Part 2 out of 11
the fireplace with her halting movement, embraced the little lady by
the fire with a soft and unimpassioned clasp.
"Well, Elizabeth, here we are, you see," turned to the thin
gentleman saying, "Why you, Mr. Magnus! I thought that you were
still in Wiltshire! "then from the middle of the room addressing the
stout young man: "I'm very glad to see you, Mr. Warlock."
Maggie fancied that the three persons were nervous of her aunt; the
stout young man was amused perhaps at the general situation, but Mr.
Magnus by the fireplace showed great emotion, the colour mounting
into his high bony cheeks and his nostrils twitching like a horse's.
Maggie had been always very observant, and she was detached enough
now to notice that the drawing-room was filled with ugly and
cumbrous things and yet seemed unfurnished. Although everything was
old and had been there obviously for years, the place yet reminded
one of a bare chamber into which, furniture had just been piled
without order or arrangement. Opposite the door was a large and very
bad painting of the two sisters as young girls, sitting, with arms
encircled, in low dresses, on the seashore before a grey and angry
sea, and Uncle Mathew as a small, shiny-faced boy in tight short
blue trousers, carrying a bucket and spade, and a smug, pious
expression. The room was lit with gas that sizzled and hissed in a
protesting undertone; there was a big black cat near the fire, and
this watched Maggie with green and fiery eyes.
She stood there by the door tired and hungry; she felt
unacknowledged and forgotten.
"I know I shall hate it," was her thought; she was conscious of her
arms and her legs; her ankle tickled in her shoe, and she longed to
scratch it. She sneezed suddenly, and they all jumped as though the
floor had opened beneath them.
"And Maggie?" said the little lady by the fireplace.
Maggie moved forward with the awkward gestures and the angry }ook in
her eyes that were always hers when she was ill at ease.
"Maggie," said Aunt Anne, "has been very good."
"And she's tired, I'm sure," continued the little lady, who must of
course be Aunt Elizabeth. "The journey was easy, dear. And you had
no change. They gave you footwarmers, I hope. It's been lovely
weather. I'm so glad to see you, dear. I've had no photograph of you
since you were a baby."
Aunt Elizabeth had a way, Maggie thought, of collecting a number of
little disconnected statements as though she were working out a sum
and hoped--but was not very certain--that she would achieve a
successful answer. "Add two and five and three and four . . ." The
statements that she made were apparently worlds apart in interest
and importance, but she hoped with good fortune to flash upon the
boards a fine result. She was nervous, Maggie saw, and her thin
shoulders were a little bent as though she expected some one from
behind to strike her suddenly in the small of the back.
"She's afraid of something," thought Maggie.
Aunt Elizabeth had obviously not the strong character of her sister
"Thank you," said Maggie, looking, for no reason at all, at Mr.
Magnus, "I slept in the train, so I'm not tired." She stopped then,
because there was nothing more to say. She felt that she ought to
kiss her aunt; she thought she saw in her aunt's small rather watery
eyes an appeal that she should do so. The distance, however, seemed
infinite, and Maggie had a strange feeling that her bending down
would break some spell, that the picture in the passage would fall
with a ghostly clatter, that Edward the parrot would scream and
shriek, that the gas would burst into a bubbling horror, that the
big black cat would leap upon her and tear her with its claws.
"Well, I'm not afraid," she thought. And, as though she were defying
the universe, she bent down and kissed her aunt. She fancied that
this act of hers produced a little sigh of relief. Every one seemed
to settle down. They all sat, and conversation was general.
Mr. Magnus had a rather melancholy, deprecating voice, but with some
touch of irony too, as though he were used to being called a fool by
his fellow-beings, but after all knew better than they did. He did
not sound at all conceited; only amused with a little gentle
melancholy at his own position.
"I'm glad to see you so well, Miss Cardinal," he said with an air of
rather old-fashioned courtesy. "I had been afraid that it might have
exhausted you. I only came to welcome you. I must return at once. I
have an article to finish before midnight."
Aunt Anne smiled gently: "No, I'm not tired, thank you. And what has
happened while I have been away?"
"I have been away too, as you know," said Mr. Magnus, "but I
understand that your sister has been very busy--quite a number--"
Aunt Elizabeth said in her trembling voice: "No. No--Anne--I assure
you. Nothing at all. As you know, the Bible Committee wanted to
discuss the new scheme. Last Tuesday. Mr. Warlock, Mr. Simms, young
Holliday, Miss Martin, Mary Hearst. And Sophie Dunn. AND Mr. Turner.
Nothing at all. It was a wet day. Last Tuesday afternoon."
"Your mother is quite well, I hope, Mr. Warlock?" said Aunt Anne,
turning to the young man. "Yes--she's all right," he answered. "Just
the same. Amy wants you to go and see her. I was to give you the
message, if you could manage to-morrow sometime; or she'd come here
if it's more convenient. There's something important, she says, but
I don't suppose it's important in the least. You know what she is."
He spoke, laughing. His eyes wandered all round the room and
suddenly settled on Maggie with a startled stare, as though she were
the last person whom he had expected to find there.
"Yes. To-morrow afternoon, perhaps--about three, if that would suit
her. How is Amy?"
"Oh, she's all right. As eager to run the world as ever--and she
never will run it so long as she shows her cards as obviously as she
does. I tell her so. But it's no good. She doesn't listen to me, you
Aunt Anne, with the incomparable way that she had, brushed all this
very gently aside. She simply said: "I'm glad that she's well." Then
she turned to the other gentleman:
"Your writing's quite satisfactory, I hope, Mr. Magnus."
She spoke as though it had been a cold or a toothache.
He smiled his melancholy ironical smile. "I go on, you know, Miss
Cardinal. After all, it's my bread and butter."
Maggie, looking at him, knew that this was exactly the way that he
did not regard it, and felt a sudden sympathy towards him with his
thin hair, his large spectacles and his shabby clothes. But her look
at him was the last thing of which she was properly conscious. The
wall beyond the fireplace, that had seemed before to her dim and
dark, now suddenly appeared to lurch forward, to bulge before her
eyes; the floor with its old, rather shabby carpet rose on a slant
as though it was rocked by an unsteady sea; worst of all, the large
black cat swelled like a balloon, its whiskers distended like wire.
She knew that her eyes were burning, that her forehead was cold, and
that she felt sick. She was hungry, and at the same time was
conscious that she could eat nothing. Her only wish was to creep
away and hide herself from every one.
However, through all her confusion she was aware of her
determination not to betray to them that she was ill. "If only the
cat wouldn't grow so fast, I believe I could manage," was her
desperate thought. There was a roaring in her ears; she caught
suddenly from an infinite distance the voice of the stout young man-
-"She's ill! She's fainting!"
She was aware that she struggled to face him with fierce protesting
eyes. The next thing she knew was that she lay for the second time
that afternoon in his arms. She felt that he laid her, clumsily but
gently, upon the sofa; some one sprinkled cold water on her
forehead. Deep down in her soul she hated and despised herself for
this weakness before strangers. She closed her eyes tightly,
desiring to conceal not so much the others as herself from her
scornful gaze. She heard some one say something about a cup of tea,
and she wanted it suddenly with a desperate, fiery desire, but she
would not speak, no, not if they were to torture her with thirst for
days and days--to that extent at least she could preserve her
She heard her Aunt Elizabeth say something like: "Poor thing--
strain--last week--father--too much."
She gathered all her energies together to say "It hasn't been too
much. I'm all right," but they brought her a cup of tea, and before
that she succumbed. She drank it with eager greed, then lay back,
her eyes closed, and slowly the bars of hot iron withdrew from her
forehead. She slept.
She woke to a room wrapped in a green trembling twilight. She was
alone save for the black cat. The fire crackled, the gas was turned
low, and the London murmur beyond the window was like the hum of an
organ. There was no one in the room; she felt, as she lay there, an
increasing irritation at her weakness. She was afraid too for her
future. Did she faint like this at the earliest opportunity people
would allow her no chance of earning her living. Where was that fine
independent life upon which, outside Borhedden Farm, she had
resolved? And these people, her aunts, the young man, the thin
spectacled man, what would they think of her? They would name it
affectation, perhaps, and imagine that she had acted in such a way
that she might gain their interest and sympathy. Such a thought sent
the colour flaming to her cheeks; she sat up on the sofa. She would
go to them at once and show them that she was perfectly strong and
The door opened and Aunt Elizabeth came in, very gently as though
she were going to steal something. She was, Maggie saw now, so
little as to be almost deformed, with a soft pale face, lined and
wrinkled, and blue watery eyes. She wore a black silk wrapper over
her shoulders, and soft black slippers. Alice in Wonderland was one
of the few books that Maggie had read in her childhood; Aunt
Elizabeth reminded her strongly of the White Queen in the second
part of that masterpiece.
"Oh, you're not asleep, dear," said Aunt Elizabeth.
"No, I'm not," said Maggie. "I'm perfectly all right. I can't think
what made me behave like that. I've never done such a thing before.
"It was very natural," said Aunt Elizabeth. "You should have had
some tea at once. It was my fault. It's late now. Nine o'clock. My
sister suggests bed. Supper in bed. Very nice, I always think, after
a long journey. It will be fine to-morrow, I expect. We've had
beautiful weather until this morning, when it rained for an hour.
Chicken and some pudding. There's a little Australian wine that my
sister keeps in the house for accidents. I liked it myself when I
had it once for severe neuralgia."
She suddenly, with a half-nervous, half-desperate gesture, put out
her hand and took Maggie's. Her hand was soft like blanc-mange; it
had apparently no bones in it.
Maggie was touched and grateful. She liked this little shy,
frightened woman. She would do anything to please her.
"Don't think," she said eagerly, "that I've ever fainted like that
before. I assure you that I've never done anything so silly. You
mustn't think that I'm not strong. I'm strong as a horse--father
always said so. I've come to help you and Aunt Anne in any way I
can. You mustn't think that I'm going to be in the way. I only want
to be useful."
Aunt Elizabeth started and looked at the door. "I thought I heard
something," she said. They both listened.
"Perhaps it was the parrot," said Maggie.
Aunt Elizabeth smiled bravely.
"There are often noises in an old house like this," she said. The
black cat came towards them, slowly, with immense dignified
indifference. He swung his tail as though to show them that he cared
for no one. He walked to the door and waited; then followed them out
of the room.
Maggie found that her bedroom was a room at the top of the house,
very white and clean, with a smell of soot and tallow candle that
was new and attractive. There was a large text in bright purple over
the bed--"The Lord cometh; prepare ye the way of the Lord." From the
window one saw roofs, towers, chimneys, a sweeping arc of sky-lights
now spun and sparkled into pathways and out again, driven by the
rumble behind them that never ceased, although muffled by the closed
They talked together for a little while, standing near the window,
the candle wavering in Aunt Elizabeth's unsteady hand.
"We thought you'd like this top room. It's quieter than the rest of
the house. Sometimes when the sweep hasn't been the soot tumbles
down the chimney. You mustn't mind that. Thomas will push open the
door and walk in at times. It's his way."
"Thomas?" said Maggie bewildered.
"Our cat. He has been with us for many years now. Those who know say
that he might have taken prizes once. I can't tell I'm sure. If you
pull that bell when you want anything Martha will come. She will
call you at half-past seven; prayers are in the dining-room at a
quarter past eight. Sometimes the wind blows through the wall-paper,
but it is only the wind."
Maggie drew back the curtains that hid the glitter of the lights.
"Were those great friends of yours, those gentlemen this evening?"
"The one who wears spectacles, Mr. Magnus--yes, he is a very old
friend. He is devoted to my sister. He writes stories."
"What, in the papers?"
"No, in books. Two every year."
"And the other one?"
"That is young Mr. Warlock--he is the son of our minister."
"Does he live near here?"
"He lives just now with his parents. Of late years he has been
"He doesn't look like the son of a minister," said Maggie.
"No, I'm afraid--" Aunt Elizabeth suddenly stopped. "His father has
been minister of our chapel for twenty years. He is a great and
"Where is the chapel?"
"Very near at hand. You will see it to-morrow. To-morrow is Sunday."
There was a long pause. Maggie knew that now was the time when she
should say something friendly and affectionate. She could say
nothing. She stared at her aunt, then at a long mirror that faced
her bed, then at the lighted sky. She felt warmly grateful, eager to
show all the world that she would do her best, that she was ready to
give herself to this new life with all her soul and strength--she
could say nothing.
At last her aunt said:
"Good-night, dear Maggie."
"Good-night, Aunt Elizabeth."
She stole away, leaving the candle upon the chest of drawers; the
cat followed her, swinging his tail.
Left alone, Maggie felt the whole sweep of her excitement. She was
exhausted, her body felt as though it had been trampled upon, she
was so tired that she could scarcely drag her clothes from her, but
the exaltation of her spirit was beyond and above all this. Half
undressed she stood before the long mirror. She had never before
possessed a long looking-glass, and now she seemed to see herself as
she really was for the first time. Was she very ugly and
unattractive? Yes, she must be with that stumpy body, those thick
legs and arms, that short nose and large mouth. And she did not know
what to do to herself to make herself attractive. Other girls knew
but she had never had any one who could tell her. Perhaps she would
make girl friends now who would show her.
But, after all, she did not care. She was herself. People who did
not like her could leave her--yes they could, and she would not stir
a finger to fetch them back.
Then, deep down in her soul, she knew that she wanted success, a
magnificent life, a great future. Nay more, she expected it. She had
force and strength, and she would compel life to give her what she
wanted. She laughed at herself in the glass. She was happy, almost
triumphant, and for no reason at all.
She went to her windows and opened them; there came up to her the
tramping progress of the motor-omnibuses. They advanced, like
elephants charging down a jungle, nearer, nearer, nearer. Before the
tramp of one had passed another was advancing, and then upon that
another--ceaselessly, advancing and retreating.
In her nightdress she leaned out of the window, poised, as it seemed
to her, above a swaying carpet of lights.
Life seemed to hold every promise in store for her.
She crossed to her bed, drew the clothes about her and, forgetting
her supper, forgetting all that had happened to her, her journey,
her fainting, the young man, Edward the parrot, she fell into a
slumber as deep, as secure, as death itself.
Maggie woke next morning to a strange silence. Many were the silent
mornings that had greeted her at St. Dreots, but this was silence
with a difference; it was the silence, she was instantly aware, of
some one whose very soul was noise and tumult. She listened, and the
sudden chirping of some sparrows beyond her window only accentuated
the sense of expectation. She had never, in all her days, been so
conscious of Sunday.
She was almost afraid to move lest she should break the spell.
She lay in bed and thought of the preceding evening. Her fainting
fit seemed to her now more than ever unfortunate; it had placed her
at a disadvantage with them all. She could imagine the stout young
man returning to his home and saying: "Their niece has arrived.
Seems a weak little thing. Fainted right off there in the drawing-
room." Or her aunts saying anxiously to one another: "Well, I
didn't know she was as delicate as that. I hope she won't be always
ill," . . . and she wasn't delicate--no one stronger. She had never
fainted before. The silliness of it!
The next thing that disturbed her was the comfort and arrangement of
everything. Certainly the drawing-room had not been very orderly,
full of old things badly placed, but this bedroom was clean and
tidy, and the supper last night, so neat on its tray with everything
that she could want! She could feel the order and discipline of the
whole house. And she had never, in all her life, been either orderly
or disciplined. She had never been brought up to be so. How could
you be orderly when there were holes in the bedroom ceiling and the
kitchen floor, holes that your father would never trouble to have
Her aunts would wish her to help in the house and she would forget
things. There passed before her, in that Sunday quiet, a terrible
procession of the things that she would forget. She knew that she
would not be patient under correction, especially under the
correction of her Aunt Anne. Already she felt in her a rebellion at
her aunt's aloofness and passivity. After all, why should she treat
every one as though she were God? Maggie felt that there was in her
aunt's attitude something sentimental and affected. She hated
sentiment and affectation in any one. She was afraid, too, that Anne
bullied Aunt Elizabeth. Maggie was sorry for Aunt Elizabeth but,
with all the arrogance of the young, a little despised her. Why did
she tremble and start like that? She should stand up for herself and
not mind what her sister said to her. Finally, there was something
about the house for which Maggie could not quite account, some
uneasiness or expectation, as though one knew that there was some
one behind the door and was therefore afraid to open it. It may have
been simply London that was behind it. Maggie was ready to attribute
anything to the influence of that tremendous power, but her own
final impression was that the people in this house had for too long
a time been brooding over something. "It would do my aunts a lot of
good to move somewhere else," she said to herself. "As Aunt Anne
loves the country so much I can't think why she doesn't live there."
There were many things that she was to learn before the end of the
Her thoughts were interrupted by a little whirr and clatter, which,
thin and distant though it was, penetrated into her room. The whirr
was followed by the voice, clear, self-confident and cheerful, of a
cuckoo. Maggie was in an instant out of bed, into the passage and
standing, in her nightdress, before a high, old cuckoo-clock that
stood at the top of the stairs. The wooden bird, looking down at her
in friendly fashion, "cuckooed" eight times, flapped his wings at
her and disappeared. It is a sufficient witness to Maggie's youth
and inexperience that she was enraptured by this event. It was not
only that she had never seen a cuckoo-clock before; she had, for
that matter, never heard of the existence of such a thing. It gave
her greater happiness than any bare mechanical discovery could have
done. The bird seemed to have come to her, in the friendliest way,
to remove some of the chilly passivity of the house. Her greatest
fear since her arrival had been that this was a house "in which
nothing was ever going to happen," and that "she would never get out
of it." "It will be just as it has been all my life, seeing nothing,
doing nothing--only instead of father it will be the aunts." The
bird seemed to promise her adventure and excitement. To most people
it would have been only a further sign of an old-fashioned household
far behind the times. To Maggie it was thrilling and encouraging. He
would remind her every hour of the day of the possibility of fun in
a world that was full of surprises. She heard suddenly a step behind
her and a dry voice saying:
"Your hot water, Miss Maggie."
She turned round, blushing at being caught staring up at a cuckoo-
clock like a baby in her nightdress, to face the wrinkled old woman
who the night before had brought her, with a grudging countenance,
her supper. Maggie had thought then that this old Martha did not
like her and resented the extra work that her stay in the house
involved; she was now more than ever sure of that dislike.
"I thought I was to be called at half-past seven."
"Eight on Sundays," said the old woman. "I hope you're better this
Maggie felt this to be deeply ironical and flushed.
"I'm quite well, thank you," she said stiffly. "What time is
breakfast on Sundays?"
"The prayer-bell rings at a quarter to nine, miss."
They exchanged no more conversation.
At a quarter to nine a shrill, jangling bell rang out and Maggie
hurried down the dark staircase. She did not know where the dining-
room was, but by good chance she caught sight of Aunt Elizabeth's
little body moving hurriedly down the passage and hastened after
her. She arrived only just in time. There, standing in a row before
four chairs, their faces red and shining, their hands folded in
front of them, were the domestics; there, with a little high desk in
front of her, on the other side of the long dining-room table was
Aunt Anne; here, near the door, were two chairs obviously intended
for Aunt Elizabeth and Maggie.
Maggie in her haste pushed the door, and it banged loudly behind
her; in the silent room the noise echoed through the house. It was
followed by a piercing scream from Edward, whom, Maggie concluded,
it had awakened. All this confused her very much and gave her
anything but a religious state of mind.
What followed resembled very much the ceremonies with which her
father had been accustomed to begin the day, except that her father,
with one eye on the bacon, had gabbled at frantic pace through the
prayers and Aunt Anne read them very slowly and with great beauty.
She read from the Gospel of St. John: "These things I command you,
that ye love one another . . ."; but the clear, sweet tones of her
voice gave no conviction of a love for mankind.
Maggie looking from that pale remote face to the roughened cheeks
and plump body of the kitchen-maid felt that here there could be no
possible bond. When they knelt down she was conscious, as she had
been since she was a tiny child, of two things--the upturned heels
of the servants' boots and the discomfort to her own knees. These
two facts had always hindered her religious devotions, and they
hindered them now. There had always been to her something
irresistibly comic in those upturned heels, the dull flat surfaces
of these cheap shoes. In the kitchen-maid's there were the signs of
wear; Martha's were new and shining; the house-maid's were smart and
probably creaked abominably. The bodies above them sniffed and
rustled and sighed. The vacant, stupid faces of the shoes were Aunt
Anne's only audience. Maggie wondered what the owners of those shoes
felt about the house. Had they a sense of irritation too or did they
perhaps think about nothing at all save their food, their pay and
their young man or their night out? The pain to her knees pierced
her thoughts; the prayers were very long?--Aunt Anne's beautiful
voice was interminable.
Breakfast was quiet and silent. Edward, who received apparently a
larger meal on Sundays than at ordinary times, chattered happily to
himself, and Maggie heard him say complacently, "Poor Parrot?--Poor
Parrot. How do you do? How do you do?"
"Service is at eleven o'clock, dear," said Aunt Anne. "We leave the
house at ten minutes to eleven."
Maggie, not knowing what to do with the hour in front of her, went
up to her bedroom, found the servant making the bed, came down into
the drawing-room and sat in a dark corner under a large bead mat,
that, nailed to the wall, gave little taps and rustlings as though
it were trying to escape.
She felt that she should be doing something, but what? She sat
there, straining her ear for sounds. "One always seems to be
expecting some one in this house," she thought. The weather that had
been bright had now changed and little gusts of rain beat upon the
windows. She thought with a sudden strange warmth of Uncle Mathew.
What was he doing? Where was he? How pleasant it would be were he
suddenly to walk into that chilly, dark room. She would not show him
that she was lonely, but she would give him such a welcome as he had
never had from her before. Had he money enough? Was he feeling
perhaps as desolate amongst strangers as she? The rain tickled the
window-panes. Maggie, with a desolation at her heart that she was
too proud to own, sat there and waited.
She looked back afterwards upon that moment as the last shivering
pause before she made that amazing plunge that was to give her new
The sound of a little forlorn bell suddenly penetrated the rain. It
was just such a bell as rang every Sunday from chapels across the
Glebeshire moors, and Maggie knew, when Aunt Elizabeth opened the
door and looked in upon her, that the summons was for her.
"Oh! my dear (a favourite exclamation of Aunt Elizabeth's) and
you're not ready. The bell's begun. The rain's coming down very
hard, I'm afraid. It's only a step from our door. Your things, dear,
as quick as you can."
The girl ran upstairs and, stayed by some sudden impulse, stood for
a moment before the long mirror. It was as though she were imploring
that familiar casual figure that she saw there not to leave her, the
only friend she had in a world that was suddenly terrifying and
alarming. Her old black dress that had seemed almost smart for the
St. Dreot funeral now appeared most desperately shabby; she knew
that her black hat was anything but attractive.
"What do I care for them all!" her heart said defiantly. "What do
they matter to me!"
She marched out of the house behind the aunts with her head in the
air, very conscious of a hole in one of her thin black gloves.
The street, deserted, danced in the rain; the little bell clanged
with the stupid monotony of its one obstinate idea; the town wore
its customary Sunday air of a stage when the performance is
concluded, the audience vanished and the lights turned down. The
aunts had a solemn air as though they were carrying Maggie as a
sacrifice. All these things were depressing.
They turned out of their own street into a thin, grey one in which
the puddles sprang and danced against isolated milk-cans and a
desolate pillar-box. The little bell was now loud and strident, and
when they passed into a passage which led into a square, rather
grimy yard, Maggie saw that they had arrived. Before her was a
hideous building, the colour of beef badly cooked, with grey stone
streaks in it here and there and thin, narrow windows of grey glass
with stiff, iron divisions between the glass. The porch to the door
was of the ugliest grey stone with "The Lord Cometh" in big black
letters across the top of it. Just inside the door was a muddy red
mat, and near the mat stood a gentleman in a faded frock-coat and
brown boots, an official apparently. There arrived at the same time
as Maggie and her aunts a number of ladies and gentlemen all hidden
beneath umbrellas. As they stood in the doorway a sudden scurry of
wind and rain drove them all forward so that there was some crush
and confusion in the little passage beyond the door. Waterproofs
steamed; umbrellas were ranged in dripping disorder against the
wall. The official, who talked in a hushed whisper that was drowned
by the creaking of his boots, welcomed them all with the intimacy of
an old acquaintance. "Oh, Miss Hearst--terrible weather--no, she's
not here yet." "Good morning, Mrs. Smith--very glad you're better.
Yes, I spoke to them about the prayer-books. They promised to return
them this morning . . ." and so on. He turned, pushed back a door
and led the way into the chapel. The interior was as ugly as the
outside. The walls were of the coldest grey stone, broken here and
there by the lighter grey of a window. Across the roof were rafters
built of that bright shining wood that belongs intimately to
colonial life, sheep-shearing, apples of an immense size and
brushwood. Two lamps of black iron hung from these rafters. At the
farther end of the chapel was a rail of this same bright wood, and
behind the rail a desk and a chair. In front of the rail was a
harmonium before which was already seated a stout and expectant
lady, evidently eager to begin her duties of the day. The chapel was
not very large and was already nearly filled. The congregation was
sitting in absolute silence, so that the passing of Maggie and her
aunts up the aisle attracted great attention. All eyes were turned
in their direction and Maggie felt that she herself was an object of
very especial interest.
Aunt Anne walked first and took what was obviously her own regular
seat near the front. Maggie sat between her two aunts. She could not
feel for the moment anything but a startled surprise at the ugliness
of the building. She had entered at different times the Glebeshire
chapels, but their primitive position and need had given them the
spirit of honest sincerity. Here she had expected she did not know
what. Always from those very early days when she had first heard
about her aunts she had had visions of a strange illuminated place
into which God, "riding on a chariot clothed in flames," would one
day come. Even after she had grown up she had still fancied that the
centre of her aunts' strange, fantastic religion must be a strange,
fantastic place. And yet now, as she looked around her, she was not,
to her own surprise, disappointed. She was even satisfied; the
"wonder" was not in the building. Well, then, it must be in
something "inside," something that she had yet to discover. The
chapel had the thrilling quality of a little plain deal box that
carries a jewel.
She examined then the people around her. Women were in a great
majority, a man scattered forlornly amongst them once and again. She
discovered at once the alert eyes of young Mr. Warlock. He was
seated in the side aisle with a thin, severe-looking woman beside
him. He stared straight in front of him, wriggling sometimes his
broad back as though he were a dog tied by a chain. Some one else
very quickly claimed Maggie's attention; this was a girl who, in the
seat behind Mr. Warlock, was as noticeable in that congregation as a
bird-of-paradise amongst a colony of crows. She was wearing a dress
of light blue silk and a large hat of blue with a grey bird in the
front of it.
Her hair, beneath the hat, was bright gold, her cheeks were the
brightest pink and her eyes sparkled in a most lovely and
fascinating manner. She was immensely interesting to Maggie, who had
never, in her life, dreamed of anything so dazzling. She was very
restless and animated and self-conscious. There sat at her side a
stout and solemn woman, who was evidently from a strange, almost
ironical likeness her mother. The young lady seemed to regard both
the place and the occasion as the greatest joke in the world. She
flung her eyes from one to another as though inviting some one to
share her merriment.
Amongst that black-garbed assembly the blue dress shone out as
though it would attract everything to itself. "She's very pretty,"
thought Maggie, who was more conscious of her shabby clothes than
ever. But her chief feeling was of surprise that so brilliant a bird
had been able to penetrate into the chapel at all. "She must be a
stranger just come out of curiosity." Then the girl's eyes suddenly
met Maggie's and held them; the brilliant creature smiled and Maggie
smiled in return. She looked afterwards at Aunt Anne, but Aunt Anne,
buried in her book of devotions, had seen nothing.
Suddenly, after a strange wheeze and muffled scream, the harmonium
began. Every one looked up expectantly; Mr. Warlock, alone, appeared
from a door at the right of the screen and took his place behind the
He stood for a moment facing them before he took his place. He was a
man of great size, old now but holding himself absolutely erect. He
was dressed in a plain black gown with a low, white collar and a
white tie. This long gown added to his height, but the width of the
shoulders and neck, and the carriage of his head showed that he was
a man built on a noble scale. His hair was snow-white and he wore a
beard, that was in startling contrast against his black gown. His
cheeks were of high colour, his eyes blue; he was older than Maggie
had expected and must, she thought, be over seventy. His whole
bearing and behaviour was of a man who had enjoyed great physical
health. His expression was mild and simple, dignified but not proud,
utterly unconscious of self, earnest and determined, lacking in
humour perhaps. There was nothing in the least theatrical about him
and yet he conveyed an impression that was startling and dramatic.
His was a figure that would have been noticed anywhere, if only for
its physical health and shining cleanliness. Maggie felt that to
many people there his entrance was a sensation, sought for and
expected by them. So startling was the impression that he made upon
herself that she wondered that the chapel was not crowded by an
excited throng. She liked him at once, felt that she would be at
ease with him as she had never been with anybody in her life. And
yet behind this there was perhaps some subtle sense of
disappointment. He was not mysterious, he did not seem very clever;
he was only an old man, magnificently preserved. There was no fear
nor wonder in her attitude to him. He could not convince her, she
thought, of things that she herself had not seen.
He knelt and prayed for a moment before his desk, then he rose and,
with his hands resting on the wood before him, said: "Let us offer
thanks to Almighty God that He has kept us in safety and in health
during the past week." They all knelt down. He prayed then, in a
voice that was soft and clear and that hid behind the words a little
roughness of accent that was not unpleasant. His prayer was
extempore, and he addressed God intimately and almost
conversationally. "Thou knowest how we are weak and foolish, our
faults are all known to Thee and our blunders are not hid, therefore
we thank Thee that Thou hast not been impatient with us, but, seeing
that we are but little children in Thy hands, hast deemed the
thunderbolt too heavy for our heads and the lightning too blinding
for our eyes. With humble hearts we thank Thee, and pray that Thou
wilt keep us mindful of Thy coming, that we may be found watching,
with our loins girt and our lamps lit, waiting in prayer for Thy
dreadful day . . ."
During this prayer Maggie was conscious of a strange excitement. She
knelt with her eyes tightly closed, but through the darkness she
felt as though he were addressing her alone. She seemed to approach
him, to feel his hands upon her shoulders, to hear his voice in her
ears. When she rose at the ending of the prayer it was as though she
had definitely passed through some door into a new room. Then,
rising, she was conscious that the laughing eyes of the young lady
in blue were again trying to hold her own. She refused to look--she
coloured, hanging her head so that her eyes should not be caught.
For some time she was unaware of the progress of the service. Then
the clear emphasis of his voice caught again her attention. "Our
lesson for to-day," he said, "is from the Fortieth Chapter of
Isaiah." He proceeded to read:
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her
warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath
received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way
of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be
made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see
it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is
grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
. . .
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God
shall stand for ever.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high
mountain; 0 Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice
with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of
Judah, Behold your God!
Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall
rule for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs
with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead
those that are with young.
How many times had Maggie heard the reading of those words. They
brought instantly back to her her father's voice, the strange
snuffling hurry with which he hastened to the end, his voice
hesitating a little as his wandering eye caught the misbehaviour of
some small boy in the choir.
Now the words were charged with a conviction that was neither forced
nor adopted for dramatic effect. It was as though a herald read some
proclamation for his master who was approaching the gates of the
city. The hymns and prayers that followed seemed to have no
importance. The hymns happened on that day to be familiar ones that
Maggie had always known: "As pants the hart for cooling streams,"
"Just as I am, without one plea" and
"Jerusalem the golden." These were sung, of course, slowly, badly
and sentimentally, the harmonium screaming in amazing discords, and
the deep and untuneful voices of some members of the congregation
drowning the ladies and placing a general discord upon everything.
Especially distressing was Aunt Elizabeth, who evidently loved to
sing hymns but had little idea of melody or rhythm, and was
influenced entirely by a copious sentiment which overflowed into her
eyes and trembled at the tips of her fingers.
All this was as naive and awkward as is always the singing of
English hymns in English churches by English citizens. The chapel,
which had seemed before to be rising to some strange atmosphere of
expectation, slipped back now to its native ugliness and sterility.
The personality was in the man and in the man alone.
Maggie looked about her, at the faces of the women who surrounded
her. They were grey, strained, ugly in the poor light of the
building. The majority of them seemed to be either servant-girls or
women who had passed the adventurous period of life and had passed
it without adventure. When the time for the sermon arrived Mr.
Warlock prayed, his head bowed, during a moment's silence, then
leaning forward on his desk repeated some of the words of his
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a
highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every
mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made
straight, and the rough places plain: . . . say unto the cities of
Judah, Behold your God! . . .
What followed was practical, eloquent, the preaching of a man who
had through the course of a long life addressed men of all kinds and
in all places. But behind the facility and easy flow of his words
Maggie fancied that she detected some urgent insistence that came
from the man's very heart. She was moved by that as though he were
saying to her personally, "Don't heed these outward words of mine.
But listen to me myself. There is something I must tell you. There
is no time to lose. You must believe me. I will compel your belief.
Follow me and I will show what will transform your life." He
concluded his sermon with these words:
"And what of our responsibility? We may compare ourselves, I think,
to men who, banded together on some secret service, wait for the
moment when they are to declare themselves and, by that action,
transform the world. Until that moment comes they must lead their
ordinary daily lives, seem as careless of the future as their
fellows, laugh and eat and work and play as though nothing beyond
the business of the day were their concern. But in their hearts is
the responsibility of their secret knowledge. They cannot be as
other men knowing what they do, they cannot be to one another as
they are to other men with the bond of their common duty shared
between them. Much has been given them, much will be demanded of
them; and when the day comes it will not be the events of that day
that will test them but the private history, known only to
themselves and their Master, of the hours that have preceded that
"I tell you what I have often told you before from this same place,
that beside the history of the spirit the history of the body is
nothing--and that history of the spirit is no easy, tranquil
progress from birth to death, but must rather be, if we are to have
any history at all, a struggle, a wrestling, a contest, bloody,
unceasing, uncertain in its issue from the first hour until the
last. This is no mere warning spoken from the lips only by one who,
from sheer weekly necessity, may seem to you formal and official; it
is as urgent, as deeply from the heart as though it were a summons
from a messenger who has come to you directly from his Master. I beg
of you to consider your responsibility, which is greater than that
of other men. We are brothers bound together by a great expectation,
a great preparation, a great trust. We are in training for a day
when more will be demanded of us than of any other men upon the
earth. That is no light thing. Let us hold ourselves then as souls
upon whom a great charge is laid."
When he had ended and knelt again to pray Maggie felt instantly the
inevitable reaction. The harmonium quavered and rumbled over the
first bars of some hymn which began with the words, "Cry, sinner,
cry before the altar of the Lord," the man with the brown, creaking
boots walked about with a collection plate, an odour of gas-pipes,
badly heated, penetrated the building, the rain lashed the grey
window-panes. Maggie, looking about her, could not see in the pale,
tired faces of the women who surrounded her the ardent souls of a
glorious band. Their belief in the coming of God had, it seemed,
done very little for them. It might be true that the history of the
soul was of more importance than the history of the body, but common
sense had something to say.
Her mind went back inevitably to St. Dreot's church, her father,
Ellen the cook. That was what the history of the spirit had been to
her so far. What reason had she to suppose that this was any more
real than that had been? Nevertheless, when at the end of the sermon
she left the building and went once more into the soaking streets
some sense of expectation was with her, so that she hastened into
her aunt's house as though she would find that some strange event
had occurred in her absence.
Nothing, of course, had occurred.
During the afternoon the rain ceased to fall and a dim, grey light,
born of an intense silence, enveloped the town. About three o'clock
the aunts went out to some religious gathering and Maggie was left
to herself. She discovered in Aunt Elizabeth's bedroom a bound
volume of Good Words, and with this seated herself by the drawing-
room fire. Soon she slept.
She was awakened by a consciousness that some one was in the room
and, sitting up, staring through the gloom, heard a movement near
the door, a rustle, a little jingle, a laugh.
"Is any one there?" said a high, shrill voice.
Maggie got up.
"I'm here," she said.
Some one came forward; it was the girl of the blue dress who had
smiled at Maggie in chapel. She held out her hand--"I hope you don't
think me too awful. My name's Caroline Smith. How do you do?"
They shook hands. Maggie, still bewildered by sleep, said,
stammering," Won't you sit down? I beg your pardon. My aunts--"
"Oh, it isn't the aunts I wanted to see," replied Miss Smith,
laughing so that a number of little bracelets jingled most tunefully
together. "I came to see you. We smiled at one another in chapel. It
was your first time, wasn't it? Didn't you think it all awfully
"Won't you sit down?" said Maggie again, "and I'll ring for the
"Oh! don't ring for the lamp. I like the dusk. And we can make
friends so much better without a lamp. I always say if you want to
know anybody really well, don't have a light."
She seated herself near the fire, arranging her dress very
carefully, patting her hair beneath her hat, poking her shoes out
from beneath her skirts, then withdrawing them again. "Well, what do
you think of it all?"
Maggie stared. She did not know what to say. She had never met any
one in the least like this before.
"I do hope," Miss Smith went on, "that you don't think me forward. I
daresay you do. But I can't bear wasting time. Of course I heard
that you were coming, so then I looked out for you in chapel to-day.
I thought you looked so nice that I said to mother, 'I'll go and see
her this very afternoon.' Of course I've known your aunts for ages.
I'm always in and out here so that it isn't as bad as it seems.
They'll all be back for tea soon and I want to have a talk first."
"Thank you very much," was all that Maggie could think of to say.
"You've come to live here, haven't you?" continued Miss Smith. "I'm
so glad. I think you look so nice. You don't mind my saying that, do
you? I always tell people what I think of them and then one knows
where one is. Now, do tell me--I'm simply dying to know--what do you
think of everything?"
"Well," said Maggie, smiling, "I only arrived here yesterday. It's
rather difficult to say."
"Oh! I know. I saw Mr. Magnus this morning and he told me that he
met you. He said you were ill. You don't look ill."
"It was very silly of me," said Maggie, "I don't know what made me
faint. I've never done such a thing before."
"I used to faint simply heaps of times when I was a kid," said Miss
Smith, "I was always doing it. I had all sorts of doctors. They
thought I'd never grow up. I'm not very strong now really. They say
it's heart, but I always say it can't be that because I've given it
all away." Here Miss Smith laughed immoderately.
"Weren't they the most terrible set of frumps at chapel this
She did not wait for an answer, but went on: "Mr. Warlock's all
right, of course. I think he's such a fine-looking man, don't you?
Of course he's old now, but his beard's rather attractive I think.
He's a duck, but isn't that harmonium ghastly? I can't think why
they don't buy an organ, they're most awfully rich I know, and do
simply nothing with their money."
"Why do you go," said Maggie, "if you think it all so dreadful?"
"Oh! I have to go," said Miss Smith, "to please mother. And one has
to do something on Sunday, and besides one sees one's friends. Did
you notice Martin Warlock, Mr. Warlock's son, you know. He was
sitting quite close to me."
"He was here yesterday afternoon," said Maggie quietly.
"Oh, was he really? Now that is interesting. I wonder what he came
for. He scarcely ever comes here. Did you like him?"
"I didn't speak to him," said Maggie.
"Of course he's only been here a little time. He's Mr. Warlock's
only son. He's lived for years abroad and then the other day his
aunt died and left him some money so he came home. His father simply
adores him. They say--but of course I don't know. Don't quote me--
that he's been most awfully wild. Drink, all sorts of things. But of
course they'll say anything of anybody. I think he's got such an
interesting face, don't you?"
"I don't think," said Maggie, "that you ought to say those things of
any one if you don't know they're true."
"Oh! what a darling you are!" said Miss Smith. "You're perfectly
right--one oughtn't. But every one does. When you've lived up here a
little while you will too. And what does it matter? You're sure to
hear it sooner or later. But that's right. You keep me straight. I
know I talk far too much. I'm always being told about it. But what
can one do? Life's so funny--one must talk about it. You haven't
seen Miss Avies and Mr. Thurston yet, have you?"
"No," said Maggie. "Not unless I saw them in Chapel this morning."
"Ah! they're the ones," said Miss Smith. "No, they weren't there to-
day. They're away on a mission. They make things hum. They quarrel
with Mr. Warlock because they say he isn't noisy enough. Mr.
Thurston's awful and Miss Avies isn't much better. You'll have them
on to you soon enough. But of course I'm not one of the Inside
"Inside Ones?" asked Maggie.
"Yes, the real ones. They'll be at you after a time and ask you if
you'll join them. The congregation this morning was just anybody who
likes to come. But the real brethren have to swear vows and be
baptized and all sorts of things. But that's only if you believe
God's really coming in a year or two. Of course I don't, although
sometimes it makes one quite creepy--all down one's spine. In case,
after all, He really should come, you know."
"Are my aunts inside?" asked Maggie.
"Of course they are. Miss Anne Cardinal's one of the chief of them.
Miss Avies is jealous as anything of her, but your aunt's so quiet
that Miss Avies can't do anything. I just love your aunts. I think
they're sweet. You will be a friend of mine, won't you? I like you
so much. I like your being quiet and telling me when I talk too
much. I sound silly, I know, but it's really mother's fault, as I
always tell her. She never brought me up at all. She likes me to
wear pretty things and doesn't care about anything else. Poor
mother! She's had such a time with father; he's one of the most
serious of all the Brethren and never has time to think about any of
us. Then he's in a bank all the week, where he can't think about God
much because he makes mistakes about figures if he does, so he has
to put it all into Sunday. We will be friends, won't we?"
It came to Maggie with a strange ironic little pang that this was
the first time that any one had asked for her friendship.
"Of course," she said.
Miss Smith's further confidences were interrupted by the aunts and
behind them, to Maggie's great surprise, Mr. Warlock and his son.
The sudden descent of these gentlemen upon the still lingering
echoes of Miss Caroline Smith's critical and explanatory remarks
embarrassed Maggie. Not so Miss Smith. She kissed both the aunts
with an emphasis that they apparently appreciated for they smiled
and Aunt Anne laid her hand affectionately upon the girl's sleeve.
Maggie, watching, felt the strangest little pang of jealousy. That
was the way that she should have behaved, been warm and
demonstrative from the beginning--but she could not.
Even now she stood back in the shadows of the room, watching them
all with large grave eyes, hoping that they would not notice her.
With Mr. Warlock and his son also Miss Smith seemed perfectly at
home, chattering, laughing up into young Warlock's eyes, as though
there were some especial understanding between them. Maggie,
nevertheless, fancied that he, young Warlock, was not listening to
her. His eyes wandered. He had that same restlessness of body that
she had before noticed in him, swinging a little on his legs set
apart, his hands clasped behind his thick broad back. He had some
compelling interest for her. He had had that, she now realised,
since the first moment that she had seen him. It might be that the
things that that girl had told her about him increased her interest
and, perhaps her sympathy? But it was his strange detached air of
observation that held her--as though he were a being from some other
planet watching them all, liking them, but bearing no kind of
relation to them except that of a cheerful observer--it was this
that attracted her. She liked his thick, rough untidy hair, the
healthy red brown of his cheeks, his light blue eyes, his air of
vigour and bodily health.
As she waited she was startled into consciousness by a voice in her
ear. She turned to find the elder Mr. Warlock beside her.
"You will forgive my speaking to you, Miss Cardinal. I saw you at
our Chapel this morning."
His great height towered above her short clumsy figure; he seemed to
peer down at her from above his snowy beard as though he were the
inhabitant of some other world. His voice was of an extreme
kindliness and his eyes, when she looked up at him, shone with
friendliness. She found herself, to her own surprise, talking to him
with great ease. He was perfectly simple, human and unaffected. He
asked her about her country.
"I spend my days in longing to get back to my own place--and perhaps
I shall never see it again. I was born in Wiltshire--Salisbury
Plain. My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father, they all
were ministers of our Chapel there before me. They had no thought in
their day of London. I have always missed that space, the quiet. I
shall always miss it. Towns are not friendly to me."
She told him about St. Dreots, a little about her father.
"Ah, you're lucky!" he said. "You'll return many times before you
die--and you'll find no change there. Those places do not change as
They were standing apart from the others near the window. He
suddenly put his hand on her arm, smiling at her.
"My dear," he said. "You don't mind me saying 'My dear,' but an old
man has his privileges--will you come and see us whenever you care
to? My wife will be so glad. I know that at first one can be lonely
in this great place. Just come in when you please."
He took her hand for a moment and then turned back to Aunt Anne, who
was now pouring out tea at a little table by the fire.
Martin Warlock, as his father moved away, came across to her, She
had known that he would do that as though something had been
arranged between them. When he came to her, however, he stood there
before her and had nothing to say. She also had nothing to say. His
eyes searched her face, then he broke out abruptly.
"Are you better?"
"I'm all right," she answered him brusquely. "Please don't say
anything about yesterday. It was an idiotic thing to do."
"That's what I came about to-day--to see how you were," he answered
her, his eyes laughing at her. "I should never have dreamed of
coming otherwise, you know. I saw you in chapel this morning so I
guessed you were all right, but it seemed such bad luck fainting
right off the minute you got here."
"I've never fainted in my life before," she answered.
"No, you don't look the sort of girl who'd faint. But I suppose
you've had a rotten time with your father and all."
His eyes still searched for hers. She determined that she would not
look at him; her heart was beating strangely and, although she did
not look, she could in some sub-conscious way see the rough toss of
his hair against his forehead; she could smell the stuff of his
coat. But she would not look up.
"You're going to live here, aren't you?"
"Yes," she said.
"I've only just come back," he went on.
"I know," she said.
"Oh! of course; that girl," jerking his head in the direction of the
tea-table and laughing. "She told you. She's been here this
afternoon, hasn't she? She chatters like anything. Don't you believe
half she says."
There was another pause. The voices at the tea-table seemed to come
from very far away.
Then he said roughly, moving a very little nearer to her:
"I'm glad you've come."
At that she raised her eyes, her cheeks flushed. She looked him full
in the face, her head up. Her heart thundered in her breast. She
felt as though she were at the beginning of some tremendous
adventure--an adventure enthralling, magnificent--and perilous.
THE CHARIOT OF FIRE
There is beyond question, in human nature, such a thing as an
inherited consciousness of God, and this consciousness, if inherited
through many generations, may defy apparent reason, all progress of
vaunted civilisations, and even, it may be suggested, the actual
challenge of death itself.
This consciousness of God had been quite simply the foundation of
Mr. Warlock's history. In the middle of the eighteenth century it
expressed itself in the formula of John Wesley's revival; the John
Wesley of that day preached up and down the length and breadth of
Westmoreland, Cumberland, Northumberland, Durham, and being a
fighter, a preacher and a simple-minded human being at one and the
same time, received a large following and died full of years and
It was somewhere about 1830 that this John's grandson, James
Warlock, Martin's grandfather, broke from the main body and led his
little flock on to the wide spaces of Salisbury Plain. James
Warlock, unlike his father and grandfather, was a little sickly man
with a narrow chest, no limbs to speak of and a sharp pale face.
Martin had a faded daguerreotype of him set against the background
of the old Wiltshire kitchen, his black clothes hung upon him like a
disguise, his eyes burning even upon that faded picture with the
fire of his spirit. For James Warlock was a mystic, a visionary, a
prophet. He walked and talked with God; in no jesting spirit it was
said that he knew God's plans and could turn the world into a
blazing coal so soon as he pleased. It was because he knew with
certainty that God would, in person, soon, descend upon the earth
that he separated from the main body and led his little band down
into Wiltshire. Here on the broad gleaming Plain they prepared for
God's coming. Named now the Kingscote Brethren after their new
abode, they built a Chapel, sat down and waited. Then in 1840 the
prophet declared that the Coming was not yet, that it would be in
the next generation, but that their preparations must not be
relaxed. He himself prepared by taking to himself a wife, a calm
untroubled countrywoman of the place, that she might give him a son
whom he might prepare, in due course, for his great destiny. John,
father of Martin, was born, a large-limbed, smiling infant, with the
tranquillity of his mother as well as something of the mysticism of
Upon him, as upon his ancestors, this consciousness of God had most
absolutely descended. Never for a moment did he question the facts
that his father told to him. He grew into a giant of health and
strength, and those who, in those old days, saw them tell that it
was a strange picture to watch the little wizened man, walking with
odd emotional gestures, with little hops and leaps and swinging of
the arms beside the firm long stride of the young man towering above
When young John was twenty-three years of age his father was found
dead under a tree upon a summer's evening. His expression was of a
man challenging some new and startling discovery; he had found
perhaps new visions to confront his gaze. They buried him in
Kingscote and his son reigned in his stead.
But they were approaching new and modern times. These old days, of
simple faith and superstition were passing never to return. There
were new elements in the Kingscote company of souls and these
elements demanded freer play both of thought and action. They argued
that, as to them alone out of all the world the time and manner of
God's coming was known, they should influence with their activities
some wider sphere than this Wiltshire village.
John Warlock clung with all his strength to the old world that he
knew, the world that gave him leisure and quiet for contemplation.
He had no wish to bring in converts, to stir England into a frenzy
of terror and anticipation. God gave him no command to spread his
beliefs; even his father, fanatic though he had been, had cherished
his own small company of saints as souls to whom these things,
hidden deliberately from the outside world, had especially been
So long as he could he resisted; then when he was about forty,
somewhere around 1880, the Kingscote Brethren moved to London. In
this year, 1907, John Warlock was sixty-seven and the Kingscote
Brethren had had their Chapel in Solomon's Place, behind Garrick
Street, for twenty-seven years. In 1880 John Warlock had married
Amelia, daughter of Francis Stephens, merchant. In 1881 a daughter,
Amy, was born to them; in 1883, Martin; they had no other children.
Martin was at the time of Maggie's arrival in London twenty-four
years of age.
Upon a certain fine evening, a fortnight after Martin Warlock's
first meeting with Maggie, he arrived at the door of his house in
Garrick Street, and having forgotten his latch-key, was compelled to
ring the old screaming bell that had long survived its respectable
reputable days. The Warlocks had lived during the last ten years in
an upper part above a curiosity shop four doors from the Garrick
Club in Garrick Street. There was a house-door that abutted on to
the shop-door and, passing through it, you stumbled along a little
dark passage like a rabbit warren, up some crooked stairs, and found
yourself in the Warlock country without ever troubling Mr. Spencer,
the stout, hearty, but inartistic owner of the curiosity shop.
On the present occasion, after pulling the bell, Martin stared down
the street as though somewhere in the dim golden light of its
farthest recesses he would find an answer to a question that he was
asking. The broad sturdy strength of his body, the easy good-temper
of his expression spoke of a life lived physically rather than
mentally. And yet this was only half true. Martin Warlock should at
this time have been a quite normal young man with normal desires,
normal passions, normal instincts. Such he would undoubtedly have
been had he not had his early environment of egotism, mystery and
clap-trap--had he, also, not developed through his childhood and
youth his passionate devotion to his father. The religious
ceremonies of his young days had made him self-conscious and
introspective and, although during his years abroad he had felt on
many occasions that he was completely freed from his early bondage,
scenes, thoughts and longings would recur and remind him that he was
celebrating his liberty too soon. The licences that to most men in
their first youth are incidental and easily forgotten engraved
themselves upon Martin's reluctant soul because of that religious
sense that had been driven in upon him at the very hour of his
birth. He could not sin and forget. He sinned and was remorseful,
was impatient at his remorse, sinned again to rid himself of it and
was more remorseful still. The main impulse of his life at this time
was his self-distrust. He fancied that by returning home he might
regain confidence. He longed to rid himself of the conviction that
he was "set aside" by some fate or other, call it God or not as you
please. He thought that he hurt all those whom he loved when his
only longing was to do them good. He used suddenly to leave his
friends because he thought that he was doing them harm. It was as
though he heard some Power saying to him: "I marked you out for my
own in the beginning and you can't escape me. You may struggle as
you like. Until you surrender everything shall turn to dust in your
hands." He came back to England determined to assert his
He gazed now at the placidity of Garrick Street with the intensity
of some challenging "Stand and Deliver!" All that the street had to
give for the moment was a bishop and an actor mounting the steps of
the Garrick Club, an old lady with a black bonnet and a milk-jug, a
young man in a hurry and a failure selling bootlaces. None of them
could be expected to offer reassurance to Martin--none of these
noticed him--but an intelligent observer, had such a stranger to
Garrick Street been present, might have found that gaze of interest.
Martin's physical solidity could not entirely veil the worried
uncertain glance that flashed for a moment and then, with a little
reassuring sigh, was gone.
The door opened, a girl looked for a moment into the street, he
passed inside. Having stumbled up the dark stairs, pushed back their
private entrance, hung up his coat in the little hall, with a
deliberate effort he shook off the suspicions that had, during the
last moments, troubled him and prepared to meet his mother and
Because he had a happy, easy and affectionate temperament absence
always gilded his friends with gifts and qualities that their
presence only too often denied. His years abroad had given him a
picture of his mother and sister that the few weeks of his return
had already dimmed and obscured. His mother's weekly letters had,
during ten long years, built up an image of her as the dearest old
lady in the world. He had always, since a child, seen her in a
detached way--his deep and permanent relations had been with his
father--but those letters, of which he had now a deep and carefully
cherished pile, gave him a most charming picture of her. They had
not been clever nor deep nor indeed very interesting, but they had
been affectionate and tender with all the gentleness of the figure
that he remembered sitting in its lace cap beside the fire.
After three weeks of home life he was compelled to confess that he
did not in the least understand his mother. His intuitions about
people were not in fact of a very penetrating character.
His mother appeared to all her world as a "sweet old lady," but even
Martin could already perceive that was not in the least what she
really was. He had seen her old hands tremble with suppressed temper
on the very day after his arrival; he had seen her old lips white
with anger because the maid had brought her the wrong shawl. Old
ladies must of course have their fancies, but his mother had some
fixed and fierce purpose in her life that was quite beyond his
powers of penetration. It might of course have something to do with
her attachment to his father. Attached Martin could see that she
was, but at the same time completely and eternally outside her
husband's spiritual life. That might have been perhaps in the first
place by her own desire--she did not want "to be bothered with all
that nonsense." But certainly all these years with him had worked
upon her: she was not perhaps so sure now that it was all
"nonsense." She wanted, it might be, a closer alliance with him,
which she could not have because she had once rejected the chance of
it. Martin did not know; he was aware that there was a great deal
going on in the house that he did not fathom. Amy, his sister, knew.
There was an alliance between his mother and his sister deep and
strong, as he could see--he did not yet know that it was founded
very largely on dislike and fear of himself.
How fantastic these theories of fire and passion must seem, he
amused himself by considering, to any one who knew his mother only
from the outside. She was sitting to-day as always in her little
pink and white chintz drawing-room, a bright fire burning and a
canary singing in a cage beside the window. The rest of the house
was ugly and strangely uninhabited as though the Warlocks had merely
pitched their tents for a night and were moving forward to-morrow,
but this little room, close, smelling of musk and sweet biscuits (a
silver box with lemon-shaped biscuits in it stood on a little table
near the old lady), with its pretty pink curtains, its canary, and
its heavy and softly closing door, was like a place enclosed,
dedicated to the world, and ruled by a remorseless spirit of
Mrs. Warlock was only sixty years of age, but she had, a number of
years ago, declared herself an invalid, and now never, unless she
drove on a very fine afternoon, left the house. Whether she were
truly an invalid nobody knew; she presented certainly a most healthy
appearance with her shell-pink cheeks, her snow-white hair, her firm
bosom rising and falling with such gentle regularity beneath the
tight and shining black silk that covered it, her clear bright eyes
like shining glass. She always sat in a deep arm-chair covered with
the chintz of the curtains and filled with plump pillows of pink
silk. A white filmy shawl was spread over her knees, at her throat
was a little bright coquettish blue bow that added, amazingly, to
the innocent charm of her old age. On her white hair, crinkled and
arranged as though it were some ornament, not quite a wig but still
apart from the rest of her body, she wore a lace cap. She was fond
of knitting; she made warm woollen comforters and underclothing for
the children of the poor. She was immensely fond of conversation,
being of an inquisitive nature. But above all was she fond of
eating. This covetousness of food had grown on her as her years had
increased. The thought of foods of various kinds filled many hours
of her day, and the desire for pleasant things to eat was the motive
of many of her most deliberate actions. She cherished warmly and
secretly this little lust of hers. None of the family was aware of
the grip that the desire had upon her nor of the speed with which
the desire was growing. She did not ask directly for the things that
she liked, but manoeuvred with little plots and intrigues to obtain
them. The cook in the Warlock household had neither art nor science
at her disposal, but as it happened old Mrs. Warlock lusted after
very simple things. She loved rice-pudding; her heart beat fast in
her breast when she thought of the brown crinkly skin of the rich
warm milk of a true rice-pudding; also she loved hot buttered toast,
very buttery so that it soaked your fingers; also beef-steak pudding
with gravy rich and dark and its white covering thick and heavy; she
also loved hot and sweet tea and the little cakes that Amy sometimes
bought, red and yellow and pink, held in white paper--also plum-
pudding, which, alas! only came at Christmastime and wedding-cake,
which scarcely ever came at all.
This vice, of which she was almost triumphantly conscious as though
it were a proof of her enduring vitality, she clutched eagerly to
herself. She did not wish that any human being should perceive it.
Of her husband she was not afraid--it would never possibly occur to
him that food was of importance to any one; Amy might discover what
she pleased, she was in strong alliance with her mother and would
never betray her.
Her fear was of Martin. She feared very deeply his influence upon
her husband. During Martin's absence she and Amy had managed very
successfully to have the house as they wished it; John Warlock, the
master, had been too deeply occupied with the affairs of the soul to
be concerned also with the affairs of the body.
She had, she believed, exercised an increasing influence over him.
She had always loved him with a fierce and selfish love, but now,
when he was nearly seventy, and to both of them only a few years of
earthly ambition could remain, she desired, with all the urgent
ferocity of a human being through whose fingers the last sands of
his opportunity are slipping, to seize and hold and have him
entirely hers. He had always eluded her; although he had once
certainly loved her with, at any rate, a semblance of earthly
passion, his spiritual life had always come between them, holding
him from her, helping him to escape when he pleased, tantalising,
sometimes maddening too. She was certainly now not so ready to
dismiss that spiritual life as once she had been. She was herself an
old heathen; for herself she believed in nothing but her earthly
appetites and desires, but for him and for others there might be
something in it, . . . and perhaps some day some dreadful thing
would occur . . . a chariot of Fire descend upon the Chapel and some
sort of a fierce and hostile God deliver judgment; she only hoped
that she would be dead before then.
Meanwhile she and Amy had, undoubtedly, during these last years,
increased their influence over him. He was not aware of it, but as
he was growing now older and weaker--he had had trouble with his
heart--he inevitably depended more upon them. The old lady began to
count upon her triumph. Then came Martin's return.
She had forgotten Martin. It is true that she had written to him
every week during his long absence, but her letters had been all
part of the "dear old lady" habit which was put on by her just as an
actress prepares herself, nightly, for a character in which she
knows she is the greatest possible success. "Thank you very much,
Mrs. Smith . . . No, we've not heard from Martin now for three
weeks. Careless boy! I always write myself every week so that he may
have at any rate one little word from home . . ."
She had never felt that she had any real share in his life; he had
always belonged to his father; nor was she a woman who cared about
children. Martin had long ago become to her simply an opportunity
for further decoration. Since his return it had been quite another
affair. In one moment she had seen her power over her husband
shrivel and disappear. Martin was home again. Martin must be here,
Martin must be there; Martin must see this, Martin must do this. She
had seen before in earlier days the force of her husband's passion
when it was roused. There was something now in his reception of
their son that terrified her. She had at once perceived that Amy was
as deeply moved as she. The girl, plain, awkward, silent, morose,
had always adored her father, but she had never known how to
approach him. She was not clever, she had not been able to enter
into his life although she would have done anything that he desired
of her. What she had suffered during those early years when, as a
little ugly girl, she had watched her brother, accepted, received
into the Brotherhood, praised for his wisdom, his intimacy with God,
his marvellous saintly promise, praised for these things when she
had known all his weaknesses, how he had slipped away to a music-
hall when he was only fourteen and smoked and drank there, how he
had laughed at Mr. Thurston's dropping of his "h's" or at Miss
Avies' prayer meetings! No one ever knew what in those years she had
thought of her brother. Then, after Martin had flung it all away and
escaped abroad, she had begun, slowly, painfully, but with dogged
persistence, to make herself indispensable to her father; Martin she
had put out of her mind. He would never return, or, at least, the
interval of his departure should have been severe enough to separate
him for ever from his father . . .
In a moment's glance, in a clasp of the hand, in a flash of the eye,
she had seen that love leap up in her father's heart as strong as
ever it had been. Every day of Martin's residence in the house had
added fire to that love. She was a good woman; she struggled hard to
beat down her jealousy. She prayed. She lay for hours at night
struggling with her sins. If Martin had been worthy, if he had shown
love in return, but, from the bottom of her soul, as the days
increased she despised him--despised him for his light heart, his
care of worldly things, his utter lack of comprehension of their
father, his scorn, even now but badly concealed, of all the
sanctities that she had in reverence.
Therefore she drew near to her mother and the two of them watched
and waited . . .
His mother was knitting. She lifted to him her pink wrinkled face
and, her spectacles balanced on the end of her nose, smiled the
smile of the dearest old lady in the world.
"Well, dear, and have you had a pleasant day?"
"All right, mother, thank you. Funny thing; met a man in the street,
hadn't seen for five years. Saw him last in Rio--Funny thing. Well,
we lunched together. Not a bad fellow--Seen a thing or two, he has."
Mrs. Warlock counted her stitches. "Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen . . .
How nice for you, dear. What was his name?"
"Thompson . . . I say," Martin suddenly raised his head as though he
heard something, "where's Amy?"
"Changing. She's been paying a call on the Miss Cardinals. Thought
it would be polite because of the new niece.--Six, seven, eight and
nine . . ."
"What did she think of her?"
"Of whom, dear?"
"Of the niece."
"Oh, I don't think she liked her very much. She said that she was
plain and silent--and looked cross, Amy thought."
"Oh yes, Amy would." His face, as was his way when he was vexed,
flushed very slowly, the deeper red rising through the red-brown
until, ceasing in the middle of his forehead, it left a white line
beneath his hair. "She isn't cross a bit."
"I don't know, dear. It isn't my opinion. I only tell you what Amy
said. People here don't seem to like her. Mrs. Smith was telling me
yesterday that she's so difficult to talk to and seems to know
nothing about anything, poor girl."
"Mrs. Smith!" He swung his body on his hips indignantly. "A lot she
knows about anything! I hate that woman and her chattering
"Well, dear, I don't know, I'm sure; Mrs. Smith always seems to me
He looked at her as though he had suddenly remembered something.
"I say--is it true what Amy says, that I woke you up this morning
when I went out by banging my door?"
"I'm sure you didn't.--Amy shouldn't say such things. And if you did
what does it matter? I sleep so badly that half an hour more or less
makes very little difference."
"Well, she says so--" He went on, dropping his voice: "I say,
mother, what's the matter with Amy? Why's she so sick with me? I
haven't done anything to offend her, have I?"
"Of course not. What a silly boy you are, Martin! Nine, ten, eleven
. . . There! that's enough for this evening. I'll finish it in
another day. You mustn't mind Amy, Martin. She isn't always very
The door opened and Amy came in. She was a tall gaunt woman who
looked a great deal older than her brother. She did not make the
best of herself, brushing her thin black hair straight back from her
bony forehead. She had a habit of half closing her eyes when she
peered at some one as though she could not see. She should, long
ago, have worn spectacles, but from some strange half-conscious
vanity had always refused to do so. Every year her sight grew worse.
She was wearing now a dress of black silk, very badly made, cut to
display her long skinny neck and bony shoulders. She wore her
clothes as though she struggled between a disdain for such vanities
and a desire to appear attractive. Her manner of twisting her
eyelids and wrinkling her nose gave her a peevish expression, but,
behind that, there was a hint of pathos, a half-seen glimpse of a
soul that desired friendship and affection. She was very tall and
there was something masculine in the long angularity of her limbs.
She offered a strange contrast to the broad and ruddy Martin. There
was, however, something in the eyes of each--some sudden surprised
almost visionary flash that came and went that showed them to be the
children of the same father. To Mrs. Warlock they bore no
resemblance whatever. Amy stopped when she saw her brother as though
she had not expected him to be there.
"Well, Martin," she said--then came forward and sat in a chair
opposite her mother.
"Mr. Thurston's coming to suppar," she said.
Martin frowned. "Oh, hang it, what for?" he cried.
"He's taking me to Miss Aries' Bible meeting," Amy answered coldly.
"What a baby you are about people, Martin. I should have thought all
your living abroad so much would have made you understanding. But
you're like the rest. You must have every one cut to the same
Martin looked up for a moment as though he would answer angrily;
then he controlled himself and said, laughing: "I suppose I have my
prejudices like every one else. I daresay Thurston's a very good
sort of fellow, but we don't like one another, and there's an end of
it, Everybody can't like everybody, Amy--why, even you don't like
"No, I don't," she answered shortly.
She looked for an instant at her mother. Martin caught the glance
that passed between them, and suddenly the discomfort of which he
had been aware as he stood, half an hour before, in the street,
returned to him with redoubled force. What was the matter with
everybody? What had he done?
"Well, I'll go and change," he said.
"Dinner will be ready in ten minutes, dear," said his mother.
"I'll be in time all right," he said.
At the door he almost ran into Mr. Thurston. This gentleman had been
described, on some earlier occasion, by an unfriendly observer as
"the Suburban Savonarola." He was tall and extremely thin with a
bony pointed face that was in some lights grey and in others white.
He had the excited staring eyes of a fanatic, and his hair now very
scanty, was plastered over his head in black shining streaks. He
wore a rather faded black suit, a white low collar and a white bow
tie. He had a habit, at moments of stress, of cracking his fingers.
He had a very pronounced cockney accent when he was excited, at
other times he struggled against this with some success.
He passed from brooding silences into sudden bursts of declamation
with such abruptness that strangers thought him very eloquent. When
he was excited the colour ran into his nose as though he had been
drinking, and often his ears were red. His history was simple. The
son of a small draper in Streatham, he had at an early age joined
himself to an American Revivalist called Harper. When after some six
years of successful enterprise Mr. Harper had been imprisoned for
forgery, young William Thurston had attached himself to a Christian
Science Chapel in Hoxton. Then, somewhere about 1897, he had met
Miss Avies at a Revivalist Meeting in the Albert Hall and,
fascinated by her ardent spirit, transferred his services to the
He had now risen to a position of great importance in the Chapel; it
was known that he disagreed profoundly with his leader on some vital
questions, and it was thought that he might at a later date
definitely secede and conduct a party of his own.
Certainly he had exceptional energies and gifts of exhortation and
invective not to be despised. Martin politely wished him "Good
evening" and escaped to his room.
As he changed his clothes he tried to translate into definite facts
his vague discomfort. One, he hated that swine Thurston. Two, Amy
was vexed with him (What strange impossible creatures women were!).
Third--and by far the most important of them all--his father wanted
to talk to him. He knew very well that this talk had been preparing
for him ever since his return from abroad. He dreaded it. Oh! he
dreaded it most horribly!
He loved his father but with a love that had in it elements of fear,
timidity, every possible sort of awkwardness. Moreover he was
helpless. Ever since that first day when as a tiny child of four or
five he had awakened to behold that figure, enormous in a long
night-shirt, summoning God in the middle of the night with a candle
flickering fantastic shadows on to the wall behind them, Martin had
been weak as putty in his father's hands. Against other men he could
stand up; against that strange company of fears, affections,
superstitions, shadowy terrors, dim expectations that his father
presented to him he could do nothing.
Well--that conversation had to come some time. He must show that he
was a man now, moulded by the world with his own beliefs, purposes,
resolves. But if he did not love him, how much easier it would be!
When he went downstairs he found the old man in the little pink
drawing-room--he looked tired and worn. Martin remembered with alarm
the things that he had heard recently about his father's heart. He
glanced up and the older man's hand fastened on his shoulder; they
stood there side by side. After a few minutes they all went in to
Mr. Thurston's nose was flushed with the success of the mission from
which he had just returned. He had been one of a number whose aim it
had been during the preceding week to bring light and happiness into
the lives of the inhabitants of Putney. They had been obviously
appreciated, as the collection for the week had amounted to between
seventy and eighty pounds. A proper share of this fine result Mr.
Thurston naturally appropriated to his own efforts. His long
tapering fingers were not so clean as they might have been, but this
did not prevent him from waving them in the air and pointing them at
imaginary Putney citizens whom he evoked in support of his
"We 'ad a reelly thumpin' meeting on Thursday--Town Hall--One for
the women in the small 'all hand one for the men in the Main Hall.
Almost no opposition you might say, and when it came to the Hymn
singing it fairly took the roof off. A lot of 'em stopped
afterwards--one lad of eighteen or so is coming over to us 'ere.
Butcher's apprentice. Says 'e's felt the Lord pressing him a long
way back but the flesh held him. Might work him up into a very
useful lad with the Lord's help. Thank you, Mrs. Warlock, I will try
a bit more of that cold beef if you don't mind. Pretty place,
Putney. Ever been there, Mr. Warlock? Ah, you should go--"
Amy Warlock listened with the greatest interest; otherwise, it must
be confessed, Mr. Thurston's audience was somewhat inattentive. Mr.
Warlock's mind was obviously elsewhere; he passed his hand through
his beard, his eyes staring at the table-cloth. Mr. Thurston,
noticing this, tried another topic.
"What 'ave you heard, Mrs. Warlock, about the new Miss Cardinal? I
'aven't seen her yet myself."
Mrs. Warlock, who had just given herself a little piece of beef,
some potato and some spinach, and was arranging these delicacies
with the greatest care upon her plate, just smiled without raising
her eyes. Amy answered--
"I've seen her. I was there this afternoon. I can't say that I found
her very interesting. Plain-ugly in fact. She never opened her mouth
all the afternoon. Caroline Smith tells me that she knows nothing at
all, seen nothing, been nowhere. Bad-tempered I should think."
"Dear, dear," said Mr. Thurston with a gratified sigh, "is it so
Martin looked across at his sister indignantly. "Trust one woman
about another," he said. "Just because she doesn't chatter like a
magpie you concluded she's got nothing to say. It's even conceivable
that she found you dull, Amy."
Amy looked at him with a strange penetrating glance that in some
undefined way increased his irritation. "It's quite possible," she
said quietly. "But I don't think even you, Martin, can call her
handsome. As to her intelligence, she never gave me a chance of
"I've been there several times," said Martin hotly. "I like her
immensely." He felt as soon as he had spoken that it had been a
foolish thing to say. He saw Mr. Thurston smile. In the pause that
followed he felt as though he had with a gesture of the hand flung a
stone into a pool of chatter and scandal whose ripples might spread
far beyond his control. At that moment he hated his sister.
"I didn't know you knew her so well, dear," said his mother.
"I don't know her," he said, "I've only seen her three times. But
she ought to be given her chance. It can't be much fun for her
coming here where she knows no one--after her father suddenly dying.
I believe she was all alone with him."
He had expected his father to defend her. He remembered that he had
apparently liked her. But his father said nothing. There was an
awkward and uncomfortable pause. After supper Mr. Thurston rubbed
his hands, helped Amy Warlock into her cloak, said to the company in
"Good night. Should be a very full meeting to-night . . . Well, well
. . . Thank you for your kindness, Mrs. Warlock, I'm sure."
The door was closed, Mrs. Warlock retired into her bedroom; the
house was left to Martin and his father.
Mr. Warlock's room was hideous. It opened, somewhat ironically, out
of Mrs. Warlock's pink drawing-room. A huge and exceedingly ugly
American roll-top desk took up much of the room. There were
bookshelves into which books had been piled. Commentaries on the
Bible, volumes of sermons, pamphlets, tattered copies of old
religious magazines. A bare carpet displayed holes and rents. The
fireplace was grim with dirty pieces of paper and untidy shavings.
In the midst of this disorder there hung over the mantelpiece,
against the faded grey wall-paper, a fine copy of Raphael's
"Transfiguration." Mr. Warlock lighted a candle and the flame
flickered with changing colours upon the picture's surface. It had
been given to John Warlock many years before by an old lady who
heard him preach and had been, for a week, converted, but on his
demand that she should give her wealth to the poor and fling aside
her passion for Musical Comedy, left him with indignation. The
picture had remained; it hung there now crooked on its cord.
John Warlock was unconscious of the dust and disorder that
surrounded him. His own passion for personal cleanliness sprang from
the early days with his father, to whom bodily cleanliness had been
part of a fanatical mysticism. Partly also by reason of that early
training, sloth, drunkenness, immorality, had no power over him. And
of the whole actual world that surrounded him he was very little
conscious except that he hated towns and longed always for air and
So that the windows were open one room was to him as another.
He had often, during his work with the members of his community,
been conscious of his ignorance of the impulses and powers that went
up to make the ordinary sensual physical life of the normal man. His
own troubles, trials, failures were so utterly of another kind that
in this other world his imagination refused to aid him. This had
often deeply distressed him and made him timid and shy in his
dealings with men and women. It was this, more than anything else,
that held him back from the ambition to proselytise. How could he go
forth and challenge men's souls when he could not understand nor
feel their difficulties? More and more as his years advanced had he
retired into himself, into his own mystical world of communion with
a God who drew ever nearer and nearer to him. He humbled himself
before men; he did not believe himself better than they because he
had not yielded to their temptations; but he could not help them;
his tongue was tied; he was a man cut off from his fellows and he
He had never felt so impatient of his impotence as he did to-night.
For ten years he had been waiting for this interview with his son,
and now that it was come he was timid and afraid as though he had
been opposed by a stranger. He had always known that Martin would
return. It had been his one worldly ambition and prayer to have him
at his side again. When he had thought and dreamt of the time that
was coming, he had thought that it would be simple enough to win the
boy back to the old allegiance and faith to which he had once been
bound. Meanwhile the boy had grown into a man; here was a new Martin
deep in experiences, desires, ambitions of which his father could
have no perception. Even in the moment that he was aware of the
possibility of losing his son he was aware also of the deep almost
fanatical resolve to keep him, to hold him at all costs.
This was to be the test of his whole earthly life. He seemed, as he
sat there, looking across at his boy, to challenge God Himself to
take him from him. It was as though he said:
"This reward at least I have a right to ask. I demand it . . ."
Martin, on his side, was conscious of a profound discomfort. He had,
increasingly as the years had passed, wished to take life easily and
pleasantly. Suddenly now another world rose up before him. Yes,
another world. He was not fool enough to dismiss it simply because
it did not resemble his own. Moreover it had been once his, and this
was increasingly borne in upon him. But it all seemed to him now
incredibly old, childish and even fantastic, as though here, in the
middle of London, he had suddenly stepped into a little wood with a
witch, a cottage and a boiling cauldron. Such things could not
frighten, of course--he was no longer a child--and yet because he
had once been frightened some impression of alarm and dismay hovered
During all his normal years abroad he had forgotten the power of
superstition, of dreams and omens; he knew now, as he faced his
father, that the power was real enough.
They talked for a little while of ordinary things; the candle flame
jumped and fell, the shavings rustled strangely in the fireplace,
the "Transfiguration" swung a little on its cord, the colour still
lingering at its heart as the rest of the room moved restlessly
under the ebb and flow of black shadows. Then the candle suddenly
"A lamp will be better," said Mr. Warlock.
He left the room and Martin sat there, in the darkness, haunted by
he knew not what anticipations. The light was brought, they drew
closer together, sitting in the little glossy pool, the room pitch
dark around them.
"Well, Martin," at last Mr. Warlock said, "I want to hear so many
things. Our first time together alone."
"There isn't very much," Martin tried to speak naturally and
carelessly. "I wrote about most things in my letters. Pretty rotten
letters I'm afraid." He laughed.
"And now--what do you intend to do now?"
"Oh, I don't know--Look around for a bit."
There was another long pause. Then Mr. Warlock began again. "When I
ask about your life, my boy, I don't mean where you've lived, how
you've earned your living--I do know all that--you've been very good
about writing. But your real life, what you've been thinking about
things, how you feel about everything . . ."
"Well, father--I don't know. One hadn't much time for thinking, you
know. No one did much thinking in Rio. When I was in the Bermudas
there was a fellow . . ."
"Yes, but tell me about yourself."
Then, with a desperate effort, he broke out:
"Father, you'll be badly disappointed in me. I've been feeling it
coming all the time. I can't help it. I'm just like any one else. I
want to have a good time. One's only young once. I'm awfully sorry.
I want to please you in any way I can, but--but--it's all gone--all
that early part. It's simply one's childhood that's finished with."
"And it can't come back ?" his father said quietly.
"Never!" Martin's voice was almost a cry as though he were defying
"We are very weak against God's will," his father said, still
quietly as though it were not he that was speaking but some voice in
the shadow behind him. "You are not your own master, Martin."
"I am my own master," Martin answered passionately. "I have been my
own master for ten years. I've not done anything very fine with my
life, I know. I'm just like any one else--but I've found my feet. I
can look after myself against anybody and I'm independent--of every
one and of everything."
His father drew a little closer to him.
"Of course," he said, "I was not so foolish as to expect that you
would come back to us just as you left us. I know that you must have
your own life--and be free--so much as any of us are free at
all . . ." Then after a little pause. "What are your plans? What are
you going to do?"
"Well," answered Martin, hesitating, "I haven't exactly settled, you
know. I might take a small share in some business, go into the City.
Then at other times I feel I shouldn't like being cooped up in a
town after the life I've led. Sometimes, this last month, I've felt
I couldn't breathe. It was though, are you, all the chimneys were
going to tumble in. When you're out on a field you know where you
are, don't you? So I've thought it would be nice to have a little
farm somewhere in the South, Devonshire or Glebeshire . . . And then
I'd marry of course, a girl who'd like that kind of life and
wouldn't find it dull. There'd be plenty of work--a healthy life for
children right away from these towns . . . That's my sort of idea,
father, but of course one doesn't know . . ."
Martin trailed off into inconsequent words. It was as though his
father were waiting for him to commit himself and would then
suddenly leap upon him with "There! Now, you've betrayed yourself.
I've caught you--" and he had simply nothing to betray, nothing to
But anything was better than these pauses during which the threats
and anticipations piled up and up, making a monstrous figure out of
exactly nothing at all.
It was not enough to tell himself that between every father and son
there were restraints and hesitations, a division cleft by the
remembrance of the time when one had commanded and the other obeyed.
There were other elements here--for one the element of an old
affection that had once been at the very root of the boy's soul and
was now in the strangest way creeping back to him, as an old
familiar, but forgotten form might creep out of the dark and sit at
his feet and clasp his knees.
"Well," said John Warlock. "That's very pleasant. You must feel very
grateful to your aunt Rachel, Martin; she's given you the
opportunity of doing what you like with your life. She spoke to me
about it before she died."
"She spoke to you about it?"
"Yes. She told me that she did it because she wanted to bring you
back to me. She knew of my love for you. We often talked of you
together. She was a faithful servant of God. She believed that God
meant to bring you, through her, back into His arms."
"I might not have come," Martin said with a sudden anger that
surprised himself. "She made no conditions. I might have gone on
with my life there abroad. I am free to lead my own life where and
how I please."
"Quite free." His father answered gently. "But she knew that you
would come. Of course you are your own master, Martin--"
"No, but it must be quite clear," Martin cried, the excitement
rising in him as he spoke. He leaned forward almost touching his
father's chair. "I'm not bound to any one by this money. It was
awfully jolly of Aunt Rachel. I'll never forget her--but I'm free. I
haven't got to say that I believe things when I don't, or that I
think things that she thought just because she did . . . I don't
want to hurt you, father, but you know that it must have seemed to
me pretty odd coming back after all these years and finding you, all
in the same place, doing the same things, believing in the same
things--just like years ago. I've seen the world a bit, I can tell
you--Russia, China, Japan, America, North and South, India. You
believe as far as you can see. What are you to think when, in every
country that you come to, you see people believing in different
things? They can't all be right, you know."
His father said nothing.
"But each thinks he's right--and each hates the other. Then, when I
came back and saw a fellow like that man Thurston preaching and
laying down the law, well, it seemed odd enough that any one could
be taken in by it. I hope I don't hurt you, father . . . only that's
what you want, isn't it . . . to have it out quite plainly? . . ."
His father, still very gently and hesitating as though he found it
difficult to catch the words that he wished (his voice had still the
remoteness of some one speaking, who was far from them both), said:
"You'll think it odd, Martin, when you know how often I have to
preach and speak in public, that I should find it hard to talk--but
I never, with any man alone, could find words easily. I know so
little. It is God's punishment for some selfish nervousness and
shyness in me, that even now when I am an old man I cannot speak as