Part 3 out of 15
Professor's daughter, addressed herself to him frequently from a sense of
duty, but the other said little: she looked at him now and then with
sparkling eyes, and sometimes to his confusion laughed outright. Philip
felt that she thought him perfectly ridiculous. They walked along the side
of a hill among pine-trees, and their pleasant odour caused Philip a keen
delight. The day was warm and cloudless. At last they came to an eminence
from which they saw the valley of the Rhine spread out before them under
the sun. It was a vast stretch of country, sparkling with golden light,
with cities in the distance; and through it meandered the silver ribband
of the river. Wide spaces are rare in the corner of Kent which Philip
knew, the sea offers the only broad horizon, and the immense distance he
saw now gave him a peculiar, an indescribable thrill. He felt suddenly
elated. Though he did not know it, it was the first time that he had
experienced, quite undiluted with foreign emotions, the sense of beauty.
They sat on a bench, the three of them, for the others had gone on, and
while the girls talked in rapid German, Philip, indifferent to their
proximity, feasted his eyes.
"By Jove, I am happy," he said to himself unconsciously.
Philip thought occasionally of the King's School at Tercanbury, and
laughed to himself as he remembered what at some particular moment of the
day they were doing. Now and then he dreamed that he was there still, and
it gave him an extraordinary satisfaction, on awaking, to realise that he
was in his little room in the turret. From his bed he could see the great
cumulus clouds that hung in the blue sky. He revelled in his freedom. He
could go to bed when he chose and get up when the fancy took him. There
was no one to order him about. It struck him that he need not tell any
It had been arranged that Professor Erlin should teach him Latin and
German; a Frenchman came every day to give him lessons in French; and the
Frau Professor had recommended for mathematics an Englishman who was
taking a philological degree at the university. This was a man named
Wharton. Philip went to him every morning. He lived in one room on the top
floor of a shabby house. It was dirty and untidy, and it was filled with
a pungent odour made up of many different stinks. He was generally in bed
when Philip arrived at ten o'clock, and he jumped out, put on a filthy
dressing-gown and felt slippers, and, while he gave instruction, ate his
simple breakfast. He was a short man, stout from excessive beer drinking,
with a heavy moustache and long, unkempt hair. He had been in Germany for
five years and was become very Teutonic. He spoke with scorn of Cambridge
where he had taken his degree and with horror of the life which awaited
him when, having taken his doctorate in Heidelberg, he must return to
England and a pedagogic career. He adored the life of the German
university with its happy freedom and its jolly companionships. He was a
member of a Burschenschaft, and promised to take Philip to a Kneipe. He
was very poor and made no secret that the lessons he was giving Philip
meant the difference between meat for his dinner and bread and cheese.
Sometimes after a heavy night he had such a headache that he could not
drink his coffee, and he gave his lesson with heaviness of spirit. For
these occasions he kept a few bottles of beer under the bed, and one of
these and a pipe would help him to bear the burden of life.
"A hair of the dog that bit him," he would say as he poured out the beer,
carefully so that the foam should not make him wait too long to drink.
Then he would talk to Philip of the university, the quarrels between rival
corps, the duels, and the merits of this and that professor. Philip learnt
more of life from him than of mathematics. Sometimes Wharton would sit
back with a laugh and say:
"Look here, we've not done anything today. You needn't pay me for the
"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Philip.
This was something new and very interesting, and he felt that it was of
greater import than trigonometry, which he never could understand. It was
like a window on life that he had a chance of peeping through, and he
looked with a wildly beating heart.
"No, you can keep your dirty money," said Wharton.
"But how about your dinner?" said Philip, with a smile, for he knew
exactly how his master's finances stood.
Wharton had even asked him to pay him the two shillings which the lesson
cost once a week rather than once a month, since it made things less
"Oh, never mind my dinner. It won't be the first time I've dined off a
bottle of beer, and my mind's never clearer than when I do."
He dived under the bed (the sheets were gray with want of washing), and
fished out another bottle. Philip, who was young and did not know the good
things of life, refused to share it with him, so he drank alone.
"How long are you going to stay here?" asked Wharton.
Both he and Philip had given up with relief the pretence of mathematics.
"Oh, I don't know. I suppose about a year. Then my people want me to go to
Wharton gave a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders. It was a new
experience for Philip to learn that there were persons who did not look
upon that seat of learning with awe.
"What d'you want to go there for? You'll only be a glorified schoolboy.
Why don't you matriculate here? A year's no good. Spend five years here.
You know, there are two good things in life, freedom of thought and
freedom of action. In France you get freedom of action: you can do what
you like and nobody bothers, but you must think like everybody else. In
Germany you must do what everybody else does, but you may think as you
choose. They're both very good things. I personally prefer freedom of
thought. But in England you get neither: you're ground down by convention.
You can't think as you like and you can't act as you like. That's because
it's a democratic nation. I expect America's worse."
He leaned back cautiously, for the chair on which he sat had a ricketty
leg, and it was disconcerting when a rhetorical flourish was interrupted
by a sudden fall to the floor.
"I ought to go back to England this year, but if I can scrape together
enough to keep body and soul on speaking terms I shall stay another twelve
months. But then I shall have to go. And I must leave all this"--he waved
his arm round the dirty garret, with its unmade bed, the clothes lying on
the floor, a row of empty beer bottles against the wall, piles of unbound,
ragged books in every corner--"for some provincial university where I
shall try and get a chair of philology. And I shall play tennis and go to
tea-parties." He interrupted himself and gave Philip, very neatly dressed,
with a clean collar on and his hair well-brushed, a quizzical look. "And,
my God! I shall have to wash."
Philip reddened, feeling his own spruceness an intolerable reproach; for
of late he had begun to pay some attention to his toilet, and he had come
out from England with a pretty selection of ties.
The summer came upon the country like a conqueror. Each day was beautiful.
The sky had an arrogant blue which goaded the nerves like a spur. The
green of the trees in the Anlage was violent and crude; and the houses,
when the sun caught them, had a dazzling white which stimulated till it
hurt. Sometimes on his way back from Wharton Philip would sit in the shade
on one of the benches in the Anlage, enjoying the coolness and watching
the patterns of light which the sun, shining through the leaves, made on
the ground. His soul danced with delight as gaily as the sunbeams. He
revelled in those moments of idleness stolen from his work. Sometimes he
sauntered through the streets of the old town. He looked with awe at the
students of the corps, their cheeks gashed and red, who swaggered about in
their coloured caps. In the afternoons he wandered about the hills with
the girls in the Frau Professor's house, and sometimes they went up the
river and had tea in a leafy beer-garden. In the evenings they walked
round and round the Stadtgarten, listening to the band.
Philip soon learned the various interests of the household. Fraulein
Thekla, the professor's elder daughter, was engaged to a man in England
who had spent twelve months in the house to learn German, and their
marriage was to take place at the end of the year. But the young man wrote
that his father, an india-rubber merchant who lived in Slough, did not
approve of the union, and Fraulein Thekla was often in tears. Sometimes
she and her mother might be seen, with stern eyes and determined mouths,
looking over the letters of the reluctant lover. Thekla painted in water
colour, and occasionally she and Philip, with another of the girls to keep
them company, would go out and paint little pictures. The pretty Fraulein
Hedwig had amorous troubles too. She was the daughter of a merchant in
Berlin and a dashing hussar had fallen in love with her, a von if you
please: but his parents opposed a marriage with a person of her condition,
and she had been sent to Heidelberg to forget him. She could never, never
do this, and corresponded with him continually, and he was making every
effort to induce an exasperating father to change his mind. She told all
this to Philip with pretty sighs and becoming blushes, and showed him the
photograph of the gay lieutenant. Philip liked her best of all the girls
at the Frau Professor's, and on their walks always tried to get by her
side. He blushed a great deal when the others chaffed him for his obvious
preference. He made the first declaration in his life to Fraulein Hedwig,
but unfortunately it was an accident, and it happened in this manner. In
the evenings when they did not go out, the young women sang little songs
in the green velvet drawing-room, while Fraulein Anna, who always made
herself useful, industriously accompanied. Fraulein Hedwig's favourite
song was called Ich liebe dich, I love you; and one evening after she
had sung this, when Philip was standing with her on the balcony, looking
at the stars, it occurred to him to make some remark about it. He began:
"Ich liebe dich."
His German was halting, and he looked about for the word he wanted. The
pause was infinitesimal, but before he could go on Fraulein Hedwig said:
"Ach, Herr Carey, Sie mussen mir nicht du sagen--you mustn't talk to me
in the second person singular."
Philip felt himself grow hot all over, for he would never have dared to do
anything so familiar, and he could think of nothing on earth to say. It
would be ungallant to explain that he was not making an observation, but
merely mentioning the title of a song.
"Entschuldigen Sie," he said. "I beg your pardon."
"It does not matter," she whispered.
She smiled pleasantly, quietly took his hand and pressed it, then turned
back into the drawing-room.
Next day he was so embarrassed that he could not speak to her, and in his
shyness did all that was possible to avoid her. When he was asked to go
for the usual walk he refused because, he said, he had work to do. But
Fraulein Hedwig seized an opportunity to speak to him alone.
"Why are you behaving in this way?" she said kindly. "You know, I'm not
angry with you for what you said last night. You can't help it if you love
me. I'm flattered. But although I'm not exactly engaged to Hermann I can
never love anyone else, and I look upon myself as his bride."
Philip blushed again, but he put on quite the expression of a rejected
"I hope you'll be very happy," he said.
Professor Erlin gave Philip a lesson every day. He made out a list of
books which Philip was to read till he was ready for the final achievement
of Faust, and meanwhile, ingeniously enough, started him on a German
translation of one of the plays by Shakespeare which Philip had studied at
school. It was the period in Germany of Goethe's highest fame.
Notwithstanding his rather condescending attitude towards patriotism he
had been adopted as the national poet, and seemed since the war of seventy
to be one of the most significant glories of national unity. The
enthusiastic seemed in the wildness of the Walpurgisnacht to hear the
rattle of artillery at Gravelotte. But one mark of a writer's greatness is
that different minds can find in him different inspirations; and Professor
Erlin, who hated the Prussians, gave his enthusiastic admiration to Goethe
because his works, Olympian and sedate, offered the only refuge for a sane
mind against the onslaughts of the present generation. There was a
dramatist whose name of late had been much heard at Heidelberg, and the
winter before one of his plays had been given at the theatre amid the
cheers of adherents and the hisses of decent people. Philip heard
discussions about it at the Frau Professor's long table, and at these
Professor Erlin lost his wonted calm: he beat the table with his fist, and
drowned all opposition with the roar of his fine deep voice. It was
nonsense and obscene nonsense. He forced himself to sit the play out, but
he did not know whether he was more bored or nauseated. If that was what
the theatre was coming to, then it was high time the police stepped in and
closed the playhouses. He was no prude and could laugh as well as anyone
at the witty immorality of a farce at the Palais Royal, but here was
nothing but filth. With an emphatic gesture he held his nose and whistled
through his teeth. It was the ruin of the family, the uprooting of morals,
the destruction of Germany.
"Aber, Adolf," said the Frau Professor from the other end of the table.
He shook his fist at her. He was the mildest of creatures and ventured
upon no action of his life without consulting her.
"No, Helene, I tell you this," he shouted. "I would sooner my daughters
were lying dead at my feet than see them listening to the garbage of that
The play was The Doll's House and the author was Henrik Ibsen.
Professor Erlin classed him with Richard Wagner, but of him he spoke not
with anger but with good-humoured laughter. He was a charlatan but a
successful charlatan, and in that was always something for the comic
spirit to rejoice in.
"Verruckter Kerl! A madman!" he said.
He had seen Lohengrin and that passed muster. It was dull but no worse.
But Siegfried! When he mentioned it Professor Erlin leaned his head on
his hand and bellowed with laughter. Not a melody in it from beginning to
end! He could imagine Richard Wagner sitting in his box and laughing till
his sides ached at the sight of all the people who were taking it
seriously. It was the greatest hoax of the nineteenth century. He lifted
his glass of beer to his lips, threw back his head, and drank till the
glass was empty. Then wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he said:
"I tell you young people that before the nineteenth century is out Wagner
will be as dead as mutton. Wagner! I would give all his works for one
opera by Donizetti."
The oddest of Philip's masters was his teacher of French. Monsieur Ducroz
was a citizen of Geneva. He was a tall old man, with a sallow skin and
hollow cheeks; his gray hair was thin and long. He wore shabby black
clothes, with holes at the elbows of his coat and frayed trousers. His
linen was very dirty. Philip had never seen him in a clean collar. He was
a man of few words, who gave his lesson conscientiously but without
enthusiasm, arriving as the clock struck and leaving on the minute. His
charges were very small. He was taciturn, and what Philip learnt about him
he learnt from others: it appeared that he had fought with Garibaldi
against the Pope, but had left Italy in disgust when it was clear that all
his efforts for freedom, by which he meant the establishment of a
republic, tended to no more than an exchange of yokes; he had been
expelled from Geneva for it was not known what political offences. Philip
looked upon him with puzzled surprise; for he was very unlike his idea of
the revolutionary: he spoke in a low voice and was extraordinarily polite;
he never sat down till he was asked to; and when on rare occasions he met
Philip in the street took off his hat with an elaborate gesture; he never
laughed, he never even smiled. A more complete imagination than Philip's
might have pictured a youth of splendid hope, for he must have been
entering upon manhood in 1848 when kings, remembering their brother of
France, went about with an uneasy crick in their necks; and perhaps that
passion for liberty which passed through Europe, sweeping before it what
of absolutism and tyranny had reared its head during the reaction from the
revolution of 1789, filled no breast with a hotter fire. One might fancy
him, passionate with theories of human equality and human rights,
discussing, arguing, fighting behind barricades in Paris, flying before
the Austrian cavalry in Milan, imprisoned here, exiled from there, hoping
on and upborne ever with the word which seemed so magical, the word
Liberty; till at last, broken with disease and starvation, old, without
means to keep body and soul together but such lessons as he could pick up
from poor students, he found himself in that little neat town under the
heel of a personal tyranny greater than any in Europe. Perhaps his
taciturnity hid a contempt for the human race which had abandoned the
great dreams of his youth and now wallowed in sluggish ease; or perhaps
these thirty years of revolution had taught him that men are unfit for
liberty, and he thought that he had spent his life in the pursuit of that
which was not worth the finding. Or maybe he was tired out and waited only
with indifference for the release of death.
One day Philip, with the bluntness of his age, asked him if it was true he
had been with Garibaldi. The old man did not seem to attach any importance
to the question. He answered quite quietly in as low a voice as usual.
"They say you were in the Commune?"
"Do they? Shall we get on with our work?"
He held the book open and Philip, intimidated, began to translate the
passage he had prepared.
One day Monsieur Ducroz seemed to be in great pain. He had been scarcely
able to drag himself up the many stairs to Philip's room: and when he
arrived sat down heavily, his sallow face drawn, with beads of sweat on
his forehead, trying to recover himself.
"I'm afraid you're ill," said Philip.
"It's of no consequence."
But Philip saw that he was suffering, and at the end of the hour asked
whether he would not prefer to give no more lessons till he was better.
"No," said the old man, in his even low voice. "I prefer to go on while I
Philip, morbidly nervous when he had to make any reference to money,
"But it won't make any difference to you," he said. "I'll pay for the
lessons just the same. If you wouldn't mind I'd like to give you the money
for next week in advance."
Monsieur Ducroz charged eighteen pence an hour. Philip took a ten-mark
piece out of his pocket and shyly put it on the table. He could not bring
himself to offer it as if the old man were a beggar.
"In that case I think I won't come again till I'm better." He took the
coin and, without anything more than the elaborate bow with which he
always took his leave, went out.
Philip was vaguely disappointed. Thinking he had done a generous thing, he
had expected that Monsieur Ducroz would overwhelm him with expressions of
gratitude. He was taken aback to find that the old teacher accepted the
present as though it were his due. He was so young, he did not realise how
much less is the sense of obligation in those who receive favours than in
those who grant them. Monsieur Ducroz appeared again five or six days
later. He tottered a little more and was very weak, but seemed to have
overcome the severity of the attack. He was no more communicative than he
had been before. He remained mysterious, aloof, and dirty. He made no
reference to his illness till after the lesson: and then, just as he was
leaving, at the door, which he held open, he paused. He hesitated, as
though to speak were difficult.
"If it hadn't been for the money you gave me I should have starved. It was
all I had to live on."
He made his solemn, obsequious bow, and went out. Philip felt a little
lump in his throat. He seemed to realise in a fashion the hopeless
bitterness of the old man's struggle, and how hard life was for him when
to himself it was so pleasant.
Philip had spent three months in Heidelberg when one morning the Frau
Professor told him that an Englishman named Hayward was coming to stay in
the house, and the same evening at supper he saw a new face. For some days
the family had lived in a state of excitement. First, as the result of
heaven knows what scheming, by dint of humble prayers and veiled threats,
the parents of the young Englishman to whom Fraulein Thekla was engaged
had invited her to visit them in England, and she had set off with an
album of water colours to show how accomplished she was and a bundle of
letters to prove how deeply the young man had compromised himself. A week
later Fraulein Hedwig with radiant smiles announced that the lieutenant of
her affections was coming to Heidelberg with his father and mother.
Exhausted by the importunity of their son and touched by the dowry which
Fraulein Hedwig's father offered, the lieutenant's parents had consented
to pass through Heidelberg to make the young woman's acquaintance. The
interview was satisfactory and Fraulein Hedwig had the satisfaction of
showing her lover in the Stadtgarten to the whole of Frau Professor
Erlin's household. The silent old ladies who sat at the top of the table
near the Frau Professor were in a flutter, and when Fraulein Hedwig said
she was to go home at once for the formal engagement to take place, the
Frau Professor, regardless of expense, said she would give a Maibowle.
Professor Erlin prided himself on his skill in preparing this mild
intoxicant, and after supper the large bowl of hock and soda, with scented
herbs floating in it and wild strawberries, was placed with solemnity on
the round table in the drawing-room. Fraulein Anna teased Philip about the
departure of his lady-love, and he felt very uncomfortable and rather
melancholy. Fraulein Hedwig sang several songs, Fraulein Anna played the
Wedding March, and the Professor sang Die Wacht am Rhein. Amid all this
jollification Philip paid little attention to the new arrival. They had
sat opposite one another at supper, but Philip was chattering busily with
Fraulein Hedwig, and the stranger, knowing no German, had eaten his food
in silence. Philip, observing that he wore a pale blue tie, had on that
account taken a sudden dislike to him. He was a man of twenty-six, very
fair, with long, wavy hair through which he passed his hand frequently
with a careless gesture. His eyes were large and blue, but the blue was
very pale, and they looked rather tired already. He was clean-shaven, and
his mouth, notwithstanding its thin lips, was well-shaped. Fraulein Anna
took an interest in physiognomy, and she made Philip notice afterwards how
finely shaped was his skull, and how weak was the lower part of his face.
The head, she remarked, was the head of a thinker, but the jaw lacked
character. Fraulein Anna, foredoomed to a spinster's life, with her high
cheek-bones and large misshapen nose, laid great stress upon character.
While they talked of him he stood a little apart from the others, watching
the noisy party with a good-humoured but faintly supercilious expression.
He was tall and slim. He held himself with a deliberate grace. Weeks, one
of the American students, seeing him alone, went up and began to talk to
him. The pair were oddly contrasted: the American very neat in his black
coat and pepper-and-salt trousers, thin and dried-up, with something of
ecclesiastical unction already in his manner; and the Englishman in his
loose tweed suit, large-limbed and slow of gesture.
Philip did not speak to the newcomer till next day. They found themselves
alone on the balcony of the drawing-room before dinner. Hayward addressed
"You're English, aren't you?"
"Is the food always as bad it was last night?"
"It's always about the same."
"Beastly, isn't it?"
Philip had found nothing wrong with the food at all, and in fact had eaten
it in large quantities with appetite and enjoyment, but he did not want to
show himself a person of so little discrimination as to think a dinner
good which another thought execrable.
Fraulein Thekla's visit to England made it necessary for her sister to do
more in the house, and she could not often spare the time for long walks;
and Fraulein Cacilie, with her long plait of fair hair and her little
snub-nosed face, had of late shown a certain disinclination for society.
Fraulein Hedwig was gone, and Weeks, the American who generally
accompanied them on their rambles, had set out for a tour of South
Germany. Philip was left a good deal to himself. Hayward sought his
acquaintance; but Philip had an unfortunate trait: from shyness or from
some atavistic inheritance of the cave-dweller, he always disliked people
on first acquaintance; and it was not till he became used to them that he
got over his first impression. It made him difficult of access. He
received Hayward's advances very shyly, and when Hayward asked him one day
to go for a walk he accepted only because he could not think of a civil
excuse. He made his usual apology, angry with himself for the flushing
cheeks he could not control, and trying to carry it off with a laugh.
"I'm afraid I can't walk very fast."
"Good heavens, I don't walk for a wager. I prefer to stroll. Don't you
remember the chapter in Marius where Pater talks of the gentle exercise of
walking as the best incentive to conversation?"
Philip was a good listener; though he often thought of clever things to
say, it was seldom till after the opportunity to say them had passed; but
Hayward was communicative; anyone more experienced than Philip might have
thought he liked to hear himself talk. His supercilious attitude impressed
Philip. He could not help admiring, and yet being awed by, a man who
faintly despised so many things which Philip had looked upon as almost
sacred. He cast down the fetish of exercise, damning with the contemptuous
word pot-hunters all those who devoted themselves to its various forms;
and Philip did not realise that he was merely putting up in its stead the
other fetish of culture.
They wandered up to the castle, and sat on the terrace that overlooked the
town. It nestled in the valley along the pleasant Neckar with a
comfortable friendliness. The smoke from the chimneys hung over it, a pale
blue haze; and the tall roofs, the spires of the churches, gave it a
pleasantly medieval air. There was a homeliness in it which warmed the
heart. Hayward talked of Richard Feverel and Madame Bovary, of
Verlaine, Dante, and Matthew Arnold. In those days Fitzgerald's
translation of Omar Khayyam was known only to the elect, and Hayward
repeated it to Philip. He was very fond of reciting poetry, his own and
that of others, which he did in a monotonous sing-song. By the time they
reached home Philip's distrust of Hayward was changed to enthusiastic
They made a practice of walking together every afternoon, and Philip
learned presently something of Hayward's circumstances. He was the son of
a country judge, on whose death some time before he had inherited three
hundred a year. His record at Charterhouse was so brilliant that when he
went to Cambridge the Master of Trinity Hall went out of his way to
express his satisfaction that he was going to that college. He prepared
himself for a distinguished career. He moved in the most intellectual
circles: he read Browning with enthusiasm and turned up his well-shaped
nose at Tennyson; he knew all the details of Shelley's treatment of
Harriet; he dabbled in the history of art (on the walls of his rooms were
reproductions of pictures by G. F. Watts, Burne-Jones, and Botticelli);
and he wrote not without distinction verses of a pessimistic character.
His friends told one another that he was a man of excellent gifts, and he
listened to them willingly when they prophesied his future eminence. In
course of time he became an authority on art and literature. He came under
the influence of Newman's Apologia; the picturesqueness of the Roman
Catholic faith appealed to his esthetic sensibility; and it was only the
fear of his father's wrath (a plain, blunt man of narrow ideas, who read
Macaulay) which prevented him from 'going over.' When he only got a pass
degree his friends were astonished; but he shrugged his shoulders and
delicately insinuated that he was not the dupe of examiners. He made one
feel that a first class was ever so slightly vulgar. He described one of
the vivas with tolerant humour; some fellow in an outrageous collar was
asking him questions in logic; it was infinitely tedious, and suddenly he
noticed that he wore elastic-sided boots: it was grotesque and ridiculous;
so he withdrew his mind and thought of the gothic beauty of the Chapel at
King's. But he had spent some delightful days at Cambridge; he had given
better dinners than anyone he knew; and the conversation in his rooms had
been often memorable. He quoted to Philip the exquisite epigram:
"They told me, Herakleitus, they told me you were dead."
And now, when he related again the picturesque little anecdote about the
examiner and his boots, he laughed.
"Of course it was folly," he said, "but it was a folly in which there was
Philip, with a little thrill, thought it magnificent.
Then Hayward went to London to read for the Bar. He had charming rooms in
Clement's Inn, with panelled walls, and he tried to make them look like
his old rooms at the Hall. He had ambitions that were vaguely political,
he described himself as a Whig, and he was put up for a club which was of
Liberal but gentlemanly flavour. His idea was to practise at the Bar (he
chose the Chancery side as less brutal), and get a seat for some pleasant
constituency as soon as the various promises made him were carried out;
meanwhile he went a great deal to the opera, and made acquaintance with a
small number of charming people who admired the things that he admired. He
joined a dining-club of which the motto was, The Whole, The Good, and The
Beautiful. He formed a platonic friendship with a lady some years older
than himself, who lived in Kensington Square; and nearly every afternoon
he drank tea with her by the light of shaded candles, and talked of George
Meredith and Walter Pater. It was notorious that any fool could pass the
examinations of the Bar Council, and he pursued his studies in a dilatory
fashion. When he was ploughed for his final he looked upon it as a
personal affront. At the same time the lady in Kensington Square told him
that her husband was coming home from India on leave, and was a man,
though worthy in every way, of a commonplace mind, who would not
understand a young man's frequent visits. Hayward felt that life was full
of ugliness, his soul revolted from the thought of affronting again the
cynicism of examiners, and he saw something rather splendid in kicking
away the ball which lay at his feet. He was also a good deal in debt: it
was difficult to live in London like a gentleman on three hundred a year;
and his heart yearned for the Venice and Florence which John Ruskin had so
magically described. He felt that he was unsuited to the vulgar bustle of
the Bar, for he had discovered that it was not sufficient to put your name
on a door to get briefs; and modern politics seemed to lack nobility. He
felt himself a poet. He disposed of his rooms in Clement's Inn and went to
Italy. He had spent a winter in Florence and a winter in Rome, and now was
passing his second summer abroad in Germany so that he might read Goethe
in the original.
Hayward had one gift which was very precious. He had a real feeling for
literature, and he could impart his own passion with an admirable fluency.
He could throw himself into sympathy with a writer and see all that was
best in him, and then he could talk about him with understanding. Philip
had read a great deal, but he had read without discrimination everything
that he happened to come across, and it was very good for him now to meet
someone who could guide his taste. He borrowed books from the small
lending library which the town possessed and began reading all the
wonderful things that Hayward spoke of. He did not read always with
enjoyment but invariably with perseverance. He was eager for
self-improvement. He felt himself very ignorant and very humble. By the
end of August, when Weeks returned from South Germany, Philip was
completely under Hayward's influence. Hayward did not like Weeks. He
deplored the American's black coat and pepper-and-salt trousers, and spoke
with a scornful shrug of his New England conscience. Philip listened
complacently to the abuse of a man who had gone out of his way to be kind
to him, but when Weeks in his turn made disagreeable remarks about Hayward
he lost his temper.
"Your new friend looks like a poet," said Weeks, with a thin smile on his
careworn, bitter mouth.
"He is a poet."
"Did he tell you so? In America we should call him a pretty fair specimen
of a waster."
"Well, we're not in America," said Philip frigidly.
"How old is he? Twenty-five? And he does nothing but stay in pensions and
"You don't know him," said Philip hotly.
"Oh yes, I do: I've met a hundred and forty-seven of him."
Weeks' eyes twinkled, but Philip, who did not understand American humour,
pursed his lips and looked severe. Weeks to Philip seemed a man of middle
age, but he was in point of fact little more than thirty. He had a long,
thin body and the scholar's stoop; his head was large and ugly; he had
pale scanty hair and an earthy skin; his thin mouth and thin, long nose,
and the great protuberance of his frontal bones, gave him an uncouth look.
He was cold and precise in his manner, a bloodless man, without passion;
but he had a curious vein of frivolity which disconcerted the
serious-minded among whom his instincts naturally threw him. He was
studying theology in Heidelberg, but the other theological students of his
own nationality looked upon him with suspicion. He was very unorthodox,
which frightened them; and his freakish humour excited their disapproval.
"How can you have known a hundred and forty-seven of him?" asked Philip
"I've met him in the Latin Quarter in Paris, and I've met him in pensions
in Berlin and Munich. He lives in small hotels in Perugia and Assisi. He
stands by the dozen before the Botticellis in Florence, and he sits on all
the benches of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. In Italy he drinks a little too
much wine, and in Germany he drinks a great deal too much beer. He always
admires the right thing whatever the right thing is, and one of these days
he's going to write a great work. Think of it, there are a hundred and
forty-seven great works reposing in the bosoms of a hundred and
forty-seven great men, and the tragic thing is that not one of those
hundred and forty-seven great works will ever be written. And yet the
world goes on."
Weeks spoke seriously, but his gray eyes twinkled a little at the end of
his long speech, and Philip flushed when he saw that the American was
making fun of him.
"You do talk rot," he said crossly.
Weeks had two little rooms at the back of Frau Erlin's house, and one of
them, arranged as a parlour, was comfortable enough for him to invite
people to sit in. After supper, urged perhaps by the impish humour which
was the despair of his friends in Cambridge, Mass., he often asked Philip
and Hayward to come in for a chat. He received them with elaborate
courtesy and insisted on their sitting in the only two comfortable chairs
in the room. Though he did not drink himself, with a politeness of which
Philip recognised the irony, he put a couple of bottles of beer at
Hayward's elbow, and he insisted on lighting matches whenever in the heat
of argument Hayward's pipe went out. At the beginning of their
acquaintance Hayward, as a member of so celebrated a university, had
adopted a patronising attitude towards Weeks, who was a graduate of
Harvard; and when by chance the conversation turned upon the Greek
tragedians, a subject upon which Hayward felt he spoke with authority, he
had assumed the air that it was his part to give information rather than
to exchange ideas. Weeks had listened politely, with smiling modesty, till
Hayward finished; then he asked one or two insidious questions, so
innocent in appearance that Hayward, not seeing into what a quandary they
led him, answered blandly; Weeks made a courteous objection, then a
correction of fact, after that a quotation from some little known Latin
commentator, then a reference to a German authority; and the fact was
disclosed that he was a scholar. With smiling ease, apologetically, Weeks
tore to pieces all that Hayward had said; with elaborate civility he
displayed the superficiality of his attainments. He mocked him with gentle
irony. Philip could not help seeing that Hayward looked a perfect fool,
and Hayward had not the sense to hold his tongue; in his irritation, his
self-assurance undaunted, he attempted to argue: he made wild statements
and Weeks amicably corrected them; he reasoned falsely and Weeks proved
that he was absurd: Weeks confessed that he had taught Greek Literature at
Harvard. Hayward gave a laugh of scorn.
"I might have known it. Of course you read Greek like a schoolmaster," he
said. "I read it like a poet."
"And do you find it more poetic when you don't quite know what it means?
I thought it was only in revealed religion that a mistranslation improved
At last, having finished the beer, Hayward left Weeks' room hot and
dishevelled; with an angry gesture he said to Philip:
"Of course the man's a pedant. He has no real feeling for beauty. Accuracy
is the virtue of clerks. It's the spirit of the Greeks that we aim at.
Weeks is like that fellow who went to hear Rubenstein and complained that
he played false notes. False notes! What did they matter when he played
Philip, not knowing how many incompetent people have found solace in these
false notes, was much impressed.
Hayward could never resist the opportunity which Weeks offered him of
regaining ground lost on a previous occasion, and Weeks was able with the
greatest ease to draw him into a discussion. Though he could not help
seeing how small his attainments were beside the American's, his British
pertinacity, his wounded vanity (perhaps they are the same thing), would
not allow him to give up the struggle. Hayward seemed to take a delight in
displaying his ignorance, self-satisfaction, and wrongheadedness. Whenever
Hayward said something which was illogical, Weeks in a few words would
show the falseness of his reasoning, pause for a moment to enjoy his
triumph, and then hurry on to another subject as though Christian charity
impelled him to spare the vanquished foe. Philip tried sometimes to put in
something to help his friend, and Weeks gently crushed him, but so kindly,
differently from the way in which he answered Hayward, that even Philip,
outrageously sensitive, could not feel hurt. Now and then, losing his calm
as he felt himself more and more foolish, Hayward became abusive, and only
the American's smiling politeness prevented the argument from degenerating
into a quarrel. On these occasions when Hayward left Weeks' room he
That settled it. It was a perfect answer to an argument which had seemed
Though they began by discussing all manner of subjects in Weeks' little
room eventually the conversation always turned to religion: the
theological student took a professional interest in it, and Hayward
welcomed a subject in which hard facts need not disconcert him; when
feeling is the gauge you can snap your angers at logic, and when your
logic is weak that is very agreeable. Hayward found it difficult to
explain his beliefs to Philip without a great flow of words; but it was
clear (and this fell in with Philip's idea of the natural order of
things), that he had been brought up in the church by law established.
Though he had now given up all idea of becoming a Roman Catholic, he still
looked upon that communion with sympathy. He had much to say in its
praise, and he compared favourably its gorgeous ceremonies with the simple
services of the Church of England. He gave Philip Newman's Apologia to
read, and Philip, finding it very dull, nevertheless read it to the end.
"Read it for its style, not for its matter," said Hayward.
He talked enthusiastically of the music at the Oratory, and said charming
things about the connection between incense and the devotional spirit.
Weeks listened to him with his frigid smile.
"You think it proves the truth of Roman Catholicism that John Henry Newman
wrote good English and that Cardinal Manning has a picturesque
Hayward hinted that he had gone through much trouble with his soul. For a
year he had swum in a sea of darkness. He passed his fingers through his
fair, waving hair and told them that he would not for five hundred pounds
endure again those agonies of mind. Fortunately he had reached calm waters
"But what do you believe?" asked Philip, who was never satisfied with
"I believe in the Whole, the Good, and the Beautiful."
Hayward with his loose large limbs and the fine carriage of his head
looked very handsome when he said this, and he said it with an air.
"Is that how you would describe your religion in a census paper?" asked
Weeks, in mild tones.
"I hate the rigid definition: it's so ugly, so obvious. If you like I will
say that I believe in the church of the Duke of Wellington and Mr.
"That's the Church of England," said Philip.
"Oh wise young man!" retorted Hayward, with a smile which made Philip
blush, for he felt that in putting into plain words what the other had
expressed in a paraphrase, he had been guilty of vulgarity. "I belong to
the Church of England. But I love the gold and the silk which clothe the
priest of Rome, and his celibacy, and the confessional, and purgatory: and
in the darkness of an Italian cathedral, incense-laden and mysterious, I
believe with all my heart in the miracle of the Mass. In Venice I have
seen a fisherwoman come in, barefoot, throw down her basket of fish by her
side, fall on her knees, and pray to the Madonna; and that I felt was the
real faith, and I prayed and believed with her. But I believe also in
Aphrodite and Apollo and the Great God Pan."
He had a charming voice, and he chose his words as he spoke; he uttered
them almost rhythmically. He would have gone on, but Weeks opened a second
bottle of beer.
"Let me give you something to drink."
Hayward turned to Philip with the slightly condescending gesture which so
impressed the youth.
"Now are you satisfied?" he asked.
Philip, somewhat bewildered, confessed that he was.
"I'm disappointed that you didn't add a little Buddhism," said Weeks. "And
I confess I have a sort of sympathy for Mahomet; I regret that you should
have left him out in the cold."
Hayward laughed, for he was in a good humour with himself that evening,
and the ring of his sentences still sounded pleasant in his ears. He
emptied his glass.
"I didn't expect you to understand me," he answered. "With your cold
American intelligence you can only adopt the critical attitude. Emerson
and all that sort of thing. But what is criticism? Criticism is purely
destructive; anyone can destroy, but not everyone can build up. You are a
pedant, my dear fellow. The important thing is to construct: I am
constructive; I am a poet."
Weeks looked at him with eyes which seemed at the same time to be quite
grave and yet to be smiling brightly.
"I think, if you don't mind my saying so, you're a little drunk."
"Nothing to speak of," answered Hayward cheerfully. "And not enough for me
to be unable to overwhelm you in argument. But come, I have unbosomed my
soul; now tell us what your religion is."
Weeks put his head on one side so that he looked like a sparrow on a
"I've been trying to find that out for years. I think I'm a Unitarian."
"But that's a dissenter," said Philip.
He could not imagine why they both burst into laughter, Hayward
uproariously, and Weeks with a funny chuckle.
"And in England dissenters aren't gentlemen, are they?" asked Weeks.
"Well, if you ask me point-blank, they're not," replied Philip rather
He hated being laughed at, and they laughed again.
"And will you tell me what a gentleman is?" asked Weeks.
"Oh, I don't know; everyone knows what it is."
"Are you a gentleman?"
No doubt had ever crossed Philip's mind on the subject, but he knew it was
not a thing to state of oneself.
"If a man tells you he's a gentleman you can bet your boots he isn't," he
"Am I a gentleman?"
Philip's truthfulness made it difficult for him to answer, but he was
"Oh, well, you're different," he said. "You're American, aren't you?"
"I suppose we may take it that only Englishmen are gentlemen," said Weeks
Philip did not contradict him.
"Couldn't you give me a few more particulars?" asked Weeks.
Philip reddened, but, growing angry, did not care if he made himself
"I can give you plenty" He remembered his uncle's saying that it took
three generations to make a gentleman: it was a companion proverb to the
silk purse and the sow's ear. "First of all he's the son of a gentleman,
and he's been to a public school, and to Oxford or Cambridge."
"Edinburgh wouldn't do, I suppose?" asked Weeks.
"And he talks English like a gentleman, and he wears the right sort of
things, and if he's a gentleman he can always tell if another chap's a
It seemed rather lame to Philip as he went on, but there it was: that was
what he meant by the word, and everyone he had ever known had meant that
"It is evident to me that I am not a gentleman," said Weeks. "I don't see
why you should have been so surprised because I was a dissenter."
"I don't quite know what a Unitarian is," said Philip.
Weeks in his odd way again put his head on one side: you almost expected
him to twitter.
"A Unitarian very earnestly disbelieves in almost everything that anybody
else believes, and he has a very lively sustaining faith in he doesn't
quite know what."
"I don't see why you should make fun of me," said Philip. "I really want
"My dear friend, I'm not making fun of you. I have arrived at that
definition after years of great labour and the most anxious, nerve-racking
When Philip and Hayward got up to go, Weeks handed Philip a little book in
a paper cover.
"I suppose you can read French pretty well by now. I wonder if this would
Philip thanked him and, taking the book, looked at the title. It was
Renan's Vie de Jesus.
It occurred neither to Hayward nor to Weeks that the conversations which
helped them to pass an idle evening were being turned over afterwards in
Philip's active brain. It had never struck him before that religion was a
matter upon which discussion was possible. To him it meant the Church of
England, and not to believe in its tenets was a sign of wilfulness which
could not fail of punishment here or hereafter. There was some doubt in
his mind about the chastisement of unbelievers. It was possible that a
merciful judge, reserving the flames of hell for the heathen--Mahommedans,
Buddhists, and the rest--would spare Dissenters and Roman Catholics
(though at the cost of how much humiliation when they were made to realise
their error!), and it was also possible that He would be pitiful to those
who had had no chance of learning the truth,--this was reasonable enough,
though such were the activities of the Missionary Society there could not
be many in this condition--but if the chance had been theirs and they had
neglected it (in which category were obviously Roman Catholics and
Dissenters), the punishment was sure and merited. It was clear that the
miscreant was in a parlous state. Perhaps Philip had not been taught it in
so many words, but certainly the impression had been given him that only
members of the Church of England had any real hope of eternal happiness.
One of the things that Philip had heard definitely stated was that the
unbeliever was a wicked and a vicious man; but Weeks, though he believed
in hardly anything that Philip believed, led a life of Christian purity.
Philip had received little kindness in his life, and he was touched by the
American's desire to help him: once when a cold kept him in bed for three
days, Weeks nursed him like a mother. There was neither vice nor
wickedness in him, but only sincerity and loving-kindness. It was
evidently possible to be virtuous and unbelieving.
Also Philip had been given to understand that people adhered to other
faiths only from obstinacy or self-interest: in their hearts they knew
they were false; they deliberately sought to deceive others. Now, for the
sake of his German he had been accustomed on Sunday mornings to attend the
Lutheran service, but when Hayward arrived he began instead to go with him
to Mass. He noticed that, whereas the Protestant church was nearly empty
and the congregation had a listless air, the Jesuit on the other hand was
crowded and the worshippers seemed to pray with all their hearts. They had
not the look of hypocrites. He was surprised at the contrast; for he knew
of course that the Lutherans, whose faith was closer to that of the Church
of England, on that account were nearer the truth than the Roman
Catholics. Most of the men--it was largely a masculine congregation--were
South Germans; and he could not help saying to himself that if he had been
born in South Germany he would certainly have been a Roman Catholic. He
might just as well have been born in a Roman Catholic country as in
England; and in England as well in a Wesleyan, Baptist, or Methodist
family as in one that fortunately belonged to the church by law
established. He was a little breathless at the danger he had run. Philip
was on friendly terms with the little Chinaman who sat at table with him
twice each day. His name was Sung. He was always smiling, affable, and
polite. It seemed strange that he should frizzle in hell merely because he
was a Chinaman; but if salvation was possible whatever a man's faith was,
there did not seem to be any particular advantage in belonging to the
Church of England.
Philip, more puzzled than he had ever been in his life, sounded Weeks. He
had to be careful, for he was very sensitive to ridicule; and the
acidulous humour with which the American treated the Church of England
disconcerted him. Weeks only puzzled him more. He made Philip acknowledge
that those South Germans whom he saw in the Jesuit church were every bit
as firmly convinced of the truth of Roman Catholicism as he was of that of
the Church of England, and from that he led him to admit that the
Mahommedan and the Buddhist were convinced also of the truth of their
respective religions. It looked as though knowing that you were right
meant nothing; they all knew they were right. Weeks had no intention of
undermining the boy's faith, but he was deeply interested in religion, and
found it an absorbing topic of conversation. He had described his own
views accurately when he said that he very earnestly disbelieved in almost
everything that other people believed. Once Philip asked him a question,
which he had heard his uncle put when the conversation at the vicarage had
fallen upon some mildly rationalistic work which was then exciting
discussion in the newspapers.
"But why should you be right and all those fellows like St. Anselm and St.
Augustine be wrong?"
"You mean that they were very clever and learned men, while you have grave
doubts whether I am either?" asked Weeks.
"Yes," answered Philip uncertainly, for put in that way his question
"St. Augustine believed that the earth was flat and that the sun turned
"I don't know what that proves."
"Why, it proves that you believe with your generation. Your saints lived
in an age of faith, when it was practically impossible to disbelieve what
to us is positively incredible."
"Then how d'you know that we have the truth now?"
Philip thought this over for a moment, then he said:
"I don't see why the things we believe absolutely now shouldn't be just as
wrong as what they believed in the past."
"Neither do I."
"Then how can you believe anything at all?"
"I don't know."
Philip asked Weeks what he thought of Hayward's religion.
"Men have always formed gods in their own image," said Weeks. "He believes
in the picturesque."
Philip paused for a little while, then he said:
"I don't see why one should believe in God at all."
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than he realised that he had
ceased to do so. It took his breath away like a plunge into cold water. He
looked at Weeks with startled eyes. Suddenly he felt afraid. He left Weeks
as quickly as he could. He wanted to be alone. It was the most startling
experience that he had ever had. He tried to think it all out; it was very
exciting, since his whole life seemed concerned (he thought his decision
on this matter must profoundly affect its course) and a mistake might lead
to eternal damnation; but the more he reflected the more convinced he was;
and though during the next few weeks he read books, aids to scepticism,
with eager interest it was only to confirm him in what he felt
instinctively. The fact was that he had ceased to believe not for this
reason or the other, but because he had not the religious temperament.
Faith had been forced upon him from the outside. It was a matter of
environment and example. A new environment and a new example gave him the
opportunity to find himself. He put off the faith of his childhood quite
simply, like a cloak that he no longer needed. At first life seemed
strange and lonely without the belief which, though he never realised it,
had been an unfailing support. He felt like a man who has leaned on a
stick and finds himself forced suddenly to walk without assistance. It
really seemed as though the days were colder and the nights more solitary.
But he was upheld by the excitement; it seemed to make life a more
thrilling adventure; and in a little while the stick which he had thrown
aside, the cloak which had fallen from his shoulders, seemed an
intolerable burden of which he had been eased. The religious exercises
which for so many years had been forced upon him were part and parcel of
religion to him. He thought of the collects and epistles which he had been
made to learn by heart, and the long services at the Cathedral through
which he had sat when every limb itched with the desire for movement; and
he remembered those walks at night through muddy roads to the parish
church at Blackstable, and the coldness of that bleak building; he sat
with his feet like ice, his fingers numb and heavy, and all around was the
sickly odour of pomatum. Oh, he had been so bored! His heart leaped when
he saw he was free from all that.
He was surprised at himself because he ceased to believe so easily, and,
not knowing that he felt as he did on account of the subtle workings of
his inmost nature, he ascribed the certainty he had reached to his own
cleverness. He was unduly pleased with himself. With youth's lack of
sympathy for an attitude other than its own he despised not a little Weeks
and Hayward because they were content with the vague emotion which they
called God and would not take the further step which to himself seemed so
obvious. One day he went alone up a certain hill so that he might see a
view which, he knew not why, filled him always with wild exhilaration. It
was autumn now, but often the days were cloudless still, and then the sky
seemed to glow with a more splendid light: it was as though nature
consciously sought to put a fuller vehemence into the remaining days of
fair weather. He looked down upon the plain, a-quiver with the sun,
stretching vastly before him: in the distance were the roofs of Mannheim
and ever so far away the dimness of Worms. Here and there a more piercing
glitter was the Rhine. The tremendous spaciousness of it was glowing with
rich gold. Philip, as he stood there, his heart beating with sheer joy,
thought how the tempter had stood with Jesus on a high mountain and shown
him the kingdoms of the earth. To Philip, intoxicated with the beauty of
the scene, it seemed that it was the whole world which was spread before
him, and he was eager to step down and enjoy it. He was free from
degrading fears and free from prejudice. He could go his way without the
intolerable dread of hell-fire. Suddenly he realised that he had lost also
that burden of responsibility which made every action of his life a matter
of urgent consequence. He could breathe more freely in a lighter air. He
was responsible only to himself for the things he did. Freedom! He was his
own master at last. From old habit, unconsciously he thanked God that he
no longer believed in Him.
Drunk with pride in his intelligence and in his fearlessness, Philip
entered deliberately upon a new life. But his loss of faith made less
difference in his behaviour than he expected. Though he had thrown on one
side the Christian dogmas it never occurred to him to criticise the
Christian ethics; he accepted the Christian virtues, and indeed thought it
fine to practise them for their own sake, without a thought of reward or
punishment. There was small occasion for heroism in the Frau Professor's
house, but he was a little more exactly truthful than he had been, and he
forced himself to be more than commonly attentive to the dull, elderly
ladies who sometimes engaged him in conversation. The gentle oath, the
violent adjective, which are typical of our language and which he had
cultivated before as a sign of manliness, he now elaborately eschewed.
Having settled the whole matter to his satisfaction he sought to put it
out of his mind, but that was more easily said than done; and he could not
prevent the regrets nor stifle the misgivings which sometimes tormented
him. He was so young and had so few friends that immortality had no
particular attractions for him, and he was able without trouble to give up
belief in it; but there was one thing which made him wretched; he told
himself that he was unreasonable, he tried to laugh himself out of such
pathos; but the tears really came to his eyes when he thought that he
would never see again the beautiful mother whose love for him had grown
more precious as the years since her death passed on. And sometimes, as
though the influence of innumerable ancestors, Godfearing and devout, were
working in him unconsciously, there seized him a panic fear that perhaps
after all it was all true, and there was, up there behind the blue sky, a
jealous God who would punish in everlasting flames the atheist. At these
times his reason could offer him no help, he imagined the anguish of a
physical torment which would last endlessly, he felt quite sick with fear
and burst into a violent sweat. At last he would say to himself
"After all, it's not my fault. I can't force myself to believe. If there
is a God after all and he punishes me because I honestly don't believe in
Him I can't help it."
Winter set in. Weeks went to Berlin to attend the lectures of Paulssen,
and Hayward began to think of going South. The local theatre opened its
doors. Philip and Hayward went to it two or three times a week with the
praiseworthy intention of improving their German, and Philip found it a
more diverting manner of perfecting himself in the language than listening
to sermons. They found themselves in the midst of a revival of the drama.
Several of Ibsen's plays were on the repertory for the winter; Sudermann's
Die Ehre was then a new play, and on its production in the quiet
university town caused the greatest excitement; it was extravagantly
praised and bitterly attacked; other dramatists followed with plays
written under the modern influence, and Philip witnessed a series of works
in which the vileness of mankind was displayed before him. He had never
been to a play in his life till then (poor touring companies sometimes
came to the Assembly Rooms at Blackstable, but the Vicar, partly on
account of his profession, partly because he thought it would be vulgar,
never went to see them) and the passion of the stage seized him. He felt
a thrill the moment he got into the little, shabby, ill-lit theatre. Soon
he came to know the peculiarities of the small company, and by the casting
could tell at once what were the characteristics of the persons in the
drama; but this made no difference to him. To him it was real life. It was
a strange life, dark and tortured, in which men and women showed to
remorseless eyes the evil that was in their hearts: a fair face concealed
a depraved mind; the virtuous used virtue as a mask to hide their secret
vice, the seeming-strong fainted within with their weakness; the honest
were corrupt, the chaste were lewd. You seemed to dwell in a room where
the night before an orgy had taken place: the windows had not been opened
in the morning; the air was foul with the dregs of beer, and stale smoke,
and flaring gas. There was no laughter. At most you sniggered at the
hypocrite or the fool: the characters expressed themselves in cruel words
that seemed wrung out of their hearts by shame and anguish.
Philip was carried away by the sordid intensity of it. He seemed to see
the world again in another fashion, and this world too he was anxious to
know. After the play was over he went to a tavern and sat in the bright
warmth with Hayward to eat a sandwich and drink a glass of beer. All round
were little groups of students, talking and laughing; and here and there
was a family, father and mother, a couple of sons and a girl; and
sometimes the girl said a sharp thing, and the father leaned back in his
chair and laughed, laughed heartily. It was very friendly and innocent.
There was a pleasant homeliness in the scene, but for this Philip had no
eyes. His thoughts ran on the play he had just come from.
"You do feel it's life, don't you?" he said excitedly. "You know, I don't
think I can stay here much longer. I want to get to London so that I can
really begin. I want to have experiences. I'm so tired of preparing for
life: I want to live it now."
Sometimes Hayward left Philip to go home by himself. He would never
exactly reply to Philip's eager questioning, but with a merry, rather
stupid laugh, hinted at a romantic amour; he quoted a few lines of
Rossetti, and once showed Philip a sonnet in which passion and purple,
pessimism and pathos, were packed together on the subject of a young lady
called Trude. Hayward surrounded his sordid and vulgar little adventures
with a glow of poetry, and thought he touched hands with Pericles and
Pheidias because to describe the object of his attentions he used the word
hetaira instead of one of those, more blunt and apt, provided by the
English language. Philip in the daytime had been led by curiosity to pass
through the little street near the old bridge, with its neat white houses
and green shutters, in which according to Hayward the Fraulein Trude
lived; but the women, with brutal faces and painted cheeks, who came out
of their doors and cried out to him, filled him with fear; and he fled in
horror from the rough hands that sought to detain him. He yearned above
all things for experience and felt himself ridiculous because at his age
he had not enjoyed that which all fiction taught him was the most
important thing in life; but he had the unfortunate gift of seeing things
as they were, and the reality which was offered him differed too terribly
from the ideal of his dreams.
He did not know how wide a country, arid and precipitous, must be crossed
before the traveller through life comes to an acceptance of reality. It is
an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless
ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in
contact with the real they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they
were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the
necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look
back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for
an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read
and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is
another nail driven into the body on the cross of life. The strange thing
is that each one who has gone through that bitter disillusionment adds to
it in his turn, unconsciously, by the power within him which is stronger
than himself. The companionship of Hayward was the worst possible thing
for Philip. He was a man who saw nothing for himself, but only through a
literary atmosphere, and he was dangerous because he had deceived himself
into sincerity. He honestly mistook his sensuality for romantic emotion,
his vacillation for the artistic temperament, and his idleness for
philosophic calm. His mind, vulgar in its effort at refinement, saw
everything a little larger than life size, with the outlines blurred, in
a golden mist of sentimentality. He lied and never knew that he lied, and
when it was pointed out to him said that lies were beautiful. He was an
Philip was restless and dissatisfied. Hayward's poetic allusions troubled
his imagination, and his soul yearned for romance. At least that was how
he put it to himself.
And it happened that an incident was taking place in Frau Erlin's house
which increased Philip's preoccupation with the matter of sex. Two or
three times on his walks among the hills he had met Fraulein Cacilie
wandering by herself. He had passed her with a bow, and a few yards
further on had seen the Chinaman. He thought nothing of it; but one
evening on his way home, when night had already fallen, he passed two
people walking very close together. Hearing his footstep, they separated
quickly, and though he could not see well in the darkness he was almost
certain they were Cacilie and Herr Sung. Their rapid movement apart
suggested that they had been walking arm in arm. Philip was puzzled and
surprised. He had never paid much attention to Fraulein Cacilie. She was
a plain girl, with a square face and blunt features. She could not have
been more than sixteen, since she still wore her long fair hair in a
plait. That evening at supper he looked at her curiously; and, though of
late she had talked little at meals, she addressed him.
"Where did you go for your walk today, Herr Carey?" she asked.
"Oh, I walked up towards the Konigstuhl."
"I didn't go out," she volunteered. "I had a headache."
The Chinaman, who sat next to her, turned round.
"I'm so sorry," he said. "I hope it's better now."
Fraulein Cacilie was evidently uneasy, for she spoke again to Philip.
"Did you meet many people on the way?"
Philip could not help reddening when he told a downright lie.
"No. I don't think I saw a living soul."
He fancied that a look of relief passed across her eyes.
Soon, however, there could be no doubt that there was something between
the pair, and other people in the Frau Professor's house saw them lurking
in dark places. The elderly ladies who sat at the head of the table began
to discuss what was now a scandal. The Frau Professor was angry and
harassed. She had done her best to see nothing. The winter was at hand,
and it was not as easy a matter then as in the summer to keep her house
full. Herr Sung was a good customer: he had two rooms on the ground floor,
and he drank a bottle of Moselle at each meal. The Frau Professor charged
him three marks a bottle and made a good profit. None of her other guests
drank wine, and some of them did not even drink beer. Neither did she wish
to lose Fraulein Cacilie, whose parents were in business in South America
and paid well for the Frau Professor's motherly care; and she knew that if
she wrote to the girl's uncle, who lived in Berlin, he would immediately
take her away. The Frau Professor contented herself with giving them both
severe looks at table and, though she dared not be rude to the Chinaman,
got a certain satisfaction out of incivility to Cacilie. But the three
elderly ladies were not content. Two were widows, and one, a Dutchwoman,
was a spinster of masculine appearance; they paid the smallest possible
sum for their pension, and gave a good deal of trouble, but they were
permanent and therefore had to be put up with. They went to the Frau
Professor and said that something must be done; it was disgraceful, and
the house was ceasing to be respectable. The Frau Professor tried
obstinacy, anger, tears, but the three old ladies routed her, and with a
sudden assumption of virtuous indignation she said that she would put a
stop to the whole thing.
After luncheon she took Cacilie into her bed-room and began to talk very
seriously to her; but to her amazement the girl adopted a brazen attitude;
she proposed to go about as she liked; and if she chose to walk with the
Chinaman she could not see it was anybody's business but her own. The Frau
Professor threatened to write to her uncle.
"Then Onkel Heinrich will put me in a family in Berlin for the winter, and
that will be much nicer for me. And Herr Sung will come to Berlin too."
The Frau Professor began to cry. The tears rolled down her coarse, red,
fat cheeks; and Cacilie laughed at her.
"That will mean three rooms empty all through the winter," she said.
Then the Frau Professor tried another plan. She appealed to Fraulein
Cacilie's better nature: she was kind, sensible, tolerant; she treated her
no longer as a child, but as a grown woman. She said that it wouldn't be
so dreadful, but a Chinaman, with his yellow skin and flat nose, and his
little pig's eyes! That's what made it so horrible. It filled one with
disgust to think of it.
"Bitte, bitte," said Cacilie, with a rapid intake of the breath. "I won't
listen to anything against him."
"But it's not serious?" gasped Frau Erlin.
"I love him. I love him. I love him."
"Gott im Himmel!"
The Frau Professor stared at her with horrified surprise; she had thought
it was no more than naughtiness on the child's part, and innocent, folly.
but the passion in her voice revealed everything. Cacilie looked at her
for a moment with flaming eyes, and then with a shrug of her shoulders
went out of the room.
Frau Erlin kept the details of the interview to herself, and a day or two
later altered the arrangement of the table. She asked Herr Sung if he
would not come and sit at her end, and he with his unfailing politeness
accepted with alacrity. Cacilie took the change indifferently. But as if
the discovery that the relations between them were known to the whole
household made them more shameless, they made no secret now of their walks
together, and every afternoon quite openly set out to wander about the
hills. It was plain that they did not care what was said of them. At last
even the placidity of Professor Erlin was moved, and he insisted that his
wife should speak to the Chinaman. She took him aside in his turn and
expostulated; he was ruining the girl's reputation, he was doing harm to
the house, he must see how wrong and wicked his conduct was; but she was
met with smiling denials; Herr Sung did not know what she was talking
about, he was not paying any attention to Fraulein Cacilie, he never
walked with her; it was all untrue, every word of it.
"Ach, Herr Sung, how can you say such things? You've been seen again and
"No, you're mistaken. It's untrue."
He looked at her with an unceasing smile, which showed his even, little
white teeth. He was quite calm. He denied everything. He denied with bland
effrontery. At last the Frau Professor lost her temper and said the girl
had confessed she loved him. He was not moved. He continued to smile.
"Nonsense! Nonsense! It's all untrue."
She could get nothing out of him. The weather grew very bad; there was
snow and frost, and then a thaw with a long succession of cheerless days,
on which walking was a poor amusement. One evening when Philip had just
finished his German lesson with the Herr Professor and was standing for a
moment in the drawing-room, talking to Frau Erlin, Anna came quickly in.
"Mamma, where is Cacilie?" she said.
"I suppose she's in her room."
"There's no light in it."
The Frau Professor gave an exclamation, and she looked at her daughter in
dismay. The thought which was in Anna's head had flashed across hers.
"Ring for Emil," she said hoarsely.
This was the stupid lout who waited at table and did most of the
housework. He came in.
"Emil, go down to Herr Sung's room and enter without knocking. If anyone
is there say you came in to see about the stove."
No sign of astonishment appeared on Emil's phlegmatic face.
He went slowly downstairs. The Frau Professor and Anna left the door open
and listened. Presently they heard Emil come up again, and they called
"Was anyone there?" asked the Frau Professor.
"Yes, Herr Sung was there."
"Was he alone?"
The beginning of a cunning smile narrowed his mouth.
"No, Fraulein Cacilie was there."
"Oh, it's disgraceful," cried the Frau Professor.
Now he smiled broadly.
"Fraulein Cacilie is there every evening. She spends hours at a time
Frau Professor began to wring her hands.
"Oh, how abominable! But why didn't you tell me?"
"It was no business of mine," he answered, slowly shrugging his shoulders.
"I suppose they paid you well. Go away. Go."
He lurched clumsily to the door.
"They must go away, mamma," said Anna.
"And who is going to pay the rent? And the taxes are falling due. It's all
very well for you to say they must go away. If they go away I can't pay
the bills." She turned to Philip, with tears streaming down her face.
"Ach, Herr Carey, you will not say what you have heard. If Fraulein
Forster--" this was the Dutch spinster--"if Fraulein Forster knew she
would leave at once. And if they all go we must close the house. I cannot
afford to keep it."
"Of course I won't say anything."
"If she stays, I will not speak to her," said Anna.
That evening at supper Fraulein Cacilie, redder than usual, with a look of
obstinacy on her face, took her place punctually; but Herr Sung did not
appear, and for a while Philip thought he was going to shirk the ordeal.
At last he came, very smiling, his little eyes dancing with the apologies
he made for his late arrival. He insisted as usual on pouring out the Frau
Professor a glass of his Moselle, and he offered a glass to Fraulein
Forster. The room was very hot, for the stove had been alight all day and
the windows were seldom opened. Emil blundered about, but succeeded
somehow in serving everyone quickly and with order. The three old ladies
sat in silence, visibly disapproving: the Frau Professor had scarcely
recovered from her tears; her husband was silent and oppressed.
Conversation languished. It seemed to Philip that there was something
dreadful in that gathering which he had sat with so often; they looked
different under the light of the two hanging lamps from what they had ever
looked before; he was vaguely uneasy. Once he caught Cacilie's eye, and he
thought she looked at him with hatred and contempt. The room was stifling.
It was as though the beastly passion of that pair troubled them all; there
was a feeling of Oriental depravity; a faint savour of joss-sticks, a
mystery of hidden vices, seemed to make their breath heavy. Philip could
feel the beating of the arteries in his forehead. He could not understand
what strange emotion distracted him; he seemed to feel something
infinitely attractive, and yet he was repelled and horrified.
For several days things went on. The air was sickly with the unnatural
passion which all felt about them, and the nerves of the little household
seemed to grow exasperated. Only Herr Sung remained unaffected; he was no
less smiling, affable, and polite than he had been before: one could not
tell whether his manner was a triumph of civilisation or an expression of
contempt on the part of the Oriental for the vanquished West. Cacilie was
flaunting and cynical. At last even the Frau Professor could bear the
position no longer. Suddenly panic seized her; for Professor Erlin with
brutal frankness had suggested the possible consequences of an intrigue
which was now manifest to everyone, and she saw her good name in
Heidelberg and the repute of her house ruined by a scandal which could not
possibly be hidden. For some reason, blinded perhaps by her interests,
this possibility had never occurred to her; and now, her wits muddled by
a terrible fear, she could hardly be prevented from turning the girl out
of the house at once. It was due to Anna's good sense that a cautious
letter was written to the uncle in Berlin suggesting that Cacilie should
be taken away.
But having made up her mind to lose the two lodgers, the Frau Professor
could not resist the satisfaction of giving rein to the ill-temper she had
curbed so long. She was free now to say anything she liked to Cacilie.
"I have written to your uncle, Cacilie, to take you away. I cannot have
you in my house any longer."
Her little round eyes sparkled when she noticed the sudden whiteness of
the girl's face.
"You're shameless. Shameless," she went on.
She called her foul names.
"What did you say to my uncle Heinrich, Frau Professor?" the girl asked,
suddenly falling from her attitude of flaunting independence.
"Oh, he'll tell you himself. I expect to get a letter from him tomorrow."
Next day, in order to make the humiliation more public, at supper she
called down the table to Cacilie.
"I have had a letter from your uncle, Cacilie. You are to pack your things
tonight, and we will put you in the train tomorrow morning. He will meet
you himself in Berlin at the Central Bahnhof."
"Very good, Frau Professor."
Herr Sung smiled in the Frau Professor's eyes, and notwithstanding her
protests insisted on pouring out a glass of wine for her. The Frau
Professor ate her supper with a good appetite. But she had triumphed
unwisely. Just before going to bed she called the servant.
"Emil, if Fraulein Cacilie's box is ready you had better take it
downstairs tonight. The porter will fetch it before breakfast."
The servant went away and in a moment came back.
"Fraulein Cacilie is not in her room, and her bag has gone."
With a cry the Frau Professor hurried along: the box was on the floor,
strapped and locked; but there was no bag, and neither hat nor cloak. The
dressing-table was empty. Breathing heavily, the Frau Professor ran
downstairs to the Chinaman's rooms, she had not moved so quickly for
twenty years, and Emil called out after her to beware she did not fall;
she did not trouble to knock, but burst in. The rooms were empty. The
luggage had gone, and the door into the garden, still open, showed how it
had been got away. In an envelope on the table were notes for the money
due on the month's board and an approximate sum for extras. Groaning,
suddenly overcome by her haste, the Frau Professor sank obesely on to a
sofa. There could be no doubt. The pair had gone off together. Emil
remained stolid and unmoved.
Hayward, after saying for a month that he was going South next day and
delaying from week to week out of inability to make up his mind to the
bother of packing and the tedium of a journey, had at last been driven off
just before Christmas by the preparations for that festival. He could not
support the thought of a Teutonic merry-making. It gave him goose-flesh to
think of the season's aggressive cheerfulness, and in his desire to avoid
the obvious he determined to travel on Christmas Eve.
Philip was not sorry to see him off, for he was a downright person and it
irritated him that anybody should not know his own mind. Though much under
Hayward's influence, he would not grant that indecision pointed to a
charming sensitiveness; and he resented the shadow of a sneer with which
Hayward looked upon his straight ways. They corresponded. Hayward was an
admirable letter-writer, and knowing his talent took pains with his
letters. His temperament was receptive to the beautiful influences with
which he came in contact, and he was able in his letters from Rome to put
a subtle fragrance of Italy. He thought the city of the ancient Romans a
little vulgar, finding distinction only in the decadence of the Empire;
but the Rome of the Popes appealed to his sympathy, and in his chosen
words, quite exquisitely, there appeared a rococo beauty. He wrote of old
church music and the Alban Hills, and of the languor of incense and the
charm of the streets by night, in the rain, when the pavements shone and
the light of the street lamps was mysterious. Perhaps he repeated these
admirable letters to various friends. He did not know what a troubling
effect they had upon Philip; they seemed to make his life very humdrum.
With the spring Hayward grew dithyrambic. He proposed that Philip should
come down to Italy. He was wasting his time at Heidelberg. The Germans
were gross and life there was common; how could the soul come to her own
in that prim landscape? In Tuscany the spring was scattering flowers
through the land, and Philip was nineteen; let him come and they could
wander through the mountain towns of Umbria. Their names sang in Philip's
heart. And Cacilie too, with her lover, had gone to Italy. When he thought
of them Philip was seized with a restlessness he could not account for. He
cursed his fate because he had no money to travel, and he knew his uncle
would not send him more than the fifteen pounds a month which had been
agreed upon. He had not managed his allowance very well. His pension and
the price of his lessons left him very little over, and he had found going
about with Hayward expensive. Hayward had often suggested excursions, a
visit to the play, or a bottle of wine, when Philip had come to the end of
his month's money; and with the folly of his age he had been unwilling to
confess he could not afford an extravagance.
Luckily Hayward's letters came seldom, and in the intervals Philip settled
down again to his industrious life. He had matriculated at the university
and attended one or two courses of lectures. Kuno Fischer was then at the
height of his fame and during the winter had been lecturing brilliantly on
Schopenhauer. It was Philip's introduction to philosophy. He had a
practical mind and moved uneasily amid the abstract; but he found an
unexpected fascination in listening to metaphysical disquisitions; they
made him breathless; it was a little like watching a tight-rope dancer
doing perilous feats over an abyss; but it was very exciting. The
pessimism of the subject attracted his youth; and he believed that the
world he was about to enter was a place of pitiless woe and of darkness.
That made him none the less eager to enter it; and when, in due course,
Mrs. Carey, acting as the correspondent for his guardian's views,
suggested that it was time for him to come back to England, he agreed with
enthusiasm. He must make up his mind now what he meant to do. If he left
Heidelberg at the end of July they could talk things over during August,
and it would be a good time to make arrangements.
The date of his departure was settled, and Mrs. Carey wrote to him again.
She reminded him of Miss Wilkinson, through whose kindness he had gone to
Frau Erlin's house at Heidelberg, and told him that she had arranged to
spend a few weeks with them at Blackstable. She would be crossing from
Flushing on such and such a day, and if he travelled at the same time he
could look after her and come on to Blackstable in her company. Philip's
shyness immediately made him write to say that he could not leave till a
day or two afterwards. He pictured himself looking out for Miss Wilkinson,
the embarrassment of going up to her and asking if it were she (and he
might so easily address the wrong person and be snubbed), and then the
difficulty of knowing whether in the train he ought to talk to her or
whether he could ignore her and read his book.
At last he left Heidelberg. For three months he had been thinking of
nothing but the future; and he went without regret. He never knew that he
had been happy there. Fraulein Anna gave him a copy of Der Trompeter von
Sackingen and in return he presented her with a volume of William Morris.
Very wisely neither of them ever read the other's present.
Philip was surprised when he saw his uncle and aunt. He had never noticed
before that they were quite old people. The Vicar received him with his
usual, not unamiable indifference. He was a little stouter, a little
balder, a little grayer. Philip saw how insignificant he was. His face was
weak and self-indulgent. Aunt Louisa took him in her arms and kissed him;
and tears of happiness flowed down her cheeks. Philip was touched and
embarrassed; he had not known with what a hungry love she cared for him.
"Oh, the time has seemed long since you've been away, Philip," she cried.
She stroked his hands and looked into his face with glad eyes.
"You've grown. You're quite a man now."
There was a very small moustache on his upper lip. He had bought a razor
and now and then with infinite care shaved the down off his smooth chin.
"We've been so lonely without you." And then shyly, with a little break in
her voice, she asked: "You are glad to come back to your home, aren't
She was so thin that she seemed almost transparent, the arms she put round
his neck were frail bones that reminded you of chicken bones, and her
faded face was oh! so wrinkled. The gray curls which she still wore in the
fashion of her youth gave her a queer, pathetic look; and her little
withered body was like an autumn leaf, you felt it might be blown away by
the first sharp wind. Philip realised that they had done with life, these
two quiet little people: they belonged to a past generation, and they were
waiting there patiently, rather stupidly, for death; and he, in his vigour
and his youth, thirsting for excitement and adventure, was appalled at the
waste. They had done nothing, and when they went it would be just as if
they had never been. He felt a great pity for Aunt Louisa, and he loved
her suddenly because she loved him.
Then Miss Wilkinson, who had kept discreetly out of the way till the
Careys had had a chance of welcoming their nephew, came into the room.
"This is Miss Wilkinson, Philip," said Mrs. Carey.
"The prodigal has returned," she said, holding out her hand. "I have
brought a rose for the prodigal's buttonhole."
With a gay smile she pinned to Philip's coat the flower she had just
picked in the garden. He blushed and felt foolish. He knew that Miss
Wilkinson was the daughter of his Uncle William's last rector, and he had
a wide acquaintance with the daughters of clergymen. They wore ill-cut
clothes and stout boots. They were generally dressed in black, for in
Philip's early years at Blackstable homespuns had not reached East Anglia,
and the ladies of the clergy did not favour colours. Their hair was done
very untidily, and they smelt aggressively of starched linen. They
considered the feminine graces unbecoming and looked the same whether they
were old or young. They bore their religion arrogantly. The closeness of
their connection with the church made them adopt a slightly dictatorial
attitude to the rest of mankind.
Miss Wilkinson was very different. She wore a white muslin gown stamped
with gay little bunches of flowers, and pointed, high-heeled shoes, with
open-work stockings. To Philip's inexperience it seemed that she was
wonderfully dressed; he did not see that her frock was cheap and showy.
Her hair was elaborately dressed, with a neat curl in the middle of the
forehead: it was very black, shiny and hard, and it looked as though it
could never be in the least disarranged. She had large black eyes and her
nose was slightly aquiline; in profile she had somewhat the look of a bird
of prey, but full face she was prepossessing. She smiled a great deal, but
her mouth was large and when she smiled she tried to hide her teeth, which
were big and rather yellow. But what embarrassed Philip most was that she
was heavily powdered: he had very strict views on feminine behaviour and
did not think a lady ever powdered; but of course Miss Wilkinson was a
lady because she was a clergyman's daughter, and a clergyman was a
Philip made up his mind to dislike her thoroughly. She spoke with a slight
French accent; and he did not know why she should, since she had been born
and bred in the heart of England. He thought her smile affected, and the
coy sprightliness of her manner irritated him. For two or three days he
remained silent and hostile, but Miss Wilkinson apparently did not notice
it. She was very affable. She addressed her conversation almost
exclusively to him, and there was something flattering in the way she
appealed constantly to his sane judgment. She made him laugh too, and
Philip could never resist people who amused him: he had a gift now and
then of saying neat things; and it was pleasant to have an appreciative
listener. Neither the Vicar nor Mrs. Carey had a sense of humour, and they
never laughed at anything he said. As he grew used to Miss Wilkinson, and
his shyness left him, he began to like her better; he found the French
accent picturesque; and at a garden party which the doctor gave she was
very much better dressed than anyone else. She wore a blue foulard with
large white spots, and Philip was tickled at the sensation it caused.
"I'm certain they think you're no better than you should be," he told her,
"It's the dream of my life to be taken for an abandoned hussy," she
One day when Miss Wilkinson was in her room he asked Aunt Louisa how old
"Oh, my dear, you should never ask a lady's age; but she's certainly too
old for you to marry."
The Vicar gave his slow, obese smile.
"She's no chicken, Louisa," he said. "She was nearly grown up when we were
in Lincolnshire, and that was twenty years ago. She wore a pigtail hanging
down her back."
"She may not have been more than ten," said Philip.
"She was older than that," said Aunt Louisa.
"I think she was near twenty," said the Vicar.
"Oh no, William. Sixteen or seventeen at the outside."
"That would make her well over thirty," said Philip.
At that moment Miss Wilkinson tripped downstairs, singing a song by
Benjamin Goddard. She had put her hat on, for she and Philip were going
for a walk, and she held out her hand for him to button her glove. He did
it awkwardly. He felt embarrassed but gallant. Conversation went easily
between them now, and as they strolled along they talked of all manner of
things. She told Philip about Berlin, and he told her of his year in
Heidelberg. As he spoke, things which had appeared of no importance gained
a new interest: he described the people at Frau Erlin's house; and to the
conversations between Hayward and Weeks, which at the time seemed so
significant, he gave a little twist, so that they looked absurd. He was
flattered at Miss Wilkinson's laughter.
"I'm quite frightened of you," she said. "You're so sarcastic."
Then she asked him playfully whether he had not had any love affairs at
Heidelberg. Without thinking, he frankly answered that he had not; but she
refused to believe him.
"How secretive you are!" she said. "At your age is it likely?"
He blushed and laughed.
"You want to know too much," he said.
"Ah, I thought so," she laughed triumphantly. "Look at him blushing."
He was pleased that she should think he had been a sad dog, and he changed
the conversation so as to make her believe he had all sorts of romantic
things to conceal. He was angry with himself that he had not. There had
been no opportunity.
Miss Wilkinson was dissatisfied with her lot. She resented having to earn
her living and told Philip a long story of an uncle of her mother's, who
had been expected to leave her a fortune but had married his cook and
changed his will. She hinted at the luxury of her home and compared her
life in Lincolnshire, with horses to ride and carriages to drive in, with
the mean dependence of her present state. Philip was a little puzzled when
he mentioned this afterwards to Aunt Louisa, and she told him that when
she knew the Wilkinsons they had never had anything more than a pony and
a dog-cart; Aunt Louisa had heard of the rich uncle, but as he was married
and had children before Emily was born she could never have had much hope
of inheriting his fortune. Miss Wilkinson had little good to say of
Berlin, where she was now in a situation. She complained of the vulgarity
of German life, and compared it bitterly with the brilliance of Paris,
where she had spent a number of years. She did not say how many. She had
been governess in the family of a fashionable portrait-painter, who had
married a Jewish wife of means, and in their house she had met many
distinguished people. She dazzled Philip with their names. Actors from the
Comedie Francaise had come to the house frequently, and Coquelin, sitting
next her at dinner, had told her he had never met a foreigner who spoke
such perfect French. Alphonse Daudet had come also, and he had given her
a copy of Sappho: he had promised to write her name in it, but she had
forgotten to remind him. She treasured the volume none the less and she
would lend it to Philip. Then there was Maupassant. Miss Wilkinson with a
rippling laugh looked at Philip knowingly. What a man, but what a writer!
Hayward had talked of Maupassant, and his reputation was not unknown to
"Did he make love to you?" he asked.
The words seemed to stick funnily in his throat, but he asked them
nevertheless. He liked Miss Wilkinson very much now, and was thrilled by
her conversation, but he could not imagine anyone making love to her.
"What a question!" she cried. "Poor Guy, he made love to every woman he
met. It was a habit that he could not break himself of."
She sighed a little, and seemed to look back tenderly on the past.
"He was a charming man," she murmured.
A greater experience than Philip's would have guessed from these words the
probabilities of the encounter: the distinguished writer invited to
luncheon en famille, the governess coming in sedately with the two tall
girls she was teaching; the introduction:
"Notre Miss Anglaise."
And the luncheon during which the Miss Anglaise sat silent while the
distinguished writer talked to his host and hostess.
But to Philip her words called up much more romantic fancies.
"Do tell me all about him," he said excitedly.
"There's nothing to tell," she said truthfully, but in such a manner as to
convey that three volumes would scarcely have contained the lurid facts.
"You mustn't be curious."
She began to talk of Paris. She loved the boulevards and the Bois. There
was grace in every street, and the trees in the Champs Elysees had a
distinction which trees had not elsewhere. They were sitting on a stile
now by the high-road, and Miss Wilkinson looked with disdain upon the
stately elms in front of them. And the theatres: the plays were brilliant,
and the acting was incomparable. She often went with Madame Foyot, the
mother of the girls she was educating, when she was trying on clothes.
"Oh, what a misery to be poor!" she cried. "These beautiful things, it's
only in Paris they know how to dress, and not to be able to afford them!
Poor Madame Foyot, she had no figure. Sometimes the dressmaker used to
whisper to me: `Ah, Mademoiselle, if she only had your figure.' "
Philip noticed then that Miss Wilkinson had a robust form and was proud of
"Men are so stupid in England. They only think of the face. The French,
who are a nation of lovers, know how much more important the figure is."
Philip had never thought of such things before, but he observed now that
Miss Wilkinson's ankles were thick and ungainly. He withdrew his eyes
"You should go to France. Why don't you go to Paris for a year? You would
learn French, and it would--deniaiser you."
"What is that?" asked Philip.
She laughed slyly.
"You must look it out in the dictionary. Englishmen do not know how to
treat women. They are so shy. Shyness is ridiculous in a man. They don't
know how to make love. They can't even tell a woman she is charming
without looking foolish."
Philip felt himself absurd. Miss Wilkinson evidently expected him to
behave very differently; and he would have been delighted to say gallant
and witty things, but they never occurred to him; and when they did he was
too much afraid of making a fool of himself to say them.
"Oh, I love Paris," sighed Miss Wilkinson. "But I had to go to Berlin. I
was with the Foyots till the girls married, and then I could get nothing
to do, and I had the chance of this post in Berlin. They're relations of
Madame Foyot, and I accepted. I had a tiny apartment in the Rue Breda, on
the cinquieme: it wasn't at all respectable. You know about the Rue
Breda--ces dames, you know."
Philip nodded, not knowing at all what she meant, but vaguely suspecting,
and anxious she should not think him too ignorant.
"But I didn't care. Je suis libre, n'est-ce pas?" She was very fond of
speaking French, which indeed she spoke well. "Once I had such a curious
She paused a little and Philip pressed her to tell it.
"You wouldn't tell me yours in Heidelberg," she said.
"They were so unadventurous," he retorted.
"I don't know what Mrs. Carey would say if she knew the sort of things we
talk about together."
"You don't imagine I shall tell her."
"Will you promise?"
When he had done this, she told him how an art-student who had a room on
the floor above her--but she interrupted herself.
"Why don't you go in for art? You paint so prettily."
"Not well enough for that."
"That is for others to judge. Je m'y connais, and I believe you have the
making of a great artist."
"Can't you see Uncle William's face if I suddenly told him I wanted to go
to Paris and study art?"
"You're your own master, aren't you?"
"You're trying to put me off. Please go on with the story." Miss
Wilkinson, with a little laugh, went on. The art-student had passed her
several times on the stairs, and she had paid no particular attention. She
saw that he had fine eyes, and he took off his hat very politely. And one
day she found a letter slipped under her door. It was from him. He told
her that he had adored her for months, and that he waited about the stairs
for her to pass. Oh, it was a charming letter! Of course she did not
reply, but what woman could help being flattered? And next day there was
another letter! It was wonderful, passionate, and touching. When next she
met him on the stairs she did not know which way to look. And every day
the letters came, and now he begged her to see him. He said he would come
in the evening, vers neuf heures, and she did not know what to do. Of
course it was impossible, and he might ring and ring, but she would never
open the door; and then while she was waiting for the tinkling of the
bell, all nerves, suddenly he stood before her. She had forgotten to shut
the door when she came in.
"C'etait une fatalite."
"And what happened then?" asked Philip.
"That is the end of the story," she replied, with a ripple of laughter.
Philip was silent for a moment. His heart beat quickly, and strange
emotions seemed to be hustling one another in his heart. He saw the dark
staircase and the chance meetings, and he admired the boldness of the
letters--oh, he would never have dared to do that--and then the silent,
almost mysterious entrance. It seemed to him the very soul of romance.
"What was he like?"
"Oh, he was handsome. Charmant garcon."
"Do you know him still?"
Philip felt a slight feeling of irritation as he asked this.
"He treated me abominably. Men are always the same. You're heartless, all
"I don't know about that," said Philip, not without embarrassment.
"Let us go home," said Miss Wilkinson.
Philip could not get Miss Wilkinson's story out of his head. It was clear
enough what she meant even though she cut it short, and he was a little
shocked. That sort of thing was all very well for married women, he had
read enough French novels to know that in France it was indeed the rule,
but Miss Wilkinson was English and unmarried; her father was a clergyman.
Then it struck him that the art-student probably was neither the first nor
the last of her lovers, and he gasped: he had never looked upon Miss
Wilkinson like that; it seemed incredible that anyone should make love to
her. In his ingenuousness he doubted her story as little as he doubted
what he read in books, and he was angry that such wonderful things never
happened to him. It was humiliating that if Miss Wilkinson insisted upon
his telling her of his adventures in Heidelberg he would have nothing to
tell. It was true that he had some power of invention, but he was not sure
whether he could persuade her that he was steeped in vice; women were full
of intuition, he had read that, and she might easily discover that he was
fibbing. He blushed scarlet as he thought of her laughing up her sleeve.
Miss Wilkinson played the piano and sang in a rather tired voice; but her
songs, Massenet, Benjamin Goddard, and Augusta Holmes, were new to Philip;
and together they spent many hours at the piano. One day she wondered if
he had a voice and insisted on trying it. She told him he had a pleasant
baritone and offered to give him lessons. At first with his usual
bashfulness he refused, but she insisted, and then every morning at a
convenient time after breakfast she gave him an hour's lesson. She had a
natural gift for teaching, and it was clear that she was an excellent
governess. She had method and firmness. Though her French accent was so
much part of her that it remained, all the mellifluousness of her manner
left her when she was engaged in teaching. She put up with no nonsense.
Her voice became a little peremptory, and instinctively she suppressed
inattention and corrected slovenliness. She knew what she was about and
put Philip to scales and exercises.
When the lesson was over she resumed without effort her seductive smiles,
her voice became again soft and winning, but Philip could not so easily
put away the pupil as she the pedagogue; and this impression convicted
with the feelings her stories had aroused in him. He looked at her more