Part 10 out of 11
She made no answer. Then at last he said pitifully:
"She didn't really say that, did she?"
"Yes. I'm sorry. But you can understand after what occurred--"
He came suddenly forward, the water trickling from him on to the
"You swear that's true?"
She could see now his face and realised that he was, indeed,
desperate--breathless as though he had been running from some one.
"Yes, that's true," she answered.
"Maggie said that."
"Those were Maggie's words."
"Oh, well, I'm done . . ." He turned away from her as though her
announcement had settled something about which he had been in doubt.
"It isn't like Maggie . . . But still she hasn't written. She saw I
was hard up last time. All I deserve . . . All I deserve." He turned
round to Grace again. "I can't quite believe it, Miss Trenchard. It
doesn't sound like Maggie, but perhaps you've influenced her . . .
That's likely. If she should change her mind I'm at the 'Sea Dog.'
Not much of a place. Quiet though. Yes, well. You might tell her not
to bother. I'm finished, you see, Miss Trenchard. Yes, down. You'll
be glad to hear it, I've no doubt. Well, I mustn't stay talking. I
wish Maggie were happier though. She isn't happy, is she?"
The question was so abrupt that Grace was startled.
"I should hope so--Mr. Cardinal," she said.
"Oh, no, she isn't. I know. Always this religion she gets into. If
it isn't one sort it's another. But she's a good girl. Don't you
forget that. Well, I must be going. Good day. Good day."
He was actually gone, leaving a little pool of water on the carpet
behind him. Grace sat down on the sofa again. What a horrible man!
What a horrible man! But she had been wrong to say that about
Maggie. Yes, she had. But he had taken her by surprise. Oh dear! How
her heart was beating! And how strange he had looked. She could
scarcely breathe. She sat there lost in stupefied wonder. At last
tea came in, and with it Paul and Maggie. Grace felt ashamed and
frightened. Why was Maggie always making her do things of which she
was ashamed? It was as though the girl had power over her . . .
absurd, of course. Nevertheless, as she poured out the tea she was
haunted by that man's eyes. Yes, he had undoubtedly been very
unhappy. Yes, in great trouble.
Maggie sat quietly there. Paul was preoccupied with a letter that
must, he had decided, be written to The Church Times. It was a
letter about Churchwardens and their growing independence. He
finished his tea hurriedly, but before he left the room, looking at
Maggie rather wistfully, suddenly he bent down and kissed her. She
glanced up at him, smiling.
"Is there anything I can do for you, Grace?" she asked.
Then, as it were without her own desire, Grace was compelled to
speak. "There's something I ought to tell you--" she began
awkwardly. Then she stopped. Maggie was troubled. She knew that when
Grace was uncomfortable every one else was uncomfortable.
"What have I done now?" she said rather sharply.
"It's nothing that you've done," answered Grace also sharply. "I'm
sure I don't know, Maggie, why you should always think that I'm
scolding you. No, I don't indeed. It's nothing that you've done.
Your uncle came to see you this afternoon."
"Uncle Mathew?" Maggie jumped up from her chair. "Came here?"
"And wanted to see me? Oh, Grace, why didn't you tell me?"
"I have told you . . . There's nothing to make a fuss about, Maggie.
Really, you needn't look like that--as though I were always doing
something wrong. I only did it for your sake."
"For my sake? But why? I wanted to see him. I was trying to see him
in London. Oh, Grace, what did he say?"
"What did he say? Well, fancy! As though I could remember. He said
he'd come to see you, and when I said he couldn't, he went away
"Said he couldn't? But why couldn't he?"
"Really, Maggie, your tone is extraordinary. Fancy what Paul would
say if he heard you. He wouldn't like it, I'm sure. I said that
after the way he'd behaved last time he came here you didn't want to
see him again."
"You said that? Oh, Grace! How did you dare!" "Now, Maggie, don't
you look like that. I've done nothing, I'm sure."
"Did you say that I'd said that I didn't want to see him again?"
Grace shrank back behind the tea-things.
"Yes, I did . . . Maggie, you frighten me."
"I hope I do . . . You're wicked, you're wicked. Yes, you are. Where
is he now?"
"He's at the 'Sea Dog.' That dirty public house on the sea-front--
near Tunstalls--Where are you going?"
"I'm going to him of course." Maggie turned and looked at Grace.
Grace was fascinated as a rabbit is by a snake. The two women stared
at one another.
"How strange you are, Grace," Maggie said. "You seem to like to be
cruel!" Then she went out. When the door was closed Grace found
"that she was all in a perspiration." Her hand trembled so that when
she tried to pour herself another cup of tea--just to fortify
herself--she poured it into the saucer. And the tea was cold--no use
When she rose at last to go in and seek consolation from Paul her
knees were trembling so that she staggered across the floor. This
couldn't go on. No, it could not. To be frightened in one's own
house! Absurd . . . Really the girl had looked terrible . . . Murder
. . . That's what it had looked like. Something must be done.
Murmuring aloud to herself again and again "Something must be done"
as she crossed the hall, she walked slowly, her hand to her heart,
ponderously, as though she were walking in the dark. Then, as soon
as she had opened the study door she began, before she could see her
brother: "Oh, Paul, I'm so frightened. It's Maggie. She's very
angry. Fancy what she said."
Maggie meanwhile had gone straight up to her bedroom and found her
black hat and her waterproof. Her one thought now was lest he should
have caught the five o'clock train and gone back to London. Oh! how
hurt he would be with her, how terribly hurt! The thought of the
pain and loneliness that he would feel distressed her so bitterly
that she could scarcely put on her hat, she was so eager to run and
find him. She felt, at the thought of his fruitless journey through
the rain, the tenderest affection for him, maternal and loving, so
that she wanted to have him with her at once and to see him in warm
clothes beside the fire, drinking whisky if he liked, and she would
give him all the money she possessed.
She had still touched very little of her own three hundred pounds.
He should have as much of that as he liked. The death of Aunt Anne
had shown her how few people in the world there were for her to
love. After all, the aunts and Uncle Mathew had needed her as no one
else had done. She made little plans; she would, perhaps, go back
with him to London for a little time. There was, after all, no
reason why she should remain in this horrible place for ever. And
Paul now seemed not to care whether she went or stayed.
She ran out into the wind and the rain. She was surprised by the
force and fury of it. It would take time and strength to battle down
the High Street. Poor Uncle Mathew! To walk all the way in the rain
and then to be told that she would not see him! She could imagine
him turning away down the drive, bitterly disappointed . . .
Probably he had come to borrow money, and she had promised that she
would not fail him. When she reached the High Street she was soaked.
She felt the water dripping down her neck and in her boots. At the
corner of the High Street by the bookseller's she was forced to
pause, so fiercely did the wind beat up from the Otterson Road, that
runs openly to the sea. Maggie had not even in Glebeshire known so
furious a day and hour when the winds tossed and raged but never
broke into real storm. It was the more surprising. She had to pause
for a moment to remember where Turnstall's the butcher was, then,
suddenly recalling it, she turned off the High Street and found her
way to the mean streets that ran behind the Promenade. Still she met
no one. It might have been a town abandoned by all human life and
given over to the wind and rain and the approaching absorption of
the sea. It was now dark and the lamp at the end of the street blew
gustily and with an uncertain flare.
Maggie found Turnstall's, its shop lit and Mr. Turnstall himself,
stout and red-faced, behind his bloody counter. She went in and
asked him where "The Sea Dog" might be. He explained to her that it
was close at hand, on the right, looking over the Promenade. She
found it at last because it had an old-fashioned creaking wooden
sign with a blue sailor painted on it. Timidly she stepped into the
dark uneven passage. To the right of her she could see a deserted
room with wooden trestles and a table. The bar must be near because
she could hear voices and the clinking of glasses, but, in spite of
those sounds the house seemed very dead. Through the walls and rooms
she could hear the pounding beat of the sea. She walked to the end
of the passage and there found an old wrinkled man in riding
breeches and a brightly-coloured check shirt.
"Can you tell me where a gentleman, Mr. Cardinal, is staying?" she
He was obviously very deaf; she had to shout. She repeated her
question, adding. "He came from London to-day."
A stout middle-aged woman appeared. "What is it?" she asked. "The
old man's stone deaf. He can't hear at all."
"I was wondering," said Maggie, "whether you could tell me where I
could find a Mr. Cardinal. He came down from London to-day and is
"Cardinal . . . Cardinal?" The woman thought, scratching her head.
"Was it Caldwell you meant?"
"No," said Maggie. "Cardinal."
"I'll go and see." The woman disappeared, whilst the old man brushed
past Maggie as though she were a piece of furniture; he departed on
some secret purpose of his own.
"What a horrible place!" thought Maggie. "Uncle must be in a bad way
if he comes here. I never should sleep for the noise of the sea."
The woman returned. "Yes. 'E's here. No. 5. Come this afternoon. Up
the stairs and second door on the right."
The stairs to which she pointed offered a gulf of darkness. The
woman was gone. The noises from the bar had ceased. The only sound
in the place was the thundering of the sea, roaring, as it seemed,
at the very foot of the house.
Maggie climbed the stairs. Half-way up she was compelled to pause.
The darkness blinded her; she had lost the reflection from the lamp
below and, above her, there was no light at all. She advanced
slowly, step by step, feeling her way with a hand on the rickety
bannisters. At the top of the stair there was a gleam of light and,
turning to the right, she knocked on the second door. There was no
answer and she knocked again. Listening, the noise of the sea was
now so violent that she fancied that she might not have heard the
answer so she turned the handle of the door and pushed it open. She
was met then by a gale of wind, a rush of the sea that seemed as
imminent as though she were on the shore itself and a dim grey light
that revealed nothing in the room to her but only shapes and
She knew at once that the windows must be wide open; she could hear
some papers rustling and something on the wall tapped monotonously.
"Uncle Mathew!" she whispered, and then she called more loudly.
"Uncle Mathew! Uncle Mathew!"
There was no answer and suddenly a strange, quite unreasoning terror
caught her by the throat. It was all that she could do not to cry
out and run down to the gas-lit passage. She held herself there by
sheer force; the smell of the sea was now very strong; there was a
tang of rotten seaweed in it.
As she remained there she could see more clearly, but it seemed that
the room was full of some dim obscuring mist. She moved forward into
the room, knocked her knee against a table, and then as the panic
gained upon her called more loudly, "Uncle. . . Uncle. Are you in?
Where are you? It's I, Maggie."
"Oh well. . . of course he isn't here," she said to herself. "He's
downstairs." And yet, strangely, something seemed to persuade her
that he was there; it was as though he were maliciously hiding from
her to tease her.
Feeling her way cautiously, her hands before her face, she moved
forward to close the windows, thinking that she must shut out that
abominable sound of the sea and the stale stink of the seaweed. She
was suddenly caught by a sweep of rain that wetted her hair and face
and neck. She started back and touched a piece of damp cloth. She
turned, and there, very close to her but above her and staring over
her head, was Uncle Mathew's face. It was so close to her that she
could have touched it by putting up her hand. It was white-grey and
she would not have seen it at all had she not been very near to it.
She realised nothing, but she felt that her knees were trembling and
that she would fall if she did not steady herself. She put out her
hand and clutched damp heavy thick cloth, cloth that enwrapped as it
seemed some weighty substance like stone or brick.
She passed her hand upwards and suddenly the damp cloth gave way
beneath her fingers, sinking inwards against something soft and
flabby. She sprang away. She stood for one shuddering moment, then
she screamed again and again, shrieking and running, as it were for
her life, out of the room, down the passage. She could not find the
staircase. Oh! she could not find the staircase! She stood there,
leaning against the damp wall, crying: "Oh help! Help! Quickly!"
There were steps and voices, then the woman whom she had seen before
appeared at the turn of the stair holding a lamp.
"What is it?" she asked, raising the light high. Maggie did not
answer, only leaning there and staring down.
"You'd better come, Bill," the woman said. "There's something wrong
The woman came up the stairs followed by two men; they moved
cautiously as though, they expected to find something terrible round
the next corner.
"What is it?" said the woman again when she came up to Maggie. But
Maggie made no answer. They pushed past her and went into the room.
Maggie followed them. She saw the room obscured by mist; she heard
some whispering and fumbling, then a match was struck; there was a
bead-like flare followed suddenly by the flaming of a candle. In the
quick light the room was bright. Maggie saw her uncle hanging from
some projection in the rough ceiling. A chair was overturned at his
feet. His body was like a bag of old clothes, his big boots turning
inwards towards one another. His face was a dull grey and seemed cut
off from the rest of his body by the thick blue muffler that
encircled his neck. He was grinning at her; the tip of his tongue
protruded at her between his teeth. She noticed his hands that hung
heavily like dead fish.
After that she knew no more save that the sea seemed to rush in a
great flood, with a sudden vindictive roar, into the room.
SOUL OF PAUL
Nothing so horrible had ever happened to Paul before, nothing . . .
He felt as though he had committed a murder; it was as though he
expected arrest and started at every knock on the door. Nothing so
horrible . . .
It was, of course, in all the Skeaton papers. At the inquest it
appeared that Mathew Cardinal had imitated the signature of a
prosperous City friend; had he not chosen his own way out he would
have discovered the arduous delights of hard labour. But he had
chosen suicide and not "while of unsound mind." Yes, the uncle of
the Rector's wife . . . Yes, The Rector's Wife's Uncle . . . Yes,
The Rector's Wife's Uncle!
Sho discovered him, bumped right into him in the dark. What a queer
story--like a novel. Oh, but she had always been queer--Trenchard
had picked her up somewhere in a London slum; well, perhaps not a
slum exactly but something very like it. Why did he marry her?
Perhaps he had to. Who knows? These clergymen are sly dogs. Always
the worst if the truth were known . . .
So it went on. For nine whole days (and nights) it was the only
topic in Skeaton. Paul caught the fringe of it. He had never known
very much about his fellow-beings. He had always taken the things
that they said to him as the true things, when they smiled he had
thought that they meant their smiles. And why not? . . . since he
always meant his. He had always been too lazy to dislike people, and
his digestion had been too good and his ambition too slender to urge
him towards spite and malice. He had believed that he was on
excellent terms with all the world.
Now that was changed. He was watched, he knew, with curious,
inquisitive, critical glances. Through no fault of his own he was
soiled and smirched. That hearty confident laugh of his must be
checked. He was afraid. Yes, he was afraid. He sat in his study and
trembled at the thought of meeting his congregation. He had done
nothing and yet his reputation was no longer clean. But he was
afraid, also, of something else. He saw, desperately against his
will, the central picture. He saw the body hanging in the dark room,
Maggie tumbling against it, the cries, the lights, the crowd . . .
He saw it all, hour after hour. He was not an imaginative man, but
it seemed to him that he had actually been present at this scene. He
had to attend the inquest. That had been horrible. With all eyes
upon him he stood up and answered their detestable questions. He had
trembled before those eyes. Suddenly the self-confidence of all his
life had left him. He had stammered in his replies, his hands had
trembled and he had been forced to press them close to his sides. He
had given his answers as though he were a guilty man.
He came then slowly, in the silence of his study, to the
consideration of Grace and Maggie. This would kill Grace. She had
altered, in a few days, amazingly; she would meet nobody, but shut
herself into her bedroom. She would not see the servants. She looked
at Paul as though she, like the rest of the world, blamed him. Paul
loved Grace. He had not known before how much. They had been
together all their lives and he had taken her protection and care of
him too much for granted. How good she had been to him and for how
many years! When they were happy it seemed natural that she should
look after him, but now, in the middle of this scandal he saw that
it should have been he who looked after her. He had not looked after
her. Of course, now they would have to leave Skeaton and he knew
what that departure would mean to Grace. She was suspicious of new
places and new people. Strange to think now that almost the only
person of whom she had not been suspicious was Maggie.
Maggie! His mind slowly wheeled round to her. He rose from his chair
and began clumsily to parade the room. He walked up and down the
study as though with closed eyes, his large body bumping against
corners of tables and chairs. Maggie! He looked back, as of late he
had often done, to those days in his cousin's house in London. What
had happened to the Maggie whom he had known there?
He saw her again, so quiet, so ready to listen and learn, so modest,
and yet with a humour and sense of appreciation that had promised
well for the future. A child--an ignorant, charming, uneducated
child, that is what she had seemed. He admitted now that his heart,
always too soft and too gentle perhaps, had been touched beyond
wisdom. She had seemed to need just the protection and advice that
he had been fitted to give her. Then, as though in the darkness of
the night, the change had been made; from the moment of entering
into Skeaton there had been a new Maggie. He could not tell himself,
because he was not a man clever at psychology, in what the change
consisted. Had he been pressed he would have said perhaps that he
had known the old Maggie intimately, that nothing that she could say
or do astonished him, but that this new Maggie was altogether a
stranger. Time had not altered that; with the passing months he had
known her less and less. Why, at their first meeting long ago in
Katherine's house he had known her better than he knew her now. He
traced the steps of their history in Skeaton; she had eluded him
always, never allowing him to hold her for more than a moment,
vanishing and appearing again, fantastic, in some strange lighted
distance, hurting him and disappointing him . . . He stopped in his
walk, bewildered. He saw, with a sudden flash, that she had never
appeared so fascinating to him as when she had been strangest. He
saw it now at the moment when she seemed more darkly strange, more
sinister and dangerous than ever before.
He realised, too, at the same sharp moment the conflict in which he
was engaged. On the one side was all his life, his sloth and ease
and comfort, his religion, his good name, his easy intercourse with
his fellow-men, Grace, intellectual laziness, acceptance of things
as they most easily are, Skeaton, regular meals, good drainage,
moral, physical and spiritual, a good funeral and a favourable
obituary in The Skeaton Times. On the other hand unrest, ill-health,
separation from Grace, an elusive and never-to-be-satisfied pursuit,
scandal and possible loss of religion, unhappiness . . . At least it
was to his credit that he realised the conflict; it is even further
to his credit that he grasped and admitted the hopelessness of it.
He knew which way he would go; even now he was tired with the
thought of the struggle; he sank into his shabby chair with a sigh
of weariness; his hand stretched out instinctively for an easy
volume. But oh, Maggie! how strange and fascinating at that moment
she appeared to him, with her odd silences, her flashes of startled
surprise, her sense of being half the day in another world, her
kindness to him and then her sudden terror of him, her ignorance and
then the conviction that she gave suddenly to him that she knew more
than he would ever know, above all, the way that some dark spirit
deep down in him supported her wild rebellions, her irreverences,
her irreligion, her scorn of tradition. Oh! she was a witch! Grace's
word for her was right, but not Grace's sense of it. The more Grace
was shocked the more tempting to him the witch became. It had seemed
to him, that day in Katherine's drawing-room, so slight a thing when
she had said that she did not love him, he had no doubt but that he
could change that. How could a child, so raw and ignorant, resist
such a man? And yet she had resisted. That resistance had been at
the root of the trouble. Whichever way things went now, he was a
The door opened and Grace came in. Looking at her he realised that
she would never understand the struggle through which he had been
timorously wading, and saw that she was further away from him than
she had ever been before. He blamed her too. She had had no right to
refuse that man to Maggie. Had she allowed Maggie to see him none of
this might have occurred. The man was a forger and would, had he
lived, have gone to prison, but there would not then have been the
same open scandal. No, he blamed Grace. It might be that their old
absolutely confident intimacy would never be renewed. He felt cold
and lonely. He bent forward, putting some coal on the fire, breaking
it up into a cheerful blaze. Then he looked up at her, and his heart
was touched. She looked to-day an old woman. Her hair was untidy and
her face was dull grey in colour. Her eyes moved restlessly round
the room, wandering from picture to picture, from the mantelpiece to
the chairs, from the chairs to the book-shelves, as though she
sought in the sight of these well-remembered things some defence and
"Is your head better?" he asked her, not meeting her eyes, because
the dull pain in them disturbed him.
"Not much," she said. "It's very bad, my head. I've taken aspirin. I
didn't eat anything yesterday. Nothing at all except some bread and
milk, and very little of that . . . I couldn't finish it. I felt I'd
be sick. I said to Emily, 'Emily, if I eat any more of that I'll be
sick,' and Emily advised me not to touch it. What I mean is that if
I'd eaten any more I'd have been really sick--at least that's what I
Her restless eyes came suddenly to a jerking pause as though some
one had caught and gripped them. She was suddenly dramatic. "Oh.
Paul, what are we going to do?" she cried.
Paul was irritated by that. He hated to be asked direct questions as
"What do you mean what are we going to do?" he asked.
"Why, about this--about everything. We shall have to leave Skeaton,
you know. Fancy what people are saying!"
Suddenly, as though the thought of the scandal was too much for her,
her knees gave way and she flopped into a chair.
"Well. let them say!" he answered vigorously. "Grace, you're making
too much of all this. You'll be ill if you aren't careful. Pull
yourself together." "Of course we've got to go," she answered. "If
you think that we can go on living here after all that's happened--"
"Well, why not?" he interrupted. "We haven't done anything. It's
"I know what you're going to say." (It was one of Grace's most
irritating habits that she finished other people's sentences for
them in a way that they had not intended) "that if they look at it
properly they'll see that it wasn't our fault. But will they look at
it properly? Of course they won't. You know what cats they are.
They're only waiting for a chance. What I mean is that this is just
the chance they've been waiting for."
"How can you go on and every time you preach they'll be looking up
at you and saying 'There's a brother of a murderer'? Why, fancy what
Paul jumped in his chair. "What do you mean, Grace? The brother of a
"What else am I?" Grace began to warm her podgy hands. "It came out
at the inquest that I wouldn't see the man, didn't it? Maggie thinks
me a murderer. I see it in her eyes every time. What I mean to say,
Paul, is, What are you going to do about Maggie?"
Grace's voice changed at that question. It was as though that other
trouble of the scandal were nothing to her compared with this matter
of Maggie's presence. Paul turned and looked at her. She dropped her
voice to a whisper and went on:
"I won't stay with Maggie any more. No, no, no! You must choose,
Paul, between Maggie and me. What I mean is that it simply isn't
safe in the same house with her. You may not have noticed it
yourself, but I've seen it coming on a long time. I have indeed. She
isn't right in her head, and she hates me. She's always hated me.
She'd like to do me an injury. She follows me round the house. She's
always watching me, and now that she thinks that I killed her uncle
it's worse. I'm not safe, Paul, and that's the truth. She hides in
my room behind the curtains waiting for me. It's my safety you've
got to consider. It's me or her. I know she's your wife, but what I
mean is that there'll be something awful happening if you aren't
Grace, as she spoke, was a woman in the very heart of a desperate
panic. Her whole body trembled; her face was transfixed as though
she saw Maggie standing in front of her there with a knife. No one
looking at her could deny that she was in mortal terror--no
affectation here. And Paul loved her. He came over to her and put
his arm round her; she caught hold of his hand, clutched it
desperately. When he felt the trembling of her body beneath his hand
his love for her and protective care of her overwhelmed him.
"Grace, dear, it's all right," he said. "You're exaggerating all
this. Maggie wouldn't hurt a fly--indeed, she wouldn't. She has her
faults, perhaps, but cruelty isn't one of them. You must remember
that she's had a bad time lately losing her aunt and then finding
her uncle in that horrible way. After all, she's only a child. I
know that you two haven't got on well together, and I daresay that
it has been very largely my fault; but you mustn't be frightened
like that. No harm shall come to you so long as I am alive--no harm
But she stared in front of her, like a woman in a dream, repeating--
"No, no, Paul. Either she goes or I go. She's your wife. She must
stay. Then I must go. I can't stand it; I can't indeed. I'm not
sleeping; I'm not indeed. It isn't fair to ask it. What I mean is
that it isn't fair to me."
Although he had known Grace for years he still believed her threats
and promises. "My sister's an obstinate woman," he would say,
although had he looked truly into his experience he must have seen
that she changed her mind more frequently by far than she changed
her clothes. He thought that now she meant what she said; indeed, on
his own side he really did not see how in the future Maggie and
Grace could continue to live in the same house. But, as Grace had
said, he was married to Maggie and therefore it was Grace that must
go. Then when he confronted the fact of Grace's departure he could
not endure it. No, he could not. Had Maggie been everything to him
that she might have been, bad she been his true wife, had she loved
him, had she--oh! a thousand things she might have been!--then
perhaps life would be possible without Grace. But now! . . . at the
thought of being alone for ever with Maggie a strange passion,
mingled of fascination and fear, affection and sensuality, cowardice
and excitement, pervaded him. What would their life together be?
Then he turned to Grace as the very rock of his safety.
"Oh, Grace, you mustn't go--you mustn't think of going. Whatever
should I do without you?"
A dull flush of gratification coloured her cheeks.
"Either she goes or I," she repeated. "It can't go on. You must see
that it can't. Fancy what people must be thinking!"
As always, he postponed the issue. "We'll settle something. Don't
you worry, dear. You go and lie down. That's what you want--a
thorough good rest."
She plodded off. For himself he decided that fresh air was what he
needed. He went for a stroll. As soon as he was in the Charleston
Road that led to the High Street he was pleased with the day. Early
spring; mild, faint haze, trees dimly purple, a bird clucking, the
whisper of the sea stirring the warm puddles and rivulets across the
damp dim road. Warm, yes, warm and promising. Lent . . . tiresome.
Long services, gloomy sermons. Rebuking people, scolding them--made
them angry, did them no good. Then Easter. That was better. Jolly
hymns. "Christ is risen! Christ is risen!" Jolly flowers--primroses,
crocuses--(no, they were earlier). They'll have forgotten about
Maggie's uncle by then. Live it down--that's the thing. Give them a
good genial sermon this Sunday. Show them he wasn't caring . . . If
only the women would get on together. Women--women. How difficult
they were! Yes, Sunday would be difficult--facing them all. He knew
what they'd be thinking. He wanted to be jolly again. Jolly. That
was the thing. Joking with Grace, jolly even with Maggie. Jolly with
his congregation. Jolly with God. Why wasn't he left alone? Had been
until Maggie came. Maggie like a stone flung into a frosty pool!
Broke everything up, simply because she was unlike other people.
He'd married her because he thought he could make her into what he
pleased. Well, it had been the other way. Oh, she was queer, queer,
He stopped, his large boots in a warm puddle. He felt the warm sun
hot through the damp mist. He wanted to take her into his arms, to
hug her, above all to feel her response. To feel her response, that
was what, for years now, he had been wanting, and never once had she
responded. Never once. She let him do as he pleased, but she was
passive. She didn't love him. Grace loved him, but how dull Grace
was! Dull--it was all dull! Grace was dull, Skeaton was dull, the
church was dull--God was dull! God? Where was God? He looked around.
There was no God. To what had he been praying all these years? He
had not been praying. His congregation had not been praying. They
were all dead and God was dead too.
He looked up and saw that his boots were in a puddle. He walked on.
For a moment, the mists of sloth and self-indulgence that had for
years obscured his vision had shifted and cleared, but even as he
moved they settled down and resolved themselves once more. The
muscles of Paul's soul were stiff with disuse. Training is a lengthy
affair and a tiresome business to the stout and middle-aged.
The hedges gave way to houses; he was in the High Street. He saw
then, plastered at intervals on the hoardings, strange phenomena. It
was the colour that first attracted him--a bright indecent pink with
huge black lettering. Because it was the offseason in Skeaton other
announcements were few. All the more prominent then the following:
THE KINGSCOTE BEETHEEN WILL HOLD A RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL IN THE TOWN
OF SKEATON-ON-SEA FROM APRIL 10 TO 16.-----SERVICES 10 A.M., 3 P.M.
SPECIAL SONG SERVICE, 7.30 P.M. DAILY All are Cordially Invited.
ADDRESSES BY REV. JOHN THURSTON. REV. WILLIAM CRASHAW. SISTER AVIES.
Paul stared at this placard with horror and disgust in his soul. For
the moment Maggie and Grace and all the scandal connected with them
was forgotten. This was terrible. By temperament, tradition,
training, he loathed and feared every phase of religion known to him
as "Methodistic." Under this term he included everything that was
noisy, demonstrative, ill-bred and melodramatic. Once when an
undergraduate at Cambridge he had gone to some meeting of the kind.
There had been impromptu prayers, ghastly pictures of hell-fire,
appeals to the undergraduates to save themselves at once lest it be
too late, confessions and appeals for mercy. The memory of that
evening still filled him with physical nausea. It was to him as
though he had seen some gross indecent act in public or witnessed
some horrible cruelty.
Maggie had told him very little about the Chapel and its doings, and
he had shrunk from asking her any questions, but everything that was
odd and unusual in her behaviour he attributed to her months under
that influence. As he stared at the flaunting pink sheet he felt as
though it were a direct personal assault on himself and his church.
And yet he knew that he could do nothing. Once before there had been
something of the kind in Skeaton and he had tried with others to
stop it. He had failed utterly; the civic authorities in Skeaton
seemed almost to approve of these horrors. He looked at the thing
once more and then turned hack towards home. Something must be done
. . . Something must he done . . . but, as on so many earlier
occasions in his life, he could face no clear course of action.
That Saturday evening he tried to change his sermon. He had
determined to deliver a very fine address on "Brotherly Love" and
then, most fortunately, he had discovered a five-years' old sermon
that would, with a little adaptation, exactly fit the situation.
To-night he was sick of his adaptation. The sermon had not been a
good one at the first, and now it was a tattered thing of shreds and
patches. He tried to add to it some sentences about the approaching
"Revival." No sentences would come. What a horrible fortnight it had
been! He looked back upon his district visiting, his meetings, his
choir-practices with disgust. Something had come in between himself
and his people. Perhaps the relationship had never been very real?
Founded on jollity. An eagerness to accept anybody's mood for one's
own if only that meant jollity. What had he thought, standing in the
puddle that afternoon? That they were all dead, he and his
congregation and God, all dead together? He sank into his chair,
picked up the Church Times, and fell asleep.
Next morning as he walked into the choir this extraordinary
impression that his congregation was dead persisted. As he recited
the "Confession" he looked about him. There was Mr. Maxse, and there
Miss Purves. Every one was in his and her appointed place; old
Colonel Rideout with the purple gills not kneeling because of his
gout; young Edward Walter, heir to the sugar factory, not kneeling
because he was lazy; sporting Mr. Harper, whose golf handicap was
+3, not kneeling because to do so would spoil the crease of his
trousers; old Mrs. Dean with her bonnet and bugles, the worst gossip
in Skeaton. her eyes raised to heaven; the Quiller girls with their
hard red colour and their hard bright eyes; Mr. Fortinum, senior,
with his County Council stomach and his J.P. neck; the dear old Miss
Fursleis who believed in God and lived accordingly; young Captain
Trent, who believed in his moustache and lived accordingly . . . Oh
yes, there they all were--and there, too, were Grace and Maggie
kneeling side by side.
Maggie! His eyes rested upon her. Her face suddenly struck him as
being of extraordinary beauty. He had never thought her beautiful
before; very plain, of course. Every one knew that she was plain.
But to-day her face and profile had the simplicity, the purity, the
courage of a Madonna in one of the old pictures--or, rather, of one
of those St. John the Baptist boys gazing up into the face of the
Christ--child as it lay in its mother's arms. He finished the
"Confession" hurriedly--Maggie's face faded from his view; he saw
now only a garden of hats and heads, the bright varnished colour of
the church around and about them all.
He gave out the psalms; there was a rustle of leaves, and soon
shrill, untrained voices of the choir-boys were screaming the chant
like a number of baby steam-whistles in competition.
When he climbed into the pulpit he tried again to discover Maggie's
face as he had already seen it. He could not; it had been, perhaps,
a trick of light and, in any case, she was hidden now behind the
stout stolidity of Grace. He looked around at the other faces
beneath him and saw them settle themselves into their customary
expressions of torpor, vacuity and expectation. Very little
expectation! They knew well enough, by this time, the kind of thing
to expect from him, the turn of phrase, the rise and fall of the
voice, the pause dramatic, the whisper expostulatory, the thrust
imperative, the smile seductive.
He had often been told, as a curate, that he was a wonderful
preacher. His round jolly face, his beaming smile, a certain
dramatic gift, had helped him. "He is so human," he had heard people
say. For many years he had lived on that phrase. For the first time
in his life, this morning he distrusted his gift. He was out of
touch with them all--because they were dead, killed by forms and
repetitions and monotony. "We're all dead, you know, and I'm dead
too. Let's close the doors and seal this church up. Our day is
over." He said of course nothing of the kind. His sermon was stupid,
halting and ineffective.
"Naturally," as Colonel Rideout said over his port at lunch, "when a
feller's wife's uncle has just hung himself in public, so to speak,
it does take the wind out of you. He usen't to preach badly once.
Got stale. They all do."
As Paul dismissed the congregation with the Blessing he felt that
everything was over. He was more completely miserable than he had
ever been. He had in fact never before been really miserable except
when he had the toothache. And now, also, the custom of years made
it impossible for him to be miserable for long. He had had no real
talk with Maggie since the inquest. Maggie came into his study that
afternoon. Their conversation was very quiet and undemonstrative; it
happened to be one of the most important conversations in both their
lives, and, often afterwards, Paul looked back to it, trying to
retrace in it the sentences and movements with which it had been
built up. He could never recover anything very much. He could see
Maggie sitting in a way that she had on the edge of her chair,
looking at him and looking also far beyond him. He knew afterwards
that this was the last moment in his life that he had any contact
with her. Like a witch, like a ghost, she had come into his life;
like a witch, like a ghost, she went out of it, leaving him, for the
remainder of his days, a haunted man.
As he looked at her he realised that she had aged in this last
fortnight. Yes, that horrible affair had taken it out of her. She
seemed to have recovered self-control at some strange and unnatural
cost--as though she had taken some potion or drug.
She began by asking Grace's question:
"Paul, what are we going to do?"
But she did not irritate him as Grace had done. His one idea was to
help her; unfortunately he had himself thought out nothing clearly.
"Well, Maggie," he answered, smiling, "I thought you might help me
about that. I want your advice. I thought--well, as a matter of fact
I hadn't settled anything--but I thought that I might get a locum
for a month or two and we might go abroad for a trip perhaps. To
Paris, or Venice, or somewhere."
"And then come back?" she asked.
"For a time--yes--certainly," he answered.
"I don't think I can ever come back to Skeaton," she said in a
whisper, as though speaking to herself. He could see that she was
controlling herself and steadying her voice with the greatest
difficulty. "Of course I must come, Paul, if you want me to. It's
been all my fault from the very beginning----"
"Oh no," he broke in, "it hasn't."
"Yes, it has. I've just spoilt your life and Grace's. You were both
very happy until I came. I had no right to marry you when I didn't
love you. I didn't know then all I know now. But that's no excuse. I
should have known. I was younger than most girls are, though."
"But Maggie, you're not to blame yourself at all. I think if we were
somewhere else than Skeaton it would be easier. And now after what
Maggie broke in: "You couldn't leave Skeaton, Paul. You know you
couldn't. It would just break your heart. All the work of your life
has been here--everything you've ever done. And Grace too."
"No, no, you're wrong," said Paul vigorously. "A change is probably
what I need. I've been too long in the same place. Time goes so fast
that one doesn't realise. And for Grace, too, I expect a change will
"And do you think," said Maggie, "that Grace will ever live with me
now in the same house when she knows that I've driven you from
Skeaton? Grace is quite right. She's just to feel as she does about
"Then Grace must go," said Paul firmly, looking at Maggie and
feeling that the one thing that he needed was that she should be in
his arms and he kissing her. "Maggie, if we go away, you and I,
right away from all of this, perhaps then you can--you will--" he
She shook her head. "Never, Paul. Never. Do you know what I've seen
this last week? That I've left all those who really wanted me. My
aunts, very much they needed me, and I was selfish and wouldn't give
them what they wanted, and tried to escape from them. You and Grace
don't need me. Nobody wants anything here in Skeaton. You're all
full. It isn't my fault, Paul, but everything seems to me dead here.
They don't mean anything they say in Church, and the Church doesn't
mean anything either. The Chapel was wrong in London too, but it was
more right than the Church here is. I don't know what religion is or
where it is: I don't know anything now except that one ought to be
with the people who want one and not with the people who don't. Aunt
wanted me and I failed her. Uncle wanted me and I--I--I--"
She broke down, crying, her head in her arms. He went over to her
and put his arms around her. At his touch she shrank a little, and
when he felt that he went away from her and stood, silently, not
knowing what to do.
"Maggie, don't--don't, Maggie. I can't bear to hear you cry."
"I've done all wrong--I've done all wrong," she answered him. "I've
been wrong always."
His helplessness was intolerable. He knew that she would not allow
him to touch her. He went out closing the door softly behind him.
Maggie cried for a little while, then, slowly recovering, realised
that she was alone in the room. She raised her head and listened;
then she dried her eyes and stood up, wondering what she should do
During the last week she had spent all her energy on one thing
alone--to keep back from her the picture of Uncle Mathew's death.
That at all costs she must not see. There it was, just behind her,
hovering with all its detail, at her elbow. All day and most of the
night she was conscious of it there, but she would not turn and
look. Uncle Mathew was dead--that was all that she must know. Aunt
Anne was dead too. Martin had written to her, and then, because she
had not answered, had abandoned her. Paul and Grace were to be
driven out of Skeaton because of her. Grace hated her; Paul would
never love her unless she in return would love him--and that she
would never do because she loved Martin. She was alone then.
She had made every one unhappy--Aunt Anne, Uncle Mathew, Paul,
Grace; the best thing that she could do now was to go away and hide
That, at least, she saw very clearly and she clung to it. If she
went away Paul and Grace need not leave Skeaton; soon they would
forget her and be happy once more as they had been before she came.
But where should she go? All her life she had depended upon her own
self-reliance, but now that had left her. She felt as though she
could not move unless there was some one somewhere who cared for
her. But there was no one. Katherine Mark. No, she certainly could
never go there again. Behind all this was the constant preoccupation
that she must not look, for an instant, at Uncle Mathew's death. If
she did everything would break . . . She must not. She must not. She
She went up to her bedroom, took from their box Martin's letters and
the ring with the three pearls, and the tattered programme. She sat
on her bed and turned them over and over. She was bewildered and
scarcely knew where she was. She repeated again and again: "I must
go away at once . . . I must go away at once."
Then as though moved by some compelling force that she did not
recognise she fell on her knees beside the bed, crying: "Martin,
Martin, I want you. I don't know where you are but I must find you.
Martin, tell me where you are. I'll go to you anywhere. Martin,
where are you? Where are you?"
It may not have been a vocal cry; perhaps she made no sound, but she
waited, there on her knees, hearing very clearly the bells ringing
for evening service and seeing the evening sun steal across her
carpet and touch gently, the pictures on the wall. Gradually as she
knelt there, calm and reassurance came back to her. She felt as
though he, somewhere lost in the world, had heard her. She laid her
cheek upon the quilt of the bed and, for the first time since Uncle
Mathew's death, her thoughts worked in connected order, her courage
returned to her, and she saw the room and the sun and the trees
beyond the window as real objects, without the mist of terror and
despair that had hitherto surrounded her.
She rose from her knees as though she were withdrawing from a
horrible nightmare. She could remember nothing of the events of the
last week save her talk with Paul that afternoon. She could recall
nothing of the inquest, nor whether she had been to Church, nor any
scene with Grace.
"So long as I'm alive and Martin's alive it's all right," she
thought. She knew that he was alive. She would find him. She put
away the things into the box again; she had not yet thought what she
would do, but, in some way, she had received during those few
minutes in her room a reassurance that she was not alone.
She went out into the spring dusk. She chose the road towards
Barnham Wood because it was lonely there and the hedges were thin;
you could feel the breath of the sea as it blew across the sparse
fields. The hush of an English Sunday evening enfolded the road, the
wood, the fields. The sun was very low and the saffron light
penetrated the dark lines of the hedges and hung like a curtain of
misty gold before the approaches to the wood. The red-brown fields
rolled to the horizon and lay, like a carpet, at the foot of the
town huddled against the pale sky.
She was near the wood, and could see the little dark twisted cone-
strewn paths that led into the purple depths, when a woman came out
of it towards her. She saw that it was Miss Toms. It seemed quite
natural to see her there because it was on this same road that she
had first met the lady and her brother. Miss Toms also did not seem
at all surprised. She shook Maggie warmly by the hand.
"You said that I wouldn't come often to see you," said Maggie.
"And it's been true. Things have been more difficult for me than I
knew at the time."
"That's all right," said Miss Toms.
"But I ought to tell you," said Maggie, "that although I haven't
been to see you, I've felt as though you and your brother were my
friends, more than any one in this place. And that's been a great
help to me."
They started to walk down the road together.
"You've been in trouble," said Miss Toms. "Of course I've heard
about it. I would have liked to come and see you but I didn't know
how your sister-in-law would like it."
She put her arm through Maggie's.
"My dear," she said, "don't be discouraged. Because Skeaton is dead
it doesn't mean that all the world is. And remember this. The
world's view of any one is never the right one. I know that the
world thinks my brother's mad, but I know that he's a lot saner than
most people. The world thinks your uncle was a rascal, but if you
can remember one good thing he did you know he wasn't, and I'm sure
you can remember many good things."
"It isn't that," said Maggie. "It is that I seem to have done
everything wrong and made every one I had to do with unhappy."
"Nonsense," said Miss Toms. "I'm sure if they've been unhappy it's
their own fault. Isn't the evening air lovely? At times like these I
wonder that Skeaton can dare to exist. You'll come and see us one
day, won't you?"
"I think--I don't know," said Maggie; "I may be going away."
Miss Toms gave her a penetrating look.
"I daresay you're right. Skeaton's not the place for you. I saw that
the first time we met. Well, whatever you do, don't lose your pluck.
You're yourself, you know, and you're as good as anybody else. Don't
you forget that. Because a lot of people say a thing it doesn't mean
it's true, and because a set of idiots think a thing shocking it
doesn't mean that it's shocking. Think how wrong people have always
been about everything!"
They turned down a side lane and arrived in the High Street. The
street was very empty. In the fading light a large pink poster
attracted Maggie's attention. She went close to it and read the
announcement of the Revival services.
When she read the names of Thurston and Mr. Crashaw and Miss Avies
it seemed to her incredible, and then at the same time as something
that she had always expected.
"Oh," she cried, "it's coming here!" She was strangely startled as
though the sign of Thurston's name was strange forewarning.
"What's coming?" asked Miss Toms.
She read the notice.
"I don't know what you think," said Miss Toms, "but that kind of
thing's humbug if you ask me."
"Oh!" Maggie cried. "It's so strange. I knew those people in London.
I used to go to their services. And now they're coming here!"
She could not explain to Miss Toms the mysterious assurance that she
had of the way that her former world was drawing near to her again.
She could see now that never for a moment since her arrival in
Skeaton had it let her alone, slowly invading her, bit by bit
driving in upon her, forcing her to retire . . .
It was quite dark now. Because it was Sunday evening the shops were
closed. Only behind some of the curtained windows dim lights burned.
Very clearly the sea could be heard breaking upon the shore. The
last note of the bell from the Methodist Chapel echoed across the
roofs and stones.
"Good-night," said Miss Toms.
"Good-night," said Maggie.
She turned back towards home hearing, as she went, Thurston's voice,
seeing beyond all the thick shadow of Martin's body, keeping pace
with her, as it seemed, step by step with her as she went.
She turned into the Rectory drive. She heard with a startled shiver
the long gate swing screaming behind her, she could smell very
faintly the leaves of the damp cold laurel bushes that pressed close
in upon her. It was as though some one were walking with her and
whispering in her ear: "They're coming! They're coming! They've got
you! They've got you!"
She opened the hall door; the hall was all dark; some one was there.
Maggie gave a little cry. A match was struck and revealed the white
face of Grace. The two women stared at one another.
Grace had returned from Church; she was wearing her ugly black hat
with the red velvet.
"It's all right," said Maggie, "I've been for a walk."
"Oh--I didn't know," gasped Grace, still staring. "I thought--yes,
of course. Fancy, you've been for a walk!"
Still staring as though she could keep Maggie at bay only by the
power of her vision she backed on to Paul's study door, turned the
handle, and disappeared. The hall was in darkness again. Maggie
stumbled her way towards the staircase, then, seeing Grace's
terrified eyes, filled with a horror that she, Maggie Cardinal,
should cause any one to look at her like that, she ran clumsily
upstairs, shutting herself into her bedroom.
During the next fortnight the dominant element in the situation was
Grace's terror. Skeaton was already beginning to forget the story of
the suicide. Maggie was marked for ever now as "queer and strange,"
but Paul was not blamed; he was rather, pitied and even liked the
more. But Grace could not forget. Maggie intended perhaps to murder
her in revenge for her uncle's death; well, then, she must be
murdered . . . She would not leave her brother. She could not
consider the future. She knew that she could not live in the same
house with Maggie for long, but she would not go and Maggie would
not go . . . What was to happen?
Poor Grace, the tortures that she suffered during those weeks will
not be understood by persons with self-confidence and a hearty
contempt for superstition.
She paid the penalty now for the ghosts of her childhood--and no one
could help her.
Maggie saw that Paul was, with every day, increasingly unhappy. He
had never been trained to conceal his feelings, and although he
tried now he succeeded very badly. He would come into her room in
the early morning hours and lie down beside her. He would put his
arms around her and kiss her, and, desperately, as though he were
doing it for a wager, make love to her. She felt, desperate also on
her side, that she could comfort and make him happy, if only he
would want something less from her than passion. But always after an
hour or a little more, he crept away again to his own room,
disappointed, angered, frustrated. These hours were the stranger
because, during the day, he showed her nothing of this mood, but was
kindly and friendly and distant.
She would have done anything for him; she tried sometimes to be
affectionate to him, but always, at once, he turned upon her with a
hungry, impassioned look . . .
She knew, without any kind of doubt, that the only way that she
could make him happy again was to leave him. His was not a nature to
brood, for the rest of his days, on something that he had lost.
Only once did he make any allusion to the coming Revival services.
He burst out one day, at luncheon: "The most scandalous thing!" he
said. "We had them here once, years ago, and the harm they did no
one would believe. I've been to Tamar about it; he can do nothing,
unless they disturb the public peace, of course. He had the
impertinence to tell me that they behaved very well last time they
"I don't like that man," said Grace. "I don't believe he makes his
money properly. Look at the clothes Mrs. Tamar wears! What I mean
is, I don't like his wife at all."
"It's very hard," said Paul, his voice trembling with indignation,"
that when men and women have been working for years to bring Christ
into the hearts of mankind that mountebanks and hypocrites should be
allowed to undo the work in the space of a night. I know this man
Thurston. They've had letters in the Church Times about him."
"Fancy!" said Grace, "and still he dares show his face."
"But do they really do so much harm?" asked Maggie. "I should have
thought if they only came once for a week in ten years they couldn't
make any real effect on anybody--"
"Maggie, dear," said Paul gently, "you don't understand."
As the day of the Revival approached, Maggie knew that she would go
to one of the services. She was now in a strange state of
excitement. The shock of her uncle's death had undoubtedly shaken
her whole balance, moral, physical, and mental. The fortnight that
had followed it, when she had clung like a man falling from a height
and held by a rocky ledge to the one determination not to look
either behind or in front of her, had been a strain beyond her
She did not know; she did not feel any weakness; she felt rather a
curious atmosphere of light and expectation as though that cry to
Martin in her bedroom had truly been answered. And she felt more
than this. Old Magnus had once said to her: "I don't know what
religion is except that it is a fight--and some people join in
because they want to, some are forced to join in whether they want
to or no, some just leave it alone, and some (most) don't know
there's one going on at all. But if you don't join in you seem to me
to have wasted your time."
She had not understood in the least what he meant; she did not
understand now; but, thinking of his words, it did seem to her that
she was sharing in some conflict. The vast armies hidden from her by
mist, the contested ground also hidden, but the clash of arms
clearly to be heard. Her own part of a struggle seemed to be round
her love for Martin; it was as though, if she could get some
realisation of that, she would have won her way to a vantage-point
whence she could visualise the next place. She did not think this
out. She only felt in her heart a little less lonely, a little less
wicked and selfish, a little less deserted, as though she were
drawing nearer to some hidden fire and could feel the first warm
shadow of the flames.
She made one more appeal to Grace on the very morning of the first
day of the Revival.
After breakfast Maggie came into the drawing-room and found Grace
sitting there sewing.
She stood, timidly, in her old attitude, her hands clasped in front
of her, like a child saying her lesson.
"I beg your pardon, Grace."
Grace looked up. She had of course been conscious of Maggie ever
since her entrance into the room. Her hands had trembled and her
heart leapt furiously.
"Why, Maggie--" she said.
"I'm afraid I'm disturbing you," said Maggie, "but we haven't really
said anything to one another for the last fortnight. I don't suppose
that you want me to say anything now, but things get worse and worse
if no one says anything, don't they?" Now that she had begun she
went on quickly: "I wanted to say, Grace, how sorry I am for the
trouble and unhappiness that you and Paul have had during the last
fortnight through me. I've been nothing but a trouble to you since I
first came here, but it wasn't that that I wanted to say. I couldn't
bear that you should think that I was just selfishly full of my own
affairs and didn't understand how you and Paul must feel about--
about my uncle. Not that I mean," she went on rather fiercely,
raising her head, "that he was to blame. No one ever understood him.
He could have done great things if--if--some one had looked after
him a little. But he hadn't any one. That was my fault. I didn't
want you and Paul to think I don't blame myself. I do all the time.
I can't promise to be better in the future because I've promised so
often and I never am. But I am sorry."
Grace said nothing for a moment. Her hands trembled more than ever.
Then, without looking up, she murmured as though to her sewing:
"Oh no. Maggie . . . no one blames you, I'm sure."
There was another pause, then Grace said:
"I think I'm not well. No, I can't be well because I'm not sleeping,
although I've taken aspirin more, I'm sure, than I ought to. What I
mean is that they say it's bad for your heart. Of course things have
been very unfortunate, from the beginning one might say, but I'm
sure it's not been any one's fault exactly. What I mean is that
these things never are . . . No, they aren't really. I expect we all
want a change."
"What are you frightened of me for, Grace," asked Maggie.
Grace started as though Maggie had indeed dropped a bomb at her
feet. She looked up at Maggie, wildly, her eyes staring about the
room as though she were looking for some exit of escape.
"Frightened?" she repeated.
"Yes, you are," said Maggie. "That's what worries me most. No one's
ever been frightened of me before--at least I don't think any one
has." Maggie laughed. "Why, Grace, it seems so funny any one being
frightened of me. I couldn't hurt any one if I wanted to, and I'm
sure I never want to unless it's Mrs. Maxse. Be angry with me as
much as you like, Grace, but don't be frightened of me. Why, that's
It was the worst word to have chosen. Grace flushed a dull
"I'm sorry you think me ridiculous, Maggie," she said. "Perhaps I
am. I'm sure I don't know. Yes, perhaps I am. What I mean is that
what's ridiculous to one is not ridiculous to another. You're a
strange girl, Maggie, and you and I will never get on. No, never.
But all I ask is that you should make Paul happy. That is enough for
me. I care for nothing else. He isn't very happy just now. What I
mean is that any one can see he isn't eating his meals properly."
"Oh, Grace," cried Maggie. "I didn't mean that you were ridiculous.
I meant that any one being frightened of me was ridiculous. Anyway,
I'm very sorry that I've made you and Paul unhappy. That's all."
She turned and went.
It was the most lovely of April days, soft, primrose-coloured, the
sea-breeze gently tempered by mist-veiled sun. Maggie sat at her
bedroom window overlooking the drive and the blue-grey field that
ran to the woods. She knew that there would be no difficulty about
her escape to the Revival meeting. Paul had arranged that there
should be an evening service at the Church at the same hour, an act
of rather Un-Christian defiance. Maggie sat there, looking down in a
condition of strange bewildering excitement on to the laurel bushes.
It was wonderful to think that in another half-hour she would see
Miss Avies once more, hear those wild hymns again, catch the
stridency of Thurston's voice; all these things spoke of Martin. She
felt as though he were stealing towards her out of the dusk, it was
as though, without any reason, she expected to find him at the
service . . . although she knew that he could not be there.
She heard the Church bell begin to ring, then the hall-door opened
and Paul came out. He had on his soft black hat, he was carrying his
Bible and prayer-book under his arm. He stood, for a moment, beside
the hall-door as though he were listening or expecting something.
She had a strange impulse to run down to him; so strong was it that
she got up and moved to the door. Then slowly she came back to the
window and stood looking down upon him. Suddenly, as though he felt
her gaze, he glanced up, saw her, and waved to her. She waved back
to him. He turned and walked quickly away, she heard the gate swing,
screaming behind him.
She waited for a little, then put on her hat and coat and went out.
She knew the Flower Street Hall, a place occasionally used by
touring Companies, Wandering Lecturers, Charitable Concerts, and
other casual festivals. It was at the far end of the town towards
the end of the Promenade.
The town, dim in the first dusk, hummed with loiterers, girls
released from the shops walking with their young men, middle-aged
couples sauntering out to take a last whiff of the sea before going
in to the evening meal, one or two visitors from the Hotel strolling
across to the beach to watch the first evening stars and the rising
moon. Pianos were playing, children shouting over the last game of
the day; all hushed into a coloured mild tranquillity. In the fields
beyond the houses the quiet was absolute.
Maggie found the building. The facade was blazing with electric
light. A huge poster, of the now familiar pink, declared:
GRAND RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL. All are invited. IS ALL WELL WITH YOU,
There was a crowd about the doors, and continually, with giggles and
shamefaced laughter, couples broke away and climbed the steps into
the Hall. Maggie, feeling that all eyes were upon her, entered the
building. In the vestibule two grave-faced women in black bonnets
handed papers with prayers and hymns to every newcomer. Maggie took
hers, a door was opened in front of her, and she went in. The
auditorium was a large one, semicircular in shape, with tiers of
seats rising circus-fashion to a ceiling decorated with silver stars
and pink naked cherubs. The stage had upon it a table, some chairs,
and a reading-desk draped in crimson cloth. Below the stage was a
small orchestra, consisting of two fiddles, a cornet, drum, and a
piano. There was also what seemed to Maggie a small choir, some
women dressed in white and some men in black coats and white bow
ties. Across the stage were suspended broad white bands of cloth
with "Come to Jesus!" "Come now!" "He is waiting for you!" in big
The hall seemed very full, and was violently illuminated with
electric light. Maggie took this in as she stood very timidly just
inside the door. A steward came forward and showed her a corner-
seat. She saw, then, with a dramatic flash of recognition, Thurston
and Mr. Crashaw sitting behind the table; then, with a still
stranger emotion, Miss Avies as one of the white-robed choir. The
sight of those three familiar faces seemed to close, finally and
definitely, the impression that she had had during all those last
weeks. They had "got" her again, and yet not they, but the power
behind them. It seemed only five minutes ago that she had sat in the
London Chapel and heard old Crashaw scream "Punishment! Punishment!
Punishment!" She turned half in her seat as though she expected to
see Aunt Anne and Aunt Elizabeth sitting one on either side of her.
She looked at Thurston; he had coarsened very much since she had
seen him last. He was fatter, his cheeks stained with an unnaturally
high colour, his eyes brighter and sharper and yet sensual too. He
was smarter than he had been, his white bow tie stiff and shapely,
his cuffs clean and shining, his hair very carefully brushed back
from his high and bony forehead. His sharp eyes darted all over the
building, and Maggie felt as though at any moment she would be
discovered. Crashaw looked more like a decrepit monkey than ever,
huddled up in his chair, his back bow-shaped. He breathed into his
hands as though he wanted to warm them, and looked at nobody. Miss
Avies Maggie could not see clearly.
Her eyes wandered over the audience. She saw many townspeople whom
she knew, and she realised, for the first time, that tomorrow
everywhere it would be said that the Rector's wife had been at the
And how different an audience from the old London one. Every one had
come on this occasion to see a show, and it was certainly a show
that they were going to see. Maggie had entered during a pause, and
all the faces that were there wore that look of expectation that
demands the rising of the curtain. Soon, Maggie felt, they would
stamp and whistle did the play not begin.
Thurston rose and announced:
"My brothers, we will sing hymn No. 14 on the paper."
Maggie looked and discovered that it was the hymn that had once
moved her so dramatically in London with the words
By all Thy sores and bloody pain Come down and heal our sins again.
and with the last refrain:
By the blood, by the blood, by the blood of the Lamb We beseech
Already, in spite of herself, in spite of her consciousness of the
melodrama and meretricious glitter of the scene, her heart was
beating. She was more deeply moved, even now, than she had ever been
by all the services of the Skeaton Church.
And Thurston had learnt his job by this time. Softly one of the
violins played the tune. Then Thurston said:
"The first verse of this hymn will be sung by the choir alone. The
congregation is asked to stand and then to join in the second verse.
The fourth verse will be sung by the soloist."
The audience rose. There was a hush of expectation throughout the
building. The choir, to the accompaniment of the fiddlers alone,
sang the first verse. They had been well selected and trained.
Thurston obviously spared no expense. For the second verse, the
whole orchestra combined, the drum booming through the refrain. At
first the congregation was timid, but the tune was simple and
attractive. The third verse was sung by every one, and Maggie found
herself, almost against her will, joining in. At the fourth verse
there was again the hush of expectation, then a soprano, thin and
clear, accompanied again by one violin, broke the silence.
There was no doubt that this was very moving. Men and women sat down
at the hymn's close quite visibly affected.
Thurston got up then and read a lesson from the Bible. He read from
"After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and
the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking
with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things
which must be hereafter."
"And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set
in heaven, and one sat on the throne."
"And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone:
and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto
an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats:
and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in
white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."
Thurston had worked hard during these last years, he had immensely
improved his accent, and his h's were all in their right places. He
read very dramatically, dropping his voice to a whisper, then
pausing and staring in front of him as though he saw God only a few
yards away. The people of Skeaton had had few opportunities of any
first-class dramatic entertainment. When Thurston finished there
passed through the building a wave of excitement, a stir, a faint
murmur. An old woman next to Maggie wiped her eyes. "Lovely!" Maggie
heard her whisper. "Lovely!"
They sang, then, another hymn, accompanied by the orchestra. This
was a dramatic hymn with a fiery martial tune:
The Lord of War He cometh down With Sword and Shield and Armour
Bright, His armies all behind him Frown, Who can withstand His
Chorus. Trumpets Blare, The drum-taps Roll, Prepare to meet Thy God,
Oh Soul! Prepare! Prepare! Prepare to meet Thy God, oh Soul!
Never before had the men and women of Skeaton heard such hymns. The
Revival of ten years ago, lacking the vibrant spirit of Mr. John
Thurston, had been a very different affair. This was something quite
new in all Skeaton experience. Red-hot expectation flamed now in
every eye. Maggie could feel that the old woman next to her was
trembling all over.
"Brother Crashaw will now deliver an address."
Brother Crashaw, his head still lowered, very slowly got up from his
seat. He moved as though it were only with the utmost difficulty and
power of self-will that his reluctant body could be compelled into
action. He crept rather than walked from his chair to the reading-
desk, then very very painfully climbed on to the high platform.
Maggie, watching him, remembered that earlier time when he had
climbed into just such another desk. She remembered also that day at
her aunts' house when he had flirted with Caroline and shown himself
quite another Brother Crashaw. He had aged greatly since then. He
seemed now to be scarcely a man at all. Then suddenly, with a jerk,
as though a string had been pulled from behind, he raised his face
and looked at them all. Yes, that was alive. Monkey's mask you
might call it, but the eyes behind the yellow lids flamed and
blazed. No exaggeration those words. A veritable fire burned there,
a fire, it might be, of mere physical irritation and savage
exasperation at the too-rapid crumbling of the wilfully disobedient
body, a glory, perhaps, of obstinate pride and conceit, a fire of
superstition and crass ignorance, but a fire to be doubted of no man
who looked upon it.
When he spoke his voice was harsher, angrier, more insulting than it
had been before. He spoke, too, in a hurry, tumbling his words one
upon another as though he were afraid that he had little mortal time
left to him and must make the most of what he had got.
From the first he was angry, rating the men of Skeaton as they had
never been rated before. And they liked it. They even revelled in
it; it did them no harm and at the same time tickled their skins.
Sometimes a preacher at the Methodist Chapel had rated them, but how
mild and halting a scolding compared with the fury of this little
man. As he continued they settled into their seats with the
conviction that this was the best free show that they had ever
enjoyed in all their lives. They had been afraid at first that it
would not keep up its interest. They had agreed with one another
that they would go in "just for a quarter of an hour to see what it
was like." Now they were willing that it should continue all night.
"What came ye out for to see?" he screamed at them. "Came out to
see? Ye didn't come out at all. None of you. That's what I've come
to tell you. For years you've been leading your lazy, idle, self-
indulgent lives, eating and drinking, sleeping, fornicating, lying
with your neighbours' wives, buying and selling, living like hogs
and swine. And is it for want of your being told? Not a bit of it.
You are warned again and again and again. Every day gives you signs
and wonders had you got eyes to see them and you will not see. Well,
be it on your own heads. Why should I care for your miserable,
shrivelled-up, parched little souls? Why should I care when I watch
you all, with your hanging stomachs and your double chins, marching
straight into such a hell as you've never conceived of. I know
what's coming to you. I know what's in store for those well-filled
stomachs of yours. I can see you writhing and screaming and wailing,
'Why didn't somebody tell us? Why didn't somebody tell us?' Somebody
has told you. Somebody's telling you now. And will you listen? Not a
bit of it. You'll have heard the music to-night, the drums and the
trumpets, you'll have joined in the singing, and to-night you'll go
back and tell your friends: 'Yes, we had a fine evening. You ought
to go. It's worth while and costs you nothing.' And to-morrow you
will have forgotten everything. But I tell you that every man,
woman, and child in this building stands in as desperate peril as
though his house was on fire over his head and there was no way
He stopped for a moment to get breath, leaning forward over the desk
and panting. Over the building there was a great silence. Maggie was
stirred beyond any earlier experience. She did not know whether he
were charlatan or no. She did not care. She had lived for more than
two years in Skeaton, where everything and every one was dead. Now
here was life. The evidence of it reassured her, whispering to her
that Martin still lived, that he could be found, even that he was
coming to her. Her nervous excitement increased. The emotion of the
people around her, the bands, the singing, all seemed to cry to her,
"He is coming! He is coming! He is coming!" . . . but it was Martin
now and not God.
Old Crashaw, having recovered his breath, went on: he continued for
some time to abuse them all, screaming and beating the wooden desk
with his fists--then suddenly he changed, his voice softened, his
eyes were milder, there was something wistful and pathetic in his
old ugly yellow face.
"I know that you came in here to-night, all of you, just as you
might into a picture-house or a theatre. Entrance free. Well, then,
why not? Had we charged half-a-crown there wouldn't have been one of
you. Half-a-crown and the most important thing in life. I say the
most important--I say the only important thing in life. A man's
soul, its history and growth. What do you know of the soul, you ask
me? How do you know there is one? Well, I can only tell you my news.
If a man comes into your town and tells you that there is an army
marching down upon it to destroy it he may be true or he may not. If
he is true then, when you don't listen to him you are doomed. If you
do listen the preparation to meet that army will at any rate do you
no harm even though the army doesn't exist."
"I tell you that the Soul exists, that God exists, and that one day
God and the Soul will meet. You say that hasn't been proved, and
until it is proved you will spend your time over other things that
you know to be true. Try it at least, give it a chance. Why not? You
give other things a chance, marriage, doctors, trades, amusements.
Why not the Soul? Don't listen to any one else's definition of
religion. Don't believe in it. Make your own. Find out for yourself.
My children, I am an old man, I am shortly to die. If I have scolded
forgive me. Let me leave with you my blessing, and my earnest prayer
that you will not pass by God on the other side. The day will come
when you cannot pass Him by. Meet Him first of your own accord and
then when that other day comes He will know you as a friend . . ."
The old man's voice faltered, failed, stopped. He himself seemed to
be deeply affected. Was it acting? Maggie could not tell. At any
rate he was old and ill and very shortly to die . . .
The woman next her was crying rubbing the knuckles of her shabby old
gloves in her eyes, the bugles on her bonnet shaking like live
She snuffled through her nose to Maggie "Beautiful--beautiful--I
'aven't 'eard such preaching since I don't know when."
Thurston again rose.
"A solo will now be sung," he said. "After the singing of the solo
there will be a prayer offered, then a procession, headed by the
choir, will be formed to march, with lanterns, through the town, as
a witness to the glory of God. It is hoped that those of the
congregation who have received comfort and help during this service
will join in the procession. There will be a collection for the
expenses of the Mission at the door."
Maggie watching him wondered. Of what was he thinking? Was there any
truth in him? Had he, perhaps, behind the sham display and
advertisement that he had been building felt something stirring? Was
he conscious, against his own will, of his falsehood? Had he, while
building only his own success, made a discovery? She looked at him.
The dramatic mask hid him from her. She could not, tell what he was.
The soprano, who had sung a verse of the hymn earlier in the
evening, now undertook "Hear my Prayer." Very beautifully she sang
"Hear my prayer, Oh, God, incline Thine ear, Thyself from my
distresses do not hide . . ."
The voice rose, soaring through the building to meet the
silver stars and the naked cherubs on the ceiling. "The enemy
shouteth . . . The enemy shouteth . . ."
Skeaton sat enraptured. Women let the tears stream down their faces,
men blew their noses.
Once again the voice arose.
"Hear my prayer, Oh, God, incline Thine ear . . ."
It was Maggie's voice, Maggie's cry. From the very heart of the
charlatanism she cried out, appealing to a God who might exist or
no, she could not tell, but who seemed now to be leading her by the
hand. She saw Aunt Anne at St. Dreot's whispering "The Lord is my
Shepherd. He shall lead me . . ."
In a dream she shared in the rest of the ceremony. In a dream she
passed with the others out of the building. The sea air blew about
her; down the promenade she could see the people, she could see the
silver stars in the sky, the faint orange light of the lanterns, the
dim stretch of the sand, and then the grey sea. She heard the splash
and withdrawal of the tide, the murmur of many voices, the singing
of the distant hymn, the blare of the trumpet.
Strange and mysterious, the wind blowing through it all like a
promise of beauty and splendour to come . . .
She turned in the starlit dark, separated herself from the crowd,
and hurried home.
In the hall on the table under the lamp she saw a letter. She saw
that it was addressed to her and that the writing was Amy Warlock's.
Before she picked it up she stood there listening. The house was
very still. Grace and Paul had probably begun supper. She picked up
the letter and went up to her bedroom.
As though she were scanning something that she had already seen, she
I made you a promise and I will now fulfil it.
My brother, Martin, arrived in London three days ago. He is staying
at No. 13A Lynton Street, King's Cross.
I have seen him but he has told me that he does not wish to see me
again. He is very ill; his heart is bad and his lungs are affected.
He has also spent all his money. I mentioned your name but he did
not seem to be at all interested. I think it fair to tell you this
lest you should have a fruitless journey. I have now kept my promise
to you, unwisely perhaps. AMY WARLOCK.
Maggie sat down on the bed and considered. There was a train at
10.30 reaching London about midnight. She could just catch it if she
were quick. She found a pencil and a piece of paper and wrote:
DEAR PAUL--I have to go to London suddenly on very urgent business.
I will write to you from there. Good-bye. MAGGIE.
She propped this up against the looking-glass. She put a few things,
including the box with Martin's letters and the ring into a little
bag, put on her hat and coat and went downstairs. She waited for a
moment in the hall but there was no sound anywhere. She went out
down the dark drive.
As she passed along the lonely road she heard the gate, screaming
faintly, behind her.
THE JOURNEY HOME AGAIN
THE DARK ROOM
It was after midnight when Maggie was turned out on to the long grim
platform of the London station. On that other London arrival of hers
the terminus had been a boiling cauldron of roar and rattle. Now
everything was dead and asleep. No trains moved; they slept, ancient
monsters, chained down with dirt and fog. Two or three porters crept
slothfully as though hypnotised. The face of the great clock, golden
in the dusk, dominated, like a heathen god, the scene. Maggie asked
a porter the way to the Station Hotel. He showed her; she climbed
stairs, pushed back swing doors, trod oil-clothed passages, and
arrived at a tired young woman who told her that she could have a
Arrived there, herself somnambulistic, she flung off her clothes,
crept into bed, and was instantly asleep.
Next morning she kept to her room; she went down the long dusty
stairs before one o'clock because she was hungry, and she discovered
the restaurant and had a meal there; but all the time she was
expecting Martin to appear. Every step seemed to be his, every voice
to have an echo of his tones. Then in the dusky afternoon she
decided that she would be cowardly no longer. She started off on her
search for No. 13A Lynton Street, King's Cross.
She searched through a strange blue opaque light which always
afterwards she recollected as accompanying her with mystery, as
though it followed her about deliberately veiling her from the rest
of the world. She felt different from them all; she found an omnibus
that was going to King's Cross, but when she was inside it and
looked at the people around her she felt of them all that they had
no reality beside the intensity of her own search. She, hot like a
fiery coal, existed in a land of filmy ghosts. She repeated to
herself over and over, "No. 13A Lynton Street, King's Cross."
She got out opposite the huge station and looked about her. She saw
a policeman and went across to him.
"Can you tell me where Lynton Street is, please?" she asked him.
He smiled. "Yes, miss. Down on your right, then first to your right
She thanked him and wanted for a silly moment to remain with him.
She wanted to stand there where she was, on the island, she couldn't
go back, she was afraid to go forward. Then the moment left her and
she moved on. When she saw Lynton Street written up her heart gave a
strange little whirr and then tightened within herself, but she
marched on and found 13A. A dirty house, pots with ferns in the two
grimy windows, and the walls streaky with white stains against the
grey. The door was ajar and, pushing it a little, she saw a servant-
girl on her knees scrubbing the floor. At the noise of her step the
girl looked up.
"Is Mr. Warlock here?" Maggie asked, but the words were choked in
"Wot d'ye sye?" the girl asked.
Maggie repeated her question.
"Yes--'e's upstairs. Always is. Fust floor, second door on yer
Maggie went up. She found the door. She knocked. There was no
answer. She pushed the door, peered through and looked in. She saw a
room with a dirty grimy window, a broken faded red sofa, a deal
table. No one there.
She entered and stood listening. A door beyond her opened and a man
came in. She knew at once that it was Martin. Her thoughts followed
one another in strange flurried inconsequence. Yes, it was Martin.
He was fatter than he had been--fat and ill. Very ill. His face was
pale, his hair, thinner than before, unbrushed. He was wearing an
old dirty blue suit with a coat that buttoned over the waistcoat
like a seaman's jacket. Yes, he was ill and fat and unkempt, but it
was Martin. At that reiterated assurance in the depths of her soul
she seemed to sink into a marvellous certain tranquillity--so
certain that she shed, as it were with a gesture, all the
unhappiness and doubt and desolation with which the last years had
She had "touched" Martin again, and with that "touch" she was safe.
It did not matter how he treated her nor whether he wanted her. She
was sane and happy and whole again as she had not been since he left
Meanwhile he looked at her across the dark room, frowning.
"Who is it?" he asked. "What do you want?"
The sound of his voice moved her passionately. For how long she had
ached and yearned for it! He spoke more huskily, with a thicker tone
than he had done, but it was the same voice, rough a little and
"Don't you know me, Martin?" she said, laughing for sheer happiness.
She saw before she spoke that he had recognised her. He said
nothing, staring at her across the table; and she, held by some safe
instinct, did not move from where she was.
At last he said:
"Well . . . What do you want?"
"Oh, Martin, don't you recognise me? I'm Maggie."
He nodded. "Yes, I know. You mustn't come here, though. We've
nothing to say to one another nowadays--no, nothing." He didn't look
at her; his eyes were turned towards the grimy window.
She had an astonishing sense of her possession of him. She laughed
and came close to the table.
"I'm not going away, Martin . . . not until we've had a talk.
Nothing can make me. So there!"
He was looking at her again.
"Why, you've cut your hair!" he said.
"Yes." she said.
Then he turned roughly right round upon her as though he meant to
end the matter once and for all.
"Look here! . . . I do mean what I say--" He was cut off then by a
fit of coughing. He leant back against the wall and fought with it,
his hand against his chest. She made no movement and said no word
while the attack lasted.
He gasped, recovering his breath, then, speaking in a voice lower
than before: "I mean what I say. I don't want you. I don't want any
one. There's nothing for us to say to one another. It's only waste
"Yes," she answered. "That's your side of the question. There's also
mine. Once before you had your own way and I was very miserable
about it. Now it's my turn. I'm going to stay here until we've
He turned, his face working angrily, upon her.
"You can't stay here. It's impossible. What do you do it for when I
tell you I don't want you? First my sister . . . then you . . . come
here spying. Well, now you're seen what it's like, haven't you? Very
jolly, isn't it? Very handsome? You'd better go away again, then.
You've seen all you've wanted to."
"I'm not going away," repeated Maggie, "I didn't come to spy. You
know that. Of course you can turn me out, but you'll have to use
"Oh, no, I won't," he answered. "There are other ways."
He disappeared into the other room. A moment later he returned; he
was wearing a soft black hat and a shabby grey overcoat.
"You'll get tired of waiting, I expect," he said, and, without
looking at her but just touching her arm as he brushed past her, he
left the room. She heard him descend the stairs. Then the street-
She sat down upon the shabby red sofa and looked about her. What a
horrible room! Its darkness was tainted with a creeping coldness
that seemed to steal in wavering gusts from wall to wall. The carpet
was faded to a nondescript colour and was gashed into torn strips
near the fireplace. No pictures were on the walls from which the
wall-paper was peeling. He had done nothing whatever to make it more
He must have been staying there for several weeks, and yet there
were no signs of any personal belongings. Nothing of himself to be
seen! Nothing! It was as though in the bitterness of his spirit he
had said that he would not touch such a spot save, of necessity,
with his body. It should remain, so far as be might go, for ever
She felt that. She seemed to be now marvellously perceptive. Until
an hour ago she had been lost, ostracised; now she was at home
again, clear in purpose, afraid of no one and of nothing. Strangely,
although his sickness both of body and soul touched her to the very
depths of her being, her predominant sensation was of happiness. She
had found him again! Oh, she had found him again! Nothing, in this
world or the next, counted in comparison with that. If she were
close to him she would make him well, she would make him rich, she
would make him happy. Where he had been, what he had done, mattered
nothing. Where she had been, what she had done, nothing. Nothing in
their two lives counted but their meeting again, and she who had
been always so shy and so diffident felt no doubt at all about his
returning to her. There would be a fight. As she looked around the
gradually darkening room she realised that. It might be a long fight
and a difficult one, but that she would win she had no doubt. It had
been preordained that she should win. No one on this earth or above
it could beat her.
Gradually she became more practical. Slowly she formed her plans.
First, what had Martin done? Perhaps he had told the woman of the
house that she, Maggie, was to be turned out, did she not, of
herself, go away. No, Martin would not do that. Maggie knew quite
confidently that he would never allow any one to insult her. Perhaps
Martin would not come back at all. Perhaps his hat and his coat were
his only possessions. That was a terrible thought! Had he gone,
leaving no trace, how would she ever find him again? She remembered
then that he had gone straight downstairs and out of the house. He
had not spoken to the landlady. That did not look like a permanent
departure. But she would make certain.
She pushed open the other door and peeped into the further room. She
saw a dirty unmade bed, a tin washhand stand, and an open carpet-bag
filled with soiled linen. No, he would come back.
She sat there thinking out her plans. She was suddenly clear,
determined, resourceful, all the things that she had never been in
her life before. First she must see the landlady; next she must go
to the shops--but suppose he should return while she was there, pack
his bag and leave for ever? She must risk that. She thought that he
would not return at once because he would want, as he said, "to tire
her out." "To tire her out!" She laughed at that. She looked about
the room and decided how she would improve it. She nodded to
herself. Yes, and the bedroom too. All this time she was so happy
that she could scarcely prevent herself from singing aloud.
She went out, down the dark stairs, and found the maid, under a
swinging candle-flame, still scrubbing. How strange that in that
short space of time, when the whole of life had altered for her,
that girl had been on her knees scrubbing!
"Could you tell me, please," she asked, "whether I could see
somebody who is in charge of this house--the landlady or--"
"Is there anything I can do?" said a voice behind her.
She turned to find a short stout woman in voluminous black--black
bonnet, black cape, black gloves--watching her with sharp bright
"Are you the landlady?" Maggie asked.
"I ham," said the woman. "Mrs. Brandon--ma'am."
The servant-girl had suspended operations, kneeling up and watching
with open mouth developments.
"I'm very glad to meet you," said Maggie. "How do you do?"
"How do you do, ma'am?" said Mrs. Brandon.
"The point is just this," said Maggie, speaking rather fast as
though she were confused, which she was not. "Mr. Warlock is a very
old friend of mine and I'm afraid he's very ill indeed. He's very
ill and there's nobody to look after him. What I was wondering was
whether there was a bedroom in your house that I could have--so that
I could look after him, you see, and get him anything he wants."
Mrs. Brandon overlooked Maggie from head to foot--very slowly she
did it, her eyes passing over the rather shabby black hat, the short
hair, the plain black dress, the shoes worn and soiled. She also
looked at Maggie's wedding-ring.
"Well, Mrs.--" she began.
"Mrs. Trenchard is my name," said Maggie, blushing in spite of
herself at the long scrutiny.
"I 'ope you're not reproaching anybody with neglect of the
gentleman." She had an action, as she talked, of flinging a very
seedy-looking black boa back across her neck vindictively. "Wot I
mean to say is that gentleman lodgers must take their chance and e's
two weeks overdue with 'is rent as it is . . . but of course I'm not
saying I couldn't oblige. 'E's a nice gentleman too, although not
talkative so to speak, but if it would give 'im 'appiness to 'ave a
lady friend close at 'and as you might say, why I wouldn't like to
be one to stand in 'is way. 'Live and let live,' 'as always been my
motter, and a very good one too."
She said all this very slowly, with a good many significant pauses.
Maggie, however, felt nothing but happiness at the prospect of
getting her way. She had gone far beyond all personal sensations of
shame or fear or hesitation.
"Would you show me the room, please?" she asked.
They pushed past the servant-girl, whose eyes followed them up the
stairs with hungry curiosity.
They climbed to the top of the house. Mrs. Brandon displayed a dark
sulky little room with damp of the tomb clinging to its wall.
"Ten bob a week," she said. She sunk her voice to a confidential
whisper. "The best of this 'ouse is that you can do what you like.
No one minds and no one sees. 'Them as lives in glass 'ouses.'
That's what I say."
"I'll take it," said Maggie.
"You'll be wanting a key, my dear," said Mrs. Brandon, suddenly very
friendly. "To let yerself in an' out at nights. I'll fetch yer one."
She did. Maggie thanked her.
"I wonder," she said, "whether you have such a thing as a small
basket you could lend me. I'm going out to buy one or two
"Certingly," said Mrs. Brandon, all smiles. "Certingly, and anythink
else you'll be needing. All you've got to do is ter ask."
This settled, Maggie departed on her shopping expedition. She was
still driven by a curious clarity and decision as to what she wanted
to do. She felt as though she could conquer the world to-day and
then parcel it out equitably and with success amongst the greedy
kings of the earth. What were kings to her now that she had found
Martin? Less than the dust . . .
Lynton Street offered her nothing but dirty and grime-stained
windows, but she found her way into King Edward Street, and here
there were many shops. She had not very much money actually upon
her, and the remainder of her precious three hundred was locked up
in a bank in Skeaton, but it was a bank that had, she knew, branches
in London. She looked in her purse and found that she had three
pounds, twelve shillings and sixpence. Martin must have his meals
upon something other than paper, so the probability was that there
was crockery of a kind in his room--or perhaps Mrs. Brandon supplied
it. Nevertheless Maggie's first purchases were a blue teapot, two
blue plates, and two blue cups and saucers.
As to food she must get something that could be cooked easily on his
fire. She bought three of the freshest possible eggs, half a dozen
sausages, a loaf of bread, half a pound of butter, two pots of jam,
one pot of marmalade, some apples, a pound of tea, a pound of sugar.
"This will do as a start," she said to herself.
She was just about to turn into Lynton Street when she stopped at a
flower shop. In the window, smiling at her most fragrantly under the
gas-light was a white hyacinth in a blue pot. It seemed to speak to