was overwhelmed with horror. For a moment he felt such a weakness in
his legs that he could hardly stand; then he walked after her quickly; he
touched her on the arm.
She turned round with a violent start. He thought that she reddened, but
in the obscurity he could not see very well. For a while they stood and
looked at one another without speaking. At last she said:
"Fancy seeing you!"
He did not know what to answer; he was horribly shaken; and the phrases
that chased one another through his brain seemed incredibly melodramatic.
"It's awful," he gasped, almost to himself.
She did not say anything more, she turned away from him, and looked down
at the pavement. He felt that his face was distorted with misery.
"Isn't there anywhere we can go and talk?"
"I don't want to talk," she said sullenly. "Leave me alone, can't you?"
The thought struck him that perhaps she was in urgent need of money and
could not afford to go away at that hour.
"I've got a couple of sovereigns on me if you're hard up," he blurted out.
"I don't know what you mean. I was just walking along here on my way back
to my lodgings. I expected to meet one of the girls from where I work."
"For God's sake don't lie now," he said.
Then he saw that she was crying, and he repeated his question.
"Can't we go and talk somewhere? Can't I come back to your rooms?"
"No, you can't do that," she sobbed. "I'm not allowed to take gentlemen in
there. If you like I'll met you tomorrow."
He felt certain that she would not keep an appointment. He was not going
to let her go.
"No. You must take me somewhere now."
"Well, there is a room I know, but they'll charge six shillings for it."
"I don't mind that. Where is it?"
She gave him the address, and he called a cab. They drove to a shabby
street beyond the British Museum in the neighbourhood of the Gray's Inn
Road, and she stopped the cab at the corner.
"They don't like you to drive up to the door," she said.
They were the first words either of them had spoken since getting into the
cab. They walked a few yards and Mildred knocked three times, sharply, at
a door. Philip noticed in the fanlight a cardboard on which was an
announcement that apartments were to let. The door was opened quietly, and
an elderly, tall woman let them in. She gave Philip a stare and then spoke
to Mildred in an undertone. Mildred led Philip along a passage to a room
at the back. It was quite dark; she asked him for a match, and lit the
gas; there was no globe, and the gas flared shrilly. Philip saw that he
was in a dingy little bed-room with a suite of furniture, painted to look
like pine much too large for it; the lace curtains were very dirty; the
grate was hidden by a large paper fan. Mildred sank on the chair which
stood by the side of the chimney-piece. Philip sat on the edge of the bed.
He felt ashamed. He saw now that Mildred's cheeks were thick with rouge,
her eyebrows were blackened; but she looked thin and ill, and the red on
her cheeks exaggerated the greenish pallor of her skin. She stared at the
paper fan in a listless fashion. Philip could not think what to say, and
he had a choking in his throat as if he were going to cry. He covered his
eyes with his hands.
"My God, it is awful," he groaned.
"I don't know what you've got to fuss about. I should have thought you'd
have been rather pleased."
Philip did not answer, and in a moment she broke into a sob.
"You don't think I do it because I like it, do you?"
"Oh, my dear," he cried. "I'm so sorry, I'm so awfully sorry."
"That'll do me a fat lot of good."
Again Philip found nothing to say. He was desperately afraid of saying
anything which she might take for a reproach or a sneer.
"Where's the baby?" he asked at last.
"I've got her with me in London. I hadn't got the money to keep her on at
Brighton, so I had to take her. I've got a room up Highbury way. I told
them I was on the stage. It's a long way to have to come down to the West
End every day, but it's a rare job to find anyone who'll let to ladies at
"Wouldn't they take you back at the shop?"
"I couldn't get any work to do anywhere. I walked my legs off looking for
work. I did get a job once, but I was off for a week because I was queer,
and when I went back they said they didn't want me any more. You can't
blame them either, can you? Them places, they can't afford to have girls
that aren't strong."
"You don't look very well now," said Philip.
"I wasn't fit to come out tonight, but I couldn't help myself, I wanted
the money. I wrote to Emil and told him I was broke, but he never even
answered the letter."
"You might have written to me."
"I didn't like to, not after what happened, and I didn't want you to know
I was in difficulties. I shouldn't have been surprised if you'd just told
me I'd only got what I deserved."
"You don't know me very well, do you, even now?"
For a moment he remembered all the anguish he had suffered on her account,
and he was sick with the recollection of his pain. But it was no more than
recollection. When he looked at her he knew that he no longer loved her.
He was very sorry for her, but he was glad to be free. Watching her
gravely, he asked himself why he had been so besotted with passion for
"You're a gentleman in every sense of the word," she said. "You're the
only one I've ever met." She paused for a minute and then flushed. "I hate
asking you, Philip, but can you spare me anything?"
"It's lucky I've got some money on me. I'm afraid I've only got two
He gave her the sovereigns.
"I'll pay you back, Philip."
"Oh, that's all right," he smiled. "You needn't worry."
He had said nothing that he wanted to say. They had talked as if the whole
thing were natural; and it looked as though she would go now, back to the
horror of her life, and he would be able to do nothing to prevent it. She
had got up to take the money, and they were both standing.
"Am I keeping you?" she asked. "I suppose you want to be getting home."
"No, I'm in no hurry," he answered.
"I'm glad to have a chance of sitting down."
Those words, with all they implied, tore his heart, and it was dreadfully
painful to see the weary way in which she sank back into the chair. The
silence lasted so long that Philip in his embarrassment lit a cigarette.
"It's very good of you not to have said anything disagreeable to me,
Philip. I thought you might say I didn't know what all."
He saw that she was crying again. He remembered how she had come to him
when Emil Miller had deserted her and how she had wept. The recollection
of her suffering and of his own humiliation seemed to render more
overwhelming the compassion he felt now.
"If I could only get out of it!" she moaned. "I hate it so. I'm unfit for
the life, I'm not the sort of girl for that. I'd do anything to get away
from it, I'd be a servant if I could. Oh, I wish I was dead."
And in pity for herself she broke down now completely. She sobbed
hysterically, and her thin body was shaken.
"Oh, you don't know what it is. Nobody knows till they've done it."
Philip could not bear to see her cry. He was tortured by the horror of her
"Poor child," he whispered. "Poor child."
He was deeply moved. Suddenly he had an inspiration. It filled him with a
perfect ecstasy of happiness.
"Look here, if you want to get away from it, I've got an idea. I'm
frightfully hard up just now, I've got to be as economical as I can; but
I've got a sort of little flat now in Kennington and I've got a spare
room. If you like you and the baby can come and live there. I pay a woman
three and sixpence a week to keep the place clean and to do a little
cooking for me. You could do that and your food wouldn't come to much more
than the money I should save on her. It doesn't cost any more to feed two
than one, and I don't suppose the baby eats much."
She stopped crying and looked at him.
"D'you mean to say that you could take me back after all that's happened?"
Philip flushed a little in embarrassment at what he had to say.
"I don't want you to mistake me. I'm just giving you a room which doesn't
cost me anything and your food. I don't expect anything more from you than
that you should do exactly the same as the woman I have in does. Except
for that I don't want anything from you at all. I daresay you can cook
well enough for that."
She sprang to her feet and was about to come towards him.
"You are good to me, Philip."
"No, please stop where you are," he said hurriedly, putting out his hand
as though to push her away.
He did not know why it was, but he could not bear the thought that she
should touch him.
"I don't want to be anything more than a friend to you."
"You are good to me," she repeated. "You are good to me."
"Does that mean you'll come?"
"Oh, yes, I'd do anything to get away from this. You'll never regret what
you've done, Philip, never. When can I come, Philip?"
"You'd better come tomorrow."
Suddenly she burst into tears again.
"What on earth are you crying for now?" he smiled.
"I'm so grateful to you. I don't know how I can ever make it up to you?"
"Oh, that's all right. You'd better go home now."
He wrote out the address and told her that if she came at half past five
he would be ready for her. It was so late that he had to walk home, but it
did not seem a long way, for he was intoxicated with delight; he seemed to
walk on air.
Next day he got up early to make the room ready for Mildred. He told the
woman who had looked after him that he would not want her any more.
Mildred came about six, and Philip, who was watching from the window, went
down to let her in and help her to bring up the luggage: it consisted now
of no more than three large parcels wrapped in brown paper, for she had
been obliged to sell everything that was not absolutely needful. She wore
the same black silk dress she had worn the night before, and, though she
had now no rouge on her cheeks, there was still about her eyes the black
which remained after a perfunctory wash in the morning: it made her look
very ill. She was a pathetic figure as she stepped out of the cab with the
baby in her arms. She seemed a little shy, and they found nothing but
commonplace things to say to one another.
"So you've got here all right."
"I've never lived in this part of London before."
Philip showed her the room. It was that in which Cronshaw had died.
Philip, though he thought it absurd, had never liked the idea of going
back to it; and since Cronshaw's death he had remained in the little room,
sleeping on a fold-up bed, into which he had first moved in order to make
his friend comfortable. The baby was sleeping placidly.
"You don't recognise her, I expect," said Mildred.
"I've not seen her since we took her down to Brighton."
"Where shall I put her? She's so heavy I can't carry her very long."
"I'm afraid I haven't got a cradle," said Philip, with a nervous laugh.
"Oh, she'll sleep with me. She always does."
Mildred put the baby in an arm-chair and looked round the room. She
recognised most of the things which she had known in his old diggings.
Only one thing was new, a head and shoulders of Philip which Lawson had
painted at the end of the preceding summer; it hung over the
chimney-piece; Mildred looked at it critically.
"In some ways I like it and in some ways I don't. I think you're better
looking than that."
"Things are looking up," laughed Philip. "You've never told me I was
"I'm not one to worry myself about a man's looks. I don't like
good-looking men. They're too conceited for me."
Her eyes travelled round the room in an instinctive search for a
looking-glass, but there was none; she put up her hand and patted her
"What'll the other people in the house say to my being here?" she asked
"Oh, there's only a man and his wife living here. He's out all day, and I
never see her except on Saturday to pay my rent. They keep entirely to
themselves. I've not spoken two words to either of them since I came."
Mildred went into the bedroom to undo her things and put them away. Philip
tried to read, but his spirits were too high: he leaned back in his chair,
smoking a cigarette, and with smiling eyes looked at the sleeping child.
He felt very happy. He was quite sure that he was not at all in love with
Mildred. He was surprised that the old feeling had left him so completely;
he discerned in himself a faint physical repulsion from her; and he
thought that if he touched her it would give him goose-flesh. He could not
understand himself. Presently, knocking at the door, she came in again.
"I say, you needn't knock," he said. "Have you made the tour of the
"It's the smallest kitchen I've ever seen."
"You'll find it large enough to cook our sumptuous repasts," he retorted
"I see there's nothing in. I'd better go out and get something."
"Yes, but I venture to remind you that we must be devilish economical."
"What shall I get for supper?"
"You'd better get what you think you can cook," laughed Philip.
He gave her some money and she went out. She came in half an hour later
and put her purchases on the table. She was out of breath from climbing
"I say, you are anaemic," said Philip. "I'll have to dose you with Blaud's
"It took me some time to find the shops. I bought some liver. That's
tasty, isn't it? And you can't eat much of it, so it's more economical
than butcher's meat."
There was a gas stove in the kitchen, and when she had put the liver on,
Mildred came into the sitting-room to lay the cloth.
"Why are you only laying one place?" asked Philip. "Aren't you going to
"I thought you mightn't like me to have my meals with you."
"Why on earth not?"
"Well, I'm only a servant, aren't I?"
"Don't be an ass. How can you be so silly?"
He smiled, but her humility gave him a curious twist in his heart. Poor
thing! He remembered what she had been when first he knew her. He
hesitated for an instant.
"Don't think I'm conferring any benefit on you," he said. "It's simply a
business arrangement, I'm giving you board and lodging in return for your
work. You don't owe me anything. And there's nothing humiliating to you in
She did not answer, but tears rolled heavily down her cheeks. Philip knew
from his experience at the hospital that women of her class looked upon
service as degrading: he could not help feeling a little impatient with
her; but he blamed himself, for it was clear that she was tired and ill.
He got up and helped her to lay another place at the table. The baby was
awake now, and Mildred had prepared some Mellin's Food for it. The liver
and bacon were ready and they sat down. For economy's sake Philip had
given up drinking anything but water, but he had in the house a half a
bottle of whiskey, and he thought a little would do Mildred good. He did
his best to make the supper pass cheerfully, but Mildred was subdued and
exhausted. When they had finished she got up to put the baby to bed.
"I think you'll do well to turn in early yourself," said Philip. "You look
absolute done up."
"I think I will after I've washed up."
Philip lit his pipe and began to read. It was pleasant to hear somebody
moving about in the next room. Sometimes his loneliness had oppressed him.
Mildred came in to clear the table, and he heard the clatter of plates as
she washed up. Philip smiled as he thought how characteristic it was of
her that she should do all that in a black silk dress. But he had work to
do, and he brought his book up to the table. He was reading Osler's
Medicine, which had recently taken the place in the students' favour of
Taylor's work, for many years the text-book most in use. Presently Mildred
came in, rolling down her sleeves. Philip gave her a casual glance, but
did not move; the occasion was curious, and he felt a little nervous. He
feared that Mildred might imagine he was going to make a nuisance of
himself, and he did not quite know how without brutality to reassure her.
"By the way, I've got a lecture at nine, so I should want breakfast at a
quarter past eight. Can you manage that?"
"Oh, yes. Why, when I was in Parliament Street I used to catch the
eight-twelve from Herne Hill every morning."
"I hope you'll find your room comfortable. You'll be a different woman
tomorrow after a long night in bed."
"I suppose you work till late?"
"I generally work till about eleven or half-past."
"I'll say good-night then."
The table was between them. He did not offer to shake hands with her. She
shut the door quietly. He heard her moving about in the bed-room, and in
a little while he heard the creaking of the bed as she got in.
The following day was Tuesday. Philip as usual hurried through his
breakfast and dashed off to get to his lecture at nine. He had only time
to exchange a few words with Mildred. When he came back in the evening he
found her seated at the window, darning his socks.
"I say, you are industrious," he smiled. "What have you been doing with
yourself all day?"
"Oh, I gave the place a good cleaning and then I took baby out for a
She was wearing an old black dress, the same as she had worn as uniform
when she served in the tea-shop; it was shabby, but she looked better in
it than in the silk of the day before. The baby was sitting on the floor.
She looked up at Philip with large, mysterious eyes and broke into a laugh
when he sat down beside her and began playing with her bare toes. The
afternoon sun came into the room and shed a mellow light.
"It's rather jolly to come back and find someone about the place. A woman
and a baby make very good decoration in a room."
He had gone to the hospital dispensary and got a bottle of Blaud's Pills,
He gave them to Mildred and told her she must take them after each meal.
It was a remedy she was used to, for she had taken it off and on ever
since she was sixteen.
"I'm sure Lawson would love that green skin of yours," said Philip. "He'd
say it was so paintable, but I'm terribly matter of fact nowadays, and I
shan't be happy till you're as pink and white as a milkmaid."
"I feel better already."
After a frugal supper Philip filled his pouch with tobacco and put on his
hat. It was on Tuesdays that he generally went to the tavern in Beak
Street, and he was glad that this day came so soon after Mildred's
arrival, for he wanted to make his relations with her perfectly clear.
"Are you going out?" she said.
"Yes, on Tuesdays I give myself a night off. I shall see you tomorrow.
Philip always went to the tavern with a sense of pleasure. Macalister, the
philosophic stockbroker, was generally there and glad to argue upon any
subject under the sun; Hayward came regularly when he was in London; and
though he and Macalister disliked one another they continued out of habit
to meet on that one evening in the week. Macalister thought Hayward a poor
creature, and sneered at his delicacies of sentiment: he asked satirically
about Hayward's literary work and received with scornful smiles his vague
suggestions of future masterpieces; their arguments were often heated; but
the punch was good, and they were both fond of it; towards the end of the
evening they generally composed their differences and thought each other
capital fellows. This evening Philip found them both there, and Lawson
also; Lawson came more seldom now that he was beginning to know people in
London and went out to dinner a good deal. They were all on excellent
terms with themselves, for Macalister had given them a good thing on the
Stock Exchange, and Hayward and Lawson had made fifty pounds apiece. It
was a great thing for Lawson, who was extravagant and earned little money:
he had arrived at that stage of the portrait-painter's career when he was
noticed a good deal by the critics and found a number of aristocratic
ladies who were willing to allow him to paint them for nothing (it
advertised them both, and gave the great ladies quite an air of
patronesses of the arts); but he very seldom got hold of the solid
philistine who was ready to pay good money for a portrait of his wife.
Lawson was brimming over with satisfaction.
"It's the most ripping way of making money that I've ever struck," he
cried. "I didn't have to put my hand in my pocket for sixpence."
"You lost something by not being here last Tuesday, young man," said
Macalister to Philip.
"My God, why didn't you write to me?" said Philip. "If you only knew how
useful a hundred pounds would be to me."
"Oh, there wasn't time for that. One has to be on the spot. I heard of a
good thing last Tuesday, and I asked these fellows if they'd like to have
a flutter, I bought them a thousand shares on Wednesday morning, and there
was a rise in the afternoon so I sold them at once. I made fifty pounds
for each of them and a couple of hundred for myself."
Philip was sick with envy. He had recently sold the last mortgage in which
his small fortune had been invested and now had only six hundred pounds
left. He was panic-stricken sometimes when he thought of the future. He
had still to keep himself for two years before he could be qualified, and
then he meant to try for hospital appointments, so that he could not
expect to earn anything for three years at least. With the most rigid
economy he would not have more than a hundred pounds left then. It was
very little to have as a stand-by in case he was ill and could not earn
money or found himself at any time without work. A lucky gamble would make
all the difference to him.
"Oh, well, it doesn't matter," said Macalister. "Something is sure to turn
up soon. There'll be a boom in South Africans again one of these days, and
then I'll see what I can do for you."
Macalister was in the Kaffir market and often told them stories of the
sudden fortunes that had been made in the great boom of a year or two
"Well, don't forget next time."
They sat on talking till nearly midnight, and Philip, who lived furthest
off, was the first to go. If he did not catch the last tram he had to
walk, and that made him very late. As it was he did not reach home till
nearly half past twelve. When he got upstairs he was surprised to find
Mildred still sitting in his arm-chair.
"Why on earth aren't you in bed?" he cried.
"I wasn't sleepy."
"You ought to go to bed all the same. It would rest you."
She did not move. He noticed that since supper she had changed into her
black silk dress.
"I thought I'd rather wait up for you in case you wanted anything."
She looked at him, and the shadow of a smile played upon her thin pale
lips. Philip was not sure whether he understood or not. He was slightly
embarrassed, but assumed a cheerful, matter-of-fact air.
"It's very nice of you, but it's very naughty also. Run off to bed as fast
as you can, or you won't be able to get up tomorrow morning."
"I don't feel like going to bed."
"Nonsense," he said coldly.
She got up, a little sulkily, and went into her room. He smiled when he
heard her lock the door loudly.
The next few days passed without incident. Mildred settled down in her new
surroundings. When Philip hurried off after breakfast she had the whole
morning to do the housework. They ate very simply, but she liked to take
a long time to buy the few things they needed; she could not be bothered
to cook anything for her dinner, but made herself some cocoa and ate bread
and butter; then she took the baby out in the gocart, and when she came in
spent the rest of the afternoon in idleness. She was tired out, and it
suited her to do so little. She made friends with Philip's forbidding
landlady over the rent, which he left with Mildred to pay, and within a
week was able to tell him more about his neighbours than he had learned in
"She's a very nice woman," said Mildred. "Quite the lady. I told her we
"D'you think that was necessary?"
"Well, I had to tell her something. It looks so funny me being here and
not married to you. I didn't know what she'd think of me."
"I don't suppose she believed you for a moment."
"That she did, I lay. I told her we'd been married two years--I had to say
that, you know, because of baby--only your people wouldn't hear of it,
because you was only a student"--she pronounced it stoodent--"and so we
had to keep it a secret, but they'd given way now and we were all going
down to stay with them in the summer."
"You're a past mistress of the cock-and-bull story," said Philip.
He was vaguely irritated that Mildred still had this passion for telling
fibs. In the last two years she had learnt nothing. But he shrugged his
"When all's said and done," he reflected, "she hasn't had much chance."
It was a beautiful evening, warm and cloudless, and the people of South
London seemed to have poured out into the streets. There was that
restlessness in the air which seizes the cockney sometimes when a turn in
the weather calls him into the open. After Mildred had cleared away the
supper she went and stood at the window. The street noises came up to
them, noises of people calling to one another, of the passing traffic, of
a barrel-organ in the distance.
"I suppose you must work tonight, Philip?" she asked him, with a wistful
"I ought, but I don't know that I must. Why, d'you want me to do anything
"I'd like to go out for a bit. Couldn't we take a ride on the top of a
"If you like."
"I'll just go and put on my hat," she said joyfully.
The night made it almost impossible to stay indoors. The baby was asleep
and could be safely left; Mildred said she had always left it alone at
night when she went out; it never woke. She was in high spirits when she
came back with her hat on. She had taken the opportunity to put on a
little rouge. Philip thought it was excitement which had brought a faint
colour to her pale cheeks; he was touched by her child-like delight, and
reproached himself for the austerity with which he had treated her. She
laughed when she got out into the air. The first tram they saw was going
towards Westminster Bridge and they got on it. Philip smoked his pipe, and
they looked at the crowded street. The shops were open, gaily lit, and
people were doing their shopping for the next day. They passed a
music-hall called the Canterbury and Mildred cried out:
"Oh, Philip, do let's go there. I haven't been to a music-hall for
"We can't afford stalls, you know."
"Oh, I don't mind, I shall be quite happy in the gallery."
They got down and walked back a hundred yards till they came to the doors.
They got capital seats for sixpence each, high up but not in the gallery,
and the night was so fine that there was plenty of room. Mildred's eyes
glistened. She enjoyed herself thoroughly. There was a simple-mindedness
in her which touched Philip. She was a puzzle to him. Certain things in
her still pleased him, and he thought that there was a lot in her which
was very good: she had been badly brought up, and her life was hard; he
had blamed her for much that she could not help; and it was his own fault
if he had asked virtues from her which it was not in her power to give.
Under different circumstances she might have been a charming girl. She was
extraordinarily unfit for the battle of life. As he watched her now in
profile, her mouth slightly open and that delicate flush on her cheeks, he
thought she looked strangely virginal. He felt an overwhelming compassion
for her, and with all his heart he forgave her for the misery she had
caused him. The smoky atmosphere made Philip's eyes ache, but when he
suggested going she turned to him with beseeching face and asked him to
stay till the end. He smiled and consented. She took his hand and held it
for the rest of the performance. When they streamed out with the audience
into the crowded street she did not want to go home; they wandered up the
Westminster Bridge Road, looking at the people.
"I've not had such a good time as this for months," she said.
Philip's heart was full, and he was thankful to the fates because he had
carried out his sudden impulse to take Mildred and her baby into his flat.
It was very pleasant to see her happy gratitude. At last she grew tired
and they jumped on a tram to go home; it was late now, and when they got
down and turned into their own street there was no one about. Mildred
slipped her arm through his.
"It's just like old times, Phil," she said.
She had never called him Phil before, that was what Griffiths called him;
and even now it gave him a curious pang. He remembered how much he had
wanted to die then; his pain had been so great that he had thought quite
seriously of committing suicide. It all seemed very long ago. He smiled at
his past self. Now he felt nothing for Mildred but infinite pity. They
reached the house, and when they got into the sitting-room Philip lit the
"Is the baby all right?" he asked.
"I'll just go in and see."
When she came back it was to say that it had not stirred since she left
it. It was a wonderful child. Philip held out his hand.
"D'you want to go to bed already?"
"It's nearly one. I'm not used to late hours these days," said Philip.
She took his hand and holding it looked into his eyes with a little smile.
"Phil, the other night in that room, when you asked me to come and stay
here, I didn't mean what you thought I meant, when you said you didn't
want me to be anything to you except just to cook and that sort of thing."
"Didn't you?" answered Philip, withdrawing his hand. "I did."
"Don't be such an old silly," she laughed.
He shook his head.
"I meant it quite seriously. I shouldn't have asked you to stay here on
any other condition."
"I feel I couldn't. I can't explain it, but it would spoil it all."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Oh, very well, it's just as you choose. I'm not one to go down on my
hands and knees for that, and chance it."
She went out, slamming the door behind her.
Next morning Mildred was sulky and taciturn. She remained in her room till
it was time to get the dinner ready. She was a bad cook and could do
little more than chops and steaks; and she did not know how to use up odds
and ends, so that Philip was obliged to spend more money than he had
expected. When she served up she sat down opposite Philip, but would eat
nothing; he remarked on it; she said she had a bad headache and was not
hungry. He was glad that he had somewhere to spend the rest of the day;
the Athelnys were cheerful and friendly. It was a delightful and an
unexpected thing to realise that everyone in that household looked forward
with pleasure to his visit. Mildred had gone to bed when he came back, but
next day she was still silent. At supper she sat with a haughty expression
on her face and a little frown between her eyes. It made Philip impatient,
but he told himself that he must be considerate to her; he was bound to
"You're very silent," he said, with a pleasant smile.
"I'm paid to cook and clean, I didn't know I was expected to talk as
He thought it an ungracious answer, but if they were going to live
together he must do all he could to make things go easily.
"I'm afraid you're cross with me about the other night," he said.
It was an awkward thing to speak about, but apparently it was necessary to
"I don't know what you mean," she answered.
"Please don't be angry with me. I should never have asked you to come and
live here if I'd not meant our relations to be merely friendly. I
suggested it because I thought you wanted a home and you would have a
chance of looking about for something to do."
"Oh, don't think I care."
"I don't for a moment," he hastened to say. "You mustn't think I'm
ungrateful. I realise that you only proposed it for my sake. It's just a
feeling I have, and I can't help it, it would make the whole thing ugly
"You are funny" she said, looking at him curiously. "I can't make you
She was not angry with him now, but puzzled; she had no idea what he
meant: she accepted the situation, she had indeed a vague feeling that he
was behaving in a very noble fashion and that she ought to admire it; but
also she felt inclined to laugh at him and perhaps even to despise him a
"He's a rum customer," she thought.
Life went smoothly enough with them. Philip spent all day at the hospital
and worked at home in the evening except when he went to the Athelnys' or
to the tavern in Beak Street. Once the physician for whom he clerked asked
him to a solemn dinner, and two or three times he went to parties given by
fellow-students. Mildred accepted the monotony of her life. If she minded
that Philip left her sometimes by herself in the evening she never
mentioned it. Occasionally he took her to a music hall. He carried out his
intention that the only tie between them should be the domestic service
she did in return for board and lodging. She had made up her mind that it
was no use trying to get work that summer, and with Philip's approval
determined to stay where she was till the autumn. She thought it would be
easy to get something to do then.
"As far as I'm concerned you can stay on here when you've got a job if
it's convenient. The room's there, and the woman who did for me before can
come in to look after the baby."
He grew very much attached to Mildred's child. He had a naturally
affectionate disposition, which had had little opportunity to display
itself. Mildred was not unkind to the little girl. She looked after her
very well and once when she had a bad cold proved herself a devoted nurse;
but the child bored her, and she spoke to her sharply when she bothered;
she was fond of her, but had not the maternal passion which might have
induced her to forget herself. Mildred had no demonstrativeness, and she
found the manifestations of affection ridiculous. When Philip sat with the
baby on his knees, playing with it and kissing it, she laughed at him.
"You couldn't make more fuss of her if you was her father," she said.
"You're perfectly silly with the child."
Philip flushed, for he hated to be laughed at. It was absurd to be so
devoted to another man's baby, and he was a little ashamed of the
overflowing of his heart. But the child, feeling Philip's attachment,
would put her face against his or nestle in his arms.
"It's all very fine for you," said Mildred. "You don't have any of the
disagreeable part of it. How would you like being kept awake for an hour
in the middle of the night because her ladyship wouldn't go to sleep?"
Philip remembered all sorts of things of his childhood which he thought he
had long forgotten. He took hold of the baby's toes.
"This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home."
When he came home in the evening and entered the sitting-room his first
glance was for the baby sprawling on the floor, and it gave him a little
thrill of delight to hear the child's crow of pleasure at seeing him.
Mildred taught her to call him daddy, and when the child did this for the
first time of her own accord, laughed immoderately.
"I wonder if you're that stuck on baby because she's mine," asked Mildred,
"or if you'd be the same with anybody's baby."
"I've never known anybody else's baby, so I can't say," said Philip.
Towards the end of his second term as in-patients' clerk a piece of good
fortune befell Philip. It was the middle of July. He went one Tuesday
evening to the tavern in Beak Street and found nobody there but
Macalister. They sat together, chatting about their absent friends, and
after a while Macalister said to him:
"Oh, by the way, I heard of a rather good thing today, New Kleinfonteins;
it's a gold mine in Rhodesia. If you'd like to have a flutter you might
make a bit."
Philip had been waiting anxiously for such an opportunity, but now that it
came he hesitated. He was desperately afraid of losing money. He had
little of the gambler's spirit.
"I'd love to, but I don't know if I dare risk it. How much could I lose if
things went wrong?"
"I shouldn't have spoken of it, only you seemed so keen about it,"
Macalister answered coldly.
Philip felt that Macalister looked upon him as rather a donkey.
"I'm awfully keen on making a bit," he laughed.
"You can't make money unless you're prepared to risk money."
Macalister began to talk of other things and Philip, while he was
answering him, kept thinking that if the venture turned out well the
stockbroker would be very facetious at his expense next time they met.
Macalister had a sarcastic tongue.
"I think I will have a flutter if you don't mind," said Philip anxiously.
"All right. I'll buy you two hundred and fifty shares and if I see a
half-crown rise I'll sell them at once."
Philip quickly reckoned out how much that would amount to, and his mouth
watered; thirty pounds would be a godsend just then, and he thought the
fates owed him something. He told Mildred what he had done when he saw her
at breakfast next morning. She thought him very silly.
"I never knew anyone who made money on the Stock Exchange," she said.
"That's what Emil always said, you can't expect to make money on the Stock
Exchange, he said."
Philip bought an evening paper on his way home and turned at once to the
money columns. He knew nothing about these things and had difficulty in
finding the stock which Macalister had spoken of. He saw they had advanced
a quarter. His heart leaped, and then he felt sick with apprehension in
case Macalister had forgotten or for some reason had not bought.
Macalister had promised to telegraph. Philip could not wait to take a tram
home. He jumped into a cab. It was an unwonted extravagance.
"Is there a telegram for me?" he said, as he burst in.
"No," said Mildred.
His face fell, and in bitter disappointment he sank heavily into a chair.
"Then he didn't buy them for me after all. Curse him," he added violently.
"What cruel luck! And I've been thinking all day of what I'd do with the
"Why, what were you going to do?" she asked.
"What's the good of thinking about that now? Oh, I wanted the money so
She gave a laugh and handed him a telegram.
"I was only having a joke with you. I opened it."
He tore it out of her hands. Macalister had bought him two hundred and
fifty shares and sold them at the half-crown profit he had suggested. The
commission note was to follow next day. For one moment Philip was furious
with Mildred for her cruel jest, but then he could only think of his joy.
"It makes such a difference to me," he cried. "I'll stand you a new dress
if you like."
"I want it badly enough," she answered.
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to be operated upon at the
end of July."
"Why, have you got something the matter with you?" she interrupted.
It struck her that an illness she did not know might explain what had so
much puzzled her. He flushed, for he hated to refer to his deformity.
"No, but they think they can do something to my foot. I couldn't spare the
time before, but now it doesn't matter so much. I shall start my dressing
in October instead of next month. I shall only be in hospital a few weeks
and then we can go away to the seaside for the rest of the summer. It'll
do us all good, you and the baby and me."
"Oh, let's go to Brighton, Philip, I like Brighton, you get such a nice
class of people there." Philip had vaguely thought of some little fishing
village in Cornwall, but as she spoke it occurred to him that Mildred
would be bored to death there.
"I don't mind where we go as long as I get the sea."
He did not know why, but he had suddenly an irresistible longing for the
sea. He wanted to bathe, and he thought with delight of splashing about in
the salt water. He was a good swimmer, and nothing exhilarated him like a
"I say, it will be jolly," he cried.
"It'll be like a honeymoon, won't it?" she said. "How much can I have for
my new dress, Phil?"
Philip asked Mr. Jacobs, the assistant-surgeon for whom he had dressed, to
do the operation. Jacobs accepted with pleasure, since he was interested
just then in neglected talipes and was getting together materials for a
paper. He warned Philip that he could not make his foot like the other,
but he thought he could do a good deal; and though he would always limp he
would be able to wear a boot less unsightly than that which he had been
accustomed to. Philip remembered how he had prayed to a God who was able
to remove mountains for him who had faith, and he smiled bitterly.
"I don't expect a miracle," he answered.
"I think you're wise to let me try what I can do. You'll find a club-foot
rather a handicap in practice. The layman is full of fads, and he doesn't
like his doctor to have anything the matter with him."
Philip went into a `small ward', which was a room on the landing, outside
each ward, reserved for special cases. He remained there a month, for the
surgeon would not let him go till he could walk; and, bearing the
operation very well, he had a pleasant enough time. Lawson and Athelny
came to see him, and one day Mrs. Athelny brought two of her children;
students whom he knew looked in now and again to have a chat; Mildred came
twice a week. Everyone was very kind to him, and Philip, always surprised
when anyone took trouble with him, was touched and grateful. He enjoyed
the relief from care; he need not worry there about the future, neither
whether his money would last out nor whether he would pass his final
examinations; and he could read to his heart's content. He had not been
able to read much of late, since Mildred disturbed him: she would make an
aimless remark when he was trying to concentrate his attention, and would
not be satisfied unless he answered; whenever he was comfortably settled
down with a book she would want something done and would come to him with
a cork she could not draw or a hammer to drive in a nail.
They settled to go to Brighton in August. Philip wanted to take lodgings,
but Mildred said that she would have to do housekeeping, and it would only
be a holiday for her if they went to a boarding-house.
"I have to see about the food every day at home, I get that sick of it I
want a thorough change."
Philip agreed, and it happened that Mildred knew of a boarding-house at
Kemp Town where they would not be charged more than twenty-five shillings
a week each. She arranged with Philip to write about rooms, but when he
got back to Kennington he found that she had done nothing. He was
"I shouldn't have thought you had so much to do as all that," he said.
"Well, I can't think of everything. It's not my fault if I forget, is it?"
Philip was so anxious to get to the sea that he would not wait to
communicate with the mistress of the boarding-house.
"We'll leave the luggage at the station and go to the house and see if
they've got rooms, and if they have we can just send an outside porter for
"You can please yourself," said Mildred stiffly.
She did not like being reproached, and, retiring huffily into a haughty
silence, she sat by listlessly while Philip made the preparations for
their departure. The little flat was hot and stuffy under the August sun,
and from the road beat up a malodorous sultriness. As he lay in his bed in
the small ward with its red, distempered walls he had longed for fresh air
and the splashing of the sea against his breast. He felt he would go mad
if he had to spend another night in London. Mildred recovered her good
temper when she saw the streets of Brighton crowded with people making
holiday, and they were both in high spirits as they drove out to Kemp
Town. Philip stroked the baby's cheek.
"We shall get a very different colour into them when we've been down here
a few days," he said, smiling.
They arrived at the boarding-house and dismissed the cab. An untidy maid
opened the door and, when Philip asked if they had rooms, said she would
inquire. She fetched her mistress. A middle-aged woman, stout and
business-like, came downstairs, gave them the scrutinising glance of her
profession, and asked what accommodation they required.
"Two single rooms, and if you've got such a thing we'd rather like a cot
in one of them."
"I'm afraid I haven't got that. I've got one nice large double room, and
I could let you have a cot."
"I don't think that would do," said Philip.
"I could give you another room next week. Brighton's very full just now,
and people have to take what they can get."
"If it were only for a few days, Philip, I think we might be able to
manage," said Mildred.
"I think two rooms would be more convenient. Can you recommend any other
place where they take boarders?"
"I can, but I don't suppose they'd have room any more than I have."
"Perhaps you wouldn't mind giving me the address."
The house the stout woman suggested was in the next street, and they
walked towards it. Philip could walk quite well, though he had to lean on
a stick, and he was rather weak. Mildred carried the baby. They went for
a little in silence, and then he saw she was crying. It annoyed him, and
he took no notice, but she forced his attention.
"Lend me a hanky, will you? I can't get at mine with baby," she said in a
voice strangled with sobs, turning her head away from him.
He gave her his handkerchief, but said nothing. She dried her eyes, and as
he did not speak, went on.
"I might be poisonous."
"Please don't make a scene in the street," he said.
"It'll look so funny insisting on separate rooms like that. What'll they
think of us?"
"If they knew the circumstances I imagine they'd think us surprisingly
moral," said Philip.
She gave him a sidelong glance.
"You're not going to give it away that we're not married?" she asked
"Why won't you live with me as if we were married then?"
"My dear, I can't explain. I don't want to humiliate you, but I simply
can't. I daresay it's very silly and unreasonable, but it's stronger than
I am. I loved you so much that now..." he broke off. "After all, there's
no accounting for that sort of thing."
"A fat lot you must have loved me!" she exclaimed.
The boarding-house to which they had been directed was kept by a bustling
maiden lady, with shrewd eyes and voluble speech. They could have one
double room for twenty-five shillings a week each, and five shillings
extra for the baby, or they could have two single rooms for a pound a week
"I have to charge that much more," the woman explained apologetically,
"because if I'm pushed to it I can put two beds even in the single rooms."
"I daresay that won't ruin us. What do you think, Mildred?"
"Oh, I don't mind. Anything's good enough for me," she answered.
Philip passed off her sulky reply with a laugh, and, the landlady having
arranged to send for their luggage, they sat down to rest themselves.
Philip's foot was hurting him a little, and he was glad to put it up on a
"I suppose you don't mind my sitting in the same room with you," said
"Don't let's quarrel, Mildred," he said gently.