Part 4 out of 11
out on the arms, a fine white shawl spread on her knees, asked
Maggie about last night.
"I hope you enjoyed yourself, dear." "Very much, Aunt Anne. Uncle
Mathew was very kind."
"What did you do?"
Maggie flushed. It was deceit and lies now all the time, and oh! how
she hated lies! But she went on:
"Do you know, Aunt Anne, I think Uncle Mathew is so changed. He's
younger and everything. He talked quite differently last night,
about his business and all that he's doing. He's got his money in
malt now, he says."
"Whose money?" asked Aunt Anne.
"His own, he says. I never knew he had any. But he says yes, it's in
malt. It's not a nice hotel, though, where he lives."
"Not nice, dear?"
"No, I didn't like it. But it's only for men really of course."
"I think he'd better take you somewhere else next time. I'll speak
to him. By the way, Maggie dear, Martha tells me you went out
yesterday afternoon all alone--into the Strand. I think it would be
better if you were to tell us."
Maggie's cheeks were hot. She set back her shoulders.
"How does Martha know?" she asked quickly. "I only went for a
moment--only for a little walk. But I'm grown up, Aunt Anne. Surely
I can go out by myself if . . ." she stopped, looking away from them
into the fire.
"It isn't that, dear," Aunt Anne said very gently. "It's only that
you've been so little a time in London that you can't know your way
about yet. And London's a strange place. It might be unpleasant for
you alone. I'd rather that you told us first."
Then Maggie delivered her challenge.
"But, aunt, I won't be always here. I'm going off to earn my living
soon, aren't I?"
Aunt Elizabeth drew her breath in sharply. Aunt Anne said quietly:
"You are free, dear, quite free. But whilst I am not quite myself--I
don't want to be selfish, dear--but you are a great comfort to us,
and when I am stronger certainly you shall go . . . even now if you
wish, of course . . . but my illness."
Even as she spoke--and it was the first time that she had ever
mentioned her illness--she caught at her breast and pressed her hand
there as though she were in great pain. Maggie sprang to her side.
She caught the girl's hand with hers and held her. Maggie could feel
her swift agonized breathing. Then with a little sigh the moment had
passed. Maggie still knelt there looking up into her aunt's face.
Martha's voice was heard at the door.
"Mr. Martin Warlock, Miss. Could you see him? . . ."
"Yes, Martha," said Aunt Anne, her voice calm and controlled. "Ask
him to come up."
She had abandoned so completely any idea that he might still come
that she could not now feel that it was he. She withdrew from her
aunt's side and stood in the shadow against the wall.
Although her heart beat wildly her whole mind was bent upon
composure, upon showing nothing to her aunts, and on behaving to him
as though she scarcely knew him, but so soon as he entered the room
some voice cried in her: "He is mine! He is mine!" She did not stir
from her wall, but her eyes fastened upon him and then did not move.
He was wearing the same clothes as yesterday; his tie was different,
it had been black and now it was dark blue. He looked quiet and
self-possessed and at his ease. His rough stiff hair was carelessly
brushed as always; good-humour shone from his eyes, he smiled, his
walk had the sturdy broad strength of a man who is absolutely sure
of himself but is not conceited. He seemed to have no trouble in the
He greeted the aunts, then shook hands with Maggie. He gave her one
glance and she, suddenly feeling that that glance had not the things
in it that she had wanted, was frightened, her confidence left her,
she felt that if she did not have a word alone with him she would
He sat down near Aunt Anne.
"No, thank you, I won't have any tea," he said. "We're dining very
early to-night because Father and Amy have a meeting right away over
Golders Green way somewhere. It's really on a message from him that
He did not look at her, placed like a square shadow against the
dusky wall. He sat, leaning forward a little, his red-brown hand on
his knee, his leg bulging under the cloth of his trouser, his neck
struggling behind his collar--but his smile was pleasant and easy,
he seemed perfectly at home.
"My father wonders whether you will mind some friends of Miss Avies
sitting with you in your pew to-morrow evening. She has especially
asked--two of them . . . ladies, I believe. But it seems that there
will be something of a crowd, and as your pew is always half empty--
He would not have asked except that there seems nowhere else."
Aunt Anne graciously assented.
"But, of course, Mr. Warlock, Maggie will be going with us, but
still there will be room. Mr. Crashaw is going to speak after all, I
hear. I was afraid that he would have been too ill."
Martin laughed. "He is staying with us, you know, and already he is
preparing himself. He's about the oldest human being I've ever seen.
He must be a hundred."
"He's a great saint," said Aunt Anne.
"He's always in a terrible temper though," said Martin. "He mutters
to himself--and he eats nothing. His room is next to mine, and he
walked up and down all night talking. I don't know how he keeps
Perhaps Aunt Anne thought Martin's tone irreverent. She relapsed
into herself and seemed suddenly, with a spiritual wave of the hand,
to have dismissed the whole company.
Martin took his leave. He barely touched Maggie's hand, but his eyes
leapt upon hers with all the fire of a greeting too long delayed.
His lips did not move, but she heard the whisper "Soon!" Then he was
Soon! She felt as though she could not wait another instant but must
immediately run after him, follow him into the street, and make
clear his plans both for himself and her.
Then, continuing her struggle of the long day, she beat into herself
endurance; she was in a new world, in a world with roads and cities,
mountains, rivers, seas and forests that had to be traversed by her,
to be learnt and remembered and conquered, and for the success of
this she must have her own spirit absolutely aloof and firm and
brave. She loved him. That must be enough for her, and meanwhile she
need not lose her common sense and vision of everyday life . . .But
meanwhile it hurt. She was now twice as lonely as she had been
before because she did not know what he intended to do, and always
with her now there was something strange and unknown that might at
any moment be stronger than she.
But by next morning she had conquered herself. She would see him at
Chapel that night and perhaps have a word with him, and so already
she had arrived at her now lover's calendar of dates and seasons.
There was the time before she would see him and the time after--no
other time than that.
The trouble that weighed upon her most heavily was her deceitfulness
to the aunts. Fifty times that day she was on the edge of speaking
and telling them all, but she was held back by the vagueness of her
relations to Martin. Were they engaged? Did he even love her? He had
only kissed her. He had said nothing. No, she must wait, but with
this definite sense of her wickedness weighing upon her--not
wickedness to herself, for that she cared nothing, but wickedness to
them--she tried, on this day, to be a pattern member of the
household, going softly everywhere that she was told, closing doors
behind her, being punctual and careful. Unhappily it was a day of
misfortune, it was one of Aunt Anne's more worldly hours and she
thought that she would spend it in training Maggie. Very good--but
Maggie dropped a glass into which flowers were to have been put, she
shook her pen when she was addressing some envelopes so that some
drops of ink were scattered upon the carpet, and, in her haste to be
punctual, she banged her bedroom door so loudly that Aunt Anne was
waked from her afternoon nap.
A scene followed. Aunt Anne showed herself very human, like any
other aunt justly exasperated by any other niece.
"I sometimes despair of you, Maggie. You will not think of others. I
don't wish to be hard or unjust, but selfishness is the name of your
Maggie, standing with her hands behind her, a spot of ink on her
nose and her short hair ruffled, was hard and unrepentant.
"You must send me away," she said; "I'm not a success here. You
don't like me."
Aunt Anne looked at Maggie with eyes that were clear and cold like
deep unfriendly waters. "You mustn't say that. We love you, but you
have very much to learn. To-night I shall speak to Miss Avies and
arrange that you go to have a talk with her sometimes. She is a wise
woman who knows many things. My sister and I are not strong enough
to deal with you, and we are weakened perhaps by our love for you."
"I don't want to go to-night," Maggie said, then she burst out: "Oh,
can't I lead an ordinary life like other girls--be free and find
things out for myself, not only go by what older people tell me--
earn my living and be free? I've never lived an ordinary life. Life
with Father wasn't fair, and now--"
Aunt Anne put out her arm and drew her towards her. "Poor
Maggie . . . Aren't you unfair to us? Do you suppose really that we
don't love you? Do you think that I don't understand? You shall be
free, afterwards, if you wish--perfectly free--but you must have the
opportunity of learning what this life is first, what the love of
God is, what the companionship of Him is. If after you have seen you
still reject it, we will not try to keep you. But it is God's will
that you stay with us for a time."
"How do you know that it is God's will?" asked Maggie, melted
nevertheless, as she always was by any sign of affection.
"He has told me," Aunt Anne answered, and then closed her eyes.
Maggie went away with a sensation of being tracked by some stealthy
mysterious force that was creeping ever closer and closer upon her,
that she could only feel but not see. For instance, she might have
said that she would not go to Chapel to-night, and she might have
taken her stand upon that. And yet she could not say that. Of course
she must go because she must see Martin, but even if she had known
that he would not be there she would have gone. Was it curiosity?
Was it reminiscence? Was it superstition? Was it cowardice? Was it
loneliness? All these things, perhaps, and yet something more than
they . . .
All through the afternoon of the lovely November day she anticipated
that evening's services as though it were in some way to be a
climax. She knew that it was to be for all of them an especial
affair. She had heard during the last days much discussion of old
Mr. Crashaw. He was an old man with, apparently, a wonderful history
of conversions behind him. His conversions had been, it seemed, of
the forcible kind, seizing people by the neck and shoving them in;
he was a fierce and militant kind of saint; he believed, it seemed,
in damnation and eternal hell fire, and could make you believe in
them too; his accent was on the tortures rather than the triumphs of
But Maggie had other thoughts, in this, outside Mr. Crashaw. She had
never lost the force of that first meeting with Mr. Warlock; she had
avoided him simply because she was afraid lest he should influence
her too much, but now after her friendship with Martin she felt that
she could never meet old Mr. Warlock frankly again. What he would
say to her if he knew that she meant to take his son away from him
she knew well enough. On every side there was trouble and
difficulty. She could not see a friend anywhere unless it was
Caroline, whom she did not completely trust, and Mr. Magnus, whom
her deception of her aunt would, she knew, most deeply distress.
Meanwhile she was being pushed forward more and more into the
especial religious atmosphere of the house, the Chapel and the
Chapel sect. Of no use to tell herself that this was only a tiny
fragment of the whole world, that there, only five yards away from
her, in the Strand, was a life that swept past the Chapel and its
worshippers with the utmost, completest indifference. She had always
this feeling that she was caught, that she could only escape by a
desperate violent effort that would hurt others and perhaps be, for
herself, a lasting reproach. She wanted so simple a thing . . . to
be always with Martin, working, with all this confusing, baffling,
mysterious religion behind her; this simple thing seemed incredibly
difficult of attainment.
Nevertheless, when they started that evening for the Chapel she
felt, in spite of herself, a strange almost pleasurable excitement.
There was, in that plain, ugly building some force that could not be
denied. Was it the force of the worshippers' belief? Was it the
force of some outside power that watched ironically the efforts of
those poor human beings to discover it? Was it the love of a father
for his children? No, there was very little love in this creed--no
more than there had been in her father's creed before. As she walked
along between her aunts her brain was a curious jumble of religion,
Martin, and how she was ever going to learn to be tidy and punctual.
"Well, I won't care," was the resolution with which she always
brought to an end her discussions and misgivings. "I'm myself.
Nobody can touch me unless I let them."
It was a most lovely evening, very pale and clear with an orange
light in the sky like the reflection of some far distant towering
fire. The air was still and the rumble of the town scarcely
penetrated into their street; they could hear the ugly voice of the
little Chapel bell jangling in the heart of the houses, there was a
scent of chrysanthemums from somewhere and a very faint suggestion
of snow--even before they reached the Chapel door a few flakes
lazily began to fall.
Maggie was thinking now only of Martin. There was a gas-lamp already
lighted in the Chapel doorway, and this blinded her eyes. She had
hoped that he would be there, waiting, so that he might have a word
with her before they went in, but when they were all gathered
together under the porch she saw with a throb of disappointment that
he was not there. She saw no one whom she knew, but it struck her at
once that here was a gathering quite different from that of the
first time that she had come to the Chapel. There seemed to be more
of the servant class; rather they were older women with serious rapt
expressions and very silent. There were men too, to-night, four or
five gathered together inside the passage, standing gravely, without
a word, not moving, like statues. Maggie was frightened. She felt
like a spy in an enemy's camp, and a spy waiting for an inevitable
detection, with no hope of securing any news. As she went up the
aisle behind her aunts her eyes searched for Martin. She could not
see him. Their seat was close to the front, and already seated in it
were the austere Miss Avies and two lady friends.
Maggie was maliciously pleased to observe that Miss Avies had not
expected these additions to her number and was now in danger of an
uncomfortable squashing; there was, indeed, a polite little struggle
between Miss Avies and Aunt Anne as to who should have the corner
with a wooden arm upon which to rest. Miss Avies' two friends,
huddled and frightened like fledglings suddenly surprised by a
cuckoo, stirred Maggie's sympathy. She disliked Miss Avies from the
very first moment. Miss Avies had a pale, thin, pointed face with no
eyebrows, grey eyes dim and short-sighted, and fair colourless hair
brushed straight back under a hard, ugly black hat.
At the same time she was nervous, emotional, restless; something
about her was always moving--her lips, her hands, her shoulders, her
eyes. She was fierce and hostile and ineffectual, one felt, so long
as she was by herself. Maggie did not, of course, notice all this at
the time, but in after years she always looked back on the pale,
thin, highly-strung Miss Avies as the motive of most of the events
that followed this particular evening. It was as though she felt
that Miss Avies' weight, not enough in itself to effect any result,
when thrown into the balance just turned everything in one
direction. It had that result, at any rate, upon Maggie herself.
She soon lost, however, consideration of Miss Avies in the wider
observation of the Chapel and its congregation. It was, as it had
been on the occasion of her first visit to it, stuffy, smelling of
gas and brick and painted wood, ugly in its bareness and
unresponsiveness--and, nevertheless, exciting. The interior of the
building had the air of one who has watched some most unusual
happenings and expects very shortly to watch them again. Even the
harmonium seemed to prick up its wooden ears in anticipation. And
to-night the congregation thrilled also with breathless expectation.
As Maggie looked round upon them she could see that they were
throbbing with the anticipation of some almost sensuous delight. By
now they had filled the Chapel to its utmost limits, but there was
not one human being there who did not seem to have the appearance of
having been especially selected from other less interesting human
beings. It was not that the forces that surrounded her were
especially interesting, but she felt that all of them had taken on
some especial dramatic character from the occasion. Such
personalities as Aunt Anne and Miss Avies were in any case vivid and
dramatic, but to-night Aunt Elizabeth and the placidly rotund Mrs.
Smith, who was sitting in the front row with her mouth open, and
simple little Miss Pyncheon, Aunt Anne's friend, were remarkable and
Then suddenly Maggie caught sight of Martin. He was sitting in the
extreme right next the wall; his ill-tempered sister was next to
him. Maggie could only see his head and shoulders, but she realised
at once that he had been, for a long time, trying to catch her eye.
He smiled at her an intimate peculiar smile that sent the blood
flooding to her face and made her heart beat with happiness. At the
moment of her smiling she realised that Miss Avies' dim eye was upon
her. What right had Miss Avies to watch over her? She set back her
shoulders, sat up stiffly, and tried to look as old as she might--
that was not, unhappily, very old. That smile exchanged with Martin
had made her happy for ever. Miss Avies was of less than no
importance at all . . .
The little bell ceased its jangling, the harmonium began a quavering
prelude, and from a door at the back, behind the little platform and
desk, three men entered: first Mr. Thurston; then a little crooked
man who must, Maggie knew, be Mr. Crashaw; finally, in magnificent
contrast, Mr. Warlock. A quiver of emotion passed over the Chapel--
there was then a hushed expectant pause.
"Brothers and sisters, let us pray," said Mr. Thurston.
Maggie had not seen him before; she wondered what strange chance had
led him and Mr. Warlock to work together. In every movement of the
body, in every tone of the voice, Thurston showed the professional
actor--his thoughts were all upon himself and the effect that he was
making. So calculated was he in his attitude that his eyes betrayed
him, having in their gleam other thoughts, other intentions very far
away from his immediate business in the Chapel. Maggie, watching
him, wondered what those thoughts were. His voice was ugly, as were
all his movements; his sharp actor's face, with the long rather
dirty black hair, the hooked nose, the long dirty fingers which
moved in and out as though they worked of themselves--all these
things were false and unmoving. But behind his harsh voice, gross
accent and melodramatic tone there was some power, the power of a
man ambitious, ruthless, scornful, self-confident. He did not care a
snap of his fingers for his congregation, he laughed at their
beliefs, he made use of their credulity.
"Oh God," he prayed, his voice now shrill and quivering and just out
of tune, so that it jarred every nerve in Maggie's body, "Thou seest
what we are, miserable sinners not worthy of Thy care or goodness,
sunk deep in the mire of evil living and evil 'abits, nevertheless,
oh God, we, knowing Thy loving 'eart towards Thy sinful servants, do
pray Thee that Thou wilt give us Thy blessing before we leave this
Thy 'ouse this night; a new contrite 'eart is what we beg of Thee,
that we may go out into this evil world taught by Thee to search out
our ways and improve our thoughts, caring for nothing but Thee,
following in Thy footsteps and making ready for Thy immediate
Coming, which will be in Thine own good time and according to Thy
"This we pray for the sake of Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who died for our sins upon the bloody Cross."
From between her hands Maggie watched those two strange eyes
wandering about the Chapel, picking up here a person, there a
person, wondering over this, wondering over that, and always, in the
end, concerned not about these things at all but about some other
more ultimate loneliness, fear or expectation, something that set
him apart and made him, as are all men in the final recesses of
their spirit, as lonely as though he were by himself on a desert
The thrill of anticipation faded through the Chapel as Thurston
continued his prayer. He had not to-night, at any rate, power over
his audience--the thing that they were waiting for was something
that he could not satisfy. A restlessness was abroad; coughing broke
out once, twice, then everywhere; chairs creaked, sighs could be
heard, some one moved to the door. Thurston seemed to realise his
failure; with a sudden snap of impatience he brought prayer to an
end and rose to his feet.
"We will sing," he said, "No. 341. 'Bathed in the blood of the
The singing of the hymn roused the excitement of the congregation to
even more than its earlier pitch. The tune was a moving one,
beginning very softly, beseeching God to listen, then, more
confident, rising to a high note of appeal:
By all Thy sores and bloody pain Come down and heal our sins again;
falling, after that, to a note of confidence and security in the
By the blood, by the blood, by the blood of the Lamb We beseech
In spite of the crudity of the words and the simplicity of the tune
Maggie had tears in her eyes. The whole Chapel was singing now,
singing as though the sins of the world could be redeemed only by
the force and power of this especial moment. Maggie was caught up
with the rest. She found herself singing parts of the second verse,
then in the third she was carried away, had forgotten herself, her
surroundings, even Martin. There was something real in this,
something beyond the ugliness of the Chapel and its congregation.
She remembered what Mr. Magnus had said: "If there's something of
great value, don't think the less of it because the people,
including yourself, who admire it, aren't worth very much. Why
should they be?"
She looked for a moment at Aunt Anne and saw her in an ecstasy,
singing in her cracked tuneless voice, a smile about her lips and in
her eyes, that gazed far, far beyond that Chapel. Maggie felt the
approach of tears; she stopped singing--softly the refrain of the
last verse came:
By the blood, by the blood, by the blood of the Lamb We beseech
The hymn over, Mr. Warlock read the Bible and then offered up a long
extempore prayer. Strangely enough Mr. Warlock brought Maggie back
to reality--strangely because, on an earlier occasion, he had done
exactly the opposite. She realised at once that he was not happy to-
night. Before, he had been himself caught up into the mood that held
the Chapel; to-night he was fighting against a mood that was then
outside him, a mood with which he did not sympathise and in which he
could not believe.
She saw that he was unhappy, he spoke slowly, without the
spontaneity and force that he had used before; once he made a long
pause and you could feel throughout the Chapel a wave of nervous
apprehension, as though every one were waiting to see whether he
would fight his way through or not. Maggie felt her earlier emotion
sentimental and false, it was as though he had said to her: "But
that's not the true thing; that's cheap sham emotion. That's what
they're trying to turn our great reality into. I'm fighting them and
you must help me."
He was fighting them. She could imagine Mr. Thurston's scornful
lip, hidden now by his hands. As Mr. Warlock went on with his
dignified sentences, his restraint and his reverence, she could
fancy how Thurston was saying to himself: "But what's the good of
this? It's blood and thunder we want. The old feller's getting past
his work. He must go."
But it was Mr. Warlock's reality of which she was afraid. As he
continued his prayer she felt all her old terror return, that terror
that she had known on the night her father died, during the hours
that she had watched beside his dead body, at the moment when she
had first arrived at the house in London, during her first visit to
the Chapel, when she had said good-night to her aunt before going
out with Uncle Mathew . . . And now Mr. Warlock was sweeping her
still farther inside. The intensity of his belief forced hers. There
was something real in this power of God, and you could not finish
with it simply by disregarding it. She felt, as she had felt so
often lately, that some one was suddenly going to rise and demand
some oath or promise from her that she, in her panic, would give her
word and then would be caught for ever.
"By the love of Thy dear Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the
promise of Thy second coming, we beseech Thee" . . . finished Mr.
During all this time the atmosphere of the Chapel had been growing
hotter and hotter and closer and closer. It had always its air of
being buried deep under ground, bathed in a kind of sunken heat that
found its voice in the gas that hissed and sizzled overhead; near
the door was a long rail on which coats might be hung, and now these
garments could be seen, swaying a little to and fro, like corpses of
The bare ugliness of the building with its stone walls, its rows of
wooden seats, its grey windows, its iron-hung gas-lamps, its ugly
desk and platform, was veiled now in a thin steaming heat that rose
mistily above the heads of the kneeling congregation and seemed to
hide strange shapes and shadows in its shifting depths. Every one
was swimming in an uncertain world; the unreality grew with the
heat. Maggie herself, at the end of Mr. Warlock's prayer, felt that
her test of a real solid and unimaginative world was leaving her.
She was expectant like the rest, as ready to believe anything at
Out of the mist rose Mr. Crashaw. This was a little old man with a
crabbed face and a body that seemed to have endured infernal
twistings in some Inquisitioner's torture-chamber. Maggie learnt
afterwards that he had suffered for many years from intolerable
rheumatism, but to-night the contortions and windings of the body
with which he climbed up onto the platform, and then the grimaces
that he made as his large round head peered over the top of the
desk, might have struck any less solemn assemblage as farcical. He
wore an old shiny black frock coat and a white rather grimy tie
fastened in a sharp little bow. His face was lined like a map, his
cheeks seamed and furrowed, his forehead a wilderness of marks, his
scanty hair brushed straight back so that the top of his forehead
seemed unnaturally shiny and bald; his hands, with which he clutched
the side of his desk, were brown and wrinkled and grasping like a
monkey's. His eyes were the eyes of a fanatic, but they were not
steady and speculative like Warlock's or glowing and distant like
Aunt Anne's, but rather angry and restless and pugnacious; they were
the eyes of a madman, but of a madman who can yet calculate upon and
arrange his position in the world. He was mad for his own purposes,
and could, for these same purposes, bind his madness to its proper
He seemed to Maggie at first rather pathetic with his little twisted
body and his large round head. Very soon it was emotions quite other
than pity that she was feeling. She saw at once that he was a
practised preacher, and she who had, with the exception of Mr.
Warlock, never heard a fine preacher, was at once under the sway of
one of the ablest and most dramatic orators of his time. His voice
was sweet and clear, and seemed strange enough coming from that ugly
and malevolent countenance. Only the head and the grasping hands
could be seen, but sometimes the invisible body was driven with such
force against the desk that it seemed that it must fling the thing
over, down into the congregation.
"My brothers and sisters," he began, "I have come to-night to give
you a warning, and this warning is given to you not as the
expression of a personal opinion but as the declaration of an
assumed fact. Disregard it or not as you please, but I shall have
done my duty in pointing out to you the sure and certain meaning of
"I, a sinner like the rest of you, live nevertheless in the fear of
hell fire. Hell fire has become, I think, to many of the present
generation a mockery and a derision. I come to tell you that it is
no mockery, that it as surely lies there, a blazing furnace, in
front of us as though we saw it with our own eyes . . ."
With his own eyes he had surely seen it. They were fixed now in a
frenzy of realisation upon some distant vision, and, with a shiver,
the Chapel followed his gaze. It is easy enough to laugh at bare and
conventional words stripped of the atmosphere and significance of
their original surroundings. The merest baby in this twentieth
century can laugh at the flames of hell and advance a string of easy
arguments against the probability of any such melodramatic
fulfilment of the commonplace and colourless lives that the majority
of us lead, but Maggie was in no mood to laugh that night.
Before five minutes had passed she found herself shivering where she
sat. The Chapel was convicted of Sin, and of Sin of no ordinary
measure. The head that rested like a round ball on the surface of
the desk thrust conviction into every heart: "You think that you may
escape, you look at your neighbours, every one of you, and say, 'He
is worse than I. I am safe,' but I tell you that not one man or
woman here shall be secure unless he turn instantly now to God and
beg for mercy . . ."
As he continued he did indeed bear the almost breathless urgency of
one who has been sent on in advance to announce the imminence of
some awful peril. No matter what the peril might be; simply through
the Chapel there passed the breath of some coming danger. Impossible
to watch him and not realise that here was a man who had seen
something with his own eyes that had changed in a moment the very
fabric of his life. Thurston might be a charlatan who played with
the beliefs of his dupes, Warlock might be a mystic whose vision was
in the future and not in the past--Crashaw knew.
He painted, quietly, without fine words but with assurance and
conviction, his belief in the punishment of mankind. God was almost
now upon the threshold of their house. He was at the very gates of
their city, and with Him was coming a doom as sure and awful as the
sentence of the earthly judge on his earthly victim.
"Punishment! Punishment! . . . We have grown in this careless age to
laugh at punishment. A future life? There is no future life. God?
There is no God! Even were He to come upon us we could escape from
Him. We could make a very good case for ourselves. This world is
safe, secure, founded upon our markets, our treasuries, our laws and
commandments, our conventions of decent behaviour, our police and
our ministers. God cannot touch us. We are secure . . . I tell you
that at this very moment this earth in which you trust is trembling
under you, at this instant everything in which you believed is
undermined and is betraying you. You have been given your
opportunity--you are refusing it--and God is upon you."
His voice changed suddenly to tones of a marvellous sweetness. He
appealed, pleaded, implored. The ugliness of his face and body was
forgotten, he was simply a voice issuing from space, sent to save a
"And we here--the few of us out of this huge city gathered together
here--it is not too late for us. Let us surrender ourselves. Let us
go to Him and say that we are His, that we await His coming and obey
His law . . . Brothers and sisters, I am as you are, weak and
helpless and full of sin, but come to Him, come to Him, come to Him!
. . . There is help for us all, help and pity and love. Love such as
none of us have ever known, love that cannot fail us and will be
with us until eternity!"
He stepped out from behind the desk, stood before them all with his
little stunted, twisted body, his arms held out towards them. There
followed then an extraordinary scene--from all over the Chapel came
sobs and cries. A man rose suddenly from the back of the building
and cried aloud, "Lord, I believe! Help Thou mine unbelief." One of
the women who had come with Miss Avies fell upon her knees and began
to sob, crying hysterically: "Oh God, have mercy! God have mercy!"
Women pressed up the two aisles, some of them falling on their knees
there where they had stood, others coming to the front and kneeling
there. Somewhere they began to sing the hymn that had already been
sung that evening, a few voices at first, then more, then all
"By the blood, by the blood, by the blood of the Lamb We beseech
Everywhere now women were crying, the Chapel was filled with voices,
sobs, cries and prayers.
Mr. Crashaw stood there, motionless, his arms outstretched.
Maggie did not know what she felt. She seemed deprived of all
sensation on one side, and, on the other, fear and excitement; both
joy and disgust held her. She could not have told any one what her
sensations were; she was trembling from head to foot as though with
cold. But behind everything she had this terror, that at any moment
she might be drawn forward to do something, to give some pledge that
would bind her for all her life. She felt as though some power were
urging her to this, and as though the Chapel and every one in it was
conscious of the struggle.
What might have happened she would never know. She felt a touch on
her sleeve, and, turning round, saw Aunt Anne's eyes looking up at
her out of a face that was so white and the skin of it so tightly
drawn that it was like the face of a dead woman.
"I'm in great pain, Maggie. I think you must take me home," she
heard her aunt say.
Aunt Anne took her arm, they went out followed by Aunt Elizabeth.
The fresh evening air that blew upon Maggie's forehead seemed
suddenly to make of the Chapel a dim, incredible phantom; faintly
from behind the closed door came the echo of the hymn. The street
was absolutely still--no human being was in sight, only an old cab
stationed close at hand waiting for a possible customer; into this
they got. The pale, almost white, evening sky, with stars in sheets
and squares and pools of fire, shone with the clear radiance of
glass above them. Maggie could see the stars through the dirty
windows of the cab.
They were quite silent all the way home. Aunt Anne sitting up very
straight, motionless, her fingers still on Maggie's arm.
Inside the house there was Jane. She seemed at once to under-stand,
and, with Aunt Elizabeth, led Aunt Anne up the dark stairs.
They disappeared, leaving Maggie alone in the hall, whose only sound
was the ticking clock from the stairs and only light the dim lamp
above the door.
She waited for some time alone in the hall listening for she knew
not what. Her departure from the Chapel had been too abrupt to allow
her in a moment to shake off the impression of it--above all, the
impression of Mr. Crashaw standing there, his arms stretched out to
her, his eyes burning her through and through with the urgent
insistence of his discovery.
She was tired, her head ached horribly, she would have given
everything at that moment for a friend who would care for her and
protect her from her own wild fears. She did not know of what she
was afraid, but she knew that she felt that she would rather do
anything than spend the night in that house. And yet what could she
do? How could she escape? She knew that she could not. Oh! if only
Martin would come! Where was he? Why could he not carry her off that
very night? Why did he not come?
She gazed desperately about her. Could she not leave the house there
and then? But where should she go? What could she do without a
friend in London? She stood there, clasping and unclasping her
hands, looking up at the black stairs, listening for some sound from
above, fancying a ghost in every darkening corner of the place.
Then her common sense reasserted itself. It was something, at any
rate, that she was out of the Chapel, away from Mr. Crashaw's
piercing eyes, Mr. Thurston's rasping voice, Mr. Warlock's
reproachful melancholy. She felt this evening as though by
struggling with all her strength she could shut the gates upon new
experiences that were fighting to enter into her soul, but must, at
all costs to her own happiness, be defeated. No such thing as
ghosts, no such thing as a God, be He kind, tender, cruel or loving-
-nothing but what one can see, can touch, can confront with one's
physical strength. She had been to a service at a Methodist chapel,
her aunt had been ill, to-morrow there would be daylight and people
hurrying down the street about their business, work and shops and
food and sun . . . No such thing as ghosts! Nothing but what you can
"And I'll get some work without wasting a minute," she thought,
nodding her head. "In a shop if necessary--or I could be a
governess--and then when he is free, Martin will be with me."
She climbed on a chair and turned down the hall-gas as she had seen
Martha do. She went to the door and slipped the chain into its
socket and turned the lock. She listened for a moment before she
started upstairs, she saw Mr. Crashaw's eyes in the dark--she heard
"Punishment! Punishment!. . ."
She suddenly started to run up the black stairs, stumbled, ran
faster through the passage under the picture of the armed men,
arrived at last in her room, breathless.
During her undressing she stopped sometimes to listen. Her aunt's
bedroom was on the floor below hers, and she certainly could hear
nothing through the closed doors, and yet she fancied, as she stood
there, that the sound of sobbing came up to her and, twice, a sharp
"I suppose I'm terribly selfish," she thought, "I ought to want to
go and help Aunt Anne, and I don't." No, she didn't. She wanted to
run away from the house, miles and miles and miles. She climbed into
bed and thought of her escape. If Miss Trenchard did not answer her
letter, then she could go off to Uncle Mathew, greatly though she
disliked the thought of that; then she could live on her three
hundred pounds and look about until she found work or Martin came
But so ignorant was she of the world that she did not in the least
know how she could get her three hundred pounds. But Uncle Mathew
would know. She thought of him standing in the doorway at the hotel,
holding up a glass, then she thought of Martin, and so fell asleep.
She woke suddenly to find some one standing in her open doorway and
holding up a candle. That some one was old Martha, looking strange
enough in a nightdress, her scanty grey hairs untidily about her
neck and a dirty red shawl over her shoulders. Maggie blinked at the
light and sat up in bed.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It's your aunt, Miss--Miss Anne. She's very bad. She wants you to
go to her."
Maggie got out of bed, put on her dressing-gown and slippers and
followed the servant.
As she hurried along the dark passage she was still only half-awake;
her soul had not returned into her body, but her body was awake and
vibrating with the knowledge that the soul was soon coming to it,
and coming to it with great news, with the consciousness of a
marvellous experience. For at the instant when Martha awoke her she
had been dreaming of Martin, dreaming of him physically, so that it
was his body against hers, his hand hot and dry in hers cool and
soft, his cheek rough and strong against hers smooth and pale. There
had been no sentimentality or weakness in her dream. They had been
confident and sure and defiant together, and it had been real life
for her, so real that this dream life in which now she moved down
the shadowy passage was about her as green water is about one when
one swims under waves.
It was only slowly, as the cold air of the house at night cleared
her eyes and her throat and her breast, that she came to the world
consciousness again and surrendered her lover back to the shades and
felt a sudden frightened fear lest, after all, she should never
really know that ecstasy of which she had just been dreaming.
Nevertheless it was still with a great consciousness of Martin that
she entered her aunt's bedroom. Before she entered she turned round
for a moment to Martha.
"What must I do?" she asked. "What will she want me to do?"
"It's only," said Martha, "if the pains come on very bad, to give
her some drops. They're in a little green bottle by her bed. Five
drops . . . yes, miss, five drops in a little green bottle. Only if
the pains is very bad. She's brave--wonderful. I'd 'ave sat up till
morning willing, and so of course would Miss Elizabeth. But she
seemed to want you, miss."
They were like two conspirators whispering there in the dark. The
room within was so still. Maggie very softly pushed back the door
and entered. She walked a few steps inside the room and hesitated.
There was no sound in the room at all, utter stillness so that
Maggie could hear her own breathing as though it were some one else
at her side warning her. Then slowly things emerged, the long white
bed first, afterwards a shaded lamp beside it, a little table with
bottles, a chair--beyond the circle of lighted shadow there were
shapes, near the window a high glass, a dark shade that was the
dressing-table, and faint grey squares where the windows hung.
In the room was a strange scent half wine, half medicine, and beyond
that the plain tang of apples partially eaten, a little smell of oil
too from the lamp--very faintly the figure of the Christ above the
bed was visible. Maggie moved forward to the bed, then stopped
again. She did not know what to do; she could see a dark shadow on
the pillow that must she knew be her aunt's hair, and yet she did
not connect that with her aunt. The room was cold and, she felt, of
infinite space. The smell of the wine and the medicine made her shy
and awkward as though she were somewhere where she should not be.
There came a little sigh, and then a very quiet, tired voice.
"Maggie, is that you?"
"Yes, Aunt Anne."
She came very close to the bed, and suddenly, as though a curtain
had been drawn back, she could see her aunt's large eyes and white
"It was very good of you, dear, to come. I felt ashamed to wake you
up at such an hour, but I wanted you. I felt that only you must be
with me to-night. It was a call from God. I felt that it must be
obeyed. Sit down, dear. There, on that chair. You're not cold, are
Maggie sat down, gathering her dressing-gown close about her. She
was not even now drawn right out of her dream, and the room seemed
fantastic, to rise and fall a little, and to be filled with sound,
just out of hearing. For a time she was so sleepy that she nodded on
her chair, and the green lamp swelled and quivered and the very bed
seemed to sway in the dark, but soon the cold air cleared her head,
and she was wide awake, staring before her at the grey window-panes.
Her aunt did not for a long time speak again. Maggie sat there her
mind a maze of the Chapel, old Crashaw, Miss Avies, and Martin.
Slowly the cold crept into her feet and her hands, but her head now
was burning hot. Then suddenly her aunt began to talk in a dreamy
rather lazy voice, not her natural daily tone which was always very
sharp and clear. She talked on and on; sometimes her sentences were
confused and unfinished, sometimes they seemed to Maggie to have no
meaning; once or twice the voice dropped so low that Maggie did not
catch the words, but always there was especial urgency behind the
carelessness as though every word were being spoken for a listener's
benefit--a listener who sat perhaps with pencil and notebook
somewhere in the dark behind them.
"So sorry . . . so sorry, Maggie dear . . . so sorry," the words ran
up and down. "I hadn't meant to take you away before the service was
over. Elizabeth could have . . . sometimes my pain is very bad and I
have to lie down, you know. But it's nothing--nothing really--only
I'm glad, rather, that you should share all our little troubles,
because then you'll know us better, won't you? Dear Maggie, there's
been something between us all this time, hasn't there? Ever since
our first meeting--and it's partly been my fault. I wasn't good at
first, I wanted to be kind, but I was stiff and shy. You wouldn't
think that I'm shy? I am, terribly. I always have been since I was
very little, and just to enter a room when other people are there
makes me so embarrassed . . . I remember once when mother was alive
her scolding me because I wouldn't come in to a tea-party. But I
couldn't; I stood outside the door in an agony, doing everything to
make myself go in--but I couldn't . . . But now I've come to love
you, dear, although of course you have your faults. But they are
faults of your age, carelessness, selfishness. They are nothing in
the eyes of God, who understands all our weaknesses. And you must
learn to know Him, dear. That is my only prayer now. If I am taken,
if I go before the great day--if it be His will--then I pray always,
now that I may leave you in my place, waiting for Him as I have
waited, trusting Him as I have trusted . . . you saw to-night what
it means to us, what it must mean to any one who has listened. There
were times, years ago, when I had not turned to God, when I did
not care, when I thought of earthly love . . . God drew me to
Himself . . . You too must come, Maggie--you must come. You mustn't
stay outside--you are asked, you are invited--perhaps you will be
compelled . . ."
The voice sank: Maggie's teeth chattered in her head from the cold,
and her foot had gone to sleep. She felt obstinate and rebellious
and frightened, she could not think clearly, and the words that came
from her, suddenly, seemed to her not to be her own.
"Aunt Anne, I want to do everything that you and Aunt Elizabeth
think I should, but I must be myself, mustn't I? I'm grown up now;
I've got my three hundred pounds and I don't think I want to be
religious. I'm very grateful to you and Aunt Elizabeth, but I'm not
a help to you much, I'm afraid. I know I'm very careless, I do want
to be better, and that's all the more reason, perhaps, why I should
go out and earn my own living. I'd learn more quickly then. But I do
love you and Aunt Elizabeth . . ."
She broke off; she did not love them. She knew that she did not. The
only human being in all the world whom she loved was Martin.
Nevertheless there did come to her suddenly then a new tenderness
for her aunt; the actual sight of her pain in the Chapel had deeply
touched her and now her eagerness for escape was mingled with a
longing to be affectionate and good.
But Aunt Anne did not seem to have heard.
"Are you sure you're not cold, dear?"
Their hands touched.
"But you are. Put that rug over you. That one at the end of the bed.
I'm quiet now. I think perhaps I shall sleep a little."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Perhaps turn the lamp down, dear. That's it. A little more. Now, if
you'd just raise my pillow. There, behind my head. That's the way!
Why, what a good nurse you are!"
Maggie, as tenderly as she could, turned the pillow, patted it,
placed it beneath her aunt's head. She was close against her aunt's
face, and the eyes seemed suddenly so fierce and urgent, so
insistent and powerful, that seeing them was like the discovery of
some blazing fire in an empty house. Most of all, they were
terrified eyes. Maggie went back to her chair. After that, she sat
there during the slow evolution of Eternity; Eternity unrolled
itself before her, on and on and on, grey limitless mist and space,
comfortless, lifeless, hopeless. She had been for many weeks leading
a thoroughly unwholesome life in that old house with those old
women. She did not herself know how unhealthy it had been, but she
knew that she missed the wide fields and downs of Glebeshire, the
winds that blew from the sea round Borhedden, the air that swirled
and raced up and down the little stony strata of St. Dreot. Now she
had been kept indoors, had had no fun of any kind, had looked
forward to Mr. Magnus as her chief diversion. Then Martin had come,
and suddenly she had seen how dangerously her life was hemming her
in. She was losing courage. She would soon be afraid to speak for
herself at all; she would soon . . .
In a panic at these thoughts, and feeling as though some one was
trying to push her down into a coffin whilst she was still alive,
she began hurriedly to speak, although she did not know whether her
aunt were asleep or no.
"I think I ought to tell you, Aunt Anne, that I wrote a letter some
days ago and posted it myself. It was to a lady who knew Father once
in Glebeshire, and she said that if ever I wanted help I was to
write to her, and so--although perhaps I oughtn't to have done it
without asking you first, still I was afraid you mightn't want me
to--so I sent it. I wouldn't like to hurt your feelings, Aunt Anne,
and it isn't that I'm not happy with you and Aunt Elizabeth, but I
ought to be earning my own living, oughtn't I? And I've only got my
three hundred pounds, haven't I? I'm not complaining, but I don't
know about anything yet, do I? I can't even find my way when I'm out
with Aunt Elizabeth. And I'm afraid I'll never be really good enough
to be religious. Perhaps if Father'd wanted me to be I might be now,
but he never cared . . . I hope you won't be angry, Aunt Anne, but I
didn't like to-night--I didn't really. When I was there I thought
that soon I'd begin to cry like the others, but it was only because
every one else was crying--not because I wanted to. I hope you won't
be angry, but I'm afraid I'll never be religious as you and Aunt
Elizabeth want me to be; so don't you think it will be better for me
to start learning something else right away?"
Maggie poured all this out and then felt immense relief. At last she
was honest again; at last she had said what she felt, and they knew
it and could never say that she hadn't been fair with them. She felt
that her speech had cleared the air in every kind of way. She waited
for her aunt's reply. No sound came from the bed. Had her aunt
heard? Perhaps she slept. Maggie waited. Then timidly, and softly
"Aunt Anne . . . Aunt Anne . . ."
No reply. Then again in a whisper:
"Aunt Anne . . . Aunt Anne . . ."
Supposing Aunt Anne . . . Maggie trembled, then, commanding herself
to be calm, she bent towards the bed.
"Aunt Anne, are you asleep?"
Suddenly Aunt Anne's face was there, the eyes closed, the mouth, the
cheeks pale yellow in the faint reflection from the lamp. There was
no stir, no breath.
"Aunt Anne, Aunt Anne," Maggie whispered in terror now. Then she saw
that her aunt was sleeping; very, very faintly the sheets rose and
fell and the fingers of the hand on the coverlet trembled a little
as though they were struggling to wake.
Then Aunt Anne had heard nothing after all. But it might be that she
was pretending, just to see what Maggie would say.
"Aunt Anne," whispered Maggie once more and for the last time. Then
she sat back on her seat again, her hands folded, staring straight
in front of her. After that she did not know for how long she sat
there in a state somewhere between dream and reality. The room,
although it never lost its familiarity, grew uncouthly strange;
shapes grey and dim seemed to move beneath the windows, humping
their backs, spinning out into long limbs, hands and legs and
gigantic fingers. The deadest hour of the night was come; the
outside world seemed to press upon the house, the whole world cold,
thick, damp, lifeless, like an animal slain and falling with its
full weight, crushing everything beneath it. Perhaps she slept--she
did not know. Martin seemed to be with her, and against them was
Aunt Anne, her back against the door, her hands spread, refusing to
let them pass. The room joined in the struggle, the floor slipped
beneath their tread, the curtain swayed forward and caught them in
its folds, the lamp flickered and flickered and flickered . . .
She was awake suddenly, quite acutely aware of danger. She rubbed
her eyes, turned, and in the dim shadow saw her aunt sitting up in
bed, her body drawn up to its intensest height, her hands pressing
down, flat upon the bed. Her eyes stared as though they would break
down all boundaries, but her lips trembled like the lips of a little
"Aunt Anne, what is it?" Maggie whispered.
"It's the pain--" Her voice was far away as though some one were
speaking from the passage outside the door. "It's the pain . . . I
can't . . . much more . . ."
Maggie remembered what Martha had told her about the drops. She
found the little green bottle, saw the glass by the side of it.
Suddenly she heard Aunt Anne: "Oh no . . . Oh no! God I can't . . .
God, I can't . . . I can't."
Maggie bent over the bed; she put her hand behind her aunt's back
and could feel the whole body quivering, the flesh damp beneath the
night-dress. She steadied her, then put the glass to her lips.
The cry was now a little whisper. "No more . . . I can . . . no
more." Then more softly still: "Thy will, oh Lord. As thou wilt--Our
Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed . . . Hallowed . . . Hallowed
. . ."
She sank down on to her pillows.
"Is it better?" Maggie asked.
Her aunt caught her hand.
"You mustn't leave me. I shan't live long, but you must stay with me
until I go. Promise me! Promise me!"
"No, I can't promise," said Maggie.
"You must stay. You must stay."
"No I can't promise." Then suddenly kneeling down by the bed she put
her hand on the other's arm: "Aunt Anne, I'll do anything for you--
anything--to make you better--if I can help . . . but not a promise,
I can't promise."
"Ah, but you will stay," Aunt Anne's whisper trembled with its
That seemed the climax of the night to Maggie then. She felt that
she was indeed held for eternity by the house, the Chapel, and
something beyond the Chapel. The scent of the medicine, the
closeness of the room, the darkness and the sickness, seemed to
close all about her . . . She was at the bottom of a deep well, and
she would never get out, she would never get out . . .
The door slowly, very softly opened, and old Martha looked in.
"She's been very bad," whispered Maggie.
"Ay, I heard something. That's why I came. You gave her the drops?"
"She'll sleep a bit now. I'll take your place, Miss Maggie. It's
time you went back to your bed."
Maggie crept away.
She came down to breakfast to find the house bathed in sunlight and
the parrot singing hoarsely "And her golden hair was hanging down
her back." Aunt Elizabeth was there, cheerful and almost merry in
her bird-like fashion. The world was normal, ghosts out of fashion,
and this morning was the day on which the silver was cleaned. This
last was Maggie's business, and very badly she did it, never being
"thorough," and having a fatal habit of thinking of other things.
Porridge, eggs and bacon, marmalade--
"And--her golden hair was hanging--" croaked Edward.
"Your aunt won't come down this morning, Maggie. She's much better.
The sun's shining. A little walk will be a good thing. I'll buy the
calico that Anne talked about. Your aunt's better."
Maggie felt ashamed of herself. What desperate silly feelings had
she allowed last night? How much she had made of that service, and
how weak she was to give way so easily!
"I'll clean the silver," she thought. "I'll do it better than ever"-
-but unfortunately she had a hole in her stocking, and Aunt
Elizabeth, like a sparrow who has found a worm, told her about it.
"Mr. Crashaw's coming to tea this afternoon," she concluded.
"That's why Anne's staying in bed--to be well enough." The stocking
and Mr. Crashaw dimmed a little of the morning's radiance, but
behind them was the thought, "Martin must come to-day. It was like a
message his look last night." She even sang to herself as she
scrubbed at the silver.
They spent a domestic morning. Aunt Elizabeth did not go for her
walk, but instead stayed in the dining-room and, seated at the end
of the long dining-table, her head just appearing above the worn and
soiled green table-cloth, tried to discipline the week's household
accounts. She worked sucking one finger after another and poking her
pencil into her ears.
"One pound, three shillings--ham, ham, ham--?"
At one moment she invited the cook to assist her, and that lady,
crimson from the kitchen fire, bared arms akimbo, stated that she
was not only the most economical woman in London, but was also,
thanks to her upbringing, one of the most sober and virtuous, and if
Miss Cardinal had anything to say against--
Oh no! Aunt Elizabeth had nothing to say against, only this one
pound, three shillings--
Well, the cook couldn't help that; she wasn't one to let a penny out
of her fingers where it shouldn't go.
So the morning hummed along; luncheon-time came, the silver was all
cleaned, the stockings changed, and there was roast chicken. Thomas,
with his wicked eyes, came slowly, majestically upon the scene--but
even he was not sinister to-day, being interested in his own greed
rather than other persons' sins.
All this time Maggie refused to think. Martin would come, then she
Martin . . . Martin . . . Martin . . . She went up into her
bedroom and whispered the name over and over to herself whilst she
tried to mend her stocking. She flung the stocking down and gazed
out of the window on to a world that was all golden cloud and racing
watery blue. The roofs swam like floating carpets in the sun,
detached from the brick and mortar beneath them, carried by the
racing clouds. It was only at that sudden gaze that she realised
that she was a prisoner. All her alarm came back to her.
"Why can't I go out? I'll put on my hat and just walk out. No one
can stop me. No one . . ."
But she knew that she could not. Something more must happen first.
She turned from the window with a little shudder, finished very
clumsily her stocking, and as the cuckoo clock struck halfpast three
went down to the drawing-room.
There to her surprise, she found Caroline Smith. The events of the
last few days had, a little, dimmed Caroline from her memory. She
had not seen Caroline for a fortnight. She did not know that she
especially wanted to see Caroline now. However, it was very certain
that Caroline wanted to see her. The young woman was dressed in
rose-coloured silk that stood out from her slim body almost like a
crinoline, and she had a straw funnel-shaped hat with roses perched
on the side of her lovely head. She kissed Maggie many times, and
then sitting down with her little sharp black shoes poked out in
front of her, she ran on:
"It's been too bad, Maggie, dear; it's simply ages since we had a
moment, isn't it, but it hasn't been my fault. Father's been ill--
bronchitis--and I've had to help Mother. Father's been so happy,
he's just been able to lie in bed for days and think about God. None
of those tiresome people at the Bank to interrupt him, and chicken
and jelly as much as he liked. He was so unhappy yesterday when he
had to go back to work, poor dear . . . But, Maggie, I hear you were
at the service last night. How did you like it?"
"Like it?" said Maggie. "I don't know that it's a thing one likes,
"Doesn't one? I don't know. I'm not one of the Inside Saints, you
know, and I wouldn't be if they wanted me to he. But you're one now,
they say, and I never would have thought it. You don't look a bit
like one, and I shouldn't have dreamt that you'd ever stand that
sort of thing. You look so matter-of-fact."
Maggie was on the point of bursting out that she was not an Inside
Saint, and would never be one, when caution restrained her. She had
learnt already that her gay young companion was not as trustworthy
as best friends ought to be.
"It was the first time, last night," she said.
"Yes, I know, and Miss Cardinal was ill and had to come away in the
middle, didn't she? It must have been a simply awful meeting,
because Mother came back as limp as anything. She'd been crying
buckets, and has a dreadful headache to-day. I suppose Mr. Crashaw
gave it them. I've never heard him, but I've seen him. Horrid old
monkey--I hope Miss Cardinal's better to-day."
"Yes, thank you," said Maggie. "She's better."
"Well, that's a good thing. I'm so glad. And you, you darling, what
did you think of it all? I'm sure you didn't cry buckets. I can see
you sitting there as quiet as anything, like a little Quaker. I'd
like to have gone just to have seen you. I hear Martin Warlock was
there too. Was he?"
"He was," said Maggie.
"Fancy that! I wonder what he went for. His father made him, I
expect. You know they say he's getting on awfully badly at home and
that there are quarrels all the time. I don't know, of course, but
his sister can't stand him. She's always showing her feelings--not
very good taste, I think, but Mr. Thurston eggs her on. They'll be
making a match of it one day, those two . . . I say, Maggie--"
Caroline drew her chair close. "I'll give you a secret. You won't
tell any one, will you?"
"Certainly not--if you tell me not to," said Maggie.
"Well, Martin Warlock and I--ever since he came back. Oh! I don't
say it's anything really. But he's attracted by me and would like to
go farther. He'll be asking me to marry him one of these days, and
then I'll have fun. He would have done the other day if I'd let him.
I like him rather, don't you? He's getting a bit fat, of course, but
he's got nice eyes, and then he's a real man. I like real men. But
there, you'll be thinking me coarse, I know you will. I'm not coarse
really, only impulsive. You don't like me, honestly, if it were
known. Oh no! you don't! I can tell. I always know. But I don't
care--I love you. You're a darling--and what I say is if you love
some one, just love them. Never mind what they think. Don't you
agree with me? But you wouldn't. You wouldn't think of loving
anybody. But I'm not really bad--only careless, Mother says--"
What Mother said could not be known, because the door opened and
Martha announced Mr. Crashaw. The old man, leaning on a walking
stick, came forward and greeted Maggie and Caroline with good-temper
and amiability. He was indeed in day-time a very mild old man, and
it was difficult for Maggie to believe that this was the same who
last night had frightened her out of her wits and led her to the
edge of such strange suspicions. He was more than ever like a
monkey, with his bony brown forehead, protuberant eyes and large
mottled nose, and he sat there all huddled up by his rheumatism, a
living example of present physical torments rather than future
spiritual ones. It was apparent at once that he liked pretty young
women, and he paid Caroline a number of flattering attentions,
disregarding Maggie with a frankness that witnessed to a life that
had taught one lesson at least, never on any occasion to waste time.
Maggie did not mind--it amused her to see her terror of the night
before transformed into a mere serenading crippled old gentleman,
and to see, too, the excited pleasure with which Caroline accepted
even such decayed attentions as these. But what was it that had
persuaded her last night? Why did she now spend her time half in one
world and half in another? Which world was the real one?
Aunt Anne very soon joined them, and this quiet, composed figure
only added to Maggie's scorn of her last night's terrors. Was this
the same who had struggled with such agony, who had made Maggie feel
that she was caught in a trap and imprisoned for ever?
The sun beat hotly upon the carpet. Caroline's rose-coloured silk
shone and glowed, the tea was poured out, and there was chatter
about the warm winter that it was and how time passed, and how
fashions changed, and how you never saw a four-wheeler now, and what
they were turning Kingsway into, and what they were turning the Law
Courts out of, and even once, by Mr. Crashaw, a word about the
Lyceum Theatre, where some one was playing the Merchant of Venice,
which was a fine play and could do no one any harm.
"But I daresay," said Mr. Crashaw, "that this young lady here goes
to nothing but plays every night of her life."
"Why, Mr. Crashaw," said Caroline, tossing her head. "If that's the
kind of life you fancy I lead you're completely mistaken. Theatres
indeed! Never do I put so much as the tip of my nose inside one.
Father thinks they're wrong and so does Mother say she does,
although I know she likes them, really; but any way that doesn't
matter because I never have a moment to myself--sitting at home
sewing, that's the way I spend my days, Mr. Crashaw."
It was the very last way she really spent them, as Maggie perfectly
well knew. It is not to be supposed that Mr. Crashaw either was
deceived. However, he gave a wicked wink with the eye that was least
rheumatic and said something about "a beautiful young lady like Miss
Smith wasted on sewing and darning," and Caroline smiled and said
something about "one day perhaps"--and Aunt Anne looked remotely
benevolent. What did she think of all this, Maggie wondered? What
did she think of her great preacher, her prophet, wasting the few
hours of life that remained to him over such a business? They had
some secret understanding, perhaps, as though they said to one
another, "We know, you and I, what are our real intentions beneath
all this. We only do what we must."
Understanding or no, Mr. Crashaw sprang up with unexpected activity
when Caroline departed and announced his intention of conducting her
to her door. He made his adieus and then hobbled along after the
rose-coloured silk as though this was his last chance of warming his
hands at the flame of life.
When they were gone, Aunt Anne said:
"I am going back to bed, Maggie, dear. Martha will send me up some
supper later. Elizabeth has gone to Lambeth to see a friend, so make
yourself busy until seven, dear. If I want anything I'll ring."
When she was left alone in the darkening room she stood there
thinking. Why should she not go out and find Martin? She did not
care what any one thought. She would go to his house and ask for
him. She had waited and waited . . . She wanted him so, she wanted
him so desperately!
Then Martha opened the door and announced him, yes, really announced
him, saying: "It's young Mr. Warlock, Miss, and he says if your
aunts isn't in you'll do."
"Ask him to come up, Martha," said Maggie, and then held herself
there, rooted, where she stood so that she should not run to him and
fling her arms round his neck. She felt at once with that quick
perception that was hers, in spite of her ignorance of life, that
this was no moment for love-making, and that he wanted something
quite other from her.
He closed the door behind him, looked round the room, didn't come to
her, but stayed where he was.
"I've been trying to see you all day," he said. "How long have we
got alone do you think?" She never took her eyes from his face.
"Until seven probably. Aunt Elizabeth's in Lambeth and Aunt Anne's
"That's luck." He drew a breath of relief, then moved over to the
fireplace. "Maggie, I've come to say we mustn't see one another any
Some one, some vast figure shadowy behind her, moved suddenly
forward and caught her in his arms and his embrace was deadly cold.
She stood where she was, her hands at her side, looking steadfastly
"Why?" she said. "Because--because--the fact is, I've been wrong
altogether. Maggie, I'm not the sort of man for you to have anything
to do with. You don't know much about life yet, do you? I'm about
the first man you've ever met, aren't I? If you'd met another man
before me, you'd have cared for him as much."
She said nothing and he seemed to be confused by her steady gaze,
because he looked down and continued to speak as though to himself:
"I knew at once that there was danger in our meeting. With other
girls they can look after themselves. One hasn't any responsibility
to them. It's their own affair, but you believe every word a fellow
says. And if we'd been friends it wouldn't have mattered, but from
the very first we weren't that--we were something more."
"You were so different from any other girl. I've wanted to be good
to you from the beginning, but now I see that if we go on I shall
only be bad. It all comes in the end to my being bad--really bad--
and I want you to know it." "I don't know," said Maggie, "that I've
thought very much whether you're good or bad. And it doesn't matter.
I can look after myself."
"No, you can't," he said vehemently, making a step towards her and
then suddenly stopping. "That's just it--you can't. I've been
thinking all the time since the other evening when we were together,
and I've seen that you believe every word I say and you trust me. I
don't mean to tell lies--I don't know that I'm worse than most other
men--but I'm not good enough for you to trust in all the same. I've
been knocking about for years, and I suppose I've had most of my
idealism knocked out of me. Anyway I don't believe in most people,
and you still do. I'm not going to be the one to change you."
"Perhaps I know more about life than you think," said Maggie.
"No, how can you? You've never had a chance of seeing any of it.
You'd get sick of me in no time. I'm moody and selfish and bad-
tempered. I used to drink a bit too. And I can't be faithful to
women. I might think I was going to be faithful to you and swear I
would be--and then suddenly some one would come along. I thought for
a bit I'd just go on with you and see what came of it. You're so
unusual, you make me want to be straight with you; but I've seen it
wouldn't be fair. I must just slip out of your path and you'll
forget me, and then you'll meet a much better man than I and be
happy. I'm queer--I have funny moods that last for days and days
sometimes. I seem to do every one harm I come in touch with. There's
my father now. I love him more than any one in the world, and yet I
make him unhappy all the time. I'm a bad fellow to be with--"
He stopped suddenly, looked at her and laughed. "It isn't any good,
Maggie . . . You haven't any idea what a sweep I am. You'd hate me
if you really knew."
She looked steadily back at him. "We haven't much time," she said,
speaking with steady, calm conviction as though she had, for years,
been expecting just such a conversation as this, and had thought out
what she would say. "Aunt Elizabeth can come back earlier than she
said. Perhaps I shall say something I oughtn't to. I don't care. The
whole thing is that I love you. I suppose it's true that I don't
know anything about men, but I'd be poor enough if my love for you
just depended on your loving me back, and on your being good to me
and all the rest of it. I've never had any one I could love until
you came, but now that you have come it can't be anything that you
can do that can alter it. If you were to go away I'd still love you,
because it's the love in me that matters, not what I get for it.
Perhaps you'll make me unhappy, but anyway one will be unhappy some
of the time."
She went up to him and kissed him. "I know Caroline Smith or some
one would be very shocked if they thought I'd said such things to
you, but I can't help what they say."
He had a movement to catch her and hold her, but he kept himself
off, moved away from her, turning his back to her.
"You don't understand . . . you don't understand," he repeated.
"You know nothing about men, Maggie, and you know nothing about me.
I tell you I wouldn't be faithful to you, and I'd be drunk
sometimes, and I'd have moods for days, when I'd just sulk and not
speak to a soul. I think those moods some damned sort of religion
when I'm in them, but what they really are is bad temper. You've got
to know it, Maggie. I'd be rotten to you, however much I wanted not
"That's my own affair," she answered. "I can look after myself. And
for all the rest, I'm independent and I'll always be independent.
I'll love you whether you're good to me or bad."
"Well, then," he suddenly wheeled round to her, "you'd better have
it . . . I'm married already."
She took that with a little startled cry. Her eyes searched his face
in a puzzled fashion as though she were pursuing the truth. Then she
said like a child who sees some toy broken before its eyes:
"Yes. Nobody knows--not a soul. It was a mad thing--four years ago
in Marseille I met a girl, a little dressmaker there. I went off my
head and married her, and then a month later she ran off with a
merchant chap, a Greek. I didn't care; we got on as badly as
anything . . . but there you are. No one knows. That's the whole
thing, Maggie. I thought at first I wouldn't tell you. I was
beginning to care for you too much, as a matter of fact, and then
when your uncle asked me to dinner, I told myself I was a fool to
go. Then when I saw how you trusted me, I thought I'd be a cad and
let it continue, but somehow . . . you've got an influence over me
. . . You've made me ashamed of things I wouldn't have hesitated
about a year ago. And the funny thing is it isn't your looks. I can
say things to you I couldn't to other women, and I'll tell you right
away that there are lots of women attract me more. And yet I've
never felt about any woman as I do about you, that I wanted to be
good to her and care for her and love her. It's always whether they
loved me that I've thought about . . . Well, now I've told you, you
see that I'd better go, hadn't I? You see . . . you see."
She looked up at him.
"I've got to think. It makes a difference, of course. Can we meet
after a week and talk again?"
"Much better if I don't see you any more. I'll go away altogether--
"No--after a week--"
"Much better not."
"Yes. Come here after a week. And if we can't be alone I'll give you
a letter somehow . . . Please, Martin--you must."
"Maggie, just think--"
"No--after a week."
"Very well, then," he turned on her fiercely. "I've been honest.
I've told you. I've done all I can. If I love you now it isn't my
He left the room, not looking at her again. And she stood there,
staring in front of her.
THE PROPHET IN HIS OWN HOME
Martin walked into the street with a confused sense of triumph and
defeat, that confusion that comes to all sensitive men at the moment
when they are stepping, against their will, from one set of
conditions into another. He had gone into that house, only half an
hour ago, determined to leave Maggie for ever--for his good and
hers. He came back into the street realising that he was now,
perhaps for the first time, quite definitely involved in some
relation with her--good, bad, safe, dangerous he did not know--but
involved. He had intended to tell her nothing of his marriage--and
he had told her. He had intended to treat their whole meeting as
something light, passing, inconsiderable--he had instead treated it
as something of the utmost gravity. He had intended, above all, to
prove to himself that he could do what he wished--he had found that
he had no power.
And so, as he stepped through the dim gold-dust of the evening light
he was stirred with an immense sense of having stepped, definitely
at last, across the threshold of new adventure and enterprise. All
kinds of problems were awaiting solution--his relation to his
father, his mother, his sister, his home, his past, his future, his
sins and his weaknesses--and he had meant to solve them all, as he
had often solved them in the past, by simply cutting adrift. But
now, instead of that, he had decided to stay and face it all out, he
had confessed at last that secret that he had hidden from all the
world, and he had submitted to the will of a girl whom he scarcely
knew and was not even sure that he liked.
He stopped at that for a moment and, standing in a little pool of
purple light under the benignant friendliness of a golden moon new
risen and solitary, he considered it. No, he did not know whether he
liked her--it was interest rather that drew him, her strangeness,
her strength and loneliness, young and solitary like the moon above
him--and yet--also some feeling softer than interest so that he was
suddenly touched as he thought of her and spoke out aloud: "I'll be
good to her--whatever happens, by God I'll be good to her," so that
a chauffeur near him turned and looked with hard scornful eyes, and
a girl somewhere laughed. With all his conventional dislike of being
in any way "odd" he walked hurriedly on, confused and wondering more
than ever what it was that had happened to him. Always before he had
known his own mind--now, in everything, he seemed to be pulled two
ways. It was as though some spell had been thrown over him.
It was a lovely evening and he walked slowly, not wishing to enter
his house too quickly. He realised that he had, during the last
weeks, found nothing there but trouble. And if Maggie wished, in
spite of what he had told her, to go on with him? And if his father,
impatient at last, definitely asked him to stay at home altogether
and insisted on an answer? And if his gradually increasing
estrangement with his sister broke into open quarrel? And if,
strangest of all, this religious business, that in such
manifestations as the Chapel service of last night he hated with all
his soul, held him after all?
He was in Garrick Street, outside the curiosity shop, his latchkey
in his hand. He stopped and stared down the street as he had done
once before, weeks ago. Was not the root of all his trouble simply
this, that he was becoming against his will interested, drawn in?
That there were things going on that his common sense rejected as
nonsense, but that nevertheless were throwing out feelers like the
twisting threats of an octopus, touching him now, only faintly, here
for a second, there for a second, but fascinating, holding him so
that he could not run away? Granted that Thurston was a charlatan,
Miss Avies a humbug, his sister a fool, his father a dreamer,
Crashaw a fanatic, did that mean that the power behind them all was
sham? Was that force that he had felt when he was a child simply
eager superstition? What was behind this street, this moon, these
hurrying figures, his own daily life and thoughts? Was there really
a vast conspiracy, a huge involving plot moving under the cardboard
surface of the world, a plot that he had by an accident of birth
spied upon and discovered?
Always, every day now, thoughts, suspicions, speculations were
coming upon him, uninvited, undesired, from somewhere, from some
one. He did not want them he wanted only the material physical life
of the ordinary man. It must be because he was idling. He would get
work at once, join with some one in the City, go abroad again . . .
but perhaps even then he would not escape. Thoughts like those of
the last weeks did not depend for their urgency on place or time.
And Maggie, she was mixed up in it all. He was aware, as he
hesitated before opening the door, of the strangest feeling of
belonging to her, not love, nor passion, not sentiment even. Only as
though he had suddenly realised that with new perils he had received
also new protection.
He went upstairs with a feeling that he was on the eve of events
that would change his whole world.
As Martin climbed to the top of the black crooked staircase he was
conscious, as though it had been shown him in a vision, that he was
on the edge of some scene that might shape for him the whole course
of his future life. He had been aware, once or twice before, of such
a premonition, and, as with most men, half of him had rejected and
half of him received the warning. To-day, however, there were
reasons enough for thinking this no mere baseless superstition. With
Maggie, with his father, with his sister, with his own life the
decision had got to be taken, and it was with an abrupt
determination that he would end, at all costs, the fears and
uncertainties of these last weeks that he pushed back the hall-door
and entered. He noticed at once strange garments hanging on the rack
and a bright purple umbrella which belonged, as he knew, to a
certain Mrs. Alweed, a friend of his mother's and a faithful servant
of the Chapel, stiff and assertive in the umbrella-stand. There was
a tea-party apparently. Well, he could not face that immediately. He
would have to go in afterwards . . . meanwhile . . .
He turned down the passage, pushed back his father's door and
entered. He paused abruptly in the doorway; there, standing in front
of the window facing him, his pale chin in the air, his legs apart,
supercilious and self-confident, stood Thurston. His father's desk
was littered with papers, rustling and blowing a little in the
breeze from the window that was never perfectly closed.
One candle, on the edge of the desk, its flame swaying in the air
was the only light. Martin's first impulse was to turn abruptly back
again and go up to his room. He could not speak to that fellow now,
he could not! He half turned. Then something stopped him:
"Halloo!" he said. "Where's father?"
"Don't know," said Thurston, sucking the words through his teeth.
"I've been wanting him too."
"Well, as he isn't here--" said Martin fiercely.
"No use me waiting? Quite so. All the same I'm going to wait."
The two figures were strangely contrasted, Martin red-brown with
health, thick and square, Thurston pale with a spotted complexion,
dim and watery eyes, legs and arms like sticks, his black clothes
shabby and his boots dusty.
Nevertheless at that moment it was Thurston who had the power. He
moved forward from the window. "Makes you fair sick to see me
anywhere about the 'ouse, doesn't it? Oh, I know . . . You can't kid
me. I've seen from the first. You fair loathe the sight of me."
"That's nothing to do with it," said Martin uneasily. "Whether we
like one another or not, there's no need to discuss it."
"Oh, isn't there?" said Thurston, coming a little closer so that he
was standing now directly under the light of the candle. "Why not?
Why shouldn't we? What's the 'arm? I believe in discussing things
myself. I do really. I've said to myself a long way back. 'Well,
now, the first time I get 'im alone I'll ask him why 'e does dislike
me. I've always been civil to him,' I says to myself, 'and yet I
can't please him--so I'll just ask him straight.'"
Martin shrugged his shoulders; he wanted to leave the room, but
something in Thurston held him there.
"I suppose we aren't the sort to get on together. We haven't got
enough in common," he said clumsily.
"I don't know about that," Thurston said in a friendly
conversational tone. "I shouldn't wonder if we've got more in common
than you'd fancy. Now I'll tell you right out, I like you. I've
always liked you, and what's more I always shall. Whatever you do--"
"I don't care," broke in Martin angrily, "whether you like me or
"No, I know you don't," Thurston continued quietly. "And I know what
you think of me, too. This is your idea of me, I reckon--that I'm a
pushing, uneducated common bounder that's just using this religious
business to shove himself along with; that's kidding all these poor
old ladies that 'e believes in their bunkum, and is altogether about
as low-down a fellow as you're likely to meet with. That's about the
colour of it, isn't it?"
Martin said nothing. That was exactly "the colour of it."
"Yes, well," Thurston continued, a faint flush on his pale cheeks.
"Of course I know that all right. And I'll tell you the idea that I
might 'ave of you--only might 'ave, mind you. Why, that you're a
stuck-up ignorant sort of feller, that's been rolling up and down
all over Europe, gets a bit of money, comes over and bullies his
father, thinks 'e knows better than every one about things 'e knows
nothing about whatever--"
"Look here, Thurston," Martin interrupted, stepping forward. "I tell
you I don't care a two-penny curse what a man like--"
"I only said might, mind you," said Thurston, smiling. "It's only a
short-sighted fool would think that of you really. And I'm not a
fool. No, really, I'm not. I've got quite another idea of you. My
idea is that you're one of us whether you want to be or not, and
that you always will be one of us. That's why I like you and will be
a friend to you too."
"I tell you I don't want your damned friendship," Martin cried. "I
don't want to have anything to do with you or your opinion or your
plans or anything else."
"That's all right," said Thurston. "I quite understand. It's natural
enough to feel as you do. But I'm afraid you'll 'ave to 'ave
something to do with me. I'm not quite what you think me, and you're
not quite what you think yourself. There's two of each of us, that's
the truth of it. I may be a sham and a charlatan, one part of me, I
don't know I'm sure. I certainly don't believe all your governor
does. I don't believe all I say and I don't say all I think. But
then 'oo does? You don't yourself. I'll even tell you straight out
that when I just came into the business I laughed at the lot of 'em,
your father and all. 'A silly lot o' softs they are,' I said to
myself, 'to believe all that nonsense.' But now--I don't know. When
you've been at this game a bit you scarcely know what you do
believe, that's the truth of it. There may be something in it after
all. Sometimes . . . well, it 'ud surprise you if you'd seen all
the things I have. Oh, I don't mean ghosts and spirits and all that
kind of nonsense. No, but the kind of thing that 'appens to people
you'd never expect. You're getting caught into it yourself; I've
watched you all along. But that isn't the point. The point is that
I'm not so bad as you think, nor so simple neither. And life isn't
so simple, nor religion, nor love, nor anything as you think it.
You're young yet, you know. Very young."
Martin turned back to the door.
"All very interesting, Thurston," he said. "You can think what you
like, of course. All the same, the less we see of one another--"
"Well," said Thurston slowly, smiling. "That'll be a bit difficult--
to avoid one another, I mean. You see, I'm going to marry your
Martin laughed. Inside him something was saying: "Now, look out.
This is all a trap. He doesn't mean what he says. He's trying to
"Going to marry Amy? Oh no, you're not."
Thurston did not appear to be interested in anything that Martin had
to say. He continued as though he were pursuing his own thoughts.
"Yes . . . so it'll be difficult. I didn't think you'd like it when
you heard. I said to Amy, 'E won't like it,' I said. She said you'd
been too long away from the family to judge. And so you have, you
know. Oh! Amy and I'll be right enough. She's a fine woman, your
Martin burst out:
"Well, then, that settles it. It simply settles it. That finishes
"Finishes what ?" asked Thurston, smiling in a friendly way.
"Never you mind. It's nothing to do with you. Has my father
"Yes . . . said all 'e wanted was for Amy to be 'appy. And so she
will be. I'll look after her. You'll come round to it in time."
"Father agrees . . . My God! But it's impossible! Don't you see?
Don't you see? I . . ."
The sudden sense of his impotence called back his words. He felt
nothing but rage and indignation against the whole set of them,
against the house they were in, the very table with the papers
blowing upon it and the candle shining . . . Well, it made his own
affair more simple--that was certain. He must be off--right away
from them all. Stay in the house with that fellow for a brother-in-
law? Stay when . . .
"It's all right," said Thurston, moistening his pale dry lips with
his tongue. "You'll see it in time. It's the best thing that could
'appen. And we've got more in common than you'd ever suppose. We
'ave, really. You're a religious man, really--can't escape your
destiny, you know. There's religious and non-religious and it
doesn't matter what your creed is, whether you're a Christian or a
'Ottentot, there it is. And if you're religious, you're religious. I
may be the greatest humbug on the market, but I'm religious. It's
like 'aving a 'are lip--you'll be bothered with it all your life."
But what more Thurston may have said Martin did not hear: he had
left the room, banging the door behind him. On what was his
indignation based? Injured pride. And was he really indignant? Was
not something within him elated, because by this he had been offered
his freedom? Thurston marry his sister? . . . He could go his own
way now. Even his father could not expect him to remain.
And he wanted Maggie--urgently, passionately. Standing for a moment
there in the dark passage he wanted her. He was lonely, disregarded,
They did not care for him here, no one cared for him anywhere--only
Maggie who was clear-eyed and truthful and sure beyond any human
being whom he had ever known. Then, with a very youthful sense of
challenging this world that had so grossly insulted him by admitting
Thurston into the heart of it, he joined the tea-party. There in the
pink, close, sugar-smelling, soft atmosphere sat his mother, Amy,
Mrs. Alweed and little Miss Pyncheon. His mother, with her lace cap
and white hair and soft plump hands, was pouring tea through a
strainer as though it were a rite. On her plate were three little
frilly papers that had held sugary cakes, on her lips were fragments
of sugar. Amy, in an ugly grey dress, sat severely straight upon a
hard chair and was apparently listening to Miss Pyncheon, but her
eyes, suspicious and restless, moved like the eyes of a newly
captured animal. Mrs. Alweed, stout in pink with a large hat full of
roses, smiled and smiled, waiting only for a moment when she could
amble off once again into space safe on the old broad back of her
family experiences, the only conversational steed to whose care she
ever entrusted herself. She had a son Hector, a husband, Mr. Alweed,
and a sister-in-law, Miss Alweed; she had the greatest confidence in
the absorbed attention of the slightest of her acquaintances.
"Hector, he's my boy, you know--although why I call him a boy I
can't think--because he's twenty-two and a half--he's at Cambridge,
Christs College--well, this morning I had a letter . . ." she would
begin. She began now upon Martin. His mind wandered. He looked about
the little room and thought of Thurston. Why was he not more angry
about it all? He had pretended to be indignant, he had hated
Thurston as he stood there . . . But had he? Half of him hated him.
Then with a jerk Thurston's words came back to him: "There's two of
each of us, that's the truth of it." "Two of each of us . . ."
Sitting there, listening to Mrs. Alweed's voice that flowed like a
river behind him, he saw the two figures, saw them quite clearly and
distinctly, flesh and blood, even clothes and voices and smile. And
he knew that all his life these two figures had been growing,
waiting for the moment when he would recognise them. One figure was
the Martin whom he knew--brown, healthy, strong and sane; a figure
wearing his clothes, his own clothes, the tweeds and the cloths, the
brogues and the heavy boots, the soft untidy hats; the figure was
hard, definite, resolute, quarrelling, arguing, loving, joking,
swearing all in the sensible way. It was a figure that all the world
had understood, that had been drunk often enough, lent other men
money, been hard-up and extravagant and thoughtless. "A good chap."
"A sensible fellow." "A pal." "No flies on Warlock." That was the
kind of figure. And the life had been physical, had never asked
questions, had never known morbidity, had lived on what it saw and
could touch and could break . . . And the other figure! That was,
physically, less plainly seen. No, there it was, standing a little
away from the other, standing away, contemptuously, despising it,
deriding it. Fat, soft, white hanging cheeks, wearing anything to
cover its body, but shining in some way through the clothes, so that
it was body that you saw. A soft body, hands soft and the colour of
the flesh pale and unhealthy. But it was the eyes that spoke: the
mouth trembled and was weak, the chin was fat and feeble, but the
eyes lived, lived--were eager, fighting, beseeching, longing,
And this figure, Martin knew, was a prey to every morbid desire,
rushed to sensual excess and then crept back miserably to search
for some spiritual flagellation. Above all, it was restless, as
some one presses round a dark room searching for the lock of the
door, restless and lonely, cowardly and selfish, but searching
and sensitive and even faithful, faithful to something or to some
one . . . pursued also by something or some one. A figure to whom
this world offered only opportunities for sin and failure and
defeat, but a figure to whom this world was the merest shadow
hiding, as a shade hides a lamp, the life within. Wretched enough
with its bad health, its growing corpulence, its weak mouth, its
furtive desires, but despising, nevertheless, the strong, healthy
figure beside it. Thurston was right. Men are not born to be free,
but to fight, to the very death, for the imprisonment and
destruction of all that is easiest and most physically active and
most pleasant to the sight and touch . . .
"And so Hector really hopes that he'll be able to get down to us for
Christmas, although he's been asked to go on this reading party. Of
course, it's simply a question as to whether he works better at home
or with his friends. If he were a weak character, I think Mr. Alweed
would insist in his coming home, but Hector really cares for his
work more than anything. He's never been very good at games; his
short sight prevents him, poor boy, and as he very justly remarked,
when he was home last holidays, 'I don't see, mother, how I am going
to do my duty as a solicitor (that's what he hopes to be) if I don't
work now. Many men regard Cambridge as a time for play. Not so I.'"
"But I hope that if Hector comes home this Christmas he'll attend
the Chapel services. The influence your father might have on such a
boy as Hector, Mr. Warlock, a boy, sensitive and thoughtful . . . I
was saying, Miss Pyncheon, that Hector--"
Miss Pyncheon was the soul of good-nature--but she was much more
than that. She was by far the most sensible, genial, and worldly of
the Inside Saints; it was, in fact, astonishing that she should be
an Inside Saint at all.
Of them all she impressed Martin the most, because there was nothing
of the crank about her. She went to theatres, to the seaside in the
summer, took in The Queen, and was a subscriber to Boots'
Circulating Library. She dressed quietly and in excellent taste--in
grey or black and white. She had jolly brown eyes and a dimple in
the middle of her chin. She was ready to discuss any question with
any one, was marvellously broad-minded and tolerant, and although
she was both poor and generous, always succeeded in making her
little flat in Soho Square pretty and attractive.
Her chief fault, perhaps, was that she cared for no one especially--
she had neither lovers nor parents nor sisters nor brothers, and to
all her friends she behaved with the same kind geniality, welcoming
one as another. She was thus aloof from them all and relied upon no
one. The centre of her life was, of course, her religion, but of
this she never spoke, although strangely enough no one doubted the
intensity of her belief and the reality of her devotion.
She was a determined follower of Mr. Warlock; what he said she
believed, but here, too, there seemed to be no personal attachment.
She did not allow criticism of him in her own presence, but, on the
other hand, she never spoke as though it would distress her very
greatly to lose him. He was a sign, a symbol . . . If one symbol
went another could be found.
To Martin she was the one out-standing proof of the reality of the
Chapel. All the others--his sister, Miss Avies, Thurston, Crashaw,
the Miss Cardinals, yes, and his father too, were, in one way or
another, eccentric, abnormal, but Miss Pyncheon was the sane every-
day world, the worldly world, the world of drinks and dinners, and
banks and tobacconists, and yet she believed as profoundly as any of
them. What did she believe? She was an Inside Saint, therefore she
must have accepted this whole story of the Second Coming and the
rest of it. Of course women would believe anything . . .
Nevertheless . . .
He scarcely listened to their chatter. He was forcing himself not to
look at his sister, and yet Thurston's news seemed so extraordinary
to him that his eye kept stealing round to her to see whether she
were still the same. Could she have accepted him, that bounder and
cad and charlatan? He felt a sudden cold chill of isolation as
though in this world none of the ordinary laws were followed. "By
God, I am a stranger here," he thought. It was not until after
dinner that night that he was alone with his father. He had resolved
on many fine things in the interval. He was going to "have it out
with him," "to put his foot down," "to tell him that such a thing as
Thurston's marriage to his sister was perfectly impossible." And
then, for the thousandth time since his return to England he felt
strangely weak and irresolute. He did wish to be "firm" with his
father, but it would have been so much easier to be firm had he not
been so fond of him. "Soft, sentimental weakness," he called it to
himself, but he knew that it was something deeper than that,
something that he would never be able to deny.
He went into his father's study that night with a strange dismal
foreboding as though he were being drawn along upon some path that
he did not want to follow. What was his father mixed up with all
this business for? Why were such men as Thurston in existence? Why
couldn't life be simple and straightforward with people like his
father and himself and that girl Maggie alone somewhere with nothing
to interfere? Life was never just as you wanted it, always a little
askew, a little twisted, cynically cocking its eye at you before it
vanished round the corner? He didn't seem to be able to manage it.
Anyway, he wasn't going to have that fellow Thurston marrying his
He found his father lying back in his arm-chair fast asleep, looking
like a dead man, his long thin face pale with fatigue, his eyelids a
dull grey, his mouth tightly closed as though in a grim
determination to pursue some battle. And at the sight of him thus
worn out and beaten Martin's affection flooded his heart. He stood
opposite his father looking at him and loving him more deeply than
he had ever done before.
"I will take him away from all this," was his thought, "these
Thurstons and all--out of all this . . . We'll go off abroad
somewhere. And I'll make him fat and happy."
Then his father suddenly woke up, with a start and a cry: "Where am
I?" . . . Then he suddenly saw Martin. "Martin," he said, smiling.
Martin smiled back and then began at once: "Father, this isn't true
about Thurston, is it?"
He saw, as he had often done before, that his father had to call
himself up from some world of vision before he could realise even
his surroundings. Martin he recognised intuitively with the
recognition of the spirit, but he seemed to take in the details of
the room slowly, one by one, as though blinded by the light.
"Ah--I've been dreaming," he said, still smiling at Martin
helplessly and almost timidly. "I'm so tired these days--suddenly--I
usen't to be . . ." He put his hand to his forehead, then laid it on
Martin's knee, and the strength and warmth of that seemed suddenly
to fill him with vigour.
"You're never tired, are you?" he asked as a child might ask an
"Very seldom," answered Martin, "I say, father, what is all this
"Thurston . . . Why, what's he been doing?"
"He says he's engaged to Amy." The disgust of the idea made Martin's
words, against his will, sharp and angry.