Part 8 out of 15
"D'you think we should be happy?"
"No. But what does that matter?"
The words were wrung out of him almost against his will. They surprised
"Well, you are a funny chap. Why d'you want to marry me then? The other
day you said you couldn't afford it."
"I think I've got about fourteen hundred pounds left. Two can live just as
cheaply as one. That'll keep us till I'm qualified and have got through
with my hospital appointments, and then I can get an assistantship."
"It means you wouldn't be able to earn anything for six years. We should
have about four pounds a week to live on till then, shouldn't we?"
"Not much more than three. There are all my fees to pay."
"And what would you get as an assistant?"
"Three pounds a week."
"D'you mean to say you have to work all that time and spend a small
fortune just to earn three pounds a week at the end of it? I don't see
that I should be any better off than I am now."
He was silent for a moment.
"D'you mean to say you won't marry me?" he asked hoarsely. "Does my great
love mean nothing to you at all?"
"One has to think of oneself in those things, don't one? I shouldn't mind
marrying, but I don't want to marry if I'm going to be no better off than
what I am now. I don't see the use of it."
"If you cared for me you wouldn't think of all that."
He was silent. He drank a glass of wine in order to get rid of the choking
in his throat.
"Look at that girl who's just going out," said Mildred. "She got them furs
at the Bon Marche at Brixton. I saw them in the window last time I went
Philip smiled grimly.
"What are you laughing at?" she asked. "It's true. And I said to my aunt
at the time, I wouldn't buy anything that had been in the window like
that, for everyone to know how much you paid for it."
"I can't understand you. You make me frightfully unhappy, and in the next
breath you talk rot that has nothing to do with what we're speaking
"You are nasty to me," she answered, aggrieved. "I can't help noticing
those furs, because I said to my aunt..."
"I don't care a damn what you said to your aunt," he interrupted
"I wish you wouldn't use bad language when you speak to me Philip. You
know I don't like it."
Philip smiled a little, but his eyes were wild. He was silent for a while.
He looked at her sullenly. He hated, despised, and loved her.
"If I had an ounce of sense I'd never see you again," he said at last. "If
you only knew how heartily I despise myself for loving you!"
"That's not a very nice thing to say to me," she replied sulkily.
"It isn't," he laughed. "Let's go to the Pavilion."
"That's what's so funny in you, you start laughing just when one doesn't
expect you to. And if I make you that unhappy why d'you want to take me to
the Pavilion? I'm quite ready to go home."
"Merely because I'm less unhappy with you than away from you."
"I should like to know what you really think of me."
He laughed outright.
"My dear, if you did you'd never speak to me again."
Philip did not pass the examination in anatomy at the end of March. He and
Dunsford had worked at the subject together on Philip's skeleton, asking
each other questions till both knew by heart every attachment and the
meaning of every nodule and groove on the human bones; but in the
examination room Philip was seized with panic, and failed to give right
answers to questions from a sudden fear that they might be wrong. He knew
he was ploughed and did not even trouble to go up to the building next day
to see whether his number was up. The second failure put him definitely
among the incompetent and idle men of his year.
He did not care much. He had other things to think of. He told himself
that Mildred must have senses like anybody else, it was only a question of
awakening them; he had theories about woman, the rip at heart, and thought
that there must come a time with everyone when she would yield to
persistence. It was a question of watching for the opportunity, keeping
his temper, wearing her down with small attentions, taking advantage of
the physical exhaustion which opened the heart to tenderness, making
himself a refuge from the petty vexations of her work. He talked to her of
the relations between his friends in Paris and the fair ladies they
admired. The life he described had a charm, an easy gaiety, in which was
no grossness. Weaving into his own recollections the adventures of Mimi
and Rodolphe, of Musette and the rest of them, he poured into Mildred's
ears a story of poverty made picturesque by song and laughter, of lawless
love made romantic by beauty and youth. He never attacked her prejudices
directly, but sought to combat them by the suggestion that they were
suburban. He never let himself be disturbed by her inattention, nor
irritated by her indifference. He thought he had bored her. By an effort
he made himself affable and entertaining; he never let himself be angry,
he never asked for anything, he never complained, he never scolded. When
she made engagements and broke them, he met her next day with a smiling
face; when she excused herself, he said it did not matter. He never let
her see that she pained him. He understood that his passionate grief had
wearied her, and he took care to hide every sentiment which could be in
the least degree troublesome. He was heroic.
Though she never mentioned the change, for she did not take any conscious
notice of it, it affected her nevertheless: she became more confidential
with him; she took her little grievances to him, and she always had some
grievance against the manageress of the shop, one of her fellow
waitresses, or her aunt; she was talkative enough now, and though she
never said anything that was not trivial Philip was never tired of
listening to her.
"I like you when you don't want to make love to me," she told him once.
"That's flattering for me," he laughed.
She did not realise how her words made his heart sink nor what an effort
it needed for him to answer so lightly.
"Oh, I don't mind your kissing me now and then. It doesn't hurt me and it
gives you pleasure."
Occasionally she went so far as to ask him to take her out to dinner, and
the offer, coming from her, filled him with rapture.
"I wouldn't do it to anyone else," she said, by way of apology. "But I
know I can with you."
"You couldn't give me greater pleasure," he smiled.
She asked him to give her something to eat one evening towards the end of
"All right," he said. "Where would you like to go afterwards?"
"Oh, don't let's go anywhere. Let's just sit and talk. You don't mind, do
He thought she must be beginning to care for him. Three months before the
thought of an evening spent in conversation would have bored her to death.
It was a fine day, and the spring added to Philip's high spirits. He was
content with very little now.
"I say, won't it be ripping when the summer comes along," he said, as they
drove along on the top of a 'bus to Soho--she had herself suggested that
they should not be so extravagant as to go by cab. "We shall be able to
spend every Sunday on the river. We'll take our luncheon in a basket."
She smiled slightly, and he was encouraged to take her hand. She did not
"I really think you're beginning to like me a bit," he smiled.
"You ARE silly, you know I like you, or else I shouldn't be here,
They were old customers at the little restaurant in Soho by now, and the
patronne gave them a smile as they came in. The waiter was obsequious.
"Let me order the dinner tonight," said Mildred.
Philip, thinking her more enchanting than ever, gave her the menu, and she
chose her favourite dishes. The range was small, and they had eaten many
times all that the restaurant could provide. Philip was gay. He looked
into her eyes, and he dwelt on every perfection of her pale cheek. When
they had finished Mildred by way of exception took a cigarette. She smoked
"I don't like to see a lady smoking," she said.
She hesitated a moment and then spoke.
"Were you surprised, my asking you to take me out and give me a bit of
"I was delighted."
"I've got something to say to you, Philip."
He looked at her quickly, his heart sank, but he had trained himself well.
"Well, fire away," he said, smiling.
"You're not going to be silly about it, are you? The fact is I'm going to
"Are you?" said Philip.
He could think of nothing else to say. He had considered the possibility
often and had imagined to himself what he would do and say. He had
suffered agonies when he thought of the despair he would suffer, he had
thought of suicide, of the mad passion of anger that would seize him; but
perhaps he had too completely anticipated the emotion he would experience,
so that now he felt merely exhausted. He felt as one does in a serious
illness when the vitality is so low that one is indifferent to the issue
and wants only to be left alone.
"You see, I'm getting on," she said. "I'm twenty-four and it's time I
He was silent. He looked at the patronne sitting behind the counter, and
his eye dwelt on a red feather one of the diners wore in her hat. Mildred
"You might congratulate me," she said.
"I might, mightn't I? I can hardly believe it's true. I've dreamt it so
often. It rather tickles me that I should have been so jolly glad that you
asked me to take you out to dinner. Whom are you going to marry?"
"Miller," she answered, with a slight blush.
"Miller?" cried Philip, astounded. "But you've not seen him for months."
"He came in to lunch one day last week and asked me then. He's earning
very good money. He makes seven pounds a week now and he's got prospects."
Philip was silent again. He remembered that she had always liked Miller;
he amused her; there was in his foreign birth an exotic charm which she
"I suppose it was inevitable," he said at last. "You were bound to accept
the highest bidder. When are you going to marry?"
"On Saturday next. I have given notice."
Philip felt a sudden pang.
"As soon as that?"
"We're going to be married at a registry office. Emil prefers it."
Philip felt dreadfully tired. He wanted to get away from her. He thought
he would go straight to bed. He called for the bill.
"I'll put you in a cab and send you down to Victoria. I daresay you won't
have to wait long for a train."
"Won't you come with me?"
"I think I'd rather not if you don't mind."
"It's just as you please," she answered haughtily. "I suppose I shall see
you at tea-time tomorrow?"
"No, I think we'd better make a full stop now. I don't see why I should go
on making myself unhappy. I've paid the cab."
He nodded to her and forced a smile on his lips, then jumped on a 'bus and
made his way home. He smoked a pipe before he went to bed, but he could
hardly keep his eyes open. He suffered no pain. He fell into a heavy sleep
almost as soon as his head touched the pillow.
But about three in the morning Philip awoke and could not sleep again. He
began to think of Mildred. He tried not to, but could not help himself. He
repeated to himself the same thing time after time till his brain reeled.
It was inevitable that she should marry: life was hard for a girl who had
to earn her own living; and if she found someone who could give her a
comfortable home she should not be blamed if she accepted. Philip
acknowledged that from her point of view it would have been madness to
marry him: only love could have made such poverty bearable, and she did
not love him. It was no fault of hers; it was a fact that must be accepted
like any other. Philip tried to reason with himself. He told himself that
deep down in his heart was mortified pride; his passion had begun in
wounded vanity, and it was this at bottom which caused now a great part of
his wretchedness. He despised himself as much as he despised her. Then he
made plans for the future, the same plans over and over again, interrupted
by recollections of kisses on her soft pale cheek and by the sound of her
voice with its trailing accent; he had a great deal of work to do, since
in the summer he was taking chemistry as well as the two examinations he
had failed in. He had separated himself from his friends at the hospital,
but now he wanted companionship. There was one happy occurrence: Hayward
a fortnight before had written to say that he was passing through London
and had asked him to dinner; but Philip, unwilling to be bothered, had
refused. He was coming back for the season, and Philip made up his mind to
write to him.
He was thankful when eight o'clock struck and he could get up. He was pale
and weary. But when he had bathed, dressed, and had breakfast, he felt
himself joined up again with the world at large; and his pain was a little
easier to bear. He did not feel like going to lectures that morning, but
went instead to the Army and Navy Stores to buy Mildred a wedding-present.
After much wavering he settled on a dressing-bag. It cost twenty pounds,
which was much more than he could afford, but it was showy and vulgar: he
knew she would be aware exactly how much it cost; he got a melancholy
satisfaction in choosing a gift which would give her pleasure and at the
same time indicate for himself the contempt he had for her.
Philip had looked forward with apprehension to the day on which Mildred
was to be married; he was expecting an intolerable anguish; and it was
with relief that he got a letter from Hayward on Saturday morning to say
that he was coming up early on that very day and would fetch Philip to
help him to find rooms. Philip, anxious to be distracted, looked up a
time-table and discovered the only train Hayward was likely to come by; he
went to meet him, and the reunion of the friends was enthusiastic. They
left the luggage at the station, and set off gaily. Hayward
characteristically proposed that first of all they should go for an hour
to the National Gallery; he had not seen pictures for some time, and he
stated that it needed a glimpse to set him in tune with life. Philip for
months had had no one with whom he could talk of art and books. Since the
Paris days Hayward had immersed himself in the modern French versifiers,
and, such a plethora of poets is there in France, he had several new
geniuses to tell Philip about. They walked through the gallery pointing
out to one another their favourite pictures; one subject led to another;
they talked excitedly. The sun was shining and the air was warm.
"Let's go and sit in the Park," said Hayward. "We'll look for rooms after
The spring was pleasant there. It was a day upon which one felt it good
merely to live. The young green of the trees was exquisite against the
sky; and the sky, pale and blue, was dappled with little white clouds. At
the end of the ornamental water was the gray mass of the Horse Guards. The
ordered elegance of the scene had the charm of an eighteenth-century
picture. It reminded you not of Watteau, whose landscapes are so idyllic
that they recall only the woodland glens seen in dreams, but of the more
prosaic Jean-Baptiste Pater. Philip's heart was filled with lightness. He
realised, what he had only read before, that art (for there was art in the
manner in which he looked upon nature) might liberate the soul from pain.
They went to an Italian restaurant for luncheon and ordered themselves a
fiaschetto of Chianti. Lingering over the meal they talked on. They
reminded one another of the people they had known at Heidelberg, they
spoke of Philip's friends in Paris, they talked of books, pictures,
morals, life; and suddenly Philip heard a clock strike three. He
remembered that by this time Mildred was married. He felt a sort of stitch
in his heart, and for a minute or two he could not hear what Hayward was
saying. But he filled his glass with Chianti. He was unaccustomed to
alcohol and it had gone to his head. For the time at all events he was
free from care. His quick brain had lain idle for so many months that he
was intoxicated now with conversation. He was thankful to have someone to
talk to who would interest himself in the things that interested him.
"I say don't let's waste this beautiful day in looking for rooms. I'll put
you up tonight. You can look for rooms tomorrow or Monday."
"All right. What shall we do?" answered Hayward.
"Let's get on a penny steamboat and go down to Greenwich."
The idea appealed to Hayward, and they jumped into a cab which took them
to Westminster Bridge. They got on the steamboat just as she was starting.
Presently Philip, a smile on his lips, spoke.
"I remember when first I went to Paris, Clutton, I think it was, gave a
long discourse on the subject that beauty is put into things by painters
and poets. They create beauty. In themselves there is nothing to choose
between the Campanile of Giotto and a factory chimney. And then beautiful
things grow rich with the emotion that they have aroused in succeeding
generations. That is why old things are more beautiful than modern. The
Ode on a Grecian Urn is more lovely now than when it was written,
because for a hundred years lovers have read it and the sick at heart
taken comfort in its lines."
Philip left Hayward to infer what in the passing scene had suggested these
words to him, and it was a delight to know that he could safely leave the
inference. It was in sudden reaction from the life he had been leading for
so long that he was now deeply affected. The delicate iridescence of the
London air gave the softness of a pastel to the gray stone of the
buildings; and in the wharfs and storehouses there was the severity of
grace of a Japanese print. They went further down; and the splendid
channel, a symbol of the great empire, broadened, and it was crowded with
traffic; Philip thought of the painters and the poets who had made all
these things so beautiful, and his heart was filled with gratitude. They
came to the Pool of London, and who can describe its majesty? The
imagination thrills, and Heaven knows what figures people still its broad
stream, Doctor Johnson with Boswell by his side, an old Pepys going on
board a man-o'-war: the pageant of English history, and romance, and high
adventure. Philip turned to Hayward with shining eyes.
"Dear Charles Dickens," he murmured, smiling a little at his own emotion.
"Aren't you rather sorry you chucked painting?" asked Hayward.
"I suppose you like doctoring?"
"No, I hate it, but there was nothing else to do. The drudgery of the
first two years is awful, and unfortunately I haven't got the scientific
"Well, you can't go on changing professions."
"Oh, no. I'm going to stick to this. I think I shall like it better when
I get into the wards. I have an idea that I'm more interested in people
than in anything else in the world. And as far as I can see, it's the only
profession in which you have your freedom. You carry your knowledge in
your head; with a box of instruments and a few drugs you can make your
"Aren't you going to take a practice then?"
"Not for a good long time at any rate," Philip answered. "As soon as I've
got through my hospital appointments I shall get a ship; I want to go to
the East--the Malay Archipelago, Siam, China, and all that sort of
thing--and then I shall take odd jobs. Something always comes along,
cholera duty in India and things like that. I want to go from place to
place. I want to see the world. The only way a poor man can do that is by
going in for the medical."
They came to Greenwich then. The noble building of Inigo Jones faced the
"I say, look, that must be the place where Poor Jack dived into the mud
for pennies," said Philip.
They wandered in the park. Ragged children were playing in it, and it was
noisy with their cries: here and there old seamen were basking in the sun.
There was an air of a hundred years ago.
"It seems a pity you wasted two years in Paris," said Hayward.
"Waste? Look at the movement of that child, look at the pattern which the
sun makes on the ground, shining through the trees, look at that sky--why,
I should never have seen that sky if I hadn't been to Paris."
Hayward thought that Philip choked a sob, and he looked at him with
"What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing. I'm sorry to be so damned emotional, but for six months I've
been starved for beauty."
"You used to be so matter of fact. It's very interesting to hear you say
"Damn it all, I don't want to be interesting," laughed Philip. "Let's go
and have a stodgy tea."
Hayward's visit did Philip a great deal of good. Each day his thoughts
dwelt less on Mildred. He looked back upon the past with disgust. He could
not understand how he had submitted to the dishonour of such a love; and
when he thought of Mildred it was with angry hatred, because she had
submitted him to so much humiliation. His imagination presented her to him
now with her defects of person and manner exaggerated, so that he
shuddered at the thought of having been connected with her.
"It just shows how damned weak I am," he said to himself. The adventure
was like a blunder that one had committed at a party so horrible that one
felt nothing could be done to excuse it: the only remedy was to forget.
His horror at the degradation he had suffered helped him. He was like a
snake casting its skin and he looked upon the old covering with nausea. He
exulted in the possession of himself once more; he realised how much of
the delight of the world he had lost when he was absorbed in that madness
which they called love; he had had enough of it; he did not want to be in
love any more if love was that. Philip told Hayward something of what he
had gone through.
"Wasn't it Sophocles," he asked, "who prayed for the time when he would be
delivered from the wild beast of passion that devoured his heart-strings?"
Philip seemed really to be born again. He breathed the circumambient air
as though he had never breathed it before, and he took a child's pleasure
in all the facts of the world. He called his period of insanity six
months' hard labour.
Hayward had only been settled in London a few days when Philip received
from Blackstable, where it had been sent, a card for a private view at
some picture gallery. He took Hayward, and, on looking at the catalogue,
saw that Lawson had a picture in it.
"I suppose he sent the card," said Philip. "Let's go and find him, he's
sure to be in front of his picture."
This, a profile of Ruth Chalice, was tucked away in a corner, and Lawson
was not far from it. He looked a little lost, in his large soft hat and
loose, pale clothes, amongst the fashionable throng that had gathered for
the private view. He greeted Philip with enthusiasm, and with his usual
volubility told him that he had come to live in London, Ruth Chalice was
a hussy, he had taken a studio, Paris was played out, he had a commission
for a portrait, and they'd better dine together and have a good old talk.
Philip reminded him of his acquaintance with Hayward, and was entertained
to see that Lawson was slightly awed by Hayward's elegant clothes and
grand manner. They sat upon him better than they had done in the shabby
little studio which Lawson and Philip had shared.
At dinner Lawson went on with his news. Flanagan had gone back to America.
Clutton had disappeared. He had come to the conclusion that a man had no
chance of doing anything so long as he was in contact with art and
artists: the only thing was to get right away. To make the step easier he
had quarrelled with all his friends in Paris. He developed a talent for
telling them home truths, which made them bear with fortitude his
declaration that he had done with that city and was settling in Gerona, a
little town in the north of Spain which had attracted him when he saw it
from the train on his way to Barcelona. He was living there now alone.
"I wonder if he'll ever do any good," said Philip.
He was interested in the human side of that struggle to express something
which was so obscure in the man's mind that he was become morbid and
querulous. Philip felt vaguely that he was himself in the same case, but
with him it was the conduct of his life as a whole that perplexed him.
That was his means of self-expression, and what he must do with it was not
clear. But he had no time to continue with this train of thought, for
Lawson poured out a frank recital of his affair with Ruth Chalice. She had
left him for a young student who had just come from England, and was
behaving in a scandalous fashion. Lawson really thought someone ought to
step in and save the young man. She would ruin him. Philip gathered that
Lawson's chief grievance was that the rupture had come in the middle of a
portrait he was painting.
"Women have no real feeling for art," he said. "They only pretend they
have." But he finished philosophically enough: "However, I got four
portraits out of her, and I'm not sure if the last I was working on would
ever have been a success."
Philip envied the easy way in which the painter managed his love affairs.
He had passed eighteen months pleasantly enough, had got an excellent
model for nothing, and had parted from her at the end with no great pang.
"And what about Cronshaw?" asked Philip.
"Oh, he's done for," answered Lawson, with the cheerful callousness of his
youth. "He'll be dead in six months. He got pneumonia last winter. He was
in the English hospital for seven weeks, and when he came out they told
him his only chance was to give up liquor."
"Poor devil," smiled the abstemious Philip.
"He kept off for a bit. He used to go to the Lilas all the same, he
couldn't keep away from that, but he used to drink hot milk, avec de la
fleur d'oranger, and he was damned dull."
"I take it you did not conceal the fact from him."
"Oh, he knew it himself. A little while ago he started on whiskey again.
He said he was too old to turn over any new leaves. He would rather be
happy for six months and die at the end of it than linger on for five
years. And then I think he's been awfully hard up lately. You see, he
didn't earn anything while he was ill, and the slut he lives with has been
giving him a rotten time."
"I remember, the first time I saw him I admired him awfully," said Philip.
"I thought he was wonderful. It is sickening that vulgar, middle-class
virtue should pay."
"Of course he was a rotter. He was bound to end in the gutter sooner or
later," said Lawson.
Philip was hurt because Lawson would not see the pity of it. Of course it
was cause and effect, but in the necessity with which one follows the
other lay all tragedy of life.
"Oh, I' d forgotten," said Lawson. "Just after you left he sent round a
present for you. I thought you'd be coming back and I didn't bother about
it, and then I didn't think it worth sending on; but it'll come over to
London with the rest of my things, and you can come to my studio one day
and fetch it away if you want it."
"You haven't told me what it is yet."
"Oh, it's only a ragged little bit of carpet. I shouldn't think it's worth
anything. I asked him one day what the devil he'd sent the filthy thing
for. He told me he'd seen it in a shop in the Rue de Rennes and bought it
for fifteen francs. It appears to be a Persian rug. He said you'd asked
him the meaning of life and that was the answer. But he was very drunk."
"Oh yes, I know. I'll take it. It was a favourite wheeze of his. He said
I must find out for myself, or else the answer meant nothing."
Philip worked well and easily; he had a good deal to do, since he was
taking in July the three parts of the First Conjoint examination, two of
which he had failed in before; but he found life pleasant. He made a new
friend. Lawson, on the lookout for models, had discovered a girl who was
understudying at one of the theatres, and in order to induce her to sit to
him arranged a little luncheon-party one Sunday. She brought a chaperon
with her; and to her Philip, asked to make a fourth, was instructed to
confine his attentions. He found this easy, since she turned out to be an
agreeable chatterbox with an amusing tongue. She asked Philip to go and
see her; she had rooms in Vincent Square, and was always in to tea at five
o'clock; he went, was delighted with his welcome, and went again. Mrs.
Nesbit was not more than twenty-five, very small, with a pleasant, ugly
face; she had very bright eyes, high cheekbones, and a large mouth: the
excessive contrasts of her colouring reminded one of a portrait by one of
the modern French painters; her skin was very white, her cheeks were very
red, her thick eyebrows, her hair, were very black. The effect was odd, a
little unnatural, but far from unpleasing. She was separated from her
husband and earned her living and her child's by writing penny novelettes.
There were one or two publishers who made a specialty of that sort of
thing, and she had as much work as she could do. It was ill-paid, she
received fifteen pounds for a story of thirty thousand words; but she was
"After all, it only costs the reader twopence," she said, "and they like
the same thing over and over again. I just change the names and that's
all. When I'm bored I think of the washing and the rent and clothes for
baby, and I go on again."
Besides, she walked on at various theatres where they wanted supers and
earned by this when in work from sixteen shillings to a guinea a week. At
the end of her day she was so tired that she slept like a top. She made
the best of her difficult lot. Her keen sense of humour enabled her to get
amusement out of every vexatious circumstance. Sometimes things went
wrong, and she found herself with no money at all; then her trifling
possessions found their way to a pawnshop in the Vauxhall Bridge Road, and
she ate bread and butter till things grew brighter. She never lost her
Philip was interested in her shiftless life, and she made him laugh with
the fantastic narration of her struggles. He asked her why she did not try
her hand at literary work of a better sort, but she knew that she had no
talent, and the abominable stuff she turned out by the thousand words was
not only tolerably paid, but was the best she could do. She had nothing to
look forward to but a continuation of the life she led. She seemed to have
no relations, and her friends were as poor as herself.
"I don't think of the future," she said. "As long as I have enough money
for three weeks' rent and a pound or two over for food I never bother.
Life wouldn't be worth living if I worried over the future as well as the
present. When things are at their worst I find something always happens."
Soon Philip grew in the habit of going in to tea with her every day, and
so that his visits might not embarrass her he took in a cake or a pound of
butter or some tea. They started to call one another by their Christian
names. Feminine sympathy was new to him, and he delighted in someone who
gave a willing ear to all his troubles. The hours went quickly. He did not
hide his admiration for her. She was a delightful companion. He could not
help comparing her with Mildred; and he contrasted with the one's
obstinate stupidity, which refused interest to everything she did not
know, the other's quick appreciation and ready intelligence. His heart
sank when he thought that he might have been tied for life to such a woman
as Mildred. One evening he told Norah the whole story of his love. It was
not one to give him much reason for self-esteem, and it was very pleasant
to receive such charming sympathy.
"I think you're well out of it," she said, when he had finished.
She had a funny way at times of holding her head on one side like an
Aberdeen puppy. She was sitting in an upright chair, sewing, for she had
no time to do nothing, and Philip had made himself comfortable at her
"I can't tell you how heartily thankful I am it's all over," he sighed.
"Poor thing, you must have had a rotten time," she murmured, and by way of
showing her sympathy put her hand on his shoulder.
He took it and kissed it, but she withdrew it quickly.
"Why did you do that?" she asked, with a blush.
"Have you any objection?"
She looked at him for a moment with twinkling eyes, and she smiled.
"No," she said.
He got up on his knees and faced her. She looked into his eyes steadily,
and her large mouth trembled with a smile.
"Well?" she said.
"You know, you are a ripper. I'm so grateful to you for being nice to me.
I like you so much."
"Don't be idiotic," she said.
Philip took hold of her elbows and drew her towards him. She made no
resistance, but bent forward a little, and he kissed her red lips.
"Why did you do that?" she asked again.
"Because it's comfortable."
She did not answer, but a tender look came into her eyes, and she passed
her hand softly over his hair.
"You know, it's awfully silly of you to behave like this. We were such
good friends. It would be so jolly to leave it at that."
"If you really want to appeal to my better nature," replied Philip,
"you'll do well not to stroke my cheek while you're doing it."
She gave a little chuckle, but she did not stop.
"It's very wrong of me, isn't it?" she said.
Philip, surprised and a little amused, looked into her eyes, and as he
looked he saw them soften and grow liquid, and there was an expression in
them that enchanted him. His heart was suddenly stirred, and tears came to
"Norah, you're not fond of me, are you?" he asked, incredulously.
"You clever boy, you ask such stupid questions."
"Oh, my dear, it never struck me that you could be."
He flung his arms round her and kissed her, while she, laughing, blushing,
and crying, surrendered herself willingly to his embrace.
Presently he released her and sitting back on his heels looked at her
"Well, I'm blowed!" he said.
"I'm so surprised."
"Delighted," he cried with all his heart, "and so proud and so happy and
He took her hands and covered them with kisses. This was the beginning for
Philip of a happiness which seemed both solid and durable. They became
lovers but remained friends. There was in Norah a maternal instinct which
received satisfaction in her love for Philip; she wanted someone to pet,
and scold, and make a fuss of; she had a domestic temperament and found
pleasure in looking after his health and his linen. She pitied his
deformity, over which he was so sensitive, and her pity expressed itself
instinctively in tenderness. She was young, strong, and healthy, and it
seemed quite natural to her to give her love. She had high spirits and a
merry soul. She liked Philip because he laughed with her at all the
amusing things in life that caught her fancy, and above all she liked him
because he was he.
When she told him this he answered gaily:
"Nonsense. You like me because I'm a silent person and never want to get
a word in."
Philip did not love her at all. He was extremely fond of her, glad to be
with her, amused and interested by her conversation. She restored his
belief in himself and put healing ointments, as it were, on all the
bruises of his soul. He was immensely flattered that she cared for him. He
admired her courage, her optimism, her impudent defiance of fate; she had
a little philosophy of her own, ingenuous and practical.
"You know, I don't believe in churches and parsons and all that," she
said, "but I believe in God, and I don't believe He minds much about what
you do as long as you keep your end up and help a lame dog over a stile
when you can. And I think people on the whole are very nice, and I'm sorry
for those who aren't."
"And what about afterwards?" asked Philip.
"Oh, well, I don't know for certain, you know," she smiled, "but I hope
for the best. And anyhow there'll be no rent to pay and no novelettes to
She had a feminine gift for delicate flattery. She thought that Philip did
a brave thing when he left Paris because he was conscious he could not be
a great artist; and he was enchanted when she expressed enthusiastic
admiration for him. He had never been quite certain whether this action
indicated courage or infirmity of purpose. It was delightful to realise
that she considered it heroic. She ventured to tackle him on a subject
which his friends instinctively avoided.
"It's very silly of you to be so sensitive about your club-foot," she
said. She saw him bush darkly, but went on. "You know, people don't think
about it nearly as much as you do. They notice it the first time they see
you, and then they forget about it."
He would not answer.
"You're not angry with me, are you?"
She put her arm round his neck.
"You know, I only speak about it because I love you. I don't want it to
make you unhappy."
"I think you can say anything you choose to me," he answered, smiling. "I
wish I could do something to show you how grateful I am to you."
She took him in hand in other ways. She would not let him be bearish and
laughed at him when he was out of temper. She made him more urbane.
"You can make me do anything you like," he said to her once.
"No, I want to do what you like."
He had the sense to realise his happiness. It seemed to him that she gave
him all that a wife could, and he preserved his freedom; she was the most
charming friend he had ever had, with a sympathy that he had never found
in a man. The sexual relationship was no more than the strongest link in
their friendship. It completed it, but was not essential. And because
Philip's appetites were satisfied, he became more equable and easier to
live with. He felt in complete possession of himself. He thought sometimes
of the winter, during which he had been obsessed by a hideous passion, and
he was filled with loathing for Mildred and with horror of himself.
His examinations were approaching, and Norah was as interested in them as
he. He was flattered and touched by her eagerness. She made him promise to
come at once and tell her the results. He passed the three parts this time
without mishap, and when he went to tell her she burst into tears.
"Oh, I'm so glad, I was so anxious."
"You silly little thing," he laughed, but he was choking.
No one could help being pleased with the way she took it.
"And what are you going to do now?" she asked.
"I can take a holiday with a clear conscience. I have no work to do till
the winter session begins in October."
"I suppose you'll go down to your uncle's at Blackstable?"
"You suppose quite wrong. I'm going to stay in London and play with you."
"I'd rather you went away."
"Why? Are you tired of me?"
She laughed and put her hands on his shoulders.
"Because you've been working hard, and you look utterly washed out. You
want some fresh air and a rest. Please go."
He did not answer for a moment. He looked at her with loving eyes.
"You know, I'd never believe it of anyone but you. You're only thinking of
my good. I wonder what you see in me."
"Will you give me a good character with my month's notice?" she laughed
"I'll say that you're thoughtful and kind, and you're not exacting; you
never worry, you're not troublesome, and you're easy to please."
"All that's nonsense," she said, "but I'll tell you one thing: I'm one of
the few persons I ever met who are able to learn from experience."
Philip looked forward to his return to London with impatience. During the
two months he spent at Blackstable Norah wrote to him frequently, long
letters in a bold, large hand, in which with cheerful humour she described
the little events of the daily round, the domestic troubles of her
landlady, rich food for laughter, the comic vexations of her
rehearsals--she was walking on in an important spectacle at one of the
London theatres--and her odd adventures with the publishers of novelettes.
Philip read a great deal, bathed, played tennis, and sailed. At the
beginning of October he settled down in London to work for the Second
Conjoint examination. He was eager to pass it, since that ended the
drudgery of the curriculum; after it was done with the student became an
out-patients' clerk, and was brought in contact with men and women as well
as with text-books. Philip saw Norah every day.
Lawson had been spending the summer at Poole, and had a number of sketches
to show of the harbour and of the beach. He had a couple of commissions
for portraits and proposed to stay in London till the bad light drove him
away. Hayward, in London too, intended to spend the winter abroad, but
remained week after week from sheer inability to make up his mind to go.
Hayward had run to fat during the last two or three years--it was five
years since Philip first met him in Heidelberg--and he was prematurely
bald. He was very sensitive about it and wore his hair long to conceal the
unsightly patch on the crown of his head. His only consolation was that
his brow was now very noble. His blue eyes had lost their colour; they had
a listless droop; and his mouth, losing the fulness of youth, was weak and
pale. He still talked vaguely of the things he was going to do in the
future, but with less conviction; and he was conscious that his friends no
longer believed in him: when he had drank two or three glasses of whiskey
he was inclined to be elegiac.
"I'm a failure," he murmured, "I'm unfit for the brutality of the struggle
of life. All I can do is to stand aside and let the vulgar throng hustle
by in their pursuit of the good things."
He gave you the impression that to fail was a more delicate, a more
exquisite thing, than to succeed. He insinuated that his aloofness was due
to distaste for all that was common and low. He talked beautifully of
"I should have thought you'd got through with Plato by now," said Philip
"Would you?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
He was not inclined to pursue the subject. He had discovered of late the
effective dignity of silence.
"I don't see the use of reading the same thing over and over again," said
Philip. "That's only a laborious form of idleness."
"But are you under the impression that you have so great a mind that you
can understand the most profound writer at a first reading?"
"I don't want to understand him, I'm not a critic. I'm not interested in
him for his sake but for mine."
"Why d'you read then?"
"Partly for pleasure, because it's a habit and I'm just as uncomfortable
if I don't read as if I don't smoke, and partly to know myself. When I
read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come
across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for ME,
and it becomes part of me; I've got out of the book all that's any use to
me, and I can't get anything more if I read it a dozen times. You see, it
seems to me, one's like a closed bud, and most of what one reads and does
has no effect at all; but there are certain things that have a peculiar
significance for one, and they open a petal; and the petals open one by
one; and at last the flower is there."
Philip was not satisfied with his metaphor, but he did not know how else
to explain a thing which he felt and yet was not clear about.
"You want to do things, you want to become things," said Hayward, with a
shrug of the shoulders. "It's so vulgar."
Philip knew Hayward very well by now. He was weak and vain, so vain that
you had to be on the watch constantly not to hurt his feelings; he mingled
idleness and idealism so that he could not separate them. At Lawson's
studio one day he met a journalist, who was charmed by his conversation,
and a week later the editor of a paper wrote to suggest that he should do
some criticism for him. For forty-eight hours Hayward lived in an agony of
indecision. He had talked of getting occupation of this sort so long that
he had not the face to refuse outright, but the thought of doing anything
filled him with panic. At last he declined the offer and breathed freely.
"It would have interfered with my work," he told Philip.
"What work?" asked Philip brutally.
"My inner life," he answered.
Then he went on to say beautiful things about Amiel, the professor of
Geneva, whose brilliancy promised achievement which was never fulfilled;
till at his death the reason of his failure and the excuse were at once
manifest in the minute, wonderful journal which was found among his
papers. Hayward smiled enigmatically.
But Hayward could still talk delightfully about books; his taste was
exquisite and his discrimination elegant; and he had a constant interest
in ideas, which made him an entertaining companion. They meant nothing to
him really, since they never had any effect on him; but he treated them as
he might have pieces of china in an auction-room, handling them with
pleasure in their shape and their glaze, pricing them in his mind; and
then, putting them back into their case, thought of them no more.
And it was Hayward who made a momentous discovery. One evening, after due
preparation, he took Philip and Lawson to a tavern situated in Beak
Street, remarkable not only in itself and for its history--it had memories
of eighteenth-century glories which excited the romantic imagination--but
for its snuff, which was the best in London, and above all for its punch.
Hayward led them into a large, long room, dingily magnificent, with huge
pictures on the walls of nude women: they were vast allegories of the
school of Haydon; but smoke, gas, and the London atmosphere had given them
a richness which made them look like old masters. The dark panelling, the
massive, tarnished gold of the cornice, the mahogany tables, gave the room
an air of sumptuous comfort, and the leather-covered seats along the wall
were soft and easy. There was a ram's head on a table opposite the door,
and this contained the celebrated snuff. They ordered punch. They drank
it. It was hot rum punch. The pen falters when it attempts to treat of the
excellence thereof; the sober vocabulary, the sparse epithet of this
narrative, are inadequate to the task; and pompous terms, jewelled, exotic
phrases rise to the excited fancy. It warmed the blood and cleared the
head; it filled the soul with well-being; it disposed the mind at once to
utter wit and to appreciate the wit of others; it had the vagueness of
music and the precision of mathematics. Only one of its qualities was
comparable to anything else: it had the warmth of a good heart; but its
taste, its smell, its feel, were not to be described in words. Charles
Lamb, with his infinite tact, attempting to, might have drawn charming
pictures of the life of his day; Lord Byron in a stanza of Don Juan,
aiming at the impossible, might have achieved the sublime; Oscar Wilde,
heaping jewels of Ispahan upon brocades of Byzantium, might have created
a troubling beauty. Considering it, the mind reeled under visions of the
feasts of Elagabalus; and the subtle harmonies of Debussy mingled with the
musty, fragrant romance of chests in which have been kept old clothes,
ruffs, hose, doublets, of a forgotten generation, and the wan odour of
lilies of the valley and the savour of Cheddar cheese.
Hayward discovered the tavern at which this priceless beverage was to be
obtained by meeting in the street a man called Macalister who had been at
Cambridge with him. He was a stockbroker and a philosopher. He was
accustomed to go to the tavern once a week; and soon Philip, Lawson, and
Hayward got into the habit of meeting there every Tuesday evening: change
of manners made it now little frequented, which was an advantage to
persons who took pleasure in conversation. Macalister was a big-boned
fellow, much too short for his width, with a large, fleshy face and a soft
voice. He was a student of Kant and judged everything from the standpoint
of pure reason. He was fond of expounding his doctrines. Philip listened
with excited interest. He had long come to the conclusion that nothing
amused him more than metaphysics, but he was not so sure of their efficacy
in the affairs of life. The neat little system which he had formed as the
result of his meditations at Blackstable had not been of conspicuous use
during his infatuation for Mildred. He could not be positive that reason
was much help in the conduct of life. It seemed to him that life lived
itself. He remembered very vividly the violence of the emotion which had
possessed him and his inability, as if he were tied down to the ground
with ropes, to react against it. He read many wise things in books, but he
could only judge from his own experience (he did not know whether he was
different from other people); he did not calculate the pros and cons of an
action, the benefits which must befall him if he did it, the harm which
might result from the omission; but his whole being was urged on
irresistibly. He did not act with a part of himself but altogether. The
power that possessed him seemed to have nothing to do with reason: all
that reason did was to point out the methods of obtaining what his whole
soul was striving for.
Macalister reminded him of the Categorical Imperative.
"Act so that every action of yours should be capable of becoming a
universal rule of action for all men."
"That seems to me perfect nonsense," said Philip.
"You're a bold man to say that of anything stated by Immanuel Kant,"
"Why? Reverence for what somebody said is a stultifying quality: there's
a damned sight too much reverence in the world. Kant thought things not
because they were true, but because he was Kant."
"Well, what is your objection to the Categorical Imperative?" (They talked
as though the fate of empires were in the balance.)
"It suggests that one can choose one's course by an effort of will. And it
suggests that reason is the surest guide. Why should its dictates be any
better than those of passion? They're different. That's all."
"You seem to be a contented slave of your passions."
"A slave because I can't help myself, but not a contented one," laughed
While he spoke he thought of that hot madness which had driven him in
pursuit of Mildred. He remembered how he had chafed against it and how he
had felt the degradation of it.
"Thank God, I'm free from all that now," he thought.
And yet even as he said it he was not quite sure whether he spoke
sincerely. When he was under the influence of passion he had felt a
singular vigour, and his mind had worked with unwonted force. He was more
alive, there was an excitement in sheer being, an eager vehemence of soul,
which made life now a trifle dull. For all the misery he had endured there
was a compensation in that sense of rushing, overwhelming existence.
But Philip's unlucky words engaged him in a discussion on the freedom of
the will, and Macalister, with his well-stored memory, brought out
argument after argument. He had a mind that delighted in dialectics, and
he forced Philip to contradict himself; he pushed him into corners from
which he could only escape by damaging concessions; he tripped him up with
logic and battered him with authorities.
At last Philip said:
"Well, I can't say anything about other people. I can only speak for
myself. The illusion of free will is so strong in my mind that I can't get
away from it, but I believe it is only an illusion. But it is an illusion
which is one of the strongest motives of my actions. Before I do anything
I feel that I have choice, and that influences what I do; but afterwards,
when the thing is done, I believe that it was inevitable from all
"What do you deduce from that?" asked Hayward.
"Why, merely the futility of regret. It's no good crying over spilt milk,
because all the forces of the universe were bent on spilling it."
One morning Philip on getting up felt his head swim, and going back to bed
suddenly discovered he was ill. All his limbs ached and he shivered with
cold. When the landlady brought in his breakfast he called to her through
the open door that he was not well, and asked for a cup of tea and a piece
of toast. A few minutes later there was a knock at his door, and Griffiths
came in. They had lived in the same house for over a year, but had never
done more than nod to one another in the passage.
"I say, I hear you're seedy," said Griffiths. "I thought I'd come in and
see what was the matter with you."
Philip, blushing he knew not why, made light of the whole thing. He would
be all right in an hour or two.
"Well, you'd better let me take your temperature," said Griffiths.
"It's quite unnecessary," answered Philip irritably.
Philip put the thermometer in his mouth. Griffiths sat on the side of the
bed and chatted brightly for a moment, then he took it out and looked at
"Now, look here, old man, you must stay in bed, and I'll bring old Deacon
in to have a look at you."
"Nonsense," said Philip. "There's nothing the matter. I wish you wouldn't
bother about me."
"But it isn't any bother. You've got a temperature and you must stay in
bed. You will, won't you?"
There was a peculiar charm in his manner, a mingling of gravity and
kindliness, which was infinitely attractive.
"You've got a wonderful bed-side manner," Philip murmured, closing his
eyes with a smile.
Griffiths shook out his pillow for him, deftly smoothed down the
bedclothes, and tucked him up. He went into Philip's sitting-room to look
for a siphon, could not find one, and fetched it from his own room. He
drew down the blind.
"Now, go to sleep and I'll bring the old man round as soon as he's done
It seemed hours before anyone came to Philip. His head felt as if it would
split, anguish rent his limbs, and he was afraid he was going to cry. Then
there was a knock at the door and Griffiths, healthy, strong, and
cheerful, came in.
"Here's Doctor Deacon," he said.
The physician stepped forward, an elderly man with a bland manner, whom
Philip knew only by sight. A few questions, a brief examination, and the
"What d'you make it?" he asked Griffiths, smiling.
Doctor Deacon looked round the dingy lodging-house room.
"Wouldn't you like to go to the hospital? They'll put you in a private
ward, and you can be better looked after than you can here."
"I'd rather stay where I am," said Philip.
He did not want to be disturbed, and he was always shy of new
surroundings. He did not fancy nurses fussing about him, and the dreary
cleanliness of the hospital.
"I can look after him, sir," said Griffiths at once.
"Oh, very well."
He wrote a prescription, gave instructions, and left.
"Now you've got to do exactly as I tell you," said Griffiths. "I'm
day-nurse and night-nurse all in one."
"It's very kind of you, but I shan't want anything," said Philip.
Griffiths put his hand on Philip's forehead, a large cool, dry hand, and
the touch seemed to him good.
"I'm just going to take this round to the dispensary to have it made up,
and then I'll come back."
In a little while he brought the medicine and gave Philip a dose. Then he
went upstairs to fetch his books.
"You won't mind my working in your room this afternoon, will you?" he
said, when he came down. "I'll leave the door open so that you can give me
a shout if you want anything."
Later in the day Philip, awaking from an uneasy doze, heard voices in his
sitting-room. A friend had come in to see Griffiths.
"I say, you'd better not come in tonight," he heard Griffiths saying.
And then a minute or two afterwards someone else entered the room and
expressed his surprise at finding Griffiths there. Philip heard him
"I'm looking after a second year's man who's got these rooms. The wretched
blighter's down with influenza. No whist tonight, old man."
Presently Griffiths was left alone and Philip called him.
"I say, you're not putting off a party tonight, are you?" he asked.
"Not on your account. I must work at my surgery."
"Don't put it off. I shall be all right. You needn't bother about me."
"That's all right."
Philip grew worse. As the night came on he became slightly delirious, but
towards morning he awoke from a restless sleep. He saw Griffiths get out
of an arm-chair, go down on his knees, and with his fingers put piece
after piece of coal on the fire. He was in pyjamas and a dressing-gown.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Did I wake you up? I tried to make up the fire without making a row."
"Why aren't you in bed? What's the time?"
"About five. I thought I'd better sit up with you tonight. I brought an
arm-chair in as I thought if I put a mattress down I should sleep so
soundly that I shouldn't hear you if you wanted anything."
"I wish you wouldn't be so good to me," groaned Philip. "Suppose you catch
"Then you shall nurse me, old man," said Griffiths, with a laugh.
In the morning Griffiths drew up the blind. He looked pale and tired after
his night's watch, but was full of spirits.
"Now, I'm going to wash you," he said to Philip cheerfully.
"I can wash myself," said Philip, ashamed.
"Nonsense. If you were in the small ward a nurse would wash you, and I can
do it just as well as a nurse."
Philip, too weak and wretched to resist, allowed Griffiths to wash his
hands and face, his feet, his chest and back. He did it with charming
tenderness, carrying on meanwhile a stream of friendly chatter; then he
changed the sheet just as they did at the hospital, shook out the pillow,
and arranged the bed-clothes.
"I should like Sister Arthur to see me. It would make her sit up. Deacon's
coming in to see you early."
"I can't imagine why you should be so good to me," said Philip.
"It's good practice for me. It's rather a lark having a patient."
Griffiths gave him his breakfast and went off to get dressed and have
something to eat. A few minutes before ten he came back with a bunch of
grapes and a few flowers.
"You are awfully kind," said Philip.
He was in bed for five days.
Norah and Griffiths nursed him between them. Though Griffiths was the same
age as Philip he adopted towards him a humorous, motherly attitude. He was
a thoughtful fellow, gentle and encouraging; but his greatest quality was
a vitality which seemed to give health to everyone with whom he came in
contact. Philip was unused to the petting which most people enjoy from
mothers or sisters and he was deeply touched by the feminine tenderness of
this strong young man. Philip grew better. Then Griffiths, sitting idly in
Philip's room, amused him with gay stories of amorous adventure. He was a
flirtatious creature, capable of carrying on three or four affairs at a
time; and his account of the devices he was forced to in order to keep out
of difficulties made excellent hearing. He had a gift for throwing a
romantic glamour over everything that happened to him. He was crippled
with debts, everything he had of any value was pawned, but he managed
always to be cheerful, extravagant, and generous. He was the adventurer by
nature. He loved people of doubtful occupations and shifty purposes; and
his acquaintance among the riff-raff that frequents the bars of London was
enormous. Loose women, treating him as a friend, told him the troubles,
difficulties, and successes of their lives; and card-sharpers, respecting
his impecuniosity, stood him dinners and lent him five-pound notes. He was
ploughed in his examinations time after time; but he bore this cheerfully,
and submitted with such a charming grace to the parental expostulations
that his father, a doctor in practice at Leeds, had not the heart to be
seriously angry with him.
"I'm an awful fool at books," he said cheerfully, "but I CAN'T work."
Life was much too jolly. But it was clear that when he had got through the
exuberance of his youth, and was at last qualified, he would be a
tremendous success in practice. He would cure people by the sheer charm of
Philip worshipped him as at school he had worshipped boys who were tall
and straight and high of spirits. By the time he was well they were fast
friends, and it was a peculiar satisfaction to Philip that Griffiths
seemed to enjoy sitting in his little parlour, wasting Philip's time with
his amusing chatter and smoking innumerable cigarettes. Philip took him
sometimes to the tavern off Regent Street. Hayward found him stupid, but
Lawson recognised his charm and was eager to paint him; he was a
picturesque figure with his blue eyes, white skin, and curly hair. Often
they discussed things he knew nothing about, and then he sat quietly, with
a good-natured smile on his handsome face, feeling quite rightly that his
presence was sufficient contribution to the entertainment of the company.
When he discovered that Macalister was a stockbroker he was eager for
tips; and Macalister, with his grave smile, told him what fortunes he
could have made if he had bought certain stock at certain times. It made
Philip's mouth water, for in one way and another he was spending more than
he had expected, and it would have suited him very well to make a little
money by the easy method Macalister suggested.
"Next time I hear of a really good thing I'll let you know," said the
stockbroker. "They do come along sometimes. It's only a matter of biding
Philip could not help thinking how delightful it would be to make fifty
pounds, so that he could give Norah the furs she so badly needed for the
winter. He looked at the shops in Regent Street and picked out the
articles he could buy for the money. She deserved everything. She made his
life very happy
One afternoon, when he went back to his rooms from the hospital to wash
and tidy himself before going to tea as usual with Norah, as he let
himself in with his latch-key, his landlady opened the door for him.
"There's a lady waiting to see you," she said.
"Me?" exclaimed Philip.
He was surprised. It would only be Norah, and he had no idea what had
"I shouldn't 'ave let her in, only she's been three times, and she seemed
that upset at not finding you, so I told her she could wait."
He pushed past the explaining landlady and burst into the room. His heart
turned sick. It was Mildred. She was sitting down, but got up hurriedly as
he came in. She did not move towards him nor speak. He was so surprised
that he did not know what he was saying.
"What the hell d'you want?" he asked.
She did not answer, but began to cry. She did not put her hands to her
eyes, but kept them hanging by the side of her body. She looked like a
housemaid applying for a situation. There was a dreadful humility in her
bearing. Philip did not know what feelings came over him. He had a sudden
impulse to turn round and escape from the room.
"I didn't think I'd ever see you again," he said at last.
"I wish I was dead," she moaned.
Philip left her standing where she was. He could only think at the moment
of steadying himself. His knees were shaking. He looked at her, and he
groaned in despair.
"What's the matter?" he said.
"He's left me--Emil."
Philip's heart bounded. He knew then that he loved her as passionately as
ever. He had never ceased to love her. She was standing before him humble
and unresisting. He wished to take her in his arms and cover her
tear-stained face with kisses. Oh, how long the separation had been! He
did not know how he could have endured it.
"You'd better sit down. Let me give you a drink."
He drew the chair near the fire and she sat in it. He mixed her whiskey
and soda, and, sobbing still, she drank it. She looked at him with great,
mournful eyes. There were large black lines under them. She was thinner
and whiter than when last he had seen her.
"I wish I'd married you when you asked me," she said.
Philip did not know why the remark seemed to swell his heart. He could not
keep the distance from her which he had forced upon himself. He put his
hand on her shoulder.
"I'm awfully sorry you're in trouble."
She leaned her head against his bosom and burst into hysterical crying.
Her hat was in the way and she took it off. He had never dreamt that she
was capable of crying like that. He kissed her again and again. It seemed
to ease her a little.
"You were always good to me, Philip," she said. "That's why I knew I could
come to you."
"Tell me what's happened."
"Oh, I can't, I can't," she cried out, breaking away from him.
He sank down on his knees beside her and put his cheek against hers.
"Don't you know that there's nothing you can't tell me? I can never blame
you for anything."
She told him the story little by little, and sometimes she sobbed so much
that he could hardly understand.
"Last Monday week he went up to Birmingham, and he promised to be back on
Thursday, and he never came, and he didn't come on the Friday, so I wrote
to ask what was the matter, and he never answered the letter. And I wrote
and said that if I didn't hear from him by return I'd go up to Birmingham,
and this morning I got a solicitor's letter to say I had no claim on him,
and if I molested him he'd seek the protection of the law."
"But it's absurd," cried Philip. "A man can't treat his wife like that.
Had you had a row?"
"Oh, yes, we'd had a quarrel on the Sunday, and he said he was sick of me,
but he'd said it before, and he'd come back all right. I didn't think he
meant it. He was frightened, because I told him a baby was coming. I kept
it from him as long as I could. Then I had to tell him. He said it was my
fault, and I ought to have known better. If you'd only heard the things he
said to me! But I found out precious quick that he wasn't a gentleman. He
left me without a penny. He hadn't paid the rent, and I hadn't got the
money to pay it, and the woman who kept the house said such things to
me--well, I might have been a thief the way she talked."
"I thought you were going to take a flat."
"That's what he said, but we just took furnished apartments in Highbury.
He was that mean. He said I was extravagant, he didn't give me anything to
be extravagant with."
She had an extraordinary way of mixing the trivial with the important.
Philip was puzzled. The whole thing was incomprehensible.
"No man could be such a blackguard."
"You don't know him. I wouldn't go back to him now not if he was to come
and ask me on his bended knees. I was a fool ever to think of him. And he
wasn't earning the money he said he was. The lies he told me!"
Philip thought for a minute or two. He was so deeply moved by her distress
that he could not think of himself.
"Would you like me to go to Birmingham? I could see him and try to make
"Oh, there's no chance of that. He'll never come back now, I know him."
"But he must provide for you. He can't get out of that. I don't know
anything about these things, you'd better go and see a solicitor."
"How can I? I haven't got the money."
"I'll pay all that. I'll write a note to my own solicitor, the sportsman
who was my father's executor. Would you like me to come with you now? I
expect he'll still be at his office."
"No, give me a letter to him. I'll go alone."
She was a little calmer now. He sat down and wrote a note. Then he
remembered that she had no money. He had fortunately changed a cheque the
day before and was able to give her five pounds.
"You are good to me, Philip," she said.
"I'm so happy to be able to do something for you."
"Are you fond of me still?"
"Just as fond as ever."
She put up her lips and he kissed her. There was a surrender in the action
which he had never seen in her before. It was worth all the agony he had
She went away and he found that she had been there for two hours. He was
"Poor thing, poor thing," he murmured to himself, his heart glowing with
a greater love than he had ever felt before.
He never thought of Norah at all till about eight o'clock a telegram came.
He knew before opening it that it was from her.
Is anything the matter? Norah.
He did not know what to do nor what to answer. He could fetch her after
the play, in which she was walking on, was over and stroll home with her
as he sometimes did; but his whole soul revolted against the idea of
seeing her that evening. He thought of writing to her, but he could not
bring himself to address her as usual, dearest Norah. He made up his
mind to telegraph.
Sorry. Could not get away, Philip.
He visualised her. He was slightly repelled by the ugly little face, with
its high cheekbones and the crude colour. There was a coarseness in her
skin which gave him goose-flesh. He knew that his telegram must be
followed by some action on his part, but at all events it postponed it.
Next day he wired again.
Regret, unable to come. Will write.
Mildred had suggested coming at four in the afternoon, and he would not
tell her that the hour was inconvenient. After all she came first. He
waited for her impatiently. He watched for her at the window and opened
the front-door himself.
"Well? Did you see Nixon?"
"Yes," she answered. "He said it wasn't any good. Nothing's to be done. I
must just grin and bear it."
"But that's impossible," cried Philip.
She sat down wearily.
"Did he give any reasons?" he asked.
She gave him a crumpled letter.
"There's your letter, Philip. I never took it. I couldn't tell you
yesterday, I really couldn't. Emil didn't marry me. He couldn't. He had a
wife already and three children."
Philip felt a sudden pang of jealousy and anguish. It was almost more than
he could bear.
"That's why I couldn't go back to my aunt. There's no one I can go to but
"What made you go away with him?" Philip asked, in a low voice which he
struggled to make firm.
"I don't know. I didn't know he was a married man at first, and when he
told me I gave him a piece of my mind. And then I didn't see him for
months, and when he came to the shop again and asked me I don't know what
came over me. I felt as if I couldn't help it. I had to go with him."
"Were you in love with him?"
"I don't know. I couldn't hardly help laughing at the things he said. And
there was something about him--he said I'd never regret it, he promised to
give me seven pounds a week--he said he was earning fifteen, and it was
all a lie, he wasn't. And then I was sick of going to the shop every
morning, and I wasn't getting on very well with my aunt; she wanted to
treat me as a servant instead of a relation, said I ought to do my own
room, and if I didn't do it nobody was going to do it for me. Oh, I wish
I hadn't. But when he came to the shop and asked me I felt I couldn't help
Philip moved away from her. He sat down at the table and buried his face
in his hands. He felt dreadfully humiliated.
"You're not angry with me, Philip?" she asked piteously.
"No," he answered, looking up but away from her, "only I'm awfully hurt."
"You see, I was so dreadfully in love with you. I did everything I could
to make you care for me. I thought you were incapable of loving anyone.
It's so horrible to know that you were willing to sacrifice everything for
that bounder. I wonder what you saw in him."
"I'm awfully sorry, Philip. I regretted it bitterly afterwards, I promise
He thought of Emil Miller, with his pasty, unhealthy look, his shifty blue
eyes, and the vulgar smartness of his appearance; he always wore bright
red knitted waistcoats. Philip sighed. She got up and went to him. She put
her arm round his neck.
"I shall never forget that you offered to marry me, Philip."
He took her hand and looked up at her. She bent down and kissed him.
"Philip, if you want me still I'll do anything you like now. I know you're
a gentleman in every sense of the word."
His heart stood still. Her words made him feel slightly sick.
"It's awfully good of you, but I couldn't."
"Don't you care for me any more?"
"Yes, I love you with all my heart."
"Then why shouldn't we have a good time while we've got the chance? You
see, it can't matter now"
He released himself from her.
"You don't understand. I've been sick with love for you ever since I saw
you, but now--that man. I've unfortunately got a vivid imagination. The
thought of it simply disgusts me."
"You are funny," she said.
He took her hand again and smiled at her.
"You mustn't think I'm not grateful. I can never thank you enough, but you
see, it's just stronger than I am."
"You are a good friend, Philip."
They went on talking, and soon they had returned to the familiar
companionship of old days. It grew late. Philip suggested that they should
dine together and go to a music-hall. She wanted some persuasion, for she
had an idea of acting up to her situation, and felt instinctively that it
did not accord with her distressed condition to go to a place of
entertainment. At last Philip asked her to go simply to please him, and
when she could look upon it as an act of self-sacrifice she accepted. She
had a new thoughtfulness which delighted Philip. She asked him to take her
to the little restaurant in Soho to which they had so often been; he was
infinitely grateful to her, because her suggestion showed that happy
memories were attached to it. She grew much more cheerful as dinner
proceeded. The Burgundy from the public house at the corner warmed her
heart, and she forgot that she ought to preserve a dolorous countenance.
Philip thought it safe to speak to her of the future.
"I suppose you haven't got a brass farthing, have you?" he asked, when an
opportunity presented itself.
"Only what you gave me yesterday, and I had to give the landlady three
pounds of that."
"Well, I'd better give you a tenner to go on with. I'll go and see my
solicitor and get him to write to Miller. We can make him pay up
something, I'm sure. If we can get a hundred pounds out of him it'll carry
you on till after the baby comes."
"I wouldn't take a penny from him. I'd rather starve."
"But it's monstrous that he should leave you in the lurch like this."
"I've got my pride to consider."
It was a little awkward for Philip. He needed rigid economy to make his
own money last till he was qualified, and he must have something over to
keep him during the year he intended to spend as house physician and house
surgeon either at his own or at some other hospital. But Mildred had told
him various stories of Emil's meanness, and he was afraid to remonstrate
with her in case she accused him too of want of generosity.
"I wouldn't take a penny piece from him. I'd sooner beg my bread. I'd have
seen about getting some work to do long before now, only it wouldn't be
good for me in the state I'm in. You have to think of your health, don't
"You needn't bother about the present," said Philip. "I can let you have
all you want till you're fit to work again."
"I knew I could depend on you. I told Emil he needn't think I hadn't got
somebody to go to. I told him you was a gentleman in every sense of the
By degrees Philip learned how the separation had come about. It appeared
that the fellow's wife had discovered the adventure he was engaged in
during his periodical visits to London, and had gone to the head of the
firm that employed him. She threatened to divorce him, and they announced
that they would dismiss him if she did. He was passionately devoted to his
children and could not bear the thought of being separated from them. When
he had to choose between his wife and his mistress he chose his wife. He
had been always anxious that there should be no child to make the
entanglement more complicated; and when Mildred, unable longer to conceal
its approach, informed him of the fact, he was seized with panic. He
picked a quarrel and left her without more ado.
"When d'you expect to be confined?" asked Philip.
"At the beginning of March."
It was necessary to discuss plans. Mildred declared she would not remain
in the rooms at Highbury, and Philip thought it more convenient too that
she should be nearer to him. He promised to look for something next day.
She suggested the Vauxhall Bridge Road as a likely neighbourhood.
"And it would be near for afterwards," she said.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I should only be able to stay there about two months or a little
more, and then I should have to go into a house. I know a very respectable
place, where they have a most superior class of people, and they take you
for four guineas a week and no extras. Of course the doctor's extra, but
that's all. A friend of mine went there, and the lady who keeps it is a
thorough lady. I mean to tell her that my husband's an officer in India
and I've come to London for my baby, because it's better for my health."
It seemed extraordinary to Philip to hear her talking in this way. With
her delicate little features and her pale face she looked cold and
maidenly. When he thought of the passions that burnt within her, so
unexpected, his heart was strangely troubled. His pulse beat quickly.
Philip expected to find a letter from Norah when he got back to his rooms,
but there was nothing; nor did he receive one the following morning. The
silence irritated and at the same time alarmed him. They had seen one
another every day he had been in London since the previous June; and it
must seem odd to her that he should let two days go by without visiting
her or offering a reason for his absence; he wondered whether by an
unlucky chance she had seen him with Mildred. He could not bear to think
that she was hurt or unhappy, and he made up his mind to call on her that
afternoon. He was almost inclined to reproach her because he had allowed
himself to get on such intimate terms with her. The thought of continuing
them filled him with disgust.
He found two rooms for Mildred on the second floor of a house in the
Vauxhall Bridge Road. They were noisy, but he knew that she liked the
rattle of traffic under her windows.
"I don't like a dead and alive street where you don't see a soul pass all
day," she said. "Give me a bit of life."
Then he forced himself to go to Vincent Square. He was sick with
apprehension when he rang the bell. He had an uneasy sense that he was
treating Norah badly; he dreaded reproaches; he knew she had a quick
temper, and he hated scenes: perhaps the best way would be to tell her
frankly that Mildred had come back to him and his love for her was as
violent as it had ever been; he was very sorry, but he had nothing to
offer Norah any more. Then he thought of her anguish, for he knew she
loved him; it had flattered him before, and he was immensely grateful; but
now it was horrible. She had not deserved that he should inflict pain upon
her. He asked himself how she would greet him now, and as he walked up the
stairs all possible forms of her behaviour flashed across his mind. He
knocked at the door. He felt that he was pale, and wondered how to conceal
She was writing away industriously, but she sprang to her feet as he
"I recognised your step," she cried. "Where have you been hiding yourself,
you naughty boy?"
She came towards him joyfully and put her arms round his neck. She was
delighted to see him. He kissed her, and then, to give himself
countenance, said he was dying for tea. She bustled the fire to make the
"I've been awfully busy," he said lamely.
She began to chatter in her bright way, telling him of a new commission
she had to provide a novelette for a firm which had not hitherto employed
her. She was to get fifteen guineas for it.
"It's money from the clouds. I'll tell you what we'll do, we'll stand
ourselves a little jaunt. Let's go and spend a day at Oxford, shall we?
I'd love to see the colleges."
He looked at her to see whether there was any shadow of reproach in her
eyes; but they were as frank and merry as ever: she was overjoyed to see
him. His heart sank. He could not tell her the brutal truth. She made some
toast for him, and cut it into little pieces, and gave it him as though he
were a child.
"Is the brute fed?" she asked.
He nodded, smiling; and she lit a cigarette for him. Then, as she loved to
do, she came and sat on his knees. She was very light. She leaned back in
his arms with a sigh of delicious happiness.
"Say something nice to me," she murmured.
"What shall I say?"
"You might by an effort of imagination say that you rather liked me."
"You know I do that."
He had not the heart to tell her then. He would give her peace at all
events for that day, and perhaps he might write to her. That would be
easier. He could not bear to think of her crying. She made him kiss her,
and as he kissed her he thought of Mildred and Mildred's pale, thin lips.
The recollection of Mildred remained with him all the time, like an
incorporated form, but more substantial than a shadow; and the sight
continually distracted his attention.
"You're very quiet today," Norah said.
Her loquacity was a standing joke between them, and he answered:
"You never let me get a word in, and I've got out of the habit of
"But you're not listening, and that's bad manners."
He reddened a little, wondering whether she had some inkling of his
secret; he turned away his eyes uneasily. The weight of her irked him this
afternoon, and he did not want her to touch him.
"My foot's gone to sleep," he said.
"I'm so sorry," she cried, jumping up. "I shall have to bant if I can't
break myself of this habit of sitting on gentlemen's knees."
He went through an elaborate form of stamping his foot and walking about.
Then he stood in front of the fire so that she should not resume her
position. While she talked he thought that she was worth ten of Mildred;
she amused him much more and was jollier to talk to; she was cleverer, and
she had a much nicer nature. She was a good, brave, honest little woman;
and Mildred, he thought bitterly, deserved none of these epithets. If he
had any sense he would stick to Norah, she would make him much happier
than he would ever be with Mildred: after all she loved him, and Mildred
was only grateful for his help. But when all was said the important thing
was to love rather than to be loved; and he yearned for Mildred with his
whole soul. He would sooner have ten minutes with her than a whole
afternoon with Norah, he prized one kiss of her cold lips more than all
Norah could give him.
"I can't help myself," he thought. "I've just got her in my bones."
He did not care if she was heartless, vicious and vulgar, stupid and
grasping, he loved her. He would rather have misery with the one than
happiness with the other.
When he got up to go Norah said casually:
"Well, I shall see you tomorrow, shan't I?"
"Yes," he answered.
He knew that he would not be able to come, since he was going to help
Mildred with her moving, but he had not the courage to say so. He made up
his mind that he would send a wire. Mildred saw the rooms in the morning,
was satisfied with them, and after luncheon Philip went up with her to
Highbury. She had a trunk for her clothes and another for the various odds
and ends, cushions, lampshades, photograph frames, with which she had
tried to give the apartments a home-like air; she had two or three large
cardboard boxes besides, but in all there was no more than could be put on
the roof of a four-wheeler. As they drove through Victoria Street Philip
sat well back in the cab in case Norah should happen to be passing. He had
not had an opportunity to telegraph and could not do so from the post
office in the Vauxhall Bridge Road, since she would wonder what he was
doing in that neighbourhood; and if he was there he could have no excuse
for not going into the neighbouring square where she lived. He made up his
mind that he had better go in and see her for half an hour; but the
necessity irritated him: he was angry with Norah, because she forced him
to vulgar and degrading shifts. But he was happy to be with Mildred. It
amused him to help her with the unpacking; and he experienced a charming
sense of possession in installing her in these lodgings which he had found
and was paying for. He would not let her exert herself. It was a pleasure
to do things for her, and she had no desire to do what somebody else
seemed desirous to do for her. He unpacked her clothes and put them away.
She was not proposing to go out again, so he got her slippers and took off
her boots. It delighted him to perform menial offices.
"You do spoil me," she said, running her fingers affectionately through
his hair, while he was on his knees unbuttoning her boots.
He took her hands and kissed them.
"It is nipping to have you here."
He arranged the cushions and the photograph frames. She had several jars
of green earthenware.
"I'll get you some flowers for them," he said.
He looked round at his work proudly.
"As I'm not going out any more I think I'll get into a tea-gown," she
said. "Undo me behind, will you?"
She turned round as unconcernedly as though he were a woman. His sex meant
nothing to her. But his heart was filled with gratitude for the intimacy
her request showed. He undid the hooks and eyes with clumsy fingers.
"That first day I came into the shop I never thought I'd be doing this for
you now," he said, with a laugh which he forced.
"Somebody must do it," she answered.
She went into the bed-room and slipped into a pale blue tea-gown decorated
with a great deal of cheap lace. Then Philip settled her on a sofa and
made tea for her.
"I'm afraid I can't stay and have it with you," he said regretfully. "I've
got a beastly appointment. But I shall be back in half an hour."
He wondered what he should say if she asked him what the appointment was,
but she showed no curiosity. He had ordered dinner for the two of them
when he took the rooms, and proposed to spend the evening with her
quietly. He was in such a hurry to get back that he took a tram along the
Vauxhall Bridge Road. He thought he had better break the fact to Norah at
once that he could not stay more than a few minutes.
"I say, I've got only just time to say how d'you do," he said, as soon as
he got into her rooms. "I'm frightfully busy."
Her face fell.
"Why, what's the matter?"
It exasperated him that she should force him to tell lies, and he knew
that he reddened when he answered that there was a demonstration at the
hospital which he was bound to go to. He fancied that she looked as though
she did not believe him, and this irritated him all the more.
"Oh, well, it doesn't matter," she said. "I shall have you all tomorrow."
He looked at her blankly. It was Sunday, and he had been looking forward
to spending the day with Mildred. He told himself that he must do that in
common decency; he could not leave her by herself in a strange house.
"I'm awfully sorry, I'm engaged tomorrow."
He knew this was the beginning of a scene which he would have given
anything to avoid. The colour on Norah's cheeks grew brighter.
"But I've asked the Gordons to lunch"--they were an actor and his wife who
were touring the provinces and in London for Sunday--"I told you about it
a week ago."
"I'm awfully sorry, I forgot." He hesitated. "I'm afraid I can't possibly
come. Isn't there somebody else you can get?"
"What are you doing tomorrow then?"
"I wish you wouldn't cross-examine me."
"Don't you want to tell me?"
"I don't in the least mind telling you, but it's rather annoying to be
forced to account for all one's movements."
Norah suddenly changed. With an effort of self-control she got the better
of her temper, and going up to him took his hands.
"Don't disappoint me tomorrow, Philip, I've been looking forward so much
to spending the day with you. The Gordons want to see you, and we'll have
such a jolly time."
"I'd love to if I could."
"I'm not very exacting, am I? I don't often ask you to do anything that's
a bother. Won't you get out of your horrid engagement--just this once?"
"I'm awfully sorry, I don't see how I can," he replied sullenly.
"Tell me what it is," she said coaxingly.
He had had time to invent something. "Griffiths' two sisters are up for
the week-end and we're taking them out."
"Is that all?" she said joyfully. "Griffiths can so easily get another
He wished he had thought of something more urgent than that. It was a
"No, I'm awfully sorry, I can't--I've promised and I mean to keep my
"But you promised me too. Surely I come first."
"I wish you wouldn't persist," he said.
She flared up.
"You won't come because you don't want to. I don't know what you've been
doing the last few days, you've been quite different."
He looked at his watch.