Part 11 out of 11
her with, the same significance as once the ring with the three
pearls; as though it said: "You've got to use me. I'm a link in the
She went in and asked its price; not very much, considering the
splendour of the blue pot. She bought it. She was glad that 13A was
not far, because now the basket and the flower weighed heavily upon
She climbed the stairs to Martin's room with beating heart. Suppose
he had returned and was there and would not let her in? Or suppose,
worse than that, that he had returned, packed his bag and gone away
again? Her heart was beating so terribly when at last she had
arrived outside the door that she had to put down the hyacinth and
the basket and stand for a minute there, panting.
She pushed back the door; the room was lit by the reflection from a
lamp in a window on the opposite side of the road; this flickered
with a pale uncertain glow across the floor. He was not here. She
opened the bedroom door. He had not packed his bag. She sighed with
relief. She found a bell and pressed it. To her great surprise the
scrubbing maid almost instantly presented herself; curiosity had
undoubtedly hastened her steps.
"What's your name?" asked Maggie, smiling.
"Emily," said the girl.
"The first thing I want is a box of matches," said Maggie. "You'll
light the gas for me, won't you. The truth is, I'm not quite tall
enough to reach it."
Emily lit the gas.
"Thank you so much," said Maggie. "I must have a fire. That's the
next thing. This cold room must have been a bad thing for Mr.
Warlock with his cough."
"Yes, 'e 'as got a corf," said Emily, watching Maggie with all her
"Well, do you think I could have a fire?" asked Maggie.
"I'll ask the missus," she said; "I shouldn't wonder."
She returned soon with coal, wood and newspaper. She also informed
Maggie that Mrs. Brandon would like to have a "little in advance if
convenient, that being the custom."
Maggie delivered up ten and sixpence and was left with exactly two
shillings in her pocket. But how beautiful the room appeared! Emily,
whose ugly bony countenance now wore a look of excited
breathlessness as though she were playing a new kind of game,
discovered a piece of dark sad cloth somewhere in the lower region
and this was pinned up over the window. The fire was soon blazing
away as though the fireplace rejoiced to have a chance of being warm
once more. A shabby but clean table-cloth was discovered and placed
upon the table, and in the middle of this the hyacinth was
"Now I tell you what would be nice," said Maggie, also by this time
breathless, "and that's a lamp. This gas isn't very pleasant, is it,
and it DOES make such a noise."
"It DOES make a noise," said Emily, looking at the gas as though she
were seeing it for the first time.
"Well, do you think there's a lamp somewhere?"
Emily licked her finger.
"I'll ask the missus," she said and disappeared. Soon she returned
with a lamp, its gloriea hidden beneath a bright pink paper shade.
Maggie removed the paper shade, placed the lamp on the table, then
the blue plates, the blue cups and saucers, the blue teapot.
A shrill voice was heard calling for Emily. Maggie had then her
kingdom to herself.
She stood there, waiting and listening. The approaching interview
must have seemed to her the climax of her whole life. She stood,
clasping and unclasping her hands, going to the table, moving the
plates, then moving them back again. Perhaps he would not return at
all that night, perhaps not until midnight or later. He might be
drunk, he might be violent. She did not care. It was enough for her
that he should be there.
"Oh I do wish he'd come," she whispered aloud.
She had looked at her watch and seen that it was just eight o'clock
when she heard a step on the stair. She had already borrowed from
Emily a frying-pan. Quickly she put the sausages into it, placed
them on the fire and then stood over them.
The door opened. She knew who it was because she heard him start
suddenly with a little exclamation of surprise. She turned and
looked at him. Her first thought was that he seemed desperately
weary, weary with a fatigue not only physical. His whole bearing was
that of a man beaten, defeated, raging, it might be, with the
consciousness of his defeat but beyond all hope of avenging it. Her
pity for him made her tremble but, with that, she realised that the
worst thing that she could do was to show pity. What had he
expected? To find her gone? To find her still sitting defiantly
where he had left her? To see her crying, perhaps on her knees
before him, beseeching him? Anything but not this.
She could see that he was astonished and was resolved not to let her
He moved past her without a word, and went into the other room. She
said nothing, but bent over the sausages. They were sizzling and
flung out a splendid smell.
He came back without his hat and coat. He stood by the bedroom door
and slowly looked round the room, taking everything in.
"I thought you'd have gone," he said; "I warned you."
She looked up at him, laughing:
"I haven't," she said. "Whatever happens afterwards, Martin, we may
as well have one meal together. I'm very hungry. I know you'll
forgive my using your room like this, but I didn't want to go to a
shop. So I just brought the things in here."
His eyes lighted on the hyacinth.
"I know what your game is," he said huskily. "But it isn't any good.
You may as well chuck it."
"All right," she said. "After we've had a meal."
Straightening herself up from the heat of the fire she had a
terrible temptation then to go to him. It overwhelmed her in a
flood; her knees and hands trembled. She wanted just to touch his
arm, to put her hand on his shoulder. But she knew that she must
"Sit down for a bit," she said very quietly, "and let's have our
meal. There's nothing terrible in that, Martin. I've not put poison
in your food or anything and the sausages do smell nice."
To her surprise he sat down, suddenly collapsing as though he were
too tired to stand any longer. He said nothing more. She finished
the sausages, put them on the table, then took a saucepan (also
Emily's gift), filled it with water and put in the eggs.
"Come on," she said gently, "or the sausages will get cold."
He went then to the table, cut off some bread and began to eat
ravenously. Her heart felt a dim distant triumph when she saw that
he was so hungry, but it was too early to feel triumph yet.
She came to the table and began to eat, although she felt no hunger.
"You're married, aren't you?" he asked suddenly.
"Yes," she answered.
"Where's your husband?"
"A place called Skeaton."
"Well, you'd better get back there to-night--"
"I'm staying in London for a day or two."
"Here. I've got a bedroom upstairs."
"You can do what you damn well please," he said. "It doesn't matter
to me. I'm going away from here to-morrow morning." Then, after
another pause, he said:
"What sort of a man's your husband?"
"A clergyman," she answered.
" A clergyman . . . good Lord!" He laughed grimly. "Still religious,
All this time she was thinking how ill he was. Every breath that he
drew seemed to hurt him. His eyes were dull and expressionless. He
moved his hands, sometimes, with a groping movement as though he
could not see. He drank his tea thirstily, eagerly.
At last he had finished. He bent forward, leaning on his hands,
looking her steadily in the face for the first time.
"It was clever of you to do this," he said; "damn clever. I was
hungry, I don't mind confessing . . . but that's the last of it. Do
you hear? I can look after myself. I know. You're feeling sorry for
me. Think I'm in a dirty room with no one to look after me. Think
I'm ill. I bet Amy told you I was ill. 'Oh, poor fellow,' you
thought, 'I must go and look after him.' Well, I'm not a poor fellow
and I don't want looking after. I can manage for myself very nicely.
And I don't want any women hanging round. I'm sick of women, and
"I'm not pretending it's not all my own fault. It is. ALL my own
fault, but I don't want any one coming round and saying so. AND I
don't want any pity. You've had a nice romantic idea in your head,
saving the sinner and all the rest of it. Well, you can get back to
your parson. He's the sort for that kind of stuff."
"Indeed I haven't," said Maggie. "I don't care whether you're a
sinner or not. You're being too serious about it all, Martin. We
were old friends. When I heard you were in London I came to see you.
That's all. I may as well stay here as anywhere else. Aunt Anne's
dead and--and--Uncle Mathew too. There's nowhere else for me to go.
I don't pity you. Why should I? You think too much about yourself,
Martin. It wasn't to be clever that I got these things. I was
hungry, and I didn't want to eat in an A.B.C. shop."
"Oh, I don't know," he said, turning away from the table.
He stood up, fumbling in his pocket. He produced a pipe and some
tobacco out of a paper packet. As he filled it she saw that his hand
He turned finally upon her.
"Whatever your plan was it's failed," he said. "I'm going to bed
straight away now. And to-morrow morning early I'm off. Thank you
for the meal and--good-night and good-bye."
He gave her one straight look. She looked up at him, calmly. He
dropped his eyes; then, clumsily he walked off, opened his bedroom
door, closed it behind him, and was gone.
She sat there, staring in front of her, thinking. What was she to do
now? At least she might clear up. She had nowhere to wash the
things. She would put them ready for the morning. She tidied the
table, put the plates and cups together, then, overcome by a sudden
exhaustion, she sat down on the sofa.
She realised then the fight that the day had been. Yes, a
fight! . . . and she was still only at the beginning of it. If he
really went away in the morning what could she do? She could not
follow him all round London. But she would not despair yet. No, she
was far from despair. But she was tired, tired to death.
She sat on there in a kind of dream. There were no sounds in the
house. The fire began to drop very low. There were no more coals.
The room began to be very chilly. She laid her head back on the
sofa; she was half asleep. She was dreaming--Paul was there and
Grace--the Skeaton sands--the Revival procession with the lanterns--
the swish of the sea . . .
Suddenly she was wide awake. The lamp had burnt down to a low rim of
light. Martin was coughing in the other room. Coughing! She had
never heard such a cough, something inhuman and strange. She stood
up, her hands clutched. She waited. Then, as it continued, growing
fiercer and fiercer, so that in spite of the closed door it seemed
to be in the very room with her, she could bear it no longer.
She opened the door and went in. The room was lit by a candle placed
on a chair beside the bed. Martin was sitting up, his hands
clenched, his face convulsed. The cough went on--choking,
convulsing, as though some terrible enemy had hands at his windpipe.
He grasped the bedclothes, his eyes, frightened and dilated, staring
in front of him.
She went to him. He did not look at her, but whispered in a voice
that seemed to come from miles away:
"Bottle . . . over there . . . glass."
She saw on the wash-hand stand a bottle with a medicine glass behind
it. She read the directions, poured out the drops, took it over and
gave it to him. He swallowed it down. She put out her arm to steady
him and felt his whole body tremble beneath her hand. Gradually he
was quieter. Utterly exhausted he slipped back, his head on the
She drew her chair close to the bed. He was too exhausted to speak
and did not look at her at all. After a while she put her hand on
his forehead and stroked it. He did not draw away from her. Slowly
his head turned towards her. He lay there in the crook of her arm,
she bending forward over him.
Her heart beat. She tried not to be conscious of his closeness to
her, but her hand trembled as it touched his cheek.
Still he did not move away. After, as it seemed to her, a long time
he was asleep. She listened to his breathing, and only then, when
she knew that he could not hear, she whispered:
"Oh, Martin, I love you so! Dear Martin, I love you so much!"
She blew out the candle and, her arm beneath his head, sat there,
The dawn had made the dark room grey when Maggie, stiff and sore
from the strained position in which she had been sitting, went up to
her room. She had intended not to go to bed, but weariness overcame
her; she lay down on her bed, dressed as she was, and fell into a
deep, exhausted slumber.
When she woke it was broad daylight. She was panic-stricken. How
could she have slept? And now he might have gone. She washed her
face and hands in the horrible little tin basin, brushed her hair,
and then, with beating heart, went downstairs. His sitting-room was
just as she had left it, the unwashed plates piled together, the red
cloth over the window, the dead ashes of the fire in the grate. Very
gently she opened his bedroom door. He was still in bed. She went
over to him. He was asleep, muttering, his hands clenched on the
counterpane. His cheeks were flushed. To her inexperienced eyes he
looked very ill.
She touched him on the shoulder and with a start he sprang awake,
his eyes wide open with terror, and he crying:
"What is it? No . . . no . . . don't. Don't."
"It's all right, Martin. It's I, Maggie," she said.
He stared at her; then dropping back on to the pillow, he muttered
wearily as though he were worn out after a long struggle:
"I'm bad . . . It's my chest. There's a doctor. They'll tell
you . . . He's been here before."
She went into the other room and rang the bell. After a time Mrs.
Brandon herself appeared.
"I'm afraid Mr. Warlock is very ill," said Maggie, trying to keep
her voice from trembling. "He's asked me to fetch the doctor who's
been here to see him before. Can you tell me who he is and where he
Mrs. Brandon's bright and inquisitive eyes moved round the room,
taking in the blue china, the hyacinth and the lamp. "Certingly,"
she said. "That must be Dr. Abrams. 'E lives in Cowley Street, No.
4--Dr. Emanuel Abrams. A good doctor when 'e's sober, and the
morning's the best time to be sure of 'im. Certingly 'e's been in to
see your friend several times. They've been merry together more than
"Where is Cowley Street?" asked Maggie.
"First to the right when you get out of the 'ouse, and then second
to the left again. No. 4's the number. It's most likely 'e'll be
asleep. Yes, Dr. Abrams, that's the name. 'E's attended a lot in
this 'ouse. Wot a pretty flower! Cheers the room up I must say. Will
you be wanting another fire?"
"Yes," said Maggie. "Could Emily see to that while I'm away?"
"Certingly," said Mrs. Brandon, looking at Maggie with a curious
confidential smile--a hateful smile, but there was no time to think
Maggie went out. She found Cowley Street without any difficulty. Dr.
Abrams was up and having his breakfast. His close, musty room smelt
of whisky and kippers. He himself was a little, fat round Jew, very
red in the face, very small in the eye, very black in the hair, and
very dirty in the hands.
He was startled by Maggie's appearance--very different she was from
his usual patients.
"Looked just a baby," he informed Mrs. Brandon afterwards.
"Mrs. Warlock?" he asked.
"No," said Maggie defiantly. "I'm a friend of Mr. Warlock's."
"Ah, yes--quite so." He wiped his mouth, disappeared into another
room, returned with a shabby black bag and a still shabbier top hat,
and declared himself ready to start.
"It's pneumonia," he told her as they went along. "Had it three
weeks ago. Of course if he was out in yesterday's fog that finished
"He was out," said Maggie, "for a long time."
"Quite so," said Dr. Abrams. "That's killed him, I shouldn't
wonder." He snuffled in his speech and he snuffled in his walk.
Before they had gone very far he put his hand on Maggie's arm; she
hated his touch, but his last words had so deeply terrified her that
nothing else affected her. If Martin were killed by going out
yesterday then she had killed him. He had gone out to escape her.
But she drove that thought from her as she had driven so many
"The pneumonia's bad enough," said the little man, becoming more
confidential as his grip tightened on her arm, "but it's heart's the
trouble. Might finish him any day. Tells me his father was the same.
What a nice warm arm you've got, my dear--it's a pleasant day, too."
They entered the house and Dr. Abrams stayed chatting with Emily in
the passage for a considerable time. Any one of the opposite sex
seemed to hare an irresistible attraction for him.
When they went upstairs the doctor was so held by his burning
curiosity that it was difficult to lead him into Martin's bedroom.
Everything interested him; he bent down and felt the tablecloth with
his dirty thumb, then the soil round the hyacinth, then the blue
china. Between every investigation he stared at Maggie as though he
were now seeing her for the first time. At last, however, he was
bending over Martin, and his examination was clever and deft; he bad
been, like his patient, used to better days. Martin was very ill.
"The boy's bad," he said, turning sharply round upon Maggie.
From the speaking of that word, for six days and six nights he was
Maggie's loyal friend and fellow-combatant. They fought, side by
side, in the great struggle for Martin's life. They won; but when
Maggie tried to look back afterwards on the history of that
wrestling, she saw nothing connectedly, only the candle-light
springing and falling, the little doctor's sharp eyes, the torn
paper of the wall, the ragged carpet, and always that strange mask
that was Martin's face and yet the face of a stranger, something
tortured and fantastic, passing from Chinese immobility to frenzied
pain, from pain to sweating exhaustion, from exhaustion back to
On the eighth day she rose, as a swimmer rises from green depths,
and saw the sunshine and the landscape again.
"He'll do if you're careful," said Dr. Abrams, and suddenly became
once more the curious, dirty, sensual little creature that he had
been at first. Her only contact with the outer world had been her
visits to the neighbouring streets for necessaries and one journey
to the bank (the nearest branch was in Oxford Street) to settle
about her money. But now, with the doctor's words, the rest of the
world came back to her. She remembered Paul. She was horrified to
realise that during these days she had entirely forgotten him. He,
of course could not write to her because he did not know her
address. When she saw that Martin was quietly sleeping she sat down
and wrote the following letter:
13A LYNTON STREET, KING'S CROSS, April 28th, 1912.
MY DEAR PAUL,--I have been very wrong indeed not to write to you
before this. It's only of a piece with all my other bad behaviour to
you, and it's very late now to saw that I am ashamed. I will tell
you the truth, which is that on the day I left you I had received a
letter telling me that the friend of whom I have often told you was
in England, very ill, and with no one to care for him. I had to go.
I don't know whether it was right or wrong--wrong I suppose--but I
always knew that if he ever wanted me I SHOULD go. I've always been
truthful to you about that. When I came here I found that he was in
horrible lodgings, very ill indeed, and with no one to look after
him. I HAD to stay, and now for a week he has been between life and
death. He had pneumonia some weeks ago and went out too soon. His
heart also is bad. I believe now he can get well if great care is
Dear Paul, I don't know what to say to you. I have a bedroom in this
house and every one is very kind to me, but you will think me very
wicked. I can't help it. I can't come back to you and Grace. Perhaps
later when he is quite well I shall be able to, but I don't think
so. You don't need me; I have never been satisfactory to you, only a
worry. Grace will never be able to live with me again, and I can't
stay in Skeaton any more after Uncle Mathew's death. It has all been
a wretched mistake, Paul, our marriage, hasn't it? It was my fault
entirely. I shouldn't have married you when I knew that I would
always love Martin. I thought then that I should be able to make you
happy. If now I felt that I could I would come back at once, but you
know as well as I do that, after this, we shall never be happy
together again. I blame myself so much but I can't act differently.
Perhaps when Martin is well he will not want me at all, but even
then I don't think I could come back. Isn't it better that at least
I should stay away for a time? You can say that I am staying with
friends in London. You will be happier without me, oh, much happier-
-and Grace will be happier too. Perhaps you will think it better to
forget me altogether and then your life will be as it was before you
I won't ask you to forgive me for all the trouble I have been to
you. I don't think you can. But I can't do differently now. Your
She felt when she had finished it that it was miserably inadequate,
but at least it was truthful. As she wrote it her old feelings of
tenderness and affection for Paul came back in a great flood. She
saw him during the many, many times when he had been so good to her.
She was miserable as she finished it, but she knew that there was
nothing else to do. And he would know it too.
A day later a long letter came from Paul. It was very
characteristic. It began by saying that of course Maggie must return
at once. Throughout, the voice was that of a grieved and angry elder
talking to a wicked and disobedient child. She saw that, far beyond
everything else, it was his pride that was wounded, wounded as it
had never been before. He could see nothing but that. Did she
realise, he asked her, what she was doing? Sinning against all the
laws of God and man. If she persisted in her wickedness she would be
cut off from all decent people. No one could say that he had not
shown her every indulgence, every kindness, every affection. Even
now he was ready to forgive her, but she must come back at once, at
once. Her extreme youth excused much, and both he and Grace realised
Through it all the strain--did she not see what she was doing? How
could she behave so wickedly when she had been given so many
blessings, when she had been shown the happiness of a Christian
home? . . .
It was not a letter to soften Maggie's resolve. She wrote a short
reply saying that she could not come. She thought then that he would
run up to London to fetch her. But he did not. He wrote once more,
and then, for a time, there was silence.
She had little interval in which to think about Paul; Martin soon
compelled her attention. He was well enough now to be up. He would
lie all day, without moving except to take his meals, on the old red
sofa, stretched out there, his arms behind his head, looking at
Maggie with a strange taunting malicious stare as though he were
defying her to stand up to him. She did stand up to him, although it
needed all her strength, moral and physical. He was attacking her
soul and she was saving his . . .
He said no more about his going away. He accepted it as a fact that
she was there and that she would stay there. He had changed his
position and was fighting her on another ground.
Maggie had once, years before, read in a magazine, a story about a
traveller and a deserted house. This traveller, lost, as are all
travellers in stories, in a forest, benighted and hungry, saw the
lights of a house.
He goes forward and finds a magnificent mansion, blazing with light
in every window, but apparently deserted. He enters and finds room
after room prepared for guests. A fine meal is laid ready and he
enjoys it. He discovers the softest of beds and soon is fast asleep;
but when he is safely snoring back creep all the guests out of the
forest, hideous and evil, warped and deformed, maimed and rotten
with disease. They had left the house, that he might be lured in it,
knowing that he would never come whilst they were there. And so they
creep into all the rooms, flinging their horrible shadows upon the
gleaming walls, and gradually they steal about the bed . . .
Maggie forgot the end of the story. The traveller escaped, or
perhaps he did not. Perhaps he was strangled. But that moment of his
awakening, when his startled eyes first stared upon those horrible
faces, those deformed bodies, those evil smiles! What could one do,
one naked and defenceless against so many?
Maggie thought of this story during Martin's convalescence. She
seemed to see the evil guests, crowding back, one after the other
into his soul, and as they came back they peeped out at her, smiling
from the lighted windows. She saw that his plan was to thrust before
her the very worst of himself. He said: "Well, I've tried to get rid
of her and she won't go. That's her own affair, but if she stays, at
least she shall see me as I am. No false sentimental picture. I'll
It was the oldest trick in the world, but to Maggie it was new
enough. At first she was terrified. In spite of her early experience
with her father, when she had learnt what wickedness could be, she
was a child in all knowledge of the world. Above all she knew very
little about her own sex and its relation with men. But she
determined that she must take the whole of Martin; in the very first
days of her love she had resolved that, and now that resolution was
to be put to the test. Her terrified fear was lest the things that
he told her about himself should affect her love for him. She had
told him years before: "It isn't the things you've done that I mind
or care about: it's you, not actions that matter." But his actions
were himself, and what was she to do if all these things that he
said were true?
Then she discovered that she had indeed spoken the truth. Her love
for him did not change; it rather grew, helped and strengthened by a
maternal pity and care that deepened and deepened. He seemed to her
a man really possessed, in literal fact, by devils. The story of the
lighted house was the symbol, only he, in the bitterness and
defiance of his heart, had invited the guests, not been surprised by
He pretended to glory in his narration, boasting and swearing what
he would do when he would return to the old scenes, how happy and
triumphant he had been in the midst of his filth--but young and
ignorant though she was she saw beneath this the misery, the shame,
the bitterness, the ignominy. He was down in the dust, in a despair
furious and more self-accusing than anything of which she had ever
Again and again, too, although this was never deliberately stated,
she saw that he spoke like a man caught in a trap. He did not blame
any one but himself for the catastrophe of his life, but he often
spoke, in spite of himself, like a man who from the very beginning
had been under some occult influence. He never alluded now to his
early days but she remembered how he had once told her that that
"Religion" had "got" him from the very beginning, and had weighted
all the scales against him. It was as though he had said: "I was
told from the very beginning that I was to be made a fighting-ground
of. I didn't want to be that. I wasn't the man for that. I was
He only once made any allusion to his father's death, but Maggie
very soon discovered that that was never away from his mind. "I
loved my father and I killed him," he said one day, "so I thought it
wise not to love any one again."
Gradually a picture was created in Maggie's mind, a picture
originating in that dirty, dark room where they were. She saw many
foreign countries and many foreign towns, and in all of them men and
women were evil. The towns were always in the hour between daylight
and dark, the streets twisted and obscure, the inhabitants furtive
The things that those inhabitants did were made quite plain to her.
She saw the dancing saloons, the women naked and laughing, the men
drunken and besotted, the gambling, the quarrelling, drugging,
suicide--all under a half-dead sky, stinking and offensive.
One day, at last, she laughed.
"Martin," she cried, "don't let's be so serious about it. You can't
want to go back to that life--it's so dull. At first I was
frightened, but now!--why it's all the same thing over and over
"I'm only telling you," he said; "I don't say that I do want to go
back again. I don't want anything except for you to go away. I just
want to go to hell my own fashion."
"You talk so much about going to hell," she said. "Why, for ten days
now you've spoken of nothing else. There are other places, you
"You clear out and get back to your parson," he said. "You must see
from what I've told you it isn't any good your staying. I've no
money. My health's gone all to billyoh! I don't want to get better.
Why should I? Perhaps I did love you a little bit--once--in a queer
way, but that's all gone now. I don't love any one on this earth. I
just want to get rid of this almighty confusion going on in my head.
I can't rest for it. I'd finish myself off if I had pluck enough. I
"Martin," she said, "why did you write all those letters to me?"
"What letters?" he asked.
"Those that Amy stopped--the ones from abroad."
"Oh, I don't know," he looked away from her. "I was a bit lonely, I
"Tell me another thing," she said. "These weeks I've been here have
I bored you ?"
"I've been too ill to tell . . . How do I know? Well, no, you
haven't. You're such a queer kid. You're different from any other
human--utterly different. No, you haven't bored me--but don't think
from that I like having you here. I don't--you remind me of the old
life. I don't want to think of it more than I must. You'll admit
I've been trying to scare you stiff in all I've told you, and I
haven't scared you. It's true, most of it, but it isn't so damned
sensational as I've tried to make it . . . But, all the same, what's
the use of your staying? I don't love you, and I'm never likely to.
I've told you long ago you're not the sort of woman to attract me
physically. You never did. You're more like a boy. Why should you
ruin your own life when there's nothing to gain by it? You will ruin
it, you know, staying on here with me. Every one thinks we're living
together. Have you heard from your parson?"
"Yes," said Maggie.
"What does he say?"
"He says I've got to go back at once."
"Well, there you are."
"But don't you see, Martin, I shouldn't go back to him even if I
left you. I've quite decided that. He'll never be happy with me
unless I love him, which I can't do, and there's his sister who
hates me. And he's just rooted in Skeaton. I can't live there after
"Tell me about that."
"No," she said, shrinking back. "I'll never tell any one. Not even
"Now, look here," he went on, after a pause. "You must see how
hopeless it is, Maggie. You've got nothing to get out of it. As soon
as I'm well enough I shall go off and leave you. You can't follow
me, hunting me everywhere. You must see that."
"Yes, but what you don't, Martin, see," she answered him, "is that
I've got some right to think of my own happiness. It's quite true
what you say, that if you get well and decide you don't want to see
me I won't follow you. Of course I won't. Perhaps one day you will
want me all the same. But I'm happy only with you, and so long as I
don't bore you I'm going to stay. I've always been. wrong with every
one else, stupid and doing everything I shouldn't. But with you it
isn't so. I'm not stupid, and however you behave I'm happy. I can't
help it. It's just so."
"But how can you be happy?" he said, "I'm not the sort for any one
to be happy with. When I've been drinking I'm impossible. I'm sulky
and lazy, and I don't want to be any better either. You may think
you're happy these first few weeks, but you won't be later on."
"Let's try," said Maggie, laughing. "Here's a bargain, Martin. You
say I don't bore you. I'll stay with you until you're quite well.
Then if you don't want me I'll go and not bother you until you ask
for me. Is that a bargain?"
"You'd much better not," he said.
"Oh, don't think I'm staying," she answered, "because I think you so
splendid that I can't leave you. I don't think you splendid at all.
And it's not because I think myself splendid either. I'm being quite
selfish about it. I'm staying simply because I'm happier so."
"You'd much better not," he repeated.
"Is that a bargain?"
"Yes, if you like," he answered, looking at her with puzzled eyes.
It was the first long conversation that they had had. After it, he
was no nicer than before. He never kissed her, he never touched her,
he seldom talked to her; when she talked, he seemed to be little
interested. For hours he lay there, looking in front of him, saying
nothing. When the little doctor came they wrangled and fought
together but seemed to like one another.
Through it all Maggie could see that he was riddled with deep shame
and self-contempt and haunted, always, by the thought of his father.
She longed to speak to him about his father's death, but as yet she
did not dare. If once she could persuade him that that had not been
his fault, she could, she thought, really help him. That was the
secret canker at his heart and she could not touch it.
Strangely, as the days passed, the years that had been added to him
since their last meeting seemed to fall away. He became to her more
and more the boy that he had been when she had known him before. In
a thousand ways he showed it, his extraordinary youth and
inexperience in spite of all that he had been and done. She felt
older now than he and she loved him the more for that. Most of all
she longed to get him away from this place where he was. Then one
day little Abrams said to her:
"He'll never get well here."
"That's what I think," she said.
"Can't you carry him off somewhere? The country's the place for him-
-somewhere in the South."
Her heart leapt.
"Oh, Glebeshire!" she cried.
"Well, that's not a bad place," he said. "That would pick him up."
At once she thought, night and day, of St. Dreot's. A very hunger
possessed her to get back there. And why not? For one thing, it
would be so much cheaper. Her money would not last for ever, and
Mrs. Brandon robbed her whenever possible. She determined that she
would manage it. At last, greatly fearing it, she mentioned it to
him, and to her surprise he did not scorn it.
"I don't care," he said, looking at her with that curious puzzled
expression that she often saw now in his eyes, "I'm sick of this
room. That's a bargain, Maggie, you can put me where you like until
I'm well. Then I'm off."
She had a strange superstition that Borhedden was fated to see her
triumph. She had wandered round the world and now was returning
again to her own home. She remembered a Mrs. Bolitho who had had the
farm in her day. She wrote to her, and two days later received a
letter saying that there was room for them at Borhedden if they
She was now all feverish impatience. Dr. Abrams said that Martin
could be moved if they were very careful. All plans were made. Mrs.
Brandon and the ugly little doctor both seemed quite sorry that they
were going, and Emily even sniffed and wiped her eye with the corner
of her apron. The world seemed now to be turning a different face to
Maggie. Human beings liked her and were no longer suspicious to her
as they had been before.
She felt herself how greatly she had changed. It was as though,
until she had found Martin again, everything had been tied up in
her, constrained. She had been some one lost and desolate.
Nevertheless, how difficult these days were! Through all this time
she spoke to him no affectionate word nor touched him with an
affectionate gesture. She was simply a good-humoured companion,
laughing at him, assuming, through it all, an off-hand indifference
that meant for her so difficult a pretence that she thought he must
discover it. He did not; he was in many ways more simple than she.
She laid to sleep his suspicions. She could feel his relief that she
was not romantic, that she wanted nothing whatever from him. He was
ill--therefore was often churlish. He tried to hurt her again and
again with cruel words and then waited to see whether she were hurt.
She never showed him. He treated her with contempt, often not
answering her questions, laughing at her little stupidities,
complaining of her forgetfulness and, sometimes, her untidiness--
telling her again and again to "go back to her parson."
She gave no sign. She fought her way. But it hurt; she could not
have believed that anything could hurt so much. She was being always
drawn to him, longing to put her arm around him, to dare to kiss
him, risking any repulse. He seemed so young, so helpless, so
unhappy. Every part of him called to her, his hair, his eyes, his
voice, his body. But she held herself in, she never gave way, she
was resolute in her plan.
On their last evening in Lynton Street, for five minutes, he was
suddenly kind to her, almost the old Martin speaking with the old
voice. She held her breath, scarcely daring to let herself know how
happy she was.
"What do you think about God, Maggie?" he asked, turning on the sofa
and looking at her.
"Think about God?" she said, repeating his words.
"Yes . . .Is there one?"
"I don't know. I haven't any intelligence about those things."
"Is there immortality?"
"I don't know."
"I hope not. Your parson thinks there is, doesn't he?"
"Of course he does."
"Did he have lots of services and did you hare to go to them?"
"Poor Maggie--always having to go to them. Well, it's queer. Funny
if there isn't anything after all when there's been such a fight
about it so long. Did they make you very religious at Skeaton or
wherever the place was?"
"No," said Maggie. "They thought me a terrible heathen. Grace was
terrified of me, I seemed so wicked to her. She thought I was
bewitching Paul's soul--"
"Perhaps you were."
"No. So little did I that he hasn't even come up to London to fetch
"Which did you like best--Skeaton or the Chapel?"
"I don't know. I was wrong in both of them. They were just
opposite." Maggie waited a little. Then she said: "Martin there must
be something. I can feel it as though it were behind a wall
somewhere--I can hear it and I can't see anything. Aunt Anne and--
and--your father, and Paul, and Mr. Magnus were all trying . . . It
feels like a fight, but I don't know who's fighting who."
Her allusion to his father had been unfortunate.
"It's all damned rot if you ask me," he said, turned his face to the
wall and wouldn't say another word.
Next morning they started. Mrs. Brandon's bill was as large as she
could make it and still not very large. Dr. Abrams, to Maggie's
immense surprise, would not take a penny.
"I'm not wantin' money just now," he said. "I'm robbing a rich old
man who lives near here. I'm a sort of highway man, you know, rob
the rich and spend it how I like. Now don't you press me to make up
a bill or I shall change my mind and give you. one and it will be so
large that you won't be able to go down to Glebeshire. How would you
like that? Oh, don't think I'm doing it from fine motives. You're
both a couple of babies, that's what you are, and it would be a
shame to rob you. How you're ever going to get through the world
don't know. The Babes in the Wood weren't in it. He thinks he's
wicked, doesn't he?"
"Yes, he does," said Maggie.
"Wicked! Why, he doesn't know what wickedness is. A couple of
children. Look after his heart or he'll be popping off one fine
Maggie turned pale. "Oh no," she said, her voice trembling.
"He's going to get well."
Abrams sniffed. "If he doesn't drink and leads a healthy life he
may. But leopards don't change their spots. He's worrying over
something. What is it?"
"His father's death," said Maggie. "He loved his father more than
any one and he's got it into his head that he gave him a shock and
"Well, you get it out of his head," said Abrams. "He won't be better
until you do."
Next morning they were at Paddington, Martin very feeble but
indifferent to everything. They had a third-class compartment to
themselves until they got to Exeter, and all that while Martin never
spoke a word. During this time Maggie did a lot of quiet thinking.
She was worried, of course, about many things but especially
finances. She knew very little about money. She gathered from Martin
that he had not only spent ail that his and had left him, but had
gone considerably beyond it, that he was badly in debt and saw no
way of paying. This did not seem to worry him but it worried Maggie.
Debts seemed to her awful things, and she could not imagine how any
one lived under the burden of them. Supposing Martin were ill for a
long time, how would they two live? Her little stock of money would
not last very long. She must get work, but she knew more about the
world after her years at Skeaton. She knew how ignorant she was, how
uneducated and how unsophiscated. She did not doubt her ability to
fight her way, but there might be weary months first, and meanwhile
what of Martin?
She looked at him, asleep now in a corner of the carriage, his soft
hat pulled down over his eyes, his head sunk, his hands heavy and
idle on his lap. A fear caught at her heart as she watched him; he
looked, indeed, terribly ill, exhausted with struggle, and now, with
all the bitterness and despair drowned in sleep, very gentle and
helpless. She bent over and folded the rug more closely round his
knees. Had he woken then and seen her gaze! Her hand'' routed for an
instant on his, then she withdrew back into her own corner.
That coming back into Glebeshire could not but be wonderful to her.
She had been away for so long and it was her home.
The tranquillity and peace of the spring evening clothed her like a
garment, the brown valleys, the soft green of the fields, the mild
blue of the sky touched her until she could with difficulty keep
back her tears.
"Oh, make it right!" she whispered; "make it right! Give him to me
again--I do love him so!"
It was dusk when they arrived at Clinton St. Mary's.
The little station stood open to all the winds of heaven blowing in
from the wide expanses of St. Mary's Moor. Maggie remembered, as
though it were yesterday, her arrival at that station with Aunt
Anne. Yes, she had grown since then.
A trap was waiting for them. Martin was still very silent, but he
liked the air with the tang of the sea in it, and he asked sometimes
about the names of places. As they drew nearer and nearer to all the
old--remembered scenes, Maggie's heart beat faster and faster--this
lane, that field, that cottage. And then, at last, there was the
Vicarage perched on the top of the hill, with its chimneys like
She thought of Uncle Mathew. The sight of the tranquil evening the
happiness and comfort of the fields enabled her to think of him, for
the first time, quietly. She could face deliberately his death. It
was as though he had been waiting for her here and had come forward
to reassure her.
They drove through the quiet little village, out on to the high
road, then down a side lane, the hedges brushing against the sides
of the jingle, then through the gates, into the yard, with Borhedden
Farm, bright with its lighted windows, waiting for them.
Mrs. Bolitho was standing in the porch and greeted them warmly.
"You'll be just starved," she said. "It's wisht work driving in an
open jingle all the way from Clinton. Supper's just about ready."
They were shown up to the big roomy bedroom, smelling of candles and
clover and lavender. Martin stood there looking about, then--
"Oh, Martin, isn't it nice!" Maggie cried. "I do hope you'll be
The emotion of returning home, of seeing the old places, sniffing
the old scents, reviving the old memories was too much for her. She
flung her arms round his neck and kissed him on the lips. For a
moment, for a wonderful moment it seemed that he was going to
respond. She felt him move towards her. His hands tightened about
hers. Then, but very gently, he drew away from her and walked to the
THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE
Maggie, before she left London, had written both to Paul and Mr.
Magnus giving them her new address. She had intended to see Magnus,
but Martin's illness had absorbed her so deeply that she could not
proceed outside it. She told him quite frankly that she was going
down to Glebeshire with Martin and that she would remain with him
there until he was well. She did not try to defend herself; she did
not argue the case at all; she simply stated the facts.
Mr. Magnus wrote to her at once. He was deeply concerned, he did not
chide her for what she had done, but he begged her to realise her
position. She felt through every line of his letter that he
disapproved of and distrusted Martin. His love for Maggie (and she
felt that he had indeed love for her) made him look on Martin as the
instigator in this affair. He saw Maggie, ignorant of the world, led
away by a seducer from her married life, persuaded to embark upon
what his own experience had taught him to be a dangerous, lonely,
and often disastrous voyage. He had never heard of any good of
Martin; he had been always in his view, idle, dissolute, and
selfish. What could he think but that Martin had, most wickedly,
persuaded her to abandon her safety?
She answered his letter, telling him in the greatest detail the
truth. She told him that Martin had done all he could to refuse,
that, had he not been so ill, he would have left her, that he had
threatened her, again and again, with what he would do if she did
not the him.
She showed him that it had been her own determination and absolute
resolve that had created the situation--and she told him that she
was happy for the first time in her life.
But his letter did force her to realise the difficulties of her
position. In writing to Mrs. Bolitho she had spoken of herself as
Martin's wife, and now when she was called "Mrs. Warlock" she
tacitly accepted that, hating the deceit, but wishing for anything
that might keep the situation tranquil and undisturbed. She asked
Mrs. Bolitho to let her have a small room near the big one, telling
her that Martin was so ill that he must be undisturbed at night.
Then Mr. Magnus's letter arrived addressed to "Miss Cardinal," and
she thought that Mrs. Bolitho looked at her oddly when she gave it
to her. Martin's illness, too, seemed to disturb the household. He
cried out in his dreams, his shouts waking the whole establishment.
Bolitho, once, thinking that murder was being committed, went to his
room, found him sitting up in bed, sweating with terror. He caught
hold of Bolitho, flung his arms around him, would not let him go,
urging him "not to help them, to protect him. They would catch
him . . . they would catch him. They would catch him."
The stout and phlegmatic farmer was himself frightened, sitting
there on the bed, in his night-shirt, and "seeing ghosts" in the
flickering light of the candle. Martin's conduct during the day was
not reassuring. He had lost all his ferocity and bitterness; he was
very quiet, speaking to no one, lying on a sofa that over-looked the
Mrs. Bolitho's really soft heart was touched by his pallor and
weakness, but she could not deny that there was something queer
here." Maggie almost wished that his old mood of truculence would
return. She was terrified, too, of these night scenes, because they
were so bad for his heart. The local doctor, a clever young fellow
called Stephens, told her that he was recovering from the pneumonia,
but that his heart was "dickey."
"Mustn't let anything excite him, Mrs. Warlock," he said.
There came then gradually over the old house and the village the
belief that Martin was "fey." Mrs. Bolitho was in most ways a
sensible, level-headed, practical woman, but like many of the
inhabitants of Glebeshire, she was deeply superstitious. It was not
so very many years since old Jane Curtis had been ducked in the St.
Dreot's pond for a witch, and even now, did a cow fall sick or the
lambs die, the involuntary thought in the Glebeshire "pagan mind"
was to look for the "evil eye." But Mrs. Bolitho herself had had a
very recent example in her own family of "possession." There had
been her old grandfather, living in the farm with them, as hale and
hearty a human of sixty-five years as you'd be likely to find in a
day's march through Glebeshire. "He lost touch with them," as Mrs.
Bolitho put it. In a night his colour failed him, his cheerful
conversation left him, he could "do nought but sit and stare out o'
window." A month later he died.
Martin had not been long at Borhedden before she came to her
conclusions about him, told them to her James, and found that his
slow but sure brains had come to the same decision. In the sense of
the tragedy overhanging the poor young man she forgot to consider
the possible impropriety of his relations with Maggie. He was
removed at once from human laws and human judgment. He became "a
creature of God" and was surrounded with something of the care and
reverence with which the principal "softie" in the village was
It was not that Martin's behaviour was in any way odd. After a few
days in the utter peace and quiet of the moor and farm he screamed
no more at night. He was gentle and polite to every one, ate his
meals, took little walks out on to the moor and into the village,
but liked best to sit in front of the parlour window and look out on
to the heath and grass, watching the shadows and the sunlight and
the driving sheets of rain.
Mrs. Bolitho had a tender heart and Maggie shared in her
superstitious pity. Looking back to her youth she had always thought
Maggie a "wisht little thing." "Poor worm," what chance had she ever
had with that great scandalous chap of a father? She saw her still
in her shabby clothes trying to keep that dilapidated house
together. No, what chance had she ever had? She was still a "wisht
Nor did it need very shrewd eyes to see how desperately devoted
Maggie was to Martin. The sight of that touched the hearts of every
human being in the farm. Not that Maggie was foolish; she did not
hang about Martin all the time, she never, so far as Mrs. Bolitho
could see, kissed him or fondled him, or was with him when he did
not want her. She was not sentimental to him, not sighing nor
groaning, nor pestering him to answer romantic questions. On the
contrary, she was always cheerful, practical, and full of common
sense, although she was sometimes forgetful, and was not so neat and
tidy as Mrs. Bolitho would have wished. She always spoke as though
Martin's recovery were quite certain, and Dr. Stephens told Mrs.
Bolitho that he did not dare to speak the truth to her. "The chances
against his recovery," Stephens said, "are about one in a hundred.
He's been racketing about too long. Too much drink. But he's got
something on his mind. That's really what's the matter with him."
Mrs. Bolitho was as naturally inquisitive as are most of her sex,
and this knowledge that Martin was a doomed creature with a guilty
conscience vastly excited her curiosity. What had the man done? What
had been his relations with Maggie? Above all, did he really care
for Maggie, or no? That was finally the question that was most
eagerly discussed in the depths of the Bolitho bedchamber. James
Bolitho maintained that he didn't care "that" for her; you could see
plain enough, he asserted, when a man cared for a maid--there were
signs, sure and certain, just as there were with cows and horses.
"You may know about cows and horses," said Mrs. Bolitho; "you're
wrong about humans." The way that she put it was that Martin cared
for Maggie but "couldn't get it out." "He doesn't want her to know
it," she said.
"Why shouldn't he?" asked James.
"Now you're asking," said Mrs. Bolitho.
"Nice kind of courtin' that be," said James; "good thing you was a
bit different, missus. Lovin' a lass and not speaking--shouldn't
Mrs. Bolitho's heart grew very tender towards Maggie. Married or
not, the child was in a "fiery passion of love." Nor was it a
selfish passion, neither--wanted very little for herself, but only
for him to get well. There was true romance here. Maggie, however,
gave away no secrets. She had many talks with Mr. Bolitho: about the
village, about the new parson, about Mrs. Bolitho's son, Jacob, now
in London engineering, and the apple of her eye,--about many things
but never about herself, the past history nor her feeling for
The girl never "let on" that she was suffering, and yet "suffering
she must be." You could see that she was just holding herself
"tight" like a wire. The strange intensity of her determination was
beautiful but also dangerous. "If anything was to happen--" said
Mrs. Bolitho. She saw Martin, too, many times, looking at Maggie in
the strangest way, as though he were travelling towards some
decision. He certainly was a good young man in his behaviour, doing
now exactly what he was told, never angry, never complaining, and
that, Mrs. Bolitho thought, was strange, because you could see in
his eye that he had a will and a temper of his own, did he like to
exercise them. After all, he himself was the merest boy, scarcely
older than Jacob. She could, herself, see that he must have been a
fine enough lad when he had his health--the breadth of his
shoulders, the thick sturdiness of his shape, the strength of his
thighs and arms. Her husband had seen the boy stripped, and had told
her that he must have been a "lovely man." Drink and evil women--ay,
they'd brought him down as they'd brought many another--and she
thought of her Jacob in London with a catch at her heart. She
stopped in her cooking and prayed there and then, upon her kitchen
floor, that he might be kept safe from all harm.
Nearly every one in the village, of course, remembered Maggie, and
they could not see that she was "any changed." "Cut 'er 'air short--
London fashion" they supposed. They had liked her as a child and
they liked her now. She was more cheerful and friendly, they
thought, then she used to be.
Nevertheless all the village awaited, with deep interest, for what
they felt would be a very moving climax. The young man was "fey."
God had set His mark upon him, and nothing that any human being
could do would save him. In old days they would have tried to come
near him and touch him to snatch some virtue from the contact. They
did not do that, but they felt when they had spoken to him that they
had received some merit or advantage. The new parson came to call
upon Martin and Maggie, but he got very little from his visit.
"Poor fellow," he said to his wife on his return. "His days are
numbered, I fear."
To every one it was as though Martin and Maggie were enclosed in
some world of their own. No one could come near them, no one could
tell of what they were really thinking, of their hopes or fears,
past or future.
"Only," as Mrs. Bolitho said to her husband, "one thing's certain,
she do love 'im with all her heart and soul--poor lamb."
When Martin and Maggie had been at the farm about a fort-night,
there came to St. Dreot's a travelling circus. This was a very small
affair, but it came every year, and provided considerable excitement
for the village population. There were also gipsies who came on the
moor, and telling the fortunes of any who had a spare sixpence with
which to cross their palms. The foreign and exotic colour that the
circus and the gipsies brought into the village was exactly suited
to the St. Dreot blood. Many centuries ago strange galleys had
forced their way into bays and creeks of the southern coast, and
soon dark strangers had penetrated across the moors and fields and
had mingled with the natives of the plain. Scarcely an inhabitant of
St. Dreot but had some dark colour in his blood, a gift from those
Phoenician adventurers; scarcely an inhabitant but was conscious
from time to time of other strains, more tumultuous passions, than
the Saxon race could show.
This coming of the circus had in it, whether they knew it or no,
something of the welcoming of their own people back to them again.
They liked to see the elephant and the camel tread solemnly the
uneven stones of the village street, they liked to hear the roar of
the wild beasts at night when they were safe and warm in their own
comfortable beds, they liked to have solemn consultations with the
gipsy girls as to their mysterious destinies. The animals, indeed,
were not many nor, poor things, were they, after many years' chains
and discipline, very fierce--nevertheless they roared because they
knew it was their duty so to do, and when the lion's turn came a
notice was hung up outside his cage saying: "This is the Lion that
last year, at Clinton, bit Miss Harper." There were also performing
dogs, a bear, and two seals.
The circus was quite close to the farm.
"I do hope," said Mrs. Bolitho to Martin, "that the roaring of the
animals won't disturb you."
It did not disturb him. He seemed to like it, and went out and stood
there watching all the labours of the gipsies and the tent men, and
even went into "The Green Boar" and drank a glass of beer with Mr.
Marquis, the proprietor of the circus.
On the third day after their arrival there was a proper Glebeshire
mist. It was a day, also, of freezing, biting cold, such a day as
sometimes comes in of a Glebeshire May--cold that seems, in its damp
penetration, more piercing than any frost.
The mist came rolling up over the moor in wreaths and spirals of
shadowy grey, sometimes shot with a queer dull light as though the
sun was fighting behind it to beat a way through, sometimes so dense
and thick that standing at the door of the farm you could not see
your hand in front of your face. It was cold with the chill of the
sea foam, mysterious in its ever-changing intricacies of shape and
form, lifting for a sudden instant and showing green grass and the
pale spring flowers in the border by the windows, then charging down
again with fold on fold of vapour thicker and thicker, swaying and
throbbing with a purpose and meaning of its own. Early in the
afternoon Mrs. Bolitho took a peep at her lodgers. She did not
intend to spy--she was an honest woman--but she shared most vividly
the curiosity of all the village about "these two queer ignorant
children," as she called them. Standing in the bow-window of her own
little parlour she could see the bow-window and part of the room on
the opposite side of the house-door. Maggie and Martin stood there
looking out into the mist. The woman could see Maggie's face, dim
though the light was, and a certain haunting desire in it tugged at
Mrs. Bolitho's tender heart. "Poor worm," she thought to herself,
"she's longing for him to say something to her and he won't." They
were talking. Then there was a pause and Martin turned away.
Maggie's eyes passionately besought him. What did she want him to
do--to say? Mrs. Bolitho could see that the girl's hands were
clenched, as though she had reached, at last, the very limits of her
endurance. He did not see. His back was half turned to her. He did
not speak, but stood there drumming with his hands on the glass.
"Oh, I could shake him," thought Mrs. Bolitho's impatience. For a
time Maggie waited, never stirring, her eyes fixed, her body taut.
Then she seemed suddenly to break, as though the moment of endurance
was past. She turned sharply round, looking directly out of her
window into Mrs. Bolitho's room--but she didn't see Mrs. Bolitho.
That good woman saw her smile, a strange little smile of defiance,
pathos, loneliness, cheeriness defeated. She vanished from her
window although he stood there. A moment later, in a coat and hat,
she came out of the front door, stood for a moment on the outskirts
of the mist looking about her, then vanished on to the moor.
"She oughtn't to be out in this," thought the farmer's wife. "It's
She waited a little, then came and knocked on the door of the other
sitting-room. She met Martin in the doorway.
"Oh, Mrs. Bolitho," he said, "I thought I'd go to the circus for
half an hour."
"Very well, sir," she said.
He too disappeared. She sat in her kitchen all the afternoon busily
mending the undergarments of her beloved James. But her thought were
not with her husband. She could not get the picture of those two
young things standing at the window facing the mist-drunk moor out
of her head. The sense that had come to the farm with Martin's entry
into it of something eerie and foreboding increased now with every
tick of the heavy kitchen clock. She seemed to listen now for sounds
and portents. The death-tick on the wall--was that foolish? Some men
said so, but she knew better. Had she not heard it on the very night
of her grandfather's death? She sat there and recounted to herself
every ghost-story that, in the course of a long life, had come her
way. The headless horseman, the coach with the dead travellers, the
three pirates and their swaying gibbets, the ghost of St. Dreot's
churchyard, the Wailing Woman of Clinton, and many, many others, all
passed before her, making pale her cheek and sending her heart in
violent beats up and down the scale.
The kitchen grew darker and darker. She let the underclothes lie
upon her lap. Soon she must light the lamp, but meanwhile, before
the oven she let her fancies overwhelm her, luxuriating in her
Suddenly the kitchen-door was flung open. She started up with a cry.
Martin stood there and in a voice, so new to her that she seemed
never to have heard it before, he shouted, "Where's Maggie?"
She stood up in great agitation. He came towards her and she saw
that his face was violent with agitation, with a kind of rage.
"Where's Maggie?" he repeated.
She saw that he was shaking all over and it was as though he did not
know who she was.
"Maggie?" she repeated.
"My wife! My wife!" he cried, and he shouted it again as though he
were proclaiming some fact to the whole world.
"She went out," said Mrs. Bolitho, "about three hours back I should
"Went out!" he stormed at her. "And in this?"
Then, before she could say another word, he was gone. It was in very
truth like an apparition.
She sat there for some time staring in front of her, still shaken by
the violence of his interruption. She went then to the kitchen-door
and listened--not a sound in the house. She went farther, out
through the passage to the hall-door. She opened it and looked out.
A sea of driving mist, billowing and driving as though by some
internal breeze, met her.
"Poor things," she said to herself. "They shouldn't be out in this."
She shut the door and went back into the house. She called, "Jim!
Jim! Where are you?" At last he came, stumping up from some
mysterious labour in the lower part of the house.
"What is't?" he said, startled by her white face and troubled eyes.
"The two of them," she said, "have gone out on to the moor in this
mist. It isn't safe."
"Whatever for?" he asked.
"How should I know? She went out first and now he's after her.
'Tisn't safe, Jim. You'd best follow them."
He didn't argue with her, being an obedient husband disciplined by
many years of matrimony.
"Well, I'll go," he said slowly. "Best take William, though."
He went off in search of his man.
But Bolitho need not trouble. Half an hour later Maggie returned,
stood in the sitting-room looking about her, took off her jacket and
hat, then, pursuing her own thoughts, slowly put them on. She was
then about to leave the room when the door burst open and Martin
tumbled in. He stood at the doorway staring at her, his mouth open.
"Why!" he stammered. "I thought . . . I thought . . . you were out--
" She looked at him crossly.
"You shouldn't have gone out--an afternoon like this. If I'd been
"Well, you weren't. You shouldn't have gone out either for the
matter of that. And I was at the circus--a damned poor one too. Your
things are soaking," he added, suddenly looking up at her. "You talk
about me. You'd better go and change."
"I'm going out again," she said.
"Yes . . . There's a train at Clinton at seven. I'm catching that."
"A train?" He stared at her, completely bewildered.
"Yes. That's what I went out to get my head clear about. Martin,
you've beaten me. After all these years you have. After all my fine
He began to drum on the window. He tried to speak casually.
"I haven't beaten you, Maggie."
"Yes, you have. I said you wouldn't be able to send me away. Well,
you've managed to and in the only way you could--by your silence.
You haven't opened your mouth for a fortnight. You're better now,
too, and Mrs. Bolitho will look after you. I was determined to hang
on to you, but I find I can't. I'm going back to London to get some
His hand dropped from the window. Then, with his head turned from
her and his voice so low that she could scarcely hear the--
"No, Maggie, don't go."
She smiled across at him. "There's no need to be polite, Martin.
We're both of us beyond that by this time. I'll come back if you
really want me. You know that I always will, but at last, after all
these years, I've found a scrap of self-respect. Here am I always
bundling about--first the aunts, then you, then Paul, then you
again, and nobody wanting me. I don't suppose," she said laughing,
"that there can be anybody less wanted in the world. So I'm just
going to look after myself now. It's quite time I did."
"But I want you," he said, his voice still very low. She looked up,
her eyes lit as though with some sudden recognition.
"If you really mean that," she said, "say it again. If you don't
mean it, don't humbug me. I won't be humbugged any more."
"I haven't humbugged you--ever," he answered. "You're the only
person I've always been absolutely straight with. I've always, from
the very beginning, told you to have nothing to do with me. It's
more true than ever now. I've been trying ever since you came back
to me in London to get you to leave me. But it's too late. I can't
fight it any more . . . I loved you all the time I was abroad. I
oughtn't to have written to you, but I did. I came back to London
with the one hope of seeing you, but determined not to."
"I loved you more than ever when you came into my lodging there, but
I was sick and hadn't any money, besides all my other failings . . .
It's the only decent thing I've ever really tried to do, to keep you
away from me, and now I've failed in that. When I came in and found
you were gone this afternoon I thought I'd go crazy."
"I'm not going to struggle any more. If you go away I'll follow you
wherever you go. I may as well try to give up keeping you out of it.
It's like keeping myself out of it."
Slowly she took her hat and coat off again.
"Well, then," she said, "I'd better stay, I suppose."
He suddenly sat down, his face white. She came across to him.
She put her hand on his forehead.
"You'd better go to bed, Martin, dear. I'll bring your tea in."
He caught her hand. She knelt down, put her arms round him, and so
they stayed, cheek to cheek, for a long time.
When he had gone to his room she sat in the arm-chair by the fire,
her hands idly folded on her lap. She let happiness pour in upon her
as water floods in upon a dried and sultry river-bed. She was
passive, her tranquillity was rich and full, too full for any
She was so happy that her heart was weighted down and seemed
scarcely to beat. It was not, perhaps, the exultant happiness that
she had expected this moment to bring her.
When, in after days, she looked back to that quiet half-hour by the
fire she saw that it was then that she had passed from girlhood into
womanhood. The first chapter of her life was, at that moment's
laying of her hand on Martin's forehead, closed. The love for him
that filled her so utterly was in great part maternal. It was to be
her destiny to know the deep tranquil emotions of life rather than
the passionate and transient. She was perhaps the more blessed in
Even now, at the very instant of her triumph, she deceived herself
in nothing. There were many difficulties ahead for her. She had
still to deal with Paul: Martin was not a perfect character, nor
would he suddenly become one. Above all that strange sense of being
a captive in a world that did not understand her, some one curious
and odd and alien--that would not desert her. That also was true of
Martin. It was true--strangely true--of so many of the people she
had known--of the aunts, Uncle Mathew, Mr. Magnus, of Paul and of
Grace, of Mr. Toms, and even perhaps of Thurston and Amy Warlock--
all captives in a strange country, trying to find the escape, each
in his or her own fashion, back to the land of their birth.
But the land was there. Just as the lion, whose roar very faintly
she could hear through the thick walls, remembered in his cage the
jungles and mountains of his happiness, so was she aware of hers.
The land was there, the fight to get hack to it was real.
She smiled to herself, looking back on the years. Many people would
have said that she had had no very happy time since that sudden
moment of her father's death, but it did not seem to her, in
retrospect, unhappy. There had been unhappy times, tragic times, but
life was always bringing forward some magnificent moment, some
sudden flash of splendour that made up for all the rest. How could
you be bitter about people when you were all in the same box, all as
ignorant, as blind, as eager to do well, as fallible, as brave, as
The thoughts slipped dimly through her mind. She was too happy to
trace them truly. She had never been one for conscious philosophy.
Nevertheless she did not doubt but that life was worth while, that
there was something immortal in her, and that the battle was good to
fight--but what it really came to was that she loved Martin, and
that at last some one needed her, that she need never be lonely any
Mrs. Bolitho stepped in with the tea.
"I'll take it in to him," Maggie said, standing up and stretching
out her arms for the tray.
The woman looked at her and gave a little "Ah!" of satisfaction, as
though, at length, she saw in Maggie's eyes that for--which she had
"Why, I do believe," she said, "that walk's done 'ee good."
"I do believe," Maggie said, laughing, "it has."
Carrying the tray carefully she went through into Martin's room.