Part 2 out of 7
dear old England of ours that we so love, is wholly bound up with the
prosperity of her national Church. I use the word prosperity in a plain,
manly, straightforward sense. Personally I should rejoice to see the
bonds of Church and State drawn closer. It could not fail to make for the
welfare of both. Then, among other benefits, we should see the poverty of
many members of my cloth, which is now a crying scandal--"
"You do hear very sad tales from the country districts, certainly,"
sighed Mrs. Lovegrove.
"The state of affairs is more than sad, it is iniquitous. And therefore
the Church must assert herself. The individual minister must assert
himself, and claim a higher scale of remuneration. Help yourself, show
push and principle, cultivate practical aims--that is what I preach to
young men reading for Holy Orders. We have no place in these days for
visionaries and dreamers. We want men who march with the times, who are
interested in politics, and can make themselves felt."
So did the great voice roll on and outward. Very beautiful to the
listeners in sound--though, in sense, it may be questioned whether it
conveyed very definite ideas to them--but highly embarrassing to the
house-parlourmaid, whose feminine tones quite failed to make headway
against the volume of it. With the consequence that Dominic Iglesias was
left standing in the shadow of the doorway unheeded.
He was aware, and that not without surprise, how much these few days of
freedom and leisure had quickened his perceptions. His mental attitude
had changed. His demand had ceased to be moderate. Hence he suffered a
hundred offences to taste and sensibility hitherto unknown, or at least
unregistered. He knew when a woman was plain, when a conversation was
vapid or vulgar, a manner pretentious, a speech lacking in sincerity.
Consciously he stood aside, no longer out of humility or indifference,
but critically observant, challenging things however familiar, and
passing judgment upon them. For example, the unlovely character of Mrs.
Lovegrove's drawing-room engrossed his attention--the dirty-browns and
tentative watery blues of it, the multiplicity of flimsy, worthless,
little ornaments revealing a most lamentable absence of artistic
perception. In that fine booming clerical voice he detected a kindred
absence of delicate perception, a showiness born of very inadequate
conception of relative values. Indeed, the voice and the sentiments given
forth by it, in as far as he caught the drift of them, raised a definite
spirit of antagonism in him. The voice seemed to trample. Dominic
Iglesias was taken with an inclination--very novel in him--to trample,
too. He crossed the room, an added touch of gravity and dignity in his
aspect and manner.
The clergyman gazed at him with some curiosity, while Mrs. Lovegrove
surged up off the sofa.
"Mr. Iglesias! Well, of all people! Whoever would have expected to see
you at this early hour of the day?"
"Talk of a certain gentleman and that gentleman appears," Miss Eliza Hart
whispered. Then wagging her finger at her host, "Now don't you forget
that little question of mine. Find out his intentions, just, as you may
say, under the rose. But there's Peachie signalling to go."
In the ensuing interval of farewells, which were slightly protracted
owing to friskiness on the part of the fair Eliza, Iglesias found himself
standing beside the clergyman. The latter still regarded him with
curiosity. But, whatever his faults, not his worst enemy could accuse Dr.
Nevington of being a respecter of persons unless he was well assured
beforehand whom such persons might be. He therefore turned to Iglesias
with the easy air of patronage not uncommon to his cloth, as one who
should say: "My good sir, don't be afraid. I am a man of the world as
well as a Christian. I will handle you gently. I won't hurt you."
"I think I caught a foreign name," he remarked. "You are paying a visit
to London? I hope our capital makes an agreeable impression upon you."
"The visit has been of such long duration," Iglesias answered, "that
impressions have, I am afraid, become slightly blurred by usage."
"Ah! indeed--no doubt that happens in some measure to all of us. I am to
understand that you are a resident?"
"In this district?"
Again he assented.
"Indeed. Really, I wish I had known it sooner. It always gives me
pleasure to meet persons of another nationality than my own. Intercourse
with them makes for liberality of view. It often dispels anti-English
prejudice. I am always glad to be helpful to strangers."
"You are very kind," Iglesias said with gravity.
"Not at all--not at all. I hold very practical views not only regarding
the duties of the Englishman to the alien, but of the pastor towards his
flock. But I find it almost impossible, I regret to say, to become
personally acquainted with all my parishioners. My curates are capital
young fellows--earnest, active, go-ahead. But in a large area such as
this there is always a shifting population with which the clergy, however
energetic, find it difficult to keep in touch. We are obliged to
discriminate between dwellers and sojourners. As soon as any person is
proved to be a _bona fide_ dweller my curates pass his or her name on to
me, and either I or my wife call in due course."
Dominic Iglesias permitted himself to smile.
"An excellent system, no doubt," he remarked.
"I find it works very well on the whole. But no system is infallible.
There must be occasional oversights, and you have been the victim of one.
I mention this to disabuse your mind of the idea of any intentional
neglect. Well, Mrs. Lovegrove, and so our good friends Mrs. Porcher and
Miss Hart have gone--estimable women both of them in their own line. I
ought to be running away, too, and I have just been having a word with
your other guest here, Mr.----"
"Iglesias," Dominic put in coldly. He was in a state of pretty high
displeasure. To hear his name mispronounced might, he felt, precipitate a
"Iglesias?--ah! yes, thank you--I have been explaining to Mr. Iglesias
our system of parochial visiting and quoting our well-known joke about
the dwellers and sojourners. You remember it? He has, I regret to find,
been counted among the latter, while he has qualified as one of the
former. The mistake must be remedied. Well, good-by to you, Mrs.
Lovegrove; I shall see your good husband on my way downstairs. Good-day
to you, Mr. Iglesias. I shall hope to meet you again."
And with that he, and the encompassing sound of him, moved towards the
door. Mrs. Lovegrove subsided upon the sofa. The supreme glory had
departed, yet an afterglow from the effulgence of it remained in her
beaming face as she looked up at Mr. Iglesias.
"It was a good fairy that brought you in so early to-day," she said.
"Really, I am pleased you should have had the chance to meet Dr.
Nevington. And I could see he was quite taken with you, by the way he
began to talk before I had the chance to introduce you. But that's the
vicar all over! He never is one to stand upon ceremony."
"So I can believe," Dominic said.
"You saw it? Ah, part of his thoughtfulness, wanting to put everybody at
their ease. And I'm sure if there's one thing more disheartening than
another, it is to have two of your friends standing up side by side, as
stiff as a couple of pokers, without so much as a word. I know I am too
ready to enter into conversation with strangers; but if there is a thing
I cannot bear, it's any appearance of coolness."
She passed her handkerchief round her forehead and across her lips. She
was marshalling her energies for a daring effort.
"Very warm, is it not?" she remarked, perhaps superfluously. Then she
came to the point. "I know you are not very much of a churchgoer, Mr.
"I am afraid not"--he paused a moment. "You see, I was born and brought
up in another faith."
"Yes--so George has told me. But I am sure none of us would ever be so
illiberal as to throw that up against you. The vicar has been talking so
beautifully about Christian charity; and we all know it was a thing you
could not help. It was your misfortune, anybody would understand that,
not your fault. Too, it's all over long ago and forgotten."
Dominic looked rather hard at her; but it was clear her words were
innocent of any intention of offence.
"I suppose it is," he said sadly, Old Age and Loneliness laying their
hands upon him, for some reason, very sensibly once again.
"Not that that's anything to be otherwise than thankful for," she added,
with a slightly misplaced effort at consolation. "Of course anyone must
feel how providential it is to be saved from all those terrible false
doctrines and practices--not that I know anything about them. There's so
much, don't you think, it is so much better not to know anything about.
Then one feels more at liberty to speak."
Mr. Iglesias smiled.
"I am not sure that the matter had occurred from exactly that point of
"Really now, and a clever person like you!" Mrs. Lovegrove passed her
handkerchief across her forehead again. "George has a wonderful opinion
of your cleverness, you know. And that is why I have always wished you
and the vicar could be brought together. I have--yes, I own to it--I have
been afraid sometimes you were a little unsettled about religion, and
that it might unsettle Georgie, too. But I knew if you once met the vicar
that would all be set right. As I often say to George, let anybody just
_see_ Dr. Nevington and then they will begin to have an inkling of all
they miss in not hearing him in the pulpit."
But here, perhaps fortunately, the master of the house trotted back. He,
too, beamed. He was filled with innocent rejoicing. Had he not
successfully protected the wife's feelings, and was not Iglesias--who
remained to him a wonderful being, stirring whatever element of romance
might be resident in his guileless nature--present in person?
"Why, what's the meaning of this, Dominic?" he chuckled. "You've turned
over a new leaf, gadding round to at-home days! Where's Threadneedle
Street? What's come over you?"
"Threadneedle Street and I have agreed to part company."
"What, for good? Never?" this from both husband and wife.
"Yes, for good," Iglesias said.
Mr. Lovegrove ceased to beam. He became anxious again, and consequently
"Well, you do surprise me," he said. "Nothing gone wrong, I trust? Not
any unpleasantness happened?"
"None," Iglesias answered. In breaking the news to these kindly but
rudimentary souls he had determined to treat it very lightly. "I have
come to the conclusion that I have worked long enough. It is a mistake to
risk dying in harness. You retired, Lovegrove, three years ago. I am
going to look about me a little and see what the rest of the world is
"You'll miss the bank, and feel a little strange at first. Georgie did,
though he had his home to interest him," Mrs. Lovegrove remarked.
"Undoubtedly George was more fortunate than I am," Iglesias replied, in
his most courtly manner.
"Not but that all that could be easily remedied," she added, with a touch
of archness. Then Mr. Iglesias thought it time to depart. In the hall his
host held him, literally by the buttonhole, looking up with squinting
blue eyes into his face.
"It's all rather sudden, Dominic," he said. "I do not want to intrude
upon your confidence; but if there is anything behind, anything in which
I can help?"
Mr. Iglesias shook his head.
"Nothing, my good old friend," he said.
"The wife's right, you know. You'll miss the bank, the regular hours, and
the occupation. She's quite right. I did at first."
"I know. But already I have pretty well got through that phase, I think."
"Ah, you have a bigger mind than mine. You can rise to a wider view.
Change affects a commonplace man like myself most. I was dreadfully lost
at first--more than the wife knew. Females are very sensitive, and it
would have hurt her to know all I felt. If the Almighty is good enough to
give a man a faithful woman to look after him, he can't be too scrupulous
in sparing her pain--at least, so I think." Suddenly his tone changed.
"But you are not going to leave us, Dominic?--you are not going to move,
I do hope?"
He was mindful of his promise to Eliza Hart, but he was also mindful of
himself. It had occurred to him for how very much in the interest and
pleasure of his life Dominic Iglesias really stood.
"Why, should you regret my going? Should you miss me?" the other asked,
struck by his tone.
"Miss you," he said, "and after a friendship covering forty years! I know
you are my superior in every way. I know I am not on your level. All the
advantage is on my side in our friendship, always has been. But that is
just where it is. Why, you know, Dominic--next to the wife of course--all
along you have been the best thing I had."
Then it came to Iglesias, looking down at him, that among the many
millions of his fellow-mortals, this whimsical childlike being stood
nearest to him in sympathy and in love. The thought moved him strangely,
at once deepening his sense of isolation and lessening the load of it.
"In that case I will not move. I will stay here, at Trimmer's Green," he
When Mr. Lovegrove reentered the sun-faded drawing-room his wife greeted
him in these words:
"Well, I have been thinking it all over, Georgie, and we shall only be
doing our duty by Mr. Iglesias if we send for your cousin Serena. For my
part, I don't trust Mrs. Porcher. Did you see that fly-away blue bow?
Those who seem so soft are often the deepest. And widows have all sorts
of little cunning ways with them." She rose from the thrice happy sofa.
"I was gratified to have Dr. Nevington and Mr. Iglesias meet. But we
certainly will have to send for Serena," she said.
Mr. Iglesias crossed Trimmer's Green in the dusty sunshine. He had
engaged to stay; and, indeed, he asked himself what person, what objects
or interests there were to take him else-whither? Nevertheless, the
promise seemed, somehow, a limiting of possibility and of hope. It was
destiny. London, very evidently, having got him, did not mean to let him
go. And London was not attractive this evening, but blouzy and jaded from
the heat. He passed on into the great thoroughfare and turned eastward,
absorbed in thought. Children cried. A pungent scent of over-ripe fruit
came from barrows in the roadway and open doors of green-grocers' shops.
Tempers appeared to be on edge. Workmen, pouring out from a big block of
flats under construction on the left, jostled him in passing, not in
insolence, but simply in inattention. Their language was starred with
sanguinary adjectives. The noise of the traffic was loud. Iglesias turned
up one of the side streets leading on to Campden Hill. It was quieter
here and the air was a trifle purer. Halfway up the hill he hesitated.
There was a shrine to be visited in these regions--in it stood an altar
of the dead. And above that altar, in Iglesias' imagination, hung the
picture of a woman, beautiful, and, to him, infinitely sad.
He turned eastward again and made his way into Holland Street. He rarely
had the courage to go back there. He had never reentered the house. But
this evening he was taken by the desire to look on it all once again. For
he was still pursued by the disquieting question as to whether he had
shirked the possibilities of his life, or had sacrificed them to a higher
duty than any duty of personal development. If the latter, however barren
of active happiness both past and present, he would be in his own eyes
justified, and desolation would cease to have in it any flavour of self-
contempt. Perhaps this dwelling-place of his childhood, youth, and what
should have been the best of his manhood, might help to answer the
question and set his doubts at rest.
A board--"To Let"--was up on the narrow iron balcony of the dining-room.
Iglesias rang, and after brief parley with the caretaker--a neat bald-
headed little old man, in carpet slippers and a well-brushed once-smart
brown check suit, altogether too capacious for his attenuated person--was
"The place is quite empty save for my bits of sticks in the basement,
sir," he said. "You are at liberty to go where you please. I am afflicted
with the asthma and am glad to avoid mounting the stairs." He ended up
with a husky little cough. So Iglesias passed through the vacant house
He received a pathetic yet agitating impression. The rooms were even
smaller than he had supposed. They were gloomy, too, from the worn paint
of the high wainscots and discoloration of the low ceilings. All the
windows were shut and the atmosphere was close and faint. The corners
were thick with crouching shadows, merely awaiting the cover of night, as
it seemed to Iglesias, to take definite shape, stand upright, and come
forth to possess and people all the house. Even now it belonged so
sensibly to them that his own reverent footsteps sounded to him harshly
intrusive upon the bare, uneven floors. At intervals, downstairs in the
basement, he could hear the little old caretaker's husky cough.
And it was strange to him to consider what those crouching shadows might
represent. Not the ghosts of human beings--in such he had small belief--
but an aftermath of human emotions, purposes, and passions, formulated or
endured in this apparently so innocent place. To his knowledge the
origins of revolution had seethed here. The walls had listened to details
of political intrigue, of projected assassination, to vehement
declarations of undying hate. Of the men who had plotted and dreamed
here, uplifted in spirit by the magic of terrible ideas, none were left.
One by one they had gone out into the silence to meet death, swift-handed
or heartlessly lingering, as the case might be. And what had they
actually accomplished? he asked himself. Had their death, often as must
be surmised of a sufficiently hideous sort, really advanced the cause of
humanity and helped on the birth of that Golden Age, in which Justice
shall reign alongside Peace? Or had these men merely wasted themselves,
adding to the sum total of human confusion and wrong; and wasted the
hearts and happiness of those allied to them by ties of friendship and of
blood, leaving the second generation to repair, in so far as it might,
the ruin which their violence had worked? Dominic Iglesias could not say.
But this at least, though it savoured of reproach, he could not disguise
from himself--namely, that out of the intemperate heat and fierceness of
these men's thought and action had come, as a necessary consequence, the
narrow opportunities and cold isolation of his own.
"As physically, so morally, spiritually, socially," he said to himself,
"the younger generation pays the debts contracted by the generation
immediately preceding it. Justice, indeed, reigns already, always has
done so--. justice of a rather tremendous sort. But peace?--Peace is
still very much to seek, both for the individual and the race."
Iglesias visited his mother's bed-chamber. He visited his former nursery.
Then he visited the drawing-room, the heart of this very pathetic shrine
where the altar of his dead was, almost visibly set up. To this room,
during the many years of his mother's mental illness, he had come back
daily after work; and had ministered to her, suiting his speech to her
passing humour, trying to distract her brooding melancholy, and to soothe
and amuse her as though she was an ailing child. Thank God, there was
nothing ugly to remember regarding her. She had never been harsh or
unlovely in her ways. Still, the strain of constant intercourse with her
had been very great--how great Iglesias had hardly realised until now, as
he stood in the centre of the room reconstructing its former appearance
in thought and replacing its familiar furnishings.
There to the left of the further window, overlooking the garden, she had
always sat, so that the light might fall upon her needlework--very fine
Irish lace, in the making of which nearly all her waking hours were
spent. She had learned the beautiful art as a young girl in her convent
school; and her skill in it was great. In those sad later years when her
mind was clouded the intricate designs and endless variety of delicate
and ingenious stitches had come to have symbolic meanings for her full of
mystic significance. In them she poured forth her soul, as another might
pour it forth in music, finding there an imaginative language far
surpassing, in its subtlety of suggestion, articulate speech. There were
deserts of net, of spider's web fineness, to be laboriously traversed;
hills of difficulty to be climbed, whence far horizons disclosed
themselves; dainty flower-gardens, crossed by open paths, and hedged
about with curves, sinuous and full of pretty impediments. And there
were, to her, vaguely agitating and even fearful things in this lacework
also--confusions of outline, broken purposes, multiplicity of opposing
intentions, struggle of good and evil powers in the intricacies of some
rich arabesque; or monotonous repetitions of design which distressed her
as with the terrors of imprisonment and of unescapable fate. She was
filled with feverish anxiety until such portions of her self-imposed
task were completed. Then she would be very glad. And Iglesias, glancing
up silently from the pages of his newspaper or book, would see the sorrow
pass out of her face as she leaned back in her chair and softly laughed.
And he would perceive that, in the achievement of those countless but
carefully ordered stitches, she had also achieved some mysterious victory
of the spirit which, for a time at least, would give her freedom of soul
and content. As a boy he had been rather jealous of her lacemaking,
declaring that it was dearer to her than he himself was. But as he grew
more experienced, more chastened, and, it must be added, more sad, he had
come to understand that it veritably was as speech to her--though speech
which he could but rarely interpret--expressing all that she could not,
or dared not, otherwise express, all the poetry of her sweet, broken
nature, its denied aspirations in religion, its tortured memories of
danger and of love.
Now, standing in the centre of the empty room, and looking at the place
beside the window where she habitually sat, Iglesias seemed to see once
more, as he had so often seen in the past, her fine-drawn profile and
softly waved upturned hair, her head and shoulders draped in a black
mantilla, the lines of which followed those of her figure as she bent
over her work. He could see the long delicate white hands moving
rhythmically, with the assurance of perfected skill, over the web in its
varying degrees of whiteness from the filmy transparency of the net
foundation to the opacity of the closely wrought pattern. Those hands, in
their ceaseless and exquisite industry, had troubled his imagination at
times. For too often it had seemed as though they alone were really
alive, intelligent, sentient, the rest of the woman dead. The impression
was so vivid even yet--though Iglesias knew it to be subjective only,
projected by the vividness of remembrance--that instinctively he crossed
the room, laid his left hand upon the moulding of the high wainscot,
leaned over the vacant space which appeared to hold her image, and spoke
gently to her, so that the moving hands might find rest for a moment,
while she recognised and greeted him, looking up.
There had always been a pause before the words of greeting came, while
her consciousness travelled back, hesitatingly, to the actual and
material world around her from the world of emotion and phantasy in which
her spirit lived. There was a pause now, a prolonged silence, broken at
last by the husky cough of the little old caretaker downstairs. The
vacant space remained vacant. Nevertheless Dominic Iglesias received both
recognition and greeting, and from these derived inward assurance that
all was well--that he was justified of his past action, that he had not
shirked the possibilities of his life, but sacrificed them to a higher
duty than any individual and private one. The present might be empty of
purpose and pleasure, the future lacking in promise and in hope; yet to
him one perfect thing had been granted--namely, a human relationship of
unsullied beauty, notwithstanding all its sadness, from first to last.
"And in the strength of that meat, one should surely be able to go many
days!" he said, as he straightened himself up. "Thank God, I never failed
her. How far she realised it or not, is but a small matter. I am obscure,
perhaps as things now stand wholly superfluous, still I have, at all
events, never grasped personal advantage at the expense of a fellow-
Yet, even so, the longing for sympathy and companionship oppressed him as
never before. The sight of this place had stirred his affections and his
spiritual sense. His soul cried out for some language in which to express
itself--even though it were a language of symbol only, such as his
mother had found in her lacemaking. How barren and vapid a thing was the
exterior life, as all those whom he knew understood and lived it--his co-
lodgers, his fellow-clerks, the good Lovegroves, his late employer, Sir
Abel Barking, even, as he divined, that sonorous Protestant clergyman
whom he had met this afternoon--as against the interior life, suggestion
of which this vacant shadow-haunted house of innumerable memories
presented to his mind! Was there any method by which the interior and
exterior life could be brought into sane and fruitful relation, so that
the former might sensibly permeate and dignify the latter?
The comfortable inward conviction, just vouchsafed him, that he was
justified of his own past action, merely emphasised his consciousness
that he was still very much adrift, with no definite port to steer for.
He had, perhaps unwisely, promised George Lovegrove that he would stay on
at Trimmer's Green, but what, after all, did that amount to? Even the
exterior life was second-hand enough there; the interior life, as he
judged, practically non-existent. And so his staying must be ennobled by
some purpose beyond that of stepping across to smoke an after-dinner pipe
with the good, affectionate Lovegrove man, or attending his estimable
wife's "at homes." During the last ten days Mr. Iglesias had striven,
with rare, pathetic diligence, to cultivate amusement. True, the oak
palings had shut him out from Ranelagh; but, with that and a few other
exceptions, amusement, as practised in great cities, is merely a matter
of cash. Therefore he had dined at smart restaurants, had sampled
theatres and music halls, had sat in the Park and watched the world and--
in their more decent manifestations--the flesh and the devil drive by. He
had to admit that unfortunately all this left him cold, had bored rather
than entertained him. He had not felt out of place socially. His natural
dignity and detachment of mind were alike too strong for that; but he had
arrived at the conclusion that you must have learned the rudiments of the
art of amusement in early youth if you are to practise it with
satisfaction to yourself in middle-age. And he very certainly had not
learned the rudiments--not, anyhow, according to the English fashion. He
had been aware, during these social excursions, that he was a good deal
stared at and even commented on. At first he supposed this arose from
some peculiarity of his dress or manner. Then he understood that the
cause of this unsolicited attention bore a more flattering character, and
in this connection certain remarks made by the Lady of the Windswept Dust
occurred to his mind. But, Mr. Iglesias' pride being greatly in excess of
his vanity--when the first moment of half-humorous surprise was passed--
he found that these tributes to his personal appearance afforded him more
displeasure than pleasure. He turned from them with a movement of
annoyance, and turned from those places in which they were liable to
manifest themselves likewise. No, indeed, it was something other than
this he had to find, something lying far deeper in the needs of human
nature, if the emptiness of his days was to be filled and the hunger of
his heart and spirit satisfied!
Pondering which things he went down the creaking stairs of the house in
Holland Street, Kensington, leaving the empty and, to him, sacred rooms
to the crouching shadows. He had had his answer from the one person whom
he had perfectly loved. And surely, in justifying the past, that answer
gave promise of hope for the future? The way would be made clear, the
method would declare itself. Let him have patience, only patience, as
she, his mother, had had when traversing deserts and climbing Difficulty
Hill in her lacework; and to him, also, should far horizons be disclosed.
In the narrow hall the neat little old caretaker met him, huskily
"The rent is low, sir," he said, "and the landlord is asking no premium.
If you should wish further particulars, or to inspect the offices----"
But Mr. Iglesias put a couple of half-crowns into his hand.
"No," he answered, "I do not propose to take the house. Persons who were
dear to me lived here once; and so I wanted to see it. As long as it is
unlet I may come back from time to time."
The old man shuffled his slippered feet upon the bare boards, looking
with mild ecstasy at the coins.
"And you will be most welcome, sir," he said. "Your generosity happens to
be of great assistance to me--not that I wish it repeated. I am not
grasping, sir, but I am grateful. I have a taste in literature which my
reduced circumstances do not allow me to gratify. I see the prospect of
many hours' enjoyment before me. I thank you."
And so it came about that a more tranquil spirit, touched with sober
gladness, possessed Dominic Iglesias as, leaving that house of many
memories, he pursued his way down Church Street and, passing into
Kensington High Street opposite St. Mary Abbot's Church, turned eastward
once again. A few doors short of the gateway leading into Palace Gardens
was an unpretentious Italian restaurant where he proposed to dine. For it
grew late. He had spent longer than he had supposed in wordless prayer
before the altar of his dead. The remembrance of the book-loving little
caretaker's gratitude remained by him pleasantly, softening his humour
towards all his fellow-men. Simple kindness has great virtue, uplifting
to the heart. To Iglesias it seemed those five shillings had been
eminently well invested.
The streets were clearer now; and he walked slowly, enjoying the cooler
air born of the sunset, and drawing from the leafy spaces of Kensington
Gardens and the park. Presently he became aware of a figure, not
altogether unfamiliar, threading its way among the intermittent stream of
pedestrians along the pavement a few paces ahead. His eyes followed it
reluctantly. In his present peaceful humour its aspect struck a jarring
note. Soiled white flannel trousers, a short blue boating coat, a soft
grey felt hat, tennis shoes, a shambling and uncertain gait as of one who
neither knows nor cares whither he is going or why he goes--the whole
effect purposeless, slovenly, inept.
Then followed a little scene which caused Iglesias to further slacken his
pace. For the seedy figure, reaching the open door of the restaurant,
hesitated, standing between the clipped bay trees set in green tubs which
flanked the entrance on either hand. Stepped aside, craning upward to see
over the yellow silk curtains drawn across the lower half of the windows.
Moved back to the door and stood there undecided. Finally, as a smiling
waiter, napkin on arm, came forward, the man crushed his hat down on his
forehead, forced his hands deep into his trouser pockets and turned away
with an audible oath. This brought him face to face with Mr. Iglesias,
who recognised in him his fellow-lodger, Mr. de Courcy Smyth.
"What, you!" he exclaimed snarlingly, while his pasty face flamed. "There
seems no escape from our dear Cedar Lodge to-night."
Then with an uneasy laugh he made an effort to recover himself.
"Really, I beg your pardon, Mr. Iglesias," he continued, "but my nerves
are villainously on edge. I have just met those two young idiots, Farge
and Worthington, waltzing home arm in arm like a pair of demented turtle-
doves. Having to associate with such third-rate commercial fellows and
witness their ebullitions of mutual admiration makes a man of education,
like myself, utterly sick. I came out this evening to get free of the
whole Cedar Lodge lot. You did the same, I suppose. Pray don't let me
frustrate your purpose. I sympathise with it. I will remove myself."
The splotchy red had died out of the speaker's face. Notwithstanding the
warmth of the evening he stood with his shoulders raised and his knees a
little bent, as a poorly clad man stands in a chill wind on a wintry day.
Iglesias observed his attitude, and in his present mood it influenced him
more than the surly greeting had done.
"I intended to dine here," he said quietly. "So, I fancy, did you."
"Oh! I have changed my mind, thank you," Smyth answered.
"In consequence of my arrival, I am afraid?"
"No, I had other reasons."
"In any case I should be very glad if you would reconsider your decision
and remain," Dominic said. "I am, as you see, alone, and I have not often
the pleasure of meeting you. I shall be very happy if you will stay and
dine with me, as my guest."
Smyth gave an odd, furtive look at the open door of the restaurant and
the row of white tables within. A light had come into his pale blue eyes,
making them uncomfortably like those of some half-starved animal.
"I am at a loss to know why I should accept hospitality from you," he
remarked, at once cringingly and insolently.
"Simply because you would give me pleasure by doing so. I should value
"I am not in evening dress."
"Nor am I," Dominic answered, with admirable seriousness. There was
something pitiful to him in the conflict, obviously going forward in the
other's mind, between hunger and reluctance to incur an obligation. He
cut it short with gentle authority. "There is a vacant table in the
corner where we can talk free from interruption. Let us go in and secure
At the beginning of the meal the conversation was intermittent, the
burden of supporting it lying with Mr. Iglesias. But, as course followed
course, hot and succulent, while the _chianti_ at once steadied his
circulation and stimulated his brain, de Courcy Smyth became talkative,
not to say garrulous. Finally he began to assert himself, to swagger,
thereby laying bare the waste places of his own nature.
"You may think I was hard on Farge and Worthington just now, Mr.
Iglesias," he said. "I own they disgust me; not only in themselves, but
as examples of certain modern tendencies which are choking the life out
of me and such men as me. You business people are on the up grade just
now, and you know it. Whoever goes under, you are safe to do yourselves
most uncommonly well. I don't mean anything personal, of course. I am
just stating a self-evident fact. Commerce is in the air--you all reek of
success. And so even shopwalkers, like Worthington, and that thrice
odious puppy Farge, grow sleek, and venture to spread themselves in the
presence of their betters--in the presence of a scholar and a gentleman,
who is well connected and has received a classical education, like
Smyth paused, turning sideways to the table, leaning his elbow on it,
crossing his legs and staring gloomily down the long room.
"But what do they know or care about scholarship?" he continued. "What
they do know is that the spirit of this unspeakably vulgar age is with
them and their miserable huckstering. They know that well enough and act
upon it, though they are too illiterate to put it into words--know that
trade is in process of exploding learning, of exploiting literature and
art to its own low purposes, in process of scaling Olympus, in short, and
ignominiously chucking out the gods."
Dominic Iglesias had listened to this astonishing tirade in silence. The
man was evidently suffering from feelings of bitter injury, also he was
his--Iglesias'--guest. Both pity and hospitality engaged him to
endurance. But there are limits. And at this point professional dignity
and a lingering loyalty towards the house of Barking Brothers & Barking
"No doubt we live in times of commerce, rather than in those of
chivalry," he remarked. "Still, I venture to think your condemnation is
too sweeping. One should discriminate surely between trade and finance."
"Only as one discriminates between a little dog and a big one. The little
dog is the easier to kick. I can't get at the Rothschilds and
Rockefellers; and so I go for the Farges and Worthingtons," Smyth
answered. "In principle I am right. Trade, commerce, finance, juggle with
the names as you like, it all comes back to the same thing in the end,
namely, the murder of intellect by money. Comes back to the worship of
Mammon, chosen ruler of this contemptible _fin de siecle_, and safe to be
even more tyrannously the ruler of the coming century. What hope, I ask
you, is left for us poor devils of literary men? None, absolutely none.
Just in proportion as we honour our calling and refuse to prostitute our
talents we are at a discount. The powers that be have no earthly use for
us. We have not the ghost of a chance."
He altered his position, looking quickly and nervously at his host.
"I beg your pardon," he said. "For the moment I forgot you were on the
other side, among the conquerors, not the conquered. Probably this
conversation does not interest you in the least."
"On the contrary, it interests me very deeply," Dominic replied gravely.
"All the same, out of self-respect I ought to hold my tongue about it, I
suppose. For I have accepted the position, Mr. Iglesias. I have learned
to do that. Only on each fresh occasion that it is brought home to me--
and it has been brought home abominably clearly to-night--my gorge rises
at it. And it ought to be so. For it is an outrage--you yourself must
admit--that a man who started with excellent prospects and with the
consciousness of unusual talents--of genius, perhaps--should be ruined
and broken, while every miserable little counter-jumper----"
He leaned his elbows on the table, hiding his face in his hands, and his
"For I have talent," he cried, in a curiously thin voice. "Before God I
have. They may refuse to publish me, refuse to play me, force me to pick
up scraps of hack-work on fourth-rate papers to earn a bare subsistence--
at times hardly that. Yet all the same, no supercilious beast of an
editor or actor-manager--curse the whole stinking lot--shall rob me of my
faith in myself--of my belief that I am great--if I had justice, nothing
less than that, I tell you, nothing less than great."
Dominic Iglesias drew himself up, sitting very still, his lips rigid, not
from defect, but from excess of sympathy. The restaurant was empty now,
save for a man, four tables down, safely ensconced behind the pink pages
of an evening paper, and for a couple, at the far end, in the window--a
young Frenchwoman, whose coquettish hat and trim rounded figure were
silhouetted against the yellow silk curtain, and a precocious black-
haired youth, with a skin like pale, pink satin, round eyeglasses and an
incipient moustache. His attention was entirely occupied with the young
woman; hers entirely occupied with herself. And of this Dominic Iglesias
was glad. For the matter immediately in hand was best conducted without
witnesses. He found it strangely engrossing, strangely moving. However
vain, however madly exaggerated even, de Courcy Smyth's estimate of
himself, there could be no question but that his present emotion was as
actual and genuine as his past hunger had been. The man was utterly spent
in body and in spirit. Offensive in speech, slovenly in person, yet these
distasteful things added to, rather than detracted from, Iglesias' going
out of sympathy towards him. He had rarely been in contact with a fellow-
creature in such abandonment of distress. It was terrible to witness; yet
it gave him a sense of fellowship, of nearness, even of power, which had
in it an element of deep-seated satisfaction. While he waited for the
moment when it should become clear to him how to act, his thought
travelled back to the Lady of the Windswept Dust. He saw, not her over-
red lips, but her serious eyes; saw her tearful and in a way broken, for
all her light speech, her fanciful garments, and her antics with her
absurd little dogs amid the sweetness of sunshine and summer breeze on
Barnes Common. She was far enough away, so he judged, in sentiment and
circumstance from the embittered and poverty-haunted man sitting opposite
to him. Yet though superficially so dissimilar, they were alike in this,
that both had dared to reveal themselves, passing beyond conventional
limits in intercourse with him, Iglesias. Both had cried out to him in
their distress. And then, thinking of that recently visited altar of the
dead, thinking of the one perfect relationship he had known--his
relationship to his mother--it came to him as a revelation that not
participation in the pride of life and the splendour of it--still less
association in mere pleasure and amusement--forms the cement which binds
together the units of humanity in stable and consoling relationship; but
association in sorrow, the cry for help and the response to that cry,
whether it be help to the staying of the hunger of the heart and of the
intellect, or simply to the staying of that baser yet very searching
hunger of overstrained nerves and an empty stomach. The revelation was
partial. Iglesias groped, so to speak, in the light of it uncertain and
dazzled. But he received it as real--an idea the magnitude of which, in
inspiration and application, he was as yet by no means equal to measure.
Still he believed that could he but yield himself to it, and, in
yielding, master it, it would carry him very far, teaching him that
language of the spirit which he desired to acquire; and hence placing in
his hand that earnestly coveted key to an adjustment between the exterior
and interior life, the life of the senses and the life of the spirit,
which must needs eventuate, manward and godward alike, in triumphant
Meanwhile there sat de Courcy Smyth, blear-eyed, sandy-red bearded,
unsavoury, trying, poor wretch, to rally whatever of manhood was left in
him and swagger himself out of his fit of hysteria. The Latin, however
dignified, is instinctively more demonstrative than the Anglo-Saxon.
Iglesias leaned across the table and laid his hand on the other man's
"Wait a little," he said. "Drink your coffee and smoke. We need not hurry
There was a pause, during which Smyth obediently swallowed his coffee,
swallowed his _chasse_ of cognac.
"I have made an egregious ass of myself," he said sullenly.
"No, no," Iglesias answered. "You have honoured me by taking me into your
confidence. It rests with me to see that you never have cause to regret
having done so."
"I believe you mean that."
"Certainly I mean it," Iglesias answered.
Smyth's hands trembled as he took a cigar and held a match to it.
"I am unaccustomed to meeting with kindness," he said in a low voice. Then
recovering himself somewhat, he began to speak volubly again. "Of course
I understand it all well enough. They are simply afraid of my work, those
beasts of editors and playwrights. It is too big for them, they dare not
face it and the consequences of it. It is strong stuff, Mr. Iglesias,
strong stuff with plenty of red blood in it, and with scholarship, too.
And so they pigeon-hole my stories and drames in self-defence, knowing
that if these once reached the public, either in print or in action,
their own fly-blown anaemic productions would be hissed off the stage or
would ruin the circulation of the periodical which inserted them. It is
all jealousy, I tell you, Mr. Iglesias, rank, snakish jealousy, bred by
self-interest out of fear--a truly exalted parentage!"
He shifted his position restlessly, again setting his elbows upon the
table and fingering the broken bread upon the cloth.
"At times, when I can rise above the immediate injustice and cruelty
which pursue me," he went on, "I glory in my martyrdom. I range myself
alongside those heroes of literature and art, who, because they were
ahead of the age in which they lived, were scorned and repudiated by
their contemporaries; but they found their revenge in the worship of
succeeding generations. My time will come just as theirs did. It must--I
tell you it must. I know that. I am safe of eventual recognition; but I
want it now, while I am alive, while I can glut myself with the joy of
it. I want to see the men who lord it over me, just because they have
influence and money, who affect to despise me because they are green with
envy and fear of me, brought to their knees, flattened so that I can wipe
my boots on them. And--and"--he looked full at Dominic Iglesias,
spreading out both hands across the narrow table, his pale prominent eyes
blood-shot, his face working--"I want to see someone else--a woman--
brought to her knees also. I want to make her feel what she has lost--
curse her!--and have her come back whining."
"And if she did come back," Iglesias asked, almost sternly, "what would
you do? Forgive her?"
De Courcy Smyth's hands dropped with a queer little thud on the table.
"I don't know. I suppose so. If she wanted to she could always get round
me." Then he turned on Iglesias with hysterical violence. "But what do
you know? Why do you ask that? Are you among her patrons? I trusted you.
I believed you were a gentleman in feeling--and it is a dirty trick to
get me in here and fill me up with food and liquor, when you must have
seen my nerves were all to pieces, and then spring this upon me. Oh!
hell!" he cried, "is there no comfort anywhere? Is everyone a traitor?"
And seeing his utter abjectness, Iglesias' heart went out to the unhappy
man in immense and unqualified pity.
"I am grieved," he said gently, "if I have pained you unnecessarily. But
truly I have sprung nothing upon you. How could I do so? I know nothing
whatever of your circumstances save that which you yourself have told me
during the last hour."
"Then why did you ask that question about--about her?"
"Because," Dominic answered, "I am ready to fight for you, in as far as
you will allow me to do so; but I do not fight against women."
"You must have had uncommonly little experience of them then," Smyth
answered with a sneer.
To this observation Mr. Iglesias deemed it superfluous to make any
answer. A silence followed. The restaurant was empty, but for the
waiters, who stood in a little knot about the door amusing themselves by
watching the movement of the street. Looking round to make sure no one
was within hearing, Smyth rose unsteadily to his feet.
"You meant what you said just now, Mr. Iglesias--that you were ready to
fight for me?" he asked ungently yet cringingly.
"Certainly I meant it," Dominic replied, "the proviso I have made being
"Yes, yes, of course--but what do you understand by fighting for me?
Dominic had risen, too. He remained for a moment in thought.
"Within reasonable relation to my means, yes," he said.
"I only want my chance," the other asserted. "The rest will follow as a
matter of course. You would risk nothing, Mr. Iglesias. It would be an
investment, simply an investment. The play is not finished yet--I have
been too disheartened and disgusted recently to be able to work at it.
But it is great, I tell you, great. When it is done will you give me my
chance, and take a theatre for me and finance a couple of _matinees?_"
Again Dominic Iglesias thought for a moment, and again, driven by that
strange necessity of fellowship--though knowing all the while he was
putting his hand to a very questionable adventure--he replied in the
On that same evening, and at the same hour at which Dominic Iglesias
bound himself to the practical assistance of a personally unsavoury and
professionally unsuccessful playwright, a conversation was in progress
between two persons of more exalted social station in the drawing-room of
a pleasant house in Chester Square. The said drawing-room, mid-Victorian
in aspect, was decorated in white and gold and unaggressive green. The
ground of the chintz was very white, sprinkled over with bunches of
shaded mauve roses unknown to horticulture. Lady Constance Decies' tea-
grown was white and mauve also. For she was still in half-mourning for
her father, the late Lord Fallowfeild, who had died some eighteen months
previously at a very venerable age, and with a touching modesty as though
his advent in another world might savour of intrusion. He had always been
a humble-minded man. He remained so to the last.
The windows stood open to the balcony. And the effect of the woman, and
of the soft lights and colours surrounding her, was reposeful. For at the
age of fifty Lady Constance, though stately, was a mild and very gentle
person upon whom the push of the modern world had laid no hand. All the
active drama of her life had been crowded into a few weeks of the early
summer of her eighteenth year; since which, now remote, period she had
enjoyed a tranquil existence, happy in the love of her husband and the
care of her children. Her pretty brown hair was beginning to turn grey
upon the temples. Her eyes, set remarkably far apart, had a certain
vagueness and a great innocence of expression. She was naturally timid,
and cared but little for any society beyond that of her near relations.
To-night she was particularly content, mildly radiant even, thanks to the
presence of her favourite brother, the present Lord Fallowfeild, and his
avowed admiration of her younger daughter--a maiden of nineteen, who
stood before her, with shining eyes, in all the delicate splendour of a
"Yes, darling, you look very sweet," she said. "Just lean down--the lace
has got caught in the flowers on your _berthe_. That's right. Don't keep
your father too late."
"And in all things be discreet"--this from Lord Fallowfeild. "It's been
my motto through life, as your mother knows. And you couldn't have a
brighter example of the excellent results of it than myself. Good-night,
my dear. Enjoy yourself," and he patted her on the cheek, avoiding the
kiss which she in all innocence proffered him. "Pretty child, Kathleen,
uncommonly pretty," he continued as the door closed behind the graceful
figure. "It strikes me, Con, your girls have all the good looks of the
family in the younger generation, with the exception of Violet Aldham.
But she's getting pinched, a bit pinched and witch-like. Then she makes
up too much. I have no prejudice against a woman's improving upon nature
where nature's been niggardly. But it is among the things that'll keep.
It's a mistake to begin it too early. In my opinion Violet has begun it
too early--might quite well have given herself another ten years'
grace.--Maggie's girls are gawky, you know; and, between ourselves, so
terribly flat, poor things, both fore and aft. Upon my word, I'm not
surprised they don't marry."
"I am afraid Maggie feels it a good deal," said Lady Constance.
Satisfaction mingled with pity in her soul. The disabilities of other
women's children are never wholly distressing to a tender mother's heart.
"You see, she's so anxious the girls should not marry the bishop's
chaplains; and yet really they hardly see any other young men. I think it
is a very difficult position, that of a bishop's wife."
Lord Fallowfeild smiled, settling himself back in the corner of the wide
sofa and crossing his long legs. He had thought more deeply on a good
many subjects than the majority of his acquaintance supposed; with the
consequence that he occasionally surprised his fellow-peers by the
acuteness of his observations in debate. Lord Fallowfeild, it may be
added, took his recently acquired office of hereditary legislator with a
commendable mixture of humour and seriousness.
"Their position is an anomalous one," he said; "and an anomalous position
is inevitably a difficult one--ought to be SO; in my opinion. But that's
not to the point. We were talking, not about the episcopal ladies, but
about this little business of Kathleen's. So you believe Lady Sokeington
has views and intentions?"
"I know that she has. But you see, Shotover," Lady Constance went on,
returning to the name which that gentleman had rendered somewhat
notorious in earlier years by a record in sport, in debts, in amours, and
in irresistible sweetness of temper--"I want to be quite sure he is
really good. Because the affair has not gone very far yet and it might be
put a stop to--at least I hope and think it might--without making darling
Kathleen too dreadfully unhappy. You do believe he really is good?"
Lord Fallowfeild leaned forward and rubbed a hardly perceptible atom of
fluff off his left trouser leg just above the ankle.
"My dear Con," he answered, "you are very charming, but you are a trifle
embarrassing, too, you know. Haven't you learned, even at this time of
day, that very few men in our world are good in a good woman's sense of
Lady Constance's smooth forehead puckered into fine little lines.
"Shotover, dear," she said, "you're not getting embittered, I hope?"
"Me? Bless you, no, never in life!" he returned, smiling very
reassuringly at her. "Don't worry yourself under that head. I quarrel
with nobody and nothing, not even the consequences of my past iniquities.
It is a very just world, take it all round, and has been kinder to me
than I deserve."
"Oh! but you do nothing, you--you are what--you won't think me rude,
Shotover?--what the boys call 'very decent' now."
Lady Constance spoke hurriedly, her colour rising in the most engaging
"As decent as I know how, you dear soul," he said, taking her hand in
his. "But that makes no difference to one's knowledge of one's own ways,
in the past, or of the ways of other men."
"But Alaric Barking?"
"Neither better nor worse than the rest."
Then Lord Fallowfeild shut his small and beautiful mouth very tight, as
though he would be glad to avoid further cross-questioning. Lady
Constance's forehead remained puckered.
"It's dreadfully difficult when one's girls grow up," she said
plaintively. "One can be comfortable about them, poor darlings, and enjoy
them when they are in the nursery--even in the schoolroom, though
governesses are worrying. They know so much about quantities of subjects
which seem to me not to matter. One never refers to them in ordinary
conversation; and if one should be obliged to it is so easy to ask
somebody to tell one. And yet they manage to make me feel dreadfully
uncomfortable and ignorant because I know nothing about them. But when
they grow up----"
"Who, the governesses?" Lord Fallowfeild inquired. "I never supposed they
stood in need of that process--thought they started out of the egg all
finished, as you might say, and ran about at once like chickens."
"No, no, the girls, poor darlings," Lady Constance replied. "One does get
dreadfully anxious about them, Shotover, really one does--specially if
one has escaped something very frightening oneself and has been very
happy--lest they should fall in love with the wrong people, or lest they
should be anything which one did not know beforehand and then everything
should turn out dreadful. I should be so miserable. I don't think I could
bear it. I know it is wrong to say that, because if one was really good,
one would accept whatever God sent without murmuring. So I could for
myself, I think. In any case I should earnestly try to. But for the
children it is so much harder. If they were unhappy I should feel ashamed
of having had them--as if I'd done something horribly selfish; because,
you see, there can be nothing so delightful as having children."
She looked at Lord Fallowfeild in the most pathetic manner, the corners
of her mouth a-shake. And he took her hand and held it again, touched by
the sincerity of her confused utterance, and the great mother-love
resident in her. Touched, perhaps, by the age-old problem of man and
"Dear little Con, dear little Con," he said, "I'm awfully sorry you
should be worried, but I'm afraid we've got to look facts in the face.
And it's no kindness for me to lie to you about these matters. I don't
pretend to say what's right or what's wrong; I only say what it is. We
can't make society, and the ways of it, all over again even to save
Kathleen a heartache. I don't want to seem a brute, but she must just
take her chance along with the rest of you. Marriage always has been a
confounded uncertain business, and will always remain so, I suppose. The
sort of remedies excited persons suggest to mitigate the dangers of it
are a good deal worse than the disease, in my opinion. Every woman has to
take her chance. Every man has to take his, too, you know--and the chance
strikes some of us as such an uncommonly poor one, that, upon my honour,
it seems safest to wash one's hands of it altogether."
"But you're not unhappy, Shotover, dear? You're not lonely?" Lady
Constance inquired anxiously.
"Abominably so sometimes, Con. But I manage, oh! I manage. I have my
consolations"--he smiled at her, perhaps a trifle shamefacedly. "But now
about Kathleen," he went on, "as I say, she must take her chance along
with the rest of you, poor little dear. After all, you took your chance
when you married Decies, and it has not turned out so badly, you know."
Lady Constance became radiant once more, as some mild-shining summer moon
emerging from behind temporarily obscuring clouds.
"Oh! but then," she said, "of course that was so entirely different."
Lord Fallowfeild patted her hand, his head bent, looking at her somewhat
"Was it, my dear, was it?--I wonder," he said.
She withdrew her head with a certain dignity. Notwithstanding her
softness and tenderness, there were occasions--even with those she loved
best--when Lady Constance could delicately mark her displeasure.
"I think you are a little embittered, Shotover," she asserted.
He leaned back, still smiling, and shaking his head at her.
"Old and wise--unpleasantly old, and not quite such a fool as I used to
be, that's all," he answered.
For a time there was silence, both brother and sister thinking their own
thoughts. Then the latter spoke. Like many gentle persons, she was
persistent. She always had been so.
"I should be so grateful if you would tell me, because I think I ought to
know, and then I should try to turn the course of darling Kathleen's
affections before it all becomes too pronounced. Is there any
entanglement, anything amounting to what one calls an impediment, in--
well--you understand--against Alaric Barking?"
Lord Fallowfeild got up, took a turn across the room, came back, and
stood in front of her.
"I wish you wouldn't, Con," he said. "Upon my soul, I wish you wouldn't.
It's a nasty thing for an old man, who has gone the pace in his day
pretty thoroughly, to give away a lad who may have made a slip just at
the start, and who is doing his best to get his feet again and run
straight. Alaric Barking's a good fellow. I like him. I never have been
and never shall be partial to that family. Your sister Louisa cried up
their virtues and their confounded solvency, in the old days, till she
made them a positive nuisance. She's not a happy way of inculcating a
moral economic lesson, hasn't Louisa. But I own I'm fond of this boy.
He's far the best of the whole lot--gentlemanlike, and a sportsman, and
good-looking--unusually so for one of that family--and, my dear, he's
downright honestly in love with Kathleen. I've watched him--did so when
he was down at Ranelagh one day last month with her and Victoria
Sokeington--and I know the real thing when I see it."
"But--but, I am afraid, Shotover, you mean me to understand there is some
impediment?" Lady Constance repeated.
"Oh! well, hang it all, I'm awfully sorry, but if you are determined to
have it, Connie, perhaps there is. Only for heaven's sake don't be in too
much of a hurry. Between ourselves, I happen to know the boy's doing his
best to shake himself free in an honourable manner. So don't rush the
business. Like the dear tender-hearted creature you are, have a little
mercy on the poor beggar. Let the whole affair drift a little. It may
Lady Constance meditated for a minute or so.
"It's very dreadful that there should be any impediment," she said.
"I'll back Alaric to agree with you there," Lord Fallowfeild answered.
"You'll do what you can, Shotover, won't you, to help Kathleen? I never
forget how you helped me once!"
Lord Fallowfeild's handsome face expressed rather broad amusement.
"I'm afraid the two cases are hardly parallel, my dear," he said.
"The play's on the other side, the crowd's on the other side, all the
fun's on the other side, and I am on this side with nothing more lively
than you, you little shivering idiot, for company."
Poppy St. John drew the spaniel's long silky ears through her fingers
"I am bored, Cappadocia," she said, with a yawn which she made not the
slightest effort to stifle, "bored right through to my very marrow. Oh
dear, oh dear, oh dear, how I do wish something would happen!"
Poppy sat, propped up with scarlet silk cushions, in a cane deck-chair,
on the white-railed balcony upon which the first-floor bedroom windows
opened. Around her were strewn illustrated magazines and ladies' papers;
but unfortunately the stories in the former appeared to her every bit as
silly as the fashion-plates in the latter. Both had equally little to do
with life as the ordinary flesh and blood human being lives it. She was
filled with a rebellious sense of the banality of her surroundings this
afternoon. Even from her coign of vantage upon the balcony, whence wide
prospects disclosed themselves, everything looked foolish, pointless, of
the nature of an unpardonably stale joke.
The said balcony, divided into separate compartments by the interposition
of wooden barriers, extended the whole length of the terrace of twenty-
seven houses. And these were all precisely alike, with white wood and
stucco "enrichments," as the technical phrase has it. Cheap stained and
leaded glass adorned the upper panels of the twenty-seven front doors,
which were approached by twenty-seven flights of steps--thus securing a
measure of light and air to the twenty-seven basements. The front doors
were set in couples, alternating with couples of bay windows. There was a
determination of cheap smartness, a smirking self-consciousness about the
little houses, a suggestion of having put on their best frocks and high-
heeled shoes and standing very much on tiptoe to attract attention. The
balconies, narrow where the upper bays encroached on them, wide where the
house fronts were recessed above the twin front doors, broke forth into a
garland of flower-boxes. Cascades of pink ivy-leaf geranium, creeping-
jenny, and nasturtiums backed by white or yellow Paris daisies, flowed
outward between the white ballusters and masked the edge of the woodwork.
The effect, though pretty, was not quite satisfactory--being suggestive
of millinery, of an over-trimmed summer hat.
Immediately below was the roadway, bordered by an asphalt pavement on
either side, then the high impenetrable oak paling, which had baffled
Dominic Iglesias' maiden effort at participation in the amusements of the
rich. From Poppy's balcony, however, the palings offered no impediment to
observation. All the green expanse of the smaller polo-ground was
visible. So was the whole height of the grove of majestic elms on the
right and the back of the club house; and, and the left, between
_massifs_ of shrubbery, a vista of lawns sloping towards the river
peopled by a sauntering crowd.
It was upon this last that Poppy directed her gaze. To the naked eye the
units composing it showed as vertical lines of grey, brown, and black,
blotted with bright delicate colour, and splashed here and there with
white, the whole mingling, uniting, breaking into fresh combinations
kaleidoscope fashion. Through the opera-glasses figures of men, women,
and horses detached themselves, becoming quaintly distinct, neat as toys,
an assemblage of elegant highly finished marionnettes. There was a
fascination in watching the movement of these brilliant, clear-cut silent
little things upon that amazingly verdant carpet of grass. But it was a
fascination which, for Poppy, had by now worn somewhat thin. The interest
proved too far away, too impersonal. Indeed it may be questioned whether
any who have not within themselves large store of resignation, or of
hope, can look on at gaiety, in which they have no share, without first
sadness and then pretty lively irritation. And of those two most precious
commodities, resignation and hope, Poppy had but limited reserve stock at
present. So she pulled the little dog's ears rather hard and lamented:
"Oh! my good gracious me, if only something would happen!"
Then, the words hardly out of her mouth, she shot the much-enduring
Cappadocia off her lap and, restoring her elbows on the rails, leaned
right out over the balcony.
"Come here, dear beautiful lunatic, come here," she cried. "For pity's
sake don't pass by!"
Perhaps fortunately this very unconventional invitation was lost upon
Dominic Iglesias, soberly crossing the road with due observance of the
eccentricities of the drivers of motor-cars and riders of bicycles.
Looking up, he was aware of a vision quite sufficiently indicative of
welcome, without added indiscretion of words.--The white balustrade, the
trailing fringe of nasturtiums, succulent leaves and orange-scarlet
blossoms; the woman's bust and shoulders in her string-coloured lace
gown, her small face, curiously vivid in effect, capped by the heavy
masses of her black hair, her singular eyes full of light, the red of her
lips and tinge of stationary pink in her cheeks supplemented by a glow of
quick excitement. A few weeks ago the ascetic in Iglesias might have
taken alarm. Now it was different. He had his idea, and, walking in the
strength of it, dared adventure himself in neighbourhoods otherwise
Five minutes later Poppy advanced across the little drawing-room to meet
"Well," she said, "of course you might have come sooner. But, equally of
course, you might never have come at all, so I won't quarrel with you
about the delay, though I would like you to know it has worried me a good
"Has it? I am sorry for that," Dominic answered gravely.
"Yes, be sorry, be sorry," she repeated. "It is comfortable to hear you
She looked at him with the utmost frankness, took his hand and led him to
a settee filling in the right angle between the fireplace and the double
doors at the back of the room.
"Sit down," she said, "and let us talk. Have another cushion--so--and if
you're good I'll give you tea presently. And understand, you needn't be
careful of yourself. I'll play perfectly fair with you. I've been
thinking it all out during this time you didn't come; and I never go back
on my word once given. So, look here, you needn't account for yourself in
any way. I don't even want to know your name--specially I don't want to
know that. It might localise you, and I don't want to have you localised.
Directly a person is localised it takes away their restfulness to one.
One begins to see just all the places where they belong to somebody else,
notice-boards struck up everywhere warning one to keep off the grass. And
that's a nuisance. It raises Old Nick in one, and makes one long to
commit all manner of wickedness which would never have entered one's head
Poppy held her hands palm to palm between her knees, glancing at Dominic
Iglesias now and again sideways as she spoke. The bodice of her dress,
cut slightly _en coeur_, showed the nape of her neck, and the whole of her
throat, which was smooth and rounded though rather long. Her make
altogether was that not uncommon to London girls of the lower middle-
class: small-boned and possibly anaemic, but prettily moulded, and with an
attraction of over-civilisation as of hot-house-grown plants. Just now
her head seemed bowed down by the weight of her dark hair, as she sat
gathered together, making herself small as a child will when
concentrating its mind to the statement of some serious purpose.
"I've knocked about a lot," she went on. "It's right you should know
that. And there's not very much left to tell me about a number of things
not usually set down in conversation books designed for _debutants_. But
just on that account I may be rather useful to you in some ways.--Don't
go and be offended now, there's a dear, good man," she added coaxingly.
"Because judging by what you told me the other day, there's no doubt
that, under some heads, you are very much of a _debutant_."
"I suppose I am," Iglesias said slowly. It was very strange to him to
find himself in so sudden and close an intimacy with this at once so wise
and so artificial woman creature. But he had his idea. Moreover,
increasingly he trusted her.
"Of course you are," she asserted. "That's just where the beauty of it
all comes in. You're the veriest infant. One has only to look into your
face to see that.--Don't go and freeze up now. You belong to another
order of doctrine and practice to that current in contemporary society."
Poppy gazed at the floor, still making herself small, the palms of her
hands pressed together between her knees.
"And that's just why you can be useful to me, awfully useful, if you
choose--I don't mean money, business, anything of the kind. I'm perfectly
competent to manage my own affairs, thank you. But you're good for me,
somehow. You rest me."
She began to rock herself gently backwards and forwards, but without
taking the heels of her shoes off the ground.
"Yes, you rest me, you rest me," she repeated.
"I am glad," Iglesias said. He felt soberly pleased, thankful almost.
Again Poppy glanced at him sideways.
"Yes, I believe you are," she said. "And that shows things have happened
to you--in you, more likely--since we last met. You have come on a great
"I doubt if I have come on, so much as gone back, to influences of long
ago," he answered; "to things which had been overlaid by the dust of my
working years almost to the point of obliteration."
"Was it pleasant to go back?" Poppy asked.
"Not at all. The going was painful. It required some courage to brush off
"It usually does require courage--at least that's my experience--to brush
off the dust."
Dominic Iglesias made no immediate answer. He was a little startled at
his companion's acute reading of him, a little touched by her confidence.
Her words seemed to suggest the possibility of a relationship which
fitted in admirably with the development of his idea. He sat looking away
across the room, and, doing so, became aware that the said room possessed
unexpected characteristics, calculated to elucidate his impressions of
its owner's character. It was a man's room rather than a woman's,
innocent of furbelows and frills. Two low, wide settees, well furnished
with cushions and upholstered in dark yellowish-red tapestry, fitted into
the corners on either side the double doors. A couple of large armchairs
and a revolving book-table occupied the centre of the room. An upright
piano, in an ebonised case, draped across the back with an Indian
phulkari--discs of looking-glass set in coarsely worked yellow eyelet
holes forming the border of it--stood at right angles to the wall just
short of the bay window. In the window, placed slant-wise, was a carved
black oak writing-table, a long row of photographs stuck up against the
back shelf of it. The walls were hung with a set of William Nicolson's
prints, strong, dark, distinct, slightly sinister in effect; a fine
etching of Jean Francois Millet's _Gleaners_; and, in noticeable contrast
to this last, a mezzotint of Romney's picture of Lady Hamilton spinning.
Upon the book-table were a silver ash-tray and cigarette-box. The air was
unquestionably impregnated with the odour of tobacco, which the burning
of scent-sticks quite failed to dissemble.
While Mr. Iglesias thus noted the details of his surroundings, his
companion observed him, closely, intently. Suddenly she flung herself
back against the piled-up cushions.
"Let the dust lie, let it lie," she cried, almost shrilly. And as Dominic
turned to her, surprised at her vehemence, she added, "Yes, it's safest
so. Let it lie till it grows thick, carpeting all the surface, so that,
treading on it, one's footsteps are muffled, making no sound!"
Poppy jumped up, crossed swiftly to the writing-table, swept the long row
of photographs together and pushed them into a drawer.
"There you go, face downwards, every man Jack of you," she said. "And,
for all I care, there you may stay."
Then she turned round, confronting Dominic Iglesias, who had risen also,
her head carried high, her teeth set.
"You may not grasp the connection of ideas--I don't the very least see
how you should, and I've no extra special wish that you should. But you
must just take my word for it that's one way of thickening the dust, in
my particular case, and not half a bad way either!"
She pushed the heavy masses of her hair up from her forehead, crossed the
little room again and stood before Iglesias smiling, her hands clasped
behind her back.
"Yes, you rest me," she said, "you do, even more than I expected. I
wanted awfully to see you; and yet I was half afraid if I did we mightn't
pull the thing off. But we are going to pull it off, aren't we?"
This direct appeal demanded a direct answer; and Iglesias, looking down
at her, felt nerved to a certain steadiness of resolve.
"Yes, we are," he said gravely. "That, at least, is my purpose. I have
very few friends. I should value a new one." Then he added, with a
certain hesitancy, "I am glad you are not disappointed."
"Ah! you have come on--not a question about it," Poppy cried. "Sit down
again. You needn't go yet. And we are through with disturbances for this
afternoon anyhow. An anti-cyclone, as the weather reports put it, is
extending over all our coasts. I feel quite happy. Let me enjoy the anti-
cyclone while it lasts--and I'll give you your tea."
But of that tea Dominic Iglesias was fated not to drink. A ring at the
bell, a parley at the front door, followed by the advent of an elderly
parlourmaid bearing a card on a small lacquer tray.
"His lordship says if you're engaged he could wait a little, ma'am. But
he wants particularly to see you to-day."
Poppy took the card, glanced at it, and then at Dominic Iglesias.
"I'm afraid, I'm awfully afraid I shall have to let you go," she said.
She took both his hands, and holding them, without pressure but with a
great friendliness, went on: "Don't be offended, or you'll make me
miserable. But he's an old friend; and he's been a perfect brick to me--
stood by me through all my worst luck. I can't send him away. You won't
be off ended?"
"No," Iglesias said.
"And you will come again? You make me feel all smooth and good. You
promise you'll come?"
"Yes," Iglesias said.
In the narrow passage a tall, eminently well-dressed middle-aged
gentleman stood aside to let him pass. Dominic Iglesias received the
impression of a very handsome person, whose possible insolence of bearing
received agreeable modification, thanks to the expression of kindly
humorous eyes and a notably beautiful mouth.
Upon the centre table of the square first-floor sitting-room at Cedar
Lodge a note awaited Mr. Iglesias, addressed in George Lovegrove's neat
"Dear old friend," it ran--"the wife asks you to take supper with us to-
morrow night. Step across as early as you like. My cousin, Miss Serena
Lovegrove, is paying us a visit. Yours faithfully, G. L.--N. B. Come as
you are: no ceremony. G. L."
"Hullo, girlie," called the red and green parrot, as it helped itself up
the side of its zinc cage with beak as well as claws.
Serena Lovegrove had opened the door suddenly. Then, seeing that Mr.
Iglesias alone occupied the room, neither her host nor hostess being
present, she paused in the doorway, a large floppy yellow silk work-bag
in her hands, undecided whether to retreat or to proceed. And it was thus
that the bird, discovering her advent, announced it, while the pupils of
his hard, round yellowish grey eyes dilated and contracted--"snapped," as
Serena would have said--maliciously.
Serena was a tall, elegant, faded woman, dressed in black, her little
upright head balanced upon a long thin stalk of neck. Though undeniably
faded, there was, as now seen in the quiet evening light, a suggestion of
youthfulness about her. He brown eyes, pretty though rather small,
snapped even as did those of the parrot. Excitement--to-night she was
very much excited--invariably produced in Serena an effect of clutching
at her long-departed girlhood, an effect sufficiently pathetic in the
case of a woman well on in the forties. And it was precisely this
ineffectual throw-back to a Serena of seventeen or eighteen which lent a
sharp edge of irony to the strident salutations of the parrot, as it
called out again:
"Hullo, girlie! Polly's own pet girlie," then with a prolonged and ear-
piercing whistle:--"Hi, four-wheeler! girlie's going out." And hoarsely,
with a growl in its throat: "Move on there, stoopid, can't yer? Shut the
During the delivery of these final admonitions Mr. Iglesias had
recognised the shadowy figure standing on the threshold and advanced.
This decided Serena. Still twisting the ribbons of the yellow work-bag
round her thin fingers, she drifted into the room.
"I think I have had the pleasure of meeting you once or twice before,
Miss Lovegrove," Dominic said. His manner was specially gentle and
courtly, for he could not but feel the poor lady was at a disadvantage,
owing to the very articulate indiscretions of the parrot.
"Oh! yes," Serena answered. "Certainly we have met. But you are wrong as
to the number of times. It is more than once or twice. Five times, I
think; or it may have been six. No, it is five, because I remember you
were expected, in the evening, the day before I went home the winter
before last; and at the last moment you were unable to come. That would
have made six. Now it is only five."
"You have an excellent memory," Iglesias said. "It is kind of you to
remember so clearly."
"I wonder if it is--I mean, I wonder whether it is kind," Serena
She was quite innocent of any intention of sarcasm. But her mind, like
those of so many unoccupied, and consequently self-occupied persons, was
addicted to speculation of a minor and vacuous sort. She was also liable
--as such persons often are--to mistake cavilling for spirit and wit--a
most tedious error!
"Still you are right in saying I have a good memory," she added. "People
generally observe that. But then I was always taught it was rude to
forget. Forgetfulness is the result of inattention. At school I never had
any difficulty in learning by heart."
"You must have found that both a useful and pleasant talent."
"Perhaps," Serena replied negligently. She was determined not to commit
herself, having arrived at the conclusion that Mr. Iglesias' address was
too civil. "It was bad manners of him not to remember how often we had
met," she said to herself, "and now he is trying to pass it off. But that
won't do!" Serena had many and distinct views on the subject of manner
and manners. She was never certain that civility did not argue a defect
of sincerity. She agreed with herself to think that over again later.
Meanwhile she would carefully remark Mr. Iglesias. "If he is insincere,
as I fear he is, he is sure to betray it in other ways. Then I shall be
on my guard." Forewarned is, of course, forarmed, and Serena felt very
acute. Though against exactly what she was taking such elaborate
precautions, it would have been difficult for her, or for anyone else, to
have stated. However, just now it was incumbent upon her to make
conversation. As is the way with persons not very fertile in ideas, she
had recourse to the simple expedient of asking a leading question.
"Are you fond of animals?" she inquired.
"I am afraid I have very little knowledge of animals," Iglesias replied.
Serena laughed dryly. This was so transparent a subterfuge.
"What a very odd answer!" she said. "Because everybody must really know
whether they like animals or not."
"I am afraid I stand by myself then, a solitary exception. I have had
little or nothing to do with animals, and have therefore had no
opportunity of discovering whether they attract me or not."
"How very odd!" Serena repeated.
She moved across to the centre-table where Mr. Lovegrove's books of
picture postcards, the miscellaneous consequences of many charity
bazaars, and kindred aesthetic treasures reposed, and deposited her work-
bag in their company. Her movement revived the attention of the parrot,
who had been nodding on its perch.
"Poor old girlie, take a brandy and soda? Kiss and be friends. Good-
night, all," it murmured hoarsely, half asleep.
"If your question bore reference to that particular animal, I stand in no
doubt as to my sentiments," Dominic remarked. "I am anything but fond of
it. I think it an odious bird."
"Ah! you see you do know," Serena exclaimed. "I was sure you did." She
felt justified in her suspicion of his sincerity. "But nobody would agree
with you, Mr. Iglesias, because of course it is really a very clever
parrot. They very seldom learn to say so many things."
"How fortunate!" Dominic permitted himself to ejaculate.
"I don't see why you should say it is fortunate."
"Do not its remarks strike you as somewhat impertinent and intrusive?"
"I wonder if an animal can be impertinent," Serena said reflectively.
But here to her vexation, for it appeared to her that she had just
started a really interesting subject of discussion, Mrs. Lovegrove
bustled into the room.
"Well, Mr. Iglesias," she began, "I am sure I am very delighted to see
you, and so will Georgie be. He was remarking only yesterday we don't
seem to see so much of you as we used to do. He's just a little behind
time, is Georgie, having been kept by the dear vicar at a meeting about
the Church Workers' Social Evenings Guild at the Mission Room in Little
Bethesda Street. You wouldn't know where that is, Mr. Iglesias--though I
can't help hoping you will some day--but Serena knows, don't you,
Serena? It's where Susan--her elder sister, Miss Lovegrove"--this aside
to Dominic--"gave an address once to the members of the Society for the
Conversion of the Jews."
"No doubt I remember; but Susan is always giving addresses somewhere,"
Serena said loftily.
"And very good and kind of her it is to give addresses," Mrs. Lovegrove
rejoined. "Even the dear vicar says what a remarkable gift she has as a
speaker, and there's no question as to the worth of his praise."
"I wonder if it is--I mean I wonder if it is good and kind of Susan to
give addresses," Serena remarked. "Because of course she enjoys giving
them. Susan likes to have a number of people listening to her."
"But if the object is a noble one?"--this from Mrs. Lovegrove, a little
nonplussed and put about.
"Still, if you enjoy doing anything, how can it be good and kind to do
it?" Serena said argumentatively. "Susan is very fond of publicity. I
think people very often deceive themselves about their own motives."
She looked meaningly at Dominic Iglesias as she spoke. And he looked back
at her gravely and kindly, though with a slightly amused smile. His
thoughts had travelled away--they had done so pretty frequently during
the last twenty-four hours--to the smirking self-conscious little house
on the verge of Barnes Common. Unpromising though it had appeared
outwardly, yet within it he believed he had found a friend--a friend who
was also an enigma. Perhaps, as he now reflected, all women are enigmas.
Certainly they are amazingly different. He thought of Poppy. He looked at
Serena. Yes, doubtless they all are enigmas; only--might Heaven forgive
him the discourtesy--all are not enigmas equally well worth finding out.
George Lovegrove arrived. Supper, a somewhat heavy and hybrid meal,
followed--"all comfortable and friendly," as Mrs. Lovegrove described it,
"no ceremony and fal-lals, but everything put down on the table so that
you could see it and please yourself."
Serena, however, was difficult to please. She picked daintily at the food
on her plate. Her host observed her with solicitude.
"Do take a little more," he said, in an anxious aside, Mrs. Lovegrove
being safely engaged in conversation with Mr. Iglesias, "or I shall begin
to be nervous lest we aren't offering you quite what you like."
But Serena was obdurate.
"Pray don't mind, George," she said. "You know I never eat much. I am
quite different from Susan, for instance. She always has a large
appetite, and so have all her friends. Low Church people always have, I
think. But I never care to eat a great deal, especially in hot weather."
Serena was really very glad indeed to come to London just now. Still,
there were self-respecting decencies to be observed, specially in the
presence of another guest. Relationship does not necessarily imply social
equality; and, as Serena reminded herself, the family always had felt
that poor George had married beneath him. Therefore it was well to keep
the fact of her own superior refinement well in view. In the case of good
George Lovegrove this was, however, a work of supererogation. For he had
a, to himself, positively embarrassing respect for Serena's gentility--
embarrassing because at moments it came painfully near endangering the
completeness of his consideration for "the wife's feelings." The two
ladies frequently differed upon matters of taste and etiquette, with the
result that the good man's guileless breast was torn by conflicting
emotions. For had not Serena's father been a General Officer of the
Indian army? And had not Serena herself and her elder sister Susan--a
person of definite views and commanding character--long been resident at
Slowby in Midlandshire, an inland watering-place of acknowledged fashion?
It followed that her pronouncements on social questions were necessarily
final. Yet to uphold her judgment, as against that of the wife, was to
risk mortifying the latter. And to mortify the wife would be to act as a
heartless scoundrel. Hence situations, for George Lovegrove, difficult to
the point of producing profuse perspiration.
That night Serena prepared for rest with remarkable deliberation. Clad in
a blue and white striped cotton dressing-gown, she sat long at her
toilet-table. And all the time she wondered--a far-reaching, mazelike,
elaborately intricate and wholly inconclusive wonder. Hers was a nature
which suffered perpetual solicitation from possible alternatives, hearing
warning voices from the vague, delusive regions of the might-be or might-
have-been. She had never grasped the rudimentary but very important truth
that only that which actually is in the least matters. And so to arrive
at what is, with all possible despatch--in so far as such arriving is
practicable--and then to go forward, comprises the whole duty of the sane
human being. Par from this, Serena's mind forever fitted batlike in the
half-darkness of innumerable small prejudices and ignorances. She moved,
as do so many women of her class, in a twilight, embryonic world,
untouched alike by the splendour and terror of living.
Nevertheless, on this particular occasion, as she brushed her hair and
inserted the tortoise-shell curling-pins which should secure to-morrow's
decorative effects, she felt almost daring and dangerous. She wondered
whether she had really enjoyed the evening or not; whether she had held
her own and shown independence and spirit. She laboured under the quaint
early-Victorian notion that, in the presence of members of the opposite
sex, a woman is called upon always to play something of a part. She
should advance, so to speak, and then retreat; provoke interest by a
studied indifference; yield a little, only to become more elegantly
fugitive. It may be doubted whether these wiles have even been a very
successful adjunct to feminine charms. But in the case of so negative and
colourless a creature as Serena, they were pathetically devoid of result.
Play a part industriously as she might, the majority of her audience was
wholly unaware that she was, in point of fact, playing anything at all!
They might think her a little capricious, a little foolish, but that
there was intention or purpose in her pallid flightiness passed the
bounds of imagination. Never mind, if the audience had no sense of the
position, Serena had, and she enjoyed it. Excitement possessed her, and
her eyes snapped even yet as, thinking it all over, she fastened the
curlers in her hair.
She wondered whether George and Rhoda--how intensely she disliked the
name Rhoda!--had any special reason for asking her just now, and talking
so much about Mr. Iglesias, or whether it was a coincidence.
"Of course it is not of the slightest importance to me whether they have
or not," she reflected. "I think it would be rather an impertinence if
they had. Still, I think I had better find out; but without letting Rhoda
suspect, of course. If you give her any encouragement Rhoda is inclined
to go too far and say what is rather indelicate. I always have thought
Rhoda had a rather vulgar mind. I wonder if poor George feels that? I
believe he does, before me. Once or twice to-night he was very nervous.
How dreadfully coarse poor Rhoda's skin is getting! I wonder if Rhoda has
given Susan a hint, and if that was what made Susan so gracious about my
leaving home? But I don't believe she did--I mean that Susan suspected
that George and Rhoda had any particular reason for inviting me. I wonder
if I shall ever make Susan see that I am not a cipher? Of course if
George and Rhoda really have any particular reason, and Susan comes to
know it, that will show her that other people do not consider me a
cipher. I wonder what most people would think of Mr. Iglesias? Of course
he has only been a bank clerk; but then so has George. Only then he is a
foreigner, and that makes a difference. I wonder whether, if anything
came of it, Susan would make his being a foreigner an objection?"
But this was growing altogether too definite and concrete. With a sort of
mental squeak Serena's thought flitted into twilight and embryonic
"I think if they have any particular reason, it is rather scheming of
George and Rhoda. I wonder if it is nice of them? If they have, I think
it is rather deceitful. I wonder if they have said anything to Mr.
Serena, with the aid of a curling-pin, was controlling the short fuzzy
little hairs just at the nape of her neck; and this last wonder proved so
absorbing a one that she remained, head bent and fingers aimlessly
fiddling with the bars of the curler, till it suddenly occurred to her
that she was getting quite stiff.
"If they have, I think it is very presuming of them," she continued
wrathfully, stretching her arms, for they ached--"very presuming. How
glad I am I was on my guard. I wonder if they saw I was on my guard? I
believe George did. I wonder if that helped to make him nervous?"
Serena fastened in the last of the curlers. There was no excuse for
sitting up any longer; yet she lingered.
"I must be more on my guard than ever," she said.
Meanwhile Dominic Iglesias, after sitting in the dining-room with his old
friend while the latter smoked a last pipe, made his way across the Green
in the deepening mystery of the summer night. The sky was moonless; and
at the zenith, untouched by the upward streaming light of the great city,
the stars showed fair and bright. A nostalgia of wide untenanted spaces,
of far horizons, of emotions at once intimate and rooted in things
eternal, was upon him. But of Serena Lovegrove, it must be admitted, he
thought not one little bit.
Only one of the trees from which Cedar Lodge derives its name was still
standing. This lonely giant, sombre exile from Libanus, overshadowed all
that remained of the formerly extensive garden and sensibly darkened the
back of the house. Its foliage, spread like a deep pile carpet upon the
wide horizontal branches, was worn and sparse, showing small promise of
self-renewal. Yet though starved by the exhausted soil, and clogged by
soots from innumerable chimneys, it remained majestic, finely decorative
as some tree of metal, of age-old bronze roughened by a greenness of
deep-eating rust. From the first moment of his acquaintance with Cedar
Lodge it had been to Dominic Iglesias an object of attraction, even of
sympathy. For he recognised in it something stoical, an unmoved dignity
and lofty indifference to the sordid commonplace of its surroundings. It
made no concessions to adverse circumstances, but remained proudly
itself, owning for sole comrade the Wind--that most mysterious of all
created things, unseen, untamed, mateless, incalculable. The wind gave it
voice, gave it even a measure of mobility, as it swept through the
labyrinth of dry unfruitful branches and awoke a husky music telling of
far-distant times and places, making a shuddering and stirring as of the
resurgence of long-forgotten hope and passion.
When Dominic entered into residence at Cedar Lodge, a pair of stout
mauve-brown wood-pigeons--migrants from the pleasant elms of Holland
Park--had haunted the tree. But they being, for all their dolorous
cooings, birds of a lusty, not to say truculent, habit, grew weary of its
persistent solemnity of aspect. So, at least, Dominic judged. He had been
an interested spectator of the love-makings, quarrels, and
reconciliations of these comely neighbours from his bedroom window daily
while dressing. But one fine spring morning he saw them fly away and
never saw them fly back again. Clearly they had removed themselves to
less solemn quarters, leaving the great tree, save for fugitive
visitations from its comrade the wind, to solitary meditation within the
borders of its narrow prison-place.
Besides presenting in itself an object altogether majestical, the cedar
performed a practical office whereby it earned Iglesias' gratitude. For
its dark interposing bulk effectually shut off the view of an
aggressively new rawly red steam laundry, with shiny slate roofs and a
huge smoke-belching chimney to it, which, to the convulsive disgust of
the gentility of the eastern side of Trimmer's Green, had had the
unpardonable impertinence to get itself erected in an adjacent street. It
followed that when, one wet evening, yellow-headed little Mr. Farge had
advised himself to speak slightingly of the cedar tree, Iglesias was
prepared to defend it, if necessary, with some warmth.
The conversation had ranged round the subject of the hour, namely, the
possibility--as yet in the estimation of most persons an incredible one--
of war with the Boer Republics, when the young man indulged in a playful
aside addressed to Miss Hart, at whose right hand he was seated.
"If I could find fault with anything belonging to the lady at the head of
the table," he said, "it would be the gloomy old party looking in at
these back windows."
"What, the dear old cedar tree! Never, Mr. Farge!" protested Eliza.
"Yes, it would, though," he insisted, "when, as tonight, it is drip,
drip, dripping all over the shop. No touch of Sunny Jim about him, is
these now, Bert?"--this to the devoted Worthington sitting immediately
opposite to him on Miss Hart's left.
"Truly there is not, if I may venture so far," the other young gentleman
responded, playing up obediently. "And if anything could give me and
Charlie a fit of the blues, I believe that old fellow would in rainy
"Makes you think of the cemetery, does it not now, Bert?"
"You have hit it. Paddington--not the station though, Charlie, just
starting for a cosey little trip with your best girl up the river."
"For shame, Mr. Worthington," Eliza protested again, giggling.
"Suggestive of the end of all week-ends, in short," de Courcy Smyth, who
contrary to his custom was present at dinner that evening, put in
snarlingly. "One last trip up the River of Death for you, with a ticket
marked not transferrable, eh, Farge? Then an oblong hole in the reeking
blue clay, silence and worms."
His tone was spiteful to the point of commanding attention. A hush fell
on the company, broken only by the drifting sob of the rain through the
branches of the great cedar. Mr. Farge went perceptibly pale. Mrs.
Porcher sighed and turned her fine eyes up to the ceiling. Iglesias
looked curiously at the speaker. Eliza Hart was the first to find voice.
"Pray, Mr. Smyth," she said, "don't be so very unpleasant. You're enough
to give one the goose-skin all over."
"I am sorry I have offended," he answered sullenly. "But I beg leave to
call attention to the fact that I did not start this subject. I was
rather interested in the previous discussion, which gave an opportunity
of intelligent conversation not habitual among us. Farge is responsible
for the interruption, and for the cemeteries, and consequently for my
comment. Still, I am sorry I have offended."
He shifted his position, glancing uneasily first at his hostess, and then
at Dominic Iglesias, who sat opposite him in the place of honour at that
lady's right hand.
"You have not offended, Mr. Smyth," Mrs. Porcher declared graciously.
"And no doubt it is well for us all to be reminded of death and burial at
times. Though some of us hardly need reminding"--again she sighed. "We
carry the thought of them about with us always." And she turned her fine
eyes languidly upon Mr. Iglesias.
"My poor sweet Peachie," the kind-hearted Eliza murmured, under her
"But at meals, perhaps, a lighter vein is more suitable, Mr. Smyth," Mrs.
Porcher continued. "At table the thought of death does seem rather
disheartening, does it not? But about our poor old cedar tree now, Mr.
Farge? You were not seriously proposing to have it removed?"
"Well, strictly between ourselves, I am really half afraid I actually
"You forget it sheltered my childhood. It is associated with all my
"Can a rosebud have a past?" Farge cried, coming up to the surface again
with a bounce, so to speak.
Mrs. Porcher smiled, shook her head in graceful reproof, and turned once
more to Dominic.
"I think we should all like to know how you feel about it, Mr. Iglesias,"
she said. "Do you wish the poor old tree removed?"
"On the contrary, I should greatly regret it's being cut down," he
answered. "It would be a loss to me personally, for I have always taken a
pleasure both in the sound and the sight of it. But that is a minor
"You must allow me to differ from that opinion," Mrs. Porcher remarked,
with gentle emphasis. "We can never forget, can we, Eliza, who is our
oldest guest? Mr. Iglesias' opinion must ever carry weight in all which
concerns Cedar Lodge."
Here Farge and Worthington made round eyes at one another, while de
Courcy Smyth shuffled his feet under the table. He had received a
"Oh! of course, Peachie, dear," Miss Hart responded. She hugged herself
with satisfaction. "The darling looks more bonny than ever," she
reflected. "To-night what animation! What tact! She seems to have come
out so lately, since that Serena Lovegrove has been stopping over the
way. Not that there could be any rivalry between her and that poor
thread-paper of a thing!"
Dominic Iglesias, however, received his hostess' pretty speeches with a
calm which turned the current of the ardent Eliza's thoughts, causing her
to refer, mentally, to the degree of emotion which might be predicated of
monuments, mountains, stone elephants, and kindred objects.
"You are very kind," he said. "But on grounds far more important than
those of any private sentiment the cutting down of the cedar calls for
careful consideration. I am afraid you would find it a serious loss to
the beauty of your property. What the house loses in light, it certainly
gains in distinction and interest from the presence of the tree."
"Yes," Mrs. Porcher returned, folding her plump pink hands upon the edge
of the table and looking down modestly. "It does speak of family
"And in your case, dear, it speaks nothing more than the truth," Eliza
declared. "Just as well a certain gentleman should reckon with Peachie's
real position," she said to herself--"specially with that stuck-up Serena
Lovegrove cat-and-mousing about on the other side of the Green. It does
not take a Solomon to see what she's after!"
"I am afraid the verdict is given against you, Mr. Farge. The cedar tree
will remain." Mrs. Porcher rose as she spoke.
The young man playfully rubbed his eyes with his knuckles, feigning
tears. Then a scrimmage ensued between him and Worthington as to which
should reach the dining-room door first and throw it open before the
ladies. At this exhibition of high spirits de Courcy Smyth groaned
audibly, while Mrs. Porcher, linking her arm within that of Miss Hart,
"You will join our little circle in the drawing-room to-night, will you
not, Mr. Iglesias?" she pleaded.
Again the young men made round eyes at one another. De Courcy Smyth had
come forward. He stood close to Iglesias and, before the latter could
answer, spoke hurriedly:
"Can you give me ten minutes in private? I don't want to press myself
upon you, but this is imperative."
Iglesias proceeded to excuse himself to his hostess, thereby causing Miss
Hart to refer mentally to monuments and mountains once again.
"Thank you," Smyth gasped. His face was twitching and he swayed a little,
steadying himself with one hand on the corner of the dinner-table.
"I loathe asking," he continued, "I loathe pressing my society upon you,
since you do not seek it. It has taken days for me to make up my mind to
this; but it is necessary. And, after all, you made the original offer
"I am quite ready to listen, and to renew any offer which I may have
made," Iglesias answered quietly.
"We can't talk here, though," Smyth said. "That blundering ass of a
waiter will be coming in directly; and whatever he overhears is sure to
go the round of the house. All servants are spies."
"We can go up to my sitting-room and talk there," Iglesias replied.
Yet he was conscious of making the proposal with reluctance, pity
struggling against repulsion. For not only was the man's appearance very
unkempt, but his manner and bearing were eloquent of a certain
desperation. Of anything approaching physical fear Dominic Iglesias was
happily incapable. But his sitting-room had always been a peaceful place,
refuge alike from the strain and monotony of his working life. It held
relics, moreover, wholly dear to him, and to introduce into it this
inharmonious and, in a sense, degraded presence savoured of desecration.
Therefore, not without foreboding, as of one who risks the sacrifice of
earnestly cherished security, he ushered his guest into the quiet room.
The gas, the small heart-shaped flames of which showed white against the
dying daylight coming in through the windows, was turned low in the
bracket-lamps on either side the high mantelpiece. Dominic Iglesias
moved across and drew down the blinds, catching sight as he did so--
between the tossing foliage of the balsam-poplars which glistened in the
driving wet--of the unwinking gaselier in the Lovegroves' dining-room, on
the other side of the Green. He remembered that he ought to have called
on Mrs. Lovegrove and Miss Serena, and that he had been guilty of a lapse
of etiquette in not having done so. But he reflected poor Miss Serena was
a person whose existence it seemed so curiously difficult to bear
actively in mind. Then he grew penitent, as having added discourtesy to
discourtesy in permitting himself this reflection. He came back from the
window, turned up the lights, drew forward an armchair and motioned Smyth
to be seated; fetched a cut-glass spirit decanter, tumblers, and a syphon
of soda from the sideboard and set them at his guest's elbow.
"Pray help yourself," he said. "And here, will you not smoke while we
Smyth's pale, prominent eyes had followed these preparations for his
comfort with avidity, but now, the handsome character of his surroundings
being fully disclosed to him, he was filled with uncontrollable envy.
Silently he filled his glass, by no means stinting the amount of alcohol,
gulped down half the contents of the tumbler, paused a moment, leaning
his elbow on the table, and said:
"We were treated to a public exhibition of feminine cajolery in your
direction, Mr. Iglesias, at the end of dinner. It occurs to me we might
have been spared that. I have never had the honour of penetrating into
your apartments before; but the aspect of them is quite sufficient
indication as to who is the favoured member of Mrs. Porcher's
Dominic had remained standing. Hospitality demanded that he should do all