Part 12 out of 15
"I didn't know you was so well off you could afford to throw away a pound
"Don't be angry with me. I assure you it's the only way we can live
together at all."
"I suppose you despise me, that's it."
"Of course I don't. Why should I?"
"It's so unnatural."
"Is it? You're not in love with me, are you?"
"Me? Who d'you take me for?"
"It's not as if you were a very passionate woman, you're not that."
"It's so humiliating," she said sulkily.
"Oh, I wouldn't fuss about that if I were you."
There were about a dozen people in the boarding-house. They ate in a
narrow, dark room at a long table, at the head of which the landlady sat
and carved. The food was bad. The landlady called it French cooking, by
which she meant that the poor quality of the materials was disguised by
ill-made sauces: plaice masqueraded as sole and New Zealand mutton as
lamb. The kitchen was small and inconvenient, so that everything was
served up lukewarm. The people were dull and pretentious; old ladies with
elderly maiden daughters; funny old bachelors with mincing ways;
pale-faced, middle-aged clerks with wives, who talked of their married
daughters and their sons who were in a very good position in the Colonies.
At table they discussed Miss Corelli's latest novel; some of them liked
Lord Leighton better than Mr. Alma-Tadema, and some of them liked Mr.
Alma-Tadema better than Lord Leighton. Mildred soon told the ladies of her
romantic marriage with Philip; and he found himself an object of interest
because his family, county people in a very good position, had cut him off
with a shilling because he married while he was only a stoodent; and
Mildred's father, who had a large place down Devonshire way, wouldn't do
anything for them because she had married Philip. That was why they had
come to a boarding-house and had not a nurse for the baby; but they had to
have two rooms because they were both used to a good deal of accommodation
and they didn't care to be cramped. The other visitors also had
explanations of their presence: one of the single gentlemen generally went
to the Metropole for his holiday, but he liked cheerful company and you
couldn't get that at one of those expensive hotels; and the old lady with
the middle-aged daughter was having her beautiful house in London done up
and she said to her daughter: "Gwennie, my dear, we must have a cheap
holiday this year," and so they had come there, though of course it wasn't
at all the kind of thing they were used to. Mildred found them all very
superior, and she hated a lot of common, rough people. She liked gentlemen
to be gentlemen in every sense of the word.
"When people are gentlemen and ladies," she said, "I like them to be
gentlemen and ladies."
The remark seemed cryptic to Philip, but when he heard her say it two or
three times to different persons, and found that it aroused hearty
agreement, he came to the conclusion that it was only obscure to his own
intelligence. It was the first time that Philip and Mildred had been
thrown entirely together. In London he did not see her all day, and when
he came home the household affairs, the baby, the neighbours, gave them
something to talk about till he settled down to work. Now he spent the
whole day with her. After breakfast they went down to the beach; the
morning went easily enough with a bathe and a stroll along the front; the
evening, which they spent on the pier, having put the baby to bed, was
tolerable, for there was music to listen to and a constant stream of
people to look at; (Philip amused himself by imagining who they were and
weaving little stories about them; he had got into the habit of answering
Mildred's remarks with his mouth only so that his thoughts remained
undisturbed;) but the afternoons were long and dreary. They sat on the
beach. Mildred said they must get all the benefit they could out of Doctor
Brighton, and he could not read because Mildred made observations
frequently about things in general. If he paid no attention she
"Oh, leave that silly old book alone. It can't be good for you always
reading. You'll addle your brain, that's what you'll do, Philip."
"Oh, rot!" he answered.
"Besides, it's so unsociable."
He discovered that it was difficult to talk to her. She had not even the
power of attending to what she was herself saying, so that a dog running
in front of her or the passing of a man in a loud blazer would call forth
a remark and then she would forget what she had been speaking of. She had
a bad memory for names, and it irritated her not to be able to think of
them, so that she would pause in the middle of some story to rack her
brains. Sometimes she had to give it up, but it often occurred to her
afterwards, and when Philip was talking of something she would interrupt
"Collins, that was it. I knew it would come back to me some time. Collins,
that's the name I couldn't remember."
It exasperated him because it showed that she was not listening to
anything he said, and yet, if he was silent, she reproached him for
sulkiness. Her mind was of an order that could not deal for five minutes
with the abstract, and when Philip gave way to his taste for generalising
she very quickly showed that she was bored. Mildred dreamt a great deal,
and she had an accurate memory for her dreams, which she would relate
every day with prolixity.
One morning he received a long letter from Thorpe Athelny. He was taking
his holiday in the theatrical way, in which there was much sound sense,
which characterised him. He had done the same thing for ten years. He took
his whole family to a hop-field in Kent, not far from Mrs. Athelny's home,
and they spent three weeks hopping. It kept them in the open air, earned
them money, much to Mrs. Athelny's satisfaction, and renewed their contact
with mother earth. It was upon this that Athelny laid stress. The sojourn
in the fields gave them a new strength; it was like a magic ceremony, by
which they renewed their youth and the power of their limbs and the
sweetness of the spirit: Philip had heard him say many fantastic,
rhetorical, and picturesque things on the subject. Now Athelny invited him
to come over for a day, he had certain meditations on Shakespeare and the
musical glasses which he desired to impart, and the children were
clamouring for a sight of Uncle Philip. Philip read the letter again in
the afternoon when he was sitting with Mildred on the beach. He thought of
Mrs. Athelny, cheerful mother of many children, with her kindly
hospitality and her good humour; of Sally, grave for her years, with funny
little maternal ways and an air of authority, with her long plait of fair
hair and her broad forehead; and then in a bunch of all the others, merry,
boisterous, healthy, and handsome. His heart went out to them. There was
one quality which they had that he did not remember to have noticed in
people before, and that was goodness. It had not occurred to him till now,
but it was evidently the beauty of their goodness which attracted him. In
theory he did not believe in it: if morality were no more than a matter of
convenience good and evil had no meaning. He did not like to be illogical,
but here was simple goodness, natural and without effort, and he thought
it beautiful. Meditating, he slowly tore the letter into little pieces; he
did not see how he could go without Mildred, and he did not want to go
It was very hot, the sky was cloudless, and they had been driven to a
shady corner. The baby was gravely playing with stones on the beach, and
now and then she crawled up to Philip and gave him one to hold, then took
it away again and placed it carefully down. She was playing a mysterious
and complicated game known only to herself. Mildred was asleep. She lay
with her head thrown back and her mouth slightly open; her legs were
stretched out, and her boots protruded from her petticoats in a grotesque
fashion. His eyes had been resting on her vaguely, but now he looked at
her with peculiar attention. He remembered how passionately he had loved
her, and he wondered why now he was entirely indifferent to her. The
change in him filled him with dull pain. It seemed to him that all he had
suffered had been sheer waste. The touch of her hand had filled him with
ecstasy; he had desired to enter into her soul so that he could share
every thought with her and every feeling; he had suffered acutely because,
when silence had fallen between them, a remark of hers showed how far
their thoughts had travelled apart, and he had rebelled against the
unsurmountable wall which seemed to divide every personality from every
other. He found it strangely tragic that he had loved her so madly and now
loved her not at all. Sometimes he hated her. She was incapable of
learning, and the experience of life had taught her nothing. She was as
unmannerly as she had always been. It revolted Philip to hear the
insolence with which she treated the hard-worked servant at the
Presently he considered his own plans. At the end of his fourth year he
would be able to take his examination in midwifery, and a year more would
see him qualified. Then he might manage a journey to Spain. He wanted to
see the pictures which he knew only from photographs; he felt deeply that
El Greco held a secret of peculiar moment to him; and he fancied that in
Toledo he would surely find it out. He did not wish to do things grandly,
and on a hundred pounds he might live for six months in Spain: if
Macalister put him on to another good thing he could make that easily. His
heart warmed at the thought of those old beautiful cities, and the tawny
plains of Castile. He was convinced that more might be got out of life
than offered itself at present, and he thought that in Spain he could live
with greater intensity: it might be possible to practise in one of those
old cities, there were a good many foreigners, passing or resident, and he
should be able to pick up a living. But that would be much later; first he
must get one or two hospital appointments; they gave experience and made
it easy to get jobs afterwards. He wished to get a berth as ship's doctor
on one of the large tramps that took things leisurely enough for a man to
see something of the places at which they stopped. He wanted to go to the
East; and his fancy was rich with pictures of Bangkok and Shanghai, and
the ports of Japan: he pictured to himself palm-trees and skies blue and
hot, dark-skinned people, pagodas; the scents of the Orient intoxicated
his nostrils. His heart but with passionate desire for the beauty and the
strangeness of the world.
"I do believe I've been asleep," she said. "Now then, you naughty girl,
what have you been doing to yourself? Her dress was clean yesterday and
just look at it now, Philip."
When they returned to London Philip began his dressing in the surgical
wards. He was not so much interested in surgery as in medicine, which, a
more empirical science, offered greater scope to the imagination. The work
was a little harder than the corresponding work on the medical side. There
was a lecture from nine till ten, when he went into the wards; there
wounds had to be dressed, stitches taken out, bandages renewed: Philip
prided himself a little on his skill in bandaging, and it amused him to
wring a word of approval from a nurse. On certain afternoons in the week
there were operations; and he stood in the well of the theatre, in a white
jacket, ready to hand the operating surgeon any instrument he wanted or to
sponge the blood away so that he could see what he was about. When some
rare operation was to be performed the theatre would fill up, but
generally there were not more than half a dozen students present, and then
the proceedings had a cosiness which Philip enjoyed. At that time the
world at large seemed to have a passion for appendicitis, and a good many
cases came to the operating theatre for this complaint: the surgeon for
whom Philip dressed was in friendly rivalry with a colleague as to which
could remove an appendix in the shortest time and with the smallest
In due course Philip was put on accident duty. The dressers took this in
turn; it lasted three days, during which they lived in hospital and ate
their meals in the common-room; they had a room on the ground floor near
the casualty ward, with a bed that shut up during the day into a cupboard.
The dresser on duty had to be at hand day and night to see to any casualty
that came in. You were on the move all the time, and not more than an hour
or two passed during the night without the clanging of the bell just above
your head which made you leap out of bed instinctively. Saturday night was
of course the busiest time and the closing of the public-houses the
busiest hour. Men would be brought in by the police dead drunk and it
would be necessary to administer a stomach-pump; women, rather the worse
for liquor themselves, would come in with a wound on the head or a
bleeding nose which their husbands had given them: some would vow to have
the law on him, and others, ashamed, would declare that it had been an
accident. What the dresser could manage himself he did, but if there was
anything important he sent for the house-surgeon: he did this with care,
since the house-surgeon was not vastly pleased to be dragged down five
flights of stairs for nothing. The cases ranged from a cut finger to a cut
throat. Boys came in with hands mangled by some machine, men were brought
who had been knocked down by a cab, and children who had broken a limb
while playing: now and then attempted suicides were carried in by the
police: Philip saw a ghastly, wild-eyed man with a great gash from ear to
ear, and he was in the ward for weeks afterwards in charge of a constable,
silent, angry because he was alive, and sullen; he made no secret of the
fact that he would try again to kill himself as soon as he was released.
The wards were crowded, and the house-surgeon was faced with a dilemma
when patients were brought in by the police: if they were sent on to the
station and died there disagreeable things were said in the papers; and it
was very difficult sometimes to tell if a man was dying or drunk. Philip
did not go to bed till he was tired out, so that he should not have the
bother of getting up again in an hour; and he sat in the casualty ward
talking in the intervals of work with the night-nurse. She was a
gray-haired woman of masculine appearance, who had been night-nurse in the
casualty department for twenty years. She liked the work because she was
her own mistress and had no sister to bother her. Her movements were slow,
but she was immensely capable and she never failed in an emergency. The
dressers, often inexperienced or nervous, found her a tower of strength.
She had seen thousands of them, and they made no impression upon her: she
always called them Mr. Brown; and when they expostulated and told her
their real names, she merely nodded and went on calling them Mr. Brown. It
interested Philip to sit with her in the bare room, with its two
horse-hair couches and the flaring gas, and listen to her. She had long
ceased to look upon the people who came in as human beings; they were
drunks, or broken arms, or cut throats. She took the vice and misery and
cruelty of the world as a matter of course; she found nothing to praise or
blame in human actions: she accepted. She had a certain grim humour.
"I remember one suicide," she said to Philip, "who threw himself into the
Thames. They fished him out and brought him here, and ten days later he
developed typhoid fever from swallowing Thames water."
"Did he die?"
"Yes, he did all right. I could never make up my mind if it was suicide or
not.... They're a funny lot, suicides. I remember one man who couldn't get
any work to do and his wife died, so he pawned his clothes and bought a
revolver; but he made a mess of it, he only shot out an eye and he got all
right. And then, if you please, with an eye gone and a piece of his face
blow away, he came to the conclusion that the world wasn't such a bad
place after all, and he lived happily ever afterwards. Thing I've always
noticed, people don't commit suicide for love, as you'd expect, that's
just a fancy of novelists; they commit suicide because they haven't got
any money. I wonder why that is."
"I suppose money's more important than love," suggested Philip.
Money was in any case occupying Philip's thoughts a good deal just then.
He discovered the little truth there was in the airy saying which himself
had repeated, that two could live as cheaply as one, and his expenses were
beginning to worry him. Mildred was not a good manager, and it cost them
as much to live as if they had eaten in restaurants; the child needed
clothes, and Mildred boots, an umbrella, and other small things which it
was impossible for her to do without. When they returned from Brighton she
had announced her intention of getting a job, but she took no definite
steps, and presently a bad cold laid her up for a fortnight. When she was
well she answered one or two advertisements, but nothing came of it:
either she arrived too late and the vacant place was filled, or the work
was more than she felt strong enough to do. Once she got an offer, but the
wages were only fourteen shillings a week, and she thought she was worth
more than that.
"It's no good letting oneself be put upon," she remarked. "People don't
respect you if you let yourself go too cheap."
"I don't think fourteen shillings is so bad," answered Philip, drily.
He could not help thinking how useful it would be towards the expenses of
the household, and Mildred was already beginning to hint that she did not
get a place because she had not got a decent dress to interview employers
in. He gave her the dress, and she made one or two more attempts, but
Philip came to the conclusion that they were not serious. She did not want
to work. The only way he knew to make money was on the Stock Exchange, and
he was very anxious to repeat the lucky experiment of the summer; but war
had broken out with the Transvaal and nothing was doing in South Africans.
Macalister told him that Redvers Buller would march into Pretoria in a
month and then everything would boom. The only thing was to wait
patiently. What they wanted was a British reverse to knock things down a
bit, and then it might be worth while buying. Philip began reading
assiduously the `city chat' of his favourite newspaper. He was worried and
irritable. Once or twice he spoke sharply to Mildred, and since she was
neither tactful nor patient she answered with temper, and they quarrelled.
Philip always expressed his regret for what he had said, but Mildred had
not a forgiving nature, and she would sulk for a couple of days. She got
on his nerves in all sorts of ways; by the manner in which she ate, and by
the untidiness which made her leave articles of clothing about their
sitting-room: Philip was excited by the war and devoured the papers,
morning and evening; but she took no interest in anything that happened.
She had made the acquaintance of two or three people who lived in the
street, and one of them had asked if she would like the curate to call on
her. She wore a wedding-ring and called herself Mrs. Carey. On Philip's
walls were two or three of the drawings which he had made in Paris, nudes,
two of women and one of Miguel Ajuria, standing very square on his feet,
with clenched fists. Philip kept them because they were the best things he
had done, and they reminded him of happy days. Mildred had long looked at
them with disfavour.
"I wish you'd take those drawings down, Philip," she said to him at last.
"Mrs. Foreman, of number thirteen, came in yesterday afternoon, and I
didn't know which way to look. I saw her staring at them."
"What's the matter with them?"
"They're indecent. Disgusting, that's what I call it, to have drawings of
naked people about. And it isn't nice for baby either. She's beginning to
notice things now."
"How can you be so vulgar?"
"Vulgar? Modest, I call it. I've never said anything, but d'you think I
like having to look at those naked people all day long."
"Have you no sense of humour at all, Mildred?" he asked frigidly.
"I don't know what sense of humour's got to do with it. I've got a good
mind to take them down myself. If you want to know what I think about
them, I think they're disgusting."
"I don't want to know what you think about them, and I forbid you to touch
When Mildred was cross with him she punished him through the baby. The
little girl was as fond of Philip as he was of her, and it was her great
pleasure every morning to crawl into his room (she was getting on for two
now and could walk pretty well), and be taken up into his bed. When
Mildred stopped this the poor child would cry bitterly. To Philip's
remonstrances she replied:
"I don't want her to get into habits."
And if then he said anything more she said:
"It's nothing to do with you what I do with my child. To hear you talk one
would think you was her father. I'm her mother, and I ought to know what's
good for her, oughtn't I?"
Philip was exasperated by Mildred's stupidity; but he was so indifferent
to her now that it was only at times she made him angry. He grew used to
having her about. Christmas came, and with it a couple of days holiday for
Philip. He brought some holly in and decorated the flat, and on Christmas
Day he gave small presents to Mildred and the baby. There were only two of
them so they could not have a turkey, but Mildred roasted a chicken and
boiled a Christmas pudding which she had bought at a local grocer's. They
stood themselves a bottle of wine. When they had dined Philip sat in his
arm-chair by the fire, smoking his pipe; and the unaccustomed wine had
made him forget for a while the anxiety about money which was so
constantly with him. He felt happy and comfortable. Presently Mildred came
in to tell him that the baby wanted him to kiss her good-night, and with
a smile he went into Mildred's bed-room. Then, telling the child to go to
sleep, he turned down the gas and, leaving the door open in case she
cried, went back into the sitting-room.
"Where are you going to sit?" he asked Mildred.
"You sit in your chair. I'm going to sit on the floor."
When he sat down she settled herself in front of the fire and leaned
against his knees. He could not help remembering that this was how they
had sat together in her rooms in the Vauxhall Bridge Road, but the
positions had been reversed; it was he who had sat on the floor and leaned
his head against her knee. How passionately he had loved her then! Now he
felt for her a tenderness he had not known for a long time. He seemed
still to feel twined round his neck the baby's soft little arms.
"Are you comfy?" he asked.
She looked up at him, gave a slight smile, and nodded. They gazed into the
fire dreamily, without speaking to one another. At last she turned round
and stared at him curiously.
"D'you know that you haven't kissed me once since I came here?" she said
"D'you want me to?" he smiled.
"I suppose you don't care for me in that way any more?"
"I'm very fond of you."
"You're much fonder of baby."
He did not answer, and she laid her cheek against his hand.
"You're not angry with me any more?" she asked presently, with her eyes
"Why on earth should I be?"
"I've never cared for you as I do now. It's only since I passed through
the fire that I've learnt to love you." It chilled Philip to hear her make
use of the sort of phrase she read in the penny novelettes which she
devoured. Then he wondered whether what she said had any meaning for her:
perhaps she knew no other way to express her genuine feelings than the
stilted language of The Family Herald.
"It seems so funny our living together like this."
He did not reply for quite a long time, and silence fell upon them again;
but at last he spoke and seemed conscious of no interval.
"You mustn't be angry with me. One can't help these things. I remember
that I thought you wicked and cruel because you did this, that, and the
other; but it was very silly of me. You didn't love me, and it was absurd
to blame you for that. I thought I could make you love me, but I know now
that was impossible. I don't know what it is that makes someone love you,
but whatever it is, it's the only thing that matters, and if it isn't
there you won't create it by kindness, or generosity, or anything of that
"I should have thought if you'd loved me really you'd have loved me
"I should have thought so too. I remember how I used to think that it
would last for ever, I felt I would rather die than be without you, and I
used to long for the time when you would be faded and wrinkled so that
nobody cared for you any more and I should have you all to myself."
She did not answer, and presently she got up and said she was going to
bed. She gave a timid little smile.
"It's Christmas Day, Philip, won't you kiss me good-night?"
He gave a laugh, blushed slightly, and kissed her. She went to her
bed-room and he began to read.
The climax came two or three weeks later. Mildred was driven by Philip's
behaviour to a pitch of strange exasperation. There were many different
emotions in her soul, and she passed from mood to mood with facility. She
spent a great deal of time alone and brooded over her position. She did
not put all her feelings into words, she did not even know what they were,
but certain things stood out in her mind, and she thought of them over and
over again. She had never understood Philip, nor had very much liked him;
but she was pleased to have him about her because she thought he was a
gentleman. She was impressed because his father had been a doctor and his
uncle was a clergyman. She despised him a little because she had made such
a fool of him, and at the same time was never quite comfortable in his
presence; she could not let herself go, and she felt that he was
criticising her manners.
When she first came to live in the little rooms in Kennington she was
tired out and ashamed. She was glad to be left alone. It was a comfort to
think that there was no rent to pay; she need not go out in all weathers,
and she could lie quietly in bed if she did not feel well. She had hated
the life she led. It was horrible to have to be affable and subservient;
and even now when it crossed her mind she cried with pity for herself as
she thought of the roughness of men and their brutal language. But it
crossed her mind very seldom. She was grateful to Philip for coming to her
rescue, and when she remembered how honestly he had loved her and how
badly she had treated him, she felt a pang of remorse. It was easy to make
it up to him. It meant very little to her. She was surprised when he
refused her suggestion, but she shrugged her shoulders: let him put on
airs if he liked, she did not care, he would be anxious enough in a little
while, and then it would be her turn to refuse; if he thought it was any
deprivation to her he was very much mistaken. She had no doubt of her
power over him. He was peculiar, but she knew him through and through. He
had so often quarrelled with her and sworn he would never see her again,
and then in a little while he had come on his knees begging to be
forgiven. It gave her a thrill to think how he had cringed before her. He
would have been glad to lie down on the ground for her to walk on him. She
had seen him cry. She knew exactly how to treat him, pay no attention to
him, just pretend you didn't notice his tempers, leave him severely alone,
and in a little while he was sure to grovel. She laughed a little to
herself, good-humouredly, when she thought how he had come and eaten dirt
before her. She had had her fling now. She knew what men were and did not
want to have anything more to do with them. She was quite ready to settle
down with Philip. When all was said, he was a gentleman in every sense of
the word, and that was something not to be sneezed at, wasn't it? Anyhow
she was in no hurry, and she was not going to take the first step. She was
glad to see how fond he was growing of the baby, though it tickled her a
good deal; it was comic that he should set so much store on another man's
child. He was peculiar and no mistake.
But one or two things surprised her. She had been used to his
subservience: he was only too glad to do anything for her in the old days,
she was accustomed to see him cast down by a cross word and in ecstasy at
a kind one; he was different now, and she said to herself that he had not
improved in the last year. It never struck her for a moment that there
could be any change in his feelings, and she thought it was only acting
when he paid no heed to her bad temper. He wanted to read sometimes and
told her to stop talking: she did not know whether to flare up or to sulk,
and was so puzzled that she did neither. Then came the conversation in
which he told her that he intended their relations to be platonic, and,
remembering an incident of their common past, it occurred to her that he
dreaded the possibility of her being pregnant. She took pains to reassure
him. It made no difference. She was the sort of woman who was unable to
realise that a man might not have her own obsession with sex; her
relations with men had been purely on those lines; and she could not
understand that they ever had other interests. The thought struck her that
Philip was in love with somebody else, and she watched him, suspecting
nurses at the hospital or people he met out; but artful questions led her
to the conclusion that there was no one dangerous in the Athelny
household; and it forced itself upon her also that Philip, like most
medical students, was unconscious of the sex of the nurses with whom his
work threw him in contact. They were associated in his mind with a faint
odour of iodoform. Philip received no letters, and there was no girl's
photograph among his belongings. If he was in love with someone, he was
very clever at hiding it; and he answered all Mildred's questions with
frankness and apparently without suspicion that there was any motive in
"I don't believe he's in love with anybody else," she said to herself at
It was a relief, for in that case he was certainly still in love with her;
but it made his behaviour very puzzling. If he was going to treat her like
that why did he ask her to come and live at the flat? It was unnatural.
Mildred was not a woman who conceived the possibility of compassion,
generosity, or kindness. Her only conclusion was that Philip was queer.
She took it into her head that the reasons for his conduct were
chivalrous; and, her imagination filled with the extravagances of cheap
fiction, she pictured to herself all sorts of romantic explanations for
his delicacy. Her fancy ran riot with bitter misunderstandings,
purifications by fire, snow-white souls, and death in the cruel cold of a
Christmas night. She made up her mind that when they went to Brighton she
would put an end to all his nonsense; they would be alone there, everyone
would think them husband and wife, and there would be the pier and the
band. When she found that nothing would induce Philip to share the same
room with her, when he spoke to her about it with a tone in his voice she
had never heard before, she suddenly realised that he did not want her.
She was astounded. She remembered all he had said in the past and how
desperately he had loved her. She felt humiliated and angry, but she had
a sort of native insolence which carried her through. He needn't think she
was in love with him, because she wasn't. She hated him sometimes, and she
longed to humble him; but she found herself singularly powerless; she did
not know which way to handle him. She began to be a little nervous with
him. Once or twice she cried. Once or twice she set herself to be
particularly nice to him; but when she took his arm while they walked
along the front at night he made some excuse in a while to release
himself, as though it were unpleasant for him to be touched by her. She
could not make it out. The only hold she had over him was through the
baby, of whom he seemed to grow fonder and fonder: she could make him
white with anger by giving the child a slap or a push; and the only time
the old, tender smile came back into his eyes was when she stood with the
baby in her arms. She noticed it when she was being photographed like that
by a man on the beach, and afterwards she often stood in the same way for
Philip to look at her.
When they got back to London Mildred began looking for the work she had
asserted was so easy to find; she wanted now to be independent of Philip;
and she thought of the satisfaction with which she would announce to him
that she was going into rooms and would take the child with her. But her
heart failed her when she came into closer contact with the possibility.
She had grown unused to the long hours, she did not want to be at the beck
and call of a manageress, and her dignity revolted at the thought of
wearing once more a uniform. She had made out to such of the neighbours as
she knew that they were comfortably off: it would be a come-down if they
heard that she had to go out and work. Her natural indolence asserted
itself. She did not want to leave Philip, and so long as he was willing to
provide for her, she did not see why she should. There was no money to
throw away, but she got her board and lodging, and he might get better
off. His uncle was an old man and might die any day, he would come into a
little then, and even as things were, it was better than slaving from
morning till night for a few shillings a week. Her efforts relaxed; she
kept on reading the advertisement columns of the daily paper merely to
show that she wanted to do something if anything that was worth her while
presented itself. But panic seized her, and she was afraid that Philip
would grow tired of supporting her. She had no hold over him at all now,
and she fancied that he only allowed her to stay there because he was fond
of the baby. She brooded over it all, and she thought to herself angrily
that she would make him pay for all this some day. She could not reconcile
herself to the fact that he no longer cared for her. She would make him.
She suffered from pique, and sometimes in a curious fashion she desired
Philip. He was so cold now that it exasperated her. She thought of him in
that way incessantly. She thought that he was treating her very badly, and
she did not know what she had done to deserve it. She kept on saying to
herself that it was unnatural they should live like that. Then she thought
that if things were different and she were going to have a baby, he would
be sure to marry her. He was funny, but he was a gentleman in every sense
of the word, no one could deny that. At last it became an obsession with
her, and she made up her mind to force a change in their relations. He
never even kissed her now, and she wanted him to: she remembered how
ardently he had been used to press her lips. It gave her a curious feeling
to think of it. She often looked at his mouth.
One evening, at the beginning of February, Philip told her that he was
dining with Lawson, who was giving a party in his studio to celebrate his
birthday; and he would not be in till late; Lawson had bought a couple of
bottles of the punch they favoured from the tavern in Beak Street, and
they proposed to have a merry evening. Mildred asked if there were going
to be women there, but Philip told her there were not; only men had been
invited; and they were just going to sit and talk and smoke: Mildred did
not think it sounded very amusing; if she were a painter she would have
half a dozen models about. She went to bed, but could not sleep, and
presently an idea struck her; she got up and fixed the catch on the wicket
at the landing, so that Philip could not get in. He came back about one,
and she heard him curse when he found that the wicket was closed. She got
out of bed and opened.
"Why on earth did you shut yourself in? I'm sorry I've dragged you out of
"I left it open on purpose, I can't think how it came to be shut."
"Hurry up and get back to bed, or you'll catch cold."
He walked into the sitting-room and turned up the gas. She followed him
in. She went up to the fire.
"I want to warm my feet a bit. They're like ice."
He sat down and began to take off his boots. His eyes were shining and his
cheeks were flushed. She thought he had been drinking.
"Have you been enjoying yourself?" she asked, with a smile.
"Yes, I've had a ripping time."
Philip was quite sober, but he had been talking and laughing, and he was
excited still. An evening of that sort reminded him of the old days in
Paris. He was in high spirits. He took his pipe out of his pocket and
"Aren't you going to bed?" she asked.
"Not yet, I'm not a bit sleepy. Lawson was in great form. He talked
sixteen to the dozen from the moment I got there till the moment I left."
"What did you talk about?"
"Heaven knows! Of every subject under the sun. You should have seen us all
shouting at the tops of our voices and nobody listening."
Philip laughed with pleasure at the recollection, and Mildred laughed too.
She was pretty sure he had drunk more than was good for him. That was
exactly what she had expected. She knew men.
"Can I sit down?" she said.
Before he could answer she settled herself on his knees.
"If you're not going to bed you'd better go and put on a dressing-gown."
"Oh, I'm all right as I am." Then putting her arms round his neck, she
placed her face against his and said: "Why are you so horrid to me, Phil?"
He tried to get up, but she would not let him.
"I do love you, Philip," she said.
"Don't talk damned rot."
"It isn't, it's true. I can't live without you. I want you."
He released himself from her arms.
"Please get up. You're making a fool of yourself and you're making me feel
a perfect idiot."
"I love you, Philip. I want to make up for all the harm I did you. I can't
go on like this, it's not in human nature."
He slipped out of the chair and left her in it.
"I'm very sorry, but it's too late."
She gave a heart-rending sob.
"But why? How can you be so cruel?"
"I suppose it's because I loved you too much. I wore the passion out. The
thought of anything of that sort horrifies me. I can't look at you now
without thinking of Emil and Griffiths. One can't help those things, I
suppose it's just nerves."
She seized his hand and covered it with kisses.
"Don't," he cried.
She sank back into the chair.
"I can't go on like this. If you won't love me, I'd rather go away."
"Don't be foolish, you haven't anywhere to go. You can stay here as long
as you like, but it must be on the definite understanding that we're
friends and nothing more."
Then she dropped suddenly the vehemence of passion and gave a soft,
insinuating laugh. She sidled up to Philip and put her arms round him. She
made her voice low and wheedling.
"Don't be such an old silly. I believe you're nervous. You don't know how
nice I can be."
She put her face against his and rubbed his cheek with hers. To Philip her
smile was an abominable leer, and the suggestive glitter of her eyes
filled him with horror. He drew back instinctively.
"I won't," he said.
But she would not let him go. She sought his mouth with her lips. He took
her hands and tore them roughly apart and pushed her away.
"You disgust me," he said.
She steadied herself with one hand on the chimney-piece. She looked at him
for an instant, and two red spots suddenly appeared on her cheeks. She
gave a shrill, angry laugh.
"I disgust YOU."
She paused and drew in her breath sharply. Then she burst into a furious
torrent of abuse. She shouted at the top of her voice. She called him
every foul name she could think of. She used language so obscene that
Philip was astounded; she was always so anxious to be refined, so shocked
by coarseness, that it had never occurred to him that she knew the words
she used now. She came up to him and thrust her face in his. It was
distorted with passion, and in her tumultuous speech the spittle dribbled
over her lips.
"I never cared for you, not once, I was making a fool of you always, you
bored me, you bored me stiff, and I hated you, I would never have let you
touch me only for the money, and it used to make me sick when I had to let
you kiss me. We laughed at you, Griffiths and me, we laughed because you
was such a mug. A mug! A mug!"
Then she burst again into abominable invective. She accused him of every
mean fault; she said he was stingy, she said he was dull, she said he was
vain, selfish; she cast virulent ridicule on everything upon which he was
most sensitive. And at last she turned to go. She kept on, with hysterical
violence, shouting at him an opprobrious, filthy epithet. She seized the
handle of the door and flung it open. Then she turned round and hurled at
him the injury which she knew was the only one that really touched him.
She threw into the word all the malice and all the venom of which she was
capable. She flung it at him as though it were a blow.
Philip awoke with a start next morning, conscious that it was late, and
looking at his watch found it was nine o'clock. He jumped out of bed and
went into the kitchen to get himself some hot water to shave with. There
was no sign of Mildred, and the things which she had used for her supper
the night before still lay in the sink unwashed. He knocked at her door.
"Wake up, Mildred. It's awfully late."
She did not answer, even after a second louder knocking, and he concluded
that she was sulking. He was in too great a hurry to bother about that. He
put some water on to boil and jumped into his bath which was always poured
out the night before in order to take the chill off. He presumed that
Mildred would cook his breakfast while he was dressing and leave it in the
sitting-room. She had done that two or three times when she was out of
temper. But he heard no sound of her moving, and realised that if he
wanted anything to eat he would have to get it himself. He was irritated
that she should play him such a trick on a morning when he had over-slept
himself. There was still no sign of her when he was ready, but he heard
her moving about her room. She was evidently getting up. He made himself
some tea and cut himself a couple of pieces of bread and butter, which he
ate while he was putting on his boots, then bolted downstairs and along
the street into the main road to catch his tram. While his eyes sought out
the newspaper shops to see the war news on the placards, he thought of the
scene of the night before: now that it was over and he had slept on it, he
could not help thinking it grotesque; he supposed he had been ridiculous,
but he was not master of his feelings; at the time they had been
overwhelming. He was angry with Mildred because she had forced him into
that absurd position, and then with renewed astonishment he thought of her
outburst and the filthy language she had used. He could not help flushing
when he remembered her final jibe; but he shrugged his shoulders
contemptuously. He had long known that when his fellows were angry with
him they never failed to taunt him with his deformity. He had seen men at
the hospital imitate his walk, not before him as they used at school, but
when they thought he was not looking. He knew now that they did it from no
wilful unkindness, but because man is naturally an imitative animal, and
because it was an easy way to make people laugh: he knew it, but he could
never resign himself to it.
He was glad to throw himself into his work. The ward seemed pleasant and
friendly when he entered it. The sister greeted him with a quick,
"You're very late, Mr. Carey."
"I was out on the loose last night."
"You look it."
Laughing, he went to the first of his cases, a boy with tuberculous
ulcers, and removed his bandages. The boy was pleased to see him, and
Philip chaffed him as he put a clean dressing on the wound. Philip was a
favourite with the patients; he treated them good-humouredly; and he had
gentle, sensitive hands which did not hurt them: some of the dressers were
a little rough and happy-go-lucky in their methods. He lunched with his
friends in the club-room, a frugal meal consisting of a scone and butter,
with a cup of cocoa, and they talked of the war. Several men were going
out, but the authorities were particular and refused everyone who had not
had a hospital appointment. Someone suggested that, if the war went on, in
a while they would be glad to take anyone who was qualified; but the
general opinion was that it would be over in a month. Now that Roberts was
there things would get all right in no time. This was Macalister's opinion
too, and he had told Philip that they must watch their chance and buy just
before peace was declared. There would be a boom then, and they might all
make a bit of money. Philip had left with Macalister instructions to buy
him stock whenever the opportunity presented itself. His appetite had been
whetted by the thirty pounds he had made in the summer, and he wanted now
to make a couple of hundred.
He finished his day's work and got on a tram to go back to Kennington. He
wondered how Mildred would behave that evening. It was a nuisance to think
that she would probably be surly and refuse to answer his questions. It
was a warm evening for the time of year, and even in those gray streets of
South London there was the languor of February; nature is restless then
after the long winter months, growing things awake from their sleep, and
there is a rustle in the earth, a forerunner of spring, as it resumes its
eternal activities. Philip would have liked to drive on further, it was
distasteful to him to go back to his rooms, and he wanted the air; but the
desire to see the child clutched suddenly at his heartstrings, and he
smiled to himself as he thought of her toddling towards him with a crow of
delight. He was surprised, when he reached the house and looked up
mechanically at the windows, to see that there was no light. He went
upstairs and knocked, but got no answer. When Mildred went out she left
the key under the mat and he found it there now. He let himself in and
going into the sitting-room struck a match. Something had happened, he did
not at once know what; he turned the gas on full and lit it; the room was
suddenly filled with the glare and he looked round. He gasped. The whole
place was wrecked. Everything in it had been wilfully destroyed. Anger
seized him, and he rushed into Mildred's room. It was dark and empty. When
he had got a light he saw that she had taken away all her things and the
baby's (he had noticed on entering that the go-cart was not in its usual
place on the landing, but thought Mildred had taken the baby out;) and all
the things on the washing-stand had been broken, a knife had been drawn
cross-ways through the seats of the two chairs, the pillow had been slit
open, there were large gashes in the sheets and the counterpane, the
looking-glass appeared to have been broken with a hammer. Philip was
bewildered. He went into his own room, and here too everything was in
confusion. The basin and the ewer had been smashed, the looking-glass was
in fragments, and the sheets were in ribands. Mildred had made a slit
large enough to put her hand into the pillow and had scattered the
feathers about the room. She had jabbed a knife into the blankets. On the
dressing-table were photographs of Philip's mother, the frames had been
smashed and the glass shivered. Philip went into the tiny kitchen.
Everything that was breakable was broken, glasses, pudding-basins, plates,
It took Philip's breath away. Mildred had left no letter, nothing but this
ruin to mark her anger, and he could imagine the set face with which she
had gone about her work. He went back into the sitting-room and looked
about him. He was so astonished that he no longer felt angry. He looked
curiously at the kitchen-knife and the coal-hammer, which were lying on
the table where she had left them. Then his eye caught a large
carving-knife in the fireplace which had been broken. It must have taken
her a long time to do so much damage. Lawson's portrait of him had been
cut cross-ways and gaped hideously. His own drawings had been ripped in
pieces; and the photographs, Manet's Olympia and the Odalisque of
Ingres, the portrait of Philip IV, had been smashed with great blows of
the coal-hammer. There were gashes in the table-cloth and in the curtains
and in the two arm-chairs. They were quite ruined. On one wall over the
table which Philip used as his desk was the little bit of Persian rug
which Cronshaw had given him. Mildred had always hated it.
"If it's a rug it ought to go on the floor," she said, "and it's a dirty
stinking bit of stuff, that's all it is."
It made her furious because Philip told her it contained the answer to a
great riddle. She thought he was making fun of her. She had drawn the
knife right through it three times, it must have required some strength,
and it hung now in tatters. Philip had two or three blue and white plates,
of no value, but he had bought them one by one for very small sums and
liked them for their associations. They littered the floor in fragments.
There were long gashes on the backs of his books, and she had taken the
trouble to tear pages out of the unbound French ones. The little ornaments
on the chimney-piece lay on the hearth in bits. Everything that it had
been possible to destroy with a knife or a hammer was destroyed.
The whole of Philip's belongings would not have sold for thirty pounds,
but most of them were old friends, and he was a domestic creature,
attached to all those odds and ends because they were his; he had been
proud of his little home, and on so little money had made it pretty and
characteristic. He sank down now in despair. He asked himself how she
could have been so cruel. A sudden fear got him on his feet again and into
the passage, where stood a cupboard in which he kept his clothes. He
opened it and gave a sigh of relief. She had apparently forgotten it and
none of his things was touched.
He went back into the sitting-room and, surveying the scene, wondered what
to do; he had not the heart to begin trying to set things straight;
besides there was no food in the house, and he was hungry. He went out and
got himself something to eat. When he came in he was cooler. A little pang
seized him as he thought of the child, and he wondered whether she would
miss him, at first perhaps, but in a week she would have forgotten him;
and he was thankful to be rid of Mildred. He did not think of her with
wrath, but with an overwhelming sense of boredom.
"I hope to God I never see her again," he said aloud.
The only thing now was to leave the rooms, and he made up his mind to give
notice the next morning. He could not afford to make good the damage done,
and he had so little money left that he must find cheaper lodgings still.
He would be glad to get out of them. The expense had worried him, and now
the recollection of Mildred would be in them always. Philip was impatient
and could never rest till he had put in action the plan which he had in
mind; so on the following afternoon he got in a dealer in second-hand
furniture who offered him three pounds for all his goods damaged and
undamaged; and two days later he moved into the house opposite the
hospital in which he had had rooms when first he became a medical student.
The landlady was a very decent woman. He took a bed-room at the top, which
she let him have for six shillings a week; it was small and shabby and
looked on the yard of the house that backed on to it, but he had nothing
now except his clothes and a box of books, and he was glad to lodge so
And now it happened that the fortunes of Philip Carey, of no consequence
to any but himself, were affected by the events through which his country
was passing. History was being made, and the process was so significant
that it seemed absurd it should touch the life of an obscure medical
student. Battle after battle, Magersfontein, Colenso, Spion Kop, lost on
the playing fields of Eton, had humiliated the nation and dealt the
death-blow to the prestige of the aristocracy and gentry who till then had
found no one seriously to oppose their assertion that they possessed a
natural instinct of government. The old order was being swept away:
history was being made indeed. Then the colossus put forth his strength,
and, blundering again, at last blundered into the semblance of victory.
Cronje surrendered at Paardeberg, Ladysmith was relieved, and at the
beginning of March Lord Roberts marched into Bloemfontein.
It was two or three days after the news of this reached London that
Macalister came into the tavern in Beak Street and announced joyfully that
things were looking brighter on the Stock Exchange. Peace was in sight,
Roberts would march into Pretoria within a few weeks, and shares were
going up already. There was bound to be a boom.
"Now's the time to come in," he told Philip. "It's no good waiting till
the public gets on to it. It's now or never."
He had inside information. The manager of a mine in South Africa had
cabled to the senior partner of his firm that the plant was uninjured.
They would start working again as soon as possible. It wasn't a
speculation, it was an investment. To show how good a thing the senior
partner thought it Macalister told Philip that he had bought five hundred
shares for both his sisters: he never put them into anything that wasn't
as safe as the Bank of England.
"I'm going to put my shirt on it myself," he said.
The shares were two and an eighth to a quarter. He advised Philip not to
be greedy, but to be satisfied with a ten-shilling rise. He was buying
three hundred for himself and suggested that Philip should do the same. He
would hold them and sell when he thought fit. Philip had great faith in
him, partly because he was a Scotsman and therefore by nature cautious,
and partly because he had been right before. He jumped at the suggestion.
"I daresay we shall be able to sell before the account," said Macalister,
"but if not, I'll arrange to carry them over for you."
It seemed a capital system to Philip. You held on till you got your
profit, and you never even had to put your hand in your pocket. He began
to watch the Stock Exchange columns of the paper with new interest. Next
day everything was up a little, and Macalister wrote to say that he had
had to pay two and a quarter for the shares. He said that the market was
firm. But in a day or two there was a set-back. The news that came from
South Africa was less reassuring, and Philip with anxiety saw that his
shares had fallen to two; but Macalister was optimistic, the Boers
couldn't hold out much longer, and he was willing to bet a top-hat that
Roberts would march into Johannesburg before the middle of April. At the
account Philip had to pay out nearly forty pounds. It worried him
considerably, but he felt that the only course was to hold on: in his
circumstances the loss was too great for him to pocket. For two or three
weeks nothing happened; the Boers would not understand that they were
beaten and nothing remained for them but to surrender: in fact they had
one or two small successes, and Philip's shares fell half a crown more. It
became evident that the war was not finished. There was a lot of selling.
When Macalister saw Philip he was pessimistic.
"I'm not sure if the best thing wouldn't be to cut the loss. I've been
paying out about as much as I want to in differences."
Philip was sick with anxiety. He could not sleep at night; he bolted his
breakfast, reduced now to tea and bread and butter, in order to get over
to the club reading-room and see the paper; sometimes the news was bad,
and sometimes there was no news at all, but when the shares moved it was
to go down. He did not know what to do. If he sold now he would lose
altogether hard on three hundred and fifty pounds; and that would leave
him only eighty pounds to go on with. He wished with all his heart that he
had never been such a fool as to dabble on the Stock Exchange, but the
only thing was to hold on; something decisive might happen any day and the
shares would go up; he did not hope now for a profit, but he wanted to
make good his loss. It was his only chance of finishing his course at the
hospital. The Summer session was beginning in May, and at the end of it he
meant to take the examination in midwifery. Then he would only have a year
more; he reckoned it out carefully and came to the conclusion that he
could manage it, fees and all, on a hundred and fifty pounds; but that was
the least it could possibly be done on.
Early in April he went to the tavern in Beak Street anxious to see
Macalister. It eased him a little to discuss the situation with him; and
to realise that numerous people beside himself were suffering from loss of
money made his own trouble a little less intolerable. But when Philip
arrived no one was there but Hayward, and no sooner had Philip seated
himself than he said:
"I'm sailing for the Cape on Sunday."
"Are you!" exclaimed Philip.
Hayward was the last person he would have expected to do anything of the
kind. At the hospital men were going out now in numbers; the Government
was glad to get anyone who was qualified; and others, going out as
troopers, wrote home that they had been put on hospital work as soon as it
was learned that they were medical students. A wave of patriotic feeling
had swept over the country, and volunteers were coming from all ranks of
"What are you going as?" asked Philip.
"Oh, in the Dorset Yeomanry. I'm going as a trooper."
Philip had known Hayward for eight years. The youthful intimacy which had
come from Philip's enthusiastic admiration for the man who could tell him
of art and literature had long since vanished; but habit had taken its
place; and when Hayward was in London they saw one another once or twice
a week. He still talked about books with a delicate appreciation. Philip
was not yet tolerant, and sometimes Hayward's conversation irritated him.
He no longer believed implicitly that nothing in the world was of
consequence but art. He resented Hayward's contempt for action and
success. Philip, stirring his punch, thought of his early friendship and
his ardent expectation that Hayward would do great things; it was long
since he had lost all such illusions, and he knew now that Hayward would
never do anything but talk. He found his three hundred a year more
difficult to live on now that he was thirty-five than he had when he was
a young man; and his clothes, though still made by a good tailor, were
worn a good deal longer than at one time he would have thought possible.
He was too stout and no artful arrangement of his fair hair could conceal
the fact that he was bald. His blue eyes were dull and pale. It was not
hard to guess that he drank too much.
"What on earth made you think of going out to the Cape?" asked Philip.
"Oh, I don't know, I thought I ought to."
Philip was silent. He felt rather silly. He understood that Hayward was
being driven by an uneasiness in his soul which he could not account for.
Some power within him made it seem necessary to go and fight for his
country. It was strange, since he considered patriotism no more than a
prejudice, and, flattering himself on his cosmopolitanism, he had looked
upon England as a place of exile. His countrymen in the mass wounded his
susceptibilities. Philip wondered what it was that made people do things
which were so contrary to all their theories of life. It would have been
reasonable for Hayward to stand aside and watch with a smile while the
barbarians slaughtered one another. It looked as though men were puppets
in the hands of an unknown force, which drove them to do this and that;
and sometimes they used their reason to justify their actions; and when
this was impossible they did the actions in despite of reason.
"People are very extraordinary," said Philip. "I should never have
expected you to go out as a trooper."
Hayward smiled, slightly embarrassed, and said nothing.
"I was examined yesterday," he remarked at last. "It was worth while
undergoing the gene of it to know that one was perfectly fit."
Philip noticed that he still used a French word in an affected way when an
English one would have served. But just then Macalister came in.
"I wanted to see you, Carey," he said. "My people don't feel inclined to
hold those shares any more, the market's in such an awful state, and they
want you to take them up."
Philip's heart sank. He knew that was impossible. It meant that he must
accept the loss. His pride made him answer calmly.
"I don't know that I think that's worth while. You'd better sell them."
"It's all very fine to say that, I'm not sure if I can. The market's
stagnant, there are no buyers."
"But they're marked down at one and an eighth."
"Oh yes, but that doesn't mean anything. You can't get that for them."
Philip did not say anything for a moment. He was trying to collect
"D'you mean to say they're worth nothing at all?"
"Oh, I don't say that. Of course they're worth something, but you see,
nobody's buying them now."
"Then you must just sell them for what you can get."
Macalister looked at Philip narrowly. He wondered whether he was very hard
"I'm awfully sorry, old man, but we're all in the same boat. No one
thought the war was going to hang on this way. I put you into them, but I
was in myself too."
"It doesn't matter at all," said Philip. "One has to take one's chance."
He moved back to the table from which he had got up to talk to Macalister.
He was dumfounded; his head suddenly began to ache furiously; but he did
not want them to think him unmanly. He sat on for an hour. He laughed
feverishly at everything they said. At last he got up to go.
"You take it pretty coolly," said Macalister, shaking hands with him. "I
don't suppose anyone likes losing between three and four hundred pounds."
When Philip got back to his shabby little room he flung himself on his
bed, and gave himself over to his despair. He kept on regretting his folly
bitterly; and though he told himself that it was absurd to regret for what
had happened was inevitable just because it had happened, he could not
help himself. He was utterly miserable. He could not sleep. He remembered
all the ways he had wasted money during the last few years. His head ached
The following evening there came by the last post the statement of his
account. He examined his pass-book. He found that when he had paid
everything he would have seven pounds left. Seven pounds! He was thankful
he had been able to pay. It would have been horrible to be obliged to
confess to Macalister that he had not the money. He was dressing in the
eye-department during the summer session, and he had bought an
ophthalmoscope off a student who had one to sell. He had not paid for
this, but he lacked the courage to tell the student that he wanted to go
back on his bargain. Also he had to buy certain books. He had about five
pounds to go on with. It lasted him six weeks; then he wrote to his uncle
a letter which he thought very business-like; he said that owing to the
war he had had grave losses and could not go on with his studies unless
his uncle came to his help. He suggested that the Vicar should lend him a
hundred and fifty pounds paid over the next eighteen months in monthly
instalments; he would pay interest on this and promised to refund the
capital by degrees when he began to earn money. He would be qualified in
a year and a half at the latest, and he could be pretty sure then of
getting an assistantship at three pounds a week. His uncle wrote back that
he could do nothing. It was not fair to ask him to sell out when
everything was at its worst, and the little he had he felt that his duty
to himself made it necessary for him to keep in case of illness. He ended
the letter with a little homily. He had warned Philip time after time, and
Philip had never paid any attention to him; he could not honestly say he
was surprised; he had long expected that this would be the end of Philip's
extravagance and want of balance. Philip grew hot and cold when he read
this. It had never occurred to him that his uncle would refuse, and he
burst into furious anger; but this was succeeded by utter blankness: if
his uncle would not help him he could not go on at the hospital. Panic
seized him and, putting aside his pride, he wrote again to the Vicar of
Blackstable, placing the case before him more urgently; but perhaps he did
not explain himself properly and his uncle did not realise in what
desperate straits he was, for he answered that he could not change his
mind; Philip was twenty-five and really ought to be earning his living.
When he died Philip would come into a little, but till then he refused to
give him a penny. Philip felt in the letter the satisfaction of a man who
for many years had disapproved of his courses and now saw himself
Philip began to pawn his clothes. He reduced his expenses by eating only
one meal a day beside his breakfast; and he ate it, bread and butter and
cocoa, at four so that it should last him till next morning. He was so
hungry by nine o'clock that he had to go to bed. He thought of borrowing
money from Lawson, but the fear of a refusal held him back; at last he
asked him for five pounds. Lawson lent it with pleasure, but, as he did
"You'll let me have it back in a week or so, won't you? I've got to pay my
framer, and I'm awfully broke just now."
Philip knew he would not be able to return it, and the thought of what
Lawson would think made him so ashamed that in a couple of days he took
the money back untouched. Lawson was just going out to luncheon and asked
Philip to come too. Philip could hardly eat, he was so glad to get some
solid food. On Sunday he was sure of a good dinner from Athelny. He
hesitated to tell the Athelnys what had happened to him: they had always
looked upon him as comparatively well-to-do, and he had a dread that they
would think less well of him if they knew he was penniless.
Though he had always been poor, the possibility of not having enough to
eat had never occurred to him; it was not the sort of thing that happened
to the people among whom he lived; and he was as ashamed as if he had some
disgraceful disease. The situation in which he found himself was quite
outside the range of his experience. He was so taken aback that he did not
know what else to do than to go on at the hospital; he had a vague hope
that something would turn up; he could not quite believe that what was
happening to him was true; and he remembered how during his first term at
school he had often thought his life was a dream from which he would awake
to find himself once more at home. But very soon he foresaw that in a week
or so he would have no money at all. He must set about trying to earn
something at once. If he had been qualified, even with a club-foot, he
could have gone out to the Cape, since the demand for medical men was now
great. Except for his deformity he might have enlisted in one of the
yeomanry regiments which were constantly being sent out. He went to the
secretary of the Medical School and asked if he could give him the
coaching of some backward student; but the secretary held out no hope of
getting him anything of the sort. Philip read the advertisement columns of
the medical papers, and he applied for the post of unqualified assistant
to a man who had a dispensary in the Fulham Road. When he went to see him,
he saw the doctor glance at his club-foot; and on hearing that Philip was
only in his fourth year at the hospital he said at once that his
experience was insufficient: Philip understood that this was only an
excuse; the man would not have an assistant who might not be as active as
he wanted. Philip turned his attention to other means of earning money. He
knew French and German and thought there might be some chance of finding
a job as correspondence clerk; it made his heart sink, but he set his
teeth; there was nothing else to do. Though too shy to answer the
advertisements which demanded a personal application, he replied to those
which asked for letters; but he had no experience to state and no
recommendations: he was conscious that neither his German nor his French
was commercial; he was ignorant of the terms used in business; he knew
neither shorthand nor typewriting. He could not help recognising that his
case was hopeless. He thought of writing to the solicitor who had been his
father's executor, but he could not bring himself to, for it was contrary
to his express advice that he had sold the mortgages in which his money
had been invested. He knew from his uncle that Mr. Nixon thoroughly
disapproved of him. He had gathered from Philip's year in the accountant's
office that he was idle and incompetent.
"I'd sooner starve," Philip muttered to himself.
Once or twice the possibility of suicide presented itself to him; it would
be easy to get something from the hospital dispensary, and it was a
comfort to think that if the worst came to the worst he had at hand means
of making a painless end of himself; but it was not a course that he
considered seriously. When Mildred had left him to go with Griffiths his
anguish had been so great that he wanted to die in order to get rid of the
pain. He did not feel like that now. He remembered that the Casualty
Sister had told him how people oftener did away with themselves for want
of money than for want of love; and he chuckled when he thought that he
was an exception. He wished only that he could talk his worries over with
somebody, but he could not bring himself to confess them. He was ashamed.
He went on looking for work. He left his rent unpaid for three weeks,
explaining to his landlady that he would get money at the end of the
month; she did not say anything, but pursed her lips and looked grim. When
the end of the month came and she asked if it would be convenient for him
to pay something on account, it made him feel very sick to say that he
could not; he told her he would write to his uncle and was sure to be able
to settle his bill on the following Saturday.
"Well, I 'ope you will, Mr. Carey, because I 'ave my rent to pay, and I
can't afford to let accounts run on." She did not speak with anger, but
with determination that was rather frightening. She paused for a moment
and then said: "If you don't pay next Saturday, I shall 'ave to complain
to the secretary of the 'ospital."
"Oh yes, that'll be all right."
She looked at him for a little and glanced round the bare room. When she
spoke it was without any emphasis, as though it were quite a natural thing
"I've got a nice 'ot joint downstairs, and if you like to come down to the
kitchen you're welcome to a bit of dinner."
Philip felt himself redden to the soles of his feet, and a sob caught at
"Thank you very much, Mrs. Higgins, but I'm not at all hungry."
"Very good, sir."
When she left the room Philip threw himself on his bed. He had to clench
his fists in order to prevent himself from crying.
Saturday. It was the day on which he had promised to pay his landlady. He
had been expecting something to turn up all through the week. He had found
no work. He had never been driven to extremities before, and he was so
dazed that he did not know what to do. He had at the back of his mind a
feeling that the whole thing was a preposterous joke. He had no more than
a few coppers left, he had sold all the clothes he could do without; he
had some books and one or two odds and ends upon which he might have got
a shilling or two, but the landlady was keeping an eye on his comings and
goings: he was afraid she would stop him if he took anything more from his
room. The only thing was to tell her that he could not pay his bill. He
had not the courage. It was the middle of June. The night was fine and
warm. He made up his mind to stay out. He walked slowly along the Chelsea
Embankment, because the river was restful and quiet, till he was tired,
and then sat on a bench and dozed. He did not know how long he slept; he
awoke with a start, dreaming that he was being shaken by a policeman and
told to move on; but when he opened his eyes he found himself alone. He
walked on, he did not know why, and at last came to Chiswick, where he
slept again. Presently the hardness of the bench roused him. The night
seemed very long. He shivered. He was seized with a sense of his misery;
and he did not know what on earth to do: he was ashamed at having slept on
the Embankment; it seemed peculiarly humiliating, and he felt his cheeks
flush in the darkness. He remembered stories he had heard of those who did
and how among them were officers, clergymen, and men who had been to
universities: he wondered if he would become one of them, standing in a
line to get soup from a charitable institution. It would be much better to
commit suicide. He could not go on like that: Lawson would help him when
he knew what straits he was in; it was absurd to let his pride prevent him
from asking for assistance. He wondered why he had come such a cropper. He
had always tried to do what he thought best, and everything had gone
wrong. He had helped people when he could, he did not think he had been
more selfish than anyone else, it seemed horribly unjust that he should be
reduced to such a pass.
But it was no good thinking about it. He walked on. It was now light: the
river was beautiful in the silence, and there was something mysterious in
the early day; it was going to be very fine, and the sky, pale in the
dawn, was cloudless. He felt very tired, and hunger was gnawing at his
entrails, but he could not sit still; he was constantly afraid of being
spoken to by a policeman. He dreaded the mortification of that. He felt
dirty and wished he could have a wash. At last he found himself at Hampton
Court. He felt that if he did not have something to eat he would cry. He
chose a cheap eating-house and went in; there was a smell of hot things,
and it made him feel slightly sick: he meant to eat something nourishing
enough to keep up for the rest of the day, but his stomach revolted at the
sight of food. He had a cup of tea and some bread and butter. He
remembered then that it was Sunday and he could go to the Athelnys; he
thought of the roast beef and the Yorkshire pudding they would eat; but he
was fearfully tired and could not face the happy, noisy family. He was
feeling morose and wretched. He wanted to be left alone. He made up his
mind that he would go into the gardens of the palace and lie down. His
bones ached. Perhaps he would find a pump so that he could wash his hands
and face and drink something; he was very thirsty; and now that he was no
longer hungry he thought with pleasure of the flowers and the lawns and
the great leafy trees. He felt that there he could think out better what
he must do. He lay on the grass, in the shade, and lit his pipe. For
economy's sake he had for a long time confined himself to two pipes a day;
he was thankful now that his pouch was full. He did not know what people
did when they had no money. Presently he fell asleep. When he awoke it was
nearly mid-day, and he thought that soon he must be setting out for London
so as to be there in the early morning and answer any advertisements which
seemed to promise. He thought of his uncle, who had told him that he would
leave him at his death the little he had; Philip did not in the least know
how much this was: it could not be more than a few hundred pounds. He
wondered whether he could raise money on the reversion. Not without the
old man's consent, and that he would never give.
"The only thing I can do is to hang on somehow till he dies."
Philip reckoned his age. The Vicar of Blackstable was well over seventy.
He had chronic bronchitis, but many old men had that and lived on
indefinitely. Meanwhile something must turn up; Philip could not get away
from the feeling that his position was altogether abnormal; people in his
particular station did not starve. It was because he could not bring
himself to believe in the reality of his experience that he did not give
way to utter despair. He made up his mind to borrow half a sovereign from
Lawson. He stayed in the garden all day and smoked when he felt very
hungry; he did not mean to eat anything until he was setting out again for
London: it was a long way and he must keep up his strength for that. He
started when the day began to grow cooler, and slept on benches when he
was tired. No one disturbed him. He had a wash and brush up, and a shave
at Victoria, some tea and bread and butter, and while he was eating this
read the advertisement columns of the morning paper. As he looked down
them his eye fell upon an announcement asking for a salesman in the
`furnishing drapery' department of some well-known stores. He had a
curious little sinking of the heart, for with his middle-class prejudices
it seemed dreadful to go into a shop; but he shrugged his shoulders, after
all what did it matter? and he made up his mind to have a shot at it. He
had a queer feeling that by accepting every humiliation, by going out to
meet it even, he was forcing the hand of fate. When he presented himself,
feeling horribly shy, in the department at nine o'clock he found that many
others were there before him. They were of all ages, from boys of sixteen
to men of forty; some were talking to one another in undertones, but most
were silent; and when he took up his place those around him gave him a
look of hostility. He heard one man say:
"The only thing I look forward to is getting my refusal soon enough to
give me time to look elsewhere."
The man, standing next him, glanced at Philip and asked:
"Had any experience?"
"No," said Philip.
He paused a moment and then made a remark: "Even the smaller houses won't
see you without appointment after lunch."
Philip looked at the assistants. Some were draping chintzes and cretonnes,
and others, his neighbour told him were preparing country orders that had
come in by post. At about a quarter past nine the buyer arrived. He heard
one of the men who were waiting say to another that it was Mr. Gibbons. He
was middle-aged, short and corpulent, with a black beard and dark, greasy
hair. He had brisk movements and a clever face. He wore a silk hat and a
frock coat, the lapel of which was adorned with a white geranium
surrounded by leaves. He went into his office, leaving the door open; it
was very small and contained only an American roll-desk in the corner, a
bookcase, and a cupboard. The men standing outside watched him
mechanically take the geranium out of his coat and put it in an ink-pot
filled with water. It was against the rules to wear flowers in business.
[During the day the department men who wanted to keep in with the governor
admired the flower.
"I've never seen better," they said, "you didn't grow it yourself?"
"Yes I did," he smiled, and a gleam of pride filled his intelligent eyes.]
He took off his hat and changed his coat, glanced at the letters and then
at the men who were waiting to see him. He made a slight sign with one
finger, and the first in the queue stepped into the office. They filed
past him one by one and answered his questions. He put them very briefly,
keeping his eyes fixed on the applicant's face.
"Age? Experience? Why did you leave your job?"
He listened to the replies without expression. When it came to Philip's
turn he fancied that Mr. Gibbons stared at him curiously. Philip's clothes
were neat and tolerably cut. He looked a little different from the others.
"I'm afraid I haven't any," said Philip.
Philip walked out of the office. The ordeal had been so much less painful
than he expected that he felt no particular disappointment. He could
hardly hope to succeed in getting a place the first time he tried. He had
kept the newspaper and now looked at the advertisements again: a shop in
Holborn needed a salesman too, and he went there; but when he arrived he
found that someone had already been engaged. If he wanted to get anything
to eat that day he must go to Lawson's studio before he went out to
luncheon, so he made his way along the Brompton Road to Yeoman's Row.
"I say, I'm rather broke till the end of the month," he said as soon as he
found an opportunity. "I wish you'd lend me half a sovereign, will you?"
It was incredible the difficulty he found in asking for money; and he
remembered the casual way, as though almost they were conferring a favour,
men at the hospital had extracted small sums out of him which they had no
intention of repaying.
"Like a shot," said Lawson.
But when he put his hand in his pocket he found that he had only eight
shillings. Philip's heart sank.
"Oh well, lend me five bob, will you?" he said lightly.
"Here you are."
Philip went to the public baths in Westminster and spent sixpence on a
bath. Then he got himself something to eat. He did not know what to do
with himself in the afternoon. He would not go back to the hospital in
case anyone should ask him questions, and besides, he had nothing to do
there now; they would wonder in the two or three departments he had worked
in why he did not come, but they must think what they chose, it did not
matter: he would not be the first student who had dropped out without
warning. He went to the free library, and looked at the papers till they
wearied him, then he took out Stevenson's New Arabian Nights; but he
found he could not read: the words meant nothing to him, and he continued
to brood over his helplessness. He kept on thinking the same things all
the time, and the fixity of his thoughts made his head ache. At last,
craving for fresh air, he went into the Green Park and lay down on the
grass. He thought miserably of his deformity, which made it impossible for
him to go to the war. He went to sleep and dreamt that he was suddenly
sound of foot and out at the Cape in a regiment of Yeomanry; the pictures
he had looked at in the illustrated papers gave materials for his fancy;
and he saw himself on the Veldt, in khaki, sitting with other men round a
fire at night. When he awoke he found that it was still quite light, and
presently he heard Big Ben strike seven. He had twelve hours to get
through with nothing to do. He dreaded the interminable night. The sky was
overcast and he feared it would rain; he would have to go to a
lodging-house where he could get a bed; he had seen them advertised on
lamps outside houses in Lambeth: Good Beds sixpence; he had never been
inside one, and dreaded the foul smell and the vermin. He made up his mind
to stay in the open air if he possibly could. He remained in the park till
it was closed and then began to walk about. He was very tired. The thought
came to him that an accident would be a piece of luck, so that he could be
taken to a hospital and lie there, in a clean bed, for weeks. At midnight
he was so hungry that he could not go without food any more, so he went to
a coffee stall at Hyde Park Corner and ate a couple of potatoes and had a
cup of coffee. Then he walked again. He felt too restless to sleep, and he
had a horrible dread of being moved on by the police. He noted that he was
beginning to look upon the constable from quite a new angle. This was the
third night he had spent out. Now and then he sat on the benches in
Piccadilly and towards morning he strolled down to The Embankment. He
listened to the striking of Big Ben, marking every quarter of an hour, and
reckoned out how long it left till the city woke again. In the morning he
spent a few coppers on making himself neat and clean, bought a paper to
read the advertisements, and set out once more on the search for work.
He went on in this way for several days. He had very little food and began
to feel weak and ill, so that he had hardly enough energy to go on looking
for the work which seemed so desperately hard to find. He was growing used
now to the long waiting at the back of a shop on the chance that he would
be taken on, and the curt dismissal. He walked to all parts of London in
answer to the advertisements, and he came to know by sight men who applied
as fruitlessly as himself. One or two tried to make friends with him, but
he was too tired and too wretched to accept their advances. He did not go
any more to Lawson, because he owed him five shillings. He began to be too
dazed to think clearly and ceased very much to care what would happen to
him. He cried a good deal. At first he was very angry with himself for
this and ashamed, but he found it relieved him, and somehow made him feel
less hungry. In the very early morning he suffered a good deal from cold.
One night he went into his room to change his linen; he slipped in about
three, when he was quite sure everyone would be asleep, and out again at
five; he lay on the bed and its softness was enchanting; all his bones
ached, and as he lay he revelled in the pleasure of it; it was so
delicious that he did not want to go to sleep. He was growing used to want
of food and did not feel very hungry, but only weak. Constantly now at the
back of his mind was the thought of doing away with himself, but he used
all the strength he had not to dwell on it, because he was afraid the
temptation would get hold of him so that he would not be able to help
himself. He kept on saying to himself that it would be absurd to commit
suicide, since something must happen soon; he could not get over the
impression that his situation was too preposterous to be taken quite
seriously; it was like an illness which must be endured but from which he
was bound to recover. Every night he swore that nothing would induce him
to put up with such another and determined next morning to write to his
uncle, or to Mr. Nixon, the solicitor, or to Lawson; but when the time
came he could not bring himself to make the humiliating confession of his
utter failure. He did not know how Lawson would take it. In their
friendship Lawson had been scatter-brained and he had prided himself on
his common sense. He would have to tell the whole history of his folly. He
had an uneasy feeling that Lawson, after helping him, would turn the cold
shoulder on him. His uncle and the solicitor would of course do something
for him, but he dreaded their reproaches. He did not want anyone to
reproach him: he clenched his teeth and repeated that what had happened
was inevitable just because it had happened. Regret was absurd.
The days were unending, and the five shillings Lawson had lent him would
not last much longer. Philip longed for Sunday to come so that he could go
to Athelny's. He did not know what prevented him from going there sooner,
except perhaps that he wanted so badly to get through on his own; for
Athelny, who had been in straits as desperate, was the only person who
could do anything for him. Perhaps after dinner he could bring himself to
tell Athelny that he was in difficulties. Philip repeated to himself over
and over again what he should say to him. He was dreadfully afraid that
Athelny would put him off with airy phrases: that would be so horrible
that he wanted to delay as long as possible the putting of him to the
test. Philip had lost all confidence in his fellows.
Saturday night was cold and raw. Philip suffered horribly. From midday on
Saturday till he dragged himself wearily to Athelny's house he ate
nothing. He spent his last twopence on Sunday morning on a wash and a
brush up in the lavatory at Charing Cross.
When Philip rang a head was put out of the window, and in a minute he
heard a noisy clatter on the stairs as the children ran down to let him
in. It was a pale, anxious, thin face that he bent down for them to kiss.
He was so moved by their exuberant affection that, to give himself time to
recover, he made excuses to linger on the stairs. He was in a hysterical
state and almost anything was enough to make him cry. They asked him why
he had not come on the previous Sunday, and he told them he had been ill;
they wanted to know what was the matter with him; and Philip, to amuse
them, suggested a mysterious ailment, the name of which, double-barrelled
and barbarous with its mixture of Greek and Latin (medical nomenclature
bristled with such), made them shriek with delight. They dragged Philip
into the parlour and made him repeat it for their father's edification.
Athelny got up and shook hands with him. He stared at Philip, but with his
round, bulging eyes he always seemed to stare, Philip did not know why on
this occasion it made him self-conscious.
"We missed you last Sunday," he said.
Philip could never tell lies without embarrassment, and he was scarlet
when he finished his explanation for not coming. Then Mrs. Athelny entered
and shook hands with him.
"I hope you're better, Mr. Carey," she said.
He did not know why she imagined that anything had been the matter with
him, for the kitchen door was closed when he came up with the children,
and they had not left him.
"Dinner won't be ready for another ten minutes," she said, in her slow
drawl. "Won't you have an egg beaten up in a glass of milk while you're
There was a look of concern on her face which made Philip uncomfortable.
He forced a laugh and answered that he was not at all hungry. Sally came
in to lay the table, and Philip began to chaff her. It was the family joke
that she would be as fat as an aunt of Mrs. Athelny, called Aunt
Elizabeth, whom the children had never seen but regarded as the type of
"I say, what HAS happened since I saw you last, Sally?" Philip began.
"Nothing that I know of."
"I believe you've been putting on weight."
"I'm sure you haven't," she retorted. "You're a perfect skeleton."
"That's a tu quoque, Sally," cried her father. "You will be fined one
golden hair of your head. Jane, fetch the shears."
"Well, he is thin, father," remonstrated Sally. "He's just skin and bone."
"That's not the question, child. He is at perfect liberty to be thin, but
your obesity is contrary to decorum."
As he spoke he put his arm proudly round her waist and looked at her with
"Let me get on with the table, father. If I am comfortable there are some
who don't seem to mind it."
"The hussy!" cried Athelny, with a dramatic wave of the hand. "She taunts
me with the notorious fact that Joseph, a son of Levi who sells jewels in
Holborn, has made her an offer of marriage."
"Have you accepted him, Sally?" asked Philip.
"Don't you know father better than that by this time? There's not a word
of truth in it."
"Well, if he hasn't made you an offer of marriage," cried Athelny, "by
Saint George and Merry England, I will seize him by the nose and demand of
him immediately what are his intentions."
"Sit down, father, dinner's ready. Now then, you children, get along with
you and wash your hands all of you, and don't shirk it, because I mean to
look at them before you have a scrap of dinner, so there."
Philip thought he was ravenous till he began to eat, but then discovered
that his stomach turned against food, and he could eat hardly at all. His
brain was weary; and he did not notice that Athelny, contrary to his
habit, spoke very little. Philip was relieved to be sitting in a
comfortable house, but every now and then he could not prevent himself
from glancing out of the window. The day was tempestuous. The fine weather
had broken; and it was cold, and there was a bitter wind; now and again
gusts of rain drove against the window. Philip wondered what he should do
that night. The Athelnys went to bed early, and he could not stay where he
was after ten o'clock. His heart sank at the thought of going out into the
bleak darkness. It seemed more terrible now that he was with his friends
than when he was outside and alone. He kept on saying to himself that
there were plenty more who would be spending the night out of doors. He
strove to distract his mind by talking, but in the middle of his words a
spatter of rain against the window would make him start.
"It's like March weather," said Athelny. "Not the sort of day one would
like to be crossing the Channel."
Presently they finished, and Sally came in and cleared away.
"Would you like a twopenny stinker?" said Athelny, handing him a cigar.
Philip took it and inhaled the smoke with delight. It soothed him
extraordinarily. When Sally had finished Athelny told her to shut the door
"Now we shan't be disturbed," he said, turning to Philip. "I've arranged
with Betty not to let the children come in till I call them."
Philip gave him a startled look, but before he could take in the meaning
of his words, Athelny, fixing his glasses on his nose with the gesture
habitual to him, went on.
"I wrote to you last Sunday to ask if anything was the matter with you,
and as you didn't answer I went to your rooms on Wednesday."
Philip turned his head away and did not answer. His heart began to beat
violently. Athelny did not speak, and presently the silence seemed
intolerable to Philip. He could not think of a single word to say.
"Your landlady told me you hadn't been in since Saturday night, and she
said you owed her for the last month. Where have you been sleeping all
It made Philip sick to answer. He stared out of the window.
"I tried to find you."
"Why?" asked Philip.
"Betty and I have been just as broke in our day, only we had babies to
look after. Why didn't you come here?"
Philip was afraid he was going to cry. He felt very weak. He shut his eyes
and frowned, trying to control himself. He felt a sudden flash of anger
with Athelny because he would not leave him alone; but he was broken; and
presently, his eyes still closed, slowly in order to keep his voice
steady, he told him the story of his adventures during the last few weeks.
As he spoke it seemed to him that he had behaved inanely, and it made it
still harder to tell. He felt that Athelny would think him an utter fool.
"Now you're coming to live with us till you find something to do," said
Athelny, when he had finished.
Philip flushed, he knew not why.
"Oh, it's awfully kind of you, but I don't think I'll do that."
Philip did not answer. He had refused instinctively from fear that he
would be a bother, and he had a natural bashfulness of accepting favours.
He knew besides that the Athelnys lived from hand to mouth, and with their
large family had neither space nor money to entertain a stranger.
"Of course you must come here," said Athelny. "Thorpe will tuck in with
one of his brothers and you can sleep in his bed. You don't suppose your
food's going to make any difference to us."
Philip was afraid to speak, and Athelny, going to the door, called his
"Betty," he said, when she came in, "Mr. Carey's coming to live with us."
"Oh, that is nice," she said. "I'll go and get the bed ready."
She spoke in such a hearty, friendly tone, taking everything for granted,
that Philip was deeply touched. He never expected people to be kind to
him, and when they were it surprised and moved him. Now he could not
prevent two large tears from rolling down his cheeks. The Athelnys
discussed the arrangements and pretended not to notice to what a state his
weakness had brought him. When Mrs. Athelny left them Philip leaned back
in his chair, and looking out of the window laughed a little.
"It's not a very nice night to be out, is it?"
Athelny told Philip that he could easily get him something to do in the
large firm of linendrapers in which himself worked. Several of the
assistants had gone to the war, and Lynn and Sedley with patriotic zeal
had promised to keep their places open for them. They put the work of the
heroes on those who remained, and since they did not increase the wages of
these were able at once to exhibit public spirit and effect an economy;
but the war continued and trade was less depressed; the holidays were
coming, when numbers of the staff went away for a fortnight at a time:
they were bound to engage more assistants. Philip's experience had made
him doubtful whether even then they would engage him; but Athelny,
representing himself as a person of consequence in the firm, insisted that
the manager could refuse him nothing. Philip, with his training in Paris,
would be very useful; it was only a matter of waiting a little and he was
bound to get a well-paid job to design costumes and draw posters. Philip
made a poster for the summer sale and Athelny took it away. Two days later
he brought it back, saying that the manager admired it very much and
regretted with all his heart that there was no vacancy just then in that
department. Philip asked whether there was nothing else he could do.
"I'm afraid not."
"Are you quite sure?"
"Well, the fact is they're advertising for a shop-walker tomorrow," said
Athelny, looking at him doubtfully through his glasses.
"D'you think I stand any chance of getting it?"
Athelny was a little confused; he had led Philip to expect something much
more splendid; on the other hand he was too poor to go on providing him
indefinitely with board and lodging.
"You might take it while you wait for something better. You always stand
a better chance if you're engaged by the firm already."
"I'm not proud, you, know" smiled Philip.
"If you decide on that you must be there at a quarter to nine tomorrow
Notwithstanding the war there was evidently much difficulty in finding
work, for when Philip went to the shop many men were waiting already. He
recognised some whom he had seen in his own searching, and there was one
whom he had noticed lying about the park in the afternoon. To Philip now
that suggested that he was as homeless as himself and passed the night out
of doors. The men were of all sorts, old and young, tall and short; but
every one had tried to make himself smart for the interview with the
manager: they had carefully brushed hair and scrupulously clean hands.
They waited in a passage which Philip learnt afterwards led up to the
dining-hall and the work rooms; it was broken every few yards by five or
six steps. Though there was electric light in the shop here was only gas,
with wire cages over it for protection, and it flared noisily. Philip
arrived punctually, but it was nearly ten o'clock when he was admitted
into the office. It was three-cornered, like a cut of cheese lying on its
side: on the walls were pictures of women in corsets, and two
poster-proofs, one of a man in pyjamas, green and white in large stripes,
and the other of a ship in full sail ploughing an azure sea: on the sail
was printed in large letters `great white sale.' The widest side of the
office was the back of one of the shop-windows, which was being dressed at
the time, and an assistant went to and fro during the interview. The
manager was reading a letter. He was a florid man, with sandy hair and a
large sandy moustache; from the middle of his watch-chain hung a bunch of
football medals. He sat in his shirt sleeves at a large desk with a
telephone by his side; before him were the day's advertisements, Athelny's
work, and cuttings from newspapers pasted on a card. He gave Philip a
glance but did not speak to him; he dictated a letter to the typist, a
girl who sat at a small table in one corner; then he asked Philip his
name, age, and what experience he had had. He spoke with a cockney twang
in a high, metallic voice which he seemed not able always to control;
Philip noticed that his upper teeth were large and protruding; they gave
you the impression that they were loose and would come out if you gave
them a sharp tug.
"I think Mr. Athelny has spoken to you about me," said Philip.
"Oh, you are the young feller who did that poster?"
"No good to us, you know, not a bit of good."
He looked Philip up and down. He seemed to notice that Philip was in some
way different from the men who had preceded him.
"You'd 'ave to get a frock coat, you know. I suppose you 'aven't got one.
You seem a respectable young feller. I suppose you found art didn't pay."
Philip could not tell whether he meant to engage him or not. He threw
remarks at him in a hostile way.
"Where's your home?"
"My father and mother died when I was a child."
"I like to give young fellers a chance. Many's the one I've given their
chance to and they're managers of departments now. And they're grateful to
me, I'll say that for them. They know what I done for them. Start at the
bottom of the ladder, that's the only way to learn the business, and then
if you stick to it there's no knowing what it can lead to. If you suit,
one of these days you may find yourself in a position like what mine is.
Bear that in mind, young feller."
"I'm very anxious to do my best, sir," said Philip.
He knew that he must put in the sir whenever he could, but it sounded odd
to him, and he was afraid of overdoing it. The manager liked talking. It
gave him a happy consciousness of his own importance, and he did not give
Philip his decision till he had used a great many words.
"Well, I daresay you'll do," he said at last, in a pompous way. "Anyhow I
don't mind giving you a trial."
"Thank you very much, sir."
"You can start at once. I'll give you six shillings a week and your keep.
Everything found, you know; the six shillings is only pocket money, to do
what you like with, paid monthly. Start on Monday. I suppose you've got no
cause of complaint with that."
"Harrington Street, d'you know where that is, Shaftesbury Avenue. That's
where you sleep. Number ten, it is. You can sleep there on Sunday night,
if you like; that's just as you please, or you can send your box there on
Monday." The manager nodded: "Good-morning."
Mrs. Athelny lent Philip money to pay his landlady enough of her bill to
let him take his things away. For five shillings and the pawn-ticket on a
suit he was able to get from a pawnbroker a frock coat which fitted him
fairly well. He redeemed the rest of his clothes. He sent his box to
Harrington Street by Carter Patterson and on Monday morning went with
Athelny to the shop. Athelny introduced him to the buyer of the costumes
and left him. The buyer was a pleasant, fussy little man of thirty, named
Sampson; he shook hands with Philip, and, in order to show his own
accomplishment of which he was very proud, asked him if he spoke French.
He was surprised when Philip told him he did.
"Any other language?"
"I speak German."
"Oh! I go over to Paris myself occasionally. Parlez-vous francais? Ever
been to Maxim's?"
Philip was stationed at the top of the stairs in the `costumes.' His work
consisted in directing people to the various departments. There seemed a
great many of them as Mr. Sampson tripped them off his tongue. Suddenly he
noticed that Philip limped.
"What's the matter with your leg?" he asked.
"I've got a club-foot," said Philip. "But it doesn't prevent my walking or
anything like that."
The buyer looked at it for a moment doubtfully, and Philip surmised that
he was wondering why the manager had engaged him. Philip knew that he had
not noticed there was anything the matter with him.
"I don't expect you to get them all correct the first day. If you're in
any doubt all you've got to do is to ask one of the young ladies."
Mr. Sampson turned away; and Philip, trying to remember where this or the
other department was, watched anxiously for the customer in search of
information. At one o'clock he went up to dinner. The dining-room, on the
top floor of the vast building, was large, long, and well lit; but all the
windows were shut to keep out the dust, and there was a horrid smell of
cooking. There were long tables covered with cloths, with big glass
bottles of water at intervals, and down the centre salt cellars and
bottles of vinegar. The assistants crowded in noisily, and sat down on
forms still warm from those who had dined at twelve-thirty.
"No pickles," remarked the man next to Philip.
He was a tall thin young man, with a hooked nose and a pasty face; he had
a long head, unevenly shaped as though the skull had been pushed in here
and there oddly, and on his forehead and neck were large acne spots red
and inflamed. His name was Harris. Philip discovered that on some days
there were large soup-plates down the table full of mixed pickles. They
were very popular. There were no knives and forks, but in a minute a large
fat boy in a white coat came in with a couple of handfuls of them and
threw them loudly on the middle of the table. Each man took what he
wanted; they were warm and greasy from recent washing in dirty water.
Plates of meat swimming in gravy were handed round by boys in white
jackets, and as they flung each plate down with the quick gesture of a
prestidigitator the gravy slopped over on to the table-cloth. Then they
brought large dishes of cabbages and potatoes; the sight of them turned
Philip's stomach; he noticed that everyone poured quantities of vinegar
over them. The noise was awful. They talked and laughed and shouted, and
there was the clatter of knives and forks, and strange sounds of eating.
Philip was glad to get back into the department. He was beginning to
remember where each one was, and had less often to ask one of the
assistants, when somebody wanted to know the way.
"First to the right. Second on the left, madam."
One or two of the girls spoke to him, just a word when things were slack,
and he felt they were taking his measure. At five he was sent up again to
the dining-room for tea. He was glad to sit down. There were large slices
of bread heavily spread with butter; and many had pots of jam, which were
kept in the `store' and had their names written on.
Philip was exhausted when work stopped at half past six. Harris, the man
he had sat next to at dinner, offered to take him over to Harrington
Street to show him where he was to sleep. He told Philip there was a spare
bed in his room, and, as the other rooms were full, he expected Philip
would be put there. The house in Harrington Street had been a bootmaker's;
and the shop was used as a bed-room; but it was very dark, since the
window had been boarded three parts up, and as this did not open the only
ventilation came from a small skylight at the far end. There was a musty
smell, and Philip was thankful that he would not have to sleep there.
Harris took him up to the sitting-room, which was on the first floor; it
had an old piano in it with a keyboard that looked like a row of decayed
teeth; and on the table in a cigar-box without a lid was a set of
dominoes; old numbers of The Strand Magazine and of The Graphic were
lying about. The other rooms were used as bed-rooms. That in which Philip
was to sleep was at the top of the house. There were six beds in it, and
a trunk or a box stood by the side of each. The only furniture was a chest
of drawers: it had four large drawers and two small ones, and Philip as
the new-comer had one of these; there were keys to them, but as they were
all alike they were not of much use, and Harris advised him to keep his
valuables in his trunk. There was a looking-glass on the chimney-piece.
Harris showed Philip the lavatory, which was a fairly large room with
eight basins in a row, and here all the inmates did their washing. It led
into another room in which were two baths, discoloured, the woodwork
stained with soap; and in them were dark rings at various intervals which
indicated the water marks of different baths.