Part 2 out of 5
"But you play, then!" he exclaimed, pleased.
"No, no! I tap--only. And very little."
He glanced through the pieces of music. They were all, without
exception, waltzes, by the once popular waltz-kings of Paris and
Vienna, including several by the king of kings, Berger. He seated
himself at the piano and opened the first waltz that came.
"Oh! I adore the waltzes of Berger," she murmured. "There is only he.
You don't think so?"
He said he had never heard any of this music. Then he played every
piece for her. He tried to see what it was in this music that so
pleased the simple; and he saw it, or he thought he saw it. He
abandoned himself to the music, yielding to it, accepting its ideals,
interpreting it as though it moved him, until in the end it did
produce in him a sort of factitious emotion. After all, it was no
worse than much of the music he was forced to hear in very refined
She said, ravished:
"You decipher music like an angel."
And hummed a fragment of the waltz from _The Rosenkavalier_ which he
had played for her two evenings earlier. He glanced round sharply. Had
she, then, real taste?
"It is like that, isn't it?" she questioned, and hummed it again,
flattered by the look on his face.
While, at her invitation, he repeated the waltz on the piano, whose
strings might have been made of zinc, he heard a ring at the outer
door and then the muffled sound of a colloquy between a male voice and
the voice of the Italian. "Of course," he admitted philosophically,
"she has other clients already." Such a woman was bound to have other
clients. He felt no jealousy, nor even discomfort, from the fact that
she lent herself to any male with sufficient money and a respectable
appearance. The colloquy expired.
"Ring, please," she requested, after thanking him. He hoped that she
was not going to interrogate the Italian in his presence. Surely
she would be incapable of such clumsiness! Still, women without
imagination--and the majority of women were without imagination--did
do the most astounding things.
There was no immediate answer to the bell; but in a few minutes the
Italian entered with a tea-tray. Christine sat up.
"I will pour the tea," said she, and to the Italian: "Marthe, where
is the evening paper?" And when Marthe returned with a newspaper damp
from the press, Christine said: "To Monsieur...."
Not a word of curiosity as to the unknown visitor!
G.J. was amply confirmed in his original opinion of Christine. She was
one in a hundred. To provide the evening paper.... It was nothing, but
it was enormous.
"Sit by my side," she said. She made just a little space for him on
the sofa--barely enough so that he had to squeeze in. The afternoon
tea was correct, save for the extraordinary thickness of the
bread-and-butter. But G.J. said to himself that the French did
not understand bread-and-butter, and the Italians still less. To
compensate for the defects of the bread-and-butter there was a box of
"I perfect my English," she said. Tea was finished; they were smoking,
the _Evening News_ spread between them over the tea-things. She
articulated with a strong French accent the words of some of the
headings. "Mistair Carlos Smith keeled at the front," she read out.
"Who is it, that woman there? She must be celebrated."
There was a portrait of the illustrious Concepcion, together with some
sympathetic remarks about her, remarks conceived very differently from
the usual semi-ironic, semi-worshipping journalistic references to the
stars of Concepcion's set. G.J. answered vaguely.
"I do not like too much these society women. They are worse than us,
and they cost you more. Ah! If the truth were known--" Christine
spoke with a queer, restrained, surprising bitterness. Then she added,
softly relenting: "However, it is sad for her.... Who was he, this
G.J. replied that he was nobody in particular, so far as his knowledge
"Ah! One of those who are husbands of their wives!" said Christine
The disturbing intuition of women!
A little later he said that he must depart.
"But why? I feel better."
"I have a committee."
"It is a work of charity--for the French wounded."
"Ah! In that case.... But, beloved!"
She lowered her voice.
"How dost thou call thyself?"
"Thou knowest--I have a fancy for thee."
Her tone was delicious, its sincerity absolutely convincing.
"No, no. It is true. Say! Return. Return after thy committee. Take me
out to dinner--some gentle little restaurant, discreet. There must be
many of them in a city like London. It is a city so romantic. Oh! The
little corners of London!"
"But--of course. I should be enchanted--"
He was standing. She raised her smiling, seductive face. She was
young--younger than Concepcion; less battered by the world's contacts
than Concepcion. She had the inexpressible virtue and power of youth.
He was nearing fifty. And she, perhaps half his age, had confessed his
"And say! My Gilbert. Bring me a few flowers. I have not been able
to go out to-day. Something very simple. I detest that one should
squander money on flowers for me."
"Seven-thirty, then!" said he. "And you will be ready?"
"I shall be very exact. Thou wilt tell me all that concerns thy
committee. That interests me. The English are extraordinary."
Within the hotel the glowing Gold Hall, whose Lincrusta Walton panels
dated it, was nearly empty. Of the hundred small round tables only one
was occupied; a bald head and a large green hat were almost meeting
over the top of this table, but there was nothing on it except an
ashtray. A waiter wandered about amid the thick plushy silence and the
stagnant pools of electric light, meditating upon the curse which
had befallen the world of hotels. The red lips beneath the green
hat discernibly moved, but no faintest murmur therefrom reached the
entrance. The hot, still place seemed to be enchanted.
The sight of the hotel flower-stall recessed on the left reminded G.J.
of Christine's desire. Forty thousand skilled women had been put out
of work in England because luxury was scared by the sudden vista of
war, but the black-garbed girl, entrenched in her mahogany bower, was
still earning some sort of a livelihood. In a moment, wakened out of
her terrible boredom into an alert smile, she had sold to G.J. a bunch
of expensive chrysanthemums whose yellow petals were like long curly
locks. Thoughtless, he had meant to have the flowers delivered at
once to Christine's flat. It would not do; it would be indiscreet. And
somehow, in the absence of Braiding, it would be equally indiscreet to
have them delivered at his own flat.
"I shall be leaving the hotel in about an hour; I'll take them away
myself then," he said, and inquired for the headquarters of the
Lechford French Hospitals Committee.
"Committee?" repeated the girl vaguely. "I expect the Onyx Hall's what
you want." She pointed up a corridor, and gave change.
G.J. discovered the Onyx Hall, which had its own entrance from the
street, and which in other days had been a cafe lounge. The precious
pavement was now half hidden by wooden trestles, wooden cubicles,
and cheap chairs. Temporary flexes brought down electric light from
a stained glass dome to illuminate card-indexes and pigeon-holes and
piles of letters. Notices in French and Flemish were suspended from
the ornate onyx pilasters. Old countrywomen and children in rough
foreign clothes, smart officers in strange uniforms, privates
in shabby blue, gentlemen in morning coats and spats, and untidy
Englishwomen with eyes romantic, hard, or wistful, were mixed together
in the Onyx Hall, where there was no enchantment and little order,
save that good French seemed to be regularly spoken on one side of
the trestles and regularly assassinated on the other. G.J., mystified,
caught the grey eye of a youngish woman with a tired and fretful
"And you?" she inquired perfunctorily.
He demanded, with hesitation:
"Is this the Lechford Committee?"
"The what Committee?"
"The Lechford Committee headquarters." He thought she might be rather
an attractive little thing at, say, an evening party.
She gave him a sardonic look and answered, not rudely, but with large
"Can't you read?"
By means of gesture scarcely perceptible she directed his attention to
an immense linen sign stretched across the back of the big room, and
he saw that he was in the ant-heap of some Belgian Committee.
"So sorry to have troubled you!" he apologised. "I suppose you don't
happen to know where the Lechford Committee sits?"
"Never heard of it," said she with cheerful disdain. Then she smiled
and he smiled. "You know, the hotel simply hums with committees, but
this is the biggest by a long way. They can't let their rooms, so it
costs them nothing to lend them for patriotic purposes."
He liked the chit.
Presently, with a page-boy, he was ascending in a lift through
storey after storey of silent carpeted desert. Light alternated with
darkness, winking like a succession of days and nights as seen by
a god. The infant showed him into a private parlour furnished
and decorated in almost precisely the same taste as Christine's
sitting-room, where a number of men and women sat close together at a
long deal table, whose pale, classic simplicity clashed with the rest
of the apartment. A thin, dark, middle-aged man of austere visage
bowed to him from the head of the table. Somebody else indicated a
chair, which, with a hideous, noisy scraping over the bare floor,
he modestly insinuated between two occupied chairs. A third person
offered a typewritten sheet containing the agenda of the meeting. A
blonde girl was reading in earnest, timid tones the minutes of the
previous meeting. The affair had just begun. As soon as the minutes
had been passed the austere chairman turned and said evenly:
"I am sure I am expressing the feelings of the committee in welcoming
among us Mr. Hoape, who has so kindly consented to join us and give us
the benefit of his help and advice in our labours."
Sympathetic murmurs converged upon G.J. from the four sides of the
table, and G.J. nervously murmured a few incomprehensible words,
feeling both foolish and pleased. He had never sat on a committee;
and as his war-conscience troubled him more and more daily, he was
extremely anxious to start work which might placate it. Indeed, he
had seized upon the request to join the committee as a swimmer in
difficulties clasps the gunwale of a dinghy.
A man who kept his gaze steadily on the table cleared his throat and
"The matter is not in order, Mr. Chairman, but I am sure I am
expressing the feelings of the committee in proposing a vote of
condolence to yourself on the terrible loss which you have sustained
in the death of your son at the Front."
"I beg to second that," said a lady quickly.
"Our chairman has given his only son--"
Tears came into her eyes; she seemed to appeal for help. There were
"Hear, hears," and more sympathetic murmurs.
The proposer, with his gaze still steadily fixed on the table, said:
"I beg to put the resolution to the meeting."
"Yes," said the chairman with calm self-control in the course of his
acknowledgment. "And if I had ten sons I would willingly give them
all--for the cause." And his firm, hard glance appeared to challenge
any member of the committee to assert that this profession of parental
and patriotic generosity of heart was not utterly sincere. However,
nobody had the air of doubting that if the chairman had had ten sons,
or as many sons as Solomon, he would have sacrificed them all with the
most admirable and eager heroism.
The agenda was opened. G.J. had little but newspaper knowledge of the
enterprises of the committee, and it would not have been proper to
waste the time of so numerous a company in enlightening him. The
common-sense custom evidently was that new members should "pick up the
threads as they went along." G.J. honestly tried to do so. But he was
preoccupied with the personalities of the committee. He soon saw that
the whole body was effectively divided into two classes--the chairmen
of the various sub-committees, and the rest. Few members were
interested in any particular subject. Those who were not interested
either stared at the walls or at the agenda paper, or laboriously drew
intricate and meaningless designs on the agenda paper, or folded
up the agenda paper into fantastic shapes until, when someone in
authority brought out the formula, "I think the view of the committee
will be--" a resolution was put and the issue settled by the
mechanical raising of hands on the fulcrum of the elbow. And at each
raising of hands everybody felt that something positive had indeed
The new member was a little discouraged. He had the illusion that
the two hospitals run in France for French soldiers by the Lechford
Committee were an illusion, that they did not really exist, that the
committee was discussing an abstraction. Nevertheless, each problem
as it was presented--the drains (postponed), the repairs to the
motor-ambulances, the ordering of a new X-ray apparatus, the
dilatoriness of a French Minister in dealing with correspondence,
the cost per day per patient, the relations with the French civil
authorities and the French military authorities, the appointment of
a new matron who could keep the peace with the senior doctor, and the
great principle involved in deducting five francs fifty centimes for
excess luggage from a nurse's account for travelling expenses--each
problem helped to demonstrate that the hospitals did exist and that
men and women were toiling therein, and that French soldiers in grave
need were being magnificently cared for and even saved from death. And
it was plain, too, that none of these excellent things could have come
to pass or could continue to occur if the committee did not regularly
sit round the table and at short intervals perform the rite of raising
G.J.'s attention wandered. He could not keep his mind off the thought
that he should soon be seeing Christine again. Sitting at the
table with a mien of intelligent interest, he had a waking dream of
Christine. He saw her just as she was--ingenuous, and ignorant if you
like--except that she was pure. Her purity, though, had not cooled her
temperament, and thus she combined in herself the characteristics
of at least two different women, both of whom were necessary to his
happiness. And she was his wife, and they lived in a roomy house in
Hyde Park Gardens, and the war was over. And she adored him and he
was passionately fond of her. And she was always having children; she
enjoyed having children; she demanded children; she had a child every
year and there was never any trouble. And he never admired her more
poignantly than at the periods just before his children were born,
when she had the vast, exquisitely swelling figure of the French
Renaissance Virgin in marble that stood on a console in his
drawing-room at the Albany.... Such was G.J.'s dream as he assisted
in the control of the Lechford Hospitals. Emerging from it he looked
along the table. Quite half the members were dreaming too, and he
wondered what thoughts were moving secretly within them. But the
chairman was not dreaming. He never loosed his grasp of the matter in
hand. Nor did the earnest young blonde by the chairman's side who took
down in stenography the decisions of the committee.
Then Lady Queenie Paulle entered rather hurriedly, filling the room
with a distinguished scent. All the men rose in haste, and there was a
frightful scraping of chair-legs on the floor. Lady Queenie cheerfully
apologised for being late, and, begging no one to disturb himself,
took a modest place between the chairman and the secretary and a
little behind them.
Lady Queenie obviously had what is called "race". The renown of her
family went back far, far beyond its special Victorian vogue, which
had transformed an earldom into a marquisate and which, incidentally,
was responsible for the new family Christian name that Queenie herself
bore. She was young, tall, slim and pale, and dressed with the utmost
smartness in black--her half-brother having gloriously lost his life
in September. She nodded to the secretary, who blushed with pleasure,
and she nodded to several members, including G.J. Being accustomed
to publicity and to seeing herself nearly every week in either _The
Tatler_ or _The Sketch_, she was perfectly at ease in the room, and
the fact that nearly the whole company turned to her as plants to the
sun did not in the least disturb her.
The attention which she received was her due, for she had few rivals
as a war-worker. She was connected with the Queen's Work for Women
Fund, Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, the Three Arts Fund, the Women's
Emergency Corps, and many minor organisations. She had joined a
Women's Suffrage Society because such societies were being utilised by
the Government. She had had ten lessons in First Aid in ten days, had
donned the Red Cross, and gone to France with two motor-cars and a
staff and a French maid in order to help in the great national work
of nursing wounded heroes; and she might still have been in France had
not an unsympathetic and audacious colonel of the R.A.M.C. insisted on
her being shipped back to England. She had done practically everything
that a patriotic girl could do for the war, except, perhaps, join a
Voluntary Aid Detachment and wash dishes and scrub floors for fifteen
hours a day and thirteen and a half days a fortnight. It was from
her mother that she had inherited the passion for public service. The
Marchioness of Lechford had been the cause of more philanthropic work
in others than any woman in the whole history of philanthropy. Lady
Lechford had said, "Let there be Lechford Hospitals in France,"
and lo! there were Lechford Hospitals in France. When troublesome
complications arose Lady Lechford had, with true self-effacement,
surrendered the establishments to a thoroughly competent committee,
and while retaining a seat on the committee for herself and another
for Queenie, had curved tirelessly away to the inauguration of fresh
and more exciting schemes.
"Mamma was very sorry she couldn't come this afternoon," said Lady
Queenie, addressing the chairman.
The formula of those with authority in deciding now became:
"I don't know exactly what Lady Lechford's view is, but I venture to
Then suddenly the demeanour of every member of the committee was
quickened, everybody listened intently to everything that was said;
a couple of members would speak together; pattern-designing and the
manufacture of paper ships, chains, and flowers ceased; it was as
though a tonic had been mysteriously administered to each individual
in the enervating room. The cause of the change was a recommendation
from the hospitals management sub-committee that it be an instruction
to the new matron of the smaller hospital to forbid any nurse and
any doctor to go out alone together in the evening. Scandal was
insinuated; nothing really wrong, but a bad impression produced
upon the civilians of the tiny town, who could not be expected to
understand the holy innocence which underlies the superficial
license of Anglo-Saxon manners. The personal characters and strange
idiosyncrasies of every doctor and every nurse were discussed; broad
principles of conduct were enunciated, together with the advantages
and disadvantages of those opposite poles, discipline and freedom. The
argument continually expanded, branching forth like the timber of
a great oak-tree from the trunk, and the minds of the committee
ran about the tree like monkeys. The interest was endless. A
quiet delegate who had just returned from a visit to the tiny town
completely blasted one part of the argument by asserting that the
hospital bore a blameless reputation among the citizens; but new
arguments were instantly constructed by the adherents of the idea of
discipline. The committee had plainly split into two even parties.
G.J. began to resent the harshness of the disciplinarians.
"I think we should remember," he said in his modest voice, "I think we
should remember that we are dealing with adult men and women."
The libertarians at once took him for their own. The disciplinarians
gave him to understand with their eyes that it might have been better
if he, as a new member attending his first meeting, had kept silence.
The discussion was inflamed. One or two people glanced surreptitiously
at their watches. The hour had long passed six thirty. G.J. grew
anxious about his rendezvous with Christine. He had enjoined
exactitude upon Christine. But the main body of the excited and happy
committee had no thought of the flight of time. The amusements of the
tiny town came up for review. As a fact, there was only one amusement,
the cinema. The whole town went to the cinema. Cinemas were
always darkened; human nature was human nature.... G.J. had an
extraordinarily realistic vision of the hospital staff slaving through
its long and heavy day and its everlasting week and preparing in
sections to amuse itself on certain evenings, and thinking with
pleasant anticipation of the ecstasies of the cinema, and pathetically
unsuspicious that its fate was being decided by a council of
omnipotent deities in the heaven of a London hotel.
"Mamma has never mentioned the subject to me," said Lady Queenie in
response to a question, looking at her rich muff.
"This is a question of principle," said somebody sharply, implying
that at last individual consciences were involved and that the
opinions of the Marchioness of Lechford had ceased to weigh.
"I'm afraid it's getting late," said the impassive chairman. "We must
come to some decision."
In the voting Lady Queenie, after hesitation, raised her hand with the
disciplinarians. By one vote the libertarians were defeated, and the
dalliance of the hospital staff in leisure hours received a severe
"She _would_--of course!" breathed a sharp-nosed little woman in the
chair next but one to G.J., gazing inimically at the lax mouth and
cynical eyes of Lady Queenie, who for four years had been the subject
of universal whispering, and some shouting, and one or two ferocious
battles in London.
Chair-legs scraped. People rose here and there to go as they rise in
a music hall after the Scottish comedian has retired, bowing, from
his final encore. They protested urgent appointments elsewhere. The
chairman remarked that other important decisions yet remained to be
taken; but his voice had no insistence because he had already settled
the decisions in his own mind. G.J. seized the occasion to depart.
"Mr. Hoape," the chairman detained him a moment. "The committee hope
you will allow yourself to be nominated to the accounts sub-committee.
We understand that you are by way of being an expert. The
sub-committee meets on Wednesday mornings at eleven--doesn't it, Sir
"Half-past," said Sir Charles.
G.J., somewhat surprised to learn of his expertise in accountancy,
consented to the suggestion, which renewed his resolution, impaired
somewhat by the experience of the meeting, to be of service in the
"You will receive the notice, of course," said the chairman.
Down below, just as G.J. was getting away with Christine's
chrysanthemums in their tissue paper, Lady Queenie darted out of the
lift opposite. It was she who, at Concepcion's instigation, had had
him put in the committee.
"I say, Queen," he said with a casual air--on account of the flowers,
"who's been telling 'em I know about accounts?"
"Why?" she said maliciously. "Don't you keep an account of every penny
you spend?" (It was true.)
Here was a fair example of her sardonic and unscrupulous humour--a
humour not of words but of acts. G.J. simply tossed his head, aware of
the futility of expostulation.
She went on in a different tone:
"You were the first to see Connie?"
"Yes," he said sadly.
"She has lain in my arms all afternoon," Lady Queenie burst out, her
voice liquid. "And now I'm going straight back to her." She looked
at him with the strangest triumphant expression. Then her large,
equivocal blue eyes fell from his face to the flowers, and their
expression simultaneously altered to disdainful amusement full of
mischievous implications. She ran off without another word. The glazed
entrance doors revolved, and he saw her nip into an electric brougham,
which, before he had time to button his overcoat, vanished like an
apparition in the rainy mist.
He found Christine exactly as he had left her, in the same tea-gown
and the same posture, and on the same sofa. But a small table had
been put by the sofa; and on this table was a penny bottle of ink in
a saucer, and a pen. She was studying some kind of official form. The
pucker between the eyes was very marked.
"Already!" she exclaimed, as if amazed. "But there is not a clock
that goes, and I had not the least idea of the hour. Besides, I was
splitting my head to fill up this form."
Such was her notion of being exact! He had abandoned an important
meeting of a committee which was doing untold mercies to her
compatriots in order to keep his appointment with her; and she, whose
professional business it was that evening to charm him and harmonise
with him, had merely flouted the appointment. Nevertheless, her
gestures and smile as she rose and came towards him were so utterly
exquisite that immediately he also flouted the appointment. What,
after all, could it matter whether they dined at eight, nine, or even
"Thou wilt pardon me, monster?" she murmured, kissing him.
No woman had ever put her chin up to his as she did, nor with a glance
expressed so unreserved a surrender to his masculinity.
She went on, twining languishingly round him:
"I do not know whether I ought to go out. I am yet far from--It is
"Absurd!" he protested--he could not bear the thought of her not
dining with him. He knew too well the desolation of a solitary dinner.
"Absurd! We go in a taxi. The restaurant is warm. We return in a
"To please thee, then."
"What is that form?"
"It is for the telephone. Thou understandest how it is necessary that
I have the telephone--me! But I comprehend nothing of this form."
She passed him the form. She had written her name in the space
allotted. "Christine Dubois." A fair calligraphy! But what a name!
The French equivalent of "Smith". Nothing could be less distinguished.
Suddenly it occurred to him that Concepcion's name also was Smith.
"I will fill it up for you. It is quite simple."
"It is possible that it is simple when one is English. But
English--that is as if to say Chinese. Everything contrary. Here is a
"No. I have my fountain-pen." He hated a cheap pen, and still more a
penny bottle of ink, but somehow this particular penny bottle of ink
seemed touching in its simple ugliness. She was eminently teachable.
He would teach her his own attitude towards penny bottles of ink....
Of course she would need the telephone--that could not be denied.
As Christine was signing the form Marthe entered with the
chrysanthemums, which he had handed over to her; she had arranged them
in a horrible blue glass vase cheaply gilded; and while Marthe was
putting the vase on the small table there was a ring at the outer
door. Marthe hurried off.
Christine said, kissing him again tenderly:
"Thou art a squanderer! Fine for me to tell thee not to buy costly
flowers! Thou has spent at least ten shillings for these. With ten
"No, no!" he interrupted her. "Five." It was a fib. He had paid half a
guinea for the few flowers, but he could not confess it.
They could hear a powerful voice indistinctly booming at the top of
the stairs. "Two callers on one afternoon!" G.J. reflected. And yet
she had told him she went out for the first time only the day before
yesterday! He scarcely liked it, but his reason rescued him from the
puerility of a grievance against her on this account. "And why not?
She is bound to be a marked success."
Marthe returned to the drawing-room and shut the door.
"Madame--" she began, slightly agitated.
"Speak, then!" Christine urged, catching her agitation.
"It is the police!"
G.J. had a shock. He knew many of the policemen who lurked in the dark
doorways of Piccadilly at night, had little friendly talks with them,
held them for excellent fellows. But a policeman invading the flat of
a courtesan, and himself in the flat, seemed a different being from
the honest stalwarts who threw the beams of lanterns on the key-holes
of jewellers' shops.
Christine steeled herself to meet the crisis with self-reliance. She
pointedly did not appeal to the male.
"Well, what is it that he wants?"
"He talks of the chimney. It appears this morning there was a chimney
on fire. But since we burn only anthracite and gas--He knows madame's
There was a pause. Christine asked sharply and mysteriously:
"How much do you think?"
"If madame gave five pounds--having regard to the _chic_ of the
Christine rushed into the bedroom and came back with a five-pound
"Here! Chuck that at him--politely. Tell him we are very sorry."
"But he'll never take it. You can't treat the London police like
that!" G.J. could not help expostulating as soon as Marthe had gone.
He feared some trouble.
"My poor friend!" Christine replied patronisingly. "Thou art not up
in these things. Marthe knows her affair--a woman very experienced in
London. He will take it, thy policeman. And if I do not deceive myself
no more chimneys will burn for about a year.... Ah! The police do not
wipe their noses with broken bottles!" (She meant that the police knew
their way about.) "I no more than they, I do not wipe my nose with
She was moved, indignant, stoutly defensive. G.J. grew self-conscious.
Moreover, her slang disturbed him. It was the first slang he had heard
her use, and in using it her voice had roughened. But he remembered
that Concepcion also used slang--and advanced slang--upon occasion.
The booming ceased; a door closed. Marthe returned once more.
"He is gone. He was very nice, madame. I told him about madame--that
madame was very discreet." Marthe finished in a murmur.
"So much the better. Now, help me to dress. Quick, quick! Monsieur
will be impatient."
G.J. was ashamed of the innocence he had displayed, and ashamed, too,
of the whole Metropolitan Police Force, admirable though it was in
stopping traffic for a perambulator to cross the road. Five pounds!
These ladies were bled. Five pounds wanted earning.... It was a good
sign, though, that she had not so far asked him to contribute. And he
felt sure that she would not.
"Come in, then, poltroon!" She cooed softly and encouragingly from the
bedroom, where Marthe was busy with her.
The door between the bedroom and the drawing-room was open. G.J.,
humming, obeyed the invitation and sat down on the bed between two
heaps of clothes. Christine was very gay; she was like a child. She
had apparently quite forgotten her migraine and also the incident of
the policeman. She snatched the cigarette from G.J.'s mouth, took a
puff, and put it back again. Then she sat in front of the large mirror
and did her hair while Marthe buttoned her boots. Her corset fitted
beautifully, and as she raised her arms above her head under the
shaded lamp G.J. could study the marvellous articulation of the
arms at the bare shoulders. The close atmosphere was drenched with
femininity. The two women, one so stylish and the other by contrast
piquantly a heavy slattern, hid nothing whatever from him, bestowing
on him with perfect tranquillity the right to be there and to watch
at his ease every mysterious transaction.... The most convincing proof
that Christine was authentically young! And G.J. had the illusion
again that he was in the Orient, and it was extraordinarily agreeable.
The recollection of the scene of the Lechford Committee amused him
like a pantomime witnessed afar off through a gauze curtain. It had no
more reality than that. But he thought better of the committee now. He
perceived the wonderful goodness of it and of its work. It really was
running those real hospitals; it had a real interest in them. He meant
to do his very best in the accounts department. After all, he had been
a lawyer and knew the routine of an office and the minutest phenomena
of a ledger. He was eager to begin.
"How findest thou me?"
She stood for inspection.
She was ready, except the gloves. The angle of her hat, the
provocation of her veil--these things would have quickened the pulse
of a Patagonian. Perfume pervaded the room.
He gave the classic response that nothing could render trite:
"_Tu es exquise_."
She raised her veil just above her mouth....
In the drawing-room she hesitated, and then settled down on the
piano-stool like a bird alighting and played a few bars from the
_Rosenkavalier_ waltz. He was thunderstruck, for she had got not only
the air but some of the accompaniment right.
"Go on! Go on!" he urged her, marvelling.
She turned, smiling, and shook her head.
"That is all that I can recall to myself."
The obvious sincerity of his appreciation delighted her.
"She is really musical!" he thought, and was convinced that while
looking for a bit of coloured glass he had picked up an emerald.
Marthe produced his overcoat, and when he was ready for the street
Christine gazed at him and said:
"For the true _chic_, there are only Englishmen!"
In the taxi she proved to him by delicate effronteries the genuineness
of her confessed "fancy" for him. And she poured out slang. He began
to be afraid, for this excursion was an experiment such as he had
never tried before in London; in Paris, of course, the code was
otherwise. But as soon as the commissionaire of the restaurant at
Victoria approached the door of the taxi her manner changed. She
walked up the long interior with the demureness of a stockbroker's
young wife out for the evening from Putney Hill. He thought, relieved,
"She is the embodiment of common sense." At the end of the vista of
white tables the restaurant opened out to the left. In a far corner
they were comfortably secure from observation. They sat down. A waiter
beamed his flatteries upon them. G.J. was serenely aware of his own
skilled faculty for ordering a dinner. He looked over the menu card at
Christine. Nobody could possibly tell that she was a professed enemy
of society. "These French women are astounding!" he thought. He
intensely admired her. He was mad about her. His bliss was extreme. He
could not keep it within bounds meet for the great world-catastrophe.
He was happy as for quite ten years he had never hoped to be. Yes, he
grieved for Concepcion; but somehow grief could not mingle with nor
impair the happiness he felt. And was not Concepcion lying in the
affectionate arms of Queenie Paulle?
Christine, glancing about her contentedly, reverted to one of her
"Truly, it is very romantic, thy London!"
Christine went into the oratory of St. Philip at Brompton on a Sunday
morning in the following January, dipped her finger into one of the
Italian basins at the entrance, and signed herself with the holy
water. She was dressed in black; she had the face of a pretty martyr;
her brow was crumpled by the world's sorrow; she looked and actually
was at the moment intensely religious. She had months earlier chosen
the Brompton Oratory for her devotions, partly because of the name of
Philip, which had been murmured in accents of affection by her
dying mother, and partly because it lay on a direct, comprehensible
bus-route from Piccadilly. You got into the motor-bus opposite the end
of the Burlington Arcade, and in about six minutes it dropped you in
front of the Oratory; and you could not possibly lose yourself in the
topographical intricacies of the unknown city. Christine never took a
taxi except when on business.
The interior was gloomy with the winter forenoon; the broad
Renaissance arches showed themselves only faintly above; on every side
there were little archipelagos of light made by groups of candles in
front of great pale images. The church was comparatively empty, and
most of the people present were kneeling in the chapels; for Christine
had purposely come, as she always did, at the slack hour between the
seventh and last of the early morning Low Masses and the High Mass at
She went up the right aisle and stopped before the Miraculous Infant
Jesus of Prague, a charming and naive little figure about eighteen
inches high in a stiff embroidered cloak and a huge symbol upon his
curly head. She had put herself under the protection of the Miraculous
Infant Jesus of Prague. She liked him; he was a change from the
Virgin; and he stood in the darkest corner of the whole interior,
behind the black statue of St. Peter with protruding toe, and within
the deep shadow made by the organ-loft overhead. Also he had a motto
in French: "Plus vous m'honorerez plus je vous favoriserai."
Christine hesitated, and then left the Miraculous Infant Jesus of
Prague without even a transient genuflexion. She was afraid to devote
herself to him that morning.
Of course she had been brought up strictly in the Roman Catholic
faith. And in her own esteem she was still an honest Catholic. For
years she had not confessed and therefore had not communicated. For
years she had had a desire to cast herself down at a confessional-box,
but she had not done so because of one of the questions in the _Petit
Paroissien_ which she used: "Avez-vous peche, par pensee, parole,
ou action, contre la purete ou la modestie?" And because also of
the preliminary injunction: "Maintenant essayez de vous rappeler vos
peches, _et combien de fois vous les avez commis_." She could not
bring herself to do that. Once she had confessed a great deal to a
priest at Sens, but he had treated her too lightly; his lightness
with her had indeed been shameful. Since then she had never confessed.
Further, she knew herself to be in a state of mortal sin by reason of
her frequent wilful neglect of the holy offices; and occasionally, at
the most inconvenient moments, the conviction that if she died she was
damned would triumph over her complacency. But on the whole she had
hopes for the future; though she had sinned, her sin was mysteriously
not like other people's sin of exactly the same kind.
And finally there was the Virgin Mary, the sweet and dependable
goddess. She had been neglecting the very clement Virgin Mary in
favour of the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague. A whim, a thoughtless
caprice, which she had paid for! The Virgin Mary had withdrawn her
defending shield. At least that was the interpretation which Christine
was bound to put upon the terrible incident of the previous night in
the Promenade. She had quite innocently been involved in a drunken
row in the lounge. Two military officers, one of whom, unnoticed by
Christine, was intoxicated, and two women--Madame Larivaudiere and
Christine! The Belgian had been growing more and more jealous of
Christine.... The row had flamed up in the tenth of a second like an
explosion. The two officers--then the two women. The bright silvery
sound of glass shattered on marble! High voices, deep voices! Half the
Promenade had rushed vulgarly into the lounge, panting with a gross
appetite to witness a vulgar scene. And as the Belgian was jealous of
the French girl, so were the English girls horribly jealous of all the
foreign girls, and scornful too. Nothing but the overwhelming desire
of the management to maintain the perfect respectability of its
Promenade had prevented a rough-and-tumble between the officers.
As for Madame Larivaudiere, she had been ejected and told never to
return. Christine had fled to the cloak-room, where she had remained
for half an hour, and thence had vanished away, solitary, by the side
entrance. It was precisely such an episode as Christine's mother would
have deprecated in horror, and as Christine herself intensely loathed.
And she could never assuage the moral wound of it by confiding the
affair to Gilbert. She was mad about Gilbert; she thrilled to be his
slave; she had what seemed an immeasurable confidence in him; and yet
never, never could she mention another individual man to him, much
less tell him of the public shame that had fallen upon her in the
exercise of her profession. Why had fate been thus hard on her? The
answer was surely to be found in the displeasure of the Virgin. And so
she did not dare to stay with the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague,
nor even to murmur the prayer beginning: "Adorable Jesus, divin modele
de la perfection ..."
She glanced round the great church, considering what were to her
the major and minor gods and goddesses on their ornate thrones: St.
Antony, St. Joseph, St. Sebastian, St. Philip, the Sacred Heart, St.
Cecilia, St. Peter, St. Wilfrid, St. Mary Magdelene (Ah! Not at that
altar could she be seen!), St. Patrick, St. Veronica, St. Francis,
St. John Baptist, St. Teresa, Our Lady, Our Lady of Good Counsel. No!
There was only one goddess possible for her--Our Lady of VII Dolours.
She crossed the wide nave to the severe black and white marble chapel
of the VII Dolours. The aspect of the shrine suited her. On one side
she read the English words: "Of your charity pray for the soul of
Flora Duchess of Norfolk who put up this altar to the Mother of
Sorrows that they who mourn may be comforted." And the very words
were romantic to her, and she thought of Flora Duchess of Norfolk as a
figure inexpressibly more romantic than the illustrious female figures
of French history. The Virgin of the VII Dolours was enigmatically
gazing at her, waiting no doubt to be placated. The Virgin was
painted, gigantic, in oil on canvas, but on her breast stood out
a heart made in three dimensions of real silver and pierced by the
swords of the seven dolours, three to the left and four to the right;
and in front was a tiny gold figure of Jesus crucified on a gold
Christine cast herself down and prayed to the painted image and the
hammered heart. She prayed to the goddess whom the Middle Ages had
perfected and who in the minds of the simple and the savage has
survived the Renaissance and still triumphantly flourishes; the Queen
of heaven, the Tyrant of heaven, the Woman in heaven; who was so
venerated that even her sweat is exhibited as a relic; who was softer
than Christ as Christ was softer than the Father; who in becoming a
goddess had increased her humanity; who put living roses for a sign
into the mouths of fornicators when they died, if only they had been
faithful to her; who told the amorous sacristan to kiss her face and
not her feet; who questioned lovers about their mistresses: "Is she as
pretty as I?"; who fell like a pestilence on the nuptial chambers of
young men who, professing love for her, had taken another bride; who
enjoyed being amused; who admitted a weakness for artists, tumblers,
soldiers and the common herd; who had visibly led both opponents on
every battlefield for centuries; who impersonated absent disreputable
nuns and did their work for them until they returned, repentant, to
be forgiven by her; who acted always on her instinct and never on her
reason; who cared nothing for legal principles; who openly used her
feminine influence with the Trinity; who filled heaven with riff-raff;
and who had never on any pretext driven a soul out of heaven.
Christine made peace with this jealous and divine creature. She felt
unmistakably that she was forgiven for her infidelity due to the
Infant in the darkness beyond the opposite aisle. The face of the
Lady of VII Dolours miraculously smiled at her; the silver heart
miraculously shed its tarnish and glittered beneficent lightnings.
Doubtless she knew somewhere in her mind that no physical change had
occurred in the picture or the heart; but her mind was a complex, and
like nearly all minds could disbelieve and believe simultaneously.
Just as High Mass was beginning she rose and in grave solace left the
Oratory; she would not endanger her new peace with the Virgin Mary by
any devotion to other gods. She was solemn but happy. The conductor
who took her penny in the motor-bus never suspected that on the pane
before her, where some Agency had caused to be printed in colour the
words "Seek ye the _Lord_" she saw, in addition to the amazing oddness
of the Anglo-Saxon race, a dangerous incitement to unfaith. She kept
her thoughts passionately on the Virgin; and by the time the bus
had reached Hyde Park Corner she was utterly sure that the horrible
adventure of the Promenade was purged of its evil potentialities.
In the house in Cork Street she took out her latch-key, placidly
opened the door, and entered, smiling at the solitude. Marthe, who
also had a soul in need of succour, would, in the ordinary course,
have gone forth to a smaller church and a late mass. But on this
particular morning fat Marthe, in deshabille, came running to her from
the little kitchen.
"Oh! Madame!... There is someone! He is drunk."
Her voice was outraged. She pointed fearfully to the bedroom.
Christine, courageous, walked straight in. An officer in khaki was
lying on the bed; his muddy, spurred boots had soiled the white
lace coverlet. He was asleep and snoring. She looked at him, and,
recognising her acquaintance of the previous night, wondered what the
very clement Virgin could be about.
"What is Madame going to do?" whispered Marthe, still alarmed and
shocked, when they had both stepped back out of the bedroom; and she
added: "He has never been here before."
Marthe was a woman of immense experience but little brains, and
when phenomena passed beyond her experience she became rather like
a foolish, raw girl. She had often dealt with drunken men; she had
often--especially in her younger days--satisfactorily explained a
situation to visitors who happened to call when her mistress for the
time being was out. But only on the very rarest occasions had she
known a client commit the awful solecism of calling before lunch;
and that a newcomer, even intoxicated, should commit this solecism
staggered her and left her trembling.
"What am I going to do? Nothing!" answered Christine. "Let him sleep."
Christine, too, was dismayed. But Marthe's weakness gave her strength,
and she would not show her fright. Moreover, Christine had some force
of character, though it did not often show itself as sudden firmness.
She condescended to Marthe. She also condescended to the officer,
because he was unconscious, because he had put himself in a false
position, because sooner or later he would look extremely silly. She
regarded the officer's intrusion as tiresome, but she did not
gravely resent it. After all, he was drunk; and before the row in the
Promenade he had asked her for her card, saying that he was engaged
that night but would like to know where she lived. Of course she had
protested--as what woman in her place would not?--against the theory
that he was engaged that night, and she had been in a fair way to
convince him that he was not really engaged that night--except morally
to her, since he had accosted her--when the quarrel had supervened
and it had dawned on her that he had been in the taciturn and cautious
stage of acute inebriety.
He had, it now seemed, probably been drinking through the night. There
were men, as she knew, who simply had to have bouts, whose only method
to peace was to drown the demon within them. She would never knowingly
touch a drunken man, or even a partially intoxicated man, if she
could help it. She was not a bit like the polite young lady above, who
seemed to specialise in noisy tipplers. Her way with the top-heavy
was to leave them to recover in tranquillity. No other way was safe.
Nevertheless, in the present instance she did venture again into the
bedroom. The plight of the lace coverlet troubled her and practically
drove her into the bedroom. She got a little towel, gently lifted the
sleeper's left foot, and tied the towel round his boot; then she did
the same to his other foot. The man did not stir; but if, later, he
should stir, neither his boots nor his spurs could do further harm to
the lace coverlet. His cane and gloves were on the floor; she picked
them up. His overcoat, apparently of excellent quality, was still on
his back; and the cap had not quite departed from his head. Christine
had learned enough about English military signs and symbols to enable
her to perceive that he belonged to the artillery.
"But how will madame change her dress?" Marthe demanded in the
sitting-room. Madame always changed her dress immediately on returning
from church, for that which is suitable for mass may not be proper to
"I shall not change," said Christine.
"It is well, madame."
Christine was not deterred from changing by the fact that the bedroom
was occupied. She retained her church dress because she foresaw the
great advantage she would derive from it in the encounter which must
ultimately occur with the visitor. She would not even take her hat
The two women lunched, mainly on macaroni, with some cheese and an
apple. Christine had coffee. Ah, she must always have her coffee.
As for a cigarette, she never smoked when alone, because she did
not really care for smoking. Marthe, however, enjoyed smoking, and
Christine gave her a cigarette, which she lighted while clearing the
table. One was mistress, the other servant, but the two women were
constantly meeting on the plane of equality. Neither of them could
avoid it, or consistently tried to avoid it. Although Marthe did not
eat with Christine, if a meal was in progress she generally came
into the sitting-room with her mouth more or less full of food. Their
repasts were trifles, passovers, unceremonious and irregular peckings,
begun and finished in a few moments. And if Marthe was always untidy
in her person, Christine, up till three in the afternoon, was also
untidy. They went about the flat in a wonderful state of unkempt and
insecure slovenliness. And sometimes Marthe might be lolling in the
sitting-room over the illustrations in _La Vie Parisienne_, which was
part of the apparatus of the flat, while Christine was in the tiny
kitchen washing gloves as she alone could wash them.
The flat lapsed into at any rate a superficial calm. Marthe, seeing
that fate had deprived her of the usual consolations of religion,
determined to reward herself by remaining a perfect slattern for the
rest of the day. She would not change at all. She would not wash up
either the breakfast things or the lunch things. Leaving a small ring
of gas alight in the gas stove, she sat down all dirty on a hard
chair in front of it and fell into a luxurious catalepsy. In the
sitting-room Christine sat upright on the sofa and read lusciously a
French translation of _East Lynne_. She was in no hurry for the man to
waken; her sense of time was very imperfect; she was never pricked by
the thought that life is short and that many urgent things demand to
be done before the grave opens. Nor was she apprehensive of unpleasant
complications. The man was in the flat, but it was her flat; her law
ran in the flat; and the door was fast against invasion. Still, the
gentle snore of the man, rising and falling, dominated the flat, and
the fact of his presence preoccupied the one woman in the kitchen and
the other in the sitting-room....
Christine noticed that the thickness of the pages read had
imperceptibly increased to three-quarters of an inch, while the
thickness of the unread pages had diminished to a quarter of an inch.
And she also noticed, on the open page, another phenomenon. It was the
failing of the day--the faintest shadow on the page. With incredible
transience another of those brief interruptions of darkness which in
London in winter are called days was ending. She rose and went to the
discreetly-curtained window, and, conscious of the extreme propriety
of her appearance, boldly pulled aside the curtain and looked across,
through naked glass, at the hotel nearly opposite. There was not a
sound, not a movement, in Cork Street. Cork Street, the flat, the
hotel, the city, the universe, lay entranced and stupefied beneath
the grey vapours of the Sabbath. The sensation to Christine was
melancholy, but it was exquisitely melancholy.
The solid hotel dissolved, and in its place Christine saw the
interesting, pathetic phantom of her own existence. A stern, serious
existence, full of disappointments, and not free from dangerous
episodes, an existence which entailed much solitude and loss of
liberty; but the verdict upon it was that in the main it might easily
have been more unsatisfactory than it was. With her indolence and
her unappeasable temperament what other vocation indeed, save that
of marriage, could she have taken up? And her temperament would have
rendered any marriage an impossible prison for her. She was a modest
success--her mother had always counselled her against ambition--but
she was a success. Her magic power was at its height. She continued to
save money and had become a fairly regular frequenter of the West
End branch of the Credit Lyonnais. (Incidentally she had come to an
arrangement with her Paris landlord.)
But, more important than money, she was saving her health, and
especially her complexion--the source of money. Her complexion could
still survive the minutest examination. She achieved this supreme end
by plenty of sleep and by keeping to the minimum of alcohol. Of course
she had to drink professionally; clients insisted; some of them
were exhilarated by the spectacle of a girl tipsy; but she was very
ingenious in avoiding alcohol. When invited to supper she would
respond with an air of restrained eagerness: "Oh, yes, with pleasure!"
And then carelessly add: "Unless you would prefer to come quietly
home with me. My maid is an excellent cook and one is very comfortable
_chez-moi_." And often the prospect thus sketched would piquantly
allure a client. Nevertheless at intervals she could savour a
fashionable restaurant as well as any harum-scarum minx there. Her
secret fear was still obesity. She was capable of imagining herself
at fat as Marthe--and ruined; for, though a few peculiar amateurs
appreciated solidity, the great majority of men did not. However, she
was not getting stouter.
She had a secret sincere respect for certain of her own qualities; and
if women of the world condemned certain other qualities in her, well,
she despised women of the world--selfish idlers who did nothing, who
contributed nothing, to the sum of life, whereas she was a useful and
indispensable member of society, despite her admitted indolence. In
this summary way she comforted herself in her loss of caste.
Without Gilbert, of course, her existence would have been fatally
dull, and she might have been driven to terrible remedies against
ennui and emptiness. The depth and violence of her feeling for Gilbert
were indescribable--at any rate by her. She turned again from the
darkening window to the sofa and sat down and tried to recall the
figures of the dozens of men who had sat there, and she could recall
at most six or eight, and Gilbert alone was real. What a paragon!...
Her scorn for girls who succumbed to _souteneurs_ was measureless; as
a fact she had met few who did.... She would have liked to beautify
her flat for Gilbert, but in the first place she did not wish to spend
money on it, in the second place she was too indolent to buckle to the
enterprise, and in the third place if she beautified it she would be
doing so not for Gilbert, but for the monotonous procession of her
clients. Her flat was a public resort, and so she would do nothing to
it. Besides, she did not care a fig about the look of furniture; the
feel of furniture alone interested her; she wanted softness and warmth
and no more.
She moved across to the piano, remembering that she had not practised
that day, and that she had promised Gilbert to practise every day.
He was teaching her. At the beginning she had dreamt of acquiring
brilliance such as his on the piano, but she had soon seen the
futility of the dream and had moderated her hopes accordingly. Even
with terrific efforts she could not make her hands do the things
that his did quite easily at the first attempt. She had, for example,
abandoned the _Rosenkavalier_ waltz, having never succeeded in
struggling through more than about ten bars of it, and those the
simplest. But her French dances she had notably improved in. She knew
some of them by heart and could patter them off with a very tasteful
vivacity. Instead of practising, she now played gently through a
slow waltz from memory. If the snoring man was wakened, so much
the worse--or so much the better! She went on playing, and evening
continued to fall, until she could scarcely see the notes. Then she
heard movements in the bedroom, a sigh, a bump, some English words
that she did not comprehend. She still, by force of resolution, went
on playing, to protect herself, to give herself countenance. At length
she saw a dim male figure against the pale oblong of the doorway
between the two rooms, and behind the figure a point of glowing red in
"I say--what time is it?"
She recognised the heavy, resonant, vibrating voice. She had stopped
playing because she was making so many mistakes.
"Late--late!" she murmured timidly.
The next moment the figure was kneeling at her feet, and her left hand
had been seized in a hot hand and kissed--respectfully.
"Forgive me, you beautiful creature!" begged the deep, imploring
voice. "I know I don't deserve it. But forgive me! I worship women,
Assuredly she had not expected this development. She thought: "Is he
not sober yet?" But the query had no conviction in it. She wanted
to believe that he was sober. At any rate he had removed the absurd
towels from his boots.
"Say you forgive me!" The officer insisted.
"But there is nothing--"
"Say you forgive me!"
She had counted on a scene of triumph with him when he woke up,
anticipating that he was bound to cut a ridiculous appearance. He
knelt dimly there without a sign of self-consciousness or false shame.
She forgave him.
Her hand was kissed again and loosed. She detected a faint, sad smile
on his face.
He rose, towering above her.
"I know I'm a drunken sot," he said. "It was only because I knew I
was drunk that I didn't want to come with you last night. And I called
this morning to apologise. I did really. I'd no other thought in my
poor old head. I wanted you to understand why I tried to hit that
chap. The other woman had spoken to me earlier, and I suppose she was
jealous, seeing me with you. She said something to him about you, and
he laughed, and I had to hit him for laughing. I couldn't hit her. If
I'd caught him an upper cut with my left he'd have gone down, and he
wouldn't have got up by himself--_I_ warrant you--"
"What did she say?" Christine interrupted, not comprehending the
technical idiom and not interested in it.
"I dunno; but he laughed--anyhow he smiled."
Christine turned on the light, and then went quickly to the window to
draw the curtains.
"Take off your overcoat," she commanded him kindly.
He obeyed, blinking. She sat down on the sofa and, raising her arms,
drew the pins from her hat and put it on the table. She motioned him
to sit down too, and left him a narrow space between herself and the
arm of the sofa, so that they were very close together. Then, with
puckered brow, she examined him.
"I'd better tell you," he said. "It does me good to confess to you,
you beautiful thing. I had a bottle of whisky upstairs in my room at
the Grosvenor. Night before last, when I arrived there, I couldn't get
to sleep in the bed. Hadn't been used to a bed for so long, you know.
I had to turn out and roll myself up in a blanket on the floor. And
last night I spent drinking by myself. Yes, by myself. Somehow, I
don't mind telling _you_. This morning I must have been worse than I
thought I was--"
He stopped and put his hand on her shoulder.
"There are tears in your eyes, little thing. Let me kiss your eyes....
No! I'll respect you. I worship you. You're the nicest little woman I
ever saw, and I'm a brute. But let me kiss your eyes."
She held her face seriously, even frowning somewhat. And he kissed
her eyes gently, one after the other, and she smelt his contaminated
He was a spare man, with a rather thin, ingenuous, mysterious,
romantic, appealing face. It was true that her eyes had moistened. She
was touched by his look and his tone as he told her that he had been
obliged to lie on the floor of his bedroom in order to sleep. There
seemed to be an infinite pathos in that trifle. He was one of the
fighters. He had fought. He was come from the horrors of the battle. A
man of power. He had killed. And he was probably ten or a dozen years
her senior. Nevertheless, she felt herself to be older than he was,
wiser, more experienced. She almost wanted to nurse him. And for her
he was, too, the protected of the very clement Virgin. Inquiries from
Marthe showed that he must have entered the flat at the moment when
she was kneeling at the altar and when the Lady of VII Dolours had
miraculously granted to her pardon and peace. He was part of the
miracle. She had a duty to him, and her duty was to brighten his
destiny, to give him joy, not to let him go without a charming memory
of her soft womanly acquiescences. At the same time her temperament
was aroused by his personality; and she did not forget she had a
living to earn; but still her chief concern was his satisfaction,
not her own, and her overmastering sentiment one of dutiful, nay
religious, surrender. French gratitude of the English fighter, and a
mystic, fearful allegiance to the very clement Virgin--these things
"Ah!" he sighed. "My throat's like leather." And seeing that she did
not follow, he added: "Thirsty." He stretched his arms. She went
to the sideboard and half filled a tumbler with soda water from the
"Drink!" she said, as if to a child.
"Just a dash! The tiniest dash!" he pleaded in his rich voice, with a
glance at the whisky. "You don't know how it'll pull me together. You
don't know how I need it."
But she did know, and she humoured him, shaking her head
He drank and smacked his lips.
"Ah!" he breathed voluptuously, and then said in changed, playful
accents: "Your French accent is exquisite. It makes English sound
quite beautiful. And you're the daintiest little thing."
"Daintiest? What is that? I have much to learn in English. But it is
something nice--daintiest; it is a compliment." She somehow understood
then that, despite appearances, he was not really a devotee of her
sex, that he was really a solitary, that he would never die of love,
and that her _role_ was a minor _role_ in his existence. And she
accepted the fact with humility, with enthusiasm, with ardour, quite
ready to please and to be forgotten. In playing the slave to him she
had the fierce French illusion of killing Germans.
Suddenly she noticed that he was wearing two wrist-watches, one close
to the other, on his left arm, and she remarked on the strange fact.
The officer's face changed.
"Have you got a wrist-watch?" he demanded.
Silently he unfastened one of the watches and then said:
"Hold out your beautiful arm."
She did so. He fastened the watch on her arm. She was surprised to see
that it was a lady's watch. The black strap was deeply scratched. She
privately reconstructed the history of the watch, and decided that it
must be a gift returned after a quarrel--and perhaps the scratches on
the strap had something to do with the quarrel.
"I beg you to accept it," he said. "I particularly wish you to accept
"It's really a lovely watch," she exclaimed. "How kind you are!" She
rewarded him with a warm kiss. "I have always wanted a wrist-watch.
And now they are so _chic_. In fact, one must have one." Moving her
arm about, she admired the watch at different angles.
"It isn't going. And what's more, it won't go," he said.
"Ah!" she politely murmured.
"No! But do you know why I give you that watch?"
"Because it is a mascot."
"Absolutely a mascot. It belonged to a friend of mine who is dead."
"Ah! A lady--"
"No! Not a lady. A man. He gave it me a few minutes before he
died--and he was wearing it--and he told me to take it off his arm as
soon as he was dead. I did so."
Christine was somewhat alarmed.
"But if he was wearing it when he died, how can it be a mascot?"
"That was what made it a mascot. Believe me, I know about these
things. I wouldn't deceive you, and I wouldn't tell you it was a
mascot unless I was quite certain." He spoke with a quiet, initiated
authority that reassured her entirely and gave her the most perfect
"And why was your friend wearing a lady's watch?"
"I cannot tell you."
"You do not know?"
"I do not know. But I know that watch is a mascot."
"Was it at the Front--all this?"
The man nodded.
"He was wounded, killed, your friend?"
"No, no, not wounded! He was in my Battery. We were galloping some
guns to a new position. He came off his horse--the horse was shot
under him--he himself fell in front of a gun. Of course, the drivers
dared not stop, and there was no room to swerve. Hence they had to
drive right over him ... Later, I came back to him. They had got
him as far as the advanced dressing-station. He died in less than an
Solemnity fell between Christine and her client.
She said softly: "But if it is a mascot--do you not need it, you, at
the Front? It is wrong for me to take it."
"I have my own mascot. Nothing can touch me--except my great enemy,
and he is not German." With an austere gesture he indicated the glass.
His deep voice was sad, but very firm. Christine felt that she was in
the presence of an adept of mysticism. The Virgin had sent this man to
her, and the man had given her the watch. Clearly the heavenly power
had her in its holy charge.
"Ah, yes!" said the man in a new tone, as if realising the solemnity
and its inappropriateness, and trying to dissipate it. "Ah, yes! Once
we had the day of our lives together, he and I. We got a day off to go
and see a new trench mortar, and we did have a time."
"Trench mortar--what is that?"
"But tell me how it works," she insisted, not because she had the
slightest genuine interest in the technical details of war--for she
had not--but because she desired to help him to change the mood of the
"Well, it's not so easy, you know. It was a four and a half pound
shell, filled with gun-cotton slabs and shrapnel bullets packed in
sawdust. The charge was black powder in a paper bag, and you stuck
it at the bottom end of the pipe and put a bit of fuse into the
touch-hole--but, of course, you must take care it penetrates the
charge. The shell-fuse has a pinner with a detonator with the right
length of fuse shoved into it; you wrap some clay round the end of the
fuse to stop the flash of the charge from detonating the shell. Well,
then you load the shell--"
She comprehended simply nothing, and the man, professionally absorbed,
seemed to have no perception that she was comprehending nothing. She
scarcely even listened. Her face was set in a courteous, formal
smile; but all the time she was thinking that the man, in spite of
his qualities, must be lacking in character to give a watch away to
a woman to whom he had not been talking for ten minutes. His lack of
character was shown also in his unshamed confession concerning his
real enemy. Some men would bare their souls to a _cocotte_ in
a fashion that was flattering neither to themselves nor to the
_cocotte_, and Christine never really respected such men. She did
not really respect this man, but respected, and stood in awe of,
his mysticism; and, further, her instinct to satisfy him, to make a
spoiled boy of him, was not in the least weakened. Then, just as the
man was in the middle of his description of the functioning of the
trench mortar, the telephone-bell rang, and Christine excused herself.
The telephone was in the bedroom, not by the bedside--for such a
situation had its inconveniences--but in the farthest corner, between
the window and the washstand. As she went to the telephone she was
preoccupied by one of the major worries of her vocation, the worry of
keeping clients out of each other's sight. She wondered who could be
telephoning to her on Sunday evening. Not Gilbert, for Gilbert never
telephoned on Sunday except in the morning. She insisted, of course,
on his telephoning to her daily, or almost daily. She did this to
several of her more reliable friends, for there was no surer way of
convincing them of the genuineness of her regard for them than to
vituperate them when they failed to keep her informed of their health,
their spirits, and their doings. In the case of Gilbert, however, her
insistence had entirely ceased to be a professional device; she adored
The telephoner was Gilbert. He made an amazing suggestion; he asked
her to come across to his flat, where she had never been and where
he had never asked her to go. It had been tacitly and quite amiably
understood between them that he was not one who invited young ladies
to his own apartments.
Christine cautiously answered that she was not sure whether she could
"Are you alone?" he asked pleasantly.
"Well, I will come and fetch you."
She decided exactly what she would do.
"No, no. I will come. I will come now. I shall be enchanted."
Purposely she spoke without conviction, maintaining a mysterious
She returned to the sitting-room and the other man. Fortunately the
conversation on the telephone had been in French.
"See!" she said, speaking and feeling as though they were intimates.
"I have a lady friend who is ill. I am called to see her. I shall not
be long. I swear to you I shall not be long. Wait. Will you wait?"
"Yes," he replied, gazing at her.
"Put yourself at your ease."
She was relieved to find that she could so easily reconcile her desire
to please Gilbert with her pleasurable duty towards the protege of the
very clement Virgin.
In the doorway of his flat Christine kissed G.J. vehemently, but with
a certain preoccupation; she was looking about her, very curious. The
way in which she raised her veil and raised her face, mysteriously
glanced at him, puckered her kind brow--these things thrilled him.
"You are quite alone, of course."
She said it nicely, even benevolently; nevertheless he seemed to hear
her saying: "You are quite alone, or, of course, you wouldn't have let
"I suppose it's through here," she murmured; and without waiting for
an invitation she passed direct into the lighted drawing-room and
stood there, observant.
He followed her. They were both nervous in the midst of the interior
which he was showing her for the first time, and which she was
silently estimating. For him she made an exquisite figure in the
drawing-room. She was so correct in her church-dress, so modest, prim
and demure. And her appearance clashed excitingly with his absolute
knowledge of her secret temperament. He had often hesitated in his
judgment of her. Was she good enough or was she not? But now he
thought more highly of her than ever. She was ideal, divine, the
realisation of a dream. And he felt extraordinarily pleased with
himself because, after much cautious indecision, he had invited her
to visit him. By heaven, she was young physically, and yet she knew
everything! Her miraculous youthfulness rejuvenated him.
As a fact he was essentially younger than he had been for years. Not
only she, but his war work, had re-vitalised him. He had developed
into a considerable personage on the Lechford Committee; he was
chairman of a sub-committee; he bore responsibilities and had worries.
And for a climax the committee had sent him out to France to report on
the accountancy of the hospitals; he had received a special passport;
he had had glimpses of the immense and growing military organisation
behind the Front; he had chatted in his fluent and idiomatic French
with authorities military and civil; he had been ceremoniously
complimented on behalf of his committee and country by high officials
of the Service de Sante. A wondrous experience, from which he had
returned to England with a greatly increased self-respect and a
sharper apprehension of the significance of the war.
Life in London was proceeding much as usual. If on the one hand the
Treasury had startlingly put an embargo upon capital issues, on the
other hand the King had resumed his patronage of the theatre, and the
town talked of a new Lady Teazle, and a British dye-industry had been
inaugurated. But behind the thin gauze of social phenomena G.J. now
more and more realistically perceived and conceived the dark shape
of the war as a vast moving entity. He kept concurrently in his mind,
each in its place, the most diverse factors and events: not merely
the Flemish and the French battles, but the hoped-for intervention of
Roumania, the defeat of the Austrians by Servia, the menace of a new
Austrian attack on Servia, the rise in prices, the Russian move north
of the Vistula, the raid on Yarmouth, the divulgence of the German
axioms about frightfulness, the rumour of a definite German submarine
policy, the terrible storm that had disorganised the entire English
railway-system, and the dim distant Italian earthquake whose
death-roll of thousands had produced no emotion whatever on a globe
monopolised by one sole interest.
And to-night he had had private early telephonic information of a
naval victory in the North Sea in which big German cruisers had been
chased to their ignominious lairs and one sunk. Christine could not
possibly know of this grand affair, for the Sunday night extras were
not yet on the streets; he had it ready for her, eagerly waiting to
pour it into her delicious lap along with the inexhaustible treasures
of his heart. At that moment he envisaged the victory as a shining
jewel specially created in order to give her a throb of joy.
"It seems they picked up a lot of survivors from the _Blucher_," he
finished his narration, rather proudly.
She retorted, quietly but terribly scornful:
"_Zut_! You English are so naive. Why save them? Why not let them
drown? Do they not deserve to drown? Look what they have done, those
Boches! And you save them! Why did the German ships run away? They had
set a trap--that sees itself--in addition to being cowards. You save
them, and you think you have made a fine gesture; but you are nothing
but simpletons." She shrugged her shoulders in inarticulate disdain.
Christine's attitude towards the war was uncomplicated by any
subtleties. Disregarding all but the utmost spectacular military
events, she devoted her whole soul to hatred of the Germans--and all
the Germans. She believed them to be damnably cleverer than any other
people on earth, and especially than the English. She believed them
to be capable of all villainies whatsoever. She believed every charge
brought against them, never troubling about evidence. She would have
imprisoned on bread and water all Germans and all persons with German
names in England. She was really shocked by the transparent idiocy of
Britons who opposed the retirement of Prince Louis of Battenberg from
the Navy. For weeks she had remained happily in the delusion that
Prince Louis had been shot in the Tower, and when the awakening came
she had instantly decided that the sinister influence of Lord Haldane
and naught else must have saved Prince Louis from a just retribution.
She had a vision of England as overrun with innumerable German
spies who moved freely at inexpressible speed about the country in
high-powered grey automobiles with dazzling headlights, while the
marvellously stupid and blind British police touched their hats
to them. G.J. smiled at her in silence, aware by experience of the
futility of argument. He knew quite a lot of women who had almost
precisely Christine's attitude towards the war, and quite a lot of men
too. But he could have wished the charming creature to be as desirable
for her intelligence as for her physical and her strange spiritual
charm: he could have wished her not to be providing yet another
specimen of the phenomena of woman repeating herself so monotonously
in the various worlds of London. The simpleton of fifty made in his
soul an effort to be superior, and failed. "What is it that binds me
to her?" he reflected, imagining himself to be on the edge of a divine
mystery, and never expecting that he and Christine were the huge
contrivances of certain active spermatozoa for producing other active
Christine did not wonder what bound her to G.J. She knew, though she
had never heard such a word as spermatozoa. She had a violent passion
for him; it would, she feared, be eternal, whereas his passion for her
could not last more than a few years. She knew what the passions of
men were--so she said to herself superiorly. Her passion for him was
in her smile as she smiled back at his silent smile; but in her
smile there was also a convinced apostleship--for she alone was the
repository of the truth concerning Germans, which truth she preached
to an unheeding world. And there was something else in her baffling
smile, namely, a quiet, good-natured, resigned resentment against the
richness of his home. He had treated her always with generosity, and
at any rate with rather more than fairness; he had not attempted to
conceal that he was a man of means; she had nothing to reproach him
with financially. And yet she did reproach him--for having been too
modest. She had a pretty sure instinct for the price of things,
and she knew that this Albany interior must have been very costly;
further, it displayed what she deemed to be the taste of an exclusive
aristocrat. She saw that she had been undervaluing her Gilbert. The
proprietor of this flat would be entitled to seek relations of higher
standing than herself in the ranks of _cocotterie_; he would be
justified in spending far more money on a girl than he had spent on
her. He was indeed something of a fraud with his exaggerated English
horror of parade. And he lived by himself, save for servants; he was
utterly free; and yet for two months he had kept her out of
these splendours, prevented her from basking in the glow of these
chandeliers and lounging on these extraordinary sofas and beholding
herself in these terrific mirrors. Even now he was ashamed to let his
servants see her. Was it altogether nice of him? Her verdict on him
had not the slightest importance--even for herself. In kissing other
men she generally kissed him--to cheat her appetite. She was at his
mercy, whatever he was. He was useful to her and kind to her; he might
be the fount of very important future advantages; but he was more than
that, he was indispensable to her. She walked exploringly into the
little glittering bedroom. Beneath the fantastic dome of the bed the
sheets were turned down and a suit of pyjamas laid out. On a Chinese
tray on a lacquered table by the bed was a spirit-lamp and kettle, and
a box of matches in an embroidered case with one match sticking out
ready to be seized and struck. She gazed, and left the bedroom, saying
nothing, and wandered elsewhere. The stairs were so infinitesimal
and dear and delicious that they drew from her a sharp exclamation of
delight. She ran up them like a child. G.J. turned switches. In the
little glittering dining-room a little cold repast was laid for two on
an inlaid table covered with a sheet of glass. Christine gazed, saying
nothing, and wandered again to the drawing-room floor, while G.J.
hovered attendant. She went to the vast Regency desk, idly fingering
papers, and laid hold of a document. It was his report on the
accountacy of the Lechford Hospitals in France. She scrutinised it
carefully, murmuring sentences from it aloud in her French accent. At
length she dropped it; she did not put it down, she dropped it, and
"All that--what good does it do to wounded men?... True, I comprehend
nothing of it--I!"
Then she sat to the piano, whose gorgeous and fantastic case might
well have intimidated even a professional musician.
"Dare I?" She took off her gloves.
As she began to play her best waltz she looked round at G.J. and said:
"I adore thy staircase."
And that was all she did say about the flat. Still, her demeanour,
mystifying as it might be, was benign, benevolent, with a remarkable
appearance of genuine humility.
G.J., while she played, discreetly picked up the telephone and got the
Marlborough Club. He spoke low, so as not to disturb the waltz, which
Christine in her nervousness was stumbling over.
"I want to speak to Mr. Montague Ryper. Yes, yes; he is in the club.
I spoke to him about an hour ago, and he is waiting for me to ring him
up.... That you, Monty? Well, dear heart, I find I shan't be able to
come to-night after all. I should like to awfully, but I've got these
things I absolutely must finish.... You understand.... No, no.... Is
she, by Jove? By-bye, old thing."
When Christine had pettishly banged the last chord of the coda, he
came close to her and said, with an appreciative smile, in English:
"Charming, my little girl."
She shook her head, gazing at the front of the piano.
He murmured--it was almost a whisper:
"Take your things off."
She looked round and up at him, and the light diffused from a thousand
lustres fell on her mysterious and absorbed face.
"My little rabbit, I cannot stay with thee to-night."
The words, though he did not by any means take them as final,
seriously shocked him. For five days he had known that Mrs. Braiding,
subject to his convenience, was going down to Bramshott to see the
defender of the Empire. For four days he had hesitated whether or not
he should tell her that she might stay away for the night. In the end
he had told her to stay away; he had insisted that she should stay;
he had protested that he was quite ready to look after himself for a
night and a morning. She had gone, unwillingly, having first arranged
a meal which he said he was to share with a friend--naturally, for
Mrs. Braiding, a male friend. She had wanted him to dine at the club,
but he had explained to Mrs. Braiding that he would be busy upon
hospital work, and that another member of the committee would be
coming to help him--the friend, of course. Even when he had contrived
this elaborate and perfect plot he had still hesitated about the
bold step of inviting Christine to the flat. The plan was extremely
attractive, but it held dangers. Well, he had invited her. If she had
not been at home, or if she had been unwilling to come, he would
not have felt desolated; he would have accepted the fact as perhaps
providential. But she was at home; she was willing; she had come.
She was with him; she had put him into an ecstasy of satisfaction and
anticipation. One evening alone with her in his own beautiful flat!
What a frame for her and for love! And now she said that she would not
stay. It was incredible; it could not be permitted.
"But why not? We are happy together. I have just refused a dinner
because of--this. Didn't you hear me on the 'phone?"
"Thou wast wrong," she smiled. "I am not worth a dinner. It is
essential that I should return home. I am tired--tired. It is Sunday
night, and I have sworn to myself that I will pass this evening at
Exasperating, maddening creature! He thought: "I fancied I knew her,
and I don't know her. I'm only just beginning to know her." He stared
steadily at her soft, serious, worried, enchanting face, and tried
to see through it into the arcana of her queer little brain. He could
not. The sweet face foiled him.
"Then why come?"
"Because I wished to be nice to thee, to prove to thee how nice I am."
She seized her gloves. He saw that she meant to go. His demeanour
changed. He was aware of his power over her, and he would use it.
She was being subtle; but he could be subtle too, far subtler than
Christine. True, he had not penetrated her face. Nevertheless his
instinct, and his male gift of ratiocination, informed him that
beneath her gentle politeness she was vexed, hurt, because he had got
rid of Mrs. Braiding before receiving her. She had her feelings, and
despite her softness she could resent. Still, her feelings must not
be over-indulged; they must not be permitted to make a fool of her. He
said, rather teasingly, but firmly:
"I know why she refuses to stay."
She cried, plaintive:
"It is not that I have another rendezvous. No! But naturally thou
thinkest it is that."
He shook his head.
"Not at all. The little silly wants to go back home because she finds
there is no servant here. She is insulted in her pride. I noticed it
in her first words when she came in. And yet she ought to know--"
Christine gave a loud laugh that really disconcerted him.
"Au revoir, my old one. Embrace me." She dropped the veil.
He could play a game of pretence longer than she could. She moved with
dignity towards the door, but never would she depart like that.
He knew that when it came to the point she was at the mercy of her
passion for him. She had confessed the tyranny of her passion, as such
victims foolishly will. Moreover he had perceived it for himself.
He followed her to the door. At the door she would relent. And,
sure enough, at the door she leapt at him and clasped his neck with
fierceness and fiercely kissed him through her veil, and exclaimed
"Ah! Thou dost not love me, but I love thee!"
But the next instant she had managed to open the door and she was
He sprang out to the landing. She was running down the stone stairs.
She did not stop. G.J. might be marvellously subtle; but he could not
be subtle enough to divine that on that night Christine happened to
be the devotee of the most clement Virgin, and that her demeanour
throughout the visit had been contrived, half unconsciously, to enable
her to perform a deed of superb self-denial and renunciation in the
service of the dread goddess. He ate most miserably alone, facing an
empty chair; the desolate solitude of the evening was terrible; he
lacked the force to go seeking succour in clubs.
A single light burned in Christine's bedroom. It stood low on the
pedestal by the wide bed and was heavily shaded, so that only one half
of the bed, Christine's half, was exempt from the general gloom of the
chamber. The officer had thus ordained things. The white, plump arm of
Christine was imprisoned under his neck. He had ordered that too. He
was asleep. Christine watched him. On her return from the Albany she
had found him apparently just as she had left him, except that he
was much less talkative. Indeed, though unswervingly polite--even
punctilious with her--he had grown quite taciturn and very obstinate
and finicking in self-assertion. There was no detail as to which he
did not formulate a definite wish. Yet not until by chance her eye
fell on the whisky decanter did she perceive that in her absence
he had been copiously drinking again. He was not, however, drunk.
Remorseful at her defection, she constituted herself his slave; she
covered him with acquiescences; she drank his tippler's breath. And he
was not particularly responsive. He had all his own ideas. He ought,
for example, to have been hungry, but his idea was that he was not
hungry; therefore he had refused her dishes.
She knew him better now. Save on one subject, discussed in the
afternoon, he was a dull, narrow, direct man, especially in love. He
had no fancy, no humour, no resilience. Possibly he worshipped women,
as he had said, perhaps devoutly; but his worship of the individual
girl tended more to ritualism than to ecstasy. The Parisian devotee
was thrown away on him, and she felt it. But not with bitterness. On
the contrary, she liked him to be as he was; she liked to be herself
unappreciated, neglected, bored. She thought of the delights which she
had renounced in the rich and voluptuous drawing-room of the Albany;
she gazed under the reddish illumination at the tedious eternal
market-place on which she exposed her wares, and which in Tottenham
Court Road went by the name of bedstead; and she gathered nausea and
painful longing to her breast as the Virgin gathered the swords of
the Dolours at the Oratory, and was mystically happy in the ennui of
serving the miraculous envoy of the Virgin. And when Marthe, uneasy,
stole into the sitting-room, Christine, the door being ajar, most
faintly transmitted to her a command in French to tranquillise herself
and go away. And outside a boy broke the vast lull of the Sunday night
with a shattering cry of victory in the North Sea.
Possibly it was this cry that roused the officer out of his doze. He
sat up, looked unseeing at Christine's bright smile and at the black
gauze that revealed the reality of her youth, and then reached for his
tunic which hung at the foot of the bed.
"You asked about my mascot," he said, drawing from a pocket a small
envelope of semi-transparent oilskin. "Here it is. Now that is a
He had wakened under the spell of his original theme, of his sole
genuine subject. He spoke with assurance, as one inspired. His eyes,
as they masterfully encountered Christine's eyes, had a strange,
violent, religious expression. Christine's eyes yielded to his, and
her smile vanished in seriousness. He undid the envelope and displayed
an oval piece of red cloth with a picture of Christ, his bleeding
heart surrounded by flames and thorns and a great cross in the
"That," said the officer, "will bring anybody safe home again."
Christine was too awed even to touch the red cloth. The vision of the
dishevelled, inspired man in khaki shirt, collar and tie, holding
the magic saviour in his thin, veined, aristocratic hand, powerfully
impressed her, and she neither moved nor spoke.
"Have you seen the 'Touchwood' mascot?" he asked. She signified
a negative, and then nervously fingered her gauze. "No? It's a
well-known mascot. Sort of tiny imp sort of thing, with a huge head,
glittering eyes, a khaki cap of _oak_, and crossed legs in gold and
silver. I hear that tens of thousands of them are sold. But there is
nothing like my mascot."
"Where have you got it?" Christine asked in her queer but improving
"Where did I get it? Just after Mons, on the road, in a house."
"Have you been in the retreat?"
"And the angels? Have you seen them?"
He paused, and then said with solemnity:
"Was it an angel I saw?... I was lying doggo by myself in a hole,
and bullets whizzing over me all the time. It was nearly dark, and a
figure in white came and stood by the hole; he stood quite still
and the German bullets went on just the same. Suddenly I saw he was
wounded in the hand; it was bleeding. I said to him: 'You're hit in
the hand.' 'No,' he said--he had a most beautiful voice--'that is an
old wound. It has reopened lately. I have another wound in the other
hand.' And he showed me the other hand, and that was bleeding too.
Then the firing ceased, and he pointed, and although I'd eaten
nothing at all that day and was dead-beat, I got up and ran the way he
pointed, and in five minutes I ran into what remained of my unit."
The officer's sonorous tones ceased; he shut his lips tightly, as
though clinching the testimony, and the life of the bedroom was
suspended in absolute silence.
"That's what _I_ saw.... And with the lack of food my brain was
Christine, on her back, trembled.
The officer replaced his mascot. Then he said, waving the little bag:
"Of course, there are fellows who don't need mascots. Fellows that if
their name isn't written on a bullet or a piece of shrapnel it won't
reach them any more than a letter not addressed to you would reach
you. Now my Colonel, for instance--it was he who told me how good my
mascot was--well, he can stop shells, turn 'em back. Yes. He's just
got the D.S.O. And he said to me, 'Edgar,' he said, 'I don't deserve
it. I got it by inspiration.' And so he did.... What time's that?"
The gilded Swiss clock in the drawing-room was striking its tiny gong.
The officer looked dully at his wrist-watch which, not having been
wound on the previous night, had inconsiderately stopped.
"Then I can't catch my train at Victoria." He spoke in a changed
voice, lifeless, and sank back on the bed.
"Train? What train?"
"Nothing. Only the leave train. My leave is up to-night. To-morrow I
ought to have been back in the trenches."
"But you have told me nothing of it! If you had told me--But not one
word, my dear."
"When one is with a woman--!"
He seemed gloomily and hopelessly to reproach her.
"What o'clock--your train?"
"But you can catch it. You must catch it."
He shook his head. "It's fate," he muttered, bitterly resigned. "What
is written is written."
Christine sprang to the floor, shuffled off the black gauze in almost
a single movement, and seized some of her clothes.
"Quick! You shall catch your train. The clock is wrong--the clock is
She implored him with positive desperation. She shook him and dragged
him, energised in an instant by the overwhelming idea that for him to
miss his train would be fatal to him--and to her also. She could and
did believe in the efficacy of mascots against bullets and shrapnel
and bayonets. But the traditions of a country of conscripts were
ingrained in her childhood and youth, and she had not the slightest
faith in the efficacy of no matter what mascot to protect from the
consequences of indiscipline. And already during her short career
in London she had had good reason to learn the sacredness of the
leave-train. Fantastic tales she had heard of capital executions for
what seemed trifling laxities--tales whispered half proudly by the
army in the rooms of horrified courtesans--tales in which the remote
and ruthless imagined figure of the Grand Provost-Marshal rivalled
that of God himself. And, moreover, if this man fell into misfortune
through her, she would eternally lose the grace of the most clement
Virgin who had confided him to her and who was capable of terrible
revenges. She secretly called on the Virgin. Nay, she became the
Virgin. She found a miraculous strength, and furiously pulled the poor
sot out of bed. The fibres of his character had been soaked away,
and she mystically replaced them with her own. Intimidated and, as
it were, mesmerised, he began to dress. She rushed as she was to the