Part 7 out of 15
"Is your name Carey?" he asked.
"Oh, then we've got this leg together. It's lucky it's a man, isn't it?"
"Why?" asked Philip.
"They generally always like a male better," said the attendant. "A
female's liable to have a lot of fat about her."
Philip looked at the body. The arms and legs were so thin that there was
no shape in them, and the ribs stood out so that the skin over them was
tense. A man of about forty-five with a thin, gray beard, and on his skull
scanty, colourless hair: the eyes were closed and the lower jaw sunken.
Philip could not feel that this had ever been a man, and yet in the row of
them there was something terrible and ghastly.
"I thought I'd start at two," said the young man who was dissecting with
"All right, I'll be here then."
He had bought the day before the case of instruments which was needful,
and now he was given a locker. He looked at the boy who had accompanied
him into the dissecting-room and saw that he was white.
"Make you feel rotten?" Philip asked him.
"I've never seen anyone dead before."
They walked along the corridor till they came to the entrance of the
school. Philip remembered Fanny Price. She was the first dead person he
had ever seen, and he remembered how strangely it had affected him. There
was an immeasurable distance between the quick and the dead: they did not
seem to belong to the same species; and it was strange to think that but
a little while before they had spoken and moved and eaten and laughed.
There was something horrible about the dead, and you could imagine that
they might cast an evil influence on the living.
"What d'you say to having something to eat?" said his new friend to
They went down into the basement, where there was a dark room fitted up as
a restaurant, and here the students were able to get the same sort of fare
as they might have at an aerated bread shop. While they ate (Philip had a
scone and butter and a cup of chocolate), he discovered that his companion
was called Dunsford. He was a fresh-complexioned lad, with pleasant blue
eyes and curly, dark hair, large-limbed, slow of speech and movement. He
had just come from Clifton.
"Are you taking the Conjoint?" he asked Philip.
"Yes, I want to get qualified as soon as I can."
"I'm taking it too, but I shall take the F. R. C. S. afterwards. I'm going
in for surgery."
Most of the students took the curriculum of the Conjoint Board of the
College of Surgeons and the College of Physicians; but the more ambitious
or the more industrious added to this the longer studies which led to a
degree from the University of London. When Philip went to St. Luke's
changes had recently been made in the regulations, and the course took
five years instead of four as it had done for those who registered before
the autumn of 1892. Dunsford was well up in his plans and told Philip the
usual course of events. The "first conjoint" examination consisted of
biology, anatomy, and chemistry; but it could be taken in sections, and
most fellows took their biology three months after entering the school.
This science had been recently added to the list of subjects upon which
the student was obliged to inform himself, but the amount of knowledge
required was very small.
When Philip went back to the dissecting-room, he was a few minutes late,
since he had forgotten to buy the loose sleeves which they wore to protect
their shirts, and he found a number of men already working. His partner
had started on the minute and was busy dissecting out cutaneous nerves.
Two others were engaged on the second leg, and more were occupied with the
"You don't mind my having started?"
"That's all right, fire away," said Philip.
He took the book, open at a diagram of the dissected part, and looked at
what they had to find.
"You're rather a dab at this," said Philip.
"Oh, I've done a good deal of dissecting before, animals, you know, for
the Pre Sci."
There was a certain amount of conversation over the dissecting-table,
partly about the work, partly about the prospects of the football season,
the demonstrators, and the lectures. Philip felt himself a great deal
older than the others. They were raw schoolboys. But age is a matter of
knowledge rather than of years; and Newson, the active young man who was
dissecting with him, was very much at home with his subject. He was
perhaps not sorry to show off, and he explained very fully to Philip what
he was about. Philip, notwithstanding his hidden stores of wisdom,
listened meekly. Then Philip took up the scalpel and the tweezers and
began working while the other looked on.
"Ripping to have him so thin," said Newson, wiping his hands. "The
blighter can't have had anything to eat for a month."
"I wonder what he died of," murmured Philip.
"Oh, I don't know, any old thing, starvation chiefly, I suppose.... I say,
look out, don't cut that artery."
"It's all very fine to say, don't cut that artery," remarked one of the
men working on the opposite leg. "Silly old fool's got an artery in the
"Arteries always are in the wrong place," said Newson. "The normal's the
one thing you practically never get. That's why it's called the normal."
"Don't say things like that," said Philip, "or I shall cut myself."
"If you cut yourself," answered Newson, full of information, "wash it at
once with antiseptic. It's the one thing you've got to be careful about.
There was a chap here last year who gave himself only a prick, and he
didn't bother about it, and he got septicaemia."
"Did he get all right?"
"Oh, no, he died in a week. I went and had a look at him in the P. M.
Philip's back ached by the time it was proper to have tea, and his
luncheon had been so light that he was quite ready for it. His hands smelt
of that peculiar odour which he had first noticed that morning in the
corridor. He thought his muffin tasted of it too.
"Oh, you'll get used to that," said Newson. "When you don't have the good
old dissecting-room stink about, you feel quite lonely."
"I'm not going to let it spoil my appetite," said Philip, as he followed
up the muffin with a piece of cake.
Philip's ideas of the life of medical students, like those of the public
at large, were founded on the pictures which Charles Dickens drew in the
middle of the nineteenth century. He soon discovered that Bob Sawyer, if
he ever existed, was no longer at all like the medical student of the
It is a mixed lot which enters upon the medical profession, and naturally
there are some who are lazy and reckless. They think it is an easy life,
idle away a couple of years; and then, because their funds come to an end
or because angry parents refuse any longer to support them, drift away
from the hospital. Others find the examinations too hard for them; one
failure after another robs them of their nerve; and, panic-stricken, they
forget as soon as they come into the forbidding buildings of the Conjoint
Board the knowledge which before they had so pat. They remain year after
year, objects of good-humoured scorn to younger men: some of them crawl
through the examination of the Apothecaries Hall; others become
non-qualified assistants, a precarious position in which they are at the
mercy of their employer; their lot is poverty, drunkenness, and Heaven
only knows their end. But for the most part medical students are
industrious young men of the middle-class with a sufficient allowance to
live in the respectable fashion they have been used to; many are the sons
of doctors who have already something of the professional manner; their
career is mapped out: as soon as they are qualified they propose to apply
for a hospital appointment, after holding which (and perhaps a trip to the
Far East as a ship's doctor), they will join their father and spend the
rest of their days in a country practice. One or two are marked out as
exceptionally brilliant: they will take the various prizes and
scholarships which are open each year to the deserving, get one
appointment after another at the hospital, go on the staff, take a
consulting-room in Harley Street, and, specialising in one subject or
another, become prosperous, eminent, and titled.
The medical profession is the only one which a man may enter at any age
with some chance of making a living. Among the men of Philip's year were
three or four who were past their first youth: one had been in the Navy,
from which according to report he had been dismissed for drunkenness; he
was a man of thirty, with a red face, a brusque manner, and a loud voice.
Another was a married man with two children, who had lost money through a
defaulting solicitor; he had a bowed look as if the world were too much
for him; he went about his work silently, and it was plain that he found
it difficult at his age to commit facts to memory. His mind worked slowly.
His effort at application was painful to see.
Philip made himself at home in his tiny rooms. He arranged his books and
hung on the walls such pictures and sketches as he possessed. Above him,
on the drawing-room floor, lived a fifth-year man called Griffiths; but
Philip saw little of him, partly because he was occupied chiefly in the
wards and partly because he had been to Oxford. Such of the students as
had been to a university kept a good deal together: they used a variety of
means natural to the young in order to impress upon the less fortunate a
proper sense of their inferiority; the rest of the students found their
Olympian serenity rather hard to bear. Griffiths was a tall fellow, with
a quantity of curly red hair and blue eyes, a white skin and a very red
mouth; he was one of those fortunate people whom everybody liked, for he
had high spirits and a constant gaiety. He strummed a little on the piano
and sang comic songs with gusto; and evening after evening, while Philip
was reading in his solitary room, he heard the shouts and the uproarious
laughter of Griffiths' friends above him. He thought of those delightful
evenings in Paris when they would sit in the studio, Lawson and he,
Flanagan and Clutton, and talk of art and morals, the love-affairs of the
present, and the fame of the future. He felt sick at heart. He found that
it was easy to make a heroic gesture, but hard to abide by its results.
The worst of it was that the work seemed to him very tedious. He had got
out of the habit of being asked questions by demonstrators. His attention
wandered at lectures. Anatomy was a dreary science, a mere matter of
learning by heart an enormous number of facts; dissection bored him; he
did not see the use of dissecting out laboriously nerves and arteries when
with much less trouble you could see in the diagrams of a book or in the
specimens of the pathological museum exactly where they were.
He made friends by chance, but not intimate friends, for he seemed to have
nothing in particular to say to his companions. When he tried to interest
himself in their concerns, he felt that they found him patronising. He was
not of those who can talk of what moves them without caring whether it
bores or not the people they talk to. One man, hearing that he had studied
art in Paris, and fancying himself on his taste, tried to discuss art with
him; but Philip was impatient of views which did not agree with his own;
and, finding quickly that the other's ideas were conventional, grew
monosyllabic. Philip desired popularity but could bring himself to make no
advances to others. A fear of rebuff prevented him from affability, and he
concealed his shyness, which was still intense, under a frigid
taciturnity. He was going through the same experience as he had done at
school, but here the freedom of the medical students' life made it
possible for him to live a good deal by himself.
It was through no effort of his that he became friendly with Dunsford, the
fresh-complexioned, heavy lad whose acquaintance he had made at the
beginning of the session. Dunsford attached himself to Philip merely
because he was the first person he had known at St. Luke's. He had no
friends in London, and on Saturday nights he and Philip got into the habit
of going together to the pit of a music-hall or the gallery of a theatre.
He was stupid, but he was good-humoured and never took offence; he always
said the obvious thing, but when Philip laughed at him merely smiled. He
had a very sweet smile. Though Philip made him his butt, he liked him; he
was amused by his candour and delighted with his agreeable nature:
Dunsford had the charm which himself was acutely conscious of not
They often went to have tea at a shop in Parliament Street, because
Dunsford admired one of the young women who waited. Philip did not find
anything attractive in her. She was tall and thin, with narrow hips and
the chest of a boy.
"No one would look at her in Paris," said Philip scornfully.
"She's got a ripping face," said Dunsford.
"What DOES the face matter?"
She had the small regular features, the blue eyes, and the broad low brow,
which the Victorian painters, Lord Leighton, Alma Tadema, and a hundred
others, induced the world they lived in to accept as a type of Greek
beauty. She seemed to have a great deal of hair: it was arranged with
peculiar elaboration and done over the forehead in what she called an
Alexandra fringe. She was very anaemic. Her thin lips were pale, and her
skin was delicate, of a faint green colour, without a touch of red even in
the cheeks. She had very good teeth. She took great pains to prevent her
work from spoiling her hands, and they were small, thin, and white. She
went about her duties with a bored look.
Dunsford, very shy with women, had never succeeded in getting into
conversation with her; and he urged Philip to help him.
"All I want is a lead," he said, "and then I can manage for myself."
Philip, to please him, made one or two remarks, but she answered with
monosyllables. She had taken their measure. They were boys, and she
surmised they were students. She had no use for them. Dunsford noticed
that a man with sandy hair and a bristly moustache, who looked like a
German, was favoured with her attention whenever he came into the shop;
and then it was only by calling her two or three times that they could
induce her to take their order. She used the clients whom she did not know
with frigid insolence, and when she was talking to a friend was perfectly
indifferent to the calls of the hurried. She had the art of treating women
who desired refreshment with just that degree of impertinence which
irritated them without affording them an opportunity of complaining to the
management. One day Dunsford told him her name was Mildred. He had heard
one of the other girls in the shop address her.
"What an odious name," said Philip.
"Why?" asked Dunsford.
"I like it."
"It's so pretentious."
It chanced that on this day the German was not there, and, when she
brought the tea, Philip, smiling, remarked:
"Your friend's not here today."
"I don't know what you mean," she said coldly.
"I was referring to the nobleman with the sandy moustache. Has he left you
"Some people would do better to mind their own business," she retorted.
She left them, and, since for a minute or two there was no one to attend
to, sat down and looked at the evening paper which a customer had left
"You are a fool to put her back up," said Dunsford.
"I'm really quite indifferent to the attitude of her vertebrae," replied
But he was piqued. It irritated him that when he tried to be agreeable
with a woman she should take offence. When he asked for the bill, he
hazarded a remark which he meant to lead further.
"Are we no longer on speaking terms?" he smiled.
"I'm here to take orders and to wait on customers. I've got nothing to say
to them, and I don't want them to say anything to me."
She put down the slip of paper on which she had marked the sum they had to
pay, and walked back to the table at which she had been sitting. Philip
flushed with anger.
"That's one in the eye for you, Carey," said Dunsford, when they got
"Ill-mannered slut," said Philip. "I shan't go there again."
His influence with Dunsford was strong enough to get him to take their tea
elsewhere, and Dunsford soon found another young woman to flirt with. But
the snub which the waitress had inflicted on him rankled. If she had
treated him with civility he would have been perfectly indifferent to her;
but it was obvious that she disliked him rather than otherwise, and his
pride was wounded. He could not suppress a desire to be even with her. He
was impatient with himself because he had so petty a feeling, but three or
four days' firmness, during which he would not go to the shop, did not
help him to surmount it; and he came to the conclusion that it would be
least trouble to see her. Having done so he would certainly cease to think
of her. Pretexting an appointment one afternoon, for he was not a little
ashamed of his weakness, he left Dunsford and went straight to the shop
which he had vowed never again to enter. He saw the waitress the moment he
came in and sat down at one of her tables. He expected her to make some
reference to the fact that he had not been there for a week, but when she
came up for his order she said nothing. He had heard her say to other
"You're quite a stranger."
She gave no sign that she had ever seen him before. In order to see
whether she had really forgotten him, when she brought his tea, he asked:
"Have you seen my friend tonight?"
"No, he's not been in here for some days."
He wanted to use this as the beginning of a conversation, but he was
strangely nervous and could think of nothing to say. She gave him no
opportunity, but at once went away. He had no chance of saying anything
till he asked for his bill.
"Filthy weather, isn't it?" he said.
It was mortifying that he had been forced to prepare such a phrase as
that. He could not make out why she filled him with such embarrassment.
"It don't make much difference to me what the weather is, having to be in
here all day."
There was an insolence in her tone that peculiarly irritated him. A
sarcasm rose to his lips, but he forced himself to be silent.
"I wish to God she'd say something really cheeky," he raged to himself,
"so that I could report her and get her sacked. It would serve her damned
He could not get her out of his mind. He laughed angrily at his own
foolishness: it was absurd to care what an anaemic little waitress said to
him; but he was strangely humiliated. Though no one knew of the
humiliation but Dunsford, and he had certainly forgotten, Philip felt that
he could have no peace till he had wiped it out. He thought over what he
had better do. He made up his mind that he would go to the shop every day;
it was obvious that he had made a disagreeable impression on her, but he
thought he had the wits to eradicate it; he would take care not to say
anything at which the most susceptible person could be offended. All this
he did, but it had no effect. When he went in and said good-evening she
answered with the same words, but when once he omitted to say it in order
to see whether she would say it first, she said nothing at all. He
murmured in his heart an expression which though frequently applicable to
members of the female sex is not often used of them in polite society; but
with an unmoved face he ordered his tea. He made up his mind not to speak
a word, and left the shop without his usual good-night. He promised
himself that he would not go any more, but the next day at tea-time he
grew restless. He tried to think of other things, but he had no command
over his thoughts. At last he said desperately:
"After all there's no reason why I shouldn't go if I want to."
The struggle with himself had taken a long time, and it was getting on for
seven when he entered the shop.
"I thought you weren't coming," the girl said to him, when he sat down.
His heart leaped in his bosom and he felt himself reddening. "I was
detained. I couldn't come before."
"Cutting up people, I suppose?"
"Not so bad as that."
"You are a stoodent, aren't you?"
But that seemed to satisfy her curiosity. She went away and, since at that
late hour there was nobody else at her tables, she immersed herself in a
novelette. This was before the time of the sixpenny reprints. There was a
regular supply of inexpensive fiction written to order by poor hacks for
the consumption of the illiterate. Philip was elated; she had addressed
him of her own accord; he saw the time approaching when his turn would
come and he would tell her exactly what he thought of her. It would be a
great comfort to express the immensity of his contempt. He looked at her.
It was true that her profile was beautiful; it was extraordinary how
English girls of that class had so often a perfection of outline which
took your breath away, but it was as cold as marble; and the faint green
of her delicate skin gave an impression of unhealthiness. All the
waitresses were dressed alike, in plain black dresses, with a white apron,
cuffs, and a small cap. On a half sheet of paper that he had in his pocket
Philip made a sketch of her as she sat leaning over her book (she outlined
the words with her lips as she read), and left it on the table when he
went away. It was an inspiration, for next day, when he came in, she
smiled at him.
"I didn't know you could draw," she said.
"I was an art-student in Paris for two years."
"I showed that drawing you left be'ind you last night to the manageress
and she WAS struck with it. Was it meant to be me?"
"It was," said Philip.
When she went for his tea, one of the other girls came up to him.
"I saw that picture you done of Miss Rogers. It was the very image of
her," she said.
That was the first time he had heard her name, and when he wanted his bill
he called her by it.
"I see you know my name," she said, when she came.
"Your friend mentioned it when she said something to me about that
"She wants you to do one of her. Don't you do it. If you once begin you'll
have to go on, and they'll all be wanting you to do them." Then without a
pause, with peculiar inconsequence, she said: "Where's that young fellow
that used to come with you? Has he gone away?"
"Fancy your remembering him," said Philip.
"He was a nice-looking young fellow."
Philip felt quite a peculiar sensation in his heart. He did not know what
it was. Dunsford had jolly curling hair, a fresh complexion, and a
beautiful smile. Philip thought of these advantages with envy.
"Oh, he's in love," said he, with a little laugh.
Philip repeated every word of the conversation to himself as he limped
home. She was quite friendly with him now. When opportunity arose he would
offer to make a more finished sketch of her, he was sure she would like
that; her face was interesting, the profile was lovely, and there was
something curiously fascinating about the chlorotic colour. He tried to
think what it was like; at first he thought of pea soup; but, driving away
that idea angrily, he thought of the petals of a yellow rosebud when you
tore it to pieces before it had burst. He had no ill-feeling towards her
"She's not a bad sort," he murmured.
It was silly of him to take offence at what she had said; it was doubtless
his own fault; she had not meant to make herself disagreeable: he ought to
be accustomed by now to making at first sight a bad impression on people.
He was flattered at the success of his drawing; she looked upon him with
more interest now that she was aware of this small talent. He was restless
next day. He thought of going to lunch at the tea-shop, but he was certain
there would be many people there then, and Mildred would not be able to
talk to him. He had managed before this to get out of having tea with
Dunsford, and, punctually at half past four (he had looked at his watch a
dozen times), he went into the shop.
Mildred had her back turned to him. She was sitting down, talking to the
German whom Philip had seen there every day till a fortnight ago and since
then had not seen at all. She was laughing at what he said. Philip thought
she had a common laugh, and it made him shudder. He called her, but she
took no notice; he called her again; then, growing angry, for he was
impatient, he rapped the table loudly with his stick. She approached
"How d'you do?" he said.
"You seem to be in a great hurry."
She looked down at him with the insolent manner which he knew so well.
"I say, what's the matter with you?" he asked.
"If you'll kindly give your order I'll get what you want. I can't stand
talking all night."
"Tea and toasted bun, please," Philip answered briefly.
He was furious with her. He had The Star with him and read it
elaborately when she brought the tea.
"If you'll give me my bill now I needn't trouble you again," he said
She wrote out the slip, placed it on the table, and went back to the
German. Soon she was talking to him with animation. He was a man of middle
height, with the round head of his nation and a sallow face; his moustache
was large and bristling; he had on a tail-coat and gray trousers, and he
wore a massive gold watch-chain. Philip thought the other girls looked
from him to the pair at the table and exchanged significant glances. He
felt certain they were laughing at him, and his blood boiled. He detested
Mildred now with all his heart. He knew that the best thing he could do
was to cease coming to the tea-shop, but he could not bear to think that
he had been worsted in the affair, and he devised a plan to show her that
he despised her. Next day he sat down at another table and ordered his tea
from another waitress. Mildred's friend was there again and she was
talking to him. She paid no attention to Philip, and so when he went out
he chose a moment when she had to cross his path: as he passed he looked
at her as though he had never seen her before. He repeated this for three
or four days. He expected that presently she would take the opportunity to
say something to him; he thought she would ask why he never came to one of
her tables now, and he had prepared an answer charged with all the
loathing he felt for her. He knew it was absurd to trouble, but he could
not help himself. She had beaten him again. The German suddenly
disappeared, but Philip still sat at other tables. She paid no attention
to him. Suddenly he realised that what he did was a matter of complete
indifference to her; he could go on in that way till doomsday, and it
would have no effect.
"I've not finished yet," he said to himself.
The day after he sat down in his old seat, and when she came up said
good-evening as though he had not ignored her for a week. His face was
placid, but he could not prevent the mad beating of his heart. At that
time the musical comedy had lately leaped into public favour, and he was
sure that Mildred would be delighted to go to one.
"I say," he said suddenly, "I wonder if you'd dine with me one night and
come to The Belle of New York. I'll get a couple of stalls."
He added the last sentence in order to tempt her. He knew that when the
girls went to the play it was either in the pit, or, if some man took
them, seldom to more expensive seats than the upper circle. Mildred's pale
face showed no change of expression.
"I don't mind," she said.
"When will you come?"
"I get off early on Thursdays."
They made arrangements. Mildred lived with an aunt at Herne Hill. The play
began at eight so they must dine at seven. She proposed that he should
meet her in the second-class waiting-room at Victoria Station. She showed
no pleasure, but accepted the invitation as though she conferred a favour.
Philip was vaguely irritated.
Philip arrived at Victoria Station nearly half an hour before the time
which Mildred had appointed, and sat down in the second-class
waiting-room. He waited and she did not come. He began to grow anxious,
and walked into the station watching the incoming suburban trains; the
hour which she had fixed passed, and still there was no sign of her.
Philip was impatient. He went into the other waiting-rooms and looked at
the people sitting in them. Suddenly his heart gave a great thud.
"There you are. I thought you were never coming."
"I like that after keeping me waiting all this time. I had half a mind to
go back home again."
"But you said you'd come to the second-class waiting-room."
"I didn't say any such thing. It isn't exactly likely I'd sit in the
second-class room when I could sit in the first is it?"
Though Philip was sure he had not made a mistake, he said nothing, and
they got into a cab.
"Where are we dining?" she asked.
"I thought of the Adelphi Restaurant. Will that suit you?"
"I don't mind where we dine."
She spoke ungraciously. She was put out by being kept waiting and answered
Philip's attempt at conversation with monosyllables. She wore a long cloak
of some rough, dark material and a crochet shawl over her head. They
reached the restaurant and sat down at a table. She looked round with
satisfaction. The red shades to the candles on the tables, the gold of the
decorations, the looking-glasses, lent the room a sumptuous air.
"I've never been here before."
She gave Philip a smile. She had taken off her cloak; and he saw that she
wore a pale blue dress, cut square at the neck; and her hair was more
elaborately arranged than ever. He had ordered champagne and when it came
her eyes sparkled.
"You are going it," she said.
"Because I've ordered fiz?" he asked carelessly, as though he never drank
"I WAS surprised when you asked me to do a theatre with you."
Conversation did not go very easily, for she did not seem to have much to
say; and Philip was nervously conscious that he was not amusing her. She
listened carelessly to his remarks, with her eyes on other diners, and
made no pretence that she was interested in him. He made one or two little
jokes, but she took them quite seriously. The only sign of vivacity he got
was when he spoke of the other girls in the shop; she could not bear the
manageress and told him all her misdeeds at length.
"I can't stick her at any price and all the air she gives herself.
Sometimes I've got more than half a mind to tell her something she doesn't
think I know anything about."
"What is that?" asked Philip.
"Well, I happen to know that she's not above going to Eastbourne with a
man for the week-end now and again. One of the girls has a married sister
who goes there with her husband, and she's seen her. She was staying at
the same boarding-house, and she 'ad a wedding-ring on, and I know for one
she's not married."
Philip filled her glass, hoping that champagne would make her more
affable; he was anxious that his little jaunt should be a success. He
noticed that she held her knife as though it were a pen-holder, and when
she drank protruded her little finger. He started several topics of
conversation, but he could get little out of her, and he remembered with
irritation that he had seen her talking nineteen to the dozen and laughing
with the German. They finished dinner and went to the play. Philip was a
very cultured young man, and he looked upon musical comedy with scorn. He
thought the jokes vulgar and the melodies obvious; it seemed to him that
they did these things much better in France; but Mildred enjoyed herself
thoroughly; she laughed till her sides ached, looking at Philip now and
then when something tickled her to exchange a glance of pleasure; and she
"This is the seventh time I've been," she said, after the first act, "and
I don't mind if I come seven times more."
She was much interested in the women who surrounded them in the stalls.
She pointed out to Philip those who were painted and those who wore false
"It is horrible, these West-end people," she said. "I don't know how they
can do it." She put her hand to her hair. "Mine's all my own, every bit of
She found no one to admire, and whenever she spoke of anyone it was to say
something disagreeable. It made Philip uneasy. He supposed that next day
she would tell the girls in the shop that he had taken her out and that he
had bored her to death. He disliked her, and yet, he knew not why, he
wanted to be with her. On the way home he asked:
"I hope you've enjoyed yourself?"
"Will you come out with me again one evening?"
"I don't mind."
He could never get beyond such expressions as that. Her indifference
"That sounds as if you didn't much care if you came or not."
"Oh, if you don't take me out some other fellow will. I need never want
for men who'll take me to the theatre."
Philip was silent. They came to the station, and he went to the
"I've got my season," she said.
"I thought I'd take you home as it's rather late, if you don't mind."
"Oh, I don't mind if it gives you any pleasure."
He took a single first for her and a return for himself.
"Well, you're not mean, I will say that for you," she said, when he opened
Philip did not know whether he was pleased or sorry when other people
entered and it was impossible to speak. They got out at Herne Hill, and he
accompanied her to the corner of the road in which she lived.
"I'll say good-night to you here," she said, holding out her hand. "You'd
better not come up to the door. I know what people are, and I don't want
to have anybody talking."
She said good-night and walked quickly away. He could see the white shawl
in the darkness. He thought she might turn round, but she did not. Philip
saw which house she went into, and in a moment he walked along to look at
it. It was a trim, common little house of yellow brick, exactly like all
the other little houses in the street. He stood outside for a few minutes,
and presently the window on the top floor was darkened. Philip strolled
slowly back to the station. The evening had been unsatisfactory. He felt
irritated, restless, and miserable.
When he lay in bed he seemed still to see her sitting in the corner of the
railway carriage, with the white crochet shawl over her head. He did not
know how he was to get through the hours that must pass before his eyes
rested on her again. He thought drowsily of her thin face, with its
delicate features, and the greenish pallor of her skin. He was not happy
with her, but he was unhappy away from her. He wanted to sit by her side
and look at her, he wanted to touch her, he wanted... the thought came to
him and he did not finish it, suddenly he grew wide awake... he wanted to
kiss the thin, pale mouth with its narrow lips. The truth came to him at
last. He was in love with her. It was incredible.
He had often thought of falling in love, and there was one scene which he
had pictured to himself over and over again. He saw himself coming into a
ball-room; his eyes fell on a little group of men and women talking; and
one of the women turned round. Her eyes fell upon him, and he knew that
the gasp in his throat was in her throat too. He stood quite still. She
was tall and dark and beautiful with eyes like the night; she was dressed
in white, and in her black hair shone diamonds; they stared at one
another, forgetting that people surrounded them. He went straight up to
her, and she moved a little towards him. Both felt that the formality of
introduction was out of place. He spoke to her.
"I've been looking for you all my life," he said.
"You've come at last," she murmured.
"Will you dance with me?"
She surrendered herself to his outstretched hands and they danced. (Philip
always pretended that he was not lame.) She danced divinely.
"I've never danced with anyone who danced like you," she said.
She tore up her programme, and they danced together the whole evening.
"I'm so thankful that I waited for you," he said to her. "I knew that in
the end I must meet you."
People in the ball-room stared. They did not care. They did not wish to
hide their passion. At last they went into the garden. He flung a light
cloak over her shoulders and put her in a waiting cab. They caught the
midnight train to Paris; and they sped through the silent, star-lit night
into the unknown.
He thought of this old fancy of his, and it seemed impossible that he
should be in love with Mildred Rogers. Her name was grotesque. He did not
think her pretty; he hated the thinness of her, only that evening he had
noticed how the bones of her chest stood out in evening-dress; he went
over her features one by one; he did not like her mouth, and the
unhealthiness of her colour vaguely repelled him. She was common. Her
phrases, so bald and few, constantly repeated, showed the emptiness of her
mind; he recalled her vulgar little laugh at the jokes of the musical
comedy; and he remembered the little finger carefully extended when she
held her glass to her mouth; her manners like her conversation, were
odiously genteel. He remembered her insolence; sometimes he had felt
inclined to box her ears; and suddenly, he knew not why, perhaps it was
the thought of hitting her or the recollection of her tiny, beautiful
ears, he was seized by an uprush of emotion. He yearned for her. He
thought of taking her in his arms, the thin, fragile body, and kissing her
pale mouth: he wanted to pass his fingers down the slightly greenish
cheeks. He wanted her.
He had thought of love as a rapture which seized one so that all the world
seemed spring-like, he had looked forward to an ecstatic happiness; but
this was not happiness; it was a hunger of the soul, it was a painful
yearning, it was a bitter anguish, he had never known before. He tried to
think when it had first come to him. He did not know. He only remembered
that each time he had gone into the shop, after the first two or three
times, it had been with a little feeling in the heart that was pain; and
he remembered that when she spoke to him he felt curiously breathless.
When she left him it was wretchedness, and when she came to him again it
He stretched himself in his bed as a dog stretches himself. He wondered
how he was going to endure that ceaseless aching of his soul.
Philip woke early next morning, and his first thought was of Mildred. It
struck him that he might meet her at Victoria Station and walk with her to
the shop. He shaved quickly, scrambled into his clothes, and took a bus to
the station. He was there by twenty to eight and watched the incoming
trains. Crowds poured out of them, clerks and shop-people at that early
hour, and thronged up the platform: they hurried along, sometimes in
pairs, here and there a group of girls, but more often alone. They were
white, most of them, ugly in the early morning, and they had an abstracted
look; the younger ones walked lightly, as though the cement of the
platform were pleasant to tread, but the others went as though impelled by
a machine: their faces were set in an anxious frown.
At last Philip saw Mildred, and he went up to her eagerly.
"Good-morning," he said. "I thought I'd come and see how you were after
She wore an old brown ulster and a sailor hat. It was very clear that she
was not pleased to see him.
"Oh, I'm all right. I haven't got much time to waste."
"D'you mind if I walk down Victoria Street with you?"
"I'm none too early. I shall have to walk fast," she answered, looking
down at Philip's club-foot.
He turned scarlet.
"I beg your pardon. I won't detain you."
"You can please yourself."
She went on, and he with a sinking heart made his way home to breakfast.
He hated her. He knew he was a fool to bother about her; she was not the
sort of woman who would ever care two straws for him, and she must look
upon his deformity with distaste. He made up his mind that he would not go
in to tea that afternoon, but, hating himself, he went. She nodded to him
as he came in and smiled.
"I expect I was rather short with you this morning," she said. "You see,
I didn't expect you, and it came like a surprise."
"Oh, it doesn't matter at all."
He felt that a great weight had suddenly been lifted from him. He was
infinitely grateful for one word of kindness.
"Why don't you sit down?" he asked. "Nobody's wanting you just now."
"I don't mind if I do."
He looked at her, but could think of nothing to say; he racked his brains
anxiously, seeking for a remark which should keep her by him; he wanted to
tell her how much she meant to him; but he did not know how to make love
now that he loved in earnest.
"Where's your friend with the fair moustache? I haven't seen him lately"
"Oh, he's gone back to Birmingham. He's in business there. He only comes
up to London every now and again."
"Is he in love with you?"
"You'd better ask him," she said, with a laugh. "I don't know what it's
got to do with you if he is."
A bitter answer leaped to his tongue, but he was learning self-restraint.
"I wonder why you say things like that," was all he permitted himself to
She looked at him with those indifferent eyes of hers.
"It looks as if you didn't set much store on me," he added.
"Why should I?"
"No reason at all."
He reached over for his paper.
"You are quick-tempered," she said, when she saw the gesture. "You do take
He smiled and looked at her appealingly.
"Will you do something for me?" he asked.
"That depends what it is."
"Let me walk back to the station with you tonight."
"I don't mind."
He went out after tea and went back to his rooms, but at eight o'clock,
when the shop closed, he was waiting outside.
"You are a caution," she said, when she came out. "I don't understand
"I shouldn't have thought it was very difficult," he answered bitterly.
"Did any of the girls see you waiting for me?"
"I don't know and I don't care."
"They all laugh at you, you know. They say you're spoony on me."
"Much you care," he muttered.
"Now then, quarrelsome."
At the station he took a ticket and said he was going to accompany her
"You don't seem to have much to do with your time," she said.
"I suppose I can waste it in my own way."
They seemed to be always on the verge of a quarrel. The fact was that he
hated himself for loving her. She seemed to be constantly humiliating him,
and for each snub that he endured he owed her a grudge. But she was in a
friendly mood that evening, and talkative: she told him that her parents
were dead; she gave him to understand that she did not have to earn her
living, but worked for amusement.
"My aunt doesn't like my going to business. I can have the best of
everything at home. I don't want you to think I work because I need to."
Philip knew that she was not speaking the truth. The gentility of her
class made her use this pretence to avoid the stigma attached to earning
"My family's very well-connected," she said.
Philip smiled faintly, and she noticed it.
"What are you laughing at?" she said quickly. "Don't you believe I'm
telling you the truth?"
"Of course I do," he answered.
She looked at him suspiciously, but in a moment could not resist the
temptation to impress him with the splendour of her early days.
"My father always kept a dog-cart, and we had three servants. We had a
cook and a housemaid and an odd man. We used to grow beautiful roses.
People used to stop at the gate and ask who the house belonged to, the
roses were so beautiful. Of course it isn't very nice for me having to mix
with them girls in the shop, it's not the class of person I've been used
to, and sometimes I really think I'll give up business on that account.
It's not the work I mind, don't think that; but it's the class of people
I have to mix with."
They were sitting opposite one another in the train, and Philip, listening
sympathetically to what she said, was quite happy. He was amused at her
naivete and slightly touched. There was a very faint colour in her cheeks.
He was thinking that it would be delightful to kiss the tip of her chin.
"The moment you come into the shop I saw you was a gentleman in every
sense of the word. Was your father a professional man?"
"He was a doctor."
"You can always tell a professional man. There's something about them, I
don't know what it is, but I know at once."
They walked along from the station together.
"I say, I want you to come and see another play with me," he said.
"I don't mind," she said.
"You might go so far as to say you'd like to."
"It doesn't matter. Let's fix a day. Would Saturday night suit you?"
"Yes, that'll do."
They made further arrangements, and then found themselves at the corner of
the road in which she lived. She gave him her hand, and he held it.
"I say, I do so awfully want to call you Mildred."
"You may if you like, I don't care."
"And you'll call me Philip, won't you?"
"I will if I can think of it. It seems more natural to call you Mr.
He drew her slightly towards him, but she leaned back.
"What are you doing?"
"Won't you kiss me good-night?" he whispered.
"Impudence!" she said.
She snatched away her hand and hurried towards her house.
Philip bought tickets for Saturday night. It was not one of the days on
which she got off early and therefore she would have no time to go home
and change; but she meant to bring a frock up with her in the morning and
hurry into her clothes at the shop. If the manageress was in a good temper
she would let her go at seven. Philip had agreed to wait outside from a
quarter past seven onwards. He looked forward to the occasion with painful
eagerness, for in the cab on the way from the theatre to the station he
thought she would let him kiss her. The vehicle gave every facility for a
man to put his arm round a girl's waist (an advantage which the hansom had
over the taxi of the present day), and the delight of that was worth the
cost of the evening's entertainment.
But on Saturday afternoon when he went in to have tea, in order to confirm
the arrangements, he met the man with the fair moustache coming out of the
shop. He knew by now that he was called Miller. He was a naturalized
German, who had anglicised his name, and he had lived many years in
England. Philip had heard him speak, and, though his English was fluent
and natural, it had not quite the intonation of the native. Philip knew
that he was flirting with Mildred, and he was horribly jealous of him; but
he took comfort in the coldness of her temperament, which otherwise
distressed him; and, thinking her incapable of passion, he looked upon his
rival as no better off than himself. But his heart sank now, for his first
thought was that Miller's sudden appearance might interfere with the jaunt
which he had so looked forward to. He entered, sick with apprehension. The
waitress came up to him, took his order for tea, and presently brought it.
"I'm awfully, sorry" she said, with an expression on her face of real
distress. "I shan't be able to come tonight after all."
"Why?" said Philip.
"Don't look so stern about it," she laughed. "It's not my fault. My aunt
was taken ill last night, and it's the girl's night out so I must go and
sit with her. She can't be left alone, can she?"
"It doesn't matter. I'll see you home instead."
"But you've got the tickets. It would be a pity to waste them."
He took them out of his pocket and deliberately tore them up.
"What are you doing that for?"
"You don't suppose I want to go and see a rotten musical comedy by myself,
do you? I only took seats there for your sake."
"You can't see me home if that's what you mean?"
"You've made other arrangements."
"I don't know what you mean by that. You're just as selfish as all the
rest of them. You only think of yourself. It's not my fault if my aunt's
She quickly wrote out his bill and left him. Philip knew very little about
women, or he would have been aware that one should accept their most
transparent lies. He made up his mind that he would watch the shop and see
for certain whether Mildred went out with the German. He had an unhappy
passion for certainty. At seven he stationed himself on the opposite
pavement. He looked about for Miller, but did not see him. In ten minutes
she came out, she had on the cloak and shawl which she had worn when he
took her to the Shaftesbury Theatre. It was obvious that she was not going
home. She saw him before he had time to move away, started a little, and
then came straight up to him.
"What are you doing here?" she said.
"Taking the air," he answered.
"You're spying on me, you dirty little cad. I thought you was a
"Did you think a gentleman would be likely to take any interest in you?"
There was a devil within him which forced him to make matters worse. He
wanted to hurt her as much as she was hurting him.
"I suppose I can change my mind if I like. I'm not obliged to come out
with you. I tell you I'm going home, and I won't be followed or spied
"Have you seen Miller today?"
"That's no business of yours. In point of fact I haven't, so you're wrong
"I saw him this afternoon. He'd just come out of the shop when I went in."
"Well, what if he did? I can go out with him if I want to, can't I? I
don't know what you've got to say to it."
"He's keeping you waiting, isn't he?"
"Well, I'd rather wait for him than have you wait for me. Put that in your
pipe and smoke it. And now p'raps you'll go off home and mind your own
business in future."
His mood changed suddenly from anger to despair, and his voice trembled
when he spoke.
"I say, don't be beastly with me, Mildred. You know I'm awfully fond of
you. I think I love you with all my heart. Won't you change your mind? I
was looking forward to this evening so awfully. You see, he hasn't come,
and he can't care twopence about you really. Won't you dine with me? I'll
get some more tickets, and we'll go anywhere you like."
"I tell you I won't. It's no good you talking. I've made up my mind, and
when I make up my mind I keep to it."
He looked at her for a moment. His heart was torn with anguish. People
were hurrying past them on the pavement, and cabs and omnibuses rolled by
noisily. He saw that Mildred's eyes were wandering. She was afraid of
missing Miller in the crowd.
"I can't go on like this," groaned Philip. "it's too degrading. if I go
now I go for good. Unless you'll come with me tonight you'll never see me
"You seem to think that'll be an awful thing for me. All I say is, good
riddance to bad rubbish."
He nodded and limped away slowly, for he hoped with all his heart that she
would call him back. At the next lamp-post he stopped and looked over his
shoulder. He thought she might beckon to him--he was willing to forget
everything, he was ready for any humiliation--but she had turned away, and
apparently had ceased to trouble about him. He realised that she was glad
to be quit of him.
Philip passed the evening wretchedly. He had told his landlady that he
would not be in, so there was nothing for him to eat, and he had to go to
Gatti's for dinner. Afterwards he went back to his rooms, but Griffiths on
the floor above him was having a party, and the noisy merriment made his
own misery more hard to bear. He went to a music-hall, but it was Saturday
night and there was standing-room only: after half an hour of boredom his
legs grew tired and he went home. He tried to read, but he could not fix
his attention; and yet it was necessary that he should work hard. His
examination in biology was in little more than a fortnight, and, though it
was easy, he had neglected his lectures of late and was conscious that he
knew nothing. It was only a viva, however, and he felt sure that in a
fortnight he could find out enough about the subject to scrape through. He
had confidence in his intelligence. He threw aside his book and gave
himself up to thinking deliberately of the matter which was in his mind
all the time.
He reproached himself bitterly for his behaviour that evening. Why had he
given her the alternative that she must dine with him or else never see
him again? Of course she refused. He should have allowed for her pride. He
had burnt his ships behind him. It would not be so hard to bear if he
thought that she was suffering now, but he knew her too well: she was
perfectly indifferent to him. If he hadn't been a fool he would have
pretended to believe her story; he ought to have had the strength to
conceal his disappointment and the self-control to master his temper. He
could not tell why he loved her. He had read of the idealisation that
takes place in love, but he saw her exactly as she was. She was not
amusing or clever, her mind was common; she had a vulgar shrewdness which
revolted him, she had no gentleness nor softness. As she would have put it
herself, she was on the make. What aroused her admiration was a clever
trick played on an unsuspecting person; to `do' somebody always gave her
satisfaction. Philip laughed savagely as he thought of her gentility and
the refinement with which she ate her food; she could not bear a coarse
word, so far as her limited vocabulary reached she had a passion for
euphemisms, and she scented indecency everywhere; she never spoke of
trousers but referred to them as nether garments; she thought it slightly
indelicate to blow her nose and did it in a deprecating way. She was
dreadfully anaemic and suffered from the dyspepsia which accompanies that
ailing. Philip was repelled by her flat breast and narrow hips, and he
hated the vulgar way in which she did her hair. He loathed and despised
himself for loving her.
The fact remained that he was helpless. He felt just as he had felt
sometimes in the hands of a bigger boy at school. He had struggled against
the superior strength till his own strength was gone, and he was rendered
quite powerless--he remembered the peculiar languor he had felt in his
limbs, almost as though he were paralysed--so that he could not help
himself at all. He might have been dead. He felt just that same weakness
now. He loved the woman so that he knew he had never loved before. He did
not mind her faults of person or of character, he thought he loved them
too: at all events they meant nothing to him. It did not seem himself that
was concerned; he felt that he had been seized by some strange force that
moved him against his will, contrary to his interests; and because he had
a passion for freedom he hated the chains which bound him. He laughed at
himself when he thought how often he had longed to experience the
overwhelming passion. He cursed himself because he had given way to it. He
thought of the beginnings; nothing of all this would have happened if he
had not gone into the shop with Dunsford. The whole thing was his own
fault. Except for his ridiculous vanity he would never have troubled
himself with the ill-mannered slut.
At all events the occurrences of that evening had finished the whole
affair. Unless he was lost to all sense of shame he could not go back. He
wanted passionately to get rid of the love that obsessed him; it was
degrading and hateful. He must prevent himself from thinking of her. In a
little while the anguish he suffered must grow less. His mind went back to
the past. He wondered whether Emily Wilkinson and Fanny Price had endured
on his account anything like the torment that he suffered now. He felt a
pang of remorse.
"I didn't know then what it was like," he said to himself.
He slept very badly. The next day was Sunday, and he worked at his
biology. He sat with the book in front of him, forming the words with his
lips in order to fix his attention, but he could remember nothing. He
found his thoughts going back to Mildred every minute, and he repeated to
himself the exact words of the quarrel they had had. He had to force
himself back to his book. He went out for a walk. The streets on the South
side of the river were dingy enough on week-days, but there was an energy,
a coming and going, which gave them a sordid vivacity; but on Sundays,
with no shops open, no carts in the roadway, silent and depressed, they
were indescribably dreary. Philip thought that day would never end. But he
was so tired that he slept heavily, and when Monday came he entered upon
life with determination. Christmas was approaching, and a good many of the
students had gone into the country for the short holiday between the two
parts of the winter session; but Philip had refused his uncle's invitation
to go down to Blackstable. He had given the approaching examination as his
excuse, but in point of fact he had been unwilling to leave London and
Mildred. He had neglected his work so much that now he had only a
fortnight to learn what the curriculum allowed three months for. He set to
work seriously. He found it easier each day not to think of Mildred. He
congratulated himself on his force of character. The pain he suffered was
no longer anguish, but a sort of soreness, like what one might be expected
to feel if one had been thrown off a horse and, though no bones were
broken, were bruised all over and shaken. Philip found that he was able to
observe with curiosity the condition he had been in during the last few
weeks. He analysed his feelings with interest. He was a little amused at
himself. One thing that struck him was how little under those
circumstances it mattered what one thought; the system of personal
philosophy, which had given him great satisfaction to devise, had not
served him. He was puzzled by this.
But sometimes in the street he would see a girl who looked so like Mildred
that his heart seemed to stop beating. Then he could not help himself, he
hurried on to catch her up, eager and anxious, only to find that it was a
total stranger. Men came back from the country, and he went with Dunsford
to have tea at an A. B. C. shop. The well-known uniform made him so
miserable that he could not speak. The thought came to him that perhaps
she had been transferred to another establishment of the firm for which
she worked, and he might suddenly find himself face to face with her. The
idea filled him with panic, so that he feared Dunsford would see that
something was the matter with him: he could not think of anything to say;
he pretended to listen to what Dunsford was talking about; the
conversation maddened him; and it was all he could do to prevent himself
from crying out to Dunsford for Heaven's sake to hold his tongue.
Then came the day of his examination. Philip, when his turn arrived, went
forward to the examiner's table with the utmost confidence. He answered
three or four questions. Then they showed him various specimens; he had
been to very few lectures and, as soon as he was asked about things which
he could not learn from books, he was floored. He did what he could to
hide his ignorance, the examiner did not insist, and soon his ten minutes
were over. He felt certain he had passed; but next day, when he went up to
the examination buildings to see the result posted on the door, he was
astounded not to find his number among those who had satisfied the
examiners. In amazement he read the list three times. Dunsford was with
"I say, I'm awfully sorry you're ploughed," he said.
He had just inquired Philip's number. Philip turned and saw by his radiant
face that Dunsford had passed.
"Oh, it doesn't matter a bit," said Philip. "I'm jolly glad you're all
right. I shall go up again in July."
He was very anxious to pretend he did not mind, and on their way back
along The Embankment insisted on talking of indifferent things. Dunsford
good-naturedly wanted to discuss the causes of Philip's failure, but
Philip was obstinately casual. He was horribly mortified; and the fact
that Dunsford, whom he looked upon as a very pleasant but quite stupid
fellow, had passed made his own rebuff harder to bear. He had always been
proud of his intelligence, and now he asked himself desperately whether he
was not mistaken in the opinion he held of himself. In the three months of
the winter session the students who had joined in October had already
shaken down into groups, and it was clear which were brilliant, which were
clever or industrious, and which were `rotters.' Philip was conscious that
his failure was a surprise to no one but himself. It was tea-time, and he
knew that a lot of men would be having tea in the basement of the Medical
School: those who had passed the examination would be exultant, those who
disliked him would look at him with satisfaction, and the poor devils who
had failed would sympathise with him in order to receive sympathy. His
instinct was not to go near the hospital for a week, when the affair would
be no more thought of, but, because he hated so much to go just then, he
went: he wanted to inflict suffering upon himself. He forgot for the
moment his maxim of life to follow his inclinations with due regard for
the policeman round the corner; or, if he acted in accordance with it,
there must have been some strange morbidity in his nature which made him
take a grim pleasure in self-torture.
But later on, when he had endured the ordeal to which he forced himself,
going out into the night after the noisy conversation in the smoking-room,
he was seized with a feeling of utter loneliness. He seemed to himself
absurd and futile. He had an urgent need of consolation, and the
temptation to see Mildred was irresistible. He thought bitterly that there
was small chance of consolation from her; but he wanted to see her even if
he did not speak to her; after all, she was a waitress and would be
obliged to serve him. She was the only person in the world he cared for.
There was no use in hiding that fact from himself. Of course it would be
humiliating to go back to the shop as though nothing had happened, but he
had not much self-respect left. Though he would not confess it to himself,
he had hoped each day that she would write to him; she knew that a letter
addressed to the hospital would find him; but she had not written: it was
evident that she cared nothing if she saw him again or not. And he kept on
repeating to himself:
"I must see her. I must see her."
The desire was so great that he could not give the time necessary to walk,
but jumped in a cab. He was too thrifty to use one when it could possibly
be avoided. He stood outside the shop for a minute or two. The thought
came to him that perhaps she had left, and in terror he walked in quickly.
He saw her at once. He sat down and she came up to him.
"A cup of tea and a muffin, please," he ordered.
He could hardly speak. He was afraid for a moment that he was going to
"I almost thought you was dead," she said.
She was smiling. Smiling! She seemed to have forgotten completely that
last scene which Philip had repeated to himself a hundred times.
"I thought if you'd wanted to see me you'd write," he answered.
"I've got too much to do to think about writing letters."
It seemed impossible for her to say a gracious thing. Philip cursed the
fate which chained him to such a woman. She went away to fetch his tea.
"Would you like me to sit down for a minute or two?" she said, when she
"Where have you been all this time?"
"I've been in London."
"I thought you'd gone away for the holidays. Why haven't you been in
Philip looked at her with haggard, passionate eyes.
"Don't you remember that I said I'd never see you again?"
"What are you doing now then?"
She seemed anxious to make him drink up the cup of his humiliation; but he
knew her well enough to know that she spoke at random; she hurt him
frightfully, and never even tried to. He did not answer.
"It was a nasty trick you played on me, spying on me like that. I always
thought you was a gentleman in every sense of the word."
"Don't be beastly to me, Mildred. I can't bear it."
"You are a funny feller. I can't make you out."
"It's very simple. I'm such a blasted fool as to love you with all my
heart and soul, and I know that you don't care twopence for me."
"If you had been a gentleman I think you'd have come next day and begged
She had no mercy. He looked at her neck and thought how he would like to
jab it with the knife he had for his muffin. He knew enough anatomy to
make pretty certain of getting the carotid artery. And at the same time he
wanted to cover her pale, thin face with kisses.
"If I could only make you understand how frightfully I'm in love with
"You haven't begged my pardon yet."
He grew very white. She felt that she had done nothing wrong on that
occasion. She wanted him now to humble himself. He was very proud. For one
instant he felt inclined to tell her to go to hell, but he dared not. His
passion made him abject. He was willing to submit to anything rather than
not see her.
"I'm very sorry, Mildred. I beg your pardon."
He had to force the words out. It was a horrible effort.
"Now you've said that I don't mind telling you that I wish I had come out
with you that evening. I thought Miller was a gentleman, but I've
discovered my mistake now. I soon sent him about his business."
Philip gave a little gasp.
"Mildred, won't you come out with me tonight? Let's go and dine
"Oh, I can't. My aunt'll be expecting me home."
"I'll send her a wire. You can say you've been detained in the shop; she
won't know any better. Oh, do come, for God's sake. I haven't seen you for
so long, and I want to talk to you."
She looked down at her clothes.
"Never mind about that. We'll go somewhere where it doesn't matter how
you're dressed. And we'll go to a music-hall afterwards. Please say yes.
It would give me so much pleasure."
She hesitated a moment; he looked at her with pitifully appealing eyes.
"Well, I don't mind if I do. I haven't been out anywhere since I don't
know how long."
It was with the greatest difficulty he could prevent himself from seizing
her hand there and then to cover it with kisses.
They dined in Soho. Philip was tremulous with joy. It was not one of the
more crowded of those cheap restaurants where the respectable and needy
dine in the belief that it is bohemian and the assurance that it is
economical. It was a humble establishment, kept by a good man from Rouen
and his wife, that Philip had discovered by accident. He had been
attracted by the Gallic look of the window, in which was generally an
uncooked steak on one plate and on each side two dishes of raw vegetables.
There was one seedy French waiter, who was attempting to learn English in
a house where he never heard anything but French; and the customers were
a few ladies of easy virtue, a menage or two, who had their own napkins
reserved for them, and a few queer men who came in for hurried, scanty
Here Mildred and Philip were able to get a table to themselves. Philip
sent the waiter for a bottle of Burgundy from the neighbouring tavern, and
they had a potage aux herbes, a steak from the window aux pommes, and
an omelette au kirsch. There was really an air of romance in the meal
and in the place. Mildred, at first a little reserved in her
appreciation--"I never quite trust these foreign places, you never know
what there is in these messed up dishes"--was insensibly moved by it.
"I like this place, Philip," she said. "You feel you can put your elbows
on the table, don't you?"
A tall fellow came in, with a mane of gray hair and a ragged thin beard.
He wore a dilapidated cloak and a wide-awake hat. He nodded to Philip, who
had met him there before.
"He looks like an anarchist," said Mildred.
"He is, one of the most dangerous in Europe. He's been in every prison on
the Continent and has assassinated more persons than any gentleman unhung.
He always goes about with a bomb in his pocket, and of course it makes
conversation a little difficult because if you don't agree with him he
lays it on the table in a marked manner."
She looked at the man with horror and surprise, and then glanced
suspiciously at Philip. She saw that his eyes were laughing. She frowned
"You're getting at me."
He gave a little shout of joy. He was so happy. But Mildred didn't like
being laughed at.
"I don't see anything funny in telling lies."
"Don't be cross."
He took her hand, which was lying on the table, and pressed it gently.
"You are lovely, and I could kiss the ground you walk on," he said.
The greenish pallor of her skin intoxicated him, and her thin white lips
had an extraordinary fascination. Her anaemia made her rather short of
breath, and she held her mouth slightly open. it seemed to add somehow to
the attractiveness of her face.
"You do like me a bit, don't you?" he asked.
"Well, if I didn't I suppose I shouldn't be here, should I? You're a
gentleman in every sense of the word, I will say that for you."
They had finished their dinner and were drinking coffee. Philip, throwing
economy to the winds, smoked a three-penny cigar.
"You can't imagine what a pleasure it is to me just to sit opposite and
look at you. I've yearned for you. I was sick for a sight of you."
Mildred smiled a little and faintly flushed. She was not then suffering
from the dyspepsia which generally attacked her immediately after a meal.
She felt more kindly disposed to Philip than ever before, and the
unaccustomed tenderness in her eyes filled him with joy. He knew
instinctively that it was madness to give himself into her hands; his only
chance was to treat her casually and never allow her to see the untamed
passions that seethed in his breast; she would only take advantage of his
weakness; but he could not be prudent now: he told her all the agony he
had endured during the separation from her; he told her of his struggles
with himself, how he had tried to get over his passion, thought he had
succeeded, and how he found out that it was as strong as ever. He knew
that he had never really wanted to get over it. He loved her so much that
he did not mind suffering. He bared his heart to her. He showed her
proudly all his weakness.
Nothing would have pleased him more than to sit on in the cosy, shabby
restaurant, but he knew that Mildred wanted entertainment. She was
restless and, wherever she was, wanted after a while to go somewhere else.
He dared not bore her.
"I say, how about going to a music-hall?" he said.
He thought rapidly that if she cared for him at all she would say she
preferred to stay there.
"I was just thinking we ought to be going if we are going," she answered.
"Come on then."
Philip waited impatiently for the end of the performance. He had made up
his mind exactly what to do, and when they got into the cab he passed his
arm, as though almost by accident, round her waist. But he drew it back
quickly with a little cry. He had pricked himself. She laughed.
"There, that comes of putting your arm where it's got no business to be,"
she said. "I always know when men try and put their arm round my waist.
That pin always catches them."
"I'll be more careful."
He put his arm round again. She made no objection.
"I'm so comfortable," he sighed blissfully.
"So long as you're happy," she retorted.
They drove down St. James' Street into the Park, and Philip quickly kissed
her. He was strangely afraid of her, and it required all his courage. She
turned her lips to him without speaking. She neither seemed to mind nor to
"If you only knew how long I've wanted to do that," he murmured.
He tried to kiss her again, but she turned her head away.
"Once is enough," she said.
On the chance of kissing her a second time he travelled down to Herne Hill
with her, and at the end of the road in which she lived he asked her:
"Won't you give me another kiss?"
She looked at him indifferently and then glanced up the road to see that
no one was in sight.
"I don't mind."
He seized her in his arms and kissed her passionately, but she pushed him
"Mind my hat, silly. You are clumsy," she said.
He saw her then every day. He began going to lunch at the shop, but
Mildred stopped him: she said it made the girls talk; so he had to content
himself with tea; but he always waited about to walk with her to the
station; and once or twice a week they dined together. He gave her little
presents, a gold bangle, gloves, handkerchiefs, and the like. He was
spending more than he could afford, but he could not help it: it was only
when he gave her anything that she showed any affection. She knew the
price of everything, and her gratitude was in exact proportion with the
value of his gift. He did not care. He was too happy when she volunteered
to kiss him to mind by what means he got her demonstrativeness. He
discovered that she found Sundays at home tedious, so he went down to
Herne Hill in the morning, met her at the end of the road, and went to
church with her.
"I always like to go to church once," she said. "it looks well, doesn't
Then she went back to dinner, he got a scrappy meal at a hotel, and in the
afternoon they took a walk in Brockwell Park. They had nothing much to say
to one another, and Philip, desperately afraid she was bored (she was very
easily bored), racked his brain for topics of conversation. He realised
that these walks amused neither of them, but he could not bear to leave
her, and did all he could to lengthen them till she became tired and out
of temper. He knew that she did not care for him, and he tried to force a
love which his reason told him was not in her nature: she was cold. He had
no claim on her, but he could not help being exacting. Now that they were
more intimate he found it less easy to control his temper; he was often
irritable and could not help saying bitter things. Often they quarrelled,
and she would not speak to him for a while; but this always reduced him to
subjection, and he crawled before her. He was angry with himself for
showing so little dignity. He grew furiously jealous if he saw her
speaking to any other man in the shop, and when he was jealous he seemed
to be beside himself. He would deliberately insult her, leave the shop and
spend afterwards a sleepless night tossing on his bed, by turns angry and
remorseful. Next day he would go to the shop and appeal for forgiveness.
"Don't be angry with me," he said. "I'm so awfully fond of you that I
can't help myself."
"One of these days you'll go too far," she answered.
He was anxious to come to her home in order that the greater intimacy
should give him an advantage over the stray acquaintances she made during
her working-hours; but she would not let him.
"My aunt would think it so funny," she said.
He suspected that her refusal was due only to a disinclination to let him
see her aunt. Mildred had represented her as the widow of a professional
man (that was her formula of distinction), and was uneasily conscious that
the good woman could hardly be called distinguished. Philip imagined that
she was in point of fact the widow of a small tradesman. He knew that
Mildred was a snob. But he found no means by which he could indicate to
her that he did not mind how common the aunt was.
Their worst quarrel took place one evening at dinner when she told him
that a man had asked her to go to a play with him. Philip turned pale, and
his face grew hard and stern.
"You're not going?" he said.
"Why shouldn't I? He's a very nice gentlemanly fellow."
"I'll take you anywhere you like."
"But that isn't the same thing. I can't always go about with you. Besides
he's asked me to fix my own day, and I'll just go one evening when I'm not
going out with you. It won't make any difference to you."
"If you had any sense of decency, if you had any gratitude, you wouldn't
dream of going."
"I don't know what you mean by gratitude. if you're referring to the
things you've given me you can have them back. I don't want them."
Her voice had the shrewish tone it sometimes got.
"It's not very lively, always going about with you. It's always do you
love me, do you love me, till I just get about sick of it."
(He knew it was madness to go on asking her that, but he could not help
"Oh, I like you all right," she would answer.
"Is that all? I love you with all my heart."
"I'm not that sort, I'm not one to say much."
"If you knew how happy just one word would make me!"
"Well, what I always say is, people must take me as they find me, and if
they don't like it they can lump it."
But sometimes she expressed herself more plainly still, and, when he asked
the question, answered:
"Oh, don't go on at that again."
Then he became sulky and silent. He hated her.)
And now he said:
"Oh, well, if you feel like that about it I wonder you condescend to come
out with me at all."
"It's not my seeking, you can be very sure of that, you just force me to."
His pride was bitterly hurt, and he answered madly.
"You think I'm just good enough to stand you dinners and theatres when
there's no one else to do it, and when someone else turns up I can go to
hell. Thank you, I'm about sick of being made a convenience."
"I'm not going to be talked to like that by anyone. I'll just show you how
much I want your dirty dinner."
She got up, put on her jacket, and walked quickly out of the restaurant.
Philip sat on. He determined he would not move, but ten minutes afterwards
he jumped in a cab and followed her. He guessed that she would take a 'bus
to Victoria, so that they would arrive about the same time. He saw her on
the platform, escaped her notice, and went down to Herne Hill in the same
train. He did not want to speak to her till she was on the way home and
could not escape him.
As soon as she had turned out of the main street, brightly lit and noisy
with traffic, he caught her up.
"Mildred," he called.
She walked on and would neither look at him nor answer. He repeated her
name. Then she stopped and faced him.
"What d'you want? I saw you hanging about Victoria. Why don't you leave me
"I'm awfully sorry. Won't you make it up?"
"No, I'm sick of your temper and your jealousy. I don't care for you, I
never have cared for you, and I never shall care for you. I don't want to
have anything more to do with you."
She walked on quickly, and he had to hurry to keep up with her.
"You never make allowances for me," he said. "It's all very well to be
jolly and amiable when you're indifferent to anyone. It's very hard when
you're as much in love as I am. Have mercy on me. I don't mind that you
don't care for me. After all you can't help it. I only want you to let me
She walked on, refusing to speak, and Philip saw with agony that they had
only a few hundred yards to go before they reached her house. He abased
himself. He poured out an incoherent story of love and penitence.
"If you'll only forgive me this time I promise you you'll never have to
complain of me in future. You can go out with whoever you choose. I'll be
only too glad if you'll come with me when you've got nothing better to
She stopped again, for they had reached the corner at which he always left
"Now you can take yourself off. I won't have you coming up to the door."
"I won't go till you say you'll forgive me."
"I'm sick and tired of the whole thing."
He hesitated a moment, for he had an instinct that he could say something
that would move her. It made him feel almost sick to utter the words.
"It is cruel, I have so much to put up with. You don't know what it is to
be a cripple. Of course you don't like me. I can't expect you to."
"Philip, I didn't mean that," she answered quickly, with a sudden break of
pity in her voice. "You know it's not true."
He was beginning to act now, and his voice was husky and low.
"Oh, I've felt it," he said.
She took his hand and looked at him, and her own eyes were filled with
"I promise you it never made any difference to me. I never thought about
it after the first day or two."
He kept a gloomy, tragic silence. He wanted her to think he was overcome
"You know I like you awfully, Philip. Only you are so trying sometimes.
Let's make it up."
She put up her lips to his, and with a sigh of relief he kissed her.
"Now are you happy again?" she asked.
She bade him good-night and hurried down the road. Next day he took her in
a little watch with a brooch to pin on her dress. She had been hankering
But three or four days later, when she brought him his tea, Mildred said
"You remember what you promised the other night? You mean to keep that,
He knew exactly what she meant and was prepared for her next words.
"Because I'm going out with that gentleman I told you about tonight."
"All right. I hope you'll enjoy yourself."
"You don't mind, do you?"
He had himself now under excellent control.
"I don't like it," he smiled, "but I'm not going to make myself more
disagreeable than I can help."
She was excited over the outing and talked about it willingly. Philip
wondered whether she did so in order to pain him or merely because she was
callous. He was in the habit of condoning her cruelty by the thought of
her stupidity. She had not the brains to see when she was wounding him.
"It's not much fun to be in love with a girl who has no imagination and no
sense of humour," he thought, as he listened.
But the want of these things excused her. He felt that if he had not
realised this he could never forgive her for the pain she caused him.
"He's got seats for the Tivoli," she said. "He gave me my choice and I
chose that. And we're going to dine at the Cafe Royal. He says it's the
most expensive place in London."
"He's a gentleman in every sense of the word," thought Philip, but he
clenched his teeth to prevent himself from uttering a syllable.
Philip went to the Tivoli and saw Mildred with her companion, a
smooth-faced young man with sleek hair and the spruce look of a commercial
traveller, sitting in the second row of the stalls. Mildred wore a black
picture hat with ostrich feathers in it, which became her well. She was
listening to her host with that quiet smile which Philip knew; she had no
vivacity of expression, and it required broad farce to excite her
laughter; but Philip could see that she was interested and amused. He
thought to himself bitterly that her companion, flashy and jovial, exactly
suited her. Her sluggish temperament made her appreciate noisy people.
Philip had a passion for discussion, but no talent for small-talk. He
admired the easy drollery of which some of his friends were masters,
Lawson for instance, and his sense of inferiority made him shy and
awkward. The things which interested him bored Mildred. She expected men
to talk about football and racing, and he knew nothing of either. He did
not know the catchwords which only need be said to excite a laugh.
Printed matter had always been a fetish to Philip, and now, in order to
make himself more interesting, he read industriously The Sporting Times.
Philip did not surrender himself willingly to the passion that consumed
him. He knew that all things human are transitory and therefore that it
must cease one day or another. He looked forward to that day with eager
longing. Love was like a parasite in his heart, nourishing a hateful
existence on his life's blood; it absorbed his existence so intensely that
he could take pleasure in nothing else. He had been used to delight in the
grace of St. James' Park, and often he sat and looked at the branches of
a tree silhouetted against the sky, it was like a Japanese print; and he
found a continual magic in the beautiful Thames with its barges and its
wharfs; the changing sky of London had filled his soul with pleasant
fancies. But now beauty meant nothing to him. He was bored and restless
when he was not with Mildred. Sometimes he thought he would console his
sorrow by looking at pictures, but he walked through the National Gallery
like a sight-seer; and no picture called up in him a thrill of emotion. He
wondered if he could ever care again for all the things he had loved. He
had been devoted to reading, but now books were meaningless; and he spent
his spare hours in the smoking-room of the hospital club, turning over
innumerable periodicals. This love was a torment, and he resented bitterly
the subjugation in which it held him; he was a prisoner and he longed for
Sometimes he awoke in the morning and felt nothing; his soul leaped, for
he thought he was free; he loved no longer; but in a little while, as he
grew wide awake, the pain settled in his heart, and he knew that he was
not cured yet. Though he yearned for Mildred so madly he despised her. He
thought to himself that there could be no greater torture in the world
than at the same time to love and to contemn.
Philip, burrowing as was his habit into the state of his feelings,
discussing with himself continually his condition, came to the conclusion
that he could only cure himself of his degrading passion by making Mildred
his mistress. It was sexual hunger that he suffered from, and if he could
satisfy this he might free himself from the intolerable chains that bound
him. He knew that Mildred did not care for him at all in that way. When he
kissed her passionately she withdrew herself from him with instinctive
distaste. She had no sensuality. Sometimes he had tried to make her
jealous by talking of adventures in Paris, but they did not interest her;
once or twice he had sat at other tables in the tea-shop and affected to
flirt with the waitress who attended them, but she was entirely
indifferent. He could see that it was no pretence on her part.
"You didn't mind my not sitting at one of your tables this afternoon?" he
asked once, when he was walking to the station with her. "Yours seemed to
be all full."
This was not a fact, but she did not contradict him. Even if his desertion
meant nothing to her he would have been grateful if she had pretended it
did. A reproach would have been balm to his soul.
"I think it's silly of you to sit at the same table every day. You ought
to give the other girls a turn now and again."
But the more he thought of it the more he was convinced that complete
surrender on her part was his only way to freedom. He was like a knight of
old, metamorphosed by magic spells, who sought the potions which should
restore him to his fair and proper form. Philip had only one hope. Mildred
greatly desired to go to Paris. To her, as to most English people, it was
the centre of gaiety and fashion: she had heard of the Magasin du Louvre,
where you could get the very latest thing for about half the price you had
to pay in London; a friend of hers had passed her honeymoon in Paris and
had spent all day at the Louvre; and she and her husband, my dear, they
never went to bed till six in the morning all the time they were there;
the Moulin Rouge and I don't know what all. Philip did not care that if
she yielded to his desires it would only be the unwilling price she paid
for the gratification of her wish. He did not care upon what terms he
satisfied his passion. He had even had a mad, melodramatic idea to drug
her. He had plied her with liquor in the hope of exciting her, but she had
no taste for wine; and though she liked him to order champagne because it
looked well, she never drank more than half a glass. She liked to leave
untouched a large glass filled to the brim.
"It shows the waiters who you are," she said.
Philip chose an opportunity when she seemed more than usually friendly. He
had an examination in anatomy at the end of March. Easter, which came a
week later, would give Mildred three whole days holiday.
"I say, why don't you come over to Paris then?" he suggested. "We'd have
such a ripping time."
"How could you? It would cost no end of money."
Philip had thought of that. It would cost at least five-and-twenty pounds.
It was a large sum to him. He was willing to spend his last penny on her.
"What does that matter? Say you'll come, darling."
"What next, I should like to know. I can't see myself going away with a
man that I wasn't married to. You oughtn't to suggest such a thing."
"What does it matter?"
He enlarged on the glories of the Rue de la Paix and the garish splendour
of the Folies Bergeres. He described the Louvre and the Bon Marche. He
told her about the Cabaret du Neant, the Abbaye, and the various haunts to
which foreigners go. He painted in glowing colours the side of Paris which
he despised. He pressed her to come with him.
"You know, you say you love me, but if you really loved me you'd want to
marry me. You've never asked me to marry you."
"You know I can't afford it. After all, I'm in my first year, I shan't
earn a penny for six years."
"Oh, I'm not blaming you. I wouldn't marry you if you went down on your
bended knees to me."
He had thought of marriage more than once, but it was a step from which he
shrank. In Paris he had come by the opinion that marriage was a ridiculous
institution of the philistines. He knew also that a permanent tie would
ruin him. He had middle-class instincts, and it seemed a dreadful thing to
him to marry a waitress. A common wife would prevent him from getting a
decent practice. Besides, he had only just enough money to last him till
he was qualified; he could not keep a wife even if they arranged not to
have children. He thought of Cronshaw bound to a vulgar slattern, and he
shuddered with dismay . He foresaw what Mildred, with her genteel ideas
and her mean mind, would become: it was impossible for him to marry her.
But he decided only with his reason; he felt that he must have her
whatever happened; and if he could not get her without marrying her he
would do that; the future could look after itself. It might end in
disaster; he did not care. When he got hold of an idea it obsessed him, he
could think of nothing else, and he had a more than common power to
persuade himself of the reasonableness of what he wished to do. He found
himself overthrowing all the sensible arguments which had occurred to him
against marriage. Each day he found that he was more passionately devoted
to her; and his unsatisfied love became angry and resentful.
"By George, if I marry her I'll make her pay for all the suffering I've
endured," he said to himself.
At last he could bear the agony no longer. After dinner one evening in the
little restaurant in Soho, to which now they often went, he spoke to her.
"I say, did you mean it the other day that you wouldn't marry me if I
"Yes, why not?"
"Because I can't live without you. I want you with me always. I've tried
to get over it and I can't. I never shall now. I want you to marry me."
She had read too many novelettes not to know how to take such an offer.
"I'm sure I'm very grateful to you, Philip. I'm very much flattered at
"Oh, don't talk rot. You will marry me, won't you?"