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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

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She should not have done it. She should not have done it. It was
playing it too low down. She cut out poor dear Edward from sheer
vanity; she meddled between him and Leonora from a sheer,
imbecile spirit of district visiting. Do you understand that, whilst
she was Edward's mistress, she was perpetually trying to reunite
him to his wife? She would gabble on to Leonora about
forgiveness--treating the subject from the bright, American point
of view. And Leonora would treat her like the whore she was.
Once she said to Florence in the early morning:

"You come to me straight out of his bed to tell me that that is my
proper place. I know it, thank you."

But even that could not stop Florence. She went on saying that it
was her ambition to leave this world a little brighter by the
passage of her brief life, and how thankfully she would leave
Edward, whom she thought she had brought to a right frame of
mind, if Leonora would only give him a chance. He needed, she
said, tenderness beyond anything.

And Leonora would answer--for she put up with this outrage for
years--Leonora, as I understand, would answer something like:

"Yes, you would give him up. And you would go on writing to
each other in secret, and committing adultery in hired rooms. I
know the pair of you, you know. No. I prefer the situation as it is."
Half the time Florence would ignore Leonora's remarks. She would
think they were not quite ladylike. The other half of the time she
would try to persuade Leonora that her love for Edward was quite
spiritual--on account of her heart. Once she said:

"If you can believe that of Maisie Maidan, as you say you do, why
cannot you believe it of me?" Leonora was, I understand, doing
her hair at that time in front of the mirror in her bedroom. And she
looked round at Florence, to whom she did not usually vouchsafe
a glance,--she looked round coolly and calmly, and said:

"Never do you dare to mention Mrs Maidan's name again. You
murdered her. You and I murdered her between us. I am as much
a scoundrel as you. I don't like to be reminded of it."

Florence went off at once into a babble of how could she have hurt
a person whom she hardly knew, a person whom with the best
intentions, in pursuance of her efforts to leave the world a little
brighter, she had tried to save from Edward. That was how she
figured it out to herself. She really thought that. . . . So Leonora
said patiently:

"Very well, just put it that I killed her and that it's a painful
subject. One does not like to think that one had killed someone.
Naturally not. I ought never to have brought her from India." And
that, indeed, is exactly how Leonora looked at it. It is stated a little
baldly, but Leonora was always a great one for bald statements.

What had happened on the day of our jaunt to the ancient city of
M---- had been this:

Leonora, who had been even then filled with pity and contrition for
the poor child, on returning to our hotel had gone straight to Mrs
Maidan's room. She had wanted just to pet her. And she had
perceived at first only, on the clear, round table covered with red
velvet, a letter addressed to her. It ran something like:

"Oh, Mrs Ashburnham, how could you have done it? I trusted you
so. You never talked to me about me and Edward, but I trusted
you. How could you buy me from my husband? I have just heard
how you have--in the hall they were talking about it, Edward and
the American lady. You paid the money for me to come here. Oh,
how could you? How could you? I am going straight back to
Bunny. . . ." Bunny was Mrs Maidan's husband.

And Leonora said that, as she went on reading the letter, she had,
without looking round her, a sense that that hotel room was
cleared, that there were no papers on the table, that there were no
clothes on the hooks, and that there was a strained silence--a
silence, she said, as if there were something in the room that
drank up such sounds as there were. She had to fight against that
feeling, whilst she read the postscript of the letter.

"I did not know you wanted me for an adulteress," the postscript
began. The poor child was hardly literate. "It was surely not right
of you and I never wanted to be one. And I heard Edward call me
a poor little rat to the American lady. He always called me a little
rat in private, and I did not mind. But, if he called me it to her, I
think he does not love me any more. Oh, Mrs Ashburnham, you
knew the world and I knew nothing. I thought it would be all right
if you thought it could, and I thought you would not have brought
me if you did not, too. You should not have done it, and we out of
the same convent. . . ."

Leonora said that she screamed when she read that.

And then she saw that Maisie's boxes were all packed, and she
began a search for Mrs Maidan herself--all over the hotel. The
manager said that Mrs Maidan had paid her bill, and had gone up
to the station to ask the Reiseverkehrsbureau to make her out a
plan for her immediate return to Chitral. He imagined that he had
seen her come back, but he was not quite certain. No one in the
large hotel had bothered his head about the child. And she,
wandering solitarily in the hall, had no doubt sat down beside a
screen that had Edward and Florence on the other side. I never
heard then or after what had passed between that precious couple.
I fancy Florence was just about beginning her cutting out of poor
dear Edward by addressing to him some words of friendly
warning as to the ravages he might be making in the girl's heart.
That would be the sort of way she would begin. And Edward
would have sentimentally assured her that there was nothing in it;
that Maisie was just a poor little rat whose passage to Nauheim
his wife had paid out of her own pocket. That would have been
enough to do the trick.

For the trick was pretty efficiently done. Leonora, with panic
growing and with contrition very large in her heart, visited every
one of the public rooms of the hotel--the dining-room, the lounge,
the schreibzimmer, the winter garden. God knows what they
wanted with a winter garden in an hotel that is only open from
May till October. But there it was. And then Leonora ran--yes, she
ran up the stairs--to see if Maisie had not returned to her rooms.
She had determined to take that child right away from that hideous
place. It seemed to her to be all unspeakable. I do not mean to say
that she was not quite cool about it. Leonora was always Leonora.
But the cold justice of the thing demanded that she should play
the part of mother to this child who had come from the same
convent. She figured it out to amount to that. She would leave
Edward to Florence and to me--and she would devote all her time
to providing that child with an atmosphere of love until she could
be returned to her poor young husband. It was naturally too late.

She had not cared to look round Maisie's rooms at first. Now, as
soon as she came in, she perceived, sticking out beyond the bed, a
small pair of feet in high-heeled shoes. Maisie had died in the
effort to strap up a great portmanteau. She had died so grotesquely
that her little body had fallen forward into the trunk, and it had
closed upon her, like the jaws of a gigantic alligator. The key was
in her hand. Her dark hair, like the hair of a Japanese, had come
down and covered her body and her face.

Leonora lifted her up--she was the merest featherweight--and laid
her on the bed with her hair about her. She was smiling, as if she
had just scored a goal in a hockey match. You understand she had
not committed suicide. Her heart had just stopped. I saw her, with
the long lashes on the cheeks, with the smile about the lips, with
the flowers all about her. The stem of a white lily rested in her
hand so that the spike of flowers was upon her shoulder. She
looked like a bride in the sunlight of the mortuary candles that
were all about her, and the white coifs of the two nuns that knelt at
her feet with their faces hidden might have been two swans that
were to bear her away to kissing-kindness land, or wherever it is.
Leonora showed her to me. She would not let either of the others
see her. She wanted, you know, to spare poor dear Edward's
feelings. He never could bear the sight of a corpse. And, since she
never gave him an idea that Maisie had written to her, he
imagined that the death had been the most natural thing in the
world. He soon got over it. Indeed, it was the one affair of his
about which he never felt much remorse.



THE death of Mrs Maidan occurred on the 4th of August, 1904.
And then nothing happened until the 4th of August, 1913. There is
the curious coincidence of dates, but I do not know whether that is
one of those sinister, as if half jocular and altogether merciless
proceedings on the part of a cruel Providence that we call a
coincidence. Because it may just as well have been the
superstitious mind of Florence that forced her to certain acts, as if
she had been hypnotized. It is, however, certain that the 4th of
August always proved a significant date for her. To begin with,
she was born on the 4th of August. Then, on that date, in the year
1899, she set out with her uncle for the tour round the world in
company with a young man called Jimmy. But that was not
merely a coincidence. Her kindly old uncle, with the supposedly
damaged heart, was in his delicate way, offering her, in this trip, a
birthday present to celebrate her coming of age. Then, on the 4th
of August, 1900, she yielded to an action that certainly coloured
her whole life--as well as mine. She had no luck. She was probably
offering herself a birthday present that morning. . . . On the 4th of
August, 1901, she married me, and set sail for Europe in a great
gale of wind--the gale that affected her heart. And no doubt there,
again, she was offering herself a birthday gift--the birthday gift of
my miserable life. It occurs to me that I have never told you
anything about my marriage. That was like this: I have told you, as
I think, that I first met Florence at the Stuyvesants', in Fourteenth
Street. And, from that moment, I determined with all the
obstinacy of a possibly weak nature, if not to make her mine, at
least to marry her. I had no occupation--I had no business affairs. I
simply camped down there in Stamford, in a vile hotel, and just
passed my days in the house, or on the verandah of the Misses
Hurlbird. The Misses Hurlbird, in an odd, obstinate way, did not
like my presence. But they were hampered by the national
manners of these occasions. Florence had her own sitting-room.
She could ask to it whom she liked, and I simply walked into that
apartment. I was as timid as you will, but in that matter I was like
a chicken that is determined to get across the road in front of an
automobile. I would walk into Florence's pretty, little,
old-fashioned room, take off my hat, and sit down.

Florence had, of course, several other fellows, too--strapping
young New Englanders, who worked during the day in New York
and spent only the evenings in the village of their birth. And, in
the evenings, they would march in on Florence with almost as
much determination as I myself showed. And I am bound to say
that they were received with as much disfavour as was my
portion--from the Misses Hurlbird. . . .

They were curious old creatures, those two. It was almost as if they
were members of an ancient family under some curse--they were
so gentlewomanly, so proper, and they sighed so. Sometimes I
would see tears in their eyes. I do not know that my courtship of
Florence made much progress at first. Perhaps that was because it
took place almost entirely during the daytime, on hot afternoons,
when the clouds of dust hung like fog, right up as high as the tops
of the thin-leaved elms. The night, I believe, is the proper season
for the gentle feats of love, not a Connecticut July afternoon, when
any sort of proximity is an almost appalling thought. But, if I never
so much as kissed Florence, she let me discover very easily, in the
course of a fortnight, her simple wants. And I could supply those
wants. . . .

She wanted to marry a gentleman of leisure; she wanted a
European establishment. She wanted her husband to have an
English accent, an income of fifty thousand dollars a year from
real estate and no ambitions to increase that income. And--she
faintly hinted--she did not want much physical passion in the
affair. Americans, you know, can envisage such unions without

She gave cut this information in floods of bright talk--she would
pop a little bit of it into comments over a view of the Rialto,
Venice, and, whilst she was brightly describing Balmoral Castle,
she would say that her ideal husband would he one who could get
her received at the British Court. She had spent, it seemed, two
months in Great Britain--seven weeks in touring from Stratford to
Strathpeffer, and one as paying guest in an old English family near
Ledbury, an impoverished, but still stately family, called
Bagshawe. They were to have spent two months more in that
tranquil bosom, but inopportune events, apparently in her uncle's
business, had caused their rather hurried return to Stamford. The
young man called Jimmy had remained in Europe to perfect his
knowledge of that continent. He certainly did: he was most useful
to us afterwards.

But the point that came out--that there was no mistaking--was that
Florence was coldly and calmly determined to take no look at any
man who could not give her a European settlement. Her glimpse
of English home life had effected this. She meant, on her
marriage, to have a year in Paris, and then to have her husband
buy some real estate in the neighbourhood of Fordingbridge, from
which place the Hurlbirds had come in the year 1688. On the
strength of that she was going to take her place in the ranks of
English county society. That was fixed.

I used to feel mightily elevated when I considered these details, for
I could not figure out that amongst her acquaintances in Stamford
there was any fellow that would fill the bill. The most of them
were not as wealthy as I, and those that were were not the type to
give up the fascinations of Wall Street even for the protracted
companionship of Florence. But nothing really happened during
the month of July. On the 1st of August Florence apparently told
her aunts that she intended to marry me.

She had not told me so, but there was no doubt about the aunts,
for, on that afternoon, Miss Florence Hurlbird, Senior, stopped me
on my way to Florence's sitting-room and took me, agitatedly, into
the parlour. It was a singular interview, in that old-fashioned
colonial room, with the spindle-legged furniture, the silhouettes,
the miniatures, the portrait of General Braddock, and the smell of
lavender. You see, the two poor maiden ladies were in
agonies--and they could not say one single thing direct. They
would almost wring their hands and ask if I had considered such a
thing as different temperaments. I assure you they were almost
affectionate, concerned for me even, as if Florence were too
bright for my solid and serious virtues.

For they had discovered in me solid and serious virtues. That
might have been because I had once dropped the remark that I
preferred General Braddock to General Washington. For the
Hurlbirds had backed the losing side in the War of Independence,
and had been seriously impoverished and quite efficiently
oppressed for that reason. The Misses Hurlbird could never forget

Nevertheless they shuddered at the thought of a European career
for myself and Florence. Each of them really wailed when they
heard that that was what I hoped to give their niece. That may
have been partly because they regarded Europe as a sink of
iniquity, where strange laxities prevailed. They thought the
Mother Country as Erastian as any other. And they carried their
protests to extraordinary lengths, for them. . . .

They even, almost, said that marriage was a sacrament; but neither
Miss Florence nor Miss Emily could quite bring herself to utter
the word. And they almost brought themselves to say that
Florence's early life had been characterized by
flirtations--something of that sort.

I know I ended the interview by saying:

"I don't care. If Florence has robbed a bank I am going to marry her
and take her to Europe." And at that Miss Emily wailed and
fainted. But Miss Florence, in spite of the state of her sister, threw
herself on my neck and cried out: "Don't do it, John. Don't do it.
You're a good young man," and she added, whilst I was getting out
of the room to send Florenc to her aunt's rescue:

"We ought to tell you more. But she's our dear sister's child."

Florence, I remember, received me with a chalk-pale face and the

"Have those old cats been saying anything against me?" But I
assured her that they had not and hurried her into the room of her
strangely afflicted relatives. I had really forgotten all about that
exclamation of Florence's until this moment. She treated me so
very well--with such tact--that, if I ever thought of it afterwards I
put it down to her deep affection for me.

And that evening, when I went to fetch her for a buggy-ride, she
had disappeared. I did not lose any time. I went into New York
and engaged berths on the "Pocahontas", that was to sail on the
evening of the fourth of the month, and then, returning to
Stamford, I tracked out, in the course of the day, that Florence had
been driven to Rye Station. And there I found that she had taken
the cars to Waterbury. She had, of course, gone to her uncle's. The
old man received me with a stony, husky face. I was not to see
Florence; she was ill; she was keeping her room. And, from
something that he let drop--an odd Biblical phrase that I have
forgotten --I gathered that all that family simply did not intend her
to marry ever in her life.

I procured at once the name of the nearest minister and a rope
ladder--you have no idea how primitively these matters were
arranged in those days in the United States. I daresay that may be
so still. And at one o'clock in the morning of the 4th of August I
was standing in Florence's bedroom. I was so one-minded in my
purpose that it never struck me there was anything improper in
being, at one o'clock in the morning, in Florence's bedroom. I just
wanted to wake her up. She was not, however, asleep. She
expected me, and her relatives had only just left her. She received
me with an embrace of a warmth. . . . Well, it was the first time I
had ever been embraced by a woman--and it was the last when a
woman's embrace has had in it any warmth for me. . . . I suppose
it was my own fault, what followed. At any rate, I was in such a
hurry to get the wedding over, and was so afraid of her relatives
finding me there, that I must have received her advances with a
certain amount of absence of mind. I was out of that room and
down the ladder in under half a minute. She kept me waiting at
the foot an unconscionable time--it was certainly three in the
morning before we knocked up that minister. And I think that that
wait was the only sign Florence ever showed of having a
conscience as far as I was concerned, unless her lying for some
moments in my arms was also a sign of conscience. I fancy that, if
I had shown warmth then, she would have acted the proper wife to
me, or would have put me back again. But, because I acted like a
Philadelphia gentleman, she made me, I suppose, go through with
the part of a male nurse. Perhaps she thought that I should not

After that, as I gather, she had not any more remorse. She was only
anxious to carry out her plans. For, just before she came down the
ladder, she called me to the top of that grotesque implement that I
went up and down like a tranquil jumping-jack. I was perfectly
collected. She said to me with a certain fierceness:

"It is determined that we sail at four this afternoon? You are not
lying about having taken berths?"

I understood that she would naturally be anxious to get away from
the neighbourhood of her apparently insane relatives, so that I
readily excused her for thinking that I should be capable of lying
about such a thing. I made it, therefore, plain to her that it was my
fixed determination to sail by the "Pocahontas". She said then--it
was a moonlit morning, and she was whispering in my ear whilst I
stood on the ladder. The hills that surround Waterbury showed,
extraordinarily tranquil, around the villa. She said, almost coldly:

"I wanted to know, so as to pack my trunks." And she added: "I
may be ill, you know. I guess my heart is a little like Uncle
Hurlbird's. It runs in families."

I whispered that the "Pocahontas" was an extraordinarily steady
boat. . . .

Now I wonder what had passed through Florence's mind during the
two hours that she had kept me waiting at the foot of the ladder. I
would give not a little to know. Till then, I fancy she had had no
settled plan in her mind. She certainly never mentioned her heart
till that time. Perhaps the renewed sight of her Uncle Hurlbird had
given her the idea. Certainly her Aunt Emily, who had come over
with her to Waterbury, would have rubbed into her, for hours and
hours, the idea that any accentuated discussions would kill the old
gentleman. That would recall to her mind all the safeguards
against excitement with which the poor silly old gentleman had
been hedged in during their trip round the world. That, perhaps,
put it into her head. Still, I believe there was some remorse on my
account, too. Leonora told me that Florence said there was--for
Leonora knew all about it, and once went so far as to ask her how
she could do a thing so infamous. She excused herself on the
score of an overmastering passion. Well, I always say that an
overmastering passion is a good excuse for feelings. You cannot
help them. And it is a good excuse for straight actions--she might
have bolted with the fellow, before or after she married me. And,
if they had not enough money to get along with, they might have
cut their throats, or sponged on her family, though, of course,
Florence wanted such a lot that it would have suited her very
badly to have for a husband a clerk in a dry-goods store, which was
what old Hurlbird would have made of that fellow. He hated him.
No, I do not think that there is much excuse for Florence.

God knows. She was a frightened fool, and she was fantastic, and I
suppose that, at that time, she really cared for that imbecile. He
certainly didn't care for her. Poor thing. . . . At any rate, after I had
assured her that the "Pocahontas" was a steady ship, she just said:
"You'll have to look after me in certain ways--like Uncle Hurlbird
is looked after. I will tell you how to do it." And then she stepped
over the sill, as if she were stepping on board a boat. I suppose she
had burnt hers!

I had, no doubt, eye-openers enough. When we re-entered the
Hurlbird mansion at eight o'clock the Hurlbirds were just
exhausted. Florence had a hard, triumphant air. We had got
married about four in the morning and had sat about in the woods
above the town till then, listening to a mocking-bird imitate an old
tom-cat. So I guess Florence had not found getting married to me
a very stimulating process. I had not found anything much more
inspiring to say than how glad I was, with variations. I think I was
too dazed. Well, the Hurlbirds were too dazed to say much. We
had breakfast together, and then Florence went to pack her grips
and things. Old Hurlbird took the opportunity to read me a
full-blooded lecture, in the style of an American oration, as to the
perils for young American girlhood lurking in the European
jungle. He said that Paris was full of snakes in the grass, of which
he had had bitter experience. He concluded, as they always do,
poor, dear old things, with the aspiration that all American women
should one day be sexless--though that is not the way they put it. .
. .

Well, we made the ship all right by one-thirty--an there was a
tempest blowing. That helped Florence a good deal. For we were
not ten minutes out from Sandy Hook before Florence went down
into her cabin and her heart took her. An agitated stewardess came
running up to me, and I went running down. I got my directions
how to behave to my wife. Most of them came from her, though it
was the ship doctor who discreetly suggested to me that I had
better refrain from manifestations of affection. I was ready
enough. I was, of course, full of remorse. It occurred to me that
her heart was the reason for the Hurlbirds' mysterious desire to
keep their youngest and dearest unmarried. Of course, they would
be too refined to put the motive into words. They were old stock
New Englanders. They would not want to have to suggest that a
husband must not kiss the back of his wife's neck. They would not
like to suggest that he might, for the matter of that. I wonder,
though, how Florence got the doctor to enter the conspiracy--the
several doctors.

Of course her heart squeaked a bit--she had the same configuration
of the lungs as her Uncle Hurlbird. And, in his company, she must
have heard a great deal of heart talk from specialists. Anyhow, she
and they tied me pretty well down--and Jimmy, of course, that
dreary boy--what in the world did she see in him? He was
lugubrious, silent, morose. He had no talent as a painter. He was
very sallow and dark, and he never shaved sufficiently. He met us
at Havre, and he proceeded to make himself useful for the next
two years, during which he lived in our flat in Paris, whether we
were there or not. He studied painting at Julien's, or some such
place. . . .

That fellow had his hands always in the pockets of his odious,
square-shouldered, broad-hipped, American coats, and his dark
eyes were always full of ominous appearances. He was, besides,
too fat. Why, I was much the better man. . . .

And I daresay Florence would have given me the better. She
showed signs of it. I think, perhaps, the enigmatic smile with
which she used to look back at me over her shoulder when she
went into the bathing place was a sort of invitation. I have
mentioned that. It was as if she were saying: "I am going in here. I
am going to stand so stripped and white and straight--and you are
a man. . . ." Perhaps it was that. . . .

No, she cannot have liked that fellow long. He looked like sallow
putty. I understand that he had been slim and dark and very
graceful at the time of her first disgrace. But, loafing about in
Paris, on her pocket-money and on the allowance that old
Hurlbird made him to keep out of the United States, had given
him a stomach like a man of forty, and dyspeptic irritation on top
of it. God, how they worked me! It was those two between them
who really elaborated the rules. I have told you something about
them--how I had to head conversations, for all those eleven years,
off such topics as love, poverty, crime, and so on. But, looking
over what I have written, I see that I have unintentionally misled
you when I said that Florence was never out of my sight. Yet that
was the impression that I really had until just now. When I come
to think of it she was out of my sight most of the time.

You see, that fellow impressed upon me that what Florence needed
most of all were sleep and privacy. I must never enter her room
without knocking, or her poor little heart might flutter away to its
doom. He said these things with his lugubrious croak, and his
black eyes like a crow's, so that I seemed to see poor Florence die
ten times a day--a little, pale, frail corpse. Why, I would as soon
have thought of entering her room without her permission as of
burgling a church. I would sooner have committed that crime. I
would certainly have done it if I had thought the state of her heart
demanded the sacrilege. So at ten o'clock at night the door closed
upon Florence, who had gently, and, as if reluctantly, backed up
that fellow's recommendations; and she would wish me good
night as if she were a cinquecento Italian lady saying good-bye to
her lover. And at ten o'clock of the next morning there she would
come out the door of her room as fresh as Venus rising from any of
the couches that are mentioned in Greek legends.

Her room door was locked because she was nervous about thieves;
but an electric contrivance on a cord was understood to be
attached to her little wrist. She had only to press a bulb to raise
the house. And I was provided with an axe--an axe!--great gods,
with which to break down her door in case she ever failed to
answer my knock, after I knocked really loud several times. It was
pretty well thought out, you see.

What wasn't so well thought out were the ultimate
consequences--our being tied to Europe. For that young man
rubbed it so well into me that Florence would die if she crossed
the Channel--he impressed it so fully on my mind that, when later
Florence wanted to go to Fordingbridge, I cut the proposal
short--absolutely short, with a curt no. It fixed her and it frightened
her. I was even backed up by all the doctors. I seemed to have had
endless interviews with doctor after doctor, cool, quiet men, who
would ask, in reasonable tones, whether there was any reason for
our going to England--any special reason. And since I could not
see any special reason, they would give the verdict: "Better not,
then." I daresay they were honest enough, as things go. They
probably imagined that the mere associations of the steamer might
have effects on Florence's nerves. That would be enough, that and
a conscientious desire to keep our money on the Continent.

It must have rattled poor Florence pretty considerably, for you see,
the main idea--the only main idea of her heart, that was otherwise
cold--was to get to Fordingbridge and be a county lady in the
home of her ancestors. But Jimmy got her, there: he shut on her
the door of the Channel; even on the fairest day of blue sky, with
the cliffs of England shining like mother of pearl in full view of
Calais, I would not have let her cross the steamer gangway to save
her life. I tell you it fixed her.

It fixed her beautifully, because she could not announce herself as
cured, since that would have put an end to the locked bedroom
arrangements. And, by the time she was sick of Jimmy--which
happened in the year 1903 --she had taken on Edward
Ashburnham. Yes, it was a bad fix for her, because Edward could
have taken her to Fordingbridge, and, though he could not give her
Branshaw Manor, that home of her ancestors being settled on his
wife, she could at least have pretty considerably queened it there
or thereabouts, what with our money and the support of the
Ashburnhams. Her uncle, as soon as he considered that she had
really settled down with me-- and I sent him only the most
glowing accounts of her virtue and constancy --made over to her a
very considerable part of his fortune for which he had no use. I
suppose that we had, between us, fifteen thousand a year in
English money, though I never quite knew how much of hers went
to Jimmy. At any rate, we could have shone in Fordingbridge. I
never quite knew, either, how she and Edward got rid of Jimmy. I
fancy that fat and disreputable raven must have had his six golden
front teeth knocked down his throat by Edward one morning
whilst I had gone out to buy some flowers in the Rue de la Paix,
leaving Florence and the flat in charge of those two. And serve
him very right, is all that I can say. He was a bad sort of
blackmailer; I hope Florence does not have his company in the
next world.

As God is my Judge, I do not believe that I would have separated
those two if I had known that they really and passionately loved
each other. I do not know where the public morality of the case
comes in, and, of course, no man really knows what he would
have done in any given case. But I truly believe that I would have
united them, observing ways and means as decent as I could. I
believe that I should have given them money to live upon and that
I should have consoled myself somehow. At that date I might have
found some young thing, like Maisie Maidan, or the poor girl, and
I might have had some peace. For peace I never had with
Florence, and hardly believe that I cared for her in the way of love
after a year or two of it. She became for me a rare and fragile
object, something burdensome, but very frail. Why it was as if I
had been given a thin-shelled pullet's egg to carry on my palm
from Equatorial Africa to Hoboken. Yes, she became for me, as it
were, the subject of a bet--the trophy of an athlete's achievement,
a parsley crown that is the symbol of his chastity, his soberness,
his abstentions, and of his inflexible will. Of intrinsic value as a
wife, I think she had none at all for me. I fancy I was not even
proud of the way she dressed.

But her passion for Jimmy was not even a passion, and, mad as the
suggestion may appear, she was frightened for her life. Yes, she
was afraid of me. I will tell you how that happened. I had, in the
old days, a darky servant, called Julius, who valeted me, and
waited on me, and loved me, like the crown of his head. Now,
when we left Waterbury to go to the "Pocahontas", Florence
entrusted to me one very special and very precious leather grip.
She told me that her life might depend on that grip, which
contained her drugs against heart attacks. And, since I was never
much of a hand at carrying things, I entrusted this, in turn, to
Julius, who was a grey-haired chap of sixty or so, and very
picturesque at that. He made so much impression on Florence that
she regarded him as a sort of father, and absolutely refused to let
me take him to Paris. He would have inconvenienced her.

Well, Julius was so overcome with grief at being left behind that
he must needs go and drop the precious grip. I saw red, I saw
purple. I flew at Julius. On the ferry, it was, I filled up one of his
eyes; I threatened to strangle him. And, since an unresisting negro
can make a deplorable noise and a deplorable spectacle, and,
since that was Florence's first adventure in the married state, she
got a pretty idea of my character. It affirmed in her the desperate
resolve to conceal from me the fact that she was not what she
would have called "a pure woman". For that was really the
mainspring of her fantastic actions. She was afraid that I should
murder her. . . .

So she got up the heart attack, at the earliest possible opportunity,
on board the liner. Perhaps she was not so very much to be
blamed. You must remember that she was a New Englander, and
that New England had not yet come to loathe darkies as it does
now. Whereas, if she had come from even so little south as
Philadelphia, and had been an oldish family, she would have seen
that for me to kick Julius was not so outrageous an act as for her
cousin, Reggie Hurlbird, to say--as I have heard him say to his
English butler--that for two cents he would bat him on the pants.
Besides, the medicine-grip did not bulk as largely in her eyes as it
did in mine, where it was the symbol of the existence of an adored
wife of a day. To her it was just a useful lie. . . .

Well, there you have the position, as clear as I can make it--the
husband an ignorant fool, the wife a cold sensualist with imbecile
fears--for I was such a fool that I should never have known what
she was or was not--and the blackmailing lover. And then the
other lover came along. . . .

Well, Edward Ashburnham was worth having. Have I conveyed to
you the splendid fellow that he was--the fine soldier, the excellent
landlord, the extraordinarily kind, careful and industrious
magistrate, the upright, honest, fair-dealing, fair-thinking, public
character? I suppose I have not conveyed it to you. The truth is,
that I never knew it until the poor girl came along--the poor girl
who was just as straight, as splendid and as upright as he. I swear
she was. I suppose I ought to have known. I suppose that was,
really, why I liked him so much--so infinitely much. Come to think
of it, I can remember a thousand little acts of kindliness, of
thoughtfulness for his inferiors, even on the Continent. Look here,
I know of two families of dirty, unpicturesque, Hessian paupers
that that fellow, with an infinite patience, rooted up, got their
police reports, set on their feet, or exported to my patient land.
And he would do it quite inarticulately, set in motion by seeing a
child crying in the street. He would wrestle with dictionaries, in
that unfamiliar tongue. . . . Well, he could not bear to see a child
cry. Perhaps he could not bear to see a woman and not give her
the comfort of his physical attractions. But, although I liked him
so intensely, I was rather apt to take these things for granted. They
made me feel comfortable with him, good towards him; they
made me trust him. But I guess I thought it was part of the
character of any English gentleman. Why, one day he got it into his
head that the head waiter at the Excelsior had been crying--the
fellow with the grey face and grey whiskers. And then he spent the
best part of a week, in correspondence and up at the British
consul's, in getting the fellow's wife to come back from London
and bring back his girl baby. She had bolted with a Swiss scullion.
If she had not come inside the week he would have gone to
London himself to fetch her. He was like that. Edward
Ashburnham was like that, and I thought it was only the duty of his
rank and station. Perhaps that was all that it was--but I pray God to
make me discharge mine as well. And, but for the poor girl, I
daresay that I should never have seen it, however much the feeling
might have been over me. She had for him such enthusiasm that,
although even now I do not understand the technicalities of
English life, I can gather enough. She was with them during the
whole of our last stay at Nauheim.

Nancy Rufford was her name; she was Leonora's only friend's only
child, and Leonora was her guardian, if that is the correct term.
She had lived with the Ashburnhams ever since she had been of
the age of thirteen, when her mother was said to have committed
suicide owing to the brutalities of her father. Yes, it is a cheerful
story. . . . Edward always called her "the girl", and it was very
pretty, the evident affection he had for her and she for him. And
Leonora's feet she would have kissed--those two were for her the
best man and the best woman on earth--and in heaven. I think that
she had not a thought of evil in her head--the poor girl. . . .

Well, anyhow, she chanted Edward's praises to me for the hour
together, but, as I have said, I could not make much of it. It
appeared that he had the D.S.O., and that his troop loved him
beyond the love of men. You never saw such a troop as his. And
he had the Royal Humane Society's medal with a clasp. That
meant, apparently, that he had twice jumped off the deck of a
troopship to rescue what the girl called "Tommies", who had fallen
overboard in the Red Sea and such places. He had been twice
recommended for the V.C., whatever that might mean, and,
although owing to some technicalities he had never received that
apparently coveted order, he had some special place about his
sovereign at the coronation. Or perhaps it was some post in the
Beefeaters'. She made him out like a cross between Lohengrin and
the Chevalier Bayard. Perhaps he was. . . . But he was too silent a
fellow to make that side of him really decorative. I remember
going to him at about that time and asking him what the D.S.O.
was, and he grunted out:

"It's a sort of a thing they give grocers who've honourably supplied
the troops with adulterated coffee in war-time"--something of that
sort. He did not quite carry conviction to me, so, in the end, I put
it directly to Leonora. I asked her fully and squarely--prefacing the
question with some remarks, such as those that I have already
given you, as to the difficulty one has in really getting to know
people when one's intimacy is conducted as an English
acquaintanceship--I asked her whether her husband was not really
a splendid fellow--along at least the lines of his public functions.
She looked at me with a slightly awakened air--with an air that
would have been almost startled if Leonora could ever have been

"Didn't you know?" she asked. "If I come to think of it there is not
a more splendid fellow in any three counties, pick them where you
will--along those lines." And she added, after she had looked at
me reflectively for what seemed a long time:

"To do my husband justice there could not be a better man on the
earth. There would not be room for it--along those lines."

"Well," I said, "then he must really be Lohengrin and the Cid in
one body. For there are not any other lines that count."

Again she looked at me for a long time.

"It's your opinion that there are no other lines that count?" she
asked slowly.

"Well," I answered gaily, "you're not going to accuse him of not
being a good husband, or of not being a good guardian to your

She spoke then, slowly, like a person who is listening to the sounds
in a sea-shell held to her ear--and, would you believe it?--she told
me afterwards that, at that speech of mine, for the first time she
had a vague inkling of the tragedy that was to follow so
soon--although the girl had lived with them for eight years or so:

"Oh, I'm not thinking of saying that he is not the best of husbands,
or that he is not very fond of the girl."

And then I said something like:

"Well, Leonora, a man sees more of these things than even a wife.
And, let me tell you, that in all the years I've known Edward he
has never, in your absence, paid a moment's attention to any other
woman--not by the quivering of an eyelash. I should have noticed.
And he talks of you as if you were one of the angels of God."

"Oh," she came up to the scratch, as you could be sure Leonora
would always come up to the scratch, "I am perfectly sure that he
always speaks nicely of me."

I daresay she had practice in that sort of scene--people must have
been always complimenting her on her husband's fidelity and
adoration. For half the world--the whole of the world that knew
Edward and Leonora believed that his conviction in the Kilsyte
affair had been a miscarriage of justice--a conspiracy of false
evidence, got together by Nonconformist adversaries. But think of
the fool that I was. . . .


LET me think where we were. Oh, yes . . . that conversation took
place on the 4th of August, 1913. I remember saying to her that,
on that day, exactly nine years before, I had made their
acquaintance, so that it had seemed quite appropriate and like a
birthday speech to utter my little testimonial to my friend Edward.
I could quite confidently say that, though we four had been about
together in all sorts of places, for all that length of time, I had not,
for my part, one single complaint to make of either of them. And I
added, that that was an unusual record for people who had been so
much together. You are not to imagine that it was only at
Nauheim that we met. That would not have suited Florence.

I find, on looking at my diaries, that on the 4th of September,
1904, Edward accompanied Florence and myself to Paris, where
we put him up till the twenty-first of that month. He made another
short visit to us in December of that year--the first year of our
acquaintance. It must have been during this visit that he knocked
Mr Jimmy's teeth down his throat. I daresay Florence had asked
him to come over for that purpose. In 1905 he was in Paris three
times--once with Leonora, who wanted some frocks. In 1906 we
spent the best part of six weeks together at Mentone, and Edward
stayed with us in Paris on his way back to London. That was how
it went.

The fact was that in Florence the poor wretch had got hold of a
Tartar, compared with whom Leonora was a sucking kid. He must
have had a hell of a time. Leonora wanted to keep him for--what
shall I say--for the good of her church, as it were, to show that
Catholic women do not lose their men. Let it go at that, for the
moment. I will write more about her motives later, perhaps. But
Florence was sticking on to the proprietor of the home of her
ancestors. No doubt he was also a very passionate lover. But I am
convinced that he was sick of Florence within three years of even
interrupted companionship and the life that she led him. . . .

If ever Leonora so much as mentioned in a letter that they had had
a woman staying with them--or, if she so much as mentioned a
woman's name in a letter to me--off would go a desperate cable in
cipher to that poor wretch at Branshaw, commanding him on pain
of an instant and horrible disclosure to come over and assure her
of his fidelity. I daresay he would have faced it out; I daresay he
would have thrown over Florence and taken the risk of exposure.
But there he had Leonora to deal with. And Leonora assured him
that, if the minutest fragment of the real situation ever got through
to my senses, she would wreak upon him the most terrible
vengeance that she could think of. And he did not have a very
easy job. Florence called for more and more attentions from him
as the time went on. She would make him kiss her at any moment
of the day; and it was only by his making it plain that a divorced
lady could never assume a position in the county of Hampshire
that he could prevent her from making a bolt of it with him in her
train. Oh, yes, it was a difficult job for him.

For Florence, if you please, gaining in time a more composed view
of nature, and overcome by her habits of garrulity, arrived at a
frame of mind in which she found it almost necessary to tell me
all about it--nothing less than that. She said that her situation was
too unbearable with regard to me.

She proposed to tell me all, secure a divorce from me, and go with
Edward and settle in California. . . . I do not suppose that she was
really serious in this. It would have meant the extinction of all
hopes of Branshaw Manor for her. Besides she had got it into her
head that Leonora, who was as sound as a roach, was
consumptive. She was always begging Leonora, before me, to go
and see a doctor. But, none the less, poor Edward seems to have
believed in her determination to carry him off. He would not have
gone; he cared for his wife too much. But, if Florence had put him
at it, that would have meant my getting to know of it, and his
incurring Leonora's vengeance. And she could have made it pretty
hot for him in ten or a dozen different ways. And she assured me
that she would have used every one of them. She was determined
to spare my feelings. And she was quite aware that, at that date,
the hottest she could have made it for him would have been to
refuse, herself, ever to see him again. . . .

Well, I think I have made it pretty clear. Let me come to the 4th of
August, 1913, the last day of my absolute ignorance--and, I assure
you, of my perfect happiness. For the coming of that dear girl only
added to it all.

On that 4th of August I was sitting in the lounge with a rather
odious Englishman called Bagshawe, who had arrived that night,
too late for dinner. Leonora had just gone to bed and I was waiting
for Florence and Edward and the girl to come back from a concert
at the Casino. They had not gone there all together. Florence, I
remember, had said at first that she would remain with Leonora,
and me, and Edward and the girl had gone off alone. And then
Leonora had said to Florence with perfect calmness:

"I wish you would go with those two. I think the girl ought to have
the appearance of being chaperoned with Edward in these places.
I think the time has come." So Florence, with her light step, had
slipped out after them. She was all in black for some cousin or
other. Americans are particular in those matters.

We had gone on sitting in the lounge till towards ten, when
Leonora had gone up to bed. It had been a very hot day, but there
it was cool. The man called Bagshawe had been reading The
Times on the other side of the room, but then he moved over to
me with some trifling question as a prelude to suggesting an
acquaintance. I fancy he asked me something About the poll-tax
on Kur-guests, and whether it could not be sneaked out of. He was
that sort of person.

Well, he was an unmistakable man, with a military figure, rather
exaggerated, with bulbous eyes that avoided your own, and a pallid
complexion that suggested vices practised in secret along with an
uneasy desire for making acquaintance at whatever cost. . . . The
filthy toad. . . .

He began by telling me that he came from Ludlow Manor, near
Ledbury. The name had a slightly familiar sound, though I could
not fix it in my mind. Then he began to talk about a duty on hops,
about Californian hops, about Los Angeles, where he had been.
He fencing for a topic with which he might gain my affection.

And then, quite suddenly, in the bright light of the street, I saw
Florence running. It was like that--I saw Florence running with a
face whiter than paper and her hand on the black stuff over her
heart. I tell you, my own heart stood still; I tell you I could not
move. She rushed in at the swing doors. She looked round that
place of rush chairs, cane tables and newspapers. She saw me and
opened her lips. She saw the man who was talking to me. She
stuck her hands over her face as if she wished to push her eyes
out. And she was not there any more.

I could not move; I could not stir a finger. And then that man said:

"By Jove: Florry Hurlbird." He turned upon me with an oily and
uneasy sound meant for a laugh. He was really going to ingratiate
himself with me. "Do you know who that is?" he asked. "The last
time I saw that girl she was coming out of the bedroom of a young
man called Jimmy at five o'clock in the morning. In my house at
Ledbury. You saw her recognize me." He was standing on his feet,
looking down at me. I don't know what I looked like. At any rate,
he gave a sort of gurgle and then stuttered:

"Oh, I say. . . ." Those were the last words I ever heard of Mr
Bagshawe's. A long time afterwards I pulled myself out of the
lounge and went up to Florence's room. She had not locked the
door--for the first time of our married life. She was lying, quite
respectably arranged, unlike Mrs Maidan, on her bed. She had a
little phial that rightly should have contained nitrate of amyl, in
her right hand. That was on the 4th of August, 1913.



THE odd thing is that what sticks out in my recollection of the rest
of that evening was Leonora's saying:

"Of course you might marry her," and, when I asked whom, she

"The girl."

Now that is to me a very amazing thing--amazing for the light of
possibilities that it casts into the human heart. For I had never had
the slightest conscious idea of marrying the girl; I never had the
slightest idea even of caring for her. I must have talked in an odd
way, as people do who are recovering from an anaesthetic. It is as
if one had a dual personality, the one I being entirely unconscious
of the other. I had thought nothing; I had said such an
extraordinary thing. I don't know that analysis of my own
psychology matters at all to this story. I should say that it didn't or,
at any rate, that I had given enough of it. But that odd remark of
mine had a strong influence upon what came after. I mean, that
Leonora would probably never have spoken to me at all about
Florence's relations with Edward if I hadn't said, two hours after
my wife's death:

"Now I can marry the girl."

She had, then, taken it for granted that I had been suffering all that
she had been suffering, or, at least, that I had permitted all that
she had permitted. So that, a month ago, about a week after the
funeral of poor Edward, she could say to me in the most natural
way in the world--I had been talking about the duration of my stay
at Branshaw--she said with her clear, reflective intonation:

"Oh, stop here for ever and ever if you can." And then she added,
"You couldn't be more of a brother to me, or more of a counsellor,
or more of a support. You are all the consolation I have in the
world. And isn't it odd to think that if your wife hadn't been my
husband's mistress, you would probably never have been here at

That was how I got the news--full in the face, like that. I didn't say
anything and I don't suppose I felt anything, unless maybe it was
with that mysterious and unconscious self that underlies most
people. Perhaps one day when I am unconscious or walking in my
sleep I may go and spit upon poor Edward's grave. It seems about
the most unlikely thing I could do; but there it is. No, I remember
no emotion of any sort, but just the clear feeling that one has from
time to time when one hears that some Mrs So-and-So is au mieux
with a certain gentleman. It made things plainer, suddenly, to my
curiosity. It was as if I thought, at that moment, of a windy
November evening, that, when I came to think it over afterwards,
a dozen unexplained things would fit themselves into place. But I
wasn't thinking things over then. I remember that distinctly. I was
just sitting back, rather stiffly, in a deep arm-chair. That is what I
remember. It was twilight.

Branshaw Manor lies in a little hollow with lawns across it and
pine-woods on the fringe of the dip. The immense wind, coming
from across the forest, roared overhead. But the view from the
window was perfectly quiet and grey. Not a thing stirred, except a
couple of rabbits on the extreme edge of the lawn. It was
Leonora's own little study that we were in and we were waiting for
the tea to be brought. I, as I said, was sitting in the deep chair,
Leonora was standing in the window twirling the wooden acorn at
the end of the window-blind cord desultorily round and round.
She looked across the lawn and said, as far as I can remember:

"Edward has been dead only ten days and yet there are rabbits on
the lawn."

I understand that rabbits do a great deal of harm to the short grass
in England. And then she turned round to me and said without any
adornment at all, for I remember her exact words:

"I think it was stupid of Florence to commit suicide."

I cannot tell you the extraordinary sense of leisure that we two
seemed to have at that moment. It wasn't as if we were waiting for
a train, it wasn't as if we were waiting for a meal--it was just that
there was nothing to wait for. Nothing. There was an extreme
stillness with the remote and intermittent sound of the wind.
There was the grey light in that brown, small room. And there
appeared to be nothing else in the world. I knew then that Leonora
was about to let me into her full confidence. It was as if--or no, it
was the actual fact that--Leonora with an odd English sense of
decency had determined to wait until Edward had been in his
grave for a full week before she spoke. And with some vague
motive of giving her an idea of the extent to which she must
permit herself to make confidences, I said slowly --and these
words too I remember with exactitude--"Did Florence commit
suicide? I didn't know."

I was just, you understand, trying to let her know that, if she were
going to speak she would have to talk about a much wider range
of things than she had before thought necessary.

So that that was the first knowledge I had that Florence had
committed suicide. It had never entered my head. You may think
that I had been singularly lacking in suspiciousness; you may
consider me even to have been an imbecile. But consider the

In such circumstances of clamour, of outcry, of the crash of many
people running together, of the professional reticence of such
people as hotel-keepers, the traditional reticence of such "good
people" as the Ashburnhams--in such circumstances it is some
little material object, always, that catches the eye and that appeals
to the imagination. I had no possible guide to the idea of suicide
and the sight of the little flask of nitrate of amyl in Florence's
hand suggested instantly to my mind the idea of the failure of her
heart. Nitrate of amyl, you understand, is the drug that is given to
relieve sufferers from angina pectoris.

Seeing Florence, as I had seen her, running with a white face and
with one hand held over her heart, and seeing her, as I
immediately afterwards saw her, lying upon her bed with the so
familiar little brown flask clenched in her fingers, it was natural
enough for my mind to frame the idea. As happened now and
again, I thought, she had gone out without her remedy and, having
felt an attack coming on whilst she was in the gardens, she had run
in to get the nitrate in order, as quickly as possible, to obtain relief.
And it was equally inevitable my mind should frame the thought
that her heart, unable to stand the strain of the running, should
have broken in her side. How could I have known that, during all
the years of our married life, that little brown flask had contained,
not nitrate of amyl, but prussic acid? It was inconceivable.

Why, not even Edward Ashburnham, who was, after all more
intimate with her than I was, had an inkling of the truth. He just
thought that she had dropped dead of heart disease. Indeed, I
fancy that the only people who ever knew that Florence had
committed suicide were Leonora, the Grand Duke, the head of the
police and the hotel-keeper. I mention these last three because my
recollection of that night is only the sort of pinkish effulgence
from the electric-lamps in the hotel lounge. There seemed to bob
into my consciousness, like floating globes, the faces of those
three. Now it would be the bearded, monarchical, benevolent head
of the Grand Duke; then the sharp-featured, brown,
cavalry-moustached feature of the chief of police; then the
globular, polished and high-collared vacuousness that represented
Monsieur Schontz, the proprietor of the hotel. At times one head
would be there alone, at another the spiked helmet of the official
would be close to the healthy baldness of the prince; then M.
Schontz's oiled locks would push in between the two. The
sovereign's soft, exquisitely trained voice would say, "Ja, ja, ja!"
each word dropping out like so many soft pellets of suet; the
subdued rasp of the official would come: "Zum Befehl
Durchlaucht," like five revolver-shots; the voice of M. Schontz
would go on and on under its breath like that of an unclean priest
reciting from his breviary in the corner of a railway-carriage. That
was how it presented itself to me.

They seemed to take no notice of me; I don't suppose that I was
even addressed by one of them. But, as long as one or the other, or
all three of them were there, they stood between me as if, I being
the titular possessor of the corpse, had a right to be present at their
conferences. Then they all went away and I was left alone for a
long time.

And I thought nothing; absolutely nothing. I had no ideas; I had no
strength. I felt no sorrow, no desire for action, no inclination to go
upstairs and fall upon the body of my wife. I just saw the pink
effulgence, the cane tables, the palms, the globular match-holders,
the indented ash-trays. And then Leonora came to me and it
appears that I addressed to her that singular remark:

"Now I can marry the girl."

But I have given you absolutely the whole of my recollection of
that evening, as it is the whole of my recollection of the
succeeding three or four days. I was in a state just simply
cataleptic. They put me to bed and I stayed there; they brought me
my clothes and I dressed; they led me to an open grave and I stood
beside it. If they had taken me to the edge of a river, or if they had
flung me beneath a railway train, I should have been drowned or
mangled in the same spirit. I was the walking dead.

Well, those are my impressions.

What had actually happened had been this. I pieced it together
afterwards. You will remember I said that Edward Ashburnham
and the girl had gone off, that night, to a concert at the Casino and
that Leonora had asked Florence, almost immediately after their
departure, to follow them and to perform the office of chaperone.
Florence, you may also remember, was all in black, being the
mourning that she wore for a deceased cousin, Jean Hurlbird. It
was a very black night and the girl was dressed in cream-coloured
muslin, that must have glimmered under the tall trees of the dark
park like a phosphorescent fish in a cupboard. You couldn't have
had a better beacon.

And it appears that Edward Ashburnham led the girl not up the
straight allée that leads to the Casino, but in under the dark trees
of the park. Edward Ashburnham told me all this in his final
outburst. I have told you that, upon that occasion, he became
deucedly vocal. I didn't pump him. I hadn't any motive. At that
time I didn't in the least connect him with my wife. But the fellow
talked like a cheap novelist.--Or like a very good novelist for the
matter of that, if it's the business of a novelist to make you see
things clearly. And I tell you I see that thing as clearly as if it were
a dream that never left me. It appears that, not very far from the
Casino, he and the girl sat down in the darkness upon a public
bench. The lights from that place of entertainment must have
reached them through the tree-trunks, since, Edward said, he
could quite plainly see the girl's face--that beloved face with the
high forehead, the queer mouth, the tortured eyebrows, and the
direct eyes. And to Florence, creeping up behind them, they must
have presented the appearance of silhouettes. For I take it that
Florence came creeping up behind them over the short grass to a
tree that, I quite well remember, was immediately behind that
public seat. It was not a very difficult feat for a woman instinct
with jealousy. The Casino orchestra was, as Edward remembered
to tell me, playing the Rakocsy march, and although it was not
loud enough, at that distance, to drown the voice of Edward
Ashburnham it was certainly sufficiently audible to efface,
amongst the noises of the night, the slight brushings and rustlings
that might have been made by the feet of Florence or by her gown
in coming over the short grass. And that miserable woman must
have got it in the face, good and strong. It must have been horrible
for her. Horrible! Well, I suppose she deserved all that she got.

Anyhow, there you have the picture, the immensely tall trees, elms
most of them, towering and feathering away up into the black
mistiness that trees seem to gather about them at night; the
silhouettes of those two upon the seat; the beams of light coming
from the Casino, the woman all in black peeping with fear behind
the tree-trunk. It is melodrama; but I can't help it.

And then, it appears, something happened to Edward Ashburnham.
He assured me--and I see no reason for disbelieving him--that
until that moment he had had no idea whatever of caring for the
girl. He said that he had regarded her exactly as he would have
regarded a daughter. He certainly loved her, but with a very deep,
very tender and very tranquil love. He had missed her when she
went away to her convent-school; he had been glad when she had
returned. But of more than that he had been totally unconscious.
Had he been conscious of it, he assured me, he would have fled
from it as from a thing accursed. He realized that it was the last
outrage upon Leonora. But the real point was his entire
unconsciousness. He had gone with her into that dark park with no
quickening of the pulse, with no desire for the intimacy of
solitude. He had gone, intending to talk about polo-ponies, and
tennis-racquets; about the temperament of the reverend Mother at
the convent she had left and about whether her frock for a party
when they got home should be white or blue. It hadn't come into
his head that they would talk about a single thing that they hadn't
always talked about; it had not even come into his head that the
tabu which extended around her was not inviolable. And then,
suddenly, that-- He was very careful to assure me that at that time
there was no physical motive about his declaration. It did not
appear to him to be a matter of a dark night and a propinquity and
so on. No, it was simply of her effect on the moral side of his life
that he appears to have talked. He said that he never had the
slightest notion to enfold her in his arms or so much as to touch
her hand. He swore that he did not touch her hand. He said that
they sat, she at one end of the bench, he at the other; he leaning
slightly towards her and she looking straight towards the light of
the Casino, her face illuminated by the lamps. The expression
upon her face he could only describe as "queer". At another time,
indeed, he made it appear that he thought she was glad. It is easy
to imagine that she was glad, since at that time she could have had
no idea of what was really happening. Frankly, she adored Edward
Ashburnham. He was for her, in everything that she said at that
time, the model of humanity, the hero, the athlete, the father of his
country, the law-giver. So that for her, to be suddenly, intimately
and overwhelmingly praised must have been a matter for mere
gladness, however overwhelming it were. It must have been as if a
god had approved her handiwork or a king her loyalty. She just sat
still and listened, smiling. And it seemed to her that all the
bitterness of her childhood, the terrors of her tempestuous father,
the bewailings of her cruel-tongued mother were suddenly atoned
for. She had her recompense at last. Because, of course, if you
come to figure it out, a sudden pouring forth of passion by a man
whom you regard as a cross between a pastor and a father might,
to a woman, have the aspect of mere praise for good conduct. It
wouldn't, I mean, appear at all in the light of an attempt to gain
possession. The girl, at least, regarded him as firmly anchored to
his Leonora. She had not the slightest inkling of any infidelities.
He had always spoken to her of his wife in terms of reverence and
deep affection. He had given her the idea that he regarded
Leonora as absolutely impeccable and as absolutely satisfying.
Their union had appeared to her to be one of those blessed things
that are spoken of and contemplated with reverence by her church.

So that, when he spoke of her as being the person he cared most
for in the world, she naturally thought that he meant to except
Leonora and she was just glad. It was like a father saying that he
approved of a marriageable daughter . . . And Edward, when he
realized what he was doing, curbed his tongue at once. She was
just glad and she went on being just glad.

I suppose that that was the most monstrously wicked thing that
Edward Ashburnham ever did in his life. And yet I am so near to
all these people that I cannot think any of them wicked. It is
impossible of me to think of Edward Ashburnham as anything but
straight, upright and honourable. That, I mean, is, in spite of
everything, my permanent view of him. I try at times by dwelling
on some of the things that he did to push that image of him away,
as you might try to push aside a large pendulum. But it always
comes back--the memory of his innumerable acts of kindness, of
his efficiency, of his unspiteful tongue. He was such a fine fellow.

So I feel myself forced to attempt to excuse him in this as in so
many other things. It is, I have no doubt, a most monstrous thing
to attempt to corrupt a young girl just out of a convent. But I think
Edward had no idea at all of corrupting her. I believe that he
simply loved her. He said that that was the way of it and I, at least,
believe him and I believe too that she was the only woman he ever
really loved. He said that that was so; and he did enough to prove
it. And Leonora said that it was so and Leonora knew him to the
bottom of his heart.

I have come to be very much of a cynic in these matters; I mean
that it is impossible to believe in the permanence of man's or
woman's love. Or, at any rate, it is impossible to believe in the
permanence of any early passion. As I see it, at least, with regard
to man, a love affair, a love for any definite woman--is something
in the nature of a widening of the experience. With each new
woman that a man is attracted to there appears to come a
broadening of the outlook, or, if you like, an acquiring of new
territory. A turn of the eyebrow, a tone of the voice, a queer
characteristic gesture--all these things, and it is these things that
cause to arise the passion of love--all these things are like so many
objects on the horizon of the landscape that tempt a man to walk
beyond the horizon, to explore. He wants to get, as it were, behind
those eyebrows with the peculiar turn, as if he desired to see the
world with the eyes that they overshadow. He wants to hear that
voice applying itself to every possible proposition, to every
possible topic; he wants to see those characteristic gestures against
every possible background. Of the question of the sex-instinct I
know very little and I do not think that it counts for very much in
a really great passion. It can be aroused by such nothings--by an
untied shoelace, by a glance of the eye in passing-- that I think it
might be left out of the calculation. I don't mean to say that any
great passion can exist without a desire for consummation. That
seems to me to be a commonplace and to be therefore a matter
needing no comment at all. It is a thing, with all its accidents, that
must be taken for granted, as, in a novel, or a biography, you take
it for granted that the characters have their meals with some
regularity. But the real fierceness of desire, the real heat of a
passion long continued and withering up the soul of a man is the
craving for identity with the woman that he loves. He desires to
see with the same eyes, to touch with the same sense of touch, to
hear with the same ears, to lose his identity, to be enveloped, to be
supported. For, whatever may be said of the relation of the sexes,
there is no man who loves a woman that does not desire to come to
her for the renewal of his courage, for the cutting asunder of his
difficulties. And that will be the mainspring of his desire for her.
We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the
outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist. So, for a
time, if such a passion come to fruition, the man will get what he
wants. He will get the moral support, the encouragement, the relief
from the sense of loneliness, the assurance of his own worth. But
these things pass away; inevitably they pass away as the shadows
pass across sundials. It is sad, but it is so. The pages of the book
will become familiar; the beautiful corner of the road will have
been turned too many times. Well, this is the saddest story. And
yet I do believe that for every man there comes at last a woman--or
no, that is the wrong way of formulating it. For every man there
comes at last a time of life when the woman who then sets her
seal upon his imagination has set her seal for good. He will travel
over no more horizons; he will never again set the knapsack over
his shoulders; he will retire from those scenes. He will have gone
out of the business. That at any rate was the case with Edward and
the poor girl. It was quite literally the case. It was quite literally
the case that his passions--for the mistress of the Grand Duke, for
Mrs Basil, for little Mrs Maidan, for Florence, for whom you
will--these passions were merely preliminary canters compared to
his final race with death for her. I am certain of that. I am not
going to be so American as to say that all true love demands some
sacrifice. It doesn't. But I think that love will be truer and more
permanent in which self-sacrifice has been exacted. And, in the
case of the other women, Edward just cut in and cut them out as
he did with the polo-ball from under the nose of Count Baron von
Lelöffel. I don't mean to say that he didn't wear himself as thin as
a lath in the endeavour to capture the other women; but over her
he wore himself to rags and tatters and death--in the effort to
leave her alone.

And, in speaking to her on that night, he wasn't, I am convinced,
committing a baseness. It was as if his passion for her hadn't
existed; as if the very words that he spoke, without knowing that
he spoke them, created the passion as they went along. Before he
spoke, there was nothing; afterwards, it was the integral fact of his
life. Well, I must get back to my story.

And my story was concerning itself with Florence--with Florence,
who heard those words from behind the tree. That of course is
only conjecture, but I think the conjecture is pretty well justified.
You have the fact that those two went out, that she followed them
almost immediately afterwards through the darkness and, a little
later, she came running back to the hotel with that pallid face and
the hand clutching her dress over her heart. It can't have been only
Bagshawe. Her face was contorted with agony before ever her
eyes fell upon me or upon him beside me. But I dare say Bagshawe
may have been the determining influence in her suicide. Leonora
says that she had that flask, apparently of nitrate of amyl, but
actually of prussic acid, for many years and that she was
determined to use it if ever I discovered the nature of her
relationship with that fellow Jimmy. You see, the mainspring of
her nature must have been vanity. There is no reason why it
shouldn't have been; I guess it is vanity that makes most of us
keep straight, if we do keep straight, in this world.

If it had been merely a matter of Edward's relations with the girl I
dare say Florence would have faced it out. She would no doubt
have made him scenes, have threatened him, have appealed to his
sense of humour, to his promises. But Mr Bagshawe and the fact
that the date was the 4th of August must have been too much for
her superstitious mind. You see, she had two things that she
wanted. She wanted to be a great lady, installed in Branshaw
Teleragh. She wanted also to retain my respect.

She wanted, that is to say, to retain my respect for as long as she
lived with me. I suppose, if she had persuaded Edward
Ashburnham to bolt with her she would have let the whole thing
go with a run. Or perhaps she would have tried to exact from me a
new respect for the greatness of her passion on the lines of all for
love and the world well lost. That would be just like Florence.

In all matrimonial associations there is, I believe, one constant
factor --a desire to deceive the person with whom one lives as to
some weak spot in one's character or in one's career. For it is
intolerable to live constantly with one human being who perceives
one's small meannesses. It is really death to do so--that is why so
many marriages turn out unhappily.

I, for instance, am a rather greedy man; I have a taste for good
cookery and a watering tooth at the mere sound of the names of
certain comestibles. If Florence had discovered this secret of mine
I should have found her knowledge of it so unbearable that I never
could have supported all the other privations of the régime that
she extracted from me. I am bound to say that Florence never
discovered this secret.

Certainly she never alluded to it; I dare say she never took
sufficient interest in me.

And the secret weakness of Florence--the weakness that she could
not bear to have me discover, was just that early escapade with the
fellow called Jimmy. Let me, as this is in all probability the last
time I shall mention Florence's name, dwell a little upon the
change that had taken place in her psychology. She would not, I
mean, have minded if I had discovered that she was the mistress
of Edward Ashburnham. She would rather have liked it. Indeed,
the chief trouble of poor Leonora in those days was to keep
Florence from making, before me, theatrical displays, on one line
or another, of that very fact. She wanted, in one mood, to come
rushing to me, to cast herself on her knees at my feet and to
declaim a carefully arranged, frightfully emotional, outpouring as
to her passion. That was to show that she was like one of the great
erotic women of whom history tells us. In another mood she
would desire to come to me disdainfully and to tell me that I was
considerably less than a man and that what had happened was what
must happen when a real male came along. She wanted to say that
in cool, balanced and sarcastic sentences. That was when she
wished to appear like the heroine of a French comedy. Because of
course she was always play acting.

But what she didn't want me to know was the fact of her first
escapade with the fellow called Jimmy. She had arrived at
figuring out the sort of low-down Bowery tough that that fellow
was. Do you know what it is to shudder, in later life, for some
small, stupid action--usually for some small, quite genuine piece
of emotionalism--of your early life? Well, it was that sort of
shuddering that came over Florence at the thought that she had
surrendered to such a low fellow. I don't know that she need have
shuddered. It was her footing old uncle's work; he ought never to
have taken those two round the world together and shut himself
up in his cabin for the greater part of the time. Anyhow, I am
convinced that the sight of Mr Bagshawe and the thought that Mr
Bagshawe--for she knew that unpleasant and toadlike
personality--the thought that Mr Bagshawe would almost certainly
reveal to me that he had caught her coming out of Jimmy's
bedroom at five o'clock in the morning on the 4th of August,
1900--that was the determining influence in her suicide. And no
doubt the effect of the date was too much for her superstitious
personality. She had been born on the 4th of August; she had
started to go round the world on the 4th of August; she had
become a low fellow's mistress on the 4th of August. On the same
day of the year she had married me; on that 4th she had lost
Edward's love, and Bagshawe had appeared like a sinister
omen--like a grin on the face of Fate. It was the last straw. She ran
upstairs, arranged herself decoratively upon her bed--she was a
sweetly pretty woman with smooth pink and white cheeks, long
hair, the eyelashes falling like a tiny curtain on her cheeks. She
drank the little phial of prussic acid and there she lay.--Oh,
extremely charming and clear-cut--looking with a puzzled
expression at the electric-light bulb that hung from the ceiling, or
perhaps through it, to the stars above. Who knows? Anyhow, there
was an end of Florence.

You have no idea how quite extraordinarily for me that was the
end of Florence. From that day to this I have never given her
another thought; I have not bestowed upon her so much as a sigh.
Of course, when it has been necessary to talk about her to
Leonora, or when for the purpose of these writings I have tried to
figure her out, I have thought about her as I might do about a
problem in algebra. But it has always been as a matter for study,
not for remembrance. She just went completely out of existence,
like yesterday's paper.

I was so deadly tired. And I dare say that my week or ten days of
affaissement--of what was practically catalepsy--was just the
repose that my exhausted nature claimed after twelve years of the
repression of my instincts, after twelve years of playing the
trained poodle. For that was all that I had been. I suppose that it
was the shock that did it--the several shocks. But I am unwilling
to attribute my feelings at that time to anything so concrete as a
shock. It was a feeling so tranquil. It was as if an immensely
heavy--an unbearably heavy knapsack, supported upon my
shoulders by straps, had fallen off and left my shoulders
themselves that the straps had cut into, numb and without
sensation of life. I tell you, I had no regret. What had I to regret? I
suppose that my inner soul--my dual personality--had realized
long before that Florence was a personality of paper--that she
represented a real human being with a heart, with feelings, with
sympathies and with emotions only as a bank-note represents a
certain quantity of gold. I know that sort of feeling came to the
surface in me the moment the man Bagshawe told me that he had
seen her coming out of that fellow's bedroom. I thought suddenly
that she wasn't real; she was just a mass of talk out of guidebooks,
of drawings out of fashion-plates. It is even possible that, if that
feeling had not possessed me, I should have run up sooner to her
room and might have prevented her drinking the prussic acid. But
I just couldn't do it; it would have been like chasing a scrap of
paper--an occupation ignoble for a grown man.

And, as it began, so that matter has remained. I didn't care whether
she had come out of that bedroom or whether she hadn't. It simply
didn't interest me. Florence didn't matter.

I suppose you will retort that I was in love with Nancy Rufford and
that my indifference was therefore discreditable. Well, I am not
seeking to avoid discredit. I was in love with Nancy Rufford as I
am in love with the poor child's memory, quietly and quite
tenderly in my American sort of way. I had never thought about it
until I heard Leonora state that I might now marry her. But, from
that moment until her worse than death, I do not suppose that I
much thought about anything else. I don't mean to say that I sighed
about her or groaned; I just wanted to marry her as some people
want to go to Carcassonne.

Do you understand the feeling--the sort of feeling that you must
get certain matters out of the way, smooth out certain fairly
negligible complications before you can go to a place that has,
during all your life, been a sort of dream city? I didn't attach much
importance to my superior years. I was forty-five, and she, poor
thing, was only just rising twenty-two. But she was older than her
years and quieter. She seemed to have an odd quality of sainthood,
as if she must inevitably end in a convent with a white coif
framing her face. But she had frequently told me that she had no
vocation; it just simply wasn't there--the desire to become a nun.
Well, I guess that I was a sort of convent myself; it seemed fairly
proper that she should make her vows to me. No, I didn't see any
impediment on the score of age. I dare say no man does and I was
pretty confident that with a little preparation, I could make a
young girl happy. I could spoil her as few young girls have ever
been spoiled; and I couldn't regard myself as personally repulsive.
No man can, or if he ever comes to do so, that is the end of him.
But, as soon as I came out of my catalepsy, I seemed to perceive
that my problem--that what I had to do to prepare myself for
getting into contact with her, was just to get back into contact
with life. I had been kept for twelve years in a rarefied
atmosphere; what I then had to do was a little fighting with real
life, some wrestling with men of business, some travelling
amongst larger cities, something harsh, something masculine. I
didn't want to present myself to Nancy Rufford as a sort of an old
maid. That was why, just a fortnight after Florence's suicide, I set
off for the United States.


IMMEDIATELY after Florence's death Leonora began to put the
leash upon Nancy Rufford and Edward. She had guessed what had
happened under the trees near the Casino. They stayed at
Nauheim some weeks after I went, and Leonora has told me that
that was the most deadly time of her existence. It seemed like a
long, silent duel with invisible weapons, so she said. And it was
rendered all the more difficult by the girl's entire innocence. For
Nancy was always trying to go off alone with Edward--as she had
been doing all her life, whenever she was home for holidays. She
just wanted him to say nice things to her again.

You see, the position was extremely complicated. It was as
complicated as it well could be, along delicate lines. There was
the complication caused by the fact that Edward and Leonora
never spoke to each other except when other people were present.
Then, as I have said, their demeanours were quite perfect. There
was the complication caused by the girl's entire innocence; there
was the further complication that both Edward and Leonora really
regarded the girl as their daughter. Or it might be more precise to
say that they regarded her as being Leonora's daughter. And Nancy
was a queer girl; it is very difficult to describe her to you.

She was tall and strikingly thin; she had a tortured mouth,
agonized eyes, and a quite extraordinary sense of fun. You, might
put it that at times she was exceedingly grotesque and at times
extraordinarily beautiful. Why, she had the heaviest head of black
hair that I have ever come across; I used to wonder how she could
bear the weight of it. She was just over twenty-one and at times
she seemed as old as the hills, at times not much more than
sixteen. At one moment she would be talking of the lives of the
saints and at the next she would be tumbling all over the lawn
with the St Bernard puppy. She could ride to hounds like a
Maenad and she could sit for hours perfectly still, steeping
handkerchief after handkerchief in vinegar when Leonora had one
of her headaches. She was, in short, a miracle of patience who
could be almost miraculously impatient. It was, no doubt, the
convent training that effected that. I remember that one of her
letters to me, when she was about sixteen, ran something like:

"On Corpus Christi"--or it may have been some other saint's day, I
cannot keep these things in my head--"our school played
Roehampton at Hockey. And, seeing that our side was losing,
being three goals to one against us at halftime, we retired into the
chapel and prayed for victory. We won by five goals to three."
And I remember that she seemed to describe afterwards a sort of
saturnalia. Apparently, when the victorious fifteen or eleven came
into the refectory for supper, the whole school jumped upon the
tables and cheered and broke the chairs on the floor and smashed
the crockery--for a given time, until the Reverend Mother rang a
hand-bell. That is of course the Catholic tradition--saturnalia that
can end in a moment, like the crack of a whip. I don't, of course,
like the tradition, but I am bound to say that it gave Nancy--or at
any rate Nancy had--a sense of rectitude that I have never seen
surpassed. It was a thing like a knife that looked out of her eyes
and that spoke with her voice, just now and then. It positively
frightened me. I suppose that I was almost afraid to be in a world
where there could be so fine a standard. I remember when she was
about fifteen or sixteen on going back to the convent I once gave
her a couple of English sovereigns as a tip. She thanked me in a
peculiarly heartfelt way, saying that it would come in extremely
handy. I asked her why and she explained. There was a rule at the
school that the pupils were not to speak when they walked
through the garden from the chapel to the refectory. And, since this
rule appeared to be idiotic and arbitrary, she broke it on purpose
day after day. In the evening the children were all asked if they
had committed any faults during the day, and every evening
Nancy confessed that she had broken this particular rule. It cost
her sixpence a time, that being the fine attached to the offence.
Just for the information I asked her why she always confessed,
and she answered in these exact words:

"Oh, well, the girls of the Holy Child have always been noted for
their truthfulness. It's a beastly bore, but I've got to do it."

I dare say that the miserable nature of her childhood, coming
before the mixture of saturnalia and discipline that was her
convent life, added something to her queernesses. Her father was
a violent madman of a fellow, a major of one of what I believe are
called the Highland regiments. He didn't drink, but he had an
ungovernable temper, and the first thing that Nancy could
remember was seeing her father strike her mother with his
clenched fist so that her mother fell over sideways from the
breakfast-table and lay motionless. The mother was no doubt an
irritating woman and the privates of that regiment appeared to
have been irritating, too, so that the house was a place of outcries
and perpetual disturbances. Mrs Rufford was Leonora's dearest
friend and Leonora could be cutting enough at times. But I fancy
she was as nothing to Mrs Rufford. The Major would come in to
lunch harassed and already spitting out oaths after an
unsatisfactory morning's drilling of his stubborn men beneath a
hot sun. And then Mrs Rufford would make some cutting remark
and pandemonium would break loose. Once, when she had been
about twelve, Nancy had tried to intervene between the pair of
them. Her father had struck her full upon the forehead a blow so
terrible that she had lain unconscious for three days. Nevertheless,
Nancy seemed to prefer her father to her mother. She remembered
rough kindnesses from him. Once or twice when she had been
quite small he had dressed her in a clumsy, impatient, but very
tender way. It was nearly always impossible to get a servant to stay
in the family and, for days at a time, apparently, Mrs Rufford
would be incapable. I fancy she drank. At any rate, she had so
cutting a tongue that even Nancy was afraid of her--she so made
fun of any tenderness, she so sneered at all emotional displays.
Nancy must have been a very emotional child.

Then one day, quite suddenly, on her return from a ride at Fort
William, Nancy had been sent, with her governess, who had a
white face, right down South to that convent school. She had been
expecting to go there in two months' time. Her mother
disappeared from her life at that time. A fortnight later Leonora
came to the convent and told her that her mother was dead.
Perhaps she was. At any rate, I never heard until the very end what
became of Mrs Rufford. Leonora never spoke of her.

And then Major Rufford went to India, from which he returned
very seldom and only for very short visits; and Nancy lived herself
gradually into the life at Branshaw Teleragh. I think that, from
that time onwards, she led a very happy life, till the end. There
were dogs and horses and old servants and the Forest. And there
were Edward and Leonora, who loved her.

I had known her all the time--I mean, that she always came to the
Ashburnhams' at Nauheim for the last fortnight of their stay--and I
watched her gradually growing. She was very cheerful with me.
She always even kissed me, night and morning, until she was
about eighteen. And she would skip about and fetch me things and
laugh at my tales of life in Philadelphia. But, beneath her gaiety, I
fancy that there lurked some terrors. I remember one day, when
she was just eighteen, during one of her father's rare visits to
Europe, we were sitting in the gardens, near the iron-stained
fountain. Leonora had one of her headaches and we were waiting
for Florence and Edward to come from their baths. You have no
idea how beautiful Nancy looked that morning.

We were talking about the desirability of taking tickets in
lotteries--of the moral side of it, I mean. She was all in white, and
so tall and fragile; and she had only just put her hair up, so that
the carriage of her neck had that charming touch of youth and of
unfamiliarity. Over her throat there played the reflection from a
little pool of water, left by a thunderstorm of the night before, and
all the rest of her features were in the diffused and luminous
shade of her white parasol. Her dark hair just showed beneath her
broad, white hat of pierced, chip straw; her throat was very long
and leaned forward, and her eyebrows, arching a little as she
laughed at some old-fashionedness in my phraseology, had
abandoned their tense line. And there was a little colour in her
cheeks and light in her deep blue eyes. And to think that that vivid
white thing, that saintly and swanlike being--to think that. . . Why,
she was like the sail of a ship, so white and so definite in her
movements. And to think that she will never . . . Why, she will
never do anything again. I can't believe it . . .

Anyhow, we were chattering away about the morality of lotteries.
And then, suddenly, there came from the arcades behind us the
overtones of her father's unmistakable voice; it was as if a
modified foghorn had boomed with a reed inside it. I looked
round to catch sight of him. A tall, fair, stiffly upright man of
fifty, he was walking away with an Italian baron who had had
much to do with the Belgian Congo. They must have been talking
about the proper treatment of natives, for I heard him say:

"Oh, hang humanity!"

When I looked again at Nancy her eyes were closed and her face
was more pallid than her dress, which had at least some pinkish
reflections from the gravel. It was dreadful to see her with her
eyes closed like that.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, and her hand that had appeared to be
groping, settled for a moment on my arm. "Never speak of it.
Promise never to tell my father of it. It brings back those dreadful
dreams . . ." And, when she opened her eyes she looked straight
into mine. "The blessed saints," she said, "you would think they
would spare you such things. I don't believe all the sinning in the
world could make one deserve them."

They say the poor thing was always allowed a light at night, even
in her bedroom. . . . And yet, no young girl could more archly and
lovingly have played with an adored father. She was always
holding him by both coat lapels; cross-questioning him as to how
he spent his time; kissing the top of his head. Ah, she was
well-bred, if ever anyone was.

The poor, wretched man cringed before her--but she could not
have done more to put him at his ease. Perhaps she had had
lessons in it at her convent. It was only that peculiar note of his
voice, used when he was overbearing or dogmatic, that could
unman her--and that was only visible when it came unexpectedly.
That was because the bad dreams that the blessed saints allowed
her to have for her sins always seemed to her to herald themselves
by the booming sound of her father's voice. It was that sound that
had always preceded his entrance for the terrible lunches of her
childhood. . . .

I have reported, earlier in this chapter, that Leonora said, during
that remainder of their stay at Nauheim, after I had left, it had
seemed to her that she was fighting a long duel with unseen
weapons against silent adversaries. Nancy, as I have also said, was
always trying to go off with Edward alone. That had been her
habit for years. And Leonora found it to be her duty to stop that. It
was very difficult. Nancy was used to having her own way, and for
years she had been used to going off with Edward, ratting,
rabbiting, catching salmon down at Fordingbridge, district-visiting
of the sort that Edward indulged in, or calling on the tenants. And
at Nauheim she and Edward had always gone up to the Casino
alone in the evenings--at any rate, whenever Florence did not call
for his attendance. It shows the obviously innocent nature of the
regard of those two that even Florence had never had any idea of
jealousy. Leonora had cultivated the habit of going to bed at ten

I don't know how she managed it, but, for all the time they were at
Nauheim, she contrived never to let those two be alone together,
except in broad daylight, in very crowded places. If a Protestant
had done that it would no doubt have awakened a
self-consciousness in the girl. But Catholics, who have always
reservations and queer spots of secrecy, can manage these things
better. And I dare say that two things made this easier--the death of
Florence and the fact that Edward was obviously sickening. He
appeared, indeed, to be very ill; his shoulders began to be bowed;
there were pockets under his eyes; he had extraordinary moments
of inattention.

And Leonora describes herself as watching him as a fierce cat
watches an unconscious pigeon in a roadway. In that silent
watching, again, I think she was a Catholic--of a people that can
think thoughts alien to ours and keep them to themselves. And the
thoughts passed through her mind; some of them even got through
to Edward with never a word spoken. At first she thought that it
might be remorse, or grief, for the death of Florence that was
oppressing him. But she watched and watched, and uttered
apparently random sentences about Florence before the girl, and
she perceived that he had no grief and no remorse. He had not any
idea that Florence could have committed suicide without writing
at least a tirade to him. The absence of that made him certain that
it had been heart disease. For Florence had never undeceived him
on that point. She thought it made her seem more romantic.

No, Edward had no remorse. He was able to say to himself that he
had treated Florence with gallant attentiveness of the kind that she
desired until two hours before her death. Leonora gathered that
from the look in his eyes, and from the way he straightened his
shoulders over her as she lay in her coffin--from that and a
thousand other little things. She would speak suddenly about
Florence to the girl and he would not start in the least; he would
not even pay attention, but would sit with bloodshot eyes gazing at
the tablecloth. He drank a good deal, at that time--a steady soaking
of drink every evening till long after they had gone to bed.

For Leonora made the girl go to bed at ten, unreasonable though
that seemed to Nancy. She would understand that, whilst they
were in a sort of half mourning for Florence, she ought not to be
seen at public places, like the Casino; but she could not see why
she should not accompany her uncle upon his evening strolls
though the park. I don't know what Leonora put up as an
excuse--something, I fancy, in the nature of a nightly orison that
she made the girl and herself perform for the soul of Florence.
And then, one evening, about a fortnight later, when the girl,
growing restive at even devotional exercises, clamoured once
more to be allowed to go for a walk with Edward, and when
Leonora was really at her wits' end, Edward gave himself into her
hands. He was just standing up from dinner and had his face

But he turned his heavy head and his bloodshot eyes upon his wife
and looked full at her.

"Doctor von Hauptmann," he said, "has ordered me to go to bed
immediately after dinner. My heart's much worse."

He continued to look at Leonora for a long minute--with a sort of
heavy contempt. And Leonora understood that, with his speech, he
was giving her the excuse that she needed for separating him from
the girl, and with his eyes he was reproaching her for thinking that
he would try to corrupt Nancy.

He went silently up to his room and sat there for a long time--until
the girl was well in bed--reading in the Anglican prayer-book.
And about half-past ten she heard his footsteps pass her door,
going outwards. Two and a half hours later they came back,
stumbling heavily.

She remained, reflecting upon this position until the last night of
their stay at Nauheim. Then she suddenly acted. For, just in the
same way, suddenly after dinner, she looked at him and said:

"Teddy, don't you think you could take a night off from your
doctor's orders and go with Nancy to the Casino. The poor child
has had her visit so spoiled."

He looked at her in turn for a long, balancing minute.

"Why, yes," he said at last.

Nancy jumped out of her chair and kissed him. Those two words,
Leonora said, gave her the greatest relief of any two syllables she
had ever heard in her life. For she realized that Edward was
breaking up, not under the desire for possession, but from the
dogged determination to hold his hand. She could relax some of
her vigilance.

Nevertheless, she sat in the darkness behind her half-closed
jalousies, looking over the street and the night and the trees until,
very late, she could hear Nancy's clear voice coming closer and

"You did look an old guy with that false nose." There had been
some sort of celebration of a local holiday up in the Kursaal. And
Edward replied with his sort of sulky good nature:

"As for you, you looked like old Mother Sideacher."

The girl came swinging along, a silhouette beneath a gas-lamp;
Edward, another, slouched at her side. They were talking just as
they had talked any time since the girl had been seventeen; with
the same tones, the same joke about an old beggar woman who
always amused them at Branshaw. The girl, a little later, opened
Leonora's door whilst she was still kissing Edward on the forehead
as she had done every night.

"We've had a most glorious time," she said. "He's ever so much
better. He raced me for twenty yards home. Why are you all in the

Leonora could hear Edward going about in his room, but, owing to
the girl's chatter, she could not tell whether he went out again or
not. And then, very much later, because she thought that if he
were drinking again something must be done to stop it, she
opened for the first time, and very softly, the never-opened door
between their rooms. She wanted to see if he had gone out again.
Edward was kneeling beside his bed with his head hidden in the
counterpane. His arms, outstretched, held out before him a little
image of the Blessed Virgin--a tawdry, scarlet and Prussian blue
affair that the girl had given him on her first return from the
convent. His shoulders heaved convulsively three times, and
heavy sobs came from him before she could close the door. He
was not a Catholic; but that was the way it took him.

Leonora slept for the first time that night with a sleep from which
she never once started.


AND then Leonora completely broke down--on the day that they
returned to Branshaw Teleragh. It is the infliction of our
miserable minds--it is the scourge of atrocious but probably just
destiny that no grief comes by itself. No, any great grief, though
the grief itself may have gone, leaves in its place a train of
horrors, of misery, and despair. For Leonora was, in herself,
relieved. She felt that she could trust Edward with the girl and she
knew that Nancy could be absolutely trusted. And then, with the
slackening of her vigilance, came the slackening of her entire
mind. This is perhaps the most miserable part of the entire story.
For it is miserable to see a clean intelligence waver; and Leonora

You are to understand that Leonora loved Edward with a passion
that was yet like an agony of hatred. And she had lived with him
for years and years without addressing to him one word of
tenderness. I don't know how she could do it. At the beginning of
that relationship she had been just married off to him. She had
been one of seven daughters in a bare, untidy Irish manor-house to
which she had returned from the convent I have so often spoken
of. She had left it just a year and she was just nineteen. It is
impossible to imagine such inexperience as was hers. You might
almost say that she had never spoken to a man except a priest.
Coming straight from the convent, she had gone in behind the
high walls of the manor-house that was almost more cloistral than
any convent could have been. There were the seven girls, there
was the strained mother, there was the worried father at whom,
three times in the course of that year, the tenants took pot-shots
from behind a hedge. The women-folk, upon the whole, the
tenants respected. Once a week each of the girls, since there were
seven of them, took a drive with the mother in the old basketwork
chaise drawn by a very fat, very lumbering pony. They paid
occasionally a call, but even these were so rare that, Leonora has
assured me, only three times in the year that succeeded her
coming home from the convent did she enter another person's
house. For the rest of the time the seven sisters ran about in the
neglected gardens between the unpruned espaliers. Or they played
lawn-tennis or fives in an angle of a great wall that surrounded the
garden--an angle from which the fruit trees had long died away.
They painted in water-colour; they embroidered; they copied
verses into albums. Once a week they went to Mass; once a week
to the confessional, accompanied by an old nurse. They were
happy since they had known no other life.

It appeared to them a singular extravagance when, one day, a
photographer was brought over from the county town and
photographed them standing, all seven, in the shadow of an old
apple tree with the grey lichen on the raddled trunk. But it wasn't
an extravagance.

Three weeks before Colonel Powys had written to Colonel

"I say, Harry, couldn't your Edward marry one of my girls? It
would be a god-send to me, for I'm at the end of my tether and,
once one girl begins to go off, the rest of them will follow." He
went on to say that all his daughters were tall, upstanding,
clean-limbed and absolutely pure, and he reminded Colonel
Ashburnham that, they having been married on the same day,
though in different churches, since the one was a Catholic and the
other an Anglican--they had said to each other, the night before,
that, when the time came, one of their sons should marry one of
their daughters. Mrs Ashburnham had been a Powys and remained
Mrs Powys' dearest friend. They had drifted about the world as
English soldiers do, seldom meeting, but their women always in
correspondence one with another. They wrote about minute things
such as the teething of Edward and of the earlier daughters or the
best way to repair a Jacob's ladder in a stocking. And, if they met
seldom, yet it was often enough to keep each other's personalities
fresh in their minds, gradually growing a little stiff in the joints,
but always with enough to talk about and with a store of
reminiscences. Then, as his girls began to come of age when they
must leave the convent in which they were regularly interned
during his years of active service, Colonel Powys retired from the
army with the necessity of making a home for them. It happened
that the Ashburnhams had never seen any of the Powys girls,
though, whenever the four parents met in London, Edward
Ashburnham was always of the party. He was at that time
twenty-two and, I believe, almost as pure in mind as Leonora
herself. It is odd how a boy can have his virgin intelligence
untouched in this world.

That was partly due to the careful handling of his mother, partly to
the fact that the house to which he went at Winchester had a
particularly pure tone and partly to Edward's own peculiar
aversion from anything like coarse language or gross stories. At
Sandhurst he had just kept out of the way of that sort of thing. He
was keen on soldiering, keen on mathematics, on land-surveying,
on politics and, by a queer warp of his mind, on literature. Even
when he was twenty-two he would pass hours reading one of
Scott's novels or the Chronicles of Froissart. Mrs Ashburnham
considered that she was to be congratulated, and almost every
week she wrote to Mrs Powys, dilating upon her satisfaction.

Then, one day, taking a walk down Bond Street with her son, after
having been at Lord's, she noticed Edward suddenly turn his head
round to take a second look at a well-dressed girl who had passed
them. She wrote about that, too, to Mrs Powys, and expressed
some alarm. It had been, on Edward's part, the merest reflex
action. He was so very abstracted at that time owing to the
pressure his crammer was putting upon him that he certainly hadn't
known what he was doing.

It was this letter of Mrs Ashburnham's to Mrs Powys that had
caused the letter from Colonel Powys to Colonel Ashburnham--a
letter that was half-humorous, half longing. Mrs Ashburnham
caused her husband to reply, with a letter a little more
jocular--something to the effect that Colonel Powys ought to give
them some idea of the goods that he was marketing. That was the
cause of the photograph. I have seen it, the seven girls, all in white
dresses, all very much alike in feature--all, except Leonora, a little
heavy about the chins and a little stupid about the eyes. I dare say
it would have made Leonora, too, look a little heavy and a little
stupid, for it was not a good photograph. But the black shadow
from one of the branches of the apple tree cut right across her
face, which is all but invisible. There followed an extremely
harassing time for Colonel and Mrs Powys. Mrs Ashburnham had
written to say that, quite sincerely, nothing would give greater
ease to her maternal anxieties than to have her son marry one of
Mrs Powys' daughters if only he showed some inclination to do so.
For, she added, nothing but a love-match was to be thought of in
her Edward's case. But the poor Powys couple had to run things so
very fine that even the bringing together of the young people was
a desperate hazard.

The mere expenditure upon sending one of the girls over from
Ireland to Branshaw was terrifying to them; and whichever girl
they selected might not be the one to ring Edward's bell. On the
other hand, the expenditure upon mere food and extra sheets for a
visit from the Ashburnhams to them was terrifying, too. It would
mean, mathematically, going short in so many meals themselves,
afterwards. Nevertheless, they chanced it, and all the three
Ashburnhams came on a visit to the lonely manor-house. They
could give Edward some rough shooting, some rough fishing and
a whirl of femininity; but I should say the girls made really more
impression upon Mrs Ashburnham than upon Edward himself.
They appeared to her to be so clean run and so safe. They were
indeed so clean run that, in a faint sort of way, Edward seems to
have regarded them rather as boys than as girls. And then, one
evening, Mrs Ashburnham had with her boy one of those
conversations that English mothers have with English sons. It
seems to have been a criminal sort of proceeding, though I don't
know what took place at it. Anyhow, next morning Colonel
Ashburnham asked on behalf of his son for the hand of Leonora.
This caused some consternation to the Powys couple, since
Leonora was the third daughter and Edward ought to have married
the eldest. Mrs Powys, with her rigid sense of the proprieties,
almost wished to reject the proposal. But the Colonel, her
husband, pointed out that the visit would have cost them sixty
pounds, what with the hire of an extra servant, of a horse and car,
and with the purchase of beds and bedding and extra tablecloths.
There was nothing else for it but the marriage. In that way Edward
and Leonora became man and wife.

I don't know that a very minute study of their progress towards
complete disunion is necessary. Perhaps it is. But there are many
things that I cannot well make out, about which I cannot well
question Leonora, or about which Edward did not tell me. I do not
know that there was ever any question of love from Edward to
her. He regarded her, certainly, as desirable amongst her sisters.
He was obstinate to the extent of saying that if he could not have
her he would not have any of them. And, no doubt, before the
marriage, he made her pretty speeches out of books that he had
read. But, as far as he could describe his feelings at all, later, it

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