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Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Part 15 out of 15

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quite out of it."

"All right, mother."

Mrs. Black had a cottage about half a mile along the road, and she
combined the office of postmistress with that of universal provider. Sally
came out of the hut, turning down her sleeves.

"Shall I come with you, Sally?" asked Philip.

"Don't you trouble. I'm not afraid to go alone."

"I didn't think you were; but it's getting near my bedtime, and I was just
thinking I'd like to stretch my legs."

Sally did not answer, and they set out together. The road was white and
silent. There was not a sound in the summer night. They did not speak

"It's quite hot even now, isn't it?" said Philip.

"I think it's wonderful for the time of year."

But their silence did not seem awkward. They found it was pleasant to walk
side by side and felt no need of words. Suddenly at a stile in the
hedgerow they heard a low murmur of voices, and in the darkness they saw
the outline of two people. They were sitting very close to one another and
did not move as Philip and Sally passed.

"I wonder who that was," said Sally.

"They looked happy enough, didn't they?"

"I expect they took us for lovers too."

They saw the light of the cottage in front of them, and in a minute went
into the little shop. The glare dazzled them for a moment.

"You are late," said Mrs. Black. "I was just going to shut up." She looked
at the clock. "Getting on for nine."

Sally asked for her half pound of tea (Mrs. Athelny could never bring
herself to buy more than half a pound at a time), and they set off up the
road again. Now and then some beast of the night made a short, sharp
sound, but it seemed only to make the silence more marked.

"I believe if you stood still you could hear the sea," said Sally.

They strained their ears, and their fancy presented them with a faint
sound of little waves lapping up against the shingle. When they passed the
stile again the lovers were still there, but now they were not speaking;
they were in one another's arms, and the man's lips were pressed against
the girl's.

"They seem busy," said Sally.

They turned a corner, and a breath of warm wind beat for a moment against
their faces. The earth gave forth its freshness. There was something
strange in the tremulous night, and something, you knew not what, seemed
to be waiting; the silence was on a sudden pregnant with meaning. Philip
had a queer feeling in his heart, it seemed very full, it seemed to melt
(the hackneyed phrases expressed precisely the curious sensation), he felt
happy and anxious and expectant. To his memory came back those lines in
which Jessica and Lorenzo murmur melodious words to one another, capping
each other's utterance; but passion shines bright and clear through the
conceits that amuse them. He did not know what there was in the air that
made his senses so strangely alert; it seemed to him that he was pure soul
to enjoy the scents and the sounds and the savours of the earth. He had
never felt such an exquisite capacity for beauty. He was afraid that Sally
by speaking would break the spell, but she said never a word, and he
wanted to hear the sound of her voice. Its low richness was the voice of
the country night itself.

They arrived at the field through which she had to walk to get back to the
huts. Philip went in to hold the gate open for her.

"Well, here I think I'll say good-night."

"Thank you for coming all that way with me."

She gave him her hand, and as he took it, he said:

"If you were very nice you'd kiss me good-night like the rest of the

"I don't mind," she said.

Philip had spoken in jest. He merely wanted to kiss her, because he was
happy and he liked her and the night was so lovely.

"Good-night then," he said, with a little laugh, drawing her towards him.

She gave him her lips; they were warm and full and soft; he lingered a
little, they were like a flower; then, he knew not how, without meaning
it, he flung his arms round her. She yielded quite silently. Her body was
firm and strong. He felt her heart beat against his. Then he lost his
head. His senses overwhelmed him like a flood of rushing waters. He drew
her into the darker shadow of the hedge.


Philip slept like a log and awoke with a start to find Harold tickling his
face with a feather. There was a shout of delight when he opened his eyes.
He was drunken with sleep.

"Come on, lazybones," said Jane. "Sally says she won't wait for you unless
you hurry up."

Then he remembered what had happened. His heart sank, and, half out of bed
already, he stopped; he did not know how he was going to face her; he was
overwhelmed with a sudden rush of self-reproach, and bitterly, bitterly,
he regretted what he had done. What would she say to him that morning? He
dreaded meeting her, and he asked himself how he could have been such a
fool. But the children gave him no time; Edward took his bathing-drawers
and his towel, Athelstan tore the bed-clothes away; and in three minutes
they all clattered down into the road. Sally gave him a smile. It was as
sweet and innocent as it had ever been.

"You do take a time to dress yourself," she said. "I thought you was never

There was not a particle of difference in her manner. He had expected some
change, subtle or abrupt; he fancied that there would be shame in the way
she treated him, or anger, or perhaps some increase of familiarity; but
there was nothing. She was exactly the same as before. They walked towards
the sea all together, talking and laughing; and Sally was quiet, but she
was always that, reserved, but he had never seen her otherwise, and
gentle. She neither sought conversation with him nor avoided it. Philip
was astounded. He had expected the incident of the night before to have
caused some revolution in her, but it was just as though nothing had
happened; it might have been a dream; and as he walked along, a little
girl holding on to one hand and a little boy to the other, while he
chatted as unconcernedly as he could, he sought for an explanation. He
wondered whether Sally meant the affair to be forgotten. Perhaps her
senses had run away with her just as his had, and, treating what had
occurred as an accident due to unusual circumstances, it might be that she
had decided to put the matter out of her mind. It was ascribing to her a
power of thought and a mature wisdom which fitted neither with her age nor
with her character. But he realised that he knew nothing of her. There had
been in her always something enigmatic.

They played leap-frog in the water, and the bathe was as uproarious as on
the previous day. Sally mothered them all, keeping a watchful eye on them,
and calling to them when they went out too far. She swam staidly backwards
and forwards while the others got up to their larks, and now and then
turned on her back to float. Presently she went out and began drying
herself; she called to the others more or less peremptorily, and at last
only Philip was left in the water. He took the opportunity to have a good
hard swim. He was more used to the cold water this second morning, and he
revelled in its salt freshness; it rejoiced him to use his limbs freely,
and he covered the water with long, firm strokes. But Sally, with a towel
round her, went down to the water's edge.

"You're to come out this minute, Philip," she called, as though he were a
small boy under her charge.

And when, smiling with amusement at her authoritative way, he came towards
her, she upbraided him.

"It is naughty of you to stay in so long. Your lips are quite blue, and
just look at your teeth, they're chattering."

"All right. I'll come out."

She had never talked to him in that manner before. It was as though what
had happened gave her a sort of right over him, and she looked upon him as
a child to be cared for. In a few minutes they were dressed, and they
started to walk back. Sally noticed his hands.

"Just look, they're quite blue."

"Oh, that's all right. It's only the circulation. I shall get the blood
back in a minute."

"Give them to me."

She took his hands in hers and rubbed them, first one and then the other,
till the colour returned. Philip, touched and puzzled, watched her. He
could not say anything to her on account of the children, and he did not
meet her eyes; but he was sure they did not avoid his purposely, it just
happened that they did not meet. And during the day there was nothing in
her behaviour to suggest a consciousness in her that anything had passed
between them. Perhaps she was a little more talkative than usual. When
they were all sitting again in the hop-field she told her mother how
naughty Philip had been in not coming out of the water till he was blue
with cold. It was incredible, and yet it seemed that the only effect of
the incident of the night before was to arouse in her a feeling of
protection towards him: she had the same instinctive desire to mother him
as she had with regard to her brothers and sisters.

It was not till the evening that he found himself alone with her. She was
cooking the supper, and Philip was sitting on the grass by the side of the
fire. Mrs. Athelny had gone down to the village to do some shopping, and
the children were scattered in various pursuits of their own. Philip
hesitated to speak. He was very nervous. Sally attended to her business
with serene competence and she accepted placidly the silence which to him
was so embarrassing. He did not know how to begin. Sally seldom spoke
unless she was spoken to or had something particular to say. At last he
could not bear it any longer.

"You're not angry with me, Sally?" he blurted out suddenly.

She raised her eyes quietly and looked at him without emotion.

"Me? No. Why should I be?"

He was taken aback and did not reply. She took the lid off the pot,
stirred the contents, and put it on again. A savoury smell spread over the
air. She looked at him once more, with a quiet smile which barely
separated her lips; it was more a smile of the eyes.

"I always liked you," she said.

His heart gave a great thump against his ribs, and he felt the blood
rushing to his cheeks. He forced a faint laugh.

"I didn't know that."

"That's because you're a silly."

"I don't know why you liked me."

"I don't either." She put a little more wood on the fire. "I knew I liked
you that day you came when you'd been sleeping out and hadn't had anything
to eat, d'you remember? And me and mother, we got Thorpy's bed ready for

He flushed again, for he did not know that she was aware of that incident.
He remembered it himself with horror and shame.

"That's why I wouldn't have anything to do with the others. You remember
that young fellow mother wanted me to have? I let him come to tea because
he bothered so, but I knew I'd say no."

Philip was so surprised that he found nothing to say. There was a queer
feeling in his heart; he did not know what it was, unless it was
happiness. Sally stirred the pot once more.

"I wish those children would make haste and come. I don't know where
they've got to. Supper's ready now."

"Shall I go and see if I can find them?" said Philip.

It was a relief to talk about practical things.

"Well, it wouldn't be a bad idea, I must say.... There's mother coming."

Then, as he got up, she looked at him without embarrassment.

"Shall I come for a walk with you tonight when I've put the children to


"Well, you wait for me down by the stile, and I'll come when I'm ready."

He waited under the stars, sitting on the stile, and the hedges with their
ripening blackberries were high on each side of him. From the earth rose
rich scents of the night, and the air was soft and still. His heart was
beating madly. He could not understand anything of what happened to him.
He associated passion with cries and tears and vehemence, and there was
nothing of this in Sally; but he did not know what else but passion could
have caused her to give herself. But passion for him? He would not have
been surprised if she had fallen to her cousin, Peter Gann, tall, spare,
and straight, with his sunburned face and long, easy stride. Philip
wondered what she saw in him. He did not know if she loved him as he
reckoned love. And yet? He was convinced of her purity. He had a vague
inkling that many things had combined, things that she felt though was
unconscious of, the intoxication of the air and the hops and the night,
the healthy instincts of the natural woman, a tenderness that overflowed,
and an affection that had in it something maternal and something sisterly;
and she gave all she had to give because her heart was full of charity.

He heard a step on the road, and a figure came out of the darkness.

"Sally," he murmured.

She stopped and came to the stile, and with her came sweet, clean odours
of the country-side. She seemed to carry with her scents of the new-mown
hay, and the savour of ripe hops, and the freshness of young grass. Her
lips were soft and full against his, and her lovely, strong body was firm
within his arms.

"Milk and honey," he said. "You're like milk and honey."

He made her close her eyes and kissed her eyelids, first one and then the
other. Her arm, strong and muscular, was bare to the elbow; he passed his
hand over it and wondered at its beauty; it gleamed in the darkness; she
had the skin that Rubens painted, astonishingly fair and transparent, and
on one side were little golden hairs. It was the arm of a Saxon goddess;
but no immortal had that exquisite, homely naturalness; and Philip thought
of a cottage garden with the dear flowers which bloom in all men's hearts,
of the hollyhock and the red and white rose which is called York and
Lancaster, and of love--in-a-mist and Sweet William, and honeysuckle,
larkspur, and London Pride.

"How can you care for me?" he said. "I'm insignificant and crippled and
ordinary and ugly."

She took his face in both her hands and kissed his lips.

"You're an old silly, that's what you are," she said.


When the hops were picked, Philip with the news in his pocket that he had
got the appointment as assistant house-physician at St. Luke's,
accompanied the Athelnys back to London. He took modest rooms in
Westminster and at the beginning of October entered upon his duties. The
work was interesting and varied; every day he learned something new; he
felt himself of some consequence; and he saw a good deal of Sally. He
found life uncommonly pleasant. He was free about six, except on the days
on which he had out-patients, and then he went to the shop at which Sally
worked to meet her when she came out. There were several young men, who
hung about opposite the `trade entrance' or a little further along, at the
first corner; and the girls, coming out two and two or in little groups,
nudged one another and giggled as they recognised them. Sally in her plain
black dress looked very different from the country lass who had picked
hops side by side with him. She walked away from the shop quickly, but she
slackened her pace when they met, and greeted him with her quiet smile.
They walked together through the busy street. He talked to her of his work
at the hospital, and she told him what she had been doing in the shop that
day. He came to know the names of the girls she worked with. He found that
Sally had a restrained, but keen, sense of the ridiculous, and she made
remarks about the girls or the men who were set over them which amused him
by their unexpected drollery. She had a way of saying a thing which was
very characteristic, quite gravely, as though there were nothing funny in
it at all, and yet it was so sharp-sighted that Philip broke into
delighted laughter. Then she would give him a little glance in which the
smiling eyes showed she was not unaware of her own humour. They met with
a handshake and parted as formally. Once Philip asked her to come and have
tea with him in his rooms, but she refused.

"No, I won't do that. It would look funny."

Never a word of love passed between them. She seemed not to desire
anything more than the companionship of those walks. Yet Philip was
positive that she was glad to be with him. She puzzled him as much as she
had done at the beginning. He did not begin to understand her conduct; but
the more he knew her the fonder he grew of her; she was competent and self
controlled, and there was a charming honesty in her: you felt that you
could rely upon her in every circumstance.

"You are an awfully good sort," he said to her once a propos of nothing
at all.

"I expect I'm just the same as everyone else," she answered.

He knew that he did not love her. It was a great affection that he felt
for her, and he liked her company; it was curiously soothing; and he had
a feeling for her which seemed to him ridiculous to entertain towards a
shop-girl of nineteen: he respected her. And he admired her magnificent
healthiness. She was a splendid animal, without defect; and physical
perfection filled him always with admiring awe. She made him feel

Then, one day, about three weeks after they had come back to London as
they walked together, he noticed that she was unusually silent. The
serenity of her expression was altered by a slight line between the
eyebrows: it was the beginning of a frown.

"What's the matter, Sally?" he asked.

She did not look at him, but straight in front of her, and her colour

"I don't know."

He understood at once what she meant. His heart gave a sudden, quick beat,
and he felt the colour leave his cheeks.

"What d'you mean? Are you afraid that... ?"

He stopped. He could not go on. The possibility that anything of the sort
could happen had never crossed his mind. Then he saw that her lips were
trembling, and she was trying not to cry.

"I'm not certain yet. Perhaps it'll be all right."

They walked on in silence till they came to the corner of Chancery Lane,
where he always left her. She held out her hand and smiled.

"Don't worry about it yet. Let's hope for the best."

He walked away with a tumult of thoughts in his head. What a fool he had
been! That was the first thing that struck him, an abject, miserable fool,
and he repeated it to himself a dozen times in a rush of angry feeling. He
despised himself. How could he have got into such a mess? But at the same
time, for his thoughts chased one another through his brain and yet seemed
to stand together, in a hopeless confusion, like the pieces of a jig-saw
puzzle seen in a nightmare, he asked himself what he was going to do.
Everything was so clear before him, all he had aimed at so long within
reach at last, and now his inconceivable stupidity had erected this new
obstacle. Philip had never been able to surmount what he acknowledged was
a defect in his resolute desire for a well ordered life, and that was his
passion for living in the future; and no sooner was he settled in his work
at the hospital than he had busied himself with arrangements for his
travels. In the past he had often tried not to think too circumstantially
of his plans for the future, it was only discouraging; but now that his
goal was so near he saw no harm in giving away to a longing that was so
difficult to resist. First of all he meant to go to Spain. That was the
land of his heart; and by now he was imbued with its spirit, its romance
and colour and history and grandeur; he felt that it had a message for him
in particular which no other country could give. He knew the fine old
cities already as though he had trodden their tortuous streets from
childhood. Cordova, Seville, Toledo, Leon, Tarragona, Burgos. The great
painters of Spain were the painters of his soul, and his pulse beat
quickly as he pictured his ecstasy on standing face to face with those
works which were more significant than any others to his own tortured,
restless heart. He had read the great poets, more characteristic of their
race than the poets of other lands; for they seemed to have drawn their
inspiration not at all from the general currents of the world's literature
but directly from the torrid, scented plains and the bleak mountains of
their country. A few short months now, and he would hear with his own ears
all around him the language which seemed most apt for grandeur of soul and
passion. His fine taste had given him an inkling that Andalusia was too
soft and sensuous, a little vulgar even, to satisfy his ardour; and his
imagination dwelt more willingly among the wind-swept distances of Castile
and the rugged magnificence of Aragon and Leon. He did not know quite what
those unknown contacts would give him, but he felt that he would gather
from them a strength and a purpose which would make him more capable of
affronting and comprehending the manifold wonders of places more distant
and more strange.

For this was only a beginning. He had got into communication with the
various companies which took surgeons out on their ships, and knew exactly
what were their routes, and from men who had been on them what were the
advantages and disadvantages of each line. He put aside the Orient and the
P. & O. It was difficult to get a berth with them; and besides their
passenger traffic allowed the medical officer little freedom; but there
were other services which sent large tramps on leisurely expeditions to
the East, stopping at all sorts of ports for various periods, from a day
or two to a fortnight, so that you had plenty of time, and it was often
possible to make a trip inland. The pay was poor and the food no more than
adequate, so that there was not much demand for the posts, and a man with
a London degree was pretty sure to get one if he applied. Since there were
no passengers other than a casual man or so, shipping on business from
some out-of-the-way port to another, the life on board was friendly and
pleasant. Philip knew by heart the list of places at which they touched;
and each one called up in him visions of tropical sunshine, and magic
colour, and of a teeming, mysterious, intense life. Life! That was what he
wanted. At last he would come to close quarters with Life. And perhaps,
from Tokyo or Shanghai it would be possible to tranship into some other
line and drip down to the islands of the South Pacific. A doctor was
useful anywhere. There might be an opportunity to go up country in Burmah,
and what rich jungles in Sumatra or Borneo might he not visit? He was
young still and time was no object to him. He had no ties in England, no
friends; he could go up and down the world for years, learning the beauty
and the wonder and the variedness of life.

Now this thing had come. He put aside the possibility that Sally was
mistaken; he felt strangely certain that she was right; after all, it was
so likely; anyone could see that Nature had built her to be the mother of
children. He knew what he ought to do. He ought not to let the incident
divert him a hair's breadth from his path. He thought of Griffiths; he
could easily imagine with what indifference that young man would have
received such a piece of news; he would have thought it an awful nuisance
and would at once have taken to his heels, like a wise fellow; he would
have left the girl to deal with her troubles as best she could. Philip
told himself that if this had happened it was because it was inevitable.
He was no more to blame than Sally; she was a girl who knew the world and
the facts of life, and she had taken the risk with her eyes open. It would
be madness to allow such an accident to disturb the whole pattern of his
life. He was one of the few people who was acutely conscious of the
transitoriness of life, and how necessary it was to make the most of it.
He would do what he could for Sally; he could afford to give her a
sufficient sum of money. A strong man would never allow himself to be
turned from his purpose.

Philip said all this to himself, but he knew he could not do it. He simply
could not. He knew himself.

"I'm so damned weak," he muttered despairingly.

She had trusted him and been kind to him. He simply could not do a thing
which, notwithstanding all his reason, he felt was horrible. He knew he
would have no peace on his travels if he had the thought constantly with
him that she was wretched. Besides, there were her father and mother: they
had always treated him well; it was not possible to repay them with
ingratitude. The only thing was to marry Sally as quickly as possible. He
would write to Doctor South, tell him he was going to be married at once,
and say that if his offer still held he was willing to accept it. That
sort of practice, among poor people, was the only one possible for him;
there his deformity did not matter, and they would not sneer at the simple
manners of his wife. It was curious to think of her as his wife, it gave
him a queer, soft feeling; and a wave of emotion spread over him as he
thought of the child which was his. He had little doubt that Doctor South
would be glad to have him, and he pictured to himself the life he would
lead with Sally in the fishing village. They would have a little house
within sight of the sea, and he would watch the mighty ships passing to
the lands he would never know. Perhaps that was the wisest thing. Cronshaw
had told him that the facts of life mattered nothing to him who by the
power of fancy held in fee the twin realms of space and time. It was true.
Forever wilt thou love and she be fair!

His wedding present to his wife would be all his high hopes.
Self-sacrifice! Philip was uplifted by its beauty, and all through the
evening he thought of it. He was so excited that he could not read. He
seemed to be driven out of his rooms into the streets, and he walked up
and down Birdcage Walk, his heart throbbing with joy. He could hardly bear
his impatience. He wanted to see Sally's happiness when he made her his
offer, and if it had not been so late he would have gone to her there and
then. He pictured to himself the long evenings he would spend with Sally
in the cosy sitting-room, the blinds undrawn so that they could watch the
sea; he with his books, while she bent over her work, and the shaded lamp
made her sweet face more fair. They would talk over the growing child, and
when she turned her eyes to his there was in them the light of love. And
the fishermen and their wives who were his patients would come to feel a
great affection for them, and they in their turn would enter into the
pleasures and pains of those simple lives. But his thoughts returned to
the son who would be his and hers. Already he felt in himself a passionate
devotion to it. He thought of passing his hands over his little perfect
limbs, he knew he would be beautiful; and he would make over to him all
his dreams of a rich and varied life. And thinking over the long
pilgrimage of his past he accepted it joyfully. He accepted the deformity
which had made life so hard for him; he knew that it had warped his
character, but now he saw also that by reason of it he had acquired that
power of introspection which had given him so much delight. Without it he
would never have had his keen appreciation of beauty, his passion for art
and literature, and his interest in the varied spectacle of life. The
ridicule and the contempt which had so often been heaped upon him had
turned his mind inward and called forth those flowers which he felt would
never lose their fragrance. Then he saw that the normal was the rarest
thing in the world. Everyone had some defect, of body or of mind: he
thought of all the people he had known (the whole world was like a
sick-house, and there was no rhyme or reason in it), he saw a long
procession, deformed in body and warped in mind, some with illness of the
flesh, weak hearts or weak lungs, and some with illness of the spirit,
languor of will, or a craving for liquor. At this moment he could feel a
holy compassion for them all. They were the helpless instruments of blind
chance. He could pardon Griffiths for his treachery and Mildred for the
pain she had caused him. They could not help themselves. The only
reasonable thing was to accept the good of men and be patient with their
faults. The words of the dying God crossed his memory:

Forgive them, for they know not what they do.


He had arranged to meet Sally on Saturday in the National Gallery. She was
to come there as soon as she was released from the shop and had agreed to
lunch with him. Two days had passed since he had seen her, and his
exultation had not left him for a moment. It was because he rejoiced in
the feeling that he had not attempted to see her. He had repeated to
himself exactly what he would say to her and how he should say it. Now his
impatience was unbearable. He had written to Doctor South and had in his
pocket a telegram from him received that morning: "Sacking the mumpish
fool. When will you come?" Philip walked along Parliament Street. It was
a fine day, and there was a bright, frosty sun which made the light dance
in the street. It was crowded. There was a tenuous mist in the distance,
and it softened exquisitely the noble lines of the buildings. He crossed
Trafalgar Square. Suddenly his heart gave a sort of twist in his body; he
saw a woman in front of him who he thought was Mildred. She had the same
figure, and she walked with that slight dragging of the feet which was so
characteristic of her. Without thinking, but with a beating heart, he
hurried till he came alongside, and then, when the woman turned, he saw it
was someone unknown to him. It was the face of a much older person, with
a lined, yellow skin. He slackened his pace. He was infinitely relieved,
but it was not only relief that he felt; it was disappointment too; he was
seized with horror of himself. Would he never be free from that passion?
At the bottom of his heart, notwithstanding everything, he felt that a
strange, desperate thirst for that vile woman would always linger. That
love had caused him so much suffering that he knew he would never, never
quite be free of it. Only death could finally assuage his desire.

But he wrenched the pang from his heart. He thought of Sally, with her
kind blue eyes; and his lips unconsciously formed themselves into a smile.
He walked up the steps of the National Gallery and sat down in the first
room, so that he should see her the moment she came in. It always
comforted him to get among pictures. He looked at none in particular, but
allowed the magnificence of their colour, the beauty of their lines, to
work upon his soul. His imagination was busy with Sally. It would be
pleasant to take her away from that London in which she seemed an unusual
figure, like a cornflower in a shop among orchids and azaleas; he had
learned in the Kentish hop-field that she did not belong to the town; and
he was sure that she would blossom under the soft skies of Dorset to a
rarer beauty. She came in, and he got up to meet her. She was in black,
with white cuffs at her wrists and a lawn collar round her neck. They
shook hands.

"Have you been waiting long?"

"No. Ten minutes. Are you hungry?"

"Not very."

"Let's sit here for a bit, shall we?"

"If you like."

They sat quietly, side by side, without speaking. Philip enjoyed having
her near him. He was warmed by her radiant health. A glow of life seemed
like an aureole to shine about her.

"Well, how have you been?" he said at last, with a little smile.

"Oh, it's all right. It was a false alarm."

"Was it?"

"Aren't you glad?"

An extraordinary sensation filled him. He had felt certain that Sally's
suspicion was well-founded; it had never occurred to him for an instant
that there was a possibility of error. All his plans were suddenly
overthrown, and the existence, so elaborately pictured, was no more than
a dream which would never be realised. He was free once more. Free! He
need give up none of his projects, and life still was in his hands for him
to do what he liked with. He felt no exhilaration, but only dismay. His
heart sank. The future stretched out before him in desolate emptiness. It
was as though he had sailed for many years over a great waste of waters,
with peril and privation, and at last had come upon a fair haven, but as
he was about to enter, some contrary wind had arisen and drove him out
again into the open sea; and because he had let his mind dwell on these
soft meads and pleasant woods of the land, the vast deserts of the ocean
filled him with anguish. He could not confront again the loneliness and
the tempest. Sally looked at him with her clear eyes.

"Aren't you glad?" she asked again. "I thought you'd be as pleased as

He met her gaze haggardly. "I'm not sure," he muttered.

"You are funny. Most men would."

He realised that he had deceived himself; it was no self-sacrifice that
had driven him to think of marrying, but the desire for a wife and a home
and love; and now that it all seemed to slip through his fingers he was
seized with despair. He wanted all that more than anything in the world.
What did he care for Spain and its cities, Cordova, Toledo, Leon; what to
him were the pagodas of Burmah and the lagoons of South Sea Islands?
America was here and now. It seemed to him that all his life he had
followed the ideals that other people, by their words or their writings,
had instilled into him, and never the desires of his own heart. Always his
course had been swayed by what he thought he should do and never by what
he wanted with his whole soul to do. He put all that aside now with a
gesture of impatience. He had lived always in the future, and the present
always, always had slipped through his fingers. His ideals? He thought of
his desire to make a design, intricate and beautiful, out of the myriad,
meaningless facts of life: had he not seen also that the simplest pattern,
that in which a man was born, worked, married, had children, and died, was
likewise the most perfect? It might be that to surrender to happiness was
to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.

He glanced quickly at Sally, he wondered what she was thinking, and then
looked away again.

"I was going to ask you to marry me," he said.

"I thought p'raps you might, but I shouldn't have liked to stand in your

"You wouldn't have done that."

"How about your travels, Spain and all that?"

"How d'you know I want to travel?"

"I ought to know something about it. I've heard you and Dad talk about it
till you were blue in the face."

"I don't care a damn about all that." He paused for an instant and then
spoke in a low, hoarse whisper. "I don't want to leave you! I can't leave

She did not answer. He could not tell what she thought.

"I wonder if you'll marry me, Sally."

She did not move and there was no flicker of emotion on her face, but she
did not look at him when she answered.

"If you like."

"Don't you want to?"

"Oh, of course I'd like to have a house of my own, and it's about time I
was settling down."

He smiled a little. He knew her pretty well by now, and her manner did not
surprise him.

"But don't you want to marry ME?"

"There's no one else I would marry."

"Then that settles it."

"Mother and Dad will be surprised, won't they?"

"I'm so happy."

"I want my lunch," she said.


He smiled and took her hand and pressed it. They got up and walked out of
the gallery. They stood for a moment at the balustrade and looked at
Trafalgar Square. Cabs and omnibuses hurried to and fro, and crowds
passed, hastening in every direction, and the sun was shining.

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