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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

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The Good Soldier

by Ford Madox Ford



THIS is the saddest story I have ever heard. We had known the
Ashburnhams for nine seasons of the town of Nauheim with an
extreme intimacy--or, rather with an acquaintanceship as loose
and easy and yet as close as a good glove's with your hand. My
wife and I knew Captain and Mrs Ashburnham as well as it was
possible to know anybody, and yet, in another sense, we knew
nothing at all about them. This is, I believe, a state of things only
possible with English people of whom, till today, when I sit down
to puzzle out what I know of this sad affair, I knew nothing
whatever. Six months ago I had never been to England, and,
certainly, I had never sounded the depths of an English heart. I
had known the shallows.

I don't mean to say that we were not acquainted with many English
people. Living, as we perforce lived, in Europe, and being, as we
perforce were, leisured Americans, which is as much as to say that
we were un-American, we were thrown very much into the society
of the nicer English. Paris, you see, was our home. Somewhere
between Nice and Bordighera provided yearly winter quarters for
us, and Nauheim always received us from July to September. You
will gather from this statement that one of us had, as the saying is,
a "heart", and, from the statement that my wife is dead, that she
was the sufferer.

Captain Ashburnham also had a heart. But, whereas a yearly
month or so at Nauheim tuned him up to exactly the right pitch for
the rest of the twelvemonth, the two months or so were only just
enough to keep poor Florence alive from year to year. The reason
for his heart was, approximately, polo, or too much hard
sportsmanship in his youth. The reason for poor Florence's broken
years was a storm at sea upon our first crossing to Europe, and the
immediate reasons for our imprisonment in that continent were
doctor's orders. They said that even the short Channel crossing
might well kill the poor thing.

When we all first met, Captain Ashburnham, home on sick leave
from an India to which he was never to return, was thirty-three;
Mrs Ashburnham Leonora --was thirty-one. I was thirty-six and
poor Florence thirty. Thus today Florence would have been
thirty-nine and Captain Ashburnham forty-two; whereas I am
forty-five and Leonora forty. You will perceive, therefore, that our
friendship has been a young-middle-aged affair, since we were all
of us of quite quiet dispositions, the Ashburnhams being more
particularly what in England it is the custom to call "quite good

They were descended, as you will probably expect, from the
Ashburnham who accompanied Charles I to the scaffold, and, as
you must also expect with this class of English people, you would
never have noticed it. Mrs Ashburnham was a Powys; Florence
was a Hurlbird of Stamford, Connecticut, where, as you know,
they are more old-fashioned than even the inhabitants of Cranford,
England, could have been. I myself am a Dowell of Philadelphia,
Pa., where, it is historically true, there are more old English
families than you would find in any six English counties taken
together. I carry about with me, indeed--as if it were the only thing
that invisibly anchored me to any spot upon the globe--the title
deeds of my farm, which once covered several blocks between
Chestnut and Walnut Streets. These title deeds are of wampum,
the grant of an Indian chief to the first Dowell, who left Farnham
in Surrey in company with William Penn. Florence's people, as is
so often the case with the inhabitants of Connecticut, came from
the neighbourhood of Fordingbridge, where the Ashburnhams'
place is. From there, at this moment, I am actually writing.

You may well ask why I write. And yet my reasons are quite many.
For it is not unusual in human beings who have witnessed the sack
of a city or the falling to pieces of a people to desire to set down
what they have witnessed for the benefit of unknown heirs or of
generations infinitely remote; or, if you please, just to get the sight
out of their heads.

Some one has said that the death of a mouse from cancer is the
whole sack of Rome by the Goths, and I swear to you that the
breaking up of our little four-square coterie was such another
unthinkable event. Supposing that you should come upon us
sitting together at one of the little tables in front of the club house,
let us say, at Homburg, taking tea of an afternoon and watching
the miniature golf, you would have said that, as human affairs go,
we were an extraordinarily safe castle. We were, if you will, one of
those tall ships with the white sails upon a blue sea, one of those
things that seem the proudest and the safest of all the beautiful
and safe things that God has permitted the mind of men to frame.
Where better could one take refuge? Where better?

Permanence? Stability? I can't believe it's gone. I can't believe that
that long, tranquil life, which was just stepping a minuet, vanished
in four crashing days at the end of nine years and six weeks. Upon
my word, yes, our intimacy was like a minuet, simply because on
every possible occasion and in every possible circumstance we
knew where to go, where to sit, which table we unanimously
should choose; and we could rise and go, all four together,
without a signal from any one of us, always to the music of the Kur
orchestra, always in the temperate sunshine, or, if it rained, in
discreet shelters. No, indeed, it can't be gone. You can't kill a
minuet de la cour. You may shut up the music-book, close the
harpsichord; in the cupboard and presses the rats may destroy the
white satin favours. The mob may sack Versailles; the Trianon
may fall, but surely the minuet--the minuet itself is dancing itself
away into the furthest stars, even as our minuet of the Hessian
bathing places must be stepping itself still. Isn't there any heaven
where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong
themselves? Isn't there any Nirvana pervaded by the faint thrilling
of instruments that have fallen into the dust of wormwood but that
yet had frail, tremulous, and everlasting souls?

No, by God, it is false! It wasn't a minuet that we stepped; it was a
prison--a prison full of screaming hysterics, tied down so that they
might not outsound the rolling of our carriage wheels as we went
along the shaded avenues of the Taunus Wald.

And yet I swear by the sacred name of my creator that it was true.
It was true sunshine; the true music; the true splash of the
fountains from the mouth of stone dolphins. For, if for me we
were four people with the same tastes, with the same desires,
acting--or, no, not acting--sitting here and there unanimously, isn't
that the truth? If for nine years I have possessed a goodly apple
that is rotten at the core and discover its rottenness only in nine
years and six months less four days, isn't it true to say that for nine
years I possessed a goodly apple? So it may well be with Edward
Ashburnham, with Leonora his wife and with poor dear Florence.
And, if you come to think of it, isn't it a little odd that the physical
rottenness of at least two pillars of our four-square house never
presented itself to my mind as a menace to its security? It doesn't
so present itself now though the two of them are actually dead. I
don't know. . . .

I know nothing--nothing in the world--of the hearts of men. I only
know that I am alone--horribly alone. No hearthstone will ever
again witness, for me, friendly intercourse. No smoking-room will
ever be other than peopled with incalculable simulacra amidst
smoke wreaths. Yet, in the name of God, what should I know if I
don't know the life of the hearth and of the smoking-room, since
my whole life has been passed in those places? The warm
hearthside! --Well, there was Florence: I believe that for the twelve
years her life lasted, after the storm that seemed irretrievably to
have weakened her heart--I don't believe that for one minute she
was out of my sight, except when she was safely tucked up in bed
and I should be downstairs, talking to some good fellow or other
in some lounge or smoking-room or taking my final turn with a
cigar before going to bed. I don't, you understand, blame Florence.
But how can she have known what she knew? How could she have
got to know it? To know it so fully. Heavens! There doesn't seem
to have been the actual time. It must have been when I was taking
my baths, and my Swedish exercises, being manicured. Leading
the life I did, of the sedulous, strained nurse, I had to do
something to keep myself fit. It must have been then! Yet even
that can't have been enough time to get the tremendously long
conversations full of worldly wisdom that Leonora has reported to
me since their deaths. And is it possible to imagine that during our
prescribed walks in Nauheim and the neighbourhood she found
time to carry on the protracted negotiations which she did carry on
between Edward Ashburnham and his wife? And isn't it incredible
that during all that time Edward and Leonora never spoke a word
to each other in private? What is one to think of humanity?

For I swear to you that they were the model couple. He was as
devoted as it was possible to be without appearing fatuous. So
well set up, with such honest blue eyes, such a touch of stupidity,
such a warm goodheartedness! And she--so tall, so splendid in the
saddle, so fair! Yes, Leonora was extraordinarily fair and so
extraordinarily the real thing that she seemed too good to be true.
You don't, I mean, as a rule, get it all so superlatively together. To
be the county family, to look the county family, to be so
appropriately and perfectly wealthy; to be so perfect in
manner--even just to the saving touch of insolence that seems to be
necessary. To have all that and to be all that! No, it was too good
to be true. And yet, only this afternoon, talking over the whole
matter she said to me: "Once I tried to have a lover but I was so
sick at the heart, so utterly worn out that I had to send him away."
That struck me as the most amazing thing I had ever heard. She
said "I was actually in a man's arms. Such a nice chap! Such a
dear fellow! And I was saying to myself, fiercely, hissing it
between my teeth, as they say in novels--and really clenching
them together: I was saying to myself: 'Now, I'm in for it and I'll
really have a good time for once in my life--for once in my life!' It
was in the dark, in a carriage, coming back from a hunt ball.
Eleven miles we had to drive! And then suddenly the bitterness of
the endless poverty, of the endless acting--it fell on me like a
blight, it spoilt everything. Yes, I had to realize that I had been
spoilt even for the good time when it came. And I burst out crying
and I cried and I cried for the whole eleven miles. Just imagine
me crying! And just imagine me making a fool of the poor dear
chap like that. It certainly wasn't playing the game, was it now?"

I don't know; I don't know; was that last remark of hers the remark
of a harlot, or is it what every decent woman, county family or not
county family, thinks at the bottom of her heart? Or thinks all the
time for the matter of that? Who knows?

Yet, if one doesn't know that at this hour and day, at this pitch of
civilization to which we have attained, after all the preachings of
all the moralists, and all the teachings of all the mothers to all the
daughters in saecula saeculorum . . . but perhaps that is what all
mothers teach all daughters, not with lips but with the eyes, or
with heart whispering to heart. And, if one doesn't know as much
as that about the first thing in the world, what does one know and
why is one here?

I asked Mrs Ashburnham whether she had told Florence that and
what Florence had said and she answered:--"Florence didn't offer
any comment at all. What could she say? There wasn't anything to
be said. With the grinding poverty we had to put up with to keep
up appearances, and the way the poverty came about--you know
what I mean--any woman would have been justified in taking a
lover and presents too. Florence once said about a very similar
position--she was a little too well-bred, too American, to talk about
mine--that it was a case of perfectly open riding and the woman
could just act on the spur of the moment. She said it in American
of course, but that was the sense of it. I think her actual words
were: 'That it was up to her to take it or leave it. . . .'"

I don't want you to think that I am writing Teddy Ashburnham
down a brute. I don't believe he was. God knows, perhaps all men
are like that. For as I've said what do I know even of the
smoking-room? Fellows come in and tell the most extraordinarily
gross stories--so gross that they will positively give you a pain.
And yet they'd be offended if you suggested that they weren't the
sort of person you could trust your wife alone with. And very
likely they'd be quite properly offended--that is if you can trust
anybody alone with anybody. But that sort of fellow obviously
takes more delight in listening to or in telling gross stories--more
delight than in anything else in the world. They'll hunt languidly
and dress languidly and dine languidly and work without
enthusiasm and find it a bore to carry on three minutes'
conversation about anything whatever and yet, when the other sort
of conversation begins, they'll laugh. and wake up and throw
themselves about in their chairs. Then, if they so delight in the
narration, how is it possible that they can be offended--and
properly offended--at the suggestion that they might make
attempts upon your wife's honour? Or again: Edward Ashburnham
was the cleanest looking sort of chap;--an excellent magistrate, a
first rate soldier, one of the best landlords, so they said, in
Hampshire, England. To the poor and to hopeless drunkards, as I
myself have witnessed, he was like a painstaking guardian. And
he never told a story that couldn't have gone into the columns of
the Field more than once or twice in all the nine years of my
knowing him. He didn't even like hearing them; he would fidget
and get up and go out to buy a cigar or something of that sort. You
would have said that he was just exactly the sort of chap that you
could have trusted your wife with. And I trusted mine and it was
madness. And yet again you have me. If poor Edward was
dangerous because of the chastity of his expressions--and they say
that is always the hall-mark of a libertine--what about myself? For
I solemnly avow that not only have I never so much as hinted at
an impropriety in my conversation in the whole of my days; and
more than that, I will vouch for the cleanness of my thoughts and
the absolute chastity of my life. At what, then, does it all work out?
Is the whole thing a folly and a mockery? Am I no better than a
eunuch or is the proper man--the man with the right to
existence--a raging stallion forever neighing after his neighbour's

I don't know. And there is nothing to guide us. And if everything is
so nebulous about a matter so elementary as the morals of sex,
what is there to guide us in the more subtle morality of all other
personal contacts, associations, and activities? Or are we meant to
act on impulse alone? It is all a darkness.


I DON'T know how it is best to put this thing down--whether it
would be better to try and tell the story from the beginning, as if it
were a story; or whether to tell it from this distance of time, as it
reached me from the lips of Leonora or from those of Edward

So I shall just imagine myself for a fortnight or so at one side of
the fireplace of a country cottage, with a sympathetic soul
opposite me. And I shall go on talking, in a low voice while the
sea sounds in the distance and overhead the great black flood of
wind polishes the bright stars. From time to time we shall get up
and go to the door and look out at the great moon and say: "Why,
it is nearly as bright as in Provence!" And then we shall come
back to the fireside, with just the touch of a sigh because we are
not in that Provence where even the saddest stories are gay.
Consider the lamentable history of Peire Vidal. Two years ago
Florence and I motored from Biarritz to Las Tours, which is in the
Black Mountains. In the middle of a tortuous valley there rises up
an immense pinnacle and on the pinnacle are four castles--Las
Tours, the Towers. And the immense mistral blew down that
valley which was the way from France into Provence so that the
silver grey olive leaves appeared like hair flying in the wind, and
the tufts of rosemary crept into the iron rocks that they might not
be torn up by the roots.

It was, of course, poor dear Florence who wanted to go to Las
Tours. You are to imagine that, however much her bright
personality came from Stamford, Connecticut, she was yet a
graduate of Poughkeepsie. I never could imagine how she did
it--the queer, chattery person that she was. With the far-away look
in her eyes--which wasn't, however, in the least romantic--I mean
that she didn't look as if she were seeing poetic dreams, or looking
through you, for she hardly ever did look at you!--holding up one
hand as if she wished to silence any objection--or any comment
for the matter of that--she would talk. She would talk about
William the Silent, about Gustave the Loquacious, about Paris
frocks, about how the poor dressed in 1337, about Fantin-Latour,
about the Paris-Lyons-Mediterranée train-deluxe, about whether it
would be worth while to get off at Tarascon and go across the
windswept suspension-bridge, over the Rhone to take another look
at Beaucaire.

We never did take another look at Beaucaire, of course--beautiful
Beaucaire, with the high, triangular white tower, that looked as
thin as a needle and as tall as the Flatiron, between Fifth and
Broadway--Beaucaire with the grey walls on the top of the
pinnacle surrounding an acre and a half of blue irises, beneath the
tallness of the stone pines, What a beautiful thing the stone pine
is! . . .

No, we never did go back anywhere. Not to Heidelberg, not to
Hamelin, not to Verona, not to Mont Majour--not so much as to
Carcassonne itself. We talked of it, of course, but I guess Florence
got all she wanted out of one look at a place. She had the seeing

I haven't, unfortunately, so that the world is full of places to which
I want to return--towns with the blinding white sun upon them;
stone pines against the blue of the sky; corners of gables, all
carved and painted with stags and scarlet flowers and crowstepped
gables with the little saint at the top; and grey and pink palazzi
and walled towns a mile or so back from the sea, on the
Mediterranean, between Leghorn and Naples. Not one of them did
we see more than once, so that the whole world for me is like spots
of colour in an immense canvas. Perhaps if it weren't so I should
have something to catch hold of now.

Is all this digression or isn't it digression? Again I don't know. You,
the listener, sit opposite me. But you are so silent. You don't tell
me anything. I am, at any rate, trying to get you to see what sort of
life it was I led with Florence and what Florence was like. Well,
she was bright; and she danced. She seemed to dance over the
floors of castles and over seas and over and over and over the
salons of modistes and over the plages of the Riviera--like a gay
tremulous beam, reflected from water upon a ceiling. And my
function in life was to keep that bright thing in existence. And it
was almost as difficult as trying to catch with your hand that
dancing reflection. And the task lasted for years.

Florence's aunts used to say that I must be the laziest man in
Philadelphia. They had never been to Philadelphia and they had
the New England conscience. You see, the first thing they said to
me when I called in on Florence in the little ancient, colonial,
wooden house beneath the high, thin-leaved elms--the first
question they asked me was not how I did but what did I do. And I
did nothing. I suppose I ought to have done something, but I didn't
see any call to do it. Why does one do things? I just drifted in and
wanted Florence. First I had drifted in on Florence at a Browning
tea, or something of the sort in Fourteenth Street, which was then
still residential. I don't know why I had gone to New York; I don't
know why I had gone to the tea. I don't see why Florence should
have gone to that sort of spelling bee. It wasn't the place at which,
even then, you expected to find a Poughkeepsie graduate. I guess
Florence wanted to raise the culture of the Stuyvesant crowd and
did it as she might have gone in slumming. Intellectual slumming,
that was what it was. She always wanted to leave the world a little
more elevated than she found it. Poor dear thing, I have heard her
lecture Teddy Ashburnham by the hour on the difference between
a Franz Hals and a Wouvermans and why the Pre-Mycenaean
statues were cubical with knobs on the top. I wonder what he
made of it? Perhaps he was thankful.

I know I was. For do you understand my whole attentions, my
whole endeavours were to keep poor dear Florence on to topics
like the finds at Cnossos and the mental spirituality of Walter
Pater. I had to keep her at it, you understand, or she might die. For
I was solemnly informed that if she became excited over anything
or if her emotions were really stirred her little heart might cease to
beat. For twelve years I had to watch every word that any person
uttered in any conversation and I had to head it off what the
English call "things"--off love, poverty, crime, religion and the rest
of it. Yes, the first doctor that we had when she was carried off
the ship at Havre assured me that this must be done. Good God,
are all these fellows monstrous idiots, or is there a freemasonry
between all of them from end to end of the earth? . . . That is what
makes me think of that fellow Peire Vidal.

Because, of course, his story is culture and I had to head her
towards culture and at the same time it's so funny and she hadn't
got to laugh, and it's so full of love and she wasn't to think of love.
Do you know the story? Las Tours of the Four Castles had for
chatelaine Blanche Somebody-or-other who was called as a term
of commendation, La Louve--the She-Wolf. And Peire Vidal the
Troubadour paid his court to La Louve. And she wouldn't have
anything to do with him. So, out of compliment to her--the things
people do when they're in love!--he dressed himself up in
wolfskins and went up into the Black Mountains. And the
shepherds of the Montagne Noire and their dogs mistook him for
a wolf and he was torn with the fangs and beaten with clubs. So
they carried him back to Las Tours and La Louve wasn't at all
impressed. They polished him up and her husband remonstrated
seriously with her. Vidal was, you see, a great poet and it was not
proper to treat a great poet with indifference.

So Peire Vidal declared himself Emperor of Jerusalem or
somewhere and the husband had to kneel down and kiss his feet
though La Louve wouldn't. And Peire set sail in a rowing boat
with four companions to redeem the Holy Sepulchre. And they
struck on a rock somewhere, and, at great expense, the husband
had to fit out an expedition to fetch him back. And Peire Vidal fell
all over the Lady's bed while the husband, who was a most
ferocious warrior, remonstrated some more about the courtesy
that is due to great poets. But I suppose La Louve was the more
ferocious of the two. Anyhow, that is all that came of it. Isn't that
a story?

You haven't an idea of the queer old-fashionedness of Florence's
aunts--the Misses Hurlbird, nor yet of her uncle. An
extraordinarily lovable man, that Uncle John. Thin, gentle, and
with a "heart" that made his life very much what Florence's
afterwards became. He didn't reside at Stamford; his home was in
Waterbury where the watches come from. He had a factory there
which, in our queer American way, would change its functions
almost from year to year. For nine months or so it would
manufacture buttons out of bone. Then it would suddenly produce
brass buttons for coachmen's liveries. Then it would take a turn at
embossed tin lids for candy boxes. The fact is that the poor old
gentleman, with his weak and fluttering heart, didn't want his
factory to manufacture anything at all. He wanted to retire. And he
did retire when he was seventy. But he was so worried at having
all the street boys in the town point after him and exclaim: "There
goes the laziest man in Waterbury!" that he tried taking a tour
round the world. And Florence and a young man called Jimmy
went with him. It appears from what Florence told me that
Jimmy's function with Mr Hurlbird was to avoid exciting topics for
him. He had to keep him, for instance, out of political discussions.
For the poor old man was a violent Democrat in days when you
might travel the world over without finding anything but a
Republican. Anyhow, they went round the world.

I think an anecdote is about the best way to give you an idea of
what the old gentleman was like. For it is perhaps important that
you should know what the old gentleman was; he had a great deal
of influence in forming the character of my poor dear wife.

Just before they set out from San Francisco for the South Seas old
Mr Hurlbird said he must take something with him to make little
presents to people he met on the voyage. And it struck him that
the things to take for that purpose were oranges--because
California is the orange country--and comfortable folding chairs.
So he bought I don't know how many cases of oranges--the great
cool California oranges, and half-a-dozen folding chairs in a
special case that he always kept in his cabin. There must have been
half a cargo of fruit.

For, to every person on board the several steamers that they
employed--to every person with whom he had so much as a
nodding acquaintance, he gave an orange every morning. And
they lasted him right round the girdle of this mighty globe of ours.
When they were at North Cape, even, he saw on the horizon, poor
dear thin man that he was, a lighthouse. "Hello," says he to
himself, "these fellows must be very lonely. Let's take them some
oranges." So he had a boatload of his fruit out and had himself
rowed to the lighthouse on the horizon. The folding chairs he lent
to any lady that he came across and liked or who seemed tired and
invalidish on the ship. And so, guarded against his heart and,
having his niece with him, he went round the world. . . .

He wasn't obtrusive about his heart. You wouldn't have known he
had one. He only left it to the physical laboratory at Waterbury for
the benefit of science, since he considered it to be quite an
extraordinary kind of heart. And the joke of the matter was that,
when, at the age of eighty-four, just five days before poor
Florence, he died of bronchitis there was found to be absolutely
nothing the matter with that organ. It had certainly jumped or
squeaked or something just sufficiently to take in the doctors, hut
it appears that that was because of an odd formation of the lungs. I
don't much understand about these matters.

I inherited his money because Florence died five days after him. I
wish I hadn't. It was a great worry. I had to go out to Waterbury
just after Florence's death because the poor dear old fellow had
left a good many charitable bequests and I had to appoint trustees.
I didn't like the idea of their not being properly handled.

Yes, it was a great worry. And just as I had got things roughly
settled I received the extraordinary cable from Ashburnham
begging me to come back and have a talk with him. And
immediately afterwards came one from Leonora saying, "Yes,
please do come. You could be so helpful." It was as if he had sent
the cable without consulting her and had afterwards told her.
Indeed, that was pretty much what had happened, except that he
had told the girl and the girl told the wife. I arrived, however, too
late to be of any good if I could have been of any good. And then I
had my first taste of English life. It was amazing. It was
overwhelming. I never shall forget the polished cob that Edward,
beside me, drove; the animal's action, its high-stepping, its skin
that was like satin. And the peace! And the red cheeks! And the
beautiful, beautiful old house.

Just near Branshaw Teleragh it was and we descended on it from
the high, clear, windswept waste of the New Forest. I tell you it
was amazing to arrive there from Waterbury. And it came into my
head--for Teddy Ashburnham, you remember, had cabled to me to
"come and have a talk" with him--that it was unbelievable that
anything essentially calamitous could happen to that place and
those people. I tell you it was the very spirit of peace. And
Leonora, beautiful and smiling, with her coils of yellow hair, stood
on the top doorstep, with a butler and footman and a maid or so
behind her. And she just said: "So glad you've come," as if I'd run
down to lunch from a town ten miles away, instead of having
come half the world over at the call of two urgent telegrams.

The girl was out with the hounds, I think. And that poor devil
beside me was in an agony. Absolute, hopeless, dumb agony such
as passes the mind of man to imagine.


IT was a very hot summer, in August, 1904; and Florence had
already been taking the baths for a month. I don't know how it
feels to be a patient at one of those places. I never was a patient
anywhere. I daresay the patients get a home feeling and some sort
of anchorage in the spot. They seem to like the bath attendants,
with their cheerful faces, their air of authority, their white linen.
But, for myself, to be at Nauheim gave me a sense--what shall I
say?--a sense almost of nakedness--the nakedness that one feels on
the sea-shore or in any great open space. I had no attachments, no
accumulations. In one's own home it is as if little, innate
sympathies draw one to particular chairs that seem to enfold one
in an embrace, or take one along particular streets that seem
friendly when others may be hostile. And, believe me, that feeling
is a very important part of life. I know it well, that have been for
so long a wanderer upon the face of public resorts. And one is too
polished up. Heaven knows I was never an untidy man. But the
feeling that I had when, whilst poor Florence was taking her
morning bath, I stood upon the carefully swept steps of the
Englischer Hof, looking at the carefully arranged trees in tubs
upon the carefully arranged gravel whilst carefully arranged
people walked past in carefully calculated gaiety, at the carefully
calculated hour, the tall trees of the public gardens, going up to
the right; the reddish stone of the baths--or were they white
half-timber châlets? Upon my word I have forgotten, I who was
there so often. That will give you the measure of how much I was
in the landscape. I could find my way blindfolded to the hot
rooms, to the douche rooms, to the fountain in the centre of the
quadrangle where the rusty water gushes out. Yes, I could find my
way blindfolded. I know the exact distances. From the Hotel
Regina you took one hundred and eighty-seven paces, then,
turning sharp, left-handed, four hundred and twenty took you
straight down to the fountain. From the Englischer Hof, starting
on the sidewalk, it was ninety-seven paces and the same four
hundred and twenty, but turning lefthanded this time.

And now you understand that, having nothing in the world to
do--but nothing whatever! I fell into the habit of counting my
footsteps. I would walk with Florence to the baths. And, of course,
she entertained me with her conversation. It was, as I have said,
wonderful what she could make conversation out of. She walked
very lightly, and her hair was very nicely done, and she dressed
beautifully and very expensively. Of course she had money of her
own, but I shouldn't have minded. And yet you know I can't
remember a single one of her dresses. Or I can remember just one,
a very simple one of blue figured silk--a Chinese pattern--very full
in the skirts and broadening out over the shoulders. And her hair
was copper-coloured, and the heels of her shoes were exceedingly
high, so that she tripped upon the points of her toes. And when she
came to the door of the bathing place, and when it opened to
receive her, she would look back at me with a little coquettish
smile, so that her cheek appeared to be caressing her shoulder.

I seem to remember that, with that dress, she wore an immensely
broad Leghorn hat--like the Chapeau de Paille of Rubens, only
very white. The hat would be tied with a lightly knotted scarf of
the same stuff as her dress. She knew how to give value to her
blue eyes. And round her neck would be some simple pink, coral
beads. And her complexion had a perfect clearness, a perfect
smoothness . . .

Yes, that is how I most exactly remember her, in that dress, in that
hat, looking over her shoulder at me so that the eyes flashed very
blue--dark pebble blue . . .

And, what the devil! For whose benefit did she do it? For that of
the bath attendant? of the passers-by? I don't know. Anyhow, it
can't have been for me, for never, in all the years of her life, never
on any possible occasion, or in any other place did she so smile to
me, mockingly, invitingly. Ah, she was a riddle; but then, all other
women are riddles. And it occurs to me that some way back I
began a sentence that I have never finished . . . It was about the
feeling that I had when I stood on the steps of my hotel every
morning before starting out to fetch Florence back from the bath.
Natty, precise, well-brushed, conscious of being rather small
amongst the long English, the lank Americans, the rotund
Germans, and the obese Russian Jewesses, I should stand there,
tapping a cigarette on the outside of my case, surveying for a
moment the world in the sunlight. But a day was to come when I
was never to do it again alone. You can imagine, therefore, what
the coming of the Ashburnhams meant to me. I have forgotten the
aspect of many things, but I shall never forget the aspect of the
dining-room of the Hotel Excelsior on that evening--and on so
many other evenings. Whole castles have vanished from my
memory, whole cities that I have never visited again, but that
white room, festooned with papier-maché fruits and flowers; the
tall windows; the many tables; the black screen round the door
with three golden cranes flying upward on each panel; the
palm-tree in the centre of the room; the swish of the waiter's feet;
the cold expensive elegance; the mien of the diners as they came
in every evening--their air of earnestness as if they must go
through a meal prescribed by the Kur authorities and their air of
sobriety as if they must seek not by any means to enjoy their
meals--those things I shall not easily forget. And then, one
evening, in the twilight, I saw Edward Ashburnham lounge round
the screen into the room. The head waiter, a man with a face all
grey--in what subterranean nooks or corners do people cultivate
those absolutely grey complexions?--went with the timorous
patronage of these creatures towards him and held out a grey ear
to be whispered into. It was generally a disagreeable ordeal for
newcomers but Edward Ashburnham bore it like an Englishman
and a gentleman. I could see his lips form a word of three
syllables--remember I had nothing in the world to do but to notice
these niceties--and immediately I knew that he must be Edward
Ashburnham, Captain, Fourteenth Hussars, of Branshaw House,
Branshaw Teleragh. I knew it because every evening just before
dinner, whilst I waited in the hall, I used, by the courtesy of
Monsieur Schontz, the proprietor, to inspect the little police
reports that each guest was expected to sign upon taking a room.

The head waiter piloted him immediately to a vacant table, three
away from my own--the table that the Grenfalls of Falls River,
N.J., had just vacated. It struck me that that was not a very nice
table for the newcomers, since the sunlight, low though it was,
shone straight down upon it, and the same idea seemed to come at
the same moment into Captain Ashburnham's head. His face
hitherto had, in the wonderful English fashion, expressed nothing
whatever. Nothing. There was in it neither joy nor despair; neither
hope nor fear; neither boredom nor satisfaction. He seemed to
perceive no soul in that crowded room; he might have been
walking in a jungle. I never came across such a perfect expression
before and I never shall again. It was insolence and not insolence;
it was modesty and not modesty. His hair was fair, extraordinarily
ordered in a wave, running from the left temple to the right; his
face was a light brick-red, perfectly uniform in tint up to the roots
of the hair itself; his yellow moustache was as stiff as a toothbrush
and I verily believe that he had his black smoking jacket thickened
a little over the shoulder-blades so as to give himself the air of the
slightest possible stoop. It would be like him to do that; that was
the sort of thing he thought about. Martingales, Chiffney bits,
boots; where you got the best soap, the best brandy, the name of
the chap who rode a plater down the Khyber cliffs; the spreading
power of number three shot before a charge of number four
powder . . . by heavens, I hardly ever heard him talk of anything
else. Not in all the years that I knew him did I hear him talk of
anything but these subjects. Oh, yes, once he told me that I could
buy my special shade of blue ties cheaper from a firm in
Burlington Arcade than from my own people in New York. And I
have bought my ties from that firm ever since. Otherwise I should
not remember the name of the Burlington Arcade. I wonder what
it looks like. I have never seen it. I imagine it to be two immense
rows of pillars, like those of the Forum at Rome, with Edward
Ashburnham striding down between them. But it probably
isn't--the least like that. Once also he advised me to buy
Caledonian Deferred, since they were due to rise. And I did buy
them and they did rise. But of how he got the knowledge I haven't
the faintest idea. It seemed to drop out of the blue sky.

And that was absolutely all that I knew of him until a month
ago--that and the profusion of his cases, all of pigskin and
stamped with his initials, E. F. A. There were gun cases, and
collar cases, and shirt cases, and letter cases and cases each
containing four bottles of medicine; and hat cases and helmet
cases. It must have needed a whole herd of the Gadarene swine to
make up his outfit. And, if I ever penetrated into his private room
it would be to see him standing, with his coat and waistcoat off
and the immensely long line of his perfectly elegant trousers from
waist to boot heel. And he would have a slightly reflective air and
he would be just opening one kind of case and just closing

Good God, what did they all see in him? for I swear there was all
there was of him, inside and out; though they said he was a good
soldier. Yet, Leonora adored him with a passion that was like an
agony, and hated him with an agony that was as bitter as the sea.
How could he arouse anything like a sentiment, in anybody?

What did he even talk to them about--when they were under four
eyes? --Ah, well, suddenly, as if by a flash of inspiration, I know.
For all good soldiers are sentimentalists--all good soldiers of that
type. Their profession, for one thing, is full of the big words,
courage, loyalty, honour, constancy. And I have given a wrong
impression of Edward Ashburnham if I have made you think that
literally never in the course of our nine years of intimacy did he
discuss what he would have called "the graver things." Even
before his final outburst to me, at times, very late at night, say, he
has blurted out something that gave an insight into the sentimental
view of the cosmos that was his. He would say how much the
society of a good woman could do towards redeeming you, and he
would say that constancy was the finest of the virtues. He said it
very stiffly, of course, but still as if the statement admitted of no

Constancy! Isn't that the queer thought? And yet, I must add that
poor dear Edward was a great reader--he would pass hours lost in
novels of a sentimental type--novels in which typewriter girls
married Marquises and governesses Earls. And in his books, as a
rule, the course of true love ran as smooth as buttered honey. And
he was fond of poetry, of a certain type--and he could even read a
perfectly sad love story. I have seen his eyes filled with tears at
reading of a hopeless parting. And he loved, with a sentimental
yearning, all children, puppies, and the feeble generally. . . .

So, you see, he would have plenty to gurgle about to a
woman--with that and his sound common sense about martingales
and his--still sentimental--experiences as a county magistrate; and
with his intense, optimistic belief that the woman he was making
love to at the moment was the one he was destined, at last, to be
eternally constant to. . . . Well, I fancy he could put up a pretty
good deal of talk when there was no man around to make him feel
shy. And I was quite astonished, during his final burst out to
me--at the very end of things, when the poor girl was on her way
to that fatal Brindisi and he was trying to persuade himself and me
that he had never really cared for her--I was quite astonished to
observe how literary and how just his expressions were. He talked
like quite a good book--a book not in the least cheaply
sentimental. You see, I suppose he regarded me not so much as a
man. I had to be regarded as a woman or a solicitor. Anyhow, it
burst out of him on that horrible night. And then, next morning, he
took me over to the Assizes and I saw how, in a perfectly calm
and business-like way, he set to work to secure a verdict of not
guilty for a poor girl, the daughter of one of his tenants, who had
been accused of murdering her baby. He spent two hundred
pounds on her defence . . . Well, that was Edward Ashburnham.

I had forgotten about his eyes. They were as blue as the sides of a
certain type of box of matches. When you looked at them
carefully you saw that they were perfectly honest, perfectly
straightforward, perfectly, perfectly stupid. But the brick pink of
his complexion, running perfectly level to the brick pink of his
inner eyelids, gave them a curious, sinister expression--like a
mosaic of blue porcelain set in pink china. And that chap, coming
into a room, snapped up the gaze of every woman in it, as
dexterously as a conjurer pockets billiard balls. It was most
amazing. You know the man on the stage who throws up sixteen
balls at once and they all drop into pockets all over his person, on
his shoulders, on his heels, on the inner side of his sleeves; and he
stands perfectly still and does nothing. Well, it was like that. He
had rather a rough, hoarse voice.

And, there he was, standing by the table. I was looking at him,
with my back to the screen. And suddenly, I saw two distinct
expressions flicker across his immobile eyes. How the deuce did
they do it, those unflinching blue eyes with the direct gaze? For
the eyes themselves never moved, gazing over my shoulder
towards the screen. And the gaze was perfectly level and perfectly
direct and perfectly unchanging. I suppose that the lids really must
have rounded themselves a little and perhaps the lips moved a
little too, as if he should be saying: "There you are, my dear." At
any rate, the expression was that of pride, of satisfaction, of the
possessor. I saw him once afterwards, for a moment, gaze upon
the sunny fields of Branshaw and say: "All this is my land!"

And then again, the gaze was perhaps more direct, harder if
possible--hardy too. It was a measuring look; a challenging look.
Once when we were at Wiesbaden watching him play in a polo
match against the Bonner Hussaren I saw the same look come into
his eyes, balancing the possibilities, looking over the ground. The
German Captain, Count Baron Idigon von Lelöffel, was right up
by their goal posts, coming with the ball in an easy canter in that
tricky German fashion. The rest of the field were just anywhere. It
was only a scratch sort of affair. Ashburnham was quite close to
the rails not five yards from us and I heard him saying to himself:
"Might just be done!" And he did it. Goodness! he swung that
pony round with all its four legs spread out, like a cat dropping off
a roof. . . .

Well, it was just that look that I noticed in his eyes: "It might," I
seem even now to hear him muttering to himself, "just be done."

I looked round over my shoulder and saw, tall, smiling brilliantly
and buoyant--Leonora. And, little and fair, and as radiant as the
track of sunlight along the sea--my wife.

That poor wretch! to think that he was at that moment in a perfect
devil of a fix, and there he was, saying at the back of his mind: "It
might just be done." It was like a chap in the middle of the
eruption of a volcano, saying that he might just manage to bolt
into the tumult and set fire to a haystack. Madness?
Predestination? Who the devil knows?

Mrs Ashburnham exhibited at that moment more gaiety than I have
ever since known her to show. There are certain classes of English
people--the nicer ones when they have been to many spas, who
seem to make a point of becoming much more than usually
animated when they are introduced to my compatriots. I have
noticed this often. Of course, they must first have accepted the
Americans. But that once done, they seem to say to themselves:
"Hallo, these women are so bright. We aren't going to be outdone
in brightness." And for the time being they certainly aren't. But it
wears off. So it was with Leonora--at least until she noticed me.
She began, Leonora did--and perhaps it was that that gave me the
idea of a touch of insolence in her character, for she never
afterwards did any one single thing like it--she began by saying in
quite a loud voice and from quite a distance:

"Don't stop over by that stuffy old table, Teddy. Come and sit by
these nice people!"

And that was an extraordinary thing to say. Quite extraordinary. I
couldn't for the life of me refer to total strangers as nice people.
But, of course, she was taking a line of her own in which I at any
rate--and no one else in the room, for she too had taken the
trouble to read through the list of guests--counted any more than
so many clean, bull terriers. And she sat down rather brilliantly at
a vacant table, beside ours--one that was reserved for the
Guggenheimers. And she just sat absolutely deaf to the
remonstrances of the head waiter with his face like a grey ram's.
That poor chap was doing his steadfast duty too. He knew that the
Guggenheimers of Chicago, after they had stayed there a month
and had worried the poor life out of him, would give him two
dollars fifty and grumble at the tipping system. And he knew that
Teddy Ashburnham and his wife would give him no trouble
whatever except what the smiles of Leonora might cause in his
apparently unimpressionable bosom--though you never can tell
what may go on behind even a not quite spotless plastron! --And
every week Edward Ashburnham would give him a solid, sound,
golden English sovereign. Yet this stout fellow was intent on
saving that table for the Guggenheimers of Chicago. It ended in
Florence saying:

"Why shouldn't we all eat out of the same trough? --that's a nasty
New York saying. But I'm sure we're all nice quiet people and
there can be four seats at our table. It's round."

Then came, as it were, an appreciative gurgle from the Captain and
I was perfectly aware of a slight hesitation--a quick sharp motion
in Mrs Ashburnham, as if her horse had checked. But she put it at
the fence all right, rising from the seat she had taken and sitting
down opposite me, as it were, all in one motion. I never thought
that Leonora looked her best in evening dress. She seemed to get
it too clearly cut, there was no ruffling. She always affected black
and her shoulders were too classical. She seemed to stand out of
her corsage as a white marble bust might out of a black
Wedgwood vase. I don't know.

I loved Leonora always and, today, I would very cheerfully lay
down my life, what is left of it, in her service. But I am sure I
never had the beginnings of a trace of what is called the sex
instinct towards her. And I suppose--no I am certain that she never
had it towards me. As far as I am concerned I think it was those
white shoulders that did it. I seemed to feel when I looked at them
that, if ever I should press my lips upon them that they would be
slightly cold--not icily, not without a touch of human heat, but, as
they say of baths, with the chill off. I seemed to feel chilled at the
end of my lips when I looked at her . . .

No, Leonora always appeared to me at her best in a blue
tailor-made. Then her glorious hair wasn't deadened by her white
shoulders. Certain women's lines guide your eyes to their necks,
their eyelashes, their lips, their breasts. But Leonora's seemed to
conduct your gaze always to her wrist. And the wrist was at its
best in a black or a dog-skin glove and there was always a gold
circlet with a little chain supporting a very small golden key to a
dispatch box. Perhaps it was that in which she locked up her heart
and her feelings.

Anyhow, she sat down opposite me and then, for the first time, she
paid any attention to my existence. She gave me, suddenly, yet
deliberately, one long stare. Her eyes too were blue and dark and
the eyelids were so arched that they gave you the whole round of
the irises. And it was a most remarkable, a most moving glance,
as if for a moment a lighthouse had looked at me. I seemed to
perceive the swift questions chasing each other through the brain
that was behind them. I seemed to hear the brain ask and the eyes
answer with all the simpleness of a woman who was a good hand
at taking in qualities of a horse--as indeed she was. "Stands well;
has plenty of room for his oats behind the girth. Not so much in
the way of shoulders," and so on. And so her eyes asked: "Is this
man trustworthy in money matters; is he likely to try to play the
lover; is he likely to let his women be troublesome? Is he, above
all, likely to babble about my affairs?"

And, suddenly, into those cold, slightly defiant, almost defensive
china blue orbs, there came a warmth, a tenderness, a friendly
recognition . . . oh, it was very charming and very touching--and
quite mortifying. It was the look of a mother to her son, of a sister
to her brother. It implied trust; it implied the want of any necessity
for barriers. By God, she looked at me as if I were an invalid--as
any kind woman may look at a poor chap in a bath chair. And,
yes, from that day forward she always treated me and not Florence
as if I were the invalid. Why, she would run after me with a rug
upon chilly days. I suppose, therefore, that her eyes had made a
favourable answer. Or, perhaps, it wasn't a favourable answer.
And then Florence said: "And so the whole round table is begun."
Again Edward Ashburnham gurgled slightly in his throat; but
Leonora shivered a little, as if a goose had walked over her grave.
And I was passing her the nickel-silver basket of rolls. Avanti! . . .


So began those nine years of uninterrupted tranquillity. They were
characterized by an extraordinary want of any communicativeness
on the part of the Ashburnhams to which we, on our part, replied
by leaving out quite as extraordinarily, and nearly as completely,
the personal note. Indeed, you may take it that what characterized
our relationship was an atmosphere of taking everything for
granted. The given proposition was, that we were all "good
people." We took for granted that we all liked beef underdone but
not too underdone; that both men preferred a good liqueur brandy
after lunch; that both women drank a very light Rhine wine
qualified with Fachingen water--that sort of thing. It was also
taken for granted that we were both sufficiently well off to afford
anything that we could reasonably want in the way of amusements
fitting to our station--that we could take motor cars and carriages
by the day; that we could give each other dinners and dine our
friends and we could indulge if we liked in economy. Thus,
Florence was in the habit of having the Daily Telegraph sent to
her every day from London. She was always an Anglo-maniac,
was Florence; the Paris edition of the New York Herald was
always good enough for me. But when we discovered that the
Ashburnhams' copy of the London paper followed them from
England, Leonora and Florence decided between them to suppress
one subscription one year and the other the next. Similarly it was
the habit of the Grand Duke of Nassau Schwerin, who came
yearly to the baths, to dine once with about eighteen families of
regular Kur guests. In return he would give a dinner of all the
eighteen at once. And, since these dinners were rather expensive
(you had to take the Grand Duke and a good many of his suite and
any members of the diplomatic bodies that might be
there)--Florence and Leonora, putting their heads together, didn't
see why we shouldn't give the Grand Duke his dinner together.
And so we did. I don't suppose the Serenity minded that economy,
or even noticed it. At any rate, our joint dinner to the Royal
Personage gradually assumed the aspect of a yearly function.
Indeed, it grew larger and larger, until it became a sort of closing
function for the season, at any rate as far as we were concerned. I
don't in the least mean to say that we were the sort of persons who
aspired to mix "with royalty." We didn't; we hadn't any claims; we
were just "good people." But the Grand Duke was a pleasant,
affable sort of royalty, like the late King Edward VII, and it was
pleasant to hear him talk about the races and, very occasionally, as
a bonne bouche, about his nephew, the Emperor; or to have him
pause for a moment in his walk to ask after the progress of our
cures or to be benignantly interested in the amount of money we
had put on Lelöffel's hunter for the Frankfurt Welter Stakes.

But upon my word, I don't know how we put in our time. How
does one put in one's time? How is it possible to have achieved
nine years and to have nothing whatever to show for it? Nothing
whatever, you understand. Not so much as a bone penholder,
carved to resemble a chessman and with a hole in the top through
which you could see four views of Nauheim. And, as for
experience, as for knowledge of one's fellow beings--nothing
either. Upon my word, I couldn't tell you offhand whether the lady
who sold the so expensive violets at the bottom of the road that
leads to the station, was cheating me or no; I can't say whether the
porter who carried our traps across the station at Leghorn was a
thief or no when he said that the regular tariff was a lira a parcel.
The instances of honesty that one comes across in this world are
just as amazing as the instances of dishonesty. After forty-five
years of mixing with one's kind, one ought to have acquired the
habit of being able to know something about one's fellow beings.
But one doesn't.

I think the modern civilized habit--the modern English habit of
taking every one for granted--is a good deal to blame for this. I
have observed this matter long enough to know the queer, subtle
thing that it is; to know how the faculty, for what it is worth, never
lets you down.

Mind, I am not saying that this is not the most desirable type of life
in the world; that it is not an almost unreasonably high standard.
For it is really nauseating, when you detest it, to have to eat every
day several slices of thin, tepid, pink india rubber, and it is
disagreeable to have to drink brandy when you would prefer to be
cheered up by warm, sweet Kümmel. And it is nasty to have to
take a cold bath in the morning when what you want is really a hot
one at night. And it stirs a little of the faith of your fathers that is
deep down within you to have to have it taken for granted that you
are an Episcopalian when really you are an old-fashioned
Philadelphia Quaker.

But these things have to be done; it is the cock that the whole of
this society owes to Æsculapius.

And the odd, queer thing is that the whole collection of rules
applies to anybody--to the anybodies that you meet in hotels, in
railway trains, to a less degree, perhaps, in steamers, but even, in
the end, upon steamers. You meet a man or a woman and, from
tiny and intimate sounds, from the slightest of movements, you
know at once whether you are concerned with good people or with
those who won't do. You know, this is to say, whether they will go
rigidly through with the whole programme from the underdone
beef to the Anglicanism. It won't matter whether they be short or
tall; whether the voice squeak like a marionette or rumble like a
town bull's; it won't matter whether they are Germans, Austrians,
French, Spanish, or even Brazilians-- they will be the Germans or
Brazilians who take a cold bath every morning and who move,
roughly speaking, in diplomatic circles.

But the inconvenient--well, hang it all, I will say it--the damnable
nuisance of the whole thing is, that with all the taking for granted,
you never really get an inch deeper than the things I have

I can give you a rather extraordinary instance of this. I can't
remember whether it was in our first year--the first year of us four
at Nauheim, because, of course, it would have been the fourth
year of Florence and myself--but it must have been in the first or
second year. And that gives the measure at once of the
extraordinariness of our discussion and of the swiftness with
which intimacy had grown up between us. On the one hand we
seemed to start out on the expedition so naturally and with so little
preparation, , that it was as if we must have made many such
excursions before; and our intimacy seemed so deep. . . .

Yet the place to which we went was obviously one to which
Florence at least would have wanted to take us quite early, so that
you would almost think we should have gone there together at the
beginning of our intimacy. Florence was singularly expert as a
guide to archaeological expeditions and there was nothing she
liked so much as taking people round ruins and showing you the
window from which some one looked down upon the murder of
some one else. She only did it once; but she did it quite
magnificently. She could find her way, with the sole help of
Baedeker, as easily about any old monument as she could about
any American city where the blocks are all square and the streets
all numbered, so that you can go perfectly easily from
Twenty-fourth to Thirtieth.

Now it happens that fifty minutes away from Nauheim, by a good
train, is the ancient city of M----, upon a great pinnacle of basalt,
girt with a triple road running sideways up its shoulder like a
scarf. And at the top there is a castle--not a square castle like
Windsor, but a castle all slate gables and high peaks with gilt
weathercocks flashing bravely--the castle of St Elizabeth of
Hungary. It has the disadvantage of being in Prussia; and it is
always disagreeable to go into that country; but it is very old and
there are many double-spired churches and it stands up like a
pyramid out of the green valley of the Lahn. I don't suppose the
Ashburnhams wanted especially to go there and I didn't especially
want to go there myself. But, you understand, there was no
objection. It was part of the cure to make an excursion three or
four times a week. So that we were all quite unanimous in being
grateful to Florence for providing the motive power. Florence, of
course, had a motive of her own. She was at that time engaged in
educating Captain Ashburnham--oh, of course, quite pour le bon
motif! She used to say to Leonora: "I simply can't understand how
you can let him live by your side and be so ignorant!" Leonora
herself always struck me as being remarkably well educated. At
any rate, she knew beforehand all that Florence had to tell her.
Perhaps she got it up out of Baedeker before Florence was up in
the morning. I don't mean to say that you would ever have known
that Leonora knew anything, but if Florence started to tell us how
Ludwig the Courageous wanted to have three wives at once--in
which he differed from Henry VIII, who wanted them one after
the other, and this caused a good deal of trouble--if Florence
started to tell us this, Leonora would just nod her head in a way
that quite pleasantly rattled my poor wife.

She used to exclaim: "Well, if you knew it, why haven't you told it
all already to Captain Ashburnham? I'm sure he finds it
interesting!" And Leonora would look reflectively at her husband
and say: "I have an idea that it might injure his hand--the hand,
you know, used in connection with horses' mouths. . . ." And poor
Ashburnham would blush and mutter and would say: "That's all
right. Don't you bother about me."

I fancy his wife's irony did quite alarm poor Teddy; because one
evening he asked me seriously in the smoking-room if I thought
that having too much in one's head would really interfere with
one's quickness in polo. It struck him, he said, that brainy
Johnnies generally were rather muffs when they got on to four
legs. I reassured him as best I could. I told him that he wasn't
likely to take in enough to upset his balance. At that time the
Captain was quite evidently enjoying being educated by Florence.
She used to do it about three or four times a week under the
approving eyes of Leonora and myself. It wasn't, you understand,
systematic. It came in bursts. It was Florence clearing up one of
the dark places of the earth, leaving the world a little lighter than
she had found it. She would tell him the story of Hamlet; explain
the form of a symphony, humming the first and second subjects to
him, and so on; she would explain to him the difference between
Arminians and Erastians; or she would give him a short lecture on
the early history of the United States. And it was done in a way
well calculated to arrest a young attention. Did you ever read Mrs
Markham? Well, it was like that. . . .

But our excursion to M---- was a much larger, a much more full
dress affair. You see, in the archives of the Schloss in that city
there was a document which Florence thought would finally give
her the chance to educate the whole lot of us together. It really
worried poor Florence that she couldn't, in matters of culture, ever
get the better of Leonora. I don't know what Leonora knew or
what she didn't know, but certainly she was always there
whenever Florence brought out any information. And she gave,
somehow, the impression of really knowing what poor Florence
gave the impression of having only picked up. I can't exactly
define it. It was almost something physical. Have you ever seen a
retriever dashing in play after a greyhound? You see the two
running over a green field, almost side by side, and suddenly the
retriever makes a friendly snap at the other. And the greyhound
simply isn't there. You haven't observed it quicken its speed or
strain a limb; but there it is, just two yards in front of the
retriever's outstretched muzzle. So it was with Florence and
Leonora in matters of culture.

But on this occasion I knew that something was up. I found
Florence some days before, reading books like Ranke's History of
the Popes, Symonds' Renaissance, Motley's Rise of the Dutch
Republic and Luther's Table Talk.

I must say that, until the astonishment came, I got nothing but
pleasure out of the little expedition. I like catching the two-forty; I
like the slow, smooth roll of the great big trains--and they are the
best trains in the world! I like being drawn through the green
country and looking at it through the clear glass of the great
windows. Though, of course, the country isn't really green. The
sun shines, the earth is blood red and purple and red and green
and red. And the oxen in the ploughlands are bright varnished
brown and black and blackish purple; and the peasants are dressed
in the black and white of magpies; and there are great Rocks of
magpies too. Or the peasants' dresses in another field where there
are little mounds of hay that will be grey-green on the sunny side
and purple in the shadows--the peasants' dresses are vermilion
with emerald green ribbons and purple skirts and white shirts and
black velvet stomachers. Still, the impression is that you are
drawn through brilliant green meadows that run away on each side
to the dark purple fir-woods; the basalt pinnacles; the immense
forests. And there is meadowsweet at the edge of the streams, and
cattle. Why, I remember on that afternoon I saw a brown cow
hitch its horns under the stomach of a black and white animal and
the black and white one was thrown right into the middle of a
narrow stream. I burst out laughing. But Florence was imparting
information so hard and Leonora was listening so intently that no
one noticed me. As for me, I was pleased to be off duty; I was
pleased to think that Florence for the moment was indubitably out
of mischief--because she was talking about Ludwig the
Courageous (I think it was Ludwig the Courageous but I am not an
historian) about Ludwig the Courageous of Hessen who wanted to
have three wives at once and patronized Luther--something like
that!--I was so relieved to be off duty, because she couldn't
possibly be doing anything to excite herself or set her poor heart
a-fluttering--that the incident of the cow was a real joy to me. I
chuckled over it from time to time for the whole rest of the day.
Because it does look very funny, you know, to see a black and
white cow land on its back in the middle of a stream. It is so just
exactly what one doesn't expect of a cow.

I suppose I ought to have pitied the poor animal; but I just didn't. I
was out for enjoyment. And I just enjoyed myself. It is so pleasant
to be drawn along in front of the spectacular towns with the
peaked castles and the many double spires. In the sunlight gleams
come from the city--gleams from the glass of windows; from the
gilt signs of apothecaries; from the ensigns of the student corps
high up in the mountains; from the helmets of the funny little
soldiers moving their stiff little legs in white linen trousers. And it
was pleasant to get out in the great big spectacular Prussian station
with the hammered bronze ornaments and the paintings of
peasants and flowers and cows; and to hear Florence bargain
energetically with the driver of an ancient droschka drawn by two
lean horses. Of course, I spoke German much more correctly than
Florence, though I never could rid myself quite of the accent of
the Pennsylvania Duitsch of my childhood. Anyhow, we were
drawn in a sort of triumph, for five marks without any trinkgeld,
right up to the castle. And we were taken through the museum and
saw the fire-backs, the old glass, the old swords and the antique
contraptions. And we went up winding corkscrew staircases and
through the Rittersaal, the great painted hall where the Reformer
and his friends met for the first time under the protection of the
gentleman that had three wives at once and formed an alliance
with the gentleman that had six wives, one after the other (I'm not
really interested in these facts but they have a bearing on my
story). And we went through chapels, and music rooms, right up
immensely high in the air to a large old chamber, full of presses,
with heavily-shuttered windows all round. And Florence became
positively electric. She told the tired, bored custodian what
shutters to open; so that the bright sunlight streamed in palpable
shafts into the dim old chamber. She explained that this was
Luther's bedroom and that just where the sunlight fell had stood his
bed. As a matter of fact, I believe that she was wrong and that
Luther only stopped, as it were, for lunch, in order to evade
pursuit. But, no doubt, it would have been his bedroom if he could
have been persuaded to stop the night. And then, in spite of the
protest of the custodian, she threw open another shutter and came
tripping back to a large glass case.

"And there," she exclaimed with an accent of gaiety, of triumph,
and of audacity. She was pointing at a piece of paper, like the
half-sheet of a letter with some faint pencil scrawls that might
have been a jotting of the amounts we were spending during the
day. And I was extremely happy at her gaiety, in her triumph, in
her audacity. Captain Ashburnham had his hands upon the glass
case. "There it is--the Protest." And then, as we all properly
stage-managed our bewilderment, she continued: "Don't you know
that is why we were all called Protestants? That is the pencil draft
of the Protest they drew up. You can see the signatures of Martin
Luther, and Martin Bucer, and Zwingli, and Ludwig the
Courageous. . . ."

I may have got some of the names wrong, but I know that Luther
and Bucer were there. And her animation continued and I was
glad. She was better and she was out of mischief. She continued,
looking up into Captain Ashburnham's eyes: "It's because of that
piece of paper that you're honest, sober, industrious, provident,
and clean-lived. If it weren't for that piece of paper you'd be like
the Irish or the Italians or the Poles, but particularly the Irish. . . ."

And she laid one finger upon Captain Ashburnham' s wrist.

I was aware of something treacherous, something frightful,
something evil in the day. I can't define it and can't find a simile
for it. It wasn't as if a snake had looked out of a hole. No, it was as
if my heart had missed a beat. It was as if we were going to run
and cry out; all four of us in separate directions, averting our
heads. In Ashburnham's face I know that there was absolute panic.
I was horribly frightened and then I discovered that the pain in my
left wrist was caused by Leonora's clutching it:

"I can't stand this," she said with a most extraordinary passion; "I
must get out of this." I was horribly frightened. It came to me for
a moment, though I hadn't time to think it, that she must be a
madly jealous woman--jealous of Florence and Captain
Ashburnham, of all people in the world! And it was a panic in
which we fled! We went right down the winding stairs, across the
immense Rittersaal to a little terrace that overlooks the Lahn, the
broad valley and the immense plain into which it opens out.

"Don't you see?" she said, "don't you see what's going on?" The
panic again stopped my heart. I muttered, I stuttered--I don't know
how I got the words out:

"No! What's the matter? Whatever's the matter?"

She looked me straight in the eyes; and for a moment I had the
feeling that those two blue discs were immense, were
overwhelming, were like a wall of blue that shut me off from the
rest of the world. I know it sounds absurd; but that is what it did
feel like.

"Don't you see," she said, with a really horrible bitterness, with a
really horrible lamentation in her voice, "Don't you see that that's
the cause of the whole miserable affair; of the whole sorrow of the
world? And of the eternal damnation of you and me and them. . .

I don't remember how she went on; I was too frightened; I was too
amazed. I think I was thinking of running to fetch assistance--a
doctor, perhaps, or Captain Ashburnham. Or possibly she needed
Florence's tender care, though, of course, it would have been very
bad for Florence's heart. But I know that when I came out of it she
was saying: "Oh, where are all the bright, happy, innocent beings
in the world? Where's happiness? One reads of it in books!"

She ran her hand with a singular clawing motion upwards over her
forehead. Her eyes were enormously distended; her face was
exactly that of a person looking into the pit of hell and seeing
horrors there. And then suddenly she stopped. She was, most
amazingly, just Mrs Ashburnham again. Her face was perfectly
clear, sharp and defined; her hair was glorious in its golden coils.
Her nostrils twitched with a sort of contempt. She appeared to look
with interest at a gypsy caravan that was coming over a little
bridge far below us.

"Don't you know," she said, in her clear hard voice, "don't you
know that I'm an Irish Catholic?"

V THOSE words gave me the greatest relief that I have ever had in
my life. They told me, I think, almost more than I have ever
gathered at any one moment--about myself. I don't think that
before that day I had ever wanted anything very much except
Florence. I have, of course, had appetites, impatiences . . . Why,
sometimes at a table d'hôte, when there would be, say, caviare
handed round, I have been absolutely full of impatience for fear
that when the dish came to me there should not be a satisfying
portion left over by the other guests. I have been exceedingly
impatient at missing trains. The Belgian State Railway has a trick
of letting the French trains miss their connections at Brussels.
That has always infuriated me. I have written about it letters to
The Times that The Times never printed; those that I wrote to the
Paris edition of the New York Herald were always printed, but
they never seemed to satisfy me when I saw them. Well, that was
a sort of frenzy with me.

It was a frenzy that now I can hardly realize. I can understand it
intellectually. You see, in those days I was interested in people
with "hearts." There was Florence, there was Edward
Ashburnham--or, perhaps, it was Leonora that I was more
interested in. I don't mean in the way of love. But, you see, we
were both of the. same profession--at any rate as I saw it. And the
profession was that of keeping heart patients alive.

You have no idea how engrossing such a profession may become.
Just as the blacksmith says: "By hammer and hand all Art doth
stand," just as the baker thinks that all the solar system revolves
around his morning delivery of rolls, as the postmaster-general
believes that he alone is the preserver of society--and surely,
surely, these delusions are necessary to keep us going--so did I
and, as I believed, Leonora, imagine that the whole world ought to
be arranged so as to ensure the keeping alive of heart patients.
You have no idea how engrossing such a profession may
become--how imbecile, in view of that engrossment, appear the
ways of princes, of republics, of municipalities. A rough bit of
road beneath the motor tyres, a couple of succeeding
"thank'ee-marms" with their quick jolts would be enough to set me
grumbling to Leonora against the Prince or the Grand Duke or the
Free City through whose territory we might be passing. I would
grumble like a stockbroker whose conversations over the
telephone are incommoded by the ringing of bells from a city
church. I would talk about medieval survivals, about the taxes
being surely high enough. The point, by the way, about the
missing of the connections of the Calais boat trains at Brussels was
that the shortest possible sea journey is frequently of great
importance to sufferers from the heart. Now, on the Continent,
there are two special heart cure places, Nauheim and Spa, and to
reach both of these baths from England if in order to ensure a
short sea passage, you come by Calais--you have to make the
connection at Brussels. And the Belgian train never waits by so
much the shade of a second for the one coming from Calais or
from Paris. And even if the French train, are just on time, you
have to run--imagine a heart patient running! --along the
unfamiliar ways of the Brussels station and to scramble up the
high steps of the moving train. Or, if you miss connection, you
have to wait five or six hours. . . . I used to keep awake whole
nights cursing that abuse. My wife used to run--she never, in
whatever else she may have misled me, tried to give me the
impression that she was not a gallant soul. But, once in the
German Express, she would lean back, with one hand to her side
and her eyes closed. Well, she was a good actress. And I would be
in hell. In hell, I tell you. For in Florence I had at once a wife and
an unattained mistress--that is what it comes to--and in the
retaining of her in this world I had my occupation, my career, my
ambition. It is not often that these things are united in one body.
Leonora was a good actress too. By Jove she was good! I tell you,
she would listen to me by the hour, evolving my plans for a
shock-proof world. It is true that, at times, I used to notice about
her an air of inattention as if she were listening, a mother, to the
child at her knee, or as if, precisely, I were myself the patient.

You understand that there was nothing the matter with Edward
Ashburnham's heart--that he had thrown up his commission and
had left India and come half the world over in order to follow a
woman who had really had a "heart" to Nauheim. That was the
sort of sentimental ass he was. For, you understand, too, that they
really needed to live in India, to economize, to let the house at
Branshaw Teleragh.

Of course, at that date, I had never heard of the Kilsyte case.
Ashburnham had, you know, kissed a servant girl in a railway
train, and it was only the grace of God, the prompt functioning of
the communication cord and the ready sympathy of what I believe
you call the Hampshire Bench, that kept the poor devil out of
Winchester Gaol for years and years. I never heard of that case
until the final stages of Leonora's revelations. . . .

But just think of that poor wretch. . . . I, who have surely the right,
beg you to think of that poor wretch. Is it possible that such a
luckless devil should be so tormented by blind and inscrutable
destiny? For there is no other way to think of it. None. I have the
right to say it, since for years he was my wife's lover, since he
killed her, since he broke up all the pleasantnesses that there were
in my life. There is no priest that has the right to tell me that I
must not ask pity for him, from you, silent listener beyond the
hearth-stone, from the world, or from the God who created in him
those desires, those madnesses. . . .

Of course, I should not hear of the Kilsyte case. I knew none of
their friends; they were for me just good people--fortunate people
with broad and sunny acres in a southern county. Just good
people! By heavens, I sometimes think that it would have been
better for him, poor dear, if the case had been such a one that I
must needs have heard of it--such a one as maids and couriers and
other Kur guests whisper about for years after, until gradually it
dies away in the pity that there is knocking about here and there in
the world. Supposing he had spent his seven years in Winchester
Gaol or whatever it is that inscrutable and blind justice allots to
you for following your natural but ill-timed inclinations--there
would have arrived a stage when nodding gossips on the Kursaal
terrace would have said, "Poor fellow," thinking of his ruined
career. He would have been the fine soldier with his back now
bent. . . . Better for him, poor devil, if his back had been
prematurely bent.

Why, it would have been a thousand times better. . . . For, of
course, the Kilsyte case, which came at the very beginning of his
finding Leonora cold and unsympathetic, gave him a nasty jar. He
left servants alone after that.

It turned him, naturally, all the more loose amongst women of his
own class. Why, Leonora told me that Mrs Maidan--the woman he
followed from Burma to Nauheim--assured her he awakened her
attention by swearing that when he kissed the servant in the train
he was driven to it. I daresay he was driven to it, by the mad
passion to find an ultimately satisfying woman. I daresay he was
sincere enough. Heaven help me, I daresay he was sincere enough
in his love for Mrs Maidan. She was a nice little thing, a dear little
dark woman with long lashes, of whom Florence grew quite fond.
She had a lisp and a happy smile. We saw plenty of her for the
first month of our acquaintance, then she died, quite quietly--of
heart trouble.

But you know, poor little Mrs Maidan--she was so gentle, so
young. She cannot have been more than twenty-three and she had
a boy husband out in Chitral not more than twenty-four, I believe.
Such young things ought to have been left alone. Of course
Ashburnham could not leave her alone. I do not believe that he
could. Why, even I, at this distance of time am aware that I am a
little in love with her memory. I can't help smiling when I think
suddenly of her--as you might at the thought of something wrapped
carefully away in lavender, in some drawer, in some old house that
you have long left. She was so--so submissive. Why, even to me
she had the air of being submissive--to me that not the youngest
child will ever pay heed to. Yes, this is the saddest story . . .

No, I cannot help wishing that Florence had left her alone--with
her playing with adultery. I suppose it was; though she was such a
child that one has the impression that she would hardly have
known how to spell such a word. No, it was just
submissiveness--to the importunities, to the tempestuous forces
that pushed that miserable fellow on to ruin. And I do not suppose
that Florence really made much difference. If it had not been for
her that Ashburnham left his allegiance for Mrs Maidan, then it
would have been some other woman. But still, I do not know.
Perhaps the poor young thing would have died--she was bound to
die, anyhow, quite soon--but she would have died without having
to soak her noonday pillow with tears whilst Florence, below the
window, talked to Captain Ashburnham about the Constitution of
the United States. . . . Yes, it would have left a better taste in the
mouth if Florence had let her die in peace. . . .

Leonora behaved better in a sense. She just boxed Mrs Maidan's
ears--yes, she hit her, in an uncontrollable access of rage, a hard
blow on the side of the cheek, in the corridor of the hotel, outside
Edward's rooms. It was that, you know, that accounted for the
sudden, odd intimacy that sprang up between Florence and Mrs
Ashburnham. Because it was, of course, an odd intimacy. If you
look at it from the outside nothing could have been more unlikely
than that Leonora, who is the proudest creature on God's earth,
would have struck up an acquaintanceship with two casual
Yankees whom she could not really have regarded as being much
more than a carpet beneath her feet. You may ask what she had to
be proud of. Well, she was a Powys married to an Ashburnham--I
suppose that gave her the right to despise casual Americans as
long as she did it unostentatiously. I don't know what anyone has
to be proud of. She might have taken pride in her patience, in her
keeping her husband out of the bankruptcy court. Perhaps she did.

At any rate that was how Florence got to know her. She came
round a screen at the corner of the hotel corridor and found
Leonora with the gold key that hung from her wrist caught in Mrs
Maidan's hair just before dinner. There was not a single word
spoken. Little Mrs Maidan was very pale, with a red mark down
her left cheek, and the key would not come out of her black hair.
It was Florence who had to disentangle it, for Leonora was in such
a state that she could not have brought herself to touch Mrs
Maidan without growing sick.

And there was not a word spoken. You see, under those four
eyes--her own and Mrs Maidan's--Leonora could just let herself go
as far as to box Mrs Maidan's ears. But the moment a stranger
came along she pulled herself wonderfully up. She was at first
silent and then, the moment the key was disengaged by Florence
she was in a state to say: "So awkward of me . . . I was just trying
to put the comb straight in Mrs Maidan's hair. . . ."

Mrs Maidan, however, was not a Powys married to an
Ashburnham; she was a poor little O'Flaherty whose husband was
a boy of country parsonage origin. So there was no mistaking the
sob she let go as she went desolately away along the corridor. But
Leonora was still going to play up. She opened the door of
Ashburnham's room quite ostentatiously, so that Florence should
hear her address Edward in terms of intimacy and liking.
"Edward," she called. But there was no Edward there.

You understand that there was no Edward there. It was then, for
the only time of her career, that Leonora really compromised
herself--She exclaimed . . . "How frightful! . . . Poor little Maisie!
. . ."

She caught herself up at that, but of course it was too late. It was a
queer sort of affair. . . .

I want to do Leonora every justice. I love her very dearly for one
thing and in this matter, which was certainly the ruin of my small
household cockle-shell, she certainly tripped up. I do not
believe--and Leonora herself does not believe--that poor little
Maisie Maidan was ever Edward's mistress. Her heart was really
so bad that she would have succumbed to anything like an
impassioned embrace. That is the plain English of it, and I
suppose plain English is best. She was really what the other two,
for reasons of their own, just pretended to be. Queer, isn't it? Like
one of those sinister jokes that Providence plays upon one. Add to
this that I do not suppose that Leonora would much have minded,
at any other moment, if Mrs Maidan had been her husband's
mistress. It might have been a relief from Edward's sentimental
gurglings over the lady and from the lady's submissive acceptance
of those sounds. No, she would not have minded.

But, in boxing Mrs Maidan's ears, Leonora was just striking the
face of an intolerable universe. For, that afternoon she had had a
frightfully painful scene with Edward.

As far as his letters went, she claimed the right to open them when
she chose. She arrogated to herself the right because Edward's
affairs were in such a frightful state and he lied so about them that
she claimed the privilege of having his secrets at her disposal.
There was not, indeed, any other way, for the poor fool was too
ashamed of his lapses ever to make a clean breast of anything. She
had to drag these things out of him.

It must have been a pretty elevating job for her. But that afternoon,
Edward being on his bed for the hour and a half prescribed by the
Kur authorities, she had opened a letter that she took to come
from a Colonel Hervey. They were going to stay with him in
Linlithgowshire for the month of September and she did not know
whether the date fixed would be the eleventh or the eighteenth.
The address on this letter was, in handwriting, as like Colonel
Hervey's as one blade of corn is like another. So she had at the
moment no idea of spying on him.

But she certainly was. For she discovered that Edward
Ashburnham was paying a blackmailer of whom she had never
heard something like three hundred pounds a year . . . It was a
devil of a blow; it was like death; for she imagined that by that
time she had really got to the bottom of her husband's liabilities.
You see, they were pretty heavy. What had really smashed them
up had been a perfectly common-place affair at Monte Carlo--an
affair with a cosmopolitan harpy who passed for the mistress of a
Russian Grand Duke. She exacted a twenty thousand pound pearl
tiara from him as the price of her favours for a week or so. It
would have pipped him a good deal to have found so much, and
he was not in the ordinary way a gambler. He might, indeed, just
have found the twenty thousand and the not slight charges of a
week at an hotel with the fair creature. He must have been worth
at that date five hundred thousand dollars and a little over. Well,
he must needs go to the tables and lose forty thousand pounds. . . .
Forty thousand solid pounds, borrowed from sharks! And even
after that he must--it was an imperative passion--enjoy the favours
of the lady. He got them, of course, when it was a matter of solid
bargaining, for far less than twenty thousand, as he might, no
doubt, have done from the first. I daresay ten thousand dollars
covered the bill. Anyhow, there was a pretty solid hole in a
fortune of a hundred thousand pounds or so. And Leonora had to
fix things up; he would have run from money-lender to
money-lender. And that was quite in the early days of her
discovery of his infidelities--if you like to call them infidelities.
And she discovered that one from public sources. God knows
what would have happened if she had not discovered it from
public sources. I suppose he would have concealed it from her
until they were penniless. But she was able, by the grace of God,
to get hold of the actual lenders of the money, to learn the exact
sums that were needed. And she went off to England.

Yes, she went right off to England to her attorney and his while he
was still in the arms of his Circe--at Antibes, to which place they
had retired. He got sick of the lady quite quickly, but not before
Leonora had had such lessons in the art of business from her
attorney that she had her plan as clearly drawn up as was ever that
of General Trochu for keeping the Prussians out of Paris in 1870.
It was about as effectual at first, or it seemed so.

That would have been, you know, in 1895, about nine years before
the date of which I am talking--the date of Florence's getting her
hold over Leonora; for that was what it amounted to. . . . Well,
Mrs Ashburnham had simply forced Edward to settle all his
property upon her. She could force him to do anything; in his
clumsy, good-natured, inarticulate way he was as frightened of her
as of the devil. And he admired her enormously, and he was as
fond of her as any man could be of any woman. She took
advantage of it to treat him as if he had been a person whose
estates are being managed by the Court of Bankruptcy. I suppose
it was the best thing for him.

Anyhow, she had no end of a job for the first three years or so.
Unexpected liabilities kept on cropping up--and that afflicted fool
did not make it any easier. You see, along with the passion of the
chase went a frame of mind that made him be extraordinarily
ashamed of himself. You may not believe it, but he really had
such a sort of respect for the chastity of Leonora's imagination that
he hated--he was positively revolted at the thought that she should
know that the sort of thing that he did existed in the world. So he
would stick out in an agitated way against the accusation of ever
having done anything. He wanted to preserve the virginity of his
wife's thoughts. He told me that himself during the long walks we
had at the last--while the girl was on the way to Brindisi.

So, of course, for those three years or so, Leonora had many
agitations. And it was then that they really quarrelled.

Yes, they quarrelled bitterly. That seems rather extravagant. You
might have thought that Leonora would be just calmly loathing
and he lachrymosely contrite. But that was not it a bit . . . Along
with Edward's passions and his shame for them went the violent
conviction of the duties of his station--a conviction that was quite
unreasonably expensive. I trust I have not, in talking of his
liabilities, given the impression that poor Edward was a
promiscuous libertine. He was not; he was a sentimentalist. The
servant girl in the Kilsyte case had been pretty, but mournful of
appearance. I think that, when he had kissed her, he had desired
rather to comfort her. And, if she had succumbed to his
blandishments I daresay he would have set her up in a little house
in Portsmouth or Winchester and would have been faithful to her
for four or five years. He was quite capable of that.

No, the only two of his affairs of the heart that cost him money
were that of the Grand Duke's mistress and that which was the
subject of the blackmailing letter that Leonora opened. That had
been a quite passionate affair with quite a nice woman. It had
succeeded the one with the Grand Ducal lady. The lady was the
wife of a brother officer and Leonora had known all about the
passion, which had been quite a real passion and had lasted for
several years. You see, poor Edward's passions were quite logical
in their progression upwards. They began with a servant, went on
to a courtesan and then to a quite nice woman, very unsuitably
mated. For she had a quite nasty husband who, by means of letters
and things, went on blackmailing poor Edward to the tune of three
or four hundred a year--with threats of the Divorce Court. And
after this lady came Maisie Maidan, and after poor Maisie only
one more affair and then--the real passion of his life. His marriage
with Leonora had been arranged by his parents and, though he
always admired her immensely, he had hardly ever pretended to
be much more than tender to her, though he desperately needed
her moral support, too. . . .

But his really trying liabilities were mostly in the nature of
generosities proper to his station. He was, according to Leonora,
always remitting his tenants' rents and giving the tenants to
understand that the reduction would be permanent; he was always
redeeming drunkards who came before his magisterial bench; he
was always trying to put prostitutes into respectable places--and
he was a perfect maniac about children. I don't know how many
ill-used people he did not pick up and provide with
careers--Leonora has told me, but I daresay she exaggerated and
the figure seems so preposterous that I will not put it down. All
these things, and the continuance of them seemed to him to be his
duty--along with impossible subscriptions to hospitals and Boy
Scouts and to provide prizes at cattle shows and antivivisection
societies. . . .

Well, Leonora saw to it that most of these things were not
continued. They could not possibly keep up Branshaw Manor at
that rate after the money had gone to the Grand Duke's mistress.
She put the rents back at their old figures; discharged the
drunkards from their homes, and sent all the societies notice that
they were to expect no more subscriptions. To the children, she
was more tender; nearly all of them she supported till the age of
apprenticeship or domestic service. You see, she was childless

She was childless herself, and she considered herself to be to
blame. She had come of a penniless branch of the Powys family,
and they had forced upon her poor dear Edward without making
the stipulation that the children should be brought up as Catholics.
And that, of course, was spiritual death to Leonora. I have given
you a wrong impression if I have not made you see that Leonora
was a woman of a strong, cold conscience, like all English
Catholics. (I cannot, myself, help disliking this religion; there is
always, at the bottom of my mind, in spite of Leonora, the feeling
of shuddering at the Scarlet Woman, that filtered in upon me in
the tranquility of the little old Friends' Meeting House in Arch
Street, Philadelphia.) So I do set down a good deal of Leonora's
mismanagement of poor dear Edward's case to the peculiarly
English form of her religion. Because, of course, the only thing to
have done for Edward would have been to let him sink down until
he became a tramp of gentlemanly address, having, maybe,
chance love affairs upon the highways. He would have done so
much less harm; he would have been much less agonized too. At
any rate, he would have had fewer chances of ruining and of
remorse. For Edward was great at remorse. But Leonora's English
Catholic conscience, her rigid principles, her coldness, even her
very patience, were, I cannot help thinking, all wrong in this
special case. She quite seriously and naïvely imagined that the
Church of Rome disapproves of divorce; she quite seriously and
naïvely believed that her church could be such a monstrous and
imbecile institution as to expect her to take on the impossible job
of making Edward Ashburnham a faithful husband. She had, as
the English would say, the Nonconformist temperament. In the
United States of North America we call it the New England
conscience. For, of course, that frame of mind has been driven in
on the English Catholics. The centuries that they have gone
through--centuries of blind and malignant oppression, of
ostracism from public employment, of being, as it were, a small
beleagured garrison in a hostile country, and therefore having to
act with great formality--all these things have combined to
perform that conjuring trick. And I suppose that Papists in England
are even technically Nonconformists.

Continental Papists are a dirty, jovial and unscrupulous crew. But
that, at least, lets them be opportunists. They would have fixed
poor dear Edward up all right. (Forgive my writing of these
monstrous things in this frivolous manner. If I did not I should
break down and cry.) In Milan, say, or in Paris, Leonora would
have had her marriage dissolved in six months for two hundred
dollars paid in the right quarter. And Edward would have drifted
about until he became a tramp of the kind I have suggested. Or he
would have married a barmaid who would have made him such
frightful scenes in public places and would so have torn out his
moustache and left visible signs upon his face that he would have
been faithful to her for the rest of his days. That was what he
wanted to redeem him. . . .

For, along with his passions and his shames there went the dread
of scenes in public places, of outcry, of excited physical violence;
of publicity, in short. Yes, the barmaid would have cured him.
And it would have been all the better if she drank; he would have
been kept busy looking after her.

I know that I am right in this. I know it because of the Kilsyte case.
You see, the servant girl that he then kissed was nurse in the
family of the Nonconformist head of the county--whatever that
post may be called. And that gentleman was so determined to ruin
Edward, who was the chairman of the Tory caucus, or whatever it
is--that the poor dear sufferer had the very devil of a time. They
asked questions about it in the House of Commons; they tried to
get the Hampshire magistrates degraded; they suggested to the War
Ministry that Edward was not the proper person to hold the King's
commission. Yes, he got it hot and strong.

The result you have heard. He was completely cured of
philandering amongst the lower classes. And that seemed a real
blessing to Leonora. It did not revolt her so much to be
connected--it is a sort of connection--with people like Mrs
Maidan, instead of with a little kitchenmaid.

In a dim sort of way, Leonora was almost contented when she
arrived at Nauheim, that evening. . . .

She had got things nearly straight by the long years of scraping in
little stations in Chitral and Burma--stations where living is cheap
in comparison with the life of a county magnate, and where,
moreover, liaisons of one sort or another are normal and
inexpensive too. So that, when Mrs Maidan came along--and the
Maidan affair might have caused trouble out there because of the
youth of the husband--Leonora had just resigned herself to coming
home. With pushing and scraping and with letting Branshaw
Teleragh, and with selling a picture and a relic of Charles I or so.
had got--and, poor dear, she had never had a really decent dress to
her back in all those years and years--she had got, as she
imagined, her poor dear husband back into much the same
financial position as had been his before the mistress of the Grand
Duke had happened along. And, of course, Edward himself had
helped her a little on the financial side. He was a fellow that many
men liked. He was so presentable and quite ready to lend you his
cigar puncher--that sort of thing. So, every now and then some
financier whom he met about would give him a good, sound,
profitable tip. And Leonora was never afraid of a bit of a
gamble--English Papists seldom are, I do not know why.

So nearly all her investment turned up trumps, and Edward was
really in fit case to reopen Branshaw Manor and once more to
assume his position in the county. Thus Leonora had accepted
Maisie Maidan almost with resignation--almost with a sigh of
relief. She really liked the poor child--she had to like somebody.
And, at any rate, she felt she could trust Maisie--she could trust
her not to rook Edward for several thousands a week, for Maisie
had refused to accept so much as a trinket ring from him. It is true
that Edward gurgled and raved about the girl in a way that she had
never yet experienced. But that, too, was almost a relief. I think
she would really have welcomed it if he could have come across
the love of his life. It would have given her a rest.

And there could not have been anyone better than poor little Mrs
Maidan; she was so ill she could not want to be taken on
expensive jaunts. . . . It was Leonora herself who paid Maisie's
expenses to Nauheim. She handed over the money to the boy
husband, for Maisie would never have allowed it; but the husband
was in agonies of fear. Poor devil!

I fancy that, on the voyage from India, Leonora was as happy as
ever she had been in her life. Edward was wrapped up,
completely, in his girl--he was almost like a father with a child,
trotting about with rugs and physic and things, from deck to deck.
He behaved, however, with great circumspection, so that nothing
leaked through to the other passengers. And Leonora had almost
attained to the attitude of a mother towards Mrs Maidan. So it had
looked very well--the benevolent, wealthy couple of good people,
acting as saviours to the poor, dark-eyed, dying young thing. And
that attitude of Leonora's towards Mrs Maidan no doubt partly
accounted for the smack in the face. She was hitting a naughty
child who had been stealing chocolates at an inopportune
moment. It was certainly an inopportune moment. For, with the
opening of that blackmailing letter from that injured brother
officer, all the old terrors had redescended upon Leonora. Her
road had again seemed to stretch out endless; she imagined that
there might be hundreds and hundreds of such things that Edward
was concealing from her--that they might necessitate more
mortgagings, more pawnings of bracelets, more and always more
horrors. She had spent an excruciating afternoon. The matter was
one of a divorce case, of course, and she wanted to avoid publicity
as much as Edward did, so that she saw the necessity of
continuing the payments. And she did not so much mind that.
They could find three hundred a year. But it was the horror of
there being more such obligations.

She had had no conversation with Edward for many years--none
that went beyond the mere arrangements for taking trains or
engaging servants. But that afternoon she had to let him have it.
And he had been just the same as ever. It was like opening a book
after a decade to find the words the same. He had the same
motives. He had not wished to tell her about the case because he
had not wished her to sully her mind with the idea that there was
such a thing as a brother officer who could be a blackmailer--and
he had wanted to protect the credit of his old light of love. That
lady was certainly not concerned with her husband. And he swore,
and swore, and swore, that there was nothing else in the world
against him. She did not believe him.

He had done it once too often--and she was wrong for the first
time, so that he acted a rather creditable part in the matter. For he
went right straight out to the post-office and spent several hours in
coding a telegram to his solicitor, bidding that hard-headed man
to threaten to take out at once a warrant against the fellow who
was on his track. He said afterwards that it was a bit too thick on
poor old Leonora to be ballyragged any more. That was really the
last of his outstanding accounts, and he was ready to take his
personal chance of the Divorce Court if the blackmailer turned
nasty. He would face it out--the publicity, the papers, the whole
bally show. Those were his simple words. . . .

He had made, however, the mistake of not telling Leonora where
he was going, so that, having seen him go to his room to fetch the
code for the telegram, and seeing, two hours later, Maisie Maidan
come out of his room, Leonora imagined that the two hours she
had spent in silent agony Edward had spent with Maisie Maidan
in his arms. That seemed to her to be too much. As a matter of
fact, Maisie's being in Edward's room had been the result, partly
of poverty, partly of pride, partly of sheer innocence. She could
not, in the first place, afford a maid; she refrained as much as
possible from sending the hotel servants on errands, since every
penny was of importance to her, and she feared to have to pay
high tips at the end of her stay. Edward had lent her one of his
fascinating cases contaiing fifteen different sizes of scisssors, and,
having seen from her window, his departure for the post-office,
she had taken the opportunity of returning the case. She could not
see why she should not, though she felt a certain remorse at the
thought that she had kissed the pillows of his bed. That was the
way it took her.

But Leonora could see that, without the shadow of a doubt, the
incident gave Florence a hold over her. It let Florence into things
and Florence was the only created being who had any idea that the
Ashburnhams were not just good people with nothing to their
tails. She determined at once, not so much to give Florence the
privilege of her intimacy--which would have been the payment of
a kind of blackmail--as to keep Florence under observation until
she could have demonstrated to Florence that she was not in the
least jealous of poor Maisie. So that was why she had entered the
dining-room arm in arm with my wife, and why she had so
markedly planted herself at our table. She never left us, indeed,
for a minute that night, except just to run up to Mrs Maidan's
room to beg her pardon and to beg her also to let Edward take her
very markedly out into the gardens that night. She said herself,
when Mrs Maidan came rather wistfully down into the lounge
where we were all sitting: "Now, Edward, get up and take Maisie
to the Casino. I want Mrs Dowell to tell me all about the families
in Connecticut who came from Fordingbridge." For it had been
discovered that Florence came of a line that had actually owned
Branshaw Teleragh for two centuries before the Ashburnhams
came there. And there she sat with me in that hall, long after
Florence had gone to bed, so that I might witness her gay reception
of that pair. She could play up.

And that enables me to fix exactly the day of our going to the town
of M----. For it was the very day poor Mrs Maidan died. We found
her dead when we got back--pretty awful, that, when you come to
figure out what it all means. . . .

At any rate the measure of my relief when Leonora said that she
was an Irish Catholic gives you the measure of my affection for
that couple. It was an affection so intense that even to this day I
cannot think of Edward without sighing. I do not believe that I
could have gone on any more with them. I was getting too tired.
And I verily believe, too, if my suspicion that Leonora was jealous
of Florence had been the reason she gave for her outburst I should
have turned upon Florence with the maddest kind of rage.
Jealousy would have been incurable. But Florence's mere silly
jibes at the Irish and at the Catholics could be apologized out of
existence. And that I appeared to fix up in two minutes or so.

She looked at me for a long time rather fixedly and queerly while I
was doing it. And at last I worked myself up to saying:

"Do accept the situation. I confess that I do not like your religion.
But I like you so intensely. I don't mind saying that I have never
had anyone to be really fond of, and I do not believe that anyone
has ever been fond of me, as I believe you really to be."

"Oh, I'm fond enough of you," she said. "Fond enough to say that I
wish every man was like you. But there are others to be
considered." She was thinking, as a matter of fact, of poor Maisie.
She picked a little piece of pellitory out of the breast-high wall in
front of us. She chafed it for a long minute between her finger and
thumb, then she threw it over the coping.

"Oh, I accept the situation," she said at last, "if you can."

VI I REMEMBER laughing at the phrase, "accept the situation",
which she seemed to repeat with a gravity too intense. I said to her
something like:

"It's hardly as much as that. I mean, that I must claim the liberty of
a free American citizen to think what I please about your
co-religionists. And I suppose that Florence must have liberty to
think what she pleases and to say what politeness allows her to

"She had better," Leonora answered, "not say one single word
against my people or my faith." It struck me at the time, that there
was an unusual, an almost threatening, hardness in her voice. It
was almost as if she were trying to convey to Florence, through
me, that she would seriously harm my wife if Florence went to
something that was an extreme. Yes, I remember thinking at the
time that it was almost as if Leonora were saying, through me to

"You may outrage me as you will; you may take all that I
personally possess, but do not you care to say one single thing in
view of the situation that that will set up--against the faith that
makes me become the doormat for your feet."

But obviously, as I saw it, that could not be her meaning. Good
people, be they ever so diverse in creed, do not threaten each
other. So that I read Leonora's words to mean just no more than:
"It would be better if Florence said nothing at all against my
co-religionists, because it is a point that I am touchy about."

That was the hint that, accordingly, I conveyed to Florence when,
shortly afterwards, she and Edward came down from the tower.
And I want you to understand that, from that moment until after
Edward and the girl and Florence were all dead together, I had
never the remotest glimpse, not the shadow of a suspicion, that
there was anything wrong, as the saying is. For five minutes, then,
I entertained the possibility that Leonora might be jealous; but
there was never another flicker in that flame-like personality. How
in the world should I get it?

For, all that time, I was just a male sick nurse. And what chance
had I against those three hardened gamblers, who were all in
league to conceal their hands from me? What earthly chance?
They were three to one--and they made me happy. Oh God, they
made me so happy that I doubt if even paradise, that shall smooth
out all temporal wrongs, shall ever give me the like. And what
could they have done better, or what could they have done that
could have been worse? I don't know. . . .

I suppose that, during all that time I was a deceived husband and
that Leonora was pimping for Edward. That was the cross that she
had to take up during her long Calvary of a life. . . .

You ask how it feels to be a deceived husband. Just Heavens, I do
not know. It feels just nothing at all. It is not Hell, certainly it is
not necessarily Heaven. So I suppose it is the intermediate stage.
What do they call it? Limbo. No, I feel nothing at all about that.
They are dead; they have gone before their Judge who, I hope,
will open to them the springs of His compassion. It is not my
business to think about it. It is simply my business to say, as
Leonora's people say: "Requiem aeternam dona eis, Do mine, et
lux perpetua luceat eis. In memoria aeterna erit. . . ." But what
were they? The just? The unjust? God knows! I think that the pair
of them were only poor wretches, creeping over this earth in the
shadow of an eternal wrath. It is very terrible. . . .

It is almost too terrible, the picture of that judgement, as it appears
to me sometimes, at nights. It is probably the suggestion of some
picture that I have seen somewhere. But upon an immense plain,
suspended in mid-air, I seem to see three figures, two of them
clasped close in an intense embrace, and one intolerably solitary.
lt is in black and white, my picture of that judgement, an etching,
perhaps; only I cannot tell an etching from a photographic
reproduction. And the immense plain is the hand of God,
stretching out for miles and miles, with great spaces above it and
below it. And they are in the sight of God, and it is Florence that
is alone. . . . And, do you know, at the thought of that intense
solitude I feel an overwhelming desire to rush forward and
comfort her. You cannot, you see, have acted as nurse to a person
for twelve years without wishing to go on nursing them, even
though you hate them with the hatred of the adder, and even in the
palm of God. But, in the nights, with that vision of judgement
before me, I know that I hold myself back. For I hate Florence. I
hate Florence with such a hatred that I would not spare her an
eternity of loneliness. She need not have done what she did. She
was an American, a New Englander. She had not the hot passions
of these Europeans. She cut out that poor imbecile of an
Edward--and I pray God that he is really at peace, clasped close in
the arms of that poor, poor girl! And, no doubt, Maisie Maidan
will find her young husband again, and Leonora will burn, clear
and serene, a northern light and one of the archangels of God. And
me. . . . Well, perhaps, they will find me an elevator to run. . . .
But Florence. . . .

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