Part 2 out of 4
cut across her broad white forehead, parted a little like a child's, at
one side, and falling thick and straight round her neck like a mediaeval
page's. She wore a long string of big amber beads--Hobart's present--and
a golden girdle round her high, sturdy waist.
I saw Jane in a sense newly that evening, not having seen her for some
time. And I saw her again as I had often seen her in the past--a greedy,
lazy, spoilt child, determined to take and keep the best out of life,
and, if possible, pay nothing for it. A profiteer, as much as the fat
little match manufacturer, her uncle, who was talking to Hobart, and in
whom I saw a resemblance to the twins. And I saw too Jane's queer, lazy,
casual charm, that had caught and held Hobart and weaned him from the
feminine graces and obviousnesses of Clare.
Hobart stood near Jane, quiet and agreeable and good-looking. A
second-rate chap, running a third-rate paper. Jane had married him, for
all her clear-headed intellectual scorn of the second-rate, because she
was second-rate herself, and didn't really care.
And there was little Pinkerton chatting with Northcliffe, his rival and
friend, and Lady Pinkerton boring a high Foreign Office official very
nearly to yawns, and Clare Potter, flushed and gallantly gay, flitting
about from person to person (Clare was always restless; she had none of
Jane's phlegm and stolidity), and Johnny, putting in a fairly amusing
time with his own friends and acquaintances, and Frank Potter talking
to Juke about his new parish. Frank, discontented all the war because
he couldn't get out to France without paying the price that Juke had
paid, was satisfied with life for the moment, having just been given a
fashionable and rich London living, where many hundreds weekly sat
under him and heard him preach. Juke wasn't the member of that crowd I
should personally have selected to discuss fashionable and overpaid
livings with, had I just accepted one, but they were the only two
parsons in the room, so I suppose Potter thought it appropriate, I
overheard pleased fragments such as 'Twenty thousand communicants ...
only standing-room at Sunday evensong,' which indicated that the new
parish was a great success.
'That poor chap,' Jukie said to me afterwards. 'He's in a wretched
position. He has to profess Christianity, and he doesn't want even to try
to live up to it. At least, whenever he has a flash of desire to, that
atheist wife of his puts it out. She's the worst sort of atheist--the
sort that says her prayers regularly. Why are parsons allowed to marry?
Or if they must, why can't their wives be chosen for them by a special
board? And what, in Heaven's name, came over a Potter that he should take
Orders? The fight between Potterism and Christianity--it's the funniest
spectacle--and the saddest....'
But Juke on Christianity always leaves me cold. The nation to which I (on
one side) belong can't be expected to look at Christianity
impartially--we have suffered too much at the hands of Christians. Juke
and the other hopeful and ardent members of his Church may be able to
separate Christianity from Christians, and not judge the one by the
other; but I can't. The fact that Christendom is what it is has always
disposed of Christianity as a working force, to my mind. Judaism is
detestable, but efficient; Christianity is well-meaning but a failure.
As, of course, parsons like Juke would be and are the first to admit.
They say it aims so high that it's bound to fail, which is probably true.
But that makes it pretty useless as a working human religion. Anyhow, I
quite agree with Juke that it is comic to see poor little nonentities
like Frank Potter caught in it, tangled up in it, and trying to get free
and carry on as though it wasn't there.
Of course, nearly all the rest of that crowd at Jane's wedding was
carrying on as if Christianity weren't there without the least trouble or
struggle. They were quite right; it wasn't there. Nothing was there, for
most of them, but self-interest and personal desire. We were, the lot of
us, out to make--to grab and keep and enjoy. Nothing else counted. What
could Christianity do, a frail, tilting, crusading St. George, up against
the monster dragon Grab, who held us all in his coils? It's no use,
Jukie; it never was and never will be any use.
I suddenly grew very tired of that party. It seemed a monster meeting of
Potterites at play--mediocrity, second-rateness, humbug, muddle, cant,
cheap stunts--the room was full of it all.
I went across to Jane to say good-bye. I had scarcely spoken to her yet.
I had never congratulated her on her engagement, but Jane wouldn't mind
about that or expect me to.
All I could say now was, 'I'm afraid I've got to get back. I've some
She said, 'Is it any use my sending you anything for the _Fact_?
'From the enemy's camp?' I smiled at her. She smiled too.
'I've not ratted, you know. I'm still an A.P. I shall come on the next
tour of investigation, whenever that is.'
'Shall you write for the _Haste_?' I asked her.
'Sometimes, I expect. Oliver says he can get me some of the reviewing.
And occasional non-controversial articles. But I don't want to be tied up
with it; I want to write for other papers too.... You take Johnny's
poetry, I observe.'
'Sometimes. That's Peacock's fault, not mine. ... Send along anything
you think may suit, by all means, and we'll consider it. You'll most
likely get it back--if you remember to enclose a stamped envelope.
... Good-night, and thank you for asking me to your party.
I said good-bye to Lady Pinkerton, and went back to the _Fact_ office,
for it was press night.
So Jane got married.
DINING WITH THE HOBARTS
That May was very hot. One sweltered in offices, streets, and underground
trains. You don't expect this kind of weather in early May, which is
usually a time of bitter frosts and biting winds, punctuated by
thunderstorms. It told on one's nerves. One got sick of work and people.
I quarrelled all round; with Peacock about the paper, with my typist
about her punctuation, with my family about my sister's engagement.
Rosalind (that was the good old English name they had given her) had been
brought up, like myself, in the odour of public school and Oxford
Anglicanism (she had been at Lady Margaret Hall). My father had grown up
from his early youth most resolutely English, and had married the
daughter of a rich Manchester cotton manufacturer. Their two children,
Sidneys from birth, were to ignore the unhappy Yiddish strain that was
branded like a deep disgrace into their father's earliest experience. It
was unlucky for my parents that both Rosalind and I reverted to type.
Rosalind was very lovely, very clever, and unmistakably a Jewess. At
Roedean she pretended she wasn't; who wouldn't? She was still there when
I came of age and became Gideon, so she didn't join me in that. But when
she left school and went up to Oxford, she began to develop and expand
mentally, and took her own line, and by the time she was twenty she was,
as I never was, a red-hot nationalist. We were neither of us ever
inclined to Judaism in religion; we shook off the misfit of Anglicanism
at an early age (we both refused at fifteen to be confirmed), but didn't
take to our national faith, which we both disliked extremely. Nor did we
like most of our fellow Jews; I think as a race we are narrow, cowardly,
avaricious, and mean-spirited, and Rosalind thinks we are oily. (She and
I aren't oily, by the way; we are both the lean kind, perhaps because,
after all, we are half English). I only reverted to our original name
because I was sickened of the Sidney humbug. But we learnt Yiddish, and
read Hebrew literature, and discussed repatriation, and maintained that
the Jews were the brains of the world. It was a cross to our parents. But
far more bitter to them than even my change of name was Rosalind's
engagement, this spring of 1919, to Boris Stefan. Boris had been living
and painting in London for some years; his home had been in Moscow; he
had barely escaped with his life from a pogrom in 1912, and had since
then lived in England. He had served in the war, belonged to several
secret societies of a harmless sort, painted pictures that had attracted
a good deal of critical notice, and professed Bolshevik sympathies, of a
purely academic nature (as so many of these sympathies are) on the
grounds that Bolshevism was a Jewish movement. He and I differed on the
subject of Bolshevism. I have never seen any signs either of constructive
ability or sound principles in any Bolshevik leader; nothing but
enterprise, driving-power, vindictiveness, Hebrew cunning, and a criminal
ruthlessness. They're not statesmen. And Bolshevism, as so far
manifested, isn't a statesmanlike system; it holds the reins too tight. I
don't condemn it for the cruelties committed in its name, because
whenever Russians get excited there'll be fiendish cruelties; Russians
are like that--the most cruel devils in earth or hell. Bolshevist
Russians are no worse in that way than Czarist Russians. Except when I am
listening to their music I loathe the whole race; great stupid, brutal,
immoral, sentimental savages.... When I think of them I feel a kind of
nausea, oddly touched with fear, that must be hereditary, I suppose.
After all, my father, as a child of five, saw his mother outraged and
murdered by Russian police. Anyhow, Bolshevism, in Russian hands, has
become a kind of stupid, crazy, devil's game, as everything always has.
But I don't want to discuss Bolshevism here. Boris Stefan hadn't really
anything to do with it. He wasn't a politician. He was a dreamy, simple,
untidy, rather childlike person, with a wonderful gift for painting.
Rosalind and I had got to know him at the Club. They were both beautiful,
and it hadn't taken them long to fall in love. One Russian-Jewish exile
marrying another--that was the bitterness of it to our very Gentile
mother and our Sidneyfied father, who had spent fifty years living down
So I was called in to assist in averting the catastrophe. I wouldn't say
anything except that it seemed very suitable, and that annoyed my mother.
I remember that she and I and Rosalind argued round and round it for an
hour one hot evening in the drawing-room at Queen's Gate. Finally my
mother said, 'Oh, very well. If Rosalind wants a lot of fat Yid babies
with hooked noses and oily hair, all lending money on usury instead of
getting into debt like Christians, let her have them. I wash my hands of
the lot of you. I don't know what I've done to deserve two Sheenies for
That made Rosalind giggle, and eased the acrimony of the discussion. My
mother was a little fair woman, sharp-tongued and quick-tempered, but
with a sense of fun.
My father had no sense of fun. I think it had been crushed out of him in
his cradle. He was a silent man (though he could, like all Jews, be
eloquent), with a thin face and melancholy dark eyes. I am supposed to
look like him, I believe. He, too, spoke to me that evening about
Rosalind's engagement. I remember how he walked up and down the
dining-room, with his hands behind him and his head bent forward, and his
quick, nervous, jerky movements.
'I don't like it, Arthur. I feel as if we had all climbed up out of a
very horrible pit into a place of safety and prosperity and honour, and
as if the child was preparing to leap down into the pit again. She
doesn't know what it's like to be a Jew. I do, and I've saved you both
from it, and you both seem bent on returning to the pit whence you were
digged. We're an outcast people, my dear; an outcast people....'
His black eyes were haunted by memories of old fears; the fears his
ancestors had had in them, listening behind frail locked doors for the
howl 'Down with the Jews!' The fears that had been branded by savages
into his own infant consciousness half a century ago; the fears seared
later into the soul of a boy by boyish savages at an English school; the
fears of the grown man, always hiding something, always pretending,
I discovered then--and this is why I am recording this family incident
here, why it connects with the rest of my life at this time--that
Potterism has, for one of its surest bases, fear. The other bases are
ignorance, vulgarity, mental laziness, sentimentality, and greed. The
ignorance which does not know facts; the vulgarity which cannot
appreciate values; the laziness which will not try to learn either of
these things; the sentimentality which, knowing neither, is stirred by
the valueless and the untrue; the greed which grabs and exploits. But
fear is worst; the fear of public opinion, the fear of scandal, the fear
of independent thought, of loss of position, of discomfort, of
consequences, of truth.
My poor parents were afraid of social damage to their child; afraid lest
she should be mixed up with something low, outcast, suspected. Not all my
father's intellectual brilliance, nor all my mother's native wit, could
save them from this pathetic, vulgar, ignorant piece of snobbery.
Pathetic, vulgar, and ignorant, because, if they had only known it,
Rosalind stood to lose nothing she cared for by allying herself with a
Jewish painter of revolutionary theories. Not a single person whose
friendship she cared for but would be as much her friend as before. She
had nothing to do with the _bourgeoisie_, bristling with prejudices and
social snobberies, who made, for instance, my mother's world. And that is
what one generation should always try to understand about another--how
little (probably) each cares for the other's world.
Of course, Rosalind married Boris Stefan. And, as I have said, the
whole incident is only mentioned to illustrate how Potterism lurks in
secret places, and flaunts in open places, pervading the whole fabric
of human society.
Peace with Germany was signed, as every one knows, on June 28th. Nearly
every one crabbed it, of course, the _Fact_ with the rest. I have no
doubt that it did, as Garvin put it, sow dragon's teeth over Europe. It
certainly seemed a poor, unconstructive, expensive, brittle thing enough.
But I am inclined to think that nearly all peace treaties are pretty bad.
You have to have them, however, and you may as well make the best of
them. Anyhow, bad peace as it looked, at least it _was_ peace, and that
was something new and unusual. And I confess frankly that it has, so far,
held together longer than I, for one, ever expected it would. (I am
writing this in January, 1920).
The _Fact_ published a cheery series of articles, dealing with each
clause in turn, and explaining why it was bound to lead, immediately or
ultimately, to war with some one or other. I wrote some of them myself.
But I was out on some points, though most haven't had time yet to prove
'Now,' said Jane, the day after the signature, 'I suppose we can get on
with the things that matter.'
She meant housing, demobilisation, proportional representation, health
questions, and all the good objects which the Society for Equal
Citizenship had at heart. She had been writing some articles in the
_Daily Haste_ on these. They were well-informed and intelligent, but not
expert enough for the _Fact_. And that, as I began to see, was partly
where Hobart came in. Jane wrote cleverly, clearly, and concisely--better
than Johnny did. But, in these days of overcrowded competent journalism
--well, it is not unwise to marry an editor of standing. It gives you a
better place in the queue.
I dined at the Hobarts' on June 29th, for the first time since their
marriage. We were a party of six. Katherine Varick was there, and a
distinguished member of the American Legation and his wife.
Jane handled her parties competently, as she did other things. A vivid,
jolly child she looked, in love with life and the fun and importance of
her new position. The bachelor girl or man just married is an amusing
study to me. Especially the girl, with her new responsibilities, her new
and more significant relation to life and society. Later she is sadly apt
to become dull, to have her individuality merged in the eternal type of
the matron and the mother; her intellect is apt to lose its edge, her
mind its grip. It is the sacrifice paid by the individual to the race.
But at first she is often a delightful combination of keen-witted, jolly
girl and responsible woman.
We talked, I remember, partly about the Government, and how soon
Northcliffe would succeed in turning it out. The Pinkerton press was
giving its support to the Government. The _Weekly Fact_ was not. But we
didn't want them out at once; we wanted to keep them on until some one of
constructive ability, in any party, was ready to take the reins. The
trouble about the Labour people was that so far there was no one of
constructive ability; they were manifestly unready. They had no one good
enough. No party had. It was the old problem, never acuter, of 'Produce
the Man.' If Labour was to produce him, I suspected that it would take it
at least a generation of hard political training and education. If Labour
had got in then, it would have been a mob of uneducated and uninformed
sentimentalists, led and used by a few trained politicians who knew the
tricks of the trade. It would be far better for them to wait till the
present generation of honest mediocrities died out, and a new and
differently educated generation were ready to take hold.
University-trained Labour--that bugbear of Barnes'--if there is any hope
for the British Constitution, which probably there is not, I believe it
lies there. It is a very small one, at the best. Anyhow, it certainly did
not, at this period, lie in the parliamentary Labour Party, that body of
incompetents in an incompetent House.
It was in discussing this that I discovered that Hobart couldn't discuss.
He could talk; he could assert, produce opinions and information, but he
couldn't meet or answer arguments. And he was cautious, afraid of
committing himself, afraid, I fancied, of exposing gulfs in his equipment
of information, for, like other journalists of his type, his habit was to
write about things of which he knew little. Old Pinkerton remarked once,
at a dinner to American newspaper men, that his own idea of a good
journalist was a man who could sit down at any moment and write a column
on any subject. The American newspaper men cheered this; it was their
idea of a good journalist too. It is an amusing game, and one encouraged
by the Anti-Potterite League, to waylay leader-writers and tackle them
about their leaders, turn them inside out and show how empty they are.
I've written that sort of leader myself, of course, but not for the
_Fact_; we don't allow it. There, the man who writes is the man who
knows, and till some one knows no one writes. That is why some people
call us dry, heavy, lacking in ideas, and say we are like a Blue Book, or
a paper read to the British Association. We are proud of that
reputation. The Pinkerton papers and the others can supply the ideas; we
are out for facts.
Anyhow, Hobart I knew for an ignorant person. All he had was a _flair_
for the popular point of view. That was why Pinkerton who knew men, got
hold of him. He was a true Potterite. Possibly I always saw him at his
least eloquent and his most cautious, because he didn't like me and knew
I didn't like him. Even then there had already been one or two rather
acrimonious disputes between my paper and his on points of fact. The
_Daily Haste_ hated being pinned down to and quarrelled with about facts;
facts didn't seem to the Pinkerton press things worth quarrelling over,
like policy, principles, or prejudices. The story goes that when any one
told old Pinkerton he was wrong about something, he would point to his
vast circulation, using it as an argument that he couldn't be mistaken.
If you still pressed and proved your point, he would again refer to his
circulation, but using it this time as an indication of how little it
mattered whether his facts were right or wrong. Some one once said to him
curiously, 'Don't you _care_ that you are misleading so many millions?'
To which he replied, in his dry little voice, 'I don't lead, or mislead,
the millions. They lead me.' Little Pinkerton sometimes saw a long way
farther into what he was doing than you'd guess from his shoddy press. He
had queer flashes of genius.
But Hobart hadn't. Hobart didn't see anything, except what he was
officially paid to see. A shallow, solemn ass.
I looked suddenly at Jane, and caught her watching her husband silently,
with her considering, dispassionate look. He was talking to the American
Legation about the traffic strike (we were a round table, and the talk
Then I knew that, whether Jane had ever been in love with Hobart or not,
she was not so now. I knew further, or thought I knew, that she saw him
precisely as I did.
Of course she didn't. His beauty came in--it always does, between men and
women, confusing the issues--and her special relation to him, and a
hundred other things. The relation between husband and wife is too close
and too complex for clear thinking. It seems always to lead either to too
much regard or to an excess of irritation, and often to both.
Jane looked away from Hobart, and met my eyes watching her. Her
expression didn't alter, nor, probably, did mine. But something passed
between us; some unacknowledged mutual understanding held us together for
an instant. It was unconscious on Jane's part and involuntary on mine.
She hadn't meant to think over her husband with me; I hadn't meant to
push in. Jane wasn't loyal, and I wasn't well-bred, but we neither of us
I hardly talked to Jane that evening. She was talking after dinner to
Katherine and the American Legation. I had a three-cornered conversation
with Hobart and the Legation's wife, who was of an inquiring turn of
mind, like all of her race, and asked us exhausting questions. She got on
to the Jewish question, and asked us for our views on the reasons for
anti-Semitism in Europe.
'I've been reading the _New Witness_,' she said.
I told her she couldn't do better, if she was investigating
'But are they fair?' she asked ingenuously.
I replied that there were moments in which I had a horrible suspicion
that they were.
'Then the Jews are really a huge conspiracy plotting to get the finances
of Europe into their hands?' Her eyes, round and shocked, turned from me
He lightly waved her to me.
'You must ask Mr. Gideon. The children of Israel are his speciality.'
His dislike of me gleamed in his blue eyes and in his supercilious, cold
smile. The Legation's wife (no fool) must have seen it.
I went on talking rubbish to her about the Jews and the finances of
Europe. I don't remember what particular rubbish it was, for I was hardly
aware of it at the time. What I was vividly and intensely and quite
suddenly aware of was that I was on fire with the same anger, dislike,
and contempt that burned in Hobart towards me. I knew that evening that I
hated him, even though I was sitting in his house and smoking his
cigarettes. I wanted to be savagely rude to him. I think that once or
twice I came very near to being so.
Katherine and I went home by the same bus. I grumbled to her about
Hobart all the way. I couldn't help it; the fellow seemed suddenly to
have become a nervous disease to me; I was mentally wriggling and
quivering with him.
Katherine laughed presently, in that queer, silent way of hers.
'Why worry?' she said. '_You've_ not married him.'
'Well, what's marriage?' I returned. 'He's a public danger--he and
Katherine said truly, 'There are so many public dangers. There really
isn't time to get agitated about them all.' Her mind seemed still to be
running on marriage, for she added presently, 'I think he'll find that
he's bitten off rather more than he can chew, in Jane.'
'Jane can go to the devil in her own way,' I said, for I was angry with
Jane too. 'She's married a second-rate fellow for what she thinks he'll
bring her. I dare say she has her reward.... Katherine, I believe that's
the very essence of Potterism--going for things for what they'll bring
you, what they lead to, instead of for the thing-in-itself. Artists care
for the thing-in-itself; Potterites regard things as railway trains,
always going somewhere, getting somewhere. Artists, students, and the
religious--they have the single eye. It's the opposite to the commercial
outlook. Artists will look at a little fishing town or country village,
and find it a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, and leave it to
itself--unless they yield to the devil and paint it or write about it.
Potterites will exploit it, commercialise it, bring the railway to
it--and the thing is spoilt. Oh, the Potterites get there all right,
confound them. They're the progressives of the world. They--they have
(It's a queer thing how Jews can't help quoting the New Testament--even
Jews without religion.)
'We seem to have decided,' Katherine said, 'that Jane is a Potterite.'
'Morally she is. Not intellectually. You can be a Potterite in many ways.
Jane accepts the second-rate, though she recognises it as such.... The
plain fact is,' I was in a fit of savage truth-speaking, 'that Jane is
The gesture of Katherine's square shoulders may have meant several
things--'Aren't we all?' or 'Surely that's very obvious,' or 'I can't be
bothered to consider Jane any more,' or merely 'After all, we've just
Anyhow, Katherine got off the bus at this point.
I was left repeating to myself, as if it had been a new discovery, which
it wasn't, 'Jane is second-rate....'
Jane was taking the chair at a meeting of a section of the Society for
Equal Citizenship. The speakers were all girls under thirty who wanted
votes. They spoke rather well. They weren't old enough to have become
sentimental, and they were mostly past the conventional cliches of the
earlier twenties. In extreme youth one has to be second-hand; one doesn't
know enough, one hasn't lived or learnt enough, to be first-hand; and one
lacks self-confidence. But by five or six-and-twenty one should have left
that behind. One should know what one thinks and what one means, and be
able to state it in clear terms. That is what these girls--mostly
Jane left the chair and spoke too.
I hadn't known Jane spoke so well. She has a clever, coherent way of
making her points, and is concise in reply if questioned, quick at
repartee if heckled.
Lady Pinkerton was sitting in the row in front of Juke and me. Mother and
daughter. It was very queer to me. That wordy, willowy fool, and the
sturdy, hard-headed girl in the chair, with her crisp, gripping mind. Yet
there was something.... They both loved success. Perhaps that was it. The
vulgarian touch. I felt it the more clearly in them because of Juke at
my side. And yet Jukie too ... Only he would always be awake to it--on
his guard, not capitulating.
Jane came round with me after the meeting to the _Fact_ office, to go
through some stuff she was writing for us about the meeting. She had to
come then, though it was late, because next day was press day. We hadn't
been there ten minutes when Hobart's name was sent in, with the message
that he was just going home, and was Mrs. Hobart ready to come?
'Well, I'm not,' said Jane to me. 'I shall be quite ten minutes more.
I'll go and tell him.'
She went outside and called down, 'Go on, Oliver. I shall be some
'I'll wait,' he called up, and Jane came back into the room.
We went on for quite ten minutes.
When we went down, Hobart was standing by the front door, waiting.
'How did you track me?' Jane asked.
'Your mother told me where you'd gone. She called at the _Haste_ on her
way home. Good-night, Gideon.'
They went out together, and I returned to the office, irritated a little
by being hurried. It was just like Lady Pinkerton, I thought, to have
gone round to Hobart inciting him to drag Jane from my office. There had
been coldness, if not annoyance, in Hobart's manner to me.
Well, confound him, it wasn't to be expected that he should much care
for his wife to write for the _Fact_. But he might mind his own business
and leave Jane to mind hers, I thought.
Peacock came in at this point, and we worked till midnight.
Peacock opened a parcel of review books from Hubert Wilkins--all tripe,
of course. He turned them over, impatiently.
'What fools the fellows are to go on sending us their rubbish. They
might have learnt by now that we never take any notice of them,' he
grumbled. He picked out one with a brilliant wrapper--'_A Cabinet
Minister's Wife_, by Leila Yorke.... That woman needs a lesson,
Gideon. She's a public nuisance. I've a good mind--a jolly good
mind--to review her, for once. What? Or do you think it would be
_infra dig_? Well, what about an article, then--we'd get Neilson to
do one--on the whole tribe of fiction-writing fools, taking Lady
Pinkerton for a peg to hang it on? ... After all, we _are_ the organ
of the Anti-Potter League. We ought to hammer at Potterite fiction as
well as at Potterite journalism and politics. For two pins I'd get
Johnny Potter to do it. He would, I believe.'
'I'm sure he would. But it would be a little too indecent. Neilson shall
do it. Besides, he'd do it better. Or do it yourself.'
'I will not. My acquaintance with the subject is inadequate, and I've no
intention of improving it.'
In the end Peacock did it himself. It was pretty good, and pretty
murderous. It came out in next week's number. I met Clare Potter in the
street the day after it came out, and she cut me dead. I expect she
thought I had written it. I am sure she never read the _Fact_, but no
doubt the family 'attention had been drawn to' the article, as people
always express it when writing to a paper to remonstrate about something
in it they haven't liked. I suppose they think it would be a score for
the paper if they admitted that they had come across it in the natural
course of things--anyhow, they want to imply that it is, of course, a
paper decent people don't see--like _John Bull_, or the _People_.
When I met Johnny Potter, he grinned, and said, 'Good for you, old bean.
Or was it Peacock? My mother's persuaded it was you, and she'll never
forgive you. Poor old mater, she thought her new book rather on the
intellectual side. Full of psycho-analysis, and all that.... I say, I
wish Peacock would send me Guthrie's new book to do.'
That was Johnny all over. He was always asking for what he wanted,
instead of waiting for what we thought fit to send him. I was sure that
when he published a book, he'd write round to the editors telling them
who was to review it.
I said, 'I think Neilson's going to do it,' and determined that it should
be so. Johnny's brand of grabbing bored me. Jane did the same. A greedy
pair, never seeing why they shouldn't have all they wanted.
It was at this time (July) that a long, drawn-out quarrel started between
the _Weekly Fact_ and the _Daily Haste_ about the miners' strike. The
Pinkerton press did its level best to muddle the issues of that strike,
by distorting some facts, passing over others, and inventing more. By the
time you'd read a leader in the _Haste_ on the subject, you'd have got
the impression that the strikers were Bolshevists helped by German money
and aiming at a social revolution, instead of discontented, needy and
greedy British workmen, grabbing at more money and less work, in the
normal, greedy, human way we all have. Bonar Law, departing for once
rather unhappily from his 'the Government have given me no information'
attitude, announced that the miners were striking against conscription
and the war with Russia. Some Labour papers said they were striking
against the Government's shifty methods and broken pledges. I am sure
both parties credited them with too much idealism and too little plain
horse-sense. They were striking to get the pay and hours they wanted out
of the Government, and, of course, for nationalisation. They were not
idealists, and not Bolshevists, but frank grabbers, like most of us. But,
as every one will remember, 'Bolshevist' had become at this period a
vague term of abuse, like 'Hun' during the war. People who didn't like
Carson called him a Bolshevist; people who didn't like manual labourers
called _them_ Bolshevists. What all these users of the mysterious and
elastic epithet lacked was a clear understanding and definition of
The _Daily Haste_, of course (and, to do it justice, many other
papers), used the word freely as meaning the desire for better
conditions and belief in the strike as a legitimate means of obtaining
them. I suppose it took a shorter time to say or write than this does;
anyhow, it bore a large, vague, Potterish meaning that was irresistible
to people in general.
The _Haste_ made such a fool of itself over the miners that we came to
blows with them, and quarrelled all through July and August, mostly over
trivial and petty points. I may add that the _Fact_ was not supporting
immediate nationalisation; we were against it, for reasons that it would
be too tedious to explain here. (As a matter of fact, I know that all I
record of this so recent history is too tedious; I do not seem to be
able to avoid most of it; but even I draw the line somewhere). The
controversy between the _Fact_ and the _Haste_ seemed after a time to
resolve itself largely into a personal quarrel between Hobart and
myself. He was annoyed that Jane occasionally wrote for us. I suppose it
was natural that he should be annoyed. And he didn't like her to
frequent the 1917 Club, to which a lot of us belonged. Jane often
lunched there, so did I. She said that you got a better lunch there than
at the Women's University Club. Not much better, but still, better. You
also met more people you wanted to meet, as well as more people you
didn't. We started a sort of informal lunch club, which met there and
lunched together on Thursdays. It consisted of Jane, Katherine Varick,
Juke, Peacock, Johnny Potter, and myself. Often other people joined us
by invitation; my sister Rosalind and her husband, any girl Johnny
Potter was for the moment in love with, and friends of Peacock's,
Juke's, or mine. Juke would sometimes bring a parson in; this was rather
widening for us, I think, and I dare say for the parson too. To Juke it
was part of the enterprise of un-Potterising the Church, which was on
his mind a good deal. He said it needed un-Potterising as much as the
State, or literature, or journalism, or even the drama, and that
Potterism in it was even more dangerous than in these. So, when he
could, he induced parsons to join the Anti-Potter League.
We weren't all tied up, I may say, with the political party principles
very commonly held by members of the 1917 Club. I certainly wasn't a
Socialist, nor, wholly, I think, a Radical; neither at that time was
Peacock, though he became more so as time went on; nor, certainly, was
Katherine. Juke was, because he believed that in these principles was the
only hope for the world. And the twins were, because the same principles
were the only wear for the young intellectual, at that moment. Johnny, in
all things the glass of fashion and the mould of form, wore them as he
wore his monocle, quite unconscious of his own reasons for both. But it
was the idea of the Anti-Potter League to keep clear of parties and
labels. You _can_ belong to a recognised political party and be an
Anti-Potterite, for Potterism is a frame of mind, not a set of opinions
(Juke was, after Katherine, the best Anti-Potterite I have known, though
people did their best to spoil him), but it is easier, and more
compatible with your objects, to be free to think what you like about
everything. Once you are tied up with a party, you can only avoid
second-handedness, taking over views ready-made, if you are very
Thursday was a fairly free afternoon for me, and Jane and I somehow
got into a habit of going off somewhere together after lunch, or
staying on at the club and talking. Jane seemed to me to be
increasingly interesting; she was acquiring new subtleties,
complexities, and comprehensions, and shedding crudities. She wrote
better, too. We took her stuff sometimes for the _Fact_. At the same
time, she seemed to me to be morally deteriorating, as people who
grab and take things they oughtn't to have always do deteriorate. And
she was trying all the time to square Hobart with the rest of her
life, fitting him in, as it were, and he didn't fit in. I was
interested to see what she was making of it all.
One Thursday in early September, when Juke and Jane and I had lunched
alone together at the club, and Jane and I had gone off to some meeting
afterwards, Juke dropped in on me in the evening after dinner. He sat
down and lit a pipe, then got up and walked about the room, and I knew he
had something on his mind, but wasn't going to help him out. I felt hard
and rather sore that evening.
Soon he said, in his soft, indifferent voice, 'Of course you'll be angry
at what I'm going to say.'
'I think it probable,' I replied, 'from the look of you. But go on.'
'Well,' he said quietly, 'I don't think these Thursday lunches will do
'For you?' I asked.
'For any of us. Not with Jane Hobart there.' He wouldn't look at me, but
stood by the window looking out at Gray's Inn Road.
'And why not with Jane? Because she's married to the enemy?'
'It makes it awkward,' he murmured.
'Makes it awkward,' I repeated. 'How does it make it awkward? Whom does
it make awkward? It doesn't make Jane awkward. Nor me, nor any one else,
as far as I know. Does it make you awkward? I didn't know anything could
do that. But something obviously has, this evening. It's not Jane,
though; it's being afraid to say what you mean. You'd better spit it out,
Jukie. You're not enough of a Jesuit to handle these jobs competently,
you know. I know perfectly well what you've got on your mind. You think
Jane and I are getting too intimate with each other. You think we're
falling, or fallen, or about to fall, in love.'
'Well,' he wheeled round on me, relieved that I had said it, 'I do.
And you can't deny it.... Any fool could see it by now. Why, the way
you mooned about, depressed and sulky, this last month, when she's
been out of town, and woke up the moment she came back, was enough to
tell any one.'
'I dare say,' I said indifferently. 'People's minds are usually
offensively open to that particular information. If you'll define being
in love, I'll tell you whether I'm in love with Jane.... I'm interested
in Jane; I find her attractive, if you like, extraordinarily attractive,
though I don't admire her character, and she's not beautiful. I like to
be with her and to talk to her. On the other hand, I've not the least
intention of asking her to elope with me. Nor would she if I did. Well?'
'You're in love,' Juke repeated. 'You mayn't know it, but you are. And
you'll get deeper in every day, if you don't pull up. And then before you
know where you are, there'll be the most ghastly mess.'
'Don't trouble yourself, Jukie. There won't be a mess. Jane doesn't like
messes. And I'm not quite a fool. Don't imagine melodrama.... I claim the
right to be intimate with Jane--well, if you like, to be a little in love
with Jane--and yet to keep my head and not play the fool. Why should men
and women lose their attraction for each other just because they marry
and promise loyalty to some one person? They can keep that compact and
yet not shut themselves away from other men and other women. They must
have friends. Life can't be an eternal duet.... And here you come, using
that cant Potterish phrase, "in love," as if love was the sea, or
something definite that you must be in or out of and always know which.'
'The sea--yes,' Juke took me up. 'It's like the sea; it advances and
advances, and you can't stand there and stop it, say "Thus far and no
farther" to it. All you can do is to turn your back upon it and walk
away in time.'
'Well, I'm not going to walk away. There's nothing to walk away from.
I've no intention of behaving in a dishonourable way, and I claim the
right to be friends with Jane. So that's that.'
I was angry with Juke. He was taking the prudish, conventional point of
view. I had never yet been the victim of passion; love between men and
women had always rather bored me; it is such a hot, stupid, muddling
thing, ail emotion and no thought. Dull, I had always thought it; one of
those impulses arranged by nature for her own purposes, but not in the
least interesting to the civilised thinking being. Juke had no right to
speak as if I were an amorous fool, liable to be bowled over against my
'I've told you what I think,' said Juke bluntly. 'I can't do any more.
It's your own show.' He took out his watch. 'I've got a Men's Social,' he
said, and went. That is so like parsons. Their conversations nearly
always have these sudden ends. But I suppose that is not their fault.
And, after all, Juke was right. Juke was right. It was love, and I was in
it, and so was Jane. Five minutes after Juke left me that night I knew
that. I had been in love with Jane for years; perhaps since before the
war, only I had never known it. On that Anti-Potter investigation tour I
had observed and analysed her, and smiled cynically to myself at the
commercial instinct of the Potter twins, the lack of the fineness that
distinguished Katherine and Juke. I remembered that; but I remembered,
too, how white and round Jane's chin had looked as it pressed against the
thymy turf of the cliff where we lay above the sea. All through the war I
had seen her at intervals, enjoying life, finding the war a sort of lark,
and I had hated her because she didn't care for the death and torture of
men, for the possible defeat of her country, or the already achieved
economic, moral, and intellectual degradation of the whole of Europe. She
had merely profiteered out of it all, and had a good time. I remembered
now my anger and my scorn; but I remembered too the squareness and the
whiteness of her forehead under her newly-cut hair, that leave when I had
first seen it bobbed.
I had been moved by desire then without knowing it; I had let Hobart take
her, and still not known. The pang I had felt had been bitterness at
having lost Jane, not bitterness against Jane for having made a
But I knew now. Juke's words, in retrospect, were like fire to petrol; I
was suddenly all ablaze.
In that case Juke was right, and we mustn't go on meeting alone. There
might be, as he said, the most ghastly mess. Because I knew now that Jane
was in love with me too--a little.
We couldn't go on. It was too second-rate. It was anti-social, stupid,
uncivilised, all I most hated, to let emotion play the devil with one's
reasoned principles and theories. I wasn't going to. It would be
sentimental, sloppy--'the world well lost for love,' as in a schoolgirl's
favourite novel, a novel by Leila Yorke.
Now there are some loves that the world, important though it is, may be
well lost for--the love of an idea, a principle, a cause, a discovery, a
piece of knowledge or of beauty, perhaps a country; but very certainly
the love of lovers is not among these; it is too common and personal a
thing. I hate the whole tribe of sentimental men and women who, impelled
by the unimaginative fool nature, exalt sexual love above its proper
place in the scheme of things. I wasn't going to do it, or to let the
thing upset my life or Jane's.
I kept away from Jane all that week. She rang me up at the office once;
it may have been my fancy that her voice sounded strange, somehow less
assured than usual. It set me wondering about that last lunch and
afternoon together which had roused Juke. Had it roused Jane, too? What
had happened, exactly? How had I spoken and looked? I couldn't remember;
only that I had been glad--very glad--to have Jane back in town again.
I didn't go to the club next Thursday. As it happened, I was
lunching with some one else. So, by Thursday evening, I hadn't seen
Jane for a week.
Wanting company, I went to Katherine's flat after dinner. Katherine had
just finished dinner, and with her was Jane.
When I saw her, lying there smoking in the most comfortable arm-chair as
usual, serene and lazy and pale, Juke's words blazed up between us like a
fire, and I couldn't look at her.
I don't know what we talked about; I expect I was odd and absent. I knew
Katherine was looking at me, with those frosty, piercing, light blue eyes
of hers that saw through, and through, and beyond....
All the time I was saying to myself, 'This won't do. I must chuck it. We
I think Jane talked about _Abraham Lincoln_, which she disliked, and Lady
Pinkerton's experiments in spiritualism, which were rather funny. But I
couldn't have been there for more than half an hour before Jane got up to
go. She had to get home, she said.
I went with her. I didn't mean to, but I did. And here, if any one wants
to know why I regard 'being in love' as a disastrous kink in the mental
machinery, is the reason. It impels you to do things against all your
reasoned will and intentions. My madness drove me out with Jane, drove me
to see her home by the Hampstead tube, to walk across the Vale of Health
with her in the moonlight, to go in with her, and upstairs to the
All this time we had talked little, and of common, superficial things.
But now, as I stood in the long, dimly-lit room and watched Jane take off
her hat, drop it on a table, and stand for a moment with her back to me,
turning over the evening post, I knew that I must somehow have it out,
have things clear and straight between us. It seemed to me to be the only
way of striking any sort of a path through the intricate difficulties of
our future relations.
'Jane,' I said, and she turned and looked at me with questioning
At that I had no words for explanation or anything else: I could only
repeat, 'Jane. Jane. Jane,' like a fool.
She said, very low, 'Yes, Arthur,' as if she were assenting to some
statement I had made, as perhaps she was.
I somehow found that I had caught her hands in mine, and so we stood
together, but still I said nothing but 'Jane,' because that was all that,
for the moment, I knew.
Hobart stood in the open doorway, looking at us, white and quiet.
'Good-evening,' he said.
We fell apart, loosing each other's hands.
'You're early back, Oliver,' said Jane, composedly.
'Earlier, obviously,' he returned, 'than I was expected.'
My anger, my hatred, my contempt for him and my own shame blazed in me
together. I faced him, black and bitter, and he was not only to me
Jane's husband, the suspicious, narrow-minded ass to whom she was tied,
but, much more, the Potterite, the user of cant phrases, the ignorant
player to the gallery of the Pinkerton press, the fool who had so
little sense of his folly that he disputed on facts with the experts
who wrote for the _Weekly Fact_. In him, at that moment, I saw all the
Potterism of this dreadful world embodied, and should have liked to
have struck it dead.
'What exactly,' I asked him, 'do you mean by that?'
Jane yawned. 'I'm going to take my things off,' she said, and went out of
the room and up the next flight of stairs to her bedroom. It was her
contemptuous way of indicating that the situation was, in fact, no
situation at all, but merely a rather boring conversation.
As, though I appreciated her attitude, I couldn't agree with her, I
repeated my question.
Hobart added to his smile a shrug.
TOLD BY LEILA YORKE
THE TERRIBLE TRAGEDY ON THE STAIRS
Love and truth are the only things that count. I have often thought that
they are like two rafts on the stormy sea of life, which otherwise would
swamp and drown us struggling human beings. If we follow these two stars
patiently, they will guide us at last into port. Love--the love of our
kind--the undying love of a mother for her children--the love, so
gloriously exhibited lately, of a soldier for his country--the eternal
love between a man and a woman, which counts the world well lost--these
are the clues through the wilderness. And Truth, the Truth which cries
in the market-place with a loud voice and will not be hid, the Truth
which sacrifices comfort, joy, even life itself, for the sake of a clear
vision, the Truth which is far stranger than fiction--this is Love's
For Love's sake, then, and for Truth's, I am writing this account of a
very sad and very dreadful period in the lives of those close and dear to
me. I want to be very frank, and to hide nothing. I think, in my books, I
am almost too frank sometimes; I give offence, and hurt people's egotism
and vanity by speaking out; but it is the way I have to write; I cannot
soften down facts to please. Just as I cannot restrain my sense of the
ridiculous, even though it may offend those who take themselves
solemnly; I am afraid I am naughty about such people, and often give
offence; it is one of the penalties attached to the gift of humour. Percy
often tells me I should be more careful; but my dear Percy's wonderful
caution, that has helped to make him what he is, is a thing that no mere
reckless woman can hope to emulate.
I am diverging from the point. I must begin with that dreadful evening of
the 4th of September last. Clare was dining with a friend in town, and
stopping at Jane's house in Hampstead for the night. Percy and I were
spending a quiet evening at our house at Potter's Bar. We were both busy
after dinner; he was in his study, and I was in my den, as I call it,
writing another instalment of 'Rhoda's Gift' for the _Evening Hustle_, I
find I write my best after dinner; my brain gets almost feverishly
stimulated. My doctor tells me I ought not to work late, it is not fair
on my nerves, but I think every writer has to live more or less on his or
her nervous capital, it is the way of the reckless, squandering,
thriftless tribe we are.
Laying down my pen at 10.45 after completing my chapter, the telephone
bell suddenly rang. The maids had gone up to bed, so I went into the hall
to take the call, or to put it through to Percy's study, for the late
calls are usually, of course, for him, from one of the offices. But it
was not for him. It was Jane's voice speaking.
'Is that you, mother?' she said, quite quietly and steadily. 'There's
been an accident. Oliver fell downstairs. He fell backwards and broke his
neck. He died soon after the doctor came.'
The self-control, the quiet pluck of these modern girls! Her voice hardly
shook as she uttered the terrible words.
I sat down, trembling all over, and the tears rushed to my eyes. My
darling child, and her dear husband, cut off at the very outset of their
mutual happiness, and in this awful way! Those stairs--I always hated
them; they are so steep and narrow, and wind so sharply round a corner.
'Oh, my darling,' I said. 'And the last train gone, so that I can't be
with you till the morning! Is Clare there?'
'Yes,' said Jane. 'She's lying down.... She fainted.'
My poor darling Clare! So highly-strung, so delicate-fibred, far more
like me than Jane is! And I always had a suspicion that her feeling for
dear Oliver went very deep--deeper, possibly, than any of us ever
guessed. For, there is no doubt about it, poor Oliver did woo Clare; if
he wasn't in love with her he was very near it, before he went off at a
tangent after Jane, who was something new, and therefore attractive to
him, besides being thrown so much together in Paris when Jane was working
for her father. The dear child has put up a brave fight ever since the
engagement, and her self-control has been wonderful, but she has not been
her old self. If it had not been for the unfortunate European conditions,
I should have sent her abroad for a thorough change. It was terrible for
her to be on the spot when this awful accident happened.
'My dear, dear child,' I said, hardly able to speak, my voice shook so
with crying. 'I've no words.... Have you rung up Frank and Johnny? I
should like Frank to be with you to-night; I know he would wish it.'
'No,' said Jane. 'It's no use bothering them till to-morrow. They can't
do anything. Is daddy at home?... You'll tell him, then.... Good-night.'
'Oh, my darling, you mustn't ring off yet, indeed you mustn't. Hold on
while I tell daddy; he would hate not to speak to you at once about it.'
'No, he won't need to speak to me. He'll have to get on to the _Haste_ at
once, and arrange a lot of things. I can keep till the morning.
She rang off. There is something terrible to me about telephone
conversations, when they deal with intimate or tragic subjects; they are
so remote, cold, impersonal, like typed letters; is it because one can't
watch the soul in the eyes of the person one is talking to?
I went straight to Percy. He was sitting at his writing table going
through papers. At his side was the black coffee that he always sipped
through the evenings, simmering over a spirit lamp. Percy will never go
up to bed until the small hours; I suppose it is his newspaper training.
If he isn't working, he will sit and read, or sometimes play patience,
and always sip strong coffee, though his doctor has told him he should
give it up. But he is like me; he lives on his nervous energy, reckless
of consequences. He spends himself, and is spent, in the service of his
great press. It was fortunate for him, though I suppose I ought not to
say it, that he married a woman who is also the slave of literature,
though of a more imaginative branch of literature, and who can understand
him. But then that was inevitable; he could never have cared for a
materialistic woman, or a merely domestic woman. He demanded ideas in the
woman to whom he gave himself.
I could hardly bear to tell him the dreadful news. I knew how overcome he
would be, because he was so fond of dear Oliver, who was one of his right
hands, as well as a dear son-in-law. And he had always loved Jane with a
peculiar pride and affection, devoted father as he was to all his
children, for he said she had the best brain of the lot. And Oliver had
been doing so well on the _Daily Haste_. Percy had often said he was an
editor after his own heart; he had so much flair. When Percy said some
one had flair, it was the highest praise he could give. He always told me
I had flair, and that was why he was so eager to put my stories in his
papers. I remember his remark when that dreadful man, Arthur Gideon, said
in some review or other (I dislike his reviews, they are so conceited and
cocksure, and show often such bad taste), 'Flair and genius are
incompatible.' Percy said simply, 'Flair _is_ genius.' I thought it
extraordinarily true. But whether I have flair or not, I don't know. I
don't think I ever bother about what the public want, or what will sell.
I just write what comes natural to me; if people like it, so much the
better; if they don't, they must bear it! But I will say that they
usually do! No, I don't think I have flair; I think I have, instead, a
message; or many messages.
But I had to break it to Percy. I put my arms round him and told him,
quite simply. He was quite broken up by it. But, of course, the first
thing he had to do was to get on to the _Haste_ and let them know. He
told them he would be up in the morning to make arrangements.
Then he sat and thought, and worked out plans in his head, in the
concentrated, abstracted way he has, telephoning sometimes, writing notes
sometimes, almost forgetting my presence. I love to be at the centre of
the brain of the Pinkerton press at the moments when it is working at top
speed like this. Cup after cup of strong black coffee he drank, hardly
noticing it, till I remonstrated, and then he said absently, 'Very well,
dear, very well,' and drank more. When I tried to persuade him to come up
to bed, he said, 'No, no; I have things to think out. I shall be late.
Leave me, my dear. Go to bed yourself, you need rest.' Then he turned
from the newspaper owner to the father, and sighed heavily, and said,
'Poor little Janie. Poor dear little Babs. Well, well, well.'
I left him and went upstairs, knowing I must get all the strength I could
My poor little girl a widow! I could hardly realise it. And yet, alas,
how many young widows we have among us in these days! Only they are
widowed for a noble cause, not by a horrid accident on the stairs. Poor
Oliver, of course, had exemption from military service; he never even had
to go before the tribunal for it, but had it direct from the War Office,
like nearly all Percy's staff, who were recognised by the Government as
doing more important work at home than they could have done at the front.
I have a horror of the men who _evaded_ service during the war, but men
like Oliver Hobart, who would have preferred to be fighting but stayed to
do invaluable work for their country, one must respect. And it seemed
very bitter that Oliver, who hadn't fallen in the war, should have fallen
now down his own stairs. Poor, poor Oliver! As I lay in bed, unable to
sleep, I saw his beautiful face before me. He was quite the most
beautiful man I have ever known. I have given his personal appearance to
the hero of one of my novels, _Sidney, a Man_. It was terrible to me to
think of that beauty lost from the world. Whatever view one may take of
another world (and personally, far as I am from any orthodox view on the
subject, my spiritual investigations have convinced me that there is,
there must be, a life to come; I have had the most wonderful experiences,
that may not be denied) physical beauty, one must believe, is a
phenomenon of this physical universe, and must perish with the body.
Unless, as some thinkers have conceived, the immortal soul wraps itself
about in some aural vapour that takes the form it wore on earth. This is
a possibility, and I would gladly believe it. I must, I decided, try to
bring my poor Jane into touch with psychic interests; it would comfort
her to have the wonderful chance of getting into communication with
Oliver. At present she scouts the whole thing, like all other forms of
supernatural belief. Jane has always been a materialist. It is very
strange to me that my children have developed, intellectually and
spiritually, along such different lines from myself. I have never been
orthodox; I am not even now an orthodox theosophist; I am not of the
stuff which can fall into line and accept things from others; it seems as
if I must always think for myself, delve painfully, with blood and tears,
for Truth. But I have always been profoundly religious; the spiritual
side of life has always meant a very great deal to me; I think I feel
almost too intensely the vibration of Spirit in the world of things. I
probe, and wonder, and cannot let it alone, like most people, and be
content with surfaces. Of late years, and especially since I took up
theosophy, I have found great joy and comfort from my association with
the S.P.R. I am in touch with several very wonderful thought-readers,
crystal-gazers, mediums, and planchette writers, who have often strangely
illumined the dark places of life for me. To those who mock and doubt, I
merely say, '_try_.' Or else I cite, not '_Raymond_' nor Conan Doyle, but
that strange, interesting, scientific book by a Belfast professor, who
made experiments in weighing the tables before and after they levitated,
and weighing the mediums, and finding them all lighter. I think that was
it; anyhow it is all, to any open mind, entirely convincing that
_something_ had occurred out of the normal, which is what Percy and the
twins never will believe. When I say 'try' to Percy, he only answers,
'I should fail, my dear. I may, as I have been called, be a superman,
but I am not a superwoman, and cannot call up spirits.' And the
children are hopeless about it, too. Frank says we are not intended to
'lift the curtain' (that is what he calls it). He is such a thorough
clergyman, and never had my imagination; he calls my explorations
'dabbling in the occult.' His wife jeers, and asks me if I've been
talking to many spooks lately. But then her family are hard-headed
business people, quite different from me. Clare says the whole thing
frightens her to death. For her part she is content with what the
Church allows of spiritual exploration, which is not much. Clare, since
what I am afraid I must call her trouble, has been getting much Higher
Church; incense and ritual seem to comfort her. I know the phase; I
went through it twenty years ago, when my baby Michael died and the
world seemed at an end. But I came out the other side; it couldn't last
for me, I had to have much more. Clare may remain content with it; she
has not got my perhaps too intense instinct for groping always after
further light. And I am thankful that she should find comfort and help
anywhere. Only I rather hope she will never join the Roman Church; its
banks are too narrow to hold the brimming river of the human
spirit--even my Clare's, which does not, perhaps, brim very high, dear,
simple child that she is.
As for the twins, they are merely cynical about all experiments with the
supernatural. I often feel that if my little Michael had lived.... But,
in a way, I am thankful to have him on the other side, reaching his baby
hands across to me in the way he so often does.
That night I determined I would make a great effort to bring Jane into
the circle of light, as I love to call it. She would find such comfort
there, if only it could be. But I knew it would be difficult; Jane is so
hard-headed, and, for all her cleverness in writing, has so little
imagination really. She said that _Raymond_ made her sick. And she
wouldn't look at _Rupert Lives_! or _Across the Stream_, E.F. Benson's
latest novel about the other side. She quite frankly doesn't believe
there is another side. I remember her saying to me once, in her
school-girl slang, when she was seventeen or so, 'Well, I'd like to think
I went on, mother; I think it's simply rotten pipping out. I _like_ being
alive, and I'd like to have tons more of it--but there it is, I can't
believe anything so weird and it's no use trying. And if I don't pip out
after all, it'll be such a jolly old surprise and lark that I shall be
glad I couldn't believe in it here.' Johnny, I remember, said to her
(those two were always ragging each other), 'Ah, you may be wishing you
only _could_ pip out, then....' But I told him that I wished he wouldn't,
even in joke, allude to that bogey of the nurseries of my generation, a
place of punishment. That terrible old teaching! Thank God we are
outgrowing much of it. I must say that the descriptions They give, when
They give any, of Their place of being, do not sound very cheerful--but
it cannot at all resemble the old-fashioned place of torment, it sounds
so much less clear-cut and definite than that, more like London in a
I do not think I slept that night. I am bad at sleeping when I have had a
shock. My idiotic nerves again. Crane, in his book, _Right and Wrong
Thinking_, says one should drop discordant thoughts out of one's mind as
one drops a pebble out of one's hand. But my interior calm is not yet
sufficient for this exercise, and I confess I am all too easily shaken to
pieces by trouble, especially the troubles of those I love.
I felt a wreck when I met Percy at an early breakfast next morning. He,
too, looked jaded and strained, and ate hardly any breakfast, only a
little force and three cups of strong tea--an inadequate meal, as I told
him, upon which to face so trying a day. For we had to have strength not
only for ourselves but for our children. Giving out: it is so much harder
work than taking in, and it is the work for us older people always.
Percy passed me the _Haste_, pointing to a column on the front page. That
had been part of his business last night, to see that the _Haste_ had a
good column about it. The news editor had turned out a column about a
Bolshevik advance on the Dvina to make room for it, and it was side by
side with the Rectory Oil Mystery, the German Invasion (dumped goods, of
course), the Glasgow Trades' Union Congress, the French Protest about
Syria, Woman's Mysterious Disappearance, and a Tarring and Feathering
Court Martial. The heading was 'Tragic Death of the Editor of the _Daily
Haste_,' and there followed not only a full report of the disaster, but
an account of Oliver's career, with one of those newspaper photographs
which do the original so little justice.
'Binney's been pretty sharp about it,' said Percy approvingly. 'Of
course, he had all the biographical facts stored.'
We went up by the 9.24, and went straight to Hampstead.
Quietly and sadly we entered that house of death. The maid, all
flustered and red-eyed with emotional unrest, told us that Jane was
upstairs, and Clare too. We went up the narrow stairs, now become so
tragic in their associations. On which step, I wondered, had he fallen,
and how far?
Jane came out of the drawing-room to meet us. She was pale, and looked as
if she hadn't slept, but composed, as she always is. I took her in my
arms and gave her a long kiss. Then her father kissed her, and smoothed
her hair, and patted her head as he used to do when she was a child, and
said, 'There, there, there, my poor little Babs. There, there, there.'
I led her into the drawing-room. I felt her calm was unnatural. 'Cry, my
darling,' I said. 'Have your cry out, and you will feel better.'
'Shall I?' she said. 'I don't think so, mother. Crying doesn't make me
feel better, ever. It makes my head ache.'
I thought of Tennyson's young war widow and the nurse of ninety years,
and only wished it could have been six months later, so that I could have
set Jane's child upon her knee.
'When you feel you can, my darling,' I said, wiping my eyes, 'you must
tell me all about it. But not before you want to.'
'There isn't much to tell,' she answered quietly, still without tears.
'He fell down the stairs backwards. That's all.'
'Did you ... see him, darling?'
She hesitated a moment, then said 'Yes. I saw him. I was in here. He'd
just come in from the office.... He lost his balance.'
'Would you feel up, my dear,' said her father, 'to giving me an account
of it, that I could put in the papers?'
'You can put that in the papers, daddy. That's all there is to say about
it, I'm afraid.... I've had seventeen reporters round this morning
already, and I told Emily to tell them that. That's probably another,'
she added, as the bell rang.
But it was not. Emily came up a moment later and asked if Jane could see
It showed the over-wrought state of Jane's nerves that she started a
little. She never starts or shows surprise. Besides, what could be more
natural than that Mr. Gideon, who, disagreeable man though he is, is a
close friend of hers (far too close, I always thought, considering that
Oliver was on almost openly bad terms with him) should call to inquire,
on seeing the dreadful news? It would, all the same, I thought, have been
better taste on his part to have contented himself with leaving kind
inquiries at the door. However, of course, one would never expect him to
do the right-minded or well-bred thing on any occasion.
'I'll go down,' Jane said quietly. 'Will you wait there?' she added to
her father and me. 'You might,' she called from the stairs, 'go and see
Clare. She's in her room.'
I crossed the passage to the spare bedroom, and as I did so I caught a
glimpse of that man's tall, rather stooping figure in the hall, and heard
Jane say, rather low, 'Arthur!' and add quickly, 'Mother and dad are
upstairs. Come in here.'
Then they disappeared into the dining-room, which was on the ground
floor, and shut the door after them.
I went in to Clare. She was sitting in an armchair by the window. When
she turned her face to me, I recoiled in momentary shock. Her poor,
pretty little face was pinched and feverishly flushed; her brown eyes
stared at me as if she was seeing ghosts. Her hands were locked together
on her knees, and she was huddled and shivering, though it was a warm
morning. I had known she would feel the shock terribly, but I had hardly
been prepared for this. I was seriously afraid she was going to be ill.
I knelt down beside her and drew her into my arms, where she lay passive,
seeming hardly to realise me.
'My poor little girl,' I murmured. 'Cry, darling. Cry, and you will
Clare was always more obedient than Jane. She did cry. She broke suddenly
into the most terrible passion of tears. I tried to hold her, but she
pulled away from me and laid her head upon her arms and sobbed.
I stayed beside her and comforted her as best I could, and finally went
to Jane's medicine cupboard and mixed her a dose of sal volatile.
When she was a little quieter, I said, 'Tell me nothing more than you
feel inclined to, darling. But if it would make you happier to talk to me
about it, do.'
'I c-can't talk about it,' she sobbed.
'My poor pet!... Did it happen after you got here, or before?'
I felt her stiffen and grow tense, as at a dreadful memory.
'After.... But I was in my room; I wasn't there.'
'You heard the fall, I suppose....'
She shuddered, and nodded.
'And you came out....' I helped her gently, 'as Jane did, and
She burst out crying afresh. I almost wished I had not suggested this
outlet for her horror and grief.
'Don't, mother,' she sobbed. 'I can't talk about it--I can't.'
'My pet, of course you can't, and you shan't. It was thoughtless of me to
think that speech would be a relief. Lie down on your bed, dear, and have
a good rest, and you will feel better presently.'
But she opposed that too.
'I can't stay here. I want to go home _at once. At once_, mother.'
'My dearest child, you must wait for me. I can't let you go alone in
this state, and I can't, of course, go myself until Jane is ready to
come with me.'
'I'm going,' she repeated. 'I can go alone. I'm going now, at once.'
And she began feverishly cramming her things into her suit-case.
I was anxious about her, but I did not like to thwart her in her present
mood. Then I heard Frank's voice in the drawing-room, and I thought I
would get him to accompany her, at least to the station. Frank and Clare
have always been fond of one another, and she has a special reliance on
I went into the drawing-room, and found Frank and Johnny both there, with
Jane and Percy. So that dreadful Jew must have gone.
I told Frank that Clare was in a terrible state, and entrusted her
to his care. Frank is a good unselfish brother, and he went to look
Johnny, silent and troubled, and looking as if death was out of his line,
though, Heaven knows, he had seen enough of it during the last five
years, was fidgeting awkwardly about the room. His awkwardness was, no
doubt, partly due to the fact that he had never much cared for Oliver.
This does make things awkward, in the presence of the Great Silencer.
Percy had to leave us now, in order to go to the _Haste_ and see about
things there. He said he would be back in the afternoon. He would, of
course, take over the business of making the last sad arrangements, which
Jane called, rather crudely, 'seeing about the funeral'; the twins would
always call spades 'spades.'
Presently I made the suggestion which I had for some time had in my mind.
'May I, dear?' I asked very softly, half rising.
Jane rose, too.
'See Oliver, you mean? Oh, yes. He's in his room.'
I motioned her back. 'Not you, darling. Johnny will take me.'
Johnny didn't want to much, I think; it is the sort of strain on the
emotions that he dislikes, but he came with me.
What had been Oliver lay on the bed, stretched straight out, the
beautiful face as white and delicate as if modelled in wax. One saw no
marks of injury; except for that waxy pallor he might have been sleeping.
In the presence of the Great White Silence I bowed my head and wept. He
was so beautiful, and had been so alive. I said so to Johnny.
'He was so alive,' I said, 'so short a time ago.'
'Yes,' Johnny muttered, staring down at the bed, his hands in his
pockets. 'Yesterday, of course. Rotten bad luck, poor old chap. Rotten
way to get pipped.'
For a minute longer I kept my vigil beside that inanimate form.
'Peace, peace, he is not dead,' I repeated to myself. 'He sleeps whom men
call dead.... The soul of Adonais, like a star, beckons from the abode
where the eternal are.'
Death is wonderful to me; not a horrible thing, but holy and high. Here
was the lovely mortal shell, for which 'arrangements' had to be made; but
the spirit which had informed it was--where? In what place, under what
conditions, would Oliver Hobart now fulfil himself, now carry on the work
so faithfully begun on earth? What word would he be able to send us from
that Place of Being? Time would (I hoped) show.
As we stood there in the shadow of the Great Mystery, I heard Frank
talking to Clare, whose room was next door.
'It is wrong to give way.... One must not grieve for the dead as if one
would recall them. We know--you and I know, don't we, Clare--that they
are happier where they are. And we know too, that it is God's will, and
that He decides everything for the best. We must not rebel against
it.... If you really want to catch the 12.4 to Potter's Bar, we ought to
Conventional phraseology! It would never have been adequate for me; I am
afraid I have an incurable habit of rebelling against the orthodox dogma
beloved of clergymen, but Clare is more docile, less 'tameless and swift
I touched Johnny's arm. 'Let us come away,' I murmured.
Clare, her face beneath her veil swollen with crying, went off with
Frank, who was going to see her into the train. I, of course, was going
to stop with Jane until the funeral, as she called it; I would not leave
her alone in the house. So I asked Frank if Peggy would go down to
Potter's Bar and be with Clare, who was certainly not fit for solitude,
poor child, until my return. Peggy is a dear, cheerful girl, if limited,
and she and Clare have always been great friends. Frank said he was sure
Peggy would do this, and I went back to Jane, who was writing necessary
letters in the drawing-room.
Johnny said to her, 'Well, if you're sure I can't be any use just now,
old thing, I suppose I ought to go to the office,' and Jane said, 'Yes,
don't stay. There's nothing,' and he went.
I offered to help Jane with the letters, but she said she could easily
manage them, and I thought the occupation might be the best thing for
her, so I left her to it and went down to speak to Emily, Jane's nice
little maid. Emily is a good little thing, and she was obviously
terribly, though not altogether unpleasantly, shocked and stirred (maids
are) by the tragedy.
She told me much more about the terrible evening than Jane or Clare had.
It was less effort, of course, for her to speak. Indeed, I think she
really enjoyed opening out to me. And I liked to hear. I always must get
a clear picture of events: I suppose it is the story-writer's instinct.
'I went up to bed, my lady,' she said, 'feeling a bit lonely now cook's
on her holiday, soon after Miss Clare came in. And I was just off to
sleep when I heard Mrs. Hobart come in, with Mr. Gideon; they were
talking as they came up to the drawing-room, and that woke me up.'
'Mr. Gideon!' I exclaimed in surprise. 'Was he there?'
'Yes, my lady. He came in with Mrs. Hobart. I knew it was him, by his
voice. And soon after the master came in, and they was all talking
together. And then I heard the mistress come upstairs to her bedroom. And
then I dozed off, and I was woke by the fall.... Oh, dear, my lady, how I
did scream when I came down and saw.... There was the poor master laying
on the bottom stair, stunned-like, as I thought, I'm sure I never knew he
was gone, and the mistress and Miss Clare bending over him, and the
mistress calling to me to telephone for the doctor. The poor mistress,
she was so white, I thought she'd go off, but she kept up wonderful; and
Miss Clare, she was worse, all scared and white, as if she'd seen a
ghost. I rang for Dr. Armes, and he came round at once, and I got
hot-water bottles and put them in the bed, but the doctor wouldn't move
him for a bit, he examined him where he lay, and he found the back was
broke. He told the mistress straight out. "His back's broke," he said.
"There's no hope," he said. "It may be a few hours, or less," he said.
Then he sent for a mattress and we laid the master on it, down in the
hall, and put hot-water bottles to his feet, and then the mistress said
I'd better go back to bed; but, oh, dear, I couldn't do that, so I just
waited in the kitchen and got a kettle boiling in case the mistress and
Miss Clare would like a cup of tea, and I had a cup myself, my lady, for
I was all of a didder, and nothing pulls you round like a drop of hot
tea. Then I took two cups out into the hall for the mistress and Miss
Clare, and when I got there the doctor was saying, "It's all over," and,
dear me, so it was, so I took the tea back to keep it hot against they
were ready for it, for I couldn't speak to them of tea just at first,
could I, my lady? Then the doctor called me, and there was Miss Clare
laying in a fit, and he was bringing her round. He told me to help her to
her room, and so I did, and she seemed half stunned-like, and didn't say
a word, but dropped on her bed like a stone. Then I had to help the
doctor and the mistress carry the poor master on the mattress up to his
room, and lay him on his bed; and the doctor saw to Miss Clare a little,
then he went away and said he'd send round a woman for the laying out....
Poor Miss Clare, I was sorry for her. Laid like a stone, she did, as
white as milk. She's such a one to feel, isn't she, my lady? And to hear
the fall and run out and find him like that! The poor master! Them
stairs, I always hated them. The back stairs are bad enough, when I have
to carry the hot water up and down, but they don't turn so sharp. The
poor master, he must have stumbled backwards, the light not being good,
and fallen clean over. And it isn't as if he was like some gentlemen,
that might have had a drop at dinner; no one ever saw the master the
worse, did they, my lady? I'm sure cook and me and every one always
thought him such a nice, good gentleman. I don't know what cook will say
when she hears, I'm sure I don't.'
'It is indeed all very terrible and sad, Emily,' I said to her. I left
her then, and went up to the drawing-room.
Jane was sitting at the writing table, her pen in one hand, her forehead
resting on the other.
'My dear,' I said to her, 'Emily has been giving me some account of last
night. She tells me that Mr. Gideon was here.'
'She's quite right,' said Jane listlessly. 'I met him at Katherine's, and
he saw me home and came in for a little.'
I was silent for a moment. It seemed to me rather sad that Jane should
have this memory of her husband's last evening on this earth, for she
knew that Oliver had not liked her to see much of Mr. Gideon. I
understood why she had been loath to mention it to me.
'And had he gone,' I asked her softly, 'when ... It ... happened?'
Jane frowned, in the way the twins always frown when people put things
less bluntly and crudely than they think fit. For some reason they call
this, the regard for the ordinary niceties of life, by the foolish name
'When Oliver fell?' she corrected me, still in that quiet, listless,
almost indifferent tone. 'Oh, yes. He wasn't here long.'
'Well, well,' I said very gently, 'we must let bygones be bygones, and
not grieve over much. Grief,' I added, wanting so much that the child
should rise to the opportunity and take her trial in a large spirit, 'is
such a big, strong, beautiful thing. If we let it, it will take us by
the hands and lead us gently along by the waters of comfort. We mustn't
rebel or fight; we must look straight ahead with welcoming eyes. For
whatever life brings us we can _use_.'
Jane still sat very still at the writing table, her head on her hand, her
fingers pushing back her hair from her forehead. I thought she sighed a
little, a long sigh of acquiescence which touched me.
This seemed to me to be the moment to speak to her of what was in my
'And, my dear,' I said, 'there is another thing. We mustn't think that
Oliver has gone down into silence. You must help him to speak to you, a
little later, when you are fit and when _he_ has found his way to the
Door. You mustn't shut him out, my child.'
'Mother,' said Jane, 'you know I don't believe in any of that.'
'I only ask you to try,' I said earnestly. 'Don't bolt and bar the
Door.... _I_ shall try, my dear, for you, if you will not, and he shall
communicate with you through me.'
'I shan't believe it,' said Jane, stating not a resolve but a fact, 'if
he does. Of course, do what you like about all that, mother, I don't
care. But, if you don't mind, I'd rather not hear about it.'
I decided to put off any further discussion of the question, particularly
as the child looked and must have been tired out.
I went down to the kitchen to talk to Emily about Jane's lunch. I felt
that she ought to have a beaten egg, and perhaps a little fish.
But I wished that she had told me frankly about that man Gideon's visit
last night. Jane was always so reserved.
AN AWFUL SUSPICION
It was rather a strange, sad life into which we settled down after the
inquest and funeral. Jane remained in her little Hampstead house; she
said she preferred it, though, particularly in view of the dear little
new life due in January or so, I wanted her to be at Potter's Bar with
us. I went up to see her very often; I was not altogether satisfied about
her, though outwardly she went on much as of old, going to see her
friends, writing, and not even wearing black. But I am no stickler for
that heathen custom.
It was, however, about Clare that I was chiefly troubled. The poor child
did not seem able to rally from her shock at all. She crept about looking
miserable and strained, and seemed to take an interest in nothing. I sent
her away to her aunt at Bournemouth for a change; Bournemouth has not
only sea air but ritualistic churches of the kind she likes; but I do not
think it did her much good. Her affection for poor Oliver had, indeed,
gone very deep, and she has a very faithful heart.
Percy appointed the _Haste's_ assistant editor to the editorship; he had
not Oliver's flair, Percy said, but he did very well on the lines laid
out for him. There was a rumour in Fleet Street that the proprietors of
the _Weekly Fact_ meant to start a daily, under the editorship of that
man Gideon, and that it would have for its special object a campaign
against our press. But they would have to wait for some time, till the
paper situation was easier. The rumour gave Percy no alarm, for he did
not anticipate a long life for such a venture. A paper under such
management would certainly never, he said, achieve more than a small
Meanwhile, times were very troubled. The Labour people, led astray by
that bad man, Smillie, were becoming more and more extreme in their
demands. Ireland was, as always, very disturbed. The Coalition
Government--not a good government, but, after all, better than any which
would be likely to succeed it--was shaking from one bye-election blow
after another. The French were being disagreeable about Syria, the
Italians about Fiume, and every one about the Russian invasion, or
evacuation, or whatever it was, which even Percy's press joined in
condemning. And coal was exorbitant, and food prices going up, and the
reviews of _Audrey against the World_ most ignorant and unfair. I believe
that that spiteful article of Mr. Gideon's about me did a good deal of
harm among ignorant and careless reviewers, who took their opinions from
others, without troubling to read my books for themselves. So many
reviewers are like that--stupid and prejudiced people, who cannot think
for themselves, and often merely try to be funny about a book instead of
giving it fair criticism. Of course, that _Fact_ article was merely
comic; I confess I laughed at it, though I believe it was meant to be
taken very solemnly. But I was always like that. I know it is shocking of
me, but I have to laugh when people are pompous and absurd; my sense of
the ridiculous is too strong for me.
After Oliver's death, I did not recognise Mr. Gideon when I met him, not
in the least on personal grounds, but because I definitely wished to
discourage his intimacy with my family. But we had one rather strange
I was going to see Jane one afternoon, soon after the tragedy, and as I
was emerging from the tube station I met Mr. Gideon. We were face to
face, so I had to bow, which I did very coldly, and I was surprised when
he stopped and said, in that morose way of his, 'You're going to see
Jane, aren't you, Lady Pinkerton?'
I inclined my head once more. The man stood at my side, staring at the
ground and fidgeting, and biting his finger-nail in that disagreeable way
he has. Then he said, 'Lady Pinkerton, Jane's unhappy.'
The impertinence of the man! Who was he to tell me that of my own
daughter, a widow of a few weeks?
'Naturally,' I replied very coolly. 'It would be strange indeed if she
'Oh, well--' he made a queer, jerking movement.
'You'll say it's not my business. But please don't ... er ... let
people worry her--get on her nerves. It does rather, you know. And--and
she's not fit.'
'I'm afraid,' I said, putting up my lorgnette, 'I do not altogether
understand you, Mr. Gideon. I am naturally acquainted with my daughter's
state better than any one else can be.'
'It gets on her nerves,' he muttered again. Then, after a moment of
silent hesitation, he half shrugged his shoulders, mumbled, 'Oh, well,'
and jerked away.
A strange person! Amazingly rude and ill-bred. To take upon himself to
warn me to take care of my own child! And _what_ did he mean 'got on her
nerves?' I really began to think he must be a little mad. But one thing
was apparent; his feeling towards Jane was, as I had long suspected, much
warmer than was right in the circumstances. He had, I made no doubt, come
from her just now.
I found Jane silent and unresponsive. She was not writing when I came in,
but sitting doing nothing. She said nothing to me about Mr. Gideon's
call, till I mentioned him myself. Then she seemed to stiffen a little; I
saw her hands clench over the arms of her chair.
'His manner was very strange,' I said. 'I couldn't help wondering if he
had been having anything.'
'If he was drunk, you mean,' said Jane. 'I dare say.'
'Then he _does_!' I cried, a little surprised.
Jane said not that she knew of. But every one did sometimes. Which was
just the disagreeable, cynical way of talking that I regret in her and
Johnny. As if she did not know numbers of straight, clean-living, decent
men and women who never had too much in their lives. But, anyhow, it
convinced me that Mr. Gideon _did_ drink too much, and that she knew it.
'He had been here, I suppose,' I said gently, because I didn't want to
'Yes,' said Jane, and that was all.
'My dear,' I said, after a moment, laying my hand on hers, 'is this man
worrying you ... with attentions?'
Jane laughed, an odd, hard laugh that I didn't like.
'Oh, no,' she said. 'Oh, dear no, mother.'
She got up and began to walk about the room.
'Never mind Arthur,' she said. 'I wouldn't let him get on my mind if I
were you, mother.... Let's talk about something else--baby, if you like.'
I perceived from this that Jane was really anxious to avoid discussion of
this man, for she did not as a rule encourage me to talk to her about the
little life which was coming, as we hoped, next spring. So I turned from
the subject of Arthur Gideon. But it remained on my mind.
You know how, sometimes, one wakes suddenly in the night with an
extraordinary access of clearness of vision, so that a dozen small things
which have occurred during the day and passed without making much
apparent impression on one's mind stand out sharp and defined in a row,
like a troop of soldiers with fixed bayonets all pointing in one
direction. You look where they are pointing--and behold, you see some new
fact which you never saw before, and you cannot imagine how you came to
have missed it.
It was in this way that I woke in the middle of the night after I had met
Arthur Gideon in Hampstead. All in a row the facts stood, pointing.
Mr. Gideon had been in the house only a few minutes before Oliver
He and Oliver hated each other privately, and had been openly
quarrelling in the press for some time. He had an intimacy with Jane
which Oliver disliked.
Oliver must have been displeased at his coming home that evening
Gideon now had something on his mind which made him even more peculiar
Jane had been very strange and secretive about his visit there on the
He and Oliver had probably quarrelled.
Only Jane had seen Oliver fall.
* * * * *
* * * * *
HOW HAD THAT QUARREL ENDED?
This awful question shot into my mind like an arrow, and I sat straight
up in bed with a start.
I shuddered, but unflinchingly faced an awful possibility.
If it were indeed so, it was my duty to leave no stone unturned to
discover and expose the awful truth. Painful as it would be, I must
A second terrible question came to me. If my suspicion were correct, how
much did Jane know or guess? Jane had been most strange and reserved. I
remembered how she had run down to meet the wretched man that first
morning, when we were there; I remembered her voice, rather hurried,
saying, 'Arthur! Mother and dad are upstairs. Come in here,' and how
she took him into the dining-room alone.
Did Jane know all? Or did she only suspect? I could scarcely believe that
she would wish to shield her husband's murderer, if he were that. Yet....
why had she told me that she had seen the accident herself? If, indeed,
my terrible suspicion were justified, and if Jane was in the secret, it
seemed to point to a graver condition of things than I had supposed. No
girl would lie to shield her husband's murderer unless ... unless she was
much fonder of him than a married woman has any right to be.
I resolved quickly, as I always do. First, I must save my child from this
Secondly, I must discover the truth as expeditiously as possible,
shrinking from no means.
Thirdly, if I discovered the worst, and it had to be exposed, I must see
that Jane's name was kept entirely out of it. The journalistic squabbles
and mutual antipathy of the two men would be all that would be necessary
to account for their quarrel, together with Gideon's probably intoxicated
state that evening.
I heard Percy moving downstairs still, and I nearly went down to him to
communicate my suspicions to him at once. But, on second thoughts, I
refrained. Percy was worried with a great many things just now. Besides,
he might only laugh at me. I would wait until I had thought it over and
had rather more to go on. Then I would tell him, and he should make what
use he liked of it in the papers. How interested he would be if the man
who was one of his bitterest journalistic foes, who fought so venomously
everything that he and his press stood for, and who was the
editor-designate of the possible new anti-Pinkerton daily, should be
proved to be the murderer of his son-in-law. What a _scoop_! The vulgar
journalese slang slid into my mind strangely, as light words will in
But I pulled myself together. I was going too far ahead. After all, I
was still merely in the realms of fancy and suspicion. It is true that I
have queer, almost uncanny intuitive powers, which have seldom failed me.
But still, I had as yet little to go on.
With an effort of will, I put the matter out of my mind and tried to
sleep. Counsel would, I felt sure, come in the morning.
It did. I woke with the words ringing in my head as if some one had
spoken them--'Why not consult Amy Ayres?'
Of course! That was the very thing. I would go that afternoon.
Amy Ayres had been a friend of mine from girlhood. We had always been in
the closest sympathy, although our paths had diverged greatly since we
were young. We had written our first stories together for _Forget-me-not_
and _Hearth and Home_, and together enjoyed the first sweets of success.
But, while I had pursued the literary path, Amy had not. Her interests
had turned more and more to the occult. She had fallen in with and
greatly admired Mrs. Besant. When her husband (a Swedenborgian minister)
left her at the call of his conscience to convert the inhabitants of Peru
to Swedenborgianism, and finally lost his life, under peculiarly painful
circumstances, in the vain attempt, Amy turned for relief to
spiritualism, which was just then at its zenith of popularity. At first
she practised it privately and unofficially, with a few chosen friends,
for it was something very sacred to her. But gradually, as she came to
discover in herself wonderful powers of divination and spiritual
receptivity, and being very poor at the time, she took it up as a
calling. She is the most wonderful palm-reader and crystal-gazer I have
come across. I have brought people to her of whom she has known nothing
at all, and she has, after close study and brief, earnest prayer, read in
their hands their whole temperament, present circumstances, past history,
and future destiny. I have often tried to persuade Percy to go to her,
for I think it would convince him of that vast world of spiritual
experience which lies about him, and to which he is so blind. If I have
to pass on before Percy, he will be left bereaved indeed, unless I can
convince him of Truth first.
I went to see Amy in her little Maid of Honour house in Kensington that
I found her reading Madame Blavatski (that strange woman) in her little
Amy has not worn, perhaps, quite so well as I have. She has to make up a
little too thickly. I sometimes wish she would put less black round her
eyes; it gives her a stagey look, which I think in her particular
profession it is most important not to have, as people are in any case so
inclined to doubt the genuineness of those who deal in the occult.
Besides, what an odd practice that painting the face black in patches is!
As unlike real life as a clown's red nose, though I suppose less
unbecoming. I myself only use a little powder, which is so necessary in
hot, or, indeed, cold weather.
However, this is a digression. I kissed Amy, and said, 'My dear, I am
here on business to-day. I am in great perplexity, and I want you to
discover something from the crystal. Are you in the mood this afternoon?'
For I have enough of the temperament myself to know that crystal-gazing,
even more than literary composition, must wait on mood. Fortunately, Amy
said she was in a most favourable condition for vision, and I told her as
briefly as possible that I wished to learn about the circumstances
attendant on the death of Oliver Hobart. I wished her to visualise Oliver
as he stood that evening at the top of those dreadful stairs, and to
watch the manner of his fall. I told her no more, for I wanted her to
approach the subject without prejudice.
Without more ado, we went into the room which Amy called her Temple of
Vision, and Amy got to work.
I was travelling by the 6.28 back to Potter's Bar. I lay back in my
corner with closed eyes, recalling the events of that wonderful afternoon
in the darkened, scented room. It had been a strange, almost overwhelming
experience. I had been keyed up to a point of tension which was almost
unendurable, while my friend gazed and murmured into the glass ball.
These glimpses into the occult are really too much for my system; they
wring my nerves. I could have screamed when Amy said, 'Wait--wait--the
darkness stirs. I see--I see--a fair man, with the face of a Greek god.'
'Is he alone?' I whispered.
'He is not alone. He is talking to a tall dark man.'
'Yes--yes?' I bent forward eagerly, as she paused and seemed to brood
over the clear depths where, as I knew, she saw shadows forming and
'They talk,' she murmured. 'They talk.'
(Knowing that she could not, unfortunately, hear what they said, I
did not ask.)
'They are excited.... They are quarrelling.... Oh, God!' She hid her eyes
for a moment, then looked again.
'The dark man strikes the fair man.... He is taken by surprise; he steps
backward and falls ... falls backwards ... down ... out of my vision....
The dark man is left standing alone.... He is fading ... he is gone.... I
can see him no more.... Leila, I have come to an end; I am overdone; I
She had fallen back with closed eyes.
A little later, when she had revived, we had had tea together, and I had
put a few questions to her. She had told me little more than what she had
revealed as she gazed into the crystal. But it was enough. She knew the
fair man for Oliver, for she had seen him at the wedding. She had not
seen the dark man's face, nor had she ever met Arthur Gideon, but her
description of him was enough for me.
I had left the house morally certain that Arthur Gideon had murdered (or
anyhow manslaughtered) Oliver Hobart.
I told Percy that evening, after Clare had gone to bed. I had confidence
in Percy: he would believe me. His journalistic instinct for the truth
could be counted on. He never waived things aside as improbable, for he
knew, as I knew, how much stranger truth may be than fiction. He heard
me out, nodding his head sharply from time to time to show that he
When I had done, he said, 'You were right to tell me. We must look into
it. It will, if proved true, make a most remarkable story. Most
sensational and remarkable.' He turned it over in that acute, quick
brain of his.
'We must go carefully,' he said. 'Remember we haven't much to go on yet.'
He didn't believe in the crystal-gazing, of course, so had less to go on
than I had. All he saw was the inherent possibility of the story
(knowing, as he did, the hatred that had existed between the two men) and
the damning fact of Gideon's presence at the house that evening.
'We must be careful,' he repeated. 'Careful, for one thing, not to
start talk about the fellow's friendship with Jane. We must keep Jane
out of it all.'
On that we were agreed.
'I think we must ask Clare a few questions,' said Percy.
He did so next day, without mentioning our suspicion. But Clare could
still scarcely bear to speak of that terrible evening, poor child, and
returned incoherent answers. She knew Mr. Gideon had been in the
house, but didn't know what time he had gone, nor the exact time of
I resolved to question Emily, Jane's little maid, more closely, and did
so when I went there that afternoon. She was certainly more
circumstantial than she had been when she had told me the story before,
in the first shock and confusion of the disaster. I gathered from her
that she had heard her master and Mr. Gideon talking immediately before
the fall; she had been surprised when her mistress had said that Mr.
Gideon had left the house before the fall. She thought, from the sounds,
that he must have left the house immediately afterwards.
'It is possible,' I said, 'that Mrs. Hobart did not know precisely when
Mr. Gideon left the house. It was all very confusing.'