Part 6 out of 11
his few words had given her, but she felt once again, as she had
felt in Katherine Mark's drawing-room, the contact with that other
world, that safe, happy, comfortable, assured world in which
everything was exactly what it seemed. She was glad that he liked
her and that his sister liked her. Then she could not be so wild and
odd and uncivilised as she often was afraid that she was. She
rejoined Martin with a little added glow in her cheeks.
"Who was that?" Martin asked her rather sharply.
She told him.
"One of those humbugging parsons," he said. "He stood over you as
though he'd like to eat you."
"Oh, I'm sure he's not a humbug," she answered.
"You'd be taken in by anybody," he told her.
"Oh, no, I shouldn't," she said. "Now forget him."
And they did. By the time they had reached Piccadilly Circus they
were once more deep, deep in one another. They were back in their
dark and gleaming wood.
The Lyric Theatre was their destination. Maggie drew a breath as
they stepped into the hall where there stood two large stout
commissionaires in blue uniforms, gold buttons, and white gloves.
People pushed past them and hurried down the stairs on either side
as though a theatre were a Nothing. Maggie stood there fingering her
gloves and feeling lonely. The oil painting of a beautiful lady with
a row of shining teeth faced her. There were also some palms and a
hole in the wall with a man behind it.
Soon they too passed down the stairs, curtains were drawn back, and
Maggie was sitting, quite suddenly, in a large desert of gold and
red plush, with emptiness on every side of it and a hungry-looking
crowd of people behind a wooden partition staring at her in such a
way that she felt as though she had no clothes on. She gave a
hurried glance at these people and turned round blushing.
"Why don't they sit with us?" she whispered to Martin.
"They're the Pit and we're the Stalls," he whispered to her, but
that comforted her very little.
"Won't people come and sit where we are?" she asked.
"Oh yes; we're early," he told her.
Soon she was more composed and happier. She sat very close to
Martin, her knee against his and his hand near to hers, just
touching the outside of her palm. Her ring sparkled and the three
little pearls smiled at her. As he breathed she breathed too, and it
seemed to her that their bodies rose and fell as one body. Without
looking directly at him, which would, she knew, embarrass him before
all those hungry people behind her, she could out of the corner of
her eye see the ruddy brown of his cheek and the hard thick curve of
his shoulder. She was his, she belonged to no one else in the world,
she was his utterly. Utterly. Ever so swiftly and gently her hand
brushed for an instant over his; he responded, crooking his little
finger for a moment inside hers. She smiled; she turned round and
looked at the people triumphantly, she felt a deep contented rest in
her heart, rich and full, proud and arrogant, the mother, the lover,
the sister, the child, everything to him she was . . .
People came in, the theatre filled, and a hum of talk arose, then
the orchestra began to tune, and soon music was playing, and Maggie
would have loved to listen but the people must chatter.
When suddenly the lights went down the only thing of which she was
conscious was that Martin's hand had suddenly seized hers roughly,
sharply, and was crushing it, pressing the ring into the flesh so
that it hurt. Her first excited wondering thought then was:
"He doesn't care for me any more only as a friend.--There's the
other now . . ." and a strange shyness, timidity, and triumph
overwhelmed her so that her eyes were full of tears and her body
But as the play continued she must listen. It was her very first
play and soon it was thrilling to her so that she forgot, for a
time, even Martin. Or rather Martin was mingled with it, absorbed in
it, part of it, and she was there too sharing with him the very
action of the story. It was a very old-fashioned play about a little
Charity girl who was brought up by a kindly middle-aged gentleman
who cared for nothing but books. He brought her up on his own plan
with a view to marrying her afterwards. But meanwhile, of course,
she saw a handsome young soldier who was young like herself, and she
was naturally bored with the studious gentleman. Maggie shared all
the feelings of the Charity girl. Had she been brought up, say by a
man like Mr. Trenchard and then had met Martin, why, of course, she
could have gone only one way.
The soldier was not like Martin, being slim and curled and
beautiful, nor was the studious gentleman like Mr. Trenchard, being
thin and tall with a face like a monk and a beautiful voice. But the
girl was like Maggie, prettier of course, and with artful ways, but
untidy a little and not very well educated. At the first interval,
when the lights were up and the band was playing and the people
walking, Martin whispered:
"Do you like it, Maggie?"
"I love it," she answered.
And then they just sat there, without another word between them,
pressed close together.
A little song ran through the play--one of Burns's most famous
songs, although Maggie, who had never read anything, did not know
that. The verses were:
O my luve's like a red, red rose That's newly sprung in June: O my
luve's like the melodie That's sweetly played in tune!
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in luve am I: And I will
luve thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry:
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear, While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only Luve, And fare thee weel a while! And I
will come again, my Luve, Tho' it were ten thousand mile.
First the handsome soldier sang this to the Charity girl, and then,
because it was a sentimental tune, it was always turning up through
the play, and if one of the characters were not singing it the
orchestra was quietly playing it. Maggie loved it; she was not
sentimental but she was simple, and the tune seemed at once to
belong to herself and to Martin by natural right.
As the story developed it became more unreal and Maggie's unerring
knowledge of the difference between sense and nonsense refused to
credit the tall handsome villainness who confronted the Charity girl
at the ball. The Charity girl had no right to be at the ball and
people stood about in unnatural groups and pretended not to listen
to the loud development of the plot and no one seemed to use any of
their faculties. Then at the end, when the middle-aged gentleman
nobly surrendered his Charity girl to the handsome soldier, the
little tune came back again and all was well.
They came out of the theatre into lights and shadows and mists cabs
and omnibuses and crowds of people . . . Maggie clung to Martin's
arm. It seemed to her, dazzled for an instant, that a great are of
white piercing light cut the black street and that in the centre of
this arc a tree, painted green, stood, and round the tree figures,
dark shapes, and odd shadows danced. She shaded her eyes with her
hand. The long shining line of Shaftesbury Avenue ran out, from her
feet, into thick clusters of silver lights. The tree had vanished
and now there were policemen and ladies in hats and strange
mysterious houses. She caught above it all, between the roofs, the
pale flat river of the evening sky and in this river stars like
golden buttons floated. The moon was there too, a round amber coin
with the laughing face stamped upon it.
"What time is it?" she asked Martin.
"Half-past five," he said. "How early the moon rises. It's only
climbing now. See the chimney's tossing it about."
"I must get home."
"No, no." He held her arm fiercely. "You must come to tea. That's
part of the programme. We have plenty of time before seven o'clock."
She knew that she ought to return. Something seemed to tell her, as
she stood there, that now was the moment to break this off. But when
his hand was on her arm, when he was so close to her, she could not
leave him. She would have one hour more . . . He took her across the
street, down into darkness, up into light. Then they went into a
shop, up some stairs, and were suddenly in a little room with a
table with a cloth, a window looking out into the lamp-lit square,
cherry-coloured curtains and gay hunting pictures on the walls.
Martin pushed a bell in the wall and a stout waiter, perspiring,
smiling, a napkin in his hand, came to the door. "Tea," said Martin,
and he vanished. "It's all right," he said, drawing her to a
creaking wicker armchair near the empty fireplace. "No one will
interrupt us. They know me here. I ordered the room yesterday." Tea
came, but she could not eat anything. In some strange way that
moment in the theatre when he had pressed her hand had altered
everything. She recognised in herself a new Maggie; she was excited
with a thick burning excitement, she was almost sleepy with the
strain of it and her cheeks were hot, but her throat icy cold. When
she told him that she wasn't hungry, he said, "I'm not either." Then
he added, not looking at her, "That fellow won't be back for an
hour." He came and stood by her looking down on her. He bent forward
over the chair and put his hands under her chin and pressed her face
up towards his. But he did not kiss her. Then he took her hands and
pulled her gently out of the chair, sat down on it himself, then,
still very tenderly, put his arms round her and drew her down to
him. She lay back against him, her cheek against his, his arms tight
around her. He whispered to her again and again, "Darling . . .
Darling . . . Darling." She felt now so terribly part of him that
she seemed to have lost all her own identity. His hands, softly,
tenderly passed up and down her body, stroking her hair, her cheeks,
her arms. Her mouth was against his cheek and she was utterly
motionless, shivering a little sometimes and once her hand moved up
and caught his and then moved away again. At last, as it seemed from
an infinite distance, his voice came to her, speaking to her.
"Maggie, darling," he said, "don't go back till late to-night. You
can say that those people asked you to stay to dinner. Your aunts
can't do anything. Nothing can happen. Stay with me here and then
later we'll go and have dinner at a little place I know . . . and
then come back here . . . come back here . . . like this. Maggie,
darling, say you will. You must. We mayn't have another chance for
so long. You're coming to me afterwards. What does it matter, a
week or two earlier? What does it matter, Maggie? Stay here. Let
us love one another and have something to think about . . . to
remember . . . to remember . . . to remember . . ." His voice seemed
to slip away into infinity as voices in a dream do. She could not
say anything because she was in a dream too. She could only feel his
hand stroking her face. He seemed to take her silence for consent.
He suddenly kissed her furiously, pressing her head back until it
hurt. That woke her. She pushed his arms back and sprang up. Her
hands were trembling. She shook her head. "No, Martin. No, not now."
"Why not?" He looked at her angrily from the chair. His face was
altered, he was frowning, his eyes were dark. "I'm not going to stay
now." Her voice shook in spite of herself. With shaking hands she
patted her dress. "Why not?" he asked again. "I'm not. I promised
the aunts. Not now. It would spoil everything." "Oh, very well."
He was furious with her. He wouldn't meet her eyes. "Not now." She
felt that she would cry; tears flooded her eyes. "It's been so
lovely . . . Martin . . . Don't look like that. Oh, I love you too
much!" She broke off. With a sudden movement she fell at his feet;
kneeling there, she drew his hands to her face, she kissed them, the
palms of his hands over and over again. His anger suddenly left him.
He put his arms round her and kissed her, first her eyes, then her
cheeks, then, gently, her mouth. "All right," he said. "Only I feel
somehow . . . I feel as though our time had come to an end." "But it
shan't?" He turned upon her fiercely, held her hands, looked in her
face. "Maggie, do you swear that you'll love me always, whatever I
am, whatever I do?" "I swear," she answered, gazing into his eyes,"
that I'll love you always, whatever you are, whatever you do." Then
she went away, leaving him by the table, staring after her. In the
street she saw that her chrysanthemum was in pieces, torn and
scattered and destroyed. She slipped off the ring and put it into
her pocket, then, with forebodings in her heart, as though she did
indeed know that her good time was over, she turned towards home.
She was right. Her good time was over. That night she was left
alone. Martha let her in and, regarding her darkly, said nothing.
The aunts also said nothing, sitting all the evening under the green
shade of the lamp in the drawing-room, Aunt Anne reading a pamphlet,
Aunt Elizabeth sewing. Maggie pretended to read but she saw no
words. She saw only the green lamp like a dreadful bird suspended
there and Aunt Anne's chiselled sanctity. Over and over again she
reasoned with herself. There was no cause for panic. Nothing had
happened to change things--and yet--and yet everything was changed.
Everything had been changed from that moment when Martin pressed her
hand in the theatre. Everything! . . . Danger now of every sort. She
could be brave, she could meet anything if she were only sure of
Martin. But he too seemed strange to her. She remembered his dark
look, his frown when she had refused him. Oh, this loneliness, this
helplessness. If she could be with him, beside him, she would fear
nothing. That night, the first faint suspicion of jealousy, of
doubt, an agonising dart of pain at the knowledge of what it would
mean to her now if he left her, stirred in her breast. This room was
stifling. She got up from her chair, went to the window, looked out
between the thick curtains at the dark deserted street. "What is it,
Maggie?" "Nothing, Aunt Anne." "You're very restless, dear." "It's
close. May I open the door?" "A little, dear." She opened the door
and then sat there hearing the Armed Men sway ever so slightly, tap,
tap, against the wall in the passage. That night she scarcely slept
at all, only tumbling into sudden nightmare dreams when something
had her by the throat and Martin was not there. In the morning as
soon as she could escape she hurried to Piccadilly. Martin was
waiting for her. When she saw him she realised at once that her good
time was indeed over. His face was white and strained. He scarcely
looked at her but stared anxiously up and down the street.
"What is it?" she asked breathlessly. "Look here, Maggie," he began,
still scarcely looking at her. "I must get back at once. I only came
to tell you that we must drop our meetings for the next day or two--
until it's blown over."
"Until what's blown over," she asked him.
"It's my father. I don't know what exactly has happened. They'll
none of them tell me, damn them. It's Caroline Smith. She's been
talking to Amy about you and me. I know that because of what Amy
said about you at breakfast this morning."
"What did she say?"
"She wouldn't speak out. She hinted. But she admitted that Caroline
Smith had told her something. But she doesn't matter. Nothing
matters except father. He mustn't be excited just now. His heart's
so bad. Any little thing . . . We must wait."
She saw that he was scarcely realising her at all. She choked down
all questions that concerned themselves. She simply agreed, nodding
He did look at her then, smiling as he used to do.
"It's awfully hard on us. It won't be for more than a day or two.
But I must put things right at home or it will be all up. I don't
care for the others, of course, but if anything happened to father
through me . . ." He told her to write to the Charing Cross post-
office. He would do the same. In a day or two it would be all right.
He pressed her hand and was gone.
When she looked about her the street seemed quite empty although it
was full of people. She threw up her head. She wouldn't be beaten by
anybody . . . only, it was lonely going back to the house and all of
them . . . alone . . . without Martin.
She cried a little on her way home. But they were the last tears she
THE INSIDE SAINTS
Maggie, when she was nearly home, halted suddenly. She stopped as
when on the threshold of a room that should be empty one sees
waiting a stranger. If at the end of all this she should lose
Martin! . . .
There was the stranger who had come to her now and would not again
depart. She recognised the sharp pain, the almost unconscious
pulling back on the sudden edge of a dim pit, as something that
would always be with her now--always. One knows that in the second
stage of a great intimacy one's essential loneliness is only
redoubled by close companionship. One asks for so much more, and
then more and more, but that final embrace is elusive and no
physical contact can surrender it. But she was young and did not
know that yet. All she knew was that she would have to face these
immediate troubles alone, that she would not see him for perhaps a
week, that she would not know what his people at home were doing,
and that she must not let any of these thoughts come up into her
brain. She must keep them all back: if she did not, she would tumble
into some foolish precipitate action.
When she reached home she was obstinate and determined. At once she
found that something was the matter. During luncheon the two aunts
sat like statues (Aunt Elizabeth a dumpy and squat one). Aunt Anne's
aloofness was coloured now with a very human anger. Maggie realised
with surprise that she had never seen her angry before. She had been
indignant, disapproving, superior, forbidding, but never angry. The
eyes were hard now, not with religious reserve but simply with bad
temper. The mist of anger dimmed the room, it was in the potatoes
and the cold dry mutton, especially was it in the hard pallid knobs
of cheese. And Aunt Elizabeth, although she was frightened by her
sister's anger on this occasion, shared in it. She pursed her lips
at Maggie and moved her fat, podgy hand as though she would like to
smack Maggie's cheeks.
Maggie was frightened--really frightened. The line of bold
independence was all very well, but now risks were attached to it.
If she swiftly tossed her head and told her aunts that she would
walk out of the house they might say "Walk!" and that would
precipitate Martin's crisis. She knew from the way he had looked at
her that morning that his thoughts were with his father, and it
showed that she had travelled through the first stage of her
intimacy with him, that she could not trust him to put her before
his own family troubles. At all costs she must keep him safe through
these next difficult weeks, and the best way to keep him safe was
herself to remain quietly at home.
Of all this she thought as she swallowed the hostile knobs of cheese
and drank the tepid, gritty coffee.
She followed her aunts upstairs, and was not at all surprised when
Aunt Elizabeth, with an agitated murmur, vanished into higher
regions. She followed Aunt Anne into the drawing-room.
Aunt Anne sat in the stiff-backed tapestry chair by the fire. Maggie
stood in front of her. She was disarmed at that all-important moment
by her desperate sensation of defenceless loneliness. It was as
though half of herself--the man-half of herself--had left her. She
tried to summon her pluck but there was no pluck there. She could
only want Martin, over and over again inside herself. Had any one
been, ever so hopelessly ALONE before?
"Maggie, I am angry," said Aunt Anne. She said it as though she
meant it. Amazing how human this strange aloof creature had become.
As though some coloured saint bright with painted wood and tinsel
before whom one stood in reverence slipped down suddenly and with
fingers of flesh and blood struck one's face. Her cheeks were
flushed, her beautiful hands were no longer thin but were hard and
"What have I done, aunt?" asked Maggie.
"You have not treated us fairly. My sister and I have done
everything for you. You have not made it especially easy for us in
any way, but we have tried to give you what you wanted. You have
repaid is with ingratitude."
She paused, but Maggie said nothing. She went on:
"Lately--these last three weeks--we have given you complete liberty.
I advised that strongly against my sister's opinion because I
thought you weren't happy. You didn't make friends amongst our
friends, and I thought you should have the chance of finding some
who were younger and gayer than we were. Then I thought we could
trust you. You have many faults, but I believed that you were
"I am honest!" Maggie broke in. Her aunt went on:
"You have used the liberty we gave you during these weeks to make
yourself the talk of our friends. You have been meeting Mr. Martin
Warlock secretly every day. You have been alone with him in the Park
and at the theatre. I know that you are young and very ignorant. You
could not have known that Martin Warlock is a man with whom no girl
who respects herself would be seen alone--"
"That is untrue!" Maggie flamed out.
"--and," went on Aunt Anne, "we would have forgiven that. It is your
deceit to ourselves that we cannot forget. Day after day you were
meeting him and pretending that you went to your other friends. I am
disappointed in you, bitterly disappointed. I saw from the first
that you did not mean to care for us, now, as well, you have
Maggie began: "Yes, I have been seeing Martin. I didn't think it
wrong--I don't now. I didn't tell you because I was afraid that
you would stop me--"
"Then that shows that you knew it was wrong."
"No, Aunt Anne--only that you would think it was wrong. I can only
go by myself, by what I feel is wrong I mean. I've always had to,
all my life. It would have been no good doing anything else at home,
She pulled herself up. She was not going to defend herself or ask
for pity. She said, speaking finally:
"Yes, I have been out with Martin every day. I went to the theatre
with him, too, and also had tea with him."
Maggie could see Aunt Anne's anger rising higher and higher like
water in a tube. Her voice was hard when she spoke again--she
"We see now that you were right when you said that you had better
leave us. You are free to go as soon as you wish. You have, of
course, your money, but if you care to stay with us until you have
found some work you must now obey our rules. While you remain with
us you must not go out unless my sister or I accompany you." Then
her voice changed, softening a little. She suddenly raised her hands
in a gesture of appeal: "Oh, Maggie, Maggie, turn to God. You have
rebelled against Him. You have refused to listen to His voice. The
end of that can be only misery. He loves, but He also judges. Even
now, within a day, a week, He may come with judgment. Turn to Him,
Maggie, not because I tell you but because of the Truth. Pray with
me now that He may help you and give you strength."
Because she felt that she had indeed treated them badly and must do
just now what they wished, she knelt down on the drawing-room
carpet. Aunt Anne also knelt down, her figure stiff like iron, her
raised hands once again delicate and ghost-like.
"0 Lord God," she prayed, "this Thy servant comes to Thee and prays
that Thou wilt give her strength in her struggle with the Evil One.
She has been tempted and is weak, but Thou art strong to save and
wilt not despise the least of these Thy children."
"Come, O Lord the Father, and take Thy daughter into Thy loving
care, and when Thou comest, in all Thy splendour, to redeem the
world, I pray that Thou wilt find her waiting for Thee in holiness
and meekness of heart."
They rose. Maggie's knees were sore with the stiff carpet. The
family group watched her from the wall ironically.
She saw that in spite of the prayer Aunt Anne had not forgiven her.
She stood away from her, and although her voice now was not so hard,
it had lost altogether the tender note that it used to have.
"Now, Maggie, you must promise us that you will not see Martin
Maggie flushed. "No, aunt, I can't promise that."
"Then we must treat you as a prisoner whilst you are with us."
"If he wants to see me I must see him."
They looked at one another. Aunt Anne was like a man just then.
"Very well. Until you give us your promise we must see ourselves
that you do not disgrace us."
There was no more to be said. It was as though a heavy iron door had
Aunt Anne passed Maggie and left the room.
Well, then, there was the situation. As she remained in the empty
room she felt relief because now she knew where she was.
If only she could keep in touch with Martin then nothing else at all
mattered. But that must be, otherwise she felt that she would rush
at them all and tread them down and break doors and windows to get
Meanwhile, how they must all have been talking! She felt no especial
anger against Caroline Smith. It had been her own fault for trusting
that note to her honour. Caroline had no honour, of course. Maggie
might have guessed that from the way that she talked about other
people. And then probably she herself was in love with Martin . . .
She sat down, staring in front of her, thinking. They all knew, Amy
Warlock, Mr. Thurston, Miss Avies--knew about that wonderful,
marvellous thing, her love for Martin, his for her. They were
turning it over in their hands, soiling it, laughing at it, sneering
at it. And what were they doing to Martin? At that thought she
sprang up and began hurriedly to walk about. Oh, they must leave him
alone! What were they saying to him? They were telling him how
ridiculous it was to have anything to do with a plain, ugly girl!
And he? Was he defending her? At the sudden suggestion of his
disloyalty indignation fought in her with some strange, horrible
suspicion. Yes, it would come back, that thought. He was weak. He
had told her that he was. He was weak. She KNEW that he was. She
would not lie to herself. And then at the thought of his weakness
the maternal love in her that was the strongest instinct in her
character flooded her body and soul, so that she did not mind if he
were weak, but only wanted to defend him, to protect him . . .
Strangely, she felt more sure of him at that moment when she was
conscious of his weakness than she had been when she asserted his
strength. Beneath that weakness he would be true to her because he
needed her. No one else could give him what she did; he had said so
again and again. And it would always be so. He would have to come
back to her however often he denied her.
She felt happier then. She could face them all. She had been bad to
her aunts, too. She had done them harm, and they had been nothing
but goodness to her. Apart from leaving Martin she would do all,
these next weeks, to please them.
She went up to her bedroom, and when she reached it she realised,
with a little pang of fright, that she was a prisoner. No more
meetings outside Hatchards, no more teas, no more walks . . . She
looked out of the window down into the street. It was a long way
down and the figures walking were puppets, not human at all. But the
thing to be thought of now was the question of letters. How was she
to get them to the Strand Office and receive from them Martin's
letters in return? After long, anxious thought there seemed to be
only one way. There was a kitchen-maid, Jane, who came every morning
to the house, did odd jobs in the kitchen, and went home again in
the evening. Maggie had seen the girl about the house a number of
times, had noticed her for her rebellious, independent look, and had
felt some sympathy with her because she was under the harsh dominion
Maggie had spoken to her once or twice and the girl had seemed
grateful, smiling in a kind of dark, tearful way under her untidy
hair. Maggie believed that she would help her; of course the girl
would get into trouble were she discovered, and dismissal would
certainly follow, but it was clear enough that she would not in any
case be under Martha's government very long. Martha never kept
kitchen-maids for more than a month at a time.
She sat down at once and wrote her first letter, sitting on her bed.
DARLING MARTIN--There has been an explosion here. The aunts have
told me to give you up. I could not promise them that I would not
see you and so I am a prisoner here until I leave them altogether. I
won't leave them until after the New Year, partly because I gave a
promise and partly because it would make more trouble for you if I
were turned out just now. I can't leave the house at all unless I am
with one of them, so I am going to try and send the letters by the
kitchen-maid here who goes home every day, and she will fetch yours
when she posts mine. I'll give her a note to tell the post people
that she is to have them. Martin, dear, try and write every day,
even if it's only the shortest line, because it is dreadful to be
shut up all day, and I think of you all the time and wonder how you
are. Don't be unhappy, Martin--that's the one thing I couldn't bear.
If you're not, I'm not. There's no reason to be unhappy about me.
I'm very cheerful indeed if I know that you are all right. You are
all right, aren't you? I do want to know what happened when you got
home. I quite understand that the one thing you must do now is to
keep your father well and not let anything trouble him. If the
thought of me troubles him, then tell him that you are thinking of
nothing but him now and how to make him happy. But don't let them
change your feeling for me. You know me better than any of them do
and I am just as you know me, every bit. The aunts are very angry
because they say I deceived them, but they haven't any right to tell
me who I shall love, have they? No one has. I am myself and nobody's
ever cared for me except you--and Uncle Mathew, so I don't see why I
should think of anybody. The aunts never cared for me really--only
to make me religious.
But, Martin, never forget I love you so much I can never change. I'm
not one who changes, and although I'm young now I shall be just the
same when I'm old. I have the ring and I look at it all the time. I
like to think you have the locket. Please write, dear Martin, or
I'll find it very difficult to stay quiet here, and I know I ought
to stay quiet for your sake.
She put it in an envelope, wrote the address as he had told her, and
then set out to find Jane. It was four o'clock in the afternoon now
and the house, on this winter's day, was dark and dim.
The gas was always badly lit in the passages, spitting and muttering
like an imprisoned animal. The house was so quiet when Maggie came
out on to the stairs that there seemed to be no one in it. She found
her way down into the hall and saw Thomas the cat there, moving like
a black ghost along the floor. He came up to her and rubbed himself
in his sinister, mysterious way against her dress. When she turned
towards the green baize door that led towards the kitchen regions he
stood back from her, stole on to the lower steps of the staircase
and watched her with steady, unblinking eyes. She pushed the door
and went through into the cold passage that smelt of cheese and
bacon and damp earth. There seemed to be no one about, and then
suddenly the pantry door opened and Jane came out. She stopped when
she saw Maggie.
"Where's Martha?" asked Maggie in a low voice.
The whisper seemed to tell Jane at once that this was to be a
confidential matter. She jerked with a dirty thumb in the direction
of the kitchen.
"In there. Cooking the dinner," she whispered back. She was untidy,
there were streaks of black on her face, but her eyes looked up at
Maggie with a friendly, roguish glance, as though they had already
something in common. Maggie saw that she had no time to lose. She
came close to her.
"Jane," she said, "I'm in trouble. It's only you who can help me.
Here's a letter that I want posted--just in the ordinary way. Can
you do that for me?"
Jane, suddenly smiling, nodded her head.
"And there's something else," Maggie went on. "To-morrow morning,
before you come here, I want you to go to the Strand post-office--
you know the one opposite the station--and ask for a letter
addressed to me. I've written on a piece of paper here that you're
to be given any letters of mine. Give it to me somehow when no one's
looking. Do you understand?"
Jane nodded her head. Maggie gave her the note and also half-a-
crown, but Jane pushed back the money.
"I don't want no money," she said in a hoarse whisper. "You're the
only one here decent to me."
At that moment the kitchen door opened and Martha appeared. When she
saw Jane she came up to her and said: "Now then, idling again! What
about the potatoes?"
She looked at Maggie with her usual surly suspicion.
"I came down for a candle," Maggie said, "for my room. Will you give
me one, please?"
Jane had vanished.
Martin, meanwhile, after Maggie left him, had returned home in no
happy state. There had leapt upon him again that mood of sullen
impatient rebellion that he knew so well--a mood that really was
like a possession, so that, struggle as he--might, he seemed always
in the grip of some iron-fingered menacing figure.
It was possession in a sense that to many normal, happy people in
this world is so utterly unknown that they can only scornfully name
it weakness and so pass on their way. But those human beings who
have suffered from it do in very truth feel as though they had been
caught up into another world, a world of slavery, moral galley-
driving with a master high above them, driving them with a lash that
their chained limbs may not resist. Such men, if they try to explain
that torment, can often point to the very day and even hour of their
sudden slavery; at such a tick of the clock the clouds gather, the
very houses and street are weighted with a cold malignity, thoughts,
desires, impulses are all checked, perverted, driven and counter-
driven by a mysterious force. Let no man who has not known such
hours and the terror of such a dominion utter judgment upon his
To Martin the threat of this conflict with his father over Maggie
was the one crisis that he had wished to avoid. But his character,
which was naturally easy and friendly and unsuspicious, had confused
him. Those three weeks with Maggie had been so happy, so free from
all morbidity and complication, that he had forgotten the world
outside. For a moment when Maggie had told him that she had given
her note to Caroline he had been afraid, but he had been lulled as
the days passed and nothing interfered with their security. Now he
was suddenly plunged into the middle of a confusion that was all the
more complicated because he could not tell what his mother and his,
sister were thinking. He knew that Amy had disliked him ever since
his return, and that that dislike had been changed into something
fiercer since his declared opposition to Thurston. His mother he
simply did not understand at all. She spoke to him still with the
same affection and tenderness, but behind the words he felt a hard
purpose and a mysterious aloofness.
She was not like his mother at all; it was as though some spy had
been introduced into the house in his mother's clothing.
But for them he did not care; it was his father of whom he must
think. Here, too, there was a mystery from which he was deliberately
kept. He knew, of course, that they were all expecting some crisis;
as the days advanced he could feel that the excitement increased. He
knew that his father had declared that he had visions and that there
was to be a revelation very shortly; but of these visions and this
revelation he heard only indirectly from others. His father said
nothing to him of these things, and at the ordinary Chapel services
on Sunday there was no allusion to them. He knew that the Inside
Saints had a society and rules of their own inside the larger body,
and from that inner society he was quite definitely excluded. Of
that exclusion he would have been only too glad had it not been for
his father, but now when he saw him growing from day to day more
haggard and worn, more aloof from all human society, when lie saw
him wrapped further and further into some strange and as it seemed
to him insane absorption, he was determined to fight his way into
the heart of it. His growing intimacy with Maggie had relieved him,
for a moment, of the intensity of this other anxiety. Now suddenly
he was flung back into the very thick of it. His earlier plan of
forcing his father out of all this network of chicanery and
charlatanism now returned. He felt that if he could only seize his
father and forcibly abduct him and take him away from Amy and
Thurston and the rest, and all the associations of the Chapel, he
might cure him and lead him back to health and happiness again.
And yet he did not know. He had not himself escaped from it all by
leaving it, and then that undermining bewildering suspicion that
perhaps after all there was something in all of this, that it was
not only charlatanism, confused and disconcerted him. He was like a
man who hears sounds and faint cries behind a thick wall, and there
are no doors and windows, and the bricks are too stout to be torn
He had been behind that wall all his life . . .
Amy's allusion to Maggie in the morning had been very slight, but
had shown quite clearly that she had heard all, and probably more,
than the truth. When he returned that morning he found his mother
alone, knitting a pink woollen comforter, her gold spectacles on the
end of her nose, her fresh lace cap crisp and dainty on her white
hair--the very picture of the dearest old lady in the world.
"Mother," he began at once, "what did Amy mean this morning about
myself and Maggie Cardinal?"
"Maggie who, dear?" his mother asked.
"Maggie Cardinal--the Cardinal niece, you know," he said
"Did she say anything? I don't remember."
"Yes, mother. You remember perfectly well. She said that they were
all talking about me and Maggie."
"Did she?" The old lady slowly counted her stitches. "Well, dear, I
shouldn't worry about what they all say--whoever 'they' may be."
"Oh, I don't care for that," he answered contemptuously, "although
all the same I'm not going to have Amy running that girl down. She's
been against her from the first. What I want to know is has Amy been
to father with this? Because if she has I'm going to stop it. I'm
not going to have her bothering father with bits of gossip that
she's picked up by listening behind other peoples' key-holes."
Amy, meanwhile, had come in and heard this last sentence.
"Thank you, Martin," she said quietly.
He turned to her with fury. "What did you mean at breakfast," he
asked, "by what you said about myself and Maggie Cardinal?"
She looked at him with contempt but no very active hostility.
"I was simply telling you something that I thought you ought to
know," she said. "It is what everybody is saying--that you and she
have been meeting every day for weeks, sitting in the Park after
dark together, going to the theatre. People draw their own
conclusions, I suppose."
"How much have you told father of this?" he demanded.
"I don't know at all what father has heard," she answered.
"You've been that girl's enemy since the first moment that she came
here," he continued, growing angrier and angrier at her quiet
indifference. "Now you're trying to damage her character."
"On the contrary," she answered, "I told you because I thought you
ought to know what people were saying. The girl doesn't matter to me
one way or another--but I'm sorry for her if she thinks she cares
for you. That won't bring her much happiness."
Then suddenly her impassivity had a strange effect upon him. He
could not answer her. He left them both, and went up to his room.
As soon as he had closed the door of his bedroom he knew that his
bad time was come upon him. It was a physical as well as a spiritual
dominion. The room visibly darkened before his eyes, his brain
worked as it would in dreams suggesting its own thoughts and wishes
and intentions. A dark shadow hung over him, hands were placed upon
his eyes, only one thought came before him again and again and
again. "You know, you have long known, that you are doomed to make
miserable everything that you touch, to ruin every one with whom you
come in contact. That is your fate, and you can no more escape from
it than you can escape from your body!"
How many hours of this kind he had known in Spain, in France, in
South America. Often at the very moment when he had thought that he
was at last settling down to some decent steady plan of life he
would be jerked from his purpose, some delay or failure would
frustrate him, and there would follow the voice in his ear and the
hands on his eyes.
It was indeed as though he had been pledged to something in his
early life, and because he had broken from that pledge had been
pursued ever since . . .
He stripped to the waist and bathed in cold water; even then it
seemed to him that his flesh was heavy and dull and yellow, that he
was growing obese and out of all condition. He put on a clean shirt
and collar, sat down on his bed and tried to think the thing out. To
whomsoever he had done harm in the past he would now spare Maggie
and his father. He was surprised at the rush of tenderness that came
over him at the thought of Maggie; he sat there for some time
thinking over every incident of the last three weeks; that, at
least, had been a good decent time, and no one could ever take it
away from them again. He looked at her picture in the locket and
realised, as he looked at it, a link with her that he had never felt
with any woman before. "All the same," he thought, "I should go
away. She'd mind it at first, but not half as much as she'd mind me
later on when she saw what kind of a chap I really was. She'd be
unhappy for a bit, but she'd soon meet some one else. She's never
seen a man yet except me. She'd soon forget me. She's such a kid."
Nevertheless when he thought of beginning that old wandering life
again he shrank back. He had hated it--Oh! how he'd hated it! And he
didn't want to leave Maggie. He was in reality beginning to believe
that with her he might pull himself right out of this morass of
weakness and indecision in which he had been wallowing for years.
And yet what sort of a life could he offer her? He did not believe
that he would ever now be able to find this other woman whom he had
married, and until he had found her and divorced her Maggie's
position would be impossible. She, knowing nothing of the world,
could disregard it, but HE knew, knew that daily, hourly recurrence
of alights and insults and disappointments, knew what that life
could make after a time of women in such a position; even though she
did not mind he would mind for her and would reproach himself
No, it was impossible. He must go away secretly, without telling her
. . . Then, at that, he was pulled up again by the thought of his
father. He could not leave him until this crisis, whatever it might
be, was over. A very little thing now might kill him, and at the
thought of that possibility he jumped up from his bed and swore that
THAT catastrophe at least must be prevented. His father must live
and be happy and strong again, and he, Martin, must see to it.
That was his charge and his sacred duty above all else.
Strong in this thought he went down to his father's room. He knocked
on the door. There was no answer, and he went in. The room was in a
mess of untidiness. His father was walking up and down, staring in
front of him, talking to himself.
At the sound of the door he turned, saw Martin and smiled, the old
trusting smile of a child, that had been, during his time abroad,
Martin's clearest memory of him.
"Oh, is that you? Come in."
Martin came forward and his father put his arm round his neck as
though for support.
"I'm tired--horribly tired." Martin took him to the shabby broken
arm-chair and made him sit down. Himself sat in his old place on the
arm of the chair, his hand against his father's neck.
"Father, come away--just for a week--with me. We'll go right off
into the country to Glebeshire or somewhere, quite alone. We won't
see a soul. We'll just walk and eat and sleep. And then you'll come
back to your work here another man."
"No, Martin. I can't yet. Not just now."
"Why not, father?"
"I have work, work that can't be left."
"But if you go on like this you'll be so that you can't go on any
longer. You'll break down. You know what the doctor said about your
heart. You aren't taking any care at all."
"Perhaps . . . perhaps . . . but for a week or two I must just go
on, preparing . . . many things . . . Martin."
He suddenly looked up at his son, putting his hand on his knee.
"You're being good now, aren't you?"
"Yes . . . Not doing anything you or I'd be ashamed of. I know in
the past . . . but that's been forgotten, that's over. Only now,
just now, it's terribly important for us both that you should be
good . . . like you used to be . . . when you were a boy."
"Father, what have people been saying to you about me?"
"Nothing--nothing. Only I think about you so much. I pray about you
all the time. Soon, as you say, we'll go away together . . . only
now, just now, I want you with me here, strong by my side. I want
Martin took his father's hand, felt how dry and hot and feverish it
"I'll be with you," he said. "I promise that. Don't you listen to
what any one says. I won't leave you." He would like to have gone on
and asked other questions, but the old man seemed so worn out and
exhausted that he was afraid of distressing him, so he just sat
there, his hands on his shoulders, and suddenly the white head
nodded, the beard sank over the breast and huddled up in the chair
as though life itself had left him; the old man slept.
During the next four days Martin and Maggie corresponded through the
fair hands of Jane. He wrote only short letters, and over them he
struggled. He seemed to see Maggie through a tangled mist of persons
and motives and intentions. He could not get at the real Maggie at
all, he could not even get at his real feelings about her. He knew
that these letters were not enough for her, he could feel behind her
own a longing for something from him more definite, something that
would bring her closer to him. He was haunted by his picture of her
sitting in that dismal house, a prisoner, waiting for him, and at
last, at the end of the four days, he felt that he must, in some way
or other see her. Then she herself proposed a way.
"To-morrow night (Friday)," she wrote, "the aunts are going to a
meeting. They won't return until after eight o'clock. During most of
that time Martha will be in the kitchen cooking, and Jane (who is
staying late that night) has promised to give me a signal. I could
run out for quarter of an hour and meet you somewhere close by and
risk getting back. Jane will be ready to let me in. Of course, it
may fail, but things can't be worse than they are . . . I absolutely
forbid you to come if you think that this can make anything worse
for you at home. But I MUST see you, Martin . . . I feel to-night as
though I couldn't stand it any longer (although I've only had five
days of it!), but I think that if I met you, really you, for only
five minutes, I could bear it then for weeks. Let me know if you
agree to this, and if so where we could meet about 7.30."
The mere thought of seeing her was wonderful. He would not have
believed a month ago that it could have come to mean so much to him.
He wrote back:
"Yes. At the corner of Dundas Street, by the Pillar Box, 7.30."
He knew that she had been to that dark little street with her aunts
to see Miss Pyncheon.
The night, when it came, was misty, and when he reached the place
she was at once in his arms. She had been there more than five
minutes, she had thought that he was not coming. Martha had nearly
caught her . . .
He kissed her hair and her eyes and her mouth, holding her to him,
forgetting everything but her. She stayed, quiet, clinging to him as
though she would never let him go, then she drew away.
"Now we must walk about or some one will see us," she said.
"We've only got five minutes. Martin, what I want to know is, are
"Yes," he said.
They walked like ghosts, in the misty street.
"Well, then I am," she said. "Only your letters didn't sound very
"Can you hold on till after the New Year?" They were walking hand in
hand, her fingers curled in his palm.
"Yes," she said. "If you're happy."
"There are troubles of course," he said. "But I don't care for Amy
and the rest. It's only father that matters. I can't discover how
much he knows. If I knew that I'd be much happier. We'll be all
right, Maggie, if nothing happens to him."
With a little frightened catch in her throat she asked him:
"How do you mean, if anything happens to him?"
"If anything happened to him--" she could feel his hand stiffen
round hers; "through me--then--why then--I'd leave you--everything--
I'd have to."
"Leave me! . . . Oh Martin! No!"
"I'd go. I'd go--I don't know where to. I don't know what I'd do.
I'd know then that I must leave every one alone, always, for ever--
"No. You'd need me more than ever."
"You don't understand, Maggie. I'd be impossible after that. If
father suffered through me that would be the end of it--the end of
"Martin, listen." She caught his arm, looking up, trying to see his
face. "If anything like that did happen that would be where you'd
want me. Don't you see that you COULDN'T harm me EXCEPT by leaving
"You can reason it as you like, Maggie, but I know myself. I know
the impulse would be too strong--to go away and hide myself from
everybody. I've felt it before--when I've done something especially
bad. It's something in me that I've known all my life." Then he
turned to her: "But it's all right. Nothing shall happen to the old
man. I'll see that it doesn't. We've only got to wait a fortnight,
then I'll get him away for a holiday. And once he's better I can
leave him. It WILL be all right. It SHALL."
Then he bent down to her. "You know, Maggie, I love you more, far
more than I ever thought. Even if I went away you'd be the only one
I'd love. I never dreamt that I'd care for any one so much."
He felt her tremble under his hand when he said that.
She sighed. "Now I can go back," she said. "I'll say that over to
myself again and again."
They stayed a little longer, he put his arms round her again and
held her so close to him that she could feel his heart throbbing.
Then when they had kissed once more she went away.
She returned safely. Jane opened the door for her, mysteriously, as
though she enjoyed her share in the conspiracy. Maggie sped
upstairs, and now with Martin's words in her ears, had enough to
stiffen her back for the battle.
The next move in the affair was on the following afternoon when
Maggie, alone in the drawing-room, beheld Caroline Smith in the
"She's got cheek enough for anything," was Maggie's first thought,
but she was not aware of the true magnificence of that young woman's
audacity until she found her hand seized and her cheek kissed.
Caroline, in fact, had greeted her with precisely her old
"Maggie, darling, where have you been all these days--but WEEKS it
is indeed! You might at least have sent me just a word. Life simply
hasn't been the same without you! You pet! . . . and you look tired!
Yes, you do. You've been overworking or something, all because you
haven't had me to look after you!"
Maggie gravely withdrew, and standing away from the shining elegance
of her friend said:
"Caroline--I want to know something before we go any further. What I
want to know is--why did you read that note that I asked you to give
to Martin Warlock?"
Caroline stared in amazement. "My dear, what IS the matter? Are you
ill or something? Oh, you are. I can see you are! You poor darling!
Read your note? What note, dear?"
"The note I gave you a month ago--one evening when you were here."
"A note! A month ago. My dear! As though I could ever remember what
I did a MONTH ago! Why, it's always all I can manage to remember
what I did yesterday. Did you give me a note, dear?"
Maggie began to be angry. "Of course I did. You remember perfectly
well. I gave it to you for Martin Warlock. You let him have it, but
meanwhile you read it, and not only that but told everybody else
Caroline's expression changed. She was suddenly sulky. Her face was
like that of a spoilt child.
"Well, Maggie Cardinal, if you call that being a friend! To say that
I would ever do such a thing!"
"You know you did!" said Maggie quietly.
"Read your letters? As though I'd want to! Why should I? As though I
hadn't something more interesting to do! No thank you! Of course you
have been getting yourself into a mess. Every one knows that. That's
why I came here to-day--to show you that I was a REAL friend and
didn't mind WHAT people said about you! When they were all talking
about you last night, and saying the most DREADFUL things, I
defended you and said it wasn't really your fault, you couldn't have
told what a rotten sort of a man Martin Warlock was--"
"That's enough," said Maggie. "I don't want your defence, thank you.
You're mean and deceitful and untrue. You never have been a friend
of mine, and I don't want ever to see you again!"
Caroline Smith was horrified. "Well, upon my word. Isn't that
gratitude? Here am I, the only person in this whole place would take
any trouble with you! When the others all said that you were plain
and stupid and hadn't anything to say for yourself I stuck to you. I
did all I could, wasting all my time going to the dressmaker with
you and trying to make you look like something human, and this is
the way you repay me! Well, there's a lesson for me! Many's the time
mother's said to me, 'Carry, you'll just ruin yourself with that
kind heart of yours, laying yourself out for others when you ought
to be seeing after yourself. You've got too big a heart for this
world.' Doesn't it just show one? And to end it all with accusing me
of reading your letters! If you choose to sit in the park after dark
with a man who everybody knows--"
"Either you're going to leave this room or I am," said Maggie.
"Thank you!" said Caroline, tossing her head. "I haven't the
slightest desire to stay, I assure you! Only you'll be sorry for
this, Maggie Cardinal, you will indeed!"
With a swish of the skirts and a violent banging of the door she was
"The only friend I had," thought Maggie.
The next development was an announcement from Aunt Anne that she
would like Maggie to accompany her to a meeting at Miss Avies'. Aunt
Anne did not explain what kind of a meeting it would be, and Maggie
asked no questions. She simply replied that she would go. She had
indeed by this time a very considerable curiosity of her own as to
what every one thought was going to happen in ten days' time.
Perhaps this meeting would enlighten her. It did.
On arriving at Miss Avies' gaunt and menacing apartment she found
herself in the very stronghold of the Inside Saints. It was a
strange affair, and Maggie was never to see anything quite like it
again. In the first place, Miss Avies' room was not exactly the
place in which you would have expected to discover a meeting of this
She lived over a house-agent's in John Street, Adelphi. Her sitting-
room was low-ceilinged with little diamond-paned windows. The place
was let furnished, and the green and red vases on the mantelpiece,
the brass clock and the bright yellow wallpaper were properties of
the landlord. To the atmosphere of the place Miss Avies, although
she lived there for a number of years, had contributed nothing.
It had all the desolate forlornness of a habitation in which no
human being has dwelt for a very long time; there was dust on the
mantelpiece, a melancholy sputtering of coal choked with cinders and
gasping for breath in the fireplace, stuffy hot clamminess beating
about the unopened windows. Along the breadth of the faded brown
carpet some fifty cane-bottomed chairs were pressed tightly in rows
together, and in front of the window, facing the chairs, was a
little wooden table with a chair beside it, on the table a glass of
water and a Bible.
When Maggie and her aunts entered the chairs were almost all
occupied and they were forced to sit at the end of the last row but
one. The meeting had apparently not yet begun, and many heads were
turned towards them as they took their places. Maggie fancied that
the glances directed at herself were angry and severe, but that was
very possibly her imagination. She soon recognised people known to
her--Miss Pyncheon, calm and placid; Mrs. Smith, Caroline's mother,
very stout, hot, and self-important; Amy Warlock, proud and severe;
and Miss Avies herself standing, like a general surveying his
forces, behind the table.
The room was draughty and close and had a confused smell of oil-
cloth and geraniums, and Maggie knew that soon she would have a
headache. She fancied that already the atmosphere was influencing
the meeting. From where she sat she could see a succession of side
faces, and it was strange what a hungry, appealing look these pale
cheeks and staring eyes had. Hungry! Yes, that's what they all were.
She thought, fantastically, for a moment, of poor Mr. Magnus's
Treasure Hunters, and she seemed to see the whole of this company in
a raft drifting in mid-ocean, not a sail in sight and the last
ship's biscuit gone.
They were not, taken altogether, a very fine collection, old maids
and young girls, many of them apparently of the servant class, one
or two sitting with open mouths and a vacancy of expression that
seemed to demand a conjurer with a rabbit and a hat. Some faces were
of the true fanatic cast, lit with the glow of an expectancy and a
hope that no rational experience had ever actually justified. One
girl, whom Maggie had seen with Aunt Anne on some occasion, had
especially this prophetic anticipation in the whole pose of her body
as she bent forward a little, her elbows on her knees her chin on
her hands, gazing with wide burning eyes at Miss Avies. This girl,
whom Maggie was never to see again hung as a picture in the rooms of
her mind for the rest of her life--the youth, the desperate anxiety
as of one who throws her last piece upon the gaming-table, the
poverty of the shabby black dress, the real physical austerity and
asceticism of the white cheeks and the thin arms and pale hands--
this figure remained a symbol for Maggie. She used to wonder in
after years, when fortune had carried her far enough away from all
this world, what had happened to that girl. But she was never to
There were faces, too, like Miss Pyncheon's, calm, contented,
confident, old women who had found in their religion the panacea of
all their troubles. There were faces like Mrs. Smith's, coarse and
vulgar, out for any sensation that might come along, and ready
instantly to express their contempt if the particular "trick" that
they were expecting failed to come off; other faces, again, like Amy
Warlock's, grimly set upon secret thoughts and purposes of their
own, faces trained to withstand any sudden attack on the emotions,
but eager, too, like the rest for some revelation that was to answer
all questions and satisfy all expectations.
Maggie wondered, as she looked about her, how she could have raised
in her own imagination, around the Chapel and its affairs, so
formidable an atmosphere of terror and tyrannic discipline. Here
gathered together were a few women, tired, pale, many of them
uneducated, awaiting like children the opening of a box, the
springing into flower of a dry husk of a seed, the raising of the
curtain on some wonderful scene. Maggie, as she looked at them, knew
that they must be disappointed, and her heart ached for them all,
yes, even for Amy Warlock, her declared enemy. She lost, as she sat
there, for the moment all sense of her own personal history. She
only saw them all tired and hungry and expectant; perhaps, after
all, there WAS something behind it all--something for which they had
a right to be searching; even of that she had not sure knowledge--
but the pathos and also the bravery of their search touched and
moved her. She was beginning to understand something of the beauty
that hovered like a bird always just out of sight about the ugly
walls of the Chapel.
"Whatever they want, poor dears," she thought, "I do hope they get
Miss Avies opened the meeting with an extempore prayer: then they
all stood up and sang a hymn, and their quavering voices were thin
and sharp and strained in the stuffy close-ceilinged room. The hymn,
like all the other Chapel hymns that Maggie had heard, had to do
with "the Blood of the Lamb," "the sacrifice of Blood," "the Blood
that heals." There was also a refrain:
And, when Thou comest, Lord, we pray That Thou wilt spare Thy
sword, Or on that grim and ghastly day Who will escape the Lord? WHO
will escape the Lord?
There were many verses to this hymn, and it had a long and
lugubrious tune, so that Maggie thought that it would never end, but
as it proceeded the words worked their effect on the congregation,
and at the last there was much emotion and several women were
Then they all sat down again and the meeting developed a very
business-like side. There was a great deal of discussion as to
dates, places, appointments, and Maggie was amused to discover that
in this part of the proceedings Mrs. Smith had a great deal to say,
and took a very leading place.
The gathering became like any other assemblage of ladies for some
charitable or social purpose, and there were the usual disputes and
signs of temper and wounded pride; in all those matters Miss Avies
was a most admirable and unflinching chairman.
Then at last the real moment came. Miss Avies got up to speak. She
stood there, scornful, superior, and yet with some almost cynical
appeal in her eyes as though she said to them: "You poor fools! No
one knows better than I the folly of your being here, no one knows
better than I how far you will, all of you, be from realising any of
your dreams. Tricked, the lot of you!--and yet--and yet--go on
believing, expecting, hoping. Pray, pray that I may be wrong and you
may be right."
What she actually said was as follows: "This will be our last
meeting before the end of the year. What will come to all of us
before we all meet again no one can say, but this we all know, that
we have, most of us, been living now for many years in expectation.
We have been taught, by the goodness of God, to believe that we must
be ready at any moment to obey His call, and that call may come, in
the middle of our work, of our prayers, of our love for others, of
our pursuit of our own ambitions, and that whenever it does come we
must be ready to obey it. We have been told by our great and good
Master, who has been set over us for our guidance by God Himself,
that that call may now be very near. Whatever form it may take we
must accept it, give up all we have and follow Him. That is
understood by all of us. I will not say more now. This is not the
time for any more directions from me. We must address ourselves,
each one of us, to God Himself, and ask Him to prepare us so that we
may be as He would have us on the day of His coming. I suggest now
before we part that we share together in a few minutes of private
prayer." They all rose, and Maggie, before she knelt down, caught a
sudden glimpse of the pale girl whom she had noticed earlier
standing for a moment as though she were about to make some
desperate appeal to them all. Some words did indeed seem to come
from her lips, but the scraping of chairs drowned every other sound.
Nevertheless that figure was there, the hands stretched out, the
very soul struggling through the eyes for expression, the body
tense, sacred, eloquent, like the body of some young prophetess.
Then all were on their knees, and Maggie, too, her face in her
hands, was praying. It was, perhaps, the first time in her life that
she had actively, consciously, of her own volition prayed. The
appeal formed itself as it were without her own agency.
"God--if there is a God--give me Martin. I care for nothing else but
that. If You will give me Martin for my own always, ever, I will
believe in You. I will worship You and say prayers to You, and do
anything You tell me if You give me Martin. Oh God! I ought to have
him. He is mine. I can do more for him than any one else can--I can
make him happy and good. I know I can. God give him to me and I will
be your slave. God, give me Martin--God, give me Martin."
She rose, as it were, from the depths of the sea, from great
darkness and breathlessness and exhaustion. For a moment she could
not see the room nor any detail, but only one pale face after
another, like a pattern on a wall, hiding something from her.
She stood bewildered beside her aunts, not hearing the strains of
the last hymn nor the quaver of Aunt Anne's trembling voice beside
"God, give me Martin," was her last challenge in the strange pale
silence that floated around her. Then suddenly, as though she had
pushed open a door and gone through, she was back in the world
again, a flood of sound was about her ears, and in front of her the
red face of Mrs. Smith, her mouth wide open, like the mouth of an
eager fish, singing about "the Blood of the Lamb" with unctuous
satisfaction . . .
The year 1907 had four more days of life: it crept to its grave
through a web and tangle of fog. It was not one of the regular
yellow devils who come and eat up London, first this part, and then
that, then disgorge a little, choking it all up only to snap at it
and swallow it down all bewildered a quarter of an hour after. This
was a cobweb fog spun, as it might be, by some malignant central
spider hidden darkly in his lair. The vapouring-like filmy threads
twisted and twined their way all over London, and for four days and
nights the town was a city of ghosts. Buildings loomed dimly behind
their masks of silver tissue, streets seemed unsubstantial,
pavements had no foundation, streams of water appeared to hang
glittering in mid-air, men and horses would suddenly plunge into
grey abysses and vanish from sight, church-bells would ring peals
high up in air, and there would be, it seemed, no steeple there for
them to ring from. As the sun behind the fog rose and set so the
mist would catch gold and red and purple into the vapours, strange
gleams of brass and silver as though behind its web armies flaunting
their colours were marching through the sky; down on the very earth
itself horses staggered and stumbled on the thin coating of greasy
mud that covered everything; men opened their doors to look out on
to the world, and instantly into the passages there floated such
strange forms and shadows in misty shape that it seemed as though
the rooms were suddenly invaded by a flock of spirits.
Sometimes for half an hour the fog lifted and bright blue sky
gleamed like a miraculous lake suddenly discovered in the heart of
the boundless waste, then vanished again. Suddenly, with a whisk of
the immortal broom, the web was torn, the spider slain, the world
clear once more--but, in the obscurity and dusk, 1907 had seen his
chance and vanished.
Warlock, long before this, had lost consciousness of external sights
and sounds. He could not have told any one when it was that the two
worlds had parted company. For many many years he had been conscious
of both existences, but during his youth and middle-age they had
seemed to mingle and go along together. He had believed in both
equally and had been a citizen of both. Then gradually, as time
passed, he had seemed to have less and less hold upon the actual
physical world. He saw it suddenly with darkened vision; his wife
and daughter, and indeed all human beings, except in so far as they
were souls to be saved for the Lord, became less and less realities.
Only Martin was flesh and blood, to be loved and longed for and
feared for just as he had always been. All the physical properties
of life--clothes, food, household possessions, money--became of less
and less importance to him. Had Amy not watched over him he would
have been many days without any food at all, and one day he come
into the living-room at breakfast-time clothed in a towel. All this
had come upon him with vastly increased power during the last
months. In Chapel, and whenever he had work to do in connection with
the Chapel, he was clear-headed and practical, but in things to do
with this world he was now worse than a child.
He was conscious of this increasing difficulty to deal with both
worlds. It was because one world--the world of God--was opening out
before him so widely and with so varied and thrilling a beauty that
there was less and less time to be spared for the drab realities of
All his life he had been preparing, and then suddenly the call had
come. Shortly after Martin's return he had known in Chapel, one
evening, that God was approaching. It had happened that that day,
owing to his absorption in his work, he had eaten nothing, and there
had come to him, whilst praying to the congregation, a sensation of
faintness so strong that for a moment he thought he would fall from
his seat. Then it had passed, to give way to a strange, thrilling
sense of expectancy. It was as though a servant had opened the door
and had announced: "My master is coming, sir--" He had felt, indeed,
as though he had been lifted up, in the sheet of Paul the Apostle,
to meet his God. There had been the most wonderful sense of
elevation, a clearing of light, a gentler freshness in the air, a
sudden sinking to remoteness of human voices and mundane sounds.
From that moment in the Chapel life had been changed for him. He
never seemed to come down again from that mysterious elevation.
Human voices sounded far away from him; he could be urged, only with
the greatest difficulty, to take his food, and he frequently did not
recognise members of his own congregation when they came to see him.
He waited now, waited, waited, for this visitation that was
approaching him. He could have no doubts of it.
Then one night he woke from a deep sleep. He was conscious that his
room was filled with a smoky light; in his heart was such an ecstasy
that be would have thought that the joy would kill him.
Something spoke to him, telling him to prepare, that he had been
chosen, and that further signs would come to him. He fell on his
knees beside the bed and remained there in a trance until daylight.
He had heard the voice of God, he had seen His light, he had been
chosen as His servant. Some weeks later a second visitation came to
him, similar to the first, but telling him that at the last hour of
the present year God would come in His own person to save the world,
and that he must make this known to a few chosen spirits that they
might prepare . . .
The whole brotherhood then was at length justified; they alone, out
of all men in the world, had believed in the Second Coming of the
Lord, and so God had chosen them. He had no doubt at all about his
visions at this time. They seemed to him as real and sure as the
daily traffic of the streets and the monotonous progress of the
Eagerly, with the confident resolution of a child, he told his news
to the leaders of the Chapel, Thurston, Miss Avies, and one or two
others. Then a special meeting of the Inside Saints was called and,
in the simplest language, he described exactly what had occurred. He
did not at first perceive the effect that his news had. Then, dimly,
through the mist of his prayers and ecstasies, he realised that his
message had created confusion. There was in the first place the
question as to whether the whole congregation should be told. He
found that he could not decide about this, and when he left the
judgment to Thurston, Thurston told him that, in his opinion, "the
less that they knew about it the better." It was then that the first
suspicion came to him as to whether some of the Saints "doubted." He
questioned Thurston as to the effect of this message upon the
Saints. Thurston explained to him that "many of them had been very
troubled. They had not expected It to come so soon." Thurston
explained that they were, after all, only poor human clay like the
rest of mankind, and to prepare for a Second Coming in general,
something that might descend upon the world, say, in a hundred
years' time, was very different from a Judgment that might be
expected, definitely, in about three weeks. One or two of them, in
fact, had left the Chapel. Others begged for some clearer direction:
"Give it them a bit more clearly, Master. Tell 'em a few facts what
the Lord God looked like and 'ow He spoke and in what kind of way He
was coming. Supposing He wasn't to come after all . . ."
It was then that the trouble that had been smouldering for so long
between Thurston and the Master burst into flame. For half an hour
the Master lost his temper like an ordinary human being. Thurston
said very little but listened with a quiet and sarcastic smile. Then
he went away. Warlock was left in a torment of doubt and misery.
That night he was in his room, until the dawn, on his knees,
wrestling with God. He accused himself because, during these latter
months, he had removed himself from human contact with his
congregation. He had been so intent upon God that he had forgotten
his flock. Now he hardly knew how to approach them. The thought of a
personal interview with the Miss Cardinals, or Miss Pyncheon, or Mr.
Smith filled him with a strange shy terror. He seemed to have
nothing more to say to them, and he blamed himself bitterly because
he had been intent upon his own salvation rather than theirs.
Thurston's words sent him groping back through the details of the
visions. And there were no details. For himself there had been
enough in the light, the ecstasy, the contact, but these others who
had not themselves felt this, nor seen its glory, demanded more.
He began then, in an agony of distress, to question himself as to
whether he had not dreamt his visions. He wrestled with God,
beseeching Him to come again and give him a clearer message. Night
after night passed and he waited for some further vision, but
nothing was granted him. Then he thought that perhaps he himself was
now cursed for leaving God. God had come to him and revealed Himself
to him in unmistakable signs, and yet he was doubting Him and
demanding further help.
As the weeks passed he perceived more and more clearly that there
was every kind of division and trouble in the Chapel. Many members
left and wrote to him telling him why they had done so. In his own
household he felt that Amy no longer gave him any confidence. She
attended to him more carefully than before, watched over him as
though he were a baby, but made no allusion to the services or the
Chapel or any meeting. He seemed, as the weeks passed, to be
lonelier and lonelier, and he looked upon this as punishment for his
own earlier selfishness. He was pulled then two ways. On the one
hand it seemed to him that he would only hear God's full message if
he withdrew further and further from the world, on the other he felt
that he was letting his followers slip away from him now at the very
moment when he should be closest to them, advising, helping,
encouraging. This divided impulse was a torture, and as the weeks
went on he ate less and less and slept scarcely at all. He had been
for a long time past in delicate health owing to the weakness of his
heart, and now he began to look strange indeed, with his bright
gaunt face with its prominent cheek-bones, his eyes straining to see
beyond his actual vision, his flowing white beard. His doctor, a
cheerful, commonplace little man, a member of the Chapel, although
not a Saint, tried to do his best with him, but his visits only led
to scenes of irritation, and Warlock obeyed none of his commands.
After a visit on the afternoon of Christmas Eve he took Amy aside:
"Look here," he said, "unless you keep a stricter eye on your father
than you have been doing he'll be leaving you altogether."
She looked up at him with that odd dark impassivity that seemed to
remove her so deliberately from her fellow-beings.
"It's very well to talk like that," she said. "But how is any one to
have any control over him? He listens to nothing that we say, and if
we insist he's in a frenzy of irritation."
"Can your mother do nothing?" the doctor asked.
"Mother?" Amy smiled. "No, mother can do nothing."
"Well," said the doctor, "any sudden shock will kill him--I warn
When the fog came down upon the city Warlock was already in too
thick a fog of his own to perceive it.
He was sure now of nothing. It seemed as though all the spirits of
the other world now were taunting him, but he felt that this was the
work of the Devil, who wished to destroy his faith before the Great
Day arrived. He thought now that the Devil was closely pursuing him,
and he seemed to hear first his taunting whisper and then the voice
of God encouraging him: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
He had lost now almost all consciousness of what he really expected
to happen when the Day arrived, but he was dimly aware that if
nothing happened at all his whole influence with his people would be
gone. Nevertheless this did not trouble him very greatly; the
congregation of the Chapel seemed now dimly remote. The only human
being who was not remote was Martin; his love for his son had not
been touched by his other struggles, it had been even intensified.
But the love had grown a terror, ever increasing, lest Martin should
leave him. He seemed to hear dimly, beyond the wall of the
mysterious world into whose regions he was ever more deeply passing,
sentences, vague, without human agency, accusing Martin of sins and
infidelities and riotous living. Sometimes he was tempted to go
further into this and challenge Martin's accusers, but fear held him
back. Martin had been a good son since his return to England, yes,
he had, and he had forsaken his evil ways and was going to be with
his father now until the end, his last refuge against loneliness.
Every one else had left him or was leaving him, but Martin was
there. Martin hadn't deceived him, Martin was a good boy . . . a
good boy . . . and then, as it seemed to him, with Martin's hand in
his own he would pass off into his world of strange dreams and
desperate prayer and hours of waiting, listening, straining for a
voice . . .
During that last night before New Year's Eve an hour came to him
when he seemed to be left utterly alone. Exhausted, faint, dizzy
with want of sleep and food, he knelt before his bed; his room
seemed to be filled with devils, taunting him, tempting him,
bewildering and blinding him. He rose suddenly in a frenzy, striking
out, rushing about his room, crying . . . then at last, exhausted,
creeping back to his bed, falling down upon it and sinking into a
long dreamless sleep.
They found him sleeping when they came to call him and they left
him. He did not wake until the early afternoon; his brain seemed
clear and his body so weak that it was with the greatest difficulty
that he washed and put on some clothes.
The room was dark with the fog; lamps in the street below glimmered
uncertainly, and voices and the traffic of the street were muffled.
He opened his door and, looking out, heard in the room below
Martin's voice raised excitedly. Slowly he went down to meet him.
Martin also had reached, on that last day of the year, the very end
of his tether. During the last ten days he had been fighting against
every weakness to which his character was susceptible. With the New
Year he felt that everything would be well; he could draw a new
breath then, find work somewhere away from London, have Maggie
perhaps with him, and drive a way out of all the tangle of his
perplexities. But even then he did not dare to face the future
thoroughly. Would his father let him go? Was he, after all his
struggles, to give way and ruin Maggie's position and future? Could
he be sure, if he look her away with him, that then he would keep
straight, and that his old temptations of women and drink and
general restlessness would be conquered? Perhaps. There had never
been a surer proof that his love for Maggie was a real and unselfish
love than his hesitation on that wretched day when he seemed utterly
deserted by mankind, when Maggie seemed the only friend he had in
Everything was just out of reach, and some perverse destiny
prevented him from realising any desire that had a spark of honesty
and decency in it. It was not wonderful that in the midst of his
loneliness and unhappiness he should have been tempted back to the
old paths again, men, women, places that for more than three months
now he had been struggling to abandon.
All that day he struggled with temptation. He had not seen Maggie
for a week, and during the last three days he had not heard from
her, the adventurous Jane having defied the aunts and left.
At luncheon he asked about his father, whom he had not seen for two
"Father had a very bad night. He's asleep now."
"There's something on to-night, isn't there?" he asked.
"There's a service," Amy answered shortly.
"Father oughtn't to go," he went on. "I suppose your friend Thurston
Amy looked at him. "Father's got to go. It's very important."
"Oh, of course, if you want to kill father with all your beastly
services--" he broke in furiously.
"It won't be--" Amy began, and then, as though she did not trust
herself to continue, got up and left the room.
"Mother," he said, "why on earth don't you do something?"
"I, dear?" she looked at him placidly. "In what way?"
"They're killing father between them with all these services and the
rest of the nonsense."
"Your father doesn't listen to anything I say, dear."
"He ought to go away for a long rest."
"Well, dear, perhaps he will soon. You know I have nothing to do
with the Chapel. That was settled years ago. I wouldn't interfere
for a great deal."
Martin turned fiercely upon her saying:
"Mother, don't you care?"
"Yes, about father--his living and getting well again and being
happy as he used to be. What's happened to this place?"
She looked at him in the strangest way. He suddenly felt that he'd
never seen her before.
"There are a number of things, Martin, that you don't understand--a
number of things. You are away from us for years, you come back to
us and expect things to be the same."
"You and Amy," he said, "both of you, have kept me out of everything
since I came back. I believe you both hate me!"
She got up slowly from her seat, slowly put her spectacles away in
their case, rubbed her fat little hands together, then suddenly
licked inquisitively one finger as an animal might do. She spoke to
him over her shoulder as she went to the door:
"Oh no, Martin, you speak too strongly."
Left then to his own devices he, at last, wandered out into the
foggy streets. After a while he found himself outside a public-house
and, after a moment's hesitation, he went in. He asked the stout,
rubicund young woman behind the counter for a whisky. She gave him
one; he drank that, and then another.
Afterwards he had several more, leaning over the bar, speaking to no
one, seeing no one, hearing nothing, and scarcely tasting the drink.
When he came out into the street again he knew that he was half
drunk--not so drunk that he didn't know what he was doing. Oh dear,
no. HE could drink any amount without feeling it. Nevertheless he
had drunk so little during these last weeks that even a drop . . .
How foggy the streets were . . . made it difficult to find your way
home. But he was all right, he could walk straight, he could put his
latch-key into the door at one try, HE was all right.
He was at home again. He didn't stop to hang up his hat and coat but
went straight into the dining-room, leaving the door open behind
him. He saw that the meal was still on the table just as they'd left
it. Amy was there too.
He saw her move back when he came in as though she were afraid to
"You're drunk!" she said.
"I'm not. You're a liar, Amy. You've always been a liar all your
She tried to pass him, but he stood in the middle of the door.
"No, you don't," he said. "We've got to have this out. What have you
been spreading scandal about me and Maggie Cardinal for?"
"Let me go," she said again.
"Tell me that first. You've always tried to do me harm. Why?"
"Because I hate the sight of you," she answered quickly. "As you've
asked me, you shall have a truthful answer. You've never been
anything but a disgrace to us ever since you were a little boy. You
disgraced us at home and then abroad; now you've come back to
disgrace us here again."
"That's a lie," he repeated. "I've not disgraced anybody."
"Well, it won't be very long before you finish ruining that wretched
girl. The best you can do now is to marry her."
"I can't do that," he said. "I'm married already." She did not
answer that hut stared at him with amazement.
"But never mind that," he went on. "What if I am a bad lot? I don't
know what a bad lot is exactly, but if you mean that I've lived with
women and been drunk, and lost jobs because I didn't do the work,
and been generally on the loose, it's true, of course. But I meant
to live decently when I came home. Yes, I did. You can sneer as much
as you like. Why didn't you help me? You're my sister, aren't you?
And now I don't care what I do. You've all given me up. Well, give
me up, and I'll just go to bits as fast as I can go! If you don't
want me there are others who do, or at any rate the bit of money
I've got. You've kept me from the only decent girl I've ever known,
the one I could have been straight with--"
"Straight with!" Amy broke in. "How were you going to be straight if
you're married already?"
He would have answered her but a sound behind him made him turn. He
wheeled round and saw his father standing almost up against him. He
had only time for a horrified vision of the ghostlike figure, the
staring eyes, the open mouth, the white cheeks. The old man caught
"Martin, what was that? What did you say? . . . No, no . . . I can't
bear that now. I can't, I can't."
He turned and made as though he would run up the stairs, catching
about him like a child the shabby old dressing-gown that he was
wearing. At the first step he stumbled, clutching the bannister to
Martin rushed to him, putting his arms round him, holding him
close to him. "It's all right, father . . . It's not true what
you heard . . . It's all right."
His father turned, putting his arms round his neck.
Martin half helped, half carried him up to his bedroom. He laid him
on his bed and then, holding his hand, sat by his side all through
the long dim afternoon.
About, five Warlock suddenly revived, sat up, arid with the
assistance of Martin dressed properly, had some tea, and went down
to his study. He sat down in his chair, then suddenly looking up at
his son he said:
"Did you and Amy have a quarrel this afternoon?"
"No, father," said Martin.
"That's right. I thought--I thought . . . I don't know . . . My
head's confused. You've been a good boy, Martin, haven't you?
There's no need for me to worry, is there?"
"None, father," Martin said.
After a while Martin said:
"Father, don't go to Chapel to-night."
"I must go. That's all right . . . Nothing to worry about."
For some while he sat there, Martin's hand in his; Martin did not
know whether he were asleep or not.
At about ten he ate and drank. At eleven he started with Amy and
Thurston for the Chapel.
THE CHARIOT OF FIRE
When Jane, scolded by Aunt Anne for an untidy appearance, gave
notice and at once departed, Maggie felt as though the ground was
giving way under her feet.
A week until the New Year, and no opportunity of hearing from Martin
during that time. Then she laughed at herself:
"You're losing your sense of proportion, my dear, over this. Laugh
at yourself. What's a week?"
She did laugh at herself, but she had not very much to base her
laughter upon. Martin's last letters had been short and very uneasy.
She had already, in a surprising fashion for one so young, acquired
a very wise and just estimate of Martin's character.
"He's only a boy," she used to say to herself and feel his elder by
at least twenty years. Nevertheless the thought of his struggling on
there alone was not a happy one. She longed, even though she might
not advise him, to comfort him. She was beginning to realise
something of her own power over him and to see, too, the strange
mixture of superstition and self-reproach and self-distrust that
overwhelmed him when she was not with him. She had indeed her own
need of struggle against superstition. Her aunts continued to treat
her with a quiet distant severity. Aunt Elizabeth, she fancied,
would like to have been kind to her, but she was entirely under the
influence of her sister, and there, too, Maggie was generous enough
to see that Aunt Anne behaved as she did rather from a stern sense
of duty than any real unkindness. Aunt Anne could not feel unkindly;
she was too far removed from human temper and discontent and
weakness. Nevertheless she had been deeply shocked at the revelation
of Maggie's bad behaviour, and it was a shock from which, in all
probability she would never recover.
"WE'LL never be friends again." Maggie thought, watching her aunt's
austere composure from the other side of the dining-table. She was
sad at the thought of that, remembering moments--that first visit to
St. Dreot's, the departure in the cab, the night when she had sat at
her aunt's bedside--that had given glimpses of the kind human
creature Aunt Anne might have been had she never heard of the Inside
Maggie, during these last days, did everything that her aunts told
her. She was as good and docile as she could be. But, oh! there were
some dreary hours as she sat, alone, in that stuffy drawing-room,
trying to sew, her heart aching with loneliness, her needle always
doing the wrong thing, the clock heavily ticking, Thomas watching
her from the mat in front of the fire, and the family group sneering
at her from the wall-paper.
It was during these hours that superstitious terrors gained upon
her. Could it be possible that all those women whom she had seen
gathered together in Miss Avies's room really expected God to come
when the clock struck twelve on the last night of the year? It was
like some old story of ghosts and witches that her nurse used to
tell her when she was a little girl at St. Dreot's. And yet, in that
dark dreary room, almost anything seemed possible. After all, if
there was a God, why should He not, one day, suddenly appear? And if
He wished to spare certain of His servants, why should He not
prepare them first before He came? There were things just as strange
in the Old and New Testament. But if He did come, what would His
Coming be like? Would every one be burnt to death or would they all
be summoned before some judgment and punished for the wicked things
they had done? Would her father perhaps return and give evidence
against her? And poor Uncle Mathew, how would he fare with all his
weaknesses? Her efforts at laughing at herself rescued her from some
of the more incredible of these pictures. Nevertheless the
uncertainty remained and only increased her loneliness. Had Martin
been there in five minutes they would, together, have chased all
these ghosts away. But he was not there. And at the thought of him
she would have to set her mouth very firmly, indeed, to prevent her
lips from trembling. She took out her ring and kissed it, and looked
at the already tattered copy of the programme of the play to which
they had been, and recalled every minute of their walks together.
Christmas Day was a very miserable affair. There were no presents
and no festivities. They went to Chapel and Mr. Thurston preached
the sermon. Maggie did, however, receive one letter. It was from
Uncle Mathew. He wrote to her from some town in the north. He didn't
seem very happy, and asked her whether she could possibly lend him
five pounds. Alluding with a characteristic vagueness to "business
plans of the first importance that were likely to mature very
She told Aunt Anne that she wanted five pounds of her money, but she
did not say for what she needed them.
Aunt Anne gave her the money at once without a word--as though she
said: "We have given up all control of you except to see that you
behave decently whilst you are still with us."
When the fog arrived it seemed to penetrate every nook and corner of
the house. The daily afternoon walk that Maggie took with Aunt
Elizabeth was cancelled because of the difficulty of finding one's
way from street to street and "because some rude man might steal
one's money in the darkness," and Maggie was not sorry. Those walks
had not been amusing, Aunt Elizabeth having nothing to say and being
fully occupied with keeping an eye on Maggie, her idea apparently
being that the girl would suddenly dash off to freedom and
wickedness and be lost for ever. Maggie had no such intention and
developed during these weeks a queer motherly affection for both the
aunts, so lost they were and helpless and ignorant of the world! "My
dear," said Maggie to herself, "you're a bit of a fool as far as
common-sense goes, but you're nothing to what they are, poor dears."
She tried to improve herself in every way for their benefit, but her
memory was no better. She forgot all the things that were, in their
eyes, the most important--closing doors, punctuality for meals, neat
stitches, careful putting away of books and clothes.
Once, during a walk, she said to Aunt Elizabeth:
"I am trying, Aunt Elizabeth. Do you think Aunt Anne sees any
And all Aunt Elizabeth said was:
"It was a great shock to her, what you did. Maggie--a great shock
When the last day of the year arrived Maggie was surprised at the
strange excitement that she felt. It was excitement, not only
because of the dim mysterious events that the evening promised, but
also because she was sure that this day would settle the loneliness
of herself and Martin. After this they would know where they stood
and what they must do. Old Warlock loomed in front of her as the
very arbiter of her destiny. On his action everything turned. Oh! if
only after this he were well enough for Martin to be happy and at
ease about him! She was tempted to hate him as she thought of all
the trouble that he had made for her. Then her mind went back to
that first day long ago when he had spoken to her so kindly and
bidden her come and see him as often as she could. How little she
had known then what the future held for her! And now around his tall
mysterious figure not only her own fate but that of every one else
seemed to hang. Her aunts, Amy, Miss Pyncheon, Miss Avies, Thurston,
that strange girl at the meeting, with them all his destiny was
involved and they with his.
As the day advanced and the silver fog blew in little gusts about
the house, making now this corner now that obscure, drifting, so
that suddenly, when the door opened, the whole passage seemed full
of smoke, clearing, for a moment, in the street below, showing lamp-
posts and pavements and windows, and then blowing down again and
once more hiding the world, she felt, in spite of herself, that she
was playing a part in some malignant dream. "It can't be like this
really," she told herself. "If I were to go to tea now with Mrs.
Mark and sit in her pretty drawing-room and talk to that clergyman I
wouldn't believe a word of it." And yet it was true enough, her
share in it. As the afternoon advanced her sensations were very
similar to those that she had had when about to visit the St.
Dreot's dentist, a fearsome man with red hair and hands like a dog's
paws. She saw him now standing over her as she sat trembling in the
chair, a miserable little figure in a short untidy frock. She used
to repeat to herself then what Uncle Mathew had once told her: "This
time next year you'll have forgotten all about this," but when it
was a question of facing the immensities of the Last Day that
consolation was strangely inapt. It was dusk very early and she
longed for Martha to bring the lamp.
At last it came and tea and Aunt Elizabeth. Aunt Anne had not
appeared all day. Then long dreary hours followed until supper, and
after that hours again until ten o'clock.
She had not been certain, all this time, whether the aunts meant to
take her to the service with them. She had supposed that her
introduction to the meeting at Miss Avies's meant that they intended
to include her in this too, but now, as the evening advanced, in a
fit of nervous terror she prayed within herself that they would not
take her. If the end of the world were coming she would like to meet
it in her bed. To go out into those streets and that ugly unfriendly
Chapel was a horrible thing to do. If this were to be the end of the
world how she did wish that she might have been allowed to know
nothing about it. And those others--Miss Pyncheon and the rest who
devoutly believed in the event--how were they passing these last
"Oh, it isn't true! It can't be true!" she said to herself. "It's a
shame to frighten them so!"
By eleven o'clock the excitement of the day had wearied her so that
she fell fast asleep in the arm-chair beside the fire. She woke to
find Aunt Anne standing over her.
"It's a quarter past eleven. It's time to put on your things," she
said. So she was to go! She rose and, in spite of herself, her limbs
were trembling and her teeth chattered. To her surprise Aunt Anne
bent forward and kissed her on the forehead.
"Maggie," she said, "if I've been harsh to you during these weeks
I'm sorry. I've done what I thought my duty, but I wouldn't wish on
this night that we should have any unkindness in our hearts towards
"Oh, that's all right," Maggie said awkwardly.
She went up to put on her things; then the three of them went out
into the dark foggy street together.