Part 9 out of 15
"I'm afraid I'll have to be going," he said.
"You won't come tomorrow?"
"In that case you needn't trouble to come again," she cried, losing her
temper for good.
"That's just as you like," he answered.
"Don't let me detain you any longer," she added ironically.
He shrugged his shoulders and walked out. He was relieved that it had gone
no worse. There had been no tears. As he walked along he congratulated
himself on getting out of the affair so easily. He went into Victoria
Street and bought a few flowers to take in to Mildred.
The little dinner was a great success. Philip had sent in a small pot of
caviare, which he knew she was very fond of, and the landlady brought them
up some cutlets with vegetables and a sweet. Philip had ordered Burgundy,
which was her favourite wine. With the curtains drawn, a bright fire, and
one of Mildred's shades on the lamp, the room was cosy.
"It's really just like home," smiled Philip.
"I might be worse off, mightn't I?" she answered.
When they finished, Philip drew two arm-chairs in front of the fire, and
they sat down. He smoked his pipe comfortably. He felt happy and generous.
"What would you like to do tomorrow?" he asked.
"Oh, I'm going to Tulse Hill. You remember the manageress at the shop,
well, she's married now, and she's asked me to go and spend the day with
her. Of course she thinks I'm married too."
Philip's heart sank.
"But I refused an invitation so that I might spend Sunday with you."
He thought that if she loved him she would say that in that case she would
stay with him. He knew very well that Norah would not have hesitated.
"Well, you were a silly to do that. I've promised to go for three weeks
"But how can you go alone?"
"Oh, I shall say that Emil's away on business. Her husband's in the glove
trade, and he's a very superior fellow."
Philip was silent, and bitter feelings passed through his heart. She gave
him a sidelong glance.
"You don't grudge me a little pleasure, Philip? You see, it's the last
time I shall be able to go anywhere for I don't know how long, and I had
He took her hand and smiled.
"No, darling, I want you to have the best time you can. I only want you to
There was a little book bound in blue paper lying open, face downwards, on
the sofa, and Philip idly took it up. It was a twopenny novelette, and the
author was Courtenay Paget. That was the name under which Norah wrote.
"I do like his books," said Mildred. "I read them all. They're so
He remembered what Norah had said of herself.
"I have an immense popularity among kitchen-maids. They think me so
Philip, in return for Griffiths' confidences, had told him the details of
his own complicated amours, and on Sunday morning, after breakfast when
they sat by the fire in their dressing-gowns and smoked, he recounted the
scene of the previous day. Griffiths congratulated him because he had got
out of his difficulties so easily.
"It's the simplest thing in the world to have an affair with a woman, he
remarked sententiously, "but it's a devil of a nuisance to get out of it."
Philip felt a little inclined to pat himself on the back for his skill in
managing the business. At all events he was immensely relieved. He thought
of Mildred enjoying herself in Tulse Hill, and he found in himself a real
satisfaction because she was happy. It was an act of self-sacrifice on his
part that he did not grudge her pleasure even though paid for by his own
disappointment, and it filled his heart with a comfortable glow.
But on Monday morning he found on his table a letter from Norah. She
I'm sorry I was cross on Saturday. Forgive me and come to tea in the
afternoon as usual. I love you.
His heart sank, and he did not know what to do. He took the note to
Griffiths and showed it to him.
"You'd better leave it unanswered," said he.
"Oh, I can't," cried Philip. "I should be miserable if I thought of her
waiting and waiting. You don't know what it is to be sick for the
postman's knock. I do, and I can't expose anybody else to that torture."
"My dear fellow, one can't break that sort of affair off without somebody
suffering. You must just set your teeth to that. One thing is, it doesn't
last very long."
Philip felt that Norah had not deserved that he should make her suffer;
and what did Griffiths know about the degrees of anguish she was capable
of? He remembered his own pain when Mildred had told him she was going to
be married. He did not want anyone to experience what he had experienced
"If you're so anxious not to give her pain, go back to her," said
"I can't do that."
He got up and walked up and down the room nervously. He was angry with
Norah because she had not let the matter rest. She must have seen that he
had no more love to give her. They said women were so quick at seeing
"You might help me," he said to Griffiths.
"My dear fellow, don't make such a fuss about it. People do get over these
things, you know. She probably isn't so wrapped up in you as you think,
either. One's always rather apt to exaggerate the passion one's inspired
other people with."
He paused and looked at Philip with amusement.
"Look here, there's only one thing you can do. Write to her, and tell her
the thing's over. Put it so that there can be no mistake about it. It'll
hurt her, but it'll hurt her less if you do the thing brutally than if you
try half-hearted ways."
Philip sat down and wrote the following letter:
My dear Norah,
I am sorry to make you unhappy, but I think we had better let things
remain where we left them on Saturday. I don't think there's any use in
letting these things drag on when they've ceased to be amusing. You told
me to go and I went. I do not propose to come back. Good-bye.
He showed the letter to Griffiths and asked him what he thought of it.
Griffiths read it and looked at Philip with twinkling eyes. He did not say
what he felt.
"I think that'll do the trick," he said.
Philip went out and posted it. He passed an uncomfortable morning, for he
imagined with great detail what Norah would feel when she received his
letter. He tortured himself with the thought of her tears. But at the same
time he was relieved. Imagined grief was more easy to bear than grief
seen, and he was free now to love Mildred with all his soul. His heart
leaped at the thought of going to see her that afternoon, when his day's
work at the hospital was over.
When as usual he went back to his rooms to tidy himself, he had no sooner
put the latch-key in his door than he heard a voice behind him.
"May I come in? I've been waiting for you for half an hour."
It was Norah. He felt himself blush to the roots of his hair. She spoke
gaily. There was no trace of resentment in her voice and nothing to
indicate that there was a rupture between them. He felt himself cornered.
He was sick with fear, but he did his best to smile.
"Yes, do," he said.
He opened the door, and she preceded him into his sitting-room. He was
nervous and, to give himself countenance, offered her a cigarette and lit
one for himself. She looked at him brightly.
"Why did you write me such a horrid letter, you naughty boy? If I'd taken
it seriously it would have made me perfectly wretched."
"It was meant seriously," he answered gravely.
"Don't be so silly. I lost my temper the other day, and I wrote and
apologised. You weren't satisfied, so I've come here to apologise again.
After all, you're your own master and I have no claims upon you. I don't
want you to do anything you don't want to."
She got up from the chair in which she was sitting and went towards him
impulsively, with outstretched hands.
"Let's make friends again, Philip. I'm so sorry if I offended you."
He could not prevent her from taking his hands, but he could not look at
"I'm afraid it's too late," he said.
She let herself down on the floor by his side and clasped his knees.
"Philip, don't be silly. I'm quick-tempered too and I can understand that
I hurt you, but it's so stupid to sulk over it. What's the good of making
us both unhappy? It's been so jolly, our friendship." She passed her
fingers slowly over his hand. "I love you, Philip."
He got up, disengaging himself from her, and went to the other side of the
"I'm awfully sorry, I can't do anything. The whole thing's over."
"D'you mean to say you don't love me any more?"
"I'm afraid so."
"You were just looking for an opportunity to throw me over and you took
He did not answer. She looked at him steadily for a time which seemed
intolerable. She was sitting on the floor where he had left her, leaning
against the arm-chair. She began to cry quite silently, without trying to
hide her face, and the large tears rolled down her cheeks one after the
other. She did not sob. It was horribly painful to see her. Philip turned
"I'm awfully sorry to hurt you. It's not my fault if I don't love you."
She did not answer. She merely sat there, as though she were overwhelmed,
and the tears flowed down her cheeks. It would have been easier to bear if
she had reproached him. He had thought her temper would get the better of
her, and he was prepared for that. At the back of his mind was a feeling
that a real quarrel, in which each said to the other cruel things, would
in some way be a justification of his behaviour. The time passed. At last
he grew frightened by her silent crying; he went into his bed-room and got
a glass of water; he leaned over her.
"Won't you drink a little? It'll relieve you."
She put her lips listlessly to the glass and drank two or three mouthfuls.
Then in an exhausted whisper she asked him for a handkerchief. She dried
"Of course I knew you never loved me as much as I loved you," she moaned.
"I'm afraid that's always the case," he said. "There's always one who
loves and one who lets himself be loved."
He thought of Mildred, and a bitter pain traversed his heart. Norah did
not answer for a long time.
"I'd been so miserably unhappy, and my life was so hateful," she said at
She did not speak to him, but to herself. He had never heard her before
complain of the life she had led with her husband or of her poverty. He
had always admired the bold front she displayed to the world.
"And then you came along and you were so good to me. And I admired you
because you were clever and it was so heavenly to have someone I could put
my trust in. I loved you. I never thought it could come to an end. And
without any fault of mine at all."
Her tears began to flow again, but now she was more mistress of herself,
and she hid her face in Philip's handkerchief. She tried hard to control
"Give me some more water," she said.
She wiped her eyes.
"I'm sorry to make such a fool of myself. I was so unprepared."
"I'm awfully sorry, Norah. I want you to know that I'm very grateful for
all you've done for me."
He wondered what it was she saw in him.
"Oh, it's always the same," she sighed, "if you want men to behave well to
you, you must be beastly to them; if you treat them decently they make you
suffer for it."
She got up from the floor and said she must go. She gave Philip a long,
steady look. Then she sighed.
"It's so inexplicable. What does it all mean?"
Philip took a sudden determination.
"I think I'd better tell you, I don't want you to think too badly of me,
I want you to see that I can't help myself. Mildred's come back."
The colour came to her face.
"Why didn't you tell me at once? I deserved that surely."
"I was afraid to."
She looked at herself in the glass and set her hat straight.
"Will you call me a cab," she said. "I don't feel I can walk."
He went to the door and stopped a passing hansom; but when she followed
him into the street he was startled to see how white she was. There was a
heaviness in her movements as though she had suddenly grown older. She
looked so ill that he had not the heart to let her go alone.
"I'll drive back with you if you don't mind."
She did not answer, and he got into the cab. They drove along in silence
over the bridge, through shabby streets in which children, with shrill
cries, played in the road. When they arrived at her door she did not
immediately get out. It seemed as though she could not summon enough
strength to her legs to move.
"I hope you'll forgive me, Norah," he said.
She turned her eyes towards him, and he saw that they were bright again
with tears, but she forced a smile to her lips.
"Poor fellow, you're quite worried about me. You mustn't bother. I don't
blame you. I shall get over it all right."
Lightly and quickly she stroked his face to show him that she bore no
ill-feeling, the gesture was scarcely more than suggested; then she jumped
out of the cab and let herself into her house.
Philip paid the hansom and walked to Mildred's lodgings. There was a
curious heaviness in his heart. He was inclined to reproach himself. But
why? He did not know what else he could have done. Passing a fruiterer's,
he remembered that Mildred was fond of grapes. He was so grateful that he
could show his love for her by recollecting every whim she had.
For the next three months Philip went every day to see Mildred. He took
his books with him and after tea worked, while Mildred lay on the sofa
reading novels. Sometimes he would look up and watch her for a minute. A
happy smile crossed his lips. She would feel his eyes upon her.
"Don't waste your time looking at me, silly. Go on with your work," she
"Tyrant," he answered gaily.
He put aside his book when the landlady came in to lay the cloth for
dinner, and in his high spirits he exchanged chaff with her. She was a
little cockney, of middle age, with an amusing humour and a quick tongue.
Mildred had become great friends with her and had given her an elaborate
but mendacious account of the circumstances which had brought her to the
pass she was in. The good-hearted little woman was touched and found no
trouble too great to make Mildred comfortable. Mildred's sense of
propriety had suggested that Philip should pass himself off as her
brother. They dined together, and Philip was delighted when he had ordered
something which tempted Mildred's capricious appetite. It enchanted him to
see her sitting opposite him, and every now and then from sheer joy he
took her hand and pressed it. After dinner she sat in the arm-chair by the
fire, and he settled himself down on the floor beside her, leaning against
her knees, and smoked. Often they did not talk at all, and sometimes
Philip noticed that she had fallen into a doze. He dared not move then in
case he woke her, and he sat very quietly, looking lazily into the fire
and enjoying his happiness.
"Had a nice little nap?" he smiled, when she woke.
"I've not been sleeping," she answered. "I only just closed my eyes."
She would never acknowledge that she had been asleep. She had a phlegmatic
temperament, and her condition did not seriously inconvenience her. She
took a lot of trouble about her health and accepted the advice of anyone
who chose to offer it. She went for a `constitutional' every morning that
it was fine and remained out a definite time. When it was not too cold she
sat in St. James' Park. But the rest of the day she spent quite happily on
her sofa, reading one novel after another or chatting with the landlady;
she had an inexhaustible interest in gossip, and told Philip with abundant
detail the history of the landlady, of the lodgers on the drawing-room
floor, and of the people who lived in the next house on either side. Now
and then she was seized with panic; she poured out her fears to Philip
about the pain of the confinement and was in terror lest she should die;
she gave him a full account of the confinements of the landlady and of the
lady on the drawing-room floor (Mildred did not know her; "I'm one to keep
myself to myself," she said, "I'm not one to go about with anybody.") and
she narrated details with a queer mixture of horror and gusto; but for the
most part she looked forward to the occurrence with equanimity.
"After all, I'm not the first one to have a baby, am I? And the doctor
says I shan't have any trouble. You see, it isn't as if I wasn't well
Mrs. Owen, the owner of the house she was going to when her time came, had
recommended a doctor, and Mildred saw him once a week. He was to charge
"Of course I could have got it done cheaper, but Mrs. Owen strongly
recommended him, and I thought it wasn't worth while to spoil the ship for
a coat of tar."
"If you feel happy and comfortable I don't mind a bit about the expense,"
She accepted all that Philip did for her as if it were the most natural
thing in the world, and on his side he loved to spend money on her: each
five-pound note he gave her caused him a little thrill of happiness and
pride; he gave her a good many, for she was not economical.
"I don't know where the money goes to," she said herself, "it seems to
slip through my fingers like water."
"It doesn't matter," said Philip. "I'm so glad to be able to do anything
I can for you."
She could not sew well and so did not make the necessary things for the
baby; she told Philip it was much cheaper in the end to buy them. Philip
had lately sold one of the mortgages in which his money had been put; and
now, with five hundred pounds in the bank waiting to be invested in
something that could be more easily realised, he felt himself uncommonly
well-to-do. They talked often of the future. Philip was anxious that
Mildred should keep the child with her, but she refused: she had her
living to earn, and it would be more easy to do this if she had not also
to look after a baby. Her plan was to get back into one of the shops of
the company for which she had worked before, and the child could be put
with some decent woman in the country.
"I can find someone who'll look after it well for seven and sixpence a
week. It'll be better for the baby and better for me."
It seemed callous to Philip, but when he tried to reason with her she
pretended to think he was concerned with the expense.
"You needn't worry about that," she said. "I shan't ask YOU to pay for
"You know I don't care how much I pay."
At the bottom of her heart was the hope that the child would be
still-born. She did no more than hint it, but Philip saw that the thought
was there. He was shocked at first; and then, reasoning with himself, he
was obliged to confess that for all concerned such an event was to be
"It's all very fine to say this and that," Mildred remarked querulously,
"but it's jolly difficult for a girl to earn her living by herself; it
doesn't make it any easier when she's got a baby."
"Fortunately you've got me to fall back on," smiled Philip, taking her
"You've been good to me, Philip."
"Oh, what rot!"
"You can't say I didn't offer anything in return for what you've done."
"Good heavens, I don't want a return. If I've done anything for you, I've
done it because I love you. You owe me nothing. I don't want you to do
anything unless you love me."
He was a little horrified by her feeling that her body was a commodity
which she could deliver indifferently as an acknowledgment for services
"But I do want to, Philip. You've been so good to me."
"Well, it won't hurt for waiting. When you're all right again we'll go for
our little honeymoon."
"You are naughty," she said, smiling.
Mildred expected to be confined early in March, and as soon as she was
well enough she was to go to the seaside for a fortnight: that would give
Philip a chance to work without interruption for his examination; after
that came the Easter holidays, and they had arranged to go to Paris
together. Philip talked endlessly of the things they would do. Paris was
delightful then. They would take a room in a little hotel he knew in the
Latin Quarter, and they would eat in all sorts of charming little
restaurants; they would go to the play, and he would take her to music
halls. It would amuse her to meet his friends. He had talked to her about
Cronshaw, she would see him; and there was Lawson, he had gone to Paris
for a couple of months; and they would go to the Bal Bullier; there were
excursions; they would make trips to Versailles, Chartres, Fontainebleau.
"It'll cost a lot of money," she said.
"Oh, damn the expense. Think how I've been looking forward to it. Don't
you know what it means to me? I've never loved anyone but you. I never
She listened to his enthusiasm with smiling eyes. He thought he saw in
them a new tenderness, and he was grateful to her. She was much gentler
than she used to be. There was in her no longer the superciliousness which
had irritated him. She was so accustomed to him now that she took no pains
to keep up before him any pretences. She no longer troubled to do her hair
with the old elaboration, but just tied it in a knot; and she left off the
vast fringe which she generally wore: the more careless style suited her.
Her face was so thin that it made her eyes seem very large; there were
heavy lines under them, and the pallor of her cheeks made their colour
more profound. She had a wistful look which was infinitely pathetic. There
seemed to Philip to be in her something of the Madonna. He wished they
could continue in that same way always. He was happier than he had ever
been in his life.
He used to leave her at ten o'clock every night, for she liked to go to
bed early, and he was obliged to put in another couple of hours' work to
make up for the lost evening. He generally brushed her hair for her before
he went. He had made a ritual of the kisses he gave her when he bade her
good-night; first he kissed the palms of her hands (how thin the fingers
were, the nails were beautiful, for she spent much time in manicuring
them,) then he kissed her closed eyes, first the right one and then the
left, and at last he kissed her lips. He went home with a heart
overflowing with love. He longed for an opportunity to gratify the desire
for self-sacrifice which consumed him.
Presently the time came for her to move to the nursing-home where she was
to be confined. Philip was then able to visit her only in the afternoons.
Mildred changed her story and represented herself as the wife of a soldier
who had gone to India to join his regiment, and Philip was introduced to
the mistress of the establishment as her brother-in-law.
"I have to be rather careful what I say," she told him, "as there's
another lady here whose husband's in the Indian Civil."
"I wouldn't let that disturb me if I were you," said Philip. "I'm
convinced that her husband and yours went out on the same boat."
"What boat?" she asked innocently.
"The Flying Dutchman."
Mildred was safely delivered of a daughter, and when Philip was allowed to
see her the child was lying by her side. Mildred was very weak, but
relieved that everything was over. She showed him the baby, and herself
looked at it curiously.
"It's a funny-looking little thing, isn't it? I can't believe it's mine."
It was red and wrinkled and odd. Philip smiled when he looked at it. He
did not quite know what to say; and it embarrassed him because the nurse
who owned the house was standing by his side; and he felt by the way she
was looking at him that, disbelieving Mildred's complicated story, she
thought he was the father.
"What are you going to call her?" asked Philip.
"I can't make up my mind if I shall call her Madeleine or Cecilia."
The nurse left them alone for a few minutes, and Philip bent down and
kissed Mildred on the mouth.
"I'm so glad it's all over happily, darling."
She put her thin arms round his neck.
"You have been a brick to me, Phil dear."
"Now I feel that you're mine at last. I've waited so long for you, my
They heard the nurse at the door, and Philip hurriedly got up. The nurse
entered. There was a slight smile on her lips.
Three weeks later Philip saw Mildred and her baby off to Brighton. She had
made a quick recovery and looked better than he had ever seen her. She was
going to a boarding-house where she had spent a couple of weekends with
Emil Miller, and had written to say that her husband was obliged to go to
Germany on business and she was coming down with her baby. She got
pleasure out of the stories she invented, and she showed a certain
fertility of invention in the working out of the details. Mildred proposed
to find in Brighton some woman who would be willing to take charge of the
baby. Philip was startled at the callousness with which she insisted on
getting rid of it so soon, but she argued with common sense that the poor
child had much better be put somewhere before it grew used to her. Philip
had expected the maternal instinct to make itself felt when she had had
the baby two or three weeks and had counted on this to help him persuade
her to keep it; but nothing of the sort occurred. Mildred was not unkind
to her baby; she did all that was necessary; it amused her sometimes, and
she talked about it a good deal; but at heart she was indifferent to it.
She could not look upon it as part of herself. She fancied it resembled
its father already. She was continually wondering how she would manage
when it grew older; and she was exasperated with herself for being such a
fool as to have it at all.
"If I'd only known then all I do now," she said.
She laughed at Philip, because he was anxious about its welfare.
"You couldn't make more fuss if you was the father," she said. "I'd like
to see Emil getting into such a stew about it."
Philip's mind was full of the stories he had heard of baby-farming and the
ghouls who ill-treat the wretched children that selfish, cruel parents
have put in their charge.
"Don't be so silly," said Mildred. "That's when you give a woman a sum
down to look after a baby. But when you're going to pay so much a week
it's to their interest to look after it well."
Philip insisted that Mildred should place the child with people who had no
children of their own and would promise to take no other.
"Don't haggle about the price," he said. "I'd rather pay half a guinea a
week than run any risk of the kid being starved or beaten."
"You're a funny old thing, Philip," she laughed.
To him there was something very touching in the child's helplessness. It
was small, ugly, and querulous. Its birth had been looked forward to with
shame and anguish. Nobody wanted it. It was dependent on him, a stranger,
for food, shelter, and clothes to cover its nakedness.
As the train started he kissed Mildred. He would have kissed the baby too,
but he was afraid she would laugh at him.
"You will write to me, darling, won't you? And I shall look forward to
your coming back with oh! such impatience."
"Mind you get through your exam."
He had been working for it industriously, and now with only ten days
before him he made a final effort. He was very anxious to pass, first to
save himself time and expense, for money had been slipping through his
fingers during the last four months with incredible speed; and then
because this examination marked the end of the drudgery: after that the
student had to do with medicine, midwifery, and surgery, the interest of
which was more vivid than the anatomy and physiology with which he had
been hitherto concerned. Philip looked forward with interest to the rest
of the curriculum. Nor did he want to have to confess to Mildred that he
had failed: though the examination was difficult and the majority of
candidates were ploughed at the first attempt, he knew that she would
think less well of him if he did not succeed; she had a peculiarly
humiliating way of showing what she thought.
Mildred sent him a postcard to announce her safe arrival, and he snatched
half an hour every day to write a long letter to her. He had always a
certain shyness in expressing himself by word of mouth, but he found he
could tell her, pen in hand, all sorts of things which it would have made
him feel ridiculous to say. Profiting by the discovery he poured out to
her his whole heart. He had never been able to tell her before how his
adoration filled every part of him so that all his actions, all his
thoughts, were touched with it. He wrote to her of the future, the
happiness that lay before him, and the gratitude which he owed her. He
asked himself (he had often asked himself before but had never put it into
words) what it was in her that filled him with such extravagant delight;
he did not know; he knew only that when she was with him he was happy, and
when she was away from him the world was on a sudden cold and gray; he
knew only that when he thought of her his heart seemed to grow big in his
body so that it was difficult to breathe (as if it pressed against his
lungs) and it throbbed, so that the delight of her presence was almost
pain; his knees shook, and he felt strangely weak as though, not having
eaten, he were tremulous from want of food. He looked forward eagerly to
her answers. He did not expect her to write often, for he knew that
letter-writing came difficultly to her; and he was quite content with the
clumsy little note that arrived in reply to four of his. She spoke of the
boarding-house in which she had taken a room, of the weather and the baby,
told him she had been for a walk on the front with a lady-friend whom she
had met in the boarding-house and who had taken such a fancy to baby, she
was going to the theatre on Saturday night, and Brighton was filling up.
It touched Philip because it was so matter-of-fact. The crabbed style, the
formality of the matter, gave him a queer desire to laugh and to take her
in his arms and kiss her.
He went into the examination with happy confidence. There was nothing in
either of the papers that gave him trouble. He knew that he had done well,
and though the second part of the examination was viva voce and he was
more nervous, he managed to answer the questions adequately. He sent a
triumphant telegram to Mildred when the result was announced.
When he got back to his rooms Philip found a letter from her, saying that
she thought it would be better for her to stay another week in Brighton.
She had found a woman who would be glad to take the baby for seven
shillings a week, but she wanted to make inquiries about her, and she was
herself benefiting so much by the sea-air that she was sure a few days
more would do her no end of good. She hated asking Philip for money, but
would he send some by return, as she had had to buy herself a new hat, she
couldn't go about with her lady-friend always in the same hat, and her
lady-friend was so dressy. Philip had a moment of bitter disappointment.
It took away all his pleasure at getting through his examination.
"If she loved me one quarter as much as I love her she couldn't bear to
stay away a day longer than necessary."
He put the thought away from him quickly; it was pure selfishness; of
course her health was more important than anything else. But he had
nothing to do now; he might spend the week with her in Brighton, and they
could be together all day. His heart leaped at the thought. It would be
amusing to appear before Mildred suddenly with the information that he had
taken a room in the boarding-house. He looked out trains. But he paused.
He was not certain that she would be pleased to see him; she had made
friends in Brighton; he was quiet, and she liked boisterous joviality; he
realised that she amused herself more with other people than with him. It
would torture him if he felt for an instant that he was in the way. He was
afraid to risk it. He dared not even write and suggest that, with nothing
to keep him in town, he would like to spend the week where he could see
her every day. She knew he had nothing to do; if she wanted him to come
she would have asked him to. He dared not risk the anguish he would suffer
if he proposed to come and she made excuses to prevent him.
He wrote to her next day, sent her a five-pound note, and at the end of
his letter said that if she were very nice and cared to see him for the
week-end he would be glad to run down; but she was by no means to alter
any plans she had made. He awaited her answer with impatience. In it she
said that if she had only known before she could have arranged it, but she
had promised to go to a music-hall on the Saturday night; besides, it
would make the people at the boarding-house talk if he stayed there. Why
did he not come on Sunday morning and spend the day? They could lunch at
the Metropole, and she would take him afterwards to see the very superior
lady-like person who was going to take the baby.
Sunday. He blessed the day because it was fine. As the train approached
Brighton the sun poured through the carriage window. Mildred was waiting
for him on the platform.
"How jolly of you to come and meet me!" he cried, as he seized her hands.
"You expected me, didn't you?"
"I hoped you would. I say, how well you're looking."
"It's done me a rare lot of good, but I think I'm wise to stay here as
long as I can. And there are a very nice class of people at the
boarding-house. I wanted cheering up after seeing nobody all these months.
It was dull sometimes."
She looked very smart in her new hat, a large black straw with a great
many inexpensive flowers on it; and round her neck floated a long boa of
imitation swansdown. She was still very thin, and she stooped a little
when she walked (she had always done that,) but her eyes did not seem so
large; and though she never had any colour, her skin had lost the earthy
look it had. They walked down to the sea. Philip, remembering he had not
walked with her for months, grew suddenly conscious of his limp and walked
stiffly in the attempt to conceal it.
"Are you glad to see me?" he asked, love dancing madly in his heart.
"Of course I am. You needn't ask that."
"By the way, Griffiths sends you his love."
He had talked to her a great deal of Griffiths. He had told her how
flirtatious he was and had amused her often with the narration of some
adventure which Griffiths under the seal of secrecy had imparted to him.
Mildred had listened, with some pretence of disgust sometimes, but
generally with curiosity; and Philip, admiringly, had enlarged upon his
friend's good looks and charm.
"I'm sure you'll like him just as much as I do. He's so jolly and amusing,
and he's such an awfully good sort."
Philip told her how, when they were perfect strangers, Griffiths had
nursed him through an illness; and in the telling Griffiths'
self-sacrifice lost nothing.
"You can't help liking him," said Philip.
"I don't like good-looking men," said Mildred. "They're too conceited for
"He wants to know you. I've talked to him about you an awful lot."
"What have you said?" asked Mildred.
Philip had no one but Griffiths to talk to of his love for Mildred, and
little by little had told him the whole story of his connection with her.
He described her to him fifty times. He dwelt amorously on every detail of
her appearance, and Griffiths knew exactly how her thin hands were shaped
and how white her face was, and he laughed at Philip when he talked of the
charm of her pale, thin lips.
"By Jove, I'm glad I don't take things so badly as that," he said. "Life
wouldn't be worth living."
Philip smiled. Griffiths did not know the delight of being so madly in
love that it was like meat and wine and the air one breathed and whatever
else was essential to existence. Griffiths knew that Philip had looked
after the girl while she was having her baby and was now going away with
"Well, I must say you've deserved to get something," he remarked. "It must
have cost you a pretty penny. It's lucky you can afford it."
"I can't," said Philip. "But what do I care!"
Since it was early for luncheon, Philip and Mildred sat in one of the
shelters on the parade, sunning themselves, and watched the people pass.
There were the Brighton shop-boys who walked in twos and threes, swinging
their canes, and there were the Brighton shop-girls who tripped along in
giggling bunches. They could tell the people who had come down from London
for the day; the keen air gave a fillip to their weariness. There were
many Jews, stout ladies in tight satin dresses and diamonds, little
corpulent men with a gesticulative manner. There were middle-aged
gentlemen spending a week-end in one of the large hotels, carefully
dressed; and they walked industriously after too substantial a breakfast
to give themselves an appetite for too substantial a luncheon: they
exchanged the time of day with friends and talked of Dr. Brighton or
London-by-the-Sea. Here and there a well-known actor passed, elaborately
unconscious of the attention he excited: sometimes he wore patent leather
boots, a coat with an astrakhan collar, and carried a silver-knobbed
stick; and sometimes, looking as though he had come from a day's shooting,
he strolled in knickerbockers, and ulster of Harris tweed, and a tweed hat
on the back of his head. The sun shone on the blue sea, and the blue sea
was trim and neat.
After luncheon they went to Hove to see the woman who was to take charge
of the baby. She lived in a small house in a back street, but it was clean
and tidy. Her name was Mrs. Harding. She was an elderly, stout person,
with gray hair and a red, fleshy face. She looked motherly in her cap, and
Philip thought she seemed kind.
"Won't you find it an awful nuisance to look after a baby?" he asked her.
She explained that her husband was a curate, a good deal older than
herself, who had difficulty in getting permanent work since vicars wanted
young men to assist them; he earned a little now and then by doing locums
when someone took a holiday or fell ill, and a charitable institution gave
them a small pension; but her life was lonely, it would be something to do
to look after a child, and the few shillings a week paid for it would help
her to keep things going. She promised that it should be well fed.
"Quite the lady, isn't she?" said Mildred, when they went away.
They went back to have tea at the Metropole. Mildred liked the crowd and
the band. Philip was tired of talking, and he watched her face as she
looked with keen eyes at the dresses of the women who came in. She had a
peculiar sharpness for reckoning up what things cost, and now and then she
leaned over to him and whispered the result of her meditations.
"D'you see that aigrette there? That cost every bit of seven guineas."
Or: "Look at that ermine, Philip. That's rabbit, that is--that's not
ermine." She laughed triumphantly. "I'd know it a mile off."
Philip smiled happily. He was glad to see her pleasure, and the
ingenuousness of her conversation amused and touched him. The band played
After dinner they walked down to the station, and Philip took her arm. He
told her what arrangements he had made for their journey to France. She
was to come up to London at the end of the week, but she told him that she
could not go away till the Saturday of the week after that. He had already
engaged a room in a hotel in Paris. He was looking forward eagerly to
taking the tickets.
"You won't mind going second-class, will you? We mustn't be extravagant,
and it'll be all the better if we can do ourselves pretty well when we get
He had talked to her a hundred times of the Quarter. They would wander
through its pleasant old streets, and they would sit idly in the charming
gardens of the Luxembourg. If the weather was fine perhaps, when they had
had enough of Paris, they might go to Fontainebleau. The trees would be
just bursting into leaf. The green of the forest in spring was more
beautiful than anything he knew; it was like a song, and it was like the
happy pain of love. Mildred listened quietly. He turned to her and tried
to look deep into her eyes.
"You do want to come, don't you?" he said.
"Of course I do," she smiled.
"You don't know how I'm looking forward to it. I don't know how I shall
get through the next days. I'm so afraid something will happen to prevent
it. It maddens me sometimes that I can't tell you how much I love you. And
at last, at last..."
He broke off. They reached the station, but they had dawdled on the way,
and Philip had barely time to say good-night. He kissed her quickly and
ran towards the wicket as fast as he could. She stood where he left her.
He was strangely grotesque when he ran.
The following Saturday Mildred returned, and that evening Philip kept her
to himself. He took seats for the play, and they drank champagne at
dinner. It was her first gaiety in London for so long that she enjoyed
everything ingenuously. She cuddled up to Philip when they drove from the
theatre to the room he had taken for her in Pimlico.
"I really believe you're quite glad to see me," he said.
She did not answer, but gently pressed his hand. Demonstrations of
affection were so rare with her that Philip was enchanted.
"I've asked Griffiths to dine with us tomorrow," he told her.
"Oh, I'm glad you've done that. I wanted to meet him."
There was no place of entertainment to take her to on Sunday night, and
Philip was afraid she would be bored if she were alone with him all day.
Griffiths was amusing; he would help them to get through the evening; and
Philip was so fond of them both that he wanted them to know and to like
one another. He left Mildred with the words:
"Only six days more."
They had arranged to dine in the gallery at Romano's on Sunday, because
the dinner was excellent and looked as though it cost a good deal more
than it did. Philip and Mildred arrived first and had to wait some time
"He's an unpunctual devil," said Philip. "He's probably making love to one
of his numerous flames."
But presently he appeared. He was a handsome creature, tall and thin; his
head was placed well on the body, it gave him a conquering air which was
attractive; and his curly hair, his bold, friendly blue eyes, his red
mouth, were charming. Philip saw Mildred look at him with appreciation,
and he felt a curious satisfaction. Griffiths greeted them with a smile.
"I've heard a great deal about you," he said to Mildred, as he took her
"Not so much as I've heard about you," she answered.
"Nor so bad," said. Philip.
"Has he been blackening my character?"
Griffiths laughed, and Philip saw that Mildred noticed how white and
regular his teeth were and how pleasant his smile.
"You ought to feel like old friends," said Philip. "I've talked so much
about you to one another."
Griffiths was in the best possible humour, for, having at length passed
his final examination, he was qualified, and he had just been appointed
house-surgeon at a hospital in the North of London. He was taking up his
duties at the beginning of May and meanwhile was going home for a holiday;
this was his last week in town, and he was determined to get as much
enjoyment into it as he could. He began to talk the gay nonsense which
Philip admired because he could not copy it. There was nothing much in
what he said, but his vivacity gave it point. There flowed from him a
force of life which affected everyone who knew him; it was almost as
sensible as bodily warmth. Mildred was more lively than Philip had ever
known her, and he was delighted to see that his little party was a
success. She was amusing herself enormously. She laughed louder and
louder. She quite forgot the genteel reserve which had become second
nature to her.
Presently Griffiths said:
"I say, it's dreadfully difficult for me to call you Mrs. Miller. Philip
never calls you anything but Mildred."
"I daresay she won't scratch your eyes out if you call her that too,"
"Then she must call me Harry."
Philip sat silent while they chattered away and thought how good it was to
see people happy. Now and then Griffiths teased him a little, kindly,
because he was always so serious.
"I believe he's quite fond of you, Philip," smiled Mildred.
"He isn't a bad old thing," answered Griffiths, and taking Philip's hand
he shook it gaily.
It seemed an added charm in Griffiths that he liked Philip. They were all
sober people, and the wine they had drunk went to their heads. Griffiths
became more talkative and so boisterous that Philip, amused, had to beg
him to be quiet. He had a gift for story-telling, and his adventures lost
nothing of their romance and their laughter in his narration. He played in
all of them a gallant, humorous part. Mildred, her eyes shining with
excitement, urged him on. He poured out anecdote after anecdote. When the
lights began to be turned out she was astonished.
"My word, the evening has gone quickly. I thought it wasn't more than half
They got up to go and when she said good-bye, she added:
"I'm coming to have tea at Philip's room tomorrow. You might look in if
"All right," he smiled.
On the way back to Pimlico Mildred talked of nothing but Griffiths. She
was taken with his good looks, his well-cut clothes, his voice, his
"I am glad you like him," said Philip. "D'you remember you were rather
sniffy about meeting him?"
"I think it's so nice of him to be so fond of you, Philip. He is a nice
friend for you to have."
She put up her face to Philip for him to kiss her. It was a thing she did
"I have enjoyed myself this evening, Philip. Thank you so much."
"Don't be so absurd," he laughed, touched by her appreciation so that he
felt the moisture come to his eyes.
She opened her door and just before she went in, turned again to Philip.
"Tell Harry I'm madly in love with him," she said.
"All right," he laughed. "Good-night."
Next day, when they were having tea, Griffiths came in. He sank lazily
into an arm-chair. There was something strangely sensual in the slow
movements of his large limbs. Philip remained silent, while the others
chattered away, but he was enjoying himself. He admired them both so much
that it seemed natural enough for them to admire one another. He did not
care if Griffiths absorbed Mildred's attention, he would have her to
himself during the evening: he had something of the attitude of a loving
husband, confident in his wife's affection, who looks on with amusement
while she flirts harmlessly with a stranger. But at half past seven he
looked at his watch and said:
"It's about time we went out to dinner, Mildred."
There was a moment's pause, and Griffiths seemed to be considering.
"Well, I'll be getting along," he said at last. "I didn't know it was so
"Are you doing anything tonight?" asked Mildred.
There was another silence. Philip felt slightly irritated.
"I'll just go and have a wash," he said, and to Mildred he added: "Would
you like to wash your hands?"
She did not answer him.
"Why don't you come and dine with us?" she said to Griffiths.
He looked at Philip and saw him staring at him sombrely.
"I dined with you last night," he laughed. "I should be in the way."
"Oh, that doesn't matter," insisted Mildred. "Make him come, Philip. He
won't be in the way, will he?"
"Let him come by all means if he'd like to."
"All right, then," said Griffiths promptly. "I'll just go upstairs and
The moment he left the room Philip turned to Mildred angrily.
"Why on earth did you ask him to dine with us?"
"I couldn't help myself. It would have looked so funny to say nothing when
he said he wasn't doing anything."
"Oh, what rot! And why the hell did you ask him if he was doing anything?"
Mildred's pale lips tightened a little.
"I want a little amusement sometimes. I get tired always being alone with
They heard Griffiths coming heavily down the stairs, and Philip went into
his bed-room to wash. They dined in the neighbourhood in an Italian
restaurant. Philip was cross and silent, but he quickly realised that he
was showing to disadvantage in comparison with Griffiths, and he forced
himself to hide his annoyance. He drank a good deal of wine to destroy the
pain that was gnawing at his heart, and he set himself to talk. Mildred,
as though remorseful for what she had said, did all she could to make
herself pleasant to him. She was kindly and affectionate. Presently Philip
began to think he had been a fool to surrender to a feeling of jealousy.
After dinner when they got into a hansom to drive to a music-hall Mildred,
sitting between the two men, of her own accord gave him her hand. His
anger vanished. Suddenly, he knew not how, he grew conscious that
Griffiths was holding her other hand. The pain seized him again violently,
it was a real physical pain, and he asked himself, panic-stricken, what he
might have asked himself before, whether Mildred and Griffiths were in
love with one another. He could not see anything of the performance on
account of the mist of suspicion, anger, dismay, and wretchedness which
seemed to be before his eyes; but he forced himself to conceal the fact
that anything was the matter; he went on talking and laughing. Then a
strange desire to torture himself seized him, and he got up, saying he
wanted to go and drink something. Mildred and Griffiths had never been
alone together for a moment. He wanted to leave them by themselves.
"I'll come too," said Griffiths. "I've got rather a thirst on."
"Oh, nonsense, you stay and talk to Mildred."
Philip did not know why he said that. He was throwing them together now to
make the pain he suffered more intolerable. He did not go to the bar, but
up into the balcony, from where he could watch them and not be seen. They
had ceased to look at the stage and were smiling into one another's eyes.
Griffiths was talking with his usual happy fluency and Mildred seemed to
hang on his lips. Philip's head began to ache frightfully. He stood there
motionless. He knew he would be in the way if he went back. They were
enjoying themselves without him, and he was suffering, suffering. Time
passed, and now he had an extraordinary shyness about rejoining them. He
knew they had not thought of him at all, and he reflected bitterly that he
had paid for the dinner and their seats in the music-hall. What a fool
they were making of him! He was hot with shame. He could see how happy
they were without him. His instinct was to leave them to themselves and go
home, but he had not his hat and coat, and it would necessitate endless
explanations. He went back. He felt a shadow of annoyance in Mildred's
eyes when she saw him, and his heart sank.
"You've been a devil of a time," said Griffiths, with a smile of welcome.
"I met some men I knew. I've been talking to them, and I couldn't get
away. I thought you'd be all right together."
"I've been enjoying myself thoroughly," said Griffiths. "I don't know
She gave a little laugh of happy complacency. There was a vulgar sound in
the ring of it that horrified Philip. He suggested that they should go.
"Come on," said Griffiths, "we'll both drive you home."
Philip suspected that she had suggested that arrangement so that she might
not be left alone with him. In the cab he did not take her hand nor did
she offer it, and he knew all the time that she was holding Griffiths'.
His chief thought was that it was all so horribly vulgar. As they drove
along he asked himself what plans they had made to meet without his
knowledge, he cursed himself for having left them alone, he had actually
gone out of his way to enable them to arrange things.
"Let's keep the cab," said Philip, when they reached the house in which
Mildred was lodging. "I'm too tired to walk home."
On the way back Griffiths talked gaily and seemed indifferent to the fact
that Philip answered in monosyllables. Philip felt he must notice that
something was the matter. Philip's silence at last grew too significant to
struggle against, and Griffiths, suddenly nervous, ceased talking. Philip
wanted to say something, but he was so shy he could hardly bring himself
to, and yet the time was passing and the opportunity would be lost. It was
best to get at the truth at once. He forced himself to speak.
"Are you in love with Mildred?" he asked suddenly.
"I?" Griffiths laughed. "Is that what you've been so funny about this
evening? Of course not, my dear old man."
He tried to slip his hand through Philip's arm, but Philip drew himself
away. He knew Griffiths was lying. He could not bring himself to force
Griffiths to tell him that he had not been holding the girl's hand. He
suddenly felt very weak and broken.
"It doesn't matter to you, Harry," he said. "You've got so many
women--don't take her away from me. It means my whole life. I've been so
His voice broke, and he could not prevent the sob that was torn from him.
He was horribly ashamed of himself.
"My dear old boy, you know I wouldn't do anything to hurt you. I'm far too
fond of you for that. I was only playing the fool. If I'd known you were
going to take it like that I'd have been more careful."
"Is that true?" asked Philip.
"I don't care a twopenny damn for her. I give you my word of honour."
Philip gave a sigh of relief. The cab stopped at their door.
Next day Philip was in a good temper. He was very anxious not to bore
Mildred with too much of his society, and so had arranged that he should
not see her till dinner-time. She was ready when he fetched her, and he
chaffed her for her unwonted punctuality. She was wearing a new dress he
had given her. He remarked on its smartness.
"It'll have to go back and be altered," she said. "The skirt hangs all
"You'll have to make the dressmaker hurry up if you want to take it to
Paris with you."
"It'll be ready in time for that."
"Only three more whole days. We'll go over by the eleven o'clock, shall
"If you like."
He would have her for nearly a month entirely to himself. His eyes rested
on her with hungry adoration. He was able to laugh a little at his own
"I wonder what it is I see in you," he smiled.
"That's a nice thing to say," she answered.
Her body was so thin that one could almost see her skeleton. Her chest was
as flat as a boy's. Her mouth, with its narrow pale lips, was ugly, and
her skin was faintly green.
"I shall give you Blaud's Pills in quantities when we're away," said
Philip, laughing. "I'm going to bring you back fat and rosy."
"I don't want to get fat," she said.
She did not speak of Griffiths, and presently while they were dining
Philip half in malice, for he felt sure of himself and his power over her,
"It seems to me you were having a great flirtation with Harry last night?"
"I told you I was in love with him," she laughed.
"I'm glad to know that he's not in love with you."
"How d'you know?"
"I asked him."
She hesitated a moment, looking at Philip, and a curious gleam came into
"Would you like to read a letter I had from him this morning?"
She handed him an envelope and Philip recognised Griffiths' bold, legible
writing. There were eight pages. It was well written, frank and charming;
it was the letter of a man who was used to making love to women. He told
Mildred that he loved her passionately, he had fallen in love with her the
first moment he saw her; he did not want to love her, for he knew how fond
Philip was of her, but he could not help himself. Philip was such a dear,
and he was very much ashamed of himself, but it was not his fault, he was
just carried away. He paid her delightful compliments. Finally he thanked
her for consenting to lunch with him next day and said he was dreadfully
impatient to see her. Philip noticed that the letter was dated the night
before; Griffiths must have written it after leaving Philip, and had taken
the trouble to go out and post it when Philip thought he was in bed.
He read it with a sickening palpitation of his heart, but gave no outward
sign of surprise. He handed it back to Mildred with a smile, calmly.
"Did you enjoy your lunch?"
"Rather," she said emphatically.
He felt that his hands were trembling, so he put them under the table.
"You mustn't take Griffiths too seriously. He's just a butterfly, you
She took the letter and looked at it again.
"I can't help it either," she said, in a voice which she tried to make
nonchalant. "I don't know what's come over me."
"It's a little awkward for me, isn't it?" said Philip.
She gave him a quick look.
"You're taking it pretty calmly, I must say."
"What do you expect me to do? Do you want me to tear out my hair in
"I knew you'd be angry with me."
"The funny thing is, I'm not at all. I ought to have known this would
happen. I was a fool to bring you together. I know perfectly well that
he's got every advantage over me; he's much jollier, and he's very
handsome, he's more amusing, he can talk to you about the things that
"I don't know what you mean by that. If I'm not clever I can't help it,
but I'm not the fool you think I am, not by a long way, I can tell you.
You're a bit too superior for me, my young friend."
"D'you want to quarrel with me?" he asked mildly.
"No, but I don't see why you should treat me as if I was I don't know
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I just wanted to talk things over
quietly. We don't want to make a mess of them if we can help it. I saw you
were attracted by him and it seemed to me very natural. The only thing
that really hurts me is that he should have encouraged you. He knew how
awfully keen I was on you. I think it's rather shabby of him to have
written that letter to you five minutes after he told me he didn't care
twopence about you."
"If you think you're going to make me like him any the less by saying
nasty things about him, you're mistaken."
Philip was silent for a moment. He did not know what words he could use to
make her see his point of view. He wanted to speak coolly and
deliberately, but he was in such a turmoil of emotion that he could not
clear his thoughts.
"It's not worth while sacrificing everything for an infatuation that you
know can't last. After all, he doesn't care for anyone more than ten days,
and you're rather cold; that sort of thing doesn't mean very much to you."
"That's what you think."
She made it more difficult for him by adopting a cantankerous tone.
"If you're in love with him you can't help it. I'll just bear it as best
I can. We get on very well together, you and I, and I've not behaved badly
to you, have I? I've always known that you're not in love with me, but you
like me all right, and when we get over to Paris you'll forget about
Griffiths. If you make up your mind to put him out of your thoughts you
won't find it so hard as all that, and I've deserved that you should do
something for me."
She did not answer, and they went on eating their dinner. When the silence
grew oppressive Philip began to talk of indifferent things. He pretended
not to notice that Mildred was inattentive. Her answers were perfunctory,
and she volunteered no remarks of her own. At last she interrupted
abruptly what he was saying:
"Philip, I'm afraid I shan't be able to go away on Saturday. The doctor
says I oughtn't to."
He knew this was not true, but he answered:
"When will you be able to come away?"
She glanced at him, saw that his face was white and rigid, and looked
nervously away. She was at that moment a little afraid of him.
"I may as well tell you and have done with it, I can't come away with you
"I thought you were driving at that. It's too late to change your mind
now. I've got the tickets and everything."
"You said you didn't wish me to go unless I wanted it too, and I don't."
"I've changed my mind. I'm not going to have any more tricks played with
me. You must come."
"I like you very much, Philip, as a friend. But I can't bear to think of
anything else. I don't like you that way. I couldn't, Philip."
"You were quite willing to a week ago."
"It was different then."
"You hadn't met Griffiths?"
"You said yourself I couldn't help it if I'm in love with him."
Her face was set into a sulky look, and she kept her eyes fixed on her
plate. Philip was white with rage. He would have liked to hit her in the
face with his clenched fist, and in fancy he saw how she would look with
a black eye. There were two lads of eighteen dining at a table near them,
and now and then they looked at Mildred; he wondered if they envied him
dining with a pretty girl; perhaps they were wishing they stood in his
shoes. It was Mildred who broke the silence.
"What's the good of our going away together? I'd be thinking of him all
the time. It wouldn't be much fun for you."
"That's my business," he answered.
She thought over all his reply implicated, and she reddened.
"But that's just beastly."
"What of it?"
"I thought you were a gentleman in every sense of the word."
"You were mistaken."
His reply entertained him, and he laughed as he said it.
"For God's sake don't laugh," she cried. "I can't come away with you,
Philip. I'm awfully sorry. I know I haven't behaved well to you, but one
can't force themselves."
"Have you forgotten that when you were in trouble I did everything for
you? I planked out the money to keep you till your baby was born, I paid
for your doctor and everything, I paid for you to go to Brighton, and I'm
paying for the keep of your baby, I'm paying for your clothes, I'm paying
for every stitch you've got on now."
"If you was a gentleman you wouldn't throw what you've done for me in my
"Oh, for goodness' sake, shut up. What d'you suppose I care if I'm a
gentleman or not? If I were a gentleman I shouldn't waste my time with a
vulgar slut like you. I don't care a damn if you like me or not. I'm sick
of being made a blasted fool of. You're jolly well coming to Paris with me
on Saturday or you can take the consequences."
Her cheeks were red with anger, and when she answered her voice had the
hard commonness which she concealed generally by a genteel enunciation.
"I never liked you, not from the beginning, but you forced yourself on me,
I always hated it when you kissed me. I wouldn't let you touch me now not
if I was starving."
Philip tried to swallow the food on his plate, but the muscles of his
throat refused to act. He gulped down something to drink and lit a
cigarette. He was trembling in every part. He did not speak. He waited for
her to move, but she sat in silence, staring at the white tablecloth. If
they had been alone he would have flung his arms round her and kissed her
passionately; he fancied the throwing back of her long white throat as he
pressed upon her mouth with his lips. They passed an hour without
speaking, and at last Philip thought the waiter began to stare at them
curiously. He called for the bill.
"Shall we go?" he said then, in an even tone.
She did not reply, but gathered together her bag and her gloves. She put
on her coat.
"When are you seeing Griffiths again?"
"Tomorrow," she answered indifferently.
"You'd better talk it over with him."
She opened her bag mechanically and saw a piece of paper in it. She took
"Here's the bill for this dress," she said hesitatingly.
"What of it?"
"I promised I'd give her the money tomorrow."
"Does that mean you won't pay for it after having told me I could get it?"
"I'll ask Harry," she said, flushing quickly.
"He'll be glad to help you. He owes me seven pounds at the moment, and he
pawned his microscope last week, because he was so broke."
"You needn't think you can frighten me by that. I'm quite capable of
earning my own living."
"It's the best thing you can do. I don't propose to give you a farthing
She thought of her rent due on Saturday and the baby's keep, but did not
say anything. They left the restaurant, and in the street Philip asked
"Shall I call a cab for you? I'm going to take a little stroll."
"I haven't got any money. I had to pay a bill this afternoon."
"It won't hurt you to walk. If you want to see me tomorrow I shall be in
He took off his hat and sauntered away. He looked round in a moment and
saw that she was standing helplessly where he had left her, looking at the
traffic. He went back and with a laugh pressed a coin into her hand.
"Here's two bob for you to get home with."
Before she could speak he hurried away.
Next day, in the afternoon, Philip sat in his room and wondered whether
Mildred would come. He had slept badly. He had spent the morning in the
club of the Medical School, reading one newspaper after another. It was
the vacation and few students he knew were in London, but he found one or
two people to talk to, he played a game of chess, and so wore out the
tedious hours. After luncheon he felt so tired, his head was aching so,
that he went back to his lodgings and lay down; he tried to read a novel.
He had not seen Griffiths. He was not in when Philip returned the night
before; he heard him come back, but he did not as usual look into Philip's
room to see if he was asleep; and in the morning Philip heard him go out
early. It was clear that he wanted to avoid him. Suddenly there was a
light tap at his door. Philip sprang to his feet and opened it. Mildred
stood on the threshold. She did not move.
"Come in," said Philip.
He closed the door after her. She sat down. She hesitated to begin.
"Thank you for giving me that two shillings last night," she said.
"Oh, that's all right."
She gave him a faint smile. It reminded Philip of the timid, ingratiating
look of a puppy that has been beaten for naughtiness and wants to
reconcile himself with his master.
"I've been lunching with Harry," she said.
"If you still want me to go away with you on Saturday, Philip, I'll come."
A quick thrill of triumph shot through his heart, but it was a sensation
that only lasted an instant; it was followed by a suspicion.
"Because of the money?" he asked.
"Partly," she answered simply. "Harry can't do anything. He owes five
weeks here, and he owes you seven pounds, and his tailor's pressing him
for money. He'd pawn anything he could, but he's pawned everything
already. I had a job to put the woman off about my new dress, and on
Saturday there's the book at my lodgings, and I can't get work in five
minutes. It always means waiting some little time till there's a vacancy."
She said all this in an even, querulous tone, as though she were
recounting the injustices of fate, which had to be borne as part of the
natural order of things. Philip did not answer. He knew what she told him
"You said partly," he observed at last.
"Well, Harry says you've been a brick to both of us. You've been a real
good friend to him, he says, and you've done for me what p'raps no other
man would have done. We must do the straight thing, he says. And he said
what you said about him, that he's fickle by nature, he's not like you,
and I should be a fool to throw you away for him. He won't last and you
will, he says so himself."
"D'you WANT to come away with me?" asked Philip.
"I don't mind."
He looked at her, and the corners of his mouth turned down in an
expression of misery. He had triumphed indeed, and he was going to have
his way. He gave a little laugh of derision at his own humiliation. She
looked at him quickly, but did not speak.
"I've looked forward with all my soul to going away with you, and I
thought at last, after all that wretchedness, I was going to be happy..."
He did not finish what he was going to say. And then on a sudden, without
warning, Mildred broke into a storm of tears. She was sitting in the chair
in which Norah had sat and wept, and like her she hid her face on the back
of it, towards the side where there was a little bump formed by the
sagging in the middle, where the head had rested.
"I'm not lucky with women," thought Philip.
Her thin body was shaken with sobs. Philip had never seen a woman cry with
such an utter abandonment. It was horribly painful, and his heart was
torn. Without realising what he did, he went up to her and put his arms
round her; she did not resist, but in her wretchedness surrendered herself
to his comforting. He whispered to her little words of solace. He scarcely
knew what he was saying, he bent over her and kissed her repeatedly.
"Are you awfully unhappy?" he said at last.
"I wish I was dead," she moaned. "I wish I'd died when the baby come."
Her hat was in her way, and Philip took it off for her. He placed her head
more comfortably in the chair, and then he went and sat down at the table
and looked at her.
"It is awful, love, isn't it?" he said. "Fancy anyone wanting to be in
Presently the violence of her sobbing diminished and she sat in the chair,
exhausted, with her head thrown back and her arms hanging by her side. She
had the grotesque look of one of those painters' dummies used to hang
"I didn't know you loved him so much as all that," said Philip.
He understood Griffiths' love well enough, for he put himself in
Griffiths' place and saw with his eyes, touched with his hands; he was
able to think himself in Griffiths' body, and he kissed her with his lips,
smiled at her with his smiling blue eyes. It was her emotion that
surprised him. He had never thought her capable of passion, and this was
passion: there was no mistaking it. Something seemed to give way in his
heart; it really felt to him as though something were breaking, and he
felt strangely weak.
"I don't want to make you unhappy. You needn't come away with me if you
don't want to. I'll give you the money all the same."
She shook her head.
"No, I said I'd come, and I'll come."
"What's the good, if you're sick with love for him?"
"Yes, that's the word. I'm sick with love. I know it won't last, just as
well as he does, but just now..."
She paused and shut her eyes as though she were going to faint. A strange
idea came to Philip, and he spoke it as it came, without stopping to think
"Why don't you go away with him?"
"How can I? You know we haven't got the money."
"I'll give you the money"
She sat up and looked at him. Her eyes began to shine, and the colour came
into her cheeks.
"Perhaps the best thing would be to get it over, and then you'd come back
Now that he had made the suggestion he was sick with anguish, and yet the
torture of it gave him a strange, subtle sensation. She stared at him with
"Oh, how could we, on your money? Harry wouldn't think of it."
"Oh yes, he would, if you persuaded him."
Her objections made him insist, and yet he wanted her with all his heart
to refuse vehemently.
"I'll give you a fiver, and you can go away from Saturday to Monday. You
could easily do that. On Monday he's going home till he takes up his
appointment at the North London."
"Oh, Philip, do you mean that?" she cried, clasping her hands. "if you
could only let us go--I would love you so much afterwards, I'd do anything
for you. I'm sure I shall get over it if you'll only do that. Would you
really give us the money?"
"Yes," he said.
She was entirely changed now. She began to laugh. He could see that she
was insanely happy. She got up and knelt down by Philip's side, taking his
"You are a brick, Philip. You're the best fellow I've ever known. Won't
you be angry with me afterwards?"
He shook his head, smiling, but with what agony in his heart!
"May I go and tell Harry now? And can I say to him that you don't mind? He
won't consent unless you promise it doesn't matter. Oh, you don't know how
I love him! And afterwards I'll do anything you like. I'll come over to
Paris with you or anywhere on Monday."
She got up and put on her hat.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to ask him if he'll take me."
"D'you want me to stay? I'll stay if you like."
She sat down, but he gave a little laugh.
"No, it doesn't matter, you'd better go at once. There's only one thing:
I can't bear to see Griffiths just now, it would hurt me too awfully. Say
I have no ill-feeling towards him or anything like that, but ask him to
keep out of my way."
"All right." She sprang up and put on her gloves. "I'll let you know what
"You'd better dine with me tonight."
She put up her face for him to kiss her, and when he pressed his lips to
hers she threw her arms round his neck.
"You are a darling, Philip."
She sent him a note a couple of hours later to say that she had a headache
and could not dine with him. Philip had almost expected it. He knew that
she was dining with Griffiths. He was horribly jealous, but the sudden
passion which had seized the pair of them seemed like something that had
come from the outside, as though a god had visited them with it, and he
felt himself helpless. It seemed so natural that they should love one
another. He saw all the advantages that Griffiths had over himself and
confessed that in Mildred's place he would have done as Mildred did. What
hurt him most was Griffiths' treachery; they had been such good friends,
and Griffiths knew how passionately devoted he was to Mildred: he might
have spared him.
He did not see Mildred again till Friday; he was sick for a sight of her
by then; but when she came and he realised that he had gone out of her
thoughts entirely, for they were engrossed in Griffiths, he suddenly hated
her. He saw now why she and Griffiths loved one another, Griffiths was
stupid, oh so stupid! he had known that all along, but had shut his eyes
to it, stupid and empty-headed: that charm of his concealed an utter
selfishness; he was willing to sacrifice anyone to his appetites. And how
inane was the life he led, lounging about bars and drinking in music
halls, wandering from one light amour to another! He never read a book, he
was blind to everything that was not frivolous and vulgar; he had never a
thought that was fine: the word most common on his lips was smart; that
was his highest praise for man or woman. Smart! It was no wonder he
pleased Mildred. They suited one another.
Philip talked to Mildred of things that mattered to neither of them. He
knew she wanted to speak of Griffiths, but he gave her no opportunity. He
did not refer to the fact that two evenings before she had put off dining
with him on a trivial excuse. He was casual with her, trying to make her
think he was suddenly grown indifferent; and he exercised peculiar skill
in saying little things which he knew would wound her; but which were so
indefinite, so delicately cruel, that she could not take exception to
them. At last she got up.
"I think I must be going off now," she said.
"I daresay you've got a lot to do," he answered.
She held out her hand, he took it, said good-bye, and opened the door for
her. He knew what she wanted to speak about, and he knew also that his
cold, ironical air intimidated her. Often his shyness made him seem so
frigid that unintentionally he frightened people, and, having discovered
this, he was able when occasion arose to assume the same manner.
"You haven't forgotten what you promised?" she said at last, as he held
open the door.
"What is that?"
"About the money"
"How much d'you want?"
He spoke with an icy deliberation which made his words peculiarly
offensive. Mildred flushed. He knew she hated him at that moment, and he
wondered at the self-control by which she prevented herself from flying
out at him. He wanted to make her suffer.
"There's the dress and the book tomorrow. That's all. Harry won't come, so
we shan't want money for that."
Philip's heart gave a great thud against his ribs, and he let the door
handle go. The door swung to.
"He says we couldn't, not on your money."
A devil seized Philip, a devil of self-torture which was always lurking
within him, and, though with all his soul he wished that Griffiths and
Mildred should not go away together, he could not help himself; he set
himself to persuade Griffiths through her.
"I don't see why not, if I'm willing," he said.
"That's what I told him."
"I should have thought if he really wanted to go he wouldn't hesitate."
"Oh, it's not that, he wants to all right. He'd go at once if he had the
"If he's squeamish about it I'll give YOU the money."
"I said you'd lend it if he liked, and we'd pay it back as soon as we
"It's rather a change for you going on your knees to get a man to take you
away for a week-end."
"It is rather, isn't it?" she said, with a shameless little laugh. It sent
a cold shudder down Philip's spine.
"What are you going to do then?" he asked.
"Nothing. He's going home tomorrow. He must."
That would be Philip's salvation. With Griffiths out of the way he could
get Mildred back. She knew no one in London, she would be thrown on to his
society, and when they were alone together he could soon make her forget
this infatuation. If he said nothing more he was safe. But he had a
fiendish desire to break down their scruples, he wanted to know how
abominably they could behave towards him; if he tempted them a little more
they would yield, and he took a fierce joy at the thought of their
dishonour. Though every word he spoke tortured him, he found in the
torture a horrible delight.
"It looks as if it were now or never."
"That's what I told him," she said.
There was a passionate note in her voice which struck Philip. He was
biting his nails in his nervousness.
"Where were you thinking of going?"
"Oh, to Oxford. He was at the 'Varsity there, you know. He said he'd show
me the colleges."
Philip remembered that once he had suggested going to Oxford for the day,
and she had expressed firmly the boredom she felt at the thought of
"And it looks as if you'd have fine weather. It ought to be very jolly
there just now."
"I've done all I could to persuade him."
"Why don't you have another try?"
"Shall I say you want us to go?"
"I don't think you must go as far as that," said Philip.
She paused for a minute or two, looking at him. Philip forced himself to
look at her in a friendly way. He hated her, he despised her, he loved her
with all his heart.
"I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll go and see if he can't arrange it. And
then, if he says yes, I'll come and fetch the money tomorrow. When shall
you be in?"
"I'll come back here after luncheon and wait."
"I'll give you the money for your dress and your room now."
He went to his desk and took out what money he had. The dress was six
guineas; there was besides her rent and her food, and the baby's keep for
a week. He gave her eight pounds ten.
"Thanks very much," she said.
She left him.
After lunching in the basement of the Medical School Philip went back to
his rooms. It was Saturday afternoon, and the landlady was cleaning the
"Is Mr. Griffiths in?" he asked.
"No, sir. He went away this morning, soon after you went out."
"Isn't he coming back?"
"I don't think so, sir. He's taken his luggage."
Philip wondered what this could mean. He took a book and began to read. It
was Burton's Journey to Meccah, which he had just got out of the
Westminster Public Library; and he read the first page, but could make no
sense of it, for his mind was elsewhere; he was listening all the time for
a ring at the bell. He dared not hope that Griffiths had gone away
already, without Mildred, to his home in Cumberland. Mildred would be
coming presently for the money. He set his teeth and read on; he tried
desperately to concentrate his attention; the sentences etched themselves
in his brain by the force of his effort, but they were distorted by the
agony he was enduring. He wished with all his heart that he had not made
the horrible proposition to give them money; but now that he had made it
he lacked the strength to go back on it, not on Mildred's account, but on
his own. There was a morbid obstinacy in him which forced him to do the
thing he had determined. He discovered that the three pages he had read
had made no impression on him at all; and he went back and started from
the beginning: he found himself reading one sentence over and over again;
and now it weaved itself in with his thoughts, horribly, like some formula
in a nightmare. One thing he could do was to go out and keep away till
midnight; they could not go then; and he saw them calling at the house
every hour to ask if he was in. He enjoyed the thought of their
disappointment. He repeated that sentence to himself mechanically. But he
could not do that. Let them come and take the money, and he would know
then to what depths of infamy it was possible for men to descend. He could
not read any more now. He simply could not see the words. He leaned back
in his chair, closing his eyes, and, numb with misery, waited for Mildred.
The landlady came in.
"Will you see Mrs. Miller, sir?"
"Show her in."
Philip pulled himself together to receive her without any sign of what he
was feeling. He had an impulse to throw himself on his knees and seize her
hands and beg her not to go; but he knew there was no way of moving her;
she would tell Griffiths what he had said and how he acted. He was
"Well, how about the little jaunt?" he said gaily.
"We're going. Harry's outside. I told him you didn't want to see him, so
he's kept out of your way. But he wants to know if he can come in just for
a minute to say good-bye to you."
"No, I won't see him," said Philip.
He could see she did not care if he saw Griffiths or not. Now that she was
there he wanted her to go quickly.
"Look here, here's the fiver. I'd like you to go now."
She took it and thanked him. She turned to leave the room.
"When are you coming back?" he asked.
"Oh, on Monday. Harry must go home then."
He knew what he was going to say was humiliating, but he was broken down
with jealousy and desire.
"Then I shall see you, shan't I?"
He could not help the note of appeal in his voice.
"Of course. I'll let you know the moment I'm back."
He shook hands with her. Through the curtains he watched her jump into a
four-wheeler that stood at the door. It rolled away. Then he threw himself
on his bed and hid his face in his hands. He felt tears coming to his
eyes, and he was angry with himself; he clenched his hands and screwed up
his body to prevent them; but he could not; and great painful sobs were
forced from him.
He got up at last, exhausted and ashamed, and washed his face. He mixed
himself a strong whiskey and soda. It made him feel a little better. Then
he caught sight of the tickets to Paris, which were on the chimney-piece,
and, seizing them, with an impulse of rage he flung them in the fire. He
knew he could have got the money back on them, but it relieved him to
destroy them. Then he went out in search of someone to be with. The club
was empty. He felt he would go mad unless he found someone to talk to; but
Lawson was abroad; he went on to Hayward's rooms: the maid who opened the
door told him that he had gone down to Brighton for the week-end. Then
Philip went to a gallery and found it was just closing. He did not know
what to do. He was distracted. And he thought of Griffiths and Mildred
going to Oxford, sitting opposite one another in the train, happy. He went
back to his rooms, but they filled him with horror, he had been so
wretched in them; he tried once more to read Burton's book, but, as he
read, he told himself again and again what a fool he had been; it was he
who had made the suggestion that they should go away, he had offered the
money, he had forced it upon them; he might have known what would happen
when he introduced Griffiths to Mildred; his own vehement passion was
enough to arouse the other's desire. By this time they had reached Oxford.
They would put up in one of the lodging-houses in John Street; Philip had
never been to Oxford, but Griffiths had talked to him about it so much
that he knew exactly where they would go; and they would dine at the
Clarendon: Griffiths had been in the habit of dining there when he went on
the spree. Philip got himself something to eat in a restaurant near
Charing Cross; he had made up his mind to go to a play, and afterwards he
fought his way into the pit of a theatre at which one of Oscar Wilde's
pieces was being performed. He wondered if Mildred and Griffiths would go
to a play that evening: they must kill the evening somehow; they were too
stupid, both of them to content themselves with conversation: he got a
fierce delight in reminding himself of the vulgarity of their minds which
suited them so exactly to one another. He watched the play with an
abstracted mind, trying to give himself gaiety by drinking whiskey in each
interval; he was unused to alcohol, and it affected him quickly, but his
drunkenness was savage and morose. When the play was over he had another
drink. He could not go to bed, he knew he would not sleep, and he dreaded
the pictures which his vivid imagination would place before him. He tried
not to think of them. He knew he had drunk too much. Now he was seized
with a desire to do horrible, sordid things; he wanted to roll himself in
gutters; his whole being yearned for beastliness; he wanted to grovel.
He walked up Piccadilly, dragging his club-foot, sombrely drunk, with rage
and misery clawing at his heart. He was stopped by a painted harlot, who
put her hand on his arm; he pushed her violently away with brutal words.
He walked on a few steps and then stopped. She would do as well as
another. He was sorry he had spoken so roughly to her. He went up to her.
"I say," he began.
"Go to hell," she said.