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The Secret Places of the Heart by H. G. Wells

Part 5 out of 5

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know it no more.

Dr. Martineau's thoughts relaxed and passed into the picture
land of dreams. He saw the figure of Sir Richmond, going as
it were away from him along a narrow path, a path that
followed the crest of a ridge, between great darknesses,
enormous cloudy darknesses, above him and below. He was going
along this path without looking back, without a thought for
those he left behind, without a single word to cheer him on
his way, walking as Dr. Martineau had sometimes watched him
walking, without haste or avidity, walking as a man might
along some great picture gallery with which he was perhaps
even over familiar. His hands would be in his pockets, his
indifferent eyes upon the clouds about him. And as he
strolled along that path, the darkness closed in upon him.
His figure became dim and dimmer.

Whither did that figure go? Did that enveloping darkness hide
the beginnings of some strange long journey or would it just
dissolve that figure into itself?

Was that indeed the end?

Dr. Martineau was one of that large class of people who can
neither imagine nor disbelieve in immortality. Dimmer and
dimmer grew the figure but still it remained visible. As one
can continue to see a star at dawn until one turns away. Or
one blinks or nods and it is gone.

Vanished now are the beliefs that held our race for countless
generations. Where now was that Path of the Dead, mapped so
clearly, faced with such certainty, in which the heliolithic
peoples believed from Avebury to Polynesia? Not always have
we had to go alone and unprepared into uncharted darknesses.
For a time the dream artist used a palette of the doctor's
vague memories of things Egyptian, he painted a new roll of
the Book of the Dead, at a copy of which the doctor had been
looking a day or so before. Sir Richmond became a brown naked
figure, crossing a bridge of danger, passing between terrific
monsters, ferrying a dark and dreadful stream. He came to the
scales of judgment before the very throne of Osiris and stood
waiting while dogheaded Anubis weighed his conscience and
that evil monster, the Devourer of the Dead, crouched ready
if the judgment went against him. The doctor's attention
concentrated upon the scales. A memory of Swedengorg's Heaven
and Hell mingled with the Egyptian fantasy. Now at last it
was possible to know something real about this man's soul,
now at last one could look into the Secret Places of his
Heart. Anubis and Thoth, the god with the ibis head, were
reading the heart as if it were a book, reading aloud from it
to the supreme judge.

Suddenly the doctor found himself in his own dreams. His
anxiety to plead for his friend had brought him in. He too
had become a little painted figure and he was bearing a book
in his hand. He wanted to show that the laws of the new world
could not be the same as those of the old, and the book he
was bringing as evidence was his own Psychology of a New Age.

The clear thought of that book broke up his dream by
releasing a train of waking troubles. . . . You have been six
months on Chapter Ten; will it ever be ready for
Osiris? . . . will it ever be ready for print? . . .

Dream and waking thoughts were mingled like sky and cloud
upon a windy day in April. Suddenly he saw again that lonely
figure on the narrow way with darknesses above and darknesses
below and darknesses on every hand. But this time it was not
Sir Richmond. . . . Who was it? Surely it was Everyman.
Everyman had to travel at last along that selfsame road,
leaving love, leaving every task and every desire. But was it
Everyman? . . . A great fear and horror came upon the doctor.
That little figure was himself! And the book which was his
particular task in life was still undone. He himself stood in
his turn upon that lonely path with the engulfing darknesses
about him. . . .

He seemed to wrench himself awake.

He lay very still for some moments and then he sat up in bed.
An overwhelming conviction had arisen--in his mind that Sir
Richmond was dead. He felt he must know for certain. He
switched on his electric light, mutely interrogated his round
face reflected in the looking glass, got out of bed, shuffled
on his slippers and went along the passage to the telephone.
He hesitated for some seconds and then lifted the receiver.
It was his call which aroused the nurse to the fact of Sir
Richmond's death.

Section 6

Lady Hardy arrived home in response to Dr. Martineau's
telegram late on the following evening. He was with her next
morning, comforting and sympathetic. Her big blue eyes,
bright with tears, met his very wistfully; her little body
seemed very small and pathetic in its simple black dress. And
yet there was a sort of bravery about her. When he came into
the drawing-room she was in one of the window recesses
talking to a serious-looking woman of the dressmaker type.
She left her business at once to come to him. "Why did I not
know in time?" she cried.

"No one, dear lady, had any idea until late last night," he
said, taking both her hands in his for a long friendly
sympathetic pressure.

"I might have known that if it had been possible you would
have told me," she said.

"You know," she added, "I don't believe it yet. I don't
realize it. I go about these formalities--"

"I think I can understand that."

"He was always, you know, not quite here . . . . It is as if
he were a little more not quite here . . . . I can't believe
it is over. . . . "

She asked a number of questions and took the doctor's advice
upon various details of the arrangements. "My daughter Helen
comes home to-morrow afternoon," she explained. "She is in
Paris. But our son is far, far away in the Punjab. I have
sent him a telegram. . . . It is so kind of you to come in to

Dr. Martineau went more than half way to meet Lady Hardy's
disposition to treat him as a friend of the family. He had
conceived a curious, half maternal affection for Sir Richmond
that had survived even the trying incident of the Salisbury
parting and revived very rapidly during the last few weeks.
This affection extended itself now to Lady Hardy. Hers was a
type that had always appealed to him. He could understand so
well the perplexed loyalty with which she was now setting
herself to gather together some preservative and reassuring
evidences of this man who had always been; as she put it,
"never quite here." It was as if she felt that now it was at
last possible to make a definite reality of him. He could be
fixed. And as he was fixed he would stay. Never more would he
be able to come in and with an almost expressionless glance
wither the interpretation she had imposed upon him. She was
finding much comfort in this task of reconstruction. She had
gathered together in the drawingroom every presentable
portrait she had been able to find of him. He had never, she
said, sat to a painter, but there was an early pencil sketch
done within a couple of years of their marriage; there was a
number of photographs, several of which--she wanted the
doctor's advice upon this point--she thought might be
enlarged; there was a statuette done by some woman artist who
had once beguiled him into a sitting. There was also a
painting she had had worked up from a photograph and some
notes. She flitted among these memorials, going from one to
the other, undecided which to make the standard portrait. "
That painting, I think, is most like," she said: "as he was
before the war. But the war and the Commission changed him,--
worried him and aged him. . . . I grudged him to that
Commission. He let it worry him frightfully."

"It meant very much to him," said Dr. Martineau.

"It meant too much to him. But of course his ideas were
splendid. You know it is one of my hopes to get some sort of
book done, explaining his ideas. He would never write. He
despised it--unreasonably. A real thing done, he said, was
better than a thousand books. Nobody read books, he said, but
women, parsons and idle people. But there must be books. And
I want one. Something a little more real than the ordinary
official biography. . . . I have thought of young Leighton,
the secretary of the Commission. He seems thoroughly
intelligent and sympathetic and really anxious to reconcile
Richmond's views with those of the big business men on the
Committee. He might do. . . . Or perhaps I might be able to
persuade two or three people to write down their impressions
of him. A sort of memorial volume. . . . But he was shy of
friends. There was no man he talked to very intimately about
his ideas unless it was to you . . . I wish I had the
writer's gift, doctor."

Section 7

It was on the second afternoon that Lady Hardy summoned Dr.
Martineau by telephone. "Something rather disagreeable," she
said. "If you could spare the time. If you could come round.

"It is frightfully distressing," she said when he got round
to her, and for a time she could tell him nothing more. She
was having tea and she gave him some. She fussed about with
cream and cakes and biscuits. He noted a crumpled letter
thrust under the edge of the silver tray.

"He talked, I know, very intimately with you," she said,
coming to it at last. "He probably went into things with you
that he never talked about with anyone else. Usually he was
very reserved, Even with me there were things about which he
said nothing."

"We did," said Dr. Martineau with discretion, "deal a little
with his private life.

"There was someone--"

Dr. Martineau nodded and then, not to be too portentous, took
and bit a biscuit.

"Did he by any chance ever mention someone called Martin

Dr. Martineau seemed to reflect. Then realizing that this was
a mistake, he said: "He told me the essential facts."

The poor lady breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm glad," she said
simply. She repeated, "Yes, I'm glad. It makes things easier

Dr. Martineau looked his enquiry.

"She wants to come and see him."


"Here! And Helen here! And the servants noticing everything!
I've never met her. Never set eyes on her. For all I know she
may want to make a scene." There was infinite dismay in her

Dr. Martineau was grave. "You would rather not receive her?"

"I don't want to refuse her. I don't want even to seem
heartless. I understand, of course, she has a sort of claim.
" She sobbed her reluctant admission. "I know it. I
know. . . . There was much between them."

Dr. Martineau pressed the limp hand upon the little tea
table. "I understand, dear lady," he said. "I understand. Now
. . . suppose _I_ were to write to her and arrange--I do not
see that you need be put to the pain of meeting her. Suppose
I were to meet her here myself?

"If you COULD!"

The doctor was quite prepared to save the lady any further
distresses, no matter at what trouble to himself. "You are so
good to me," she said, letting the tears have their way with

"I am silly to cry," she said, dabbing her eyes.

"We will get it over to-morrow," he reassured her. "You need
not think of it again."

He took over Martin's brief note to Lady Hardy and set to
work by telegram to arrange for her visit. She was in London
at her Chelsea flat and easily accessible. She was to come to
the house at mid-day on the morrow, and to ask not for Lady
Hardy but for him. He would stay by her while she was in the
house, and it would be quite easy for Lady Hardy to keep
herself and her daughter out of the way. They could, for
example, go out quietly to the dressmakers in the closed car,
for many little things about the mourning still remained to
be seen to.

Section 8

Miss Martin Leeds arrived punctually, but the doctor was well
ahead of his time and ready to receive her. She was ushered
into the drawing room where he awaited her. As she came
forward the doctor first perceived that she had a very sad
and handsome face, the face of a sensitive youth rather than
the face of a woman. She had fine grey eyes under very fine
brows; they were eyes that at other times might have laughed
very agreeably, but which were now full of an unrestrained
sadness. Her brown hair was very untidy and parted at the
side like a man's. Then he noted that she seemed to be very
untidily dressed as if she was that rare and, to him, very
offensive thing, a woman careless of her beauty. She was
short in proportion to her broad figure and her broad

"You are Dr. Martineau?" she said. "He talked of you." As she
spoke her glance went from him to the pictures that stood
about the room. She walked up to the painting and stood in
front of it with her distressed gaze wandering about her.
"Horrible!" she said. "Absolutely horrible! . . . Did SHE do

Her question disconcerted the doctor very much. "You mean
Lady Hardy?" he asked. "She doesn't paint."

"No, no. I mean, did she get all these things together? "

"Naturally," said Dr. Martineau.

"None of them are a bit like him. They are like blows aimed
at his memory. Not one has his life in it. How could she do
it? Look at that idiot statuette! . . . He was
extraordinarily difficult to get. I have burnt every
photograph I had of him. For fear that this would happen;
that he would go stiff and formal--just as you have got him
here. I have been trying to sketch him almost all the time
since he died. But I can't get him back. He's gone."

She turned to the doctor again. She spoke to him, not as if
she expected him to understand her, but because she had to
say these things which burthened her mind to someone. "I have
done hundreds of sketches. My room is littered with them.
When you turn them over he seems to be lurking among them.
But not one of them is like him."

She was trying to express something beyond her power. "It is
as if someone had suddenly turned out the light."

She followed the doctor upstairs. "This was his study," the
doctor explained.

"I know it. I came here once," she said.

They entered the big bedroom in which the coffined body lay.
Dr. Martineau, struck by a sudden memory, glanced nervously
at the desk, but someone had made it quite tidy and the
portrait of Aliss Grammont had disappeared. Miss Leeds walked
straight across to the coffin and stood looking down on the
waxen inexpressive dignity of the dead. Sir Richmond's brows
and nose had become sharper and more clear-cut than they had
ever been in life and his lips had set into a faint inane
smile. She stood quite still for a long time. At length she
sighed deeply.

She spoke, a little as though she thought aloud, a little as
though she talked at that silent presence in the coffin. "I
think he loved," she said. "Sometimes I think he loved me.
But it is hard to tell. He was kind. He could be intensely
kind and yet he didn't seem to care for you. He could be
intensely selfish and yet he certainly did not care for
himself. . . . Anyhow, I loved HIM. . . . There is nothing
left in me now to love anyone else--for ever. . . ."

She put her hands behind her back and looked at the dead man
with her head a little on one side. "Too kind," she said very

"There was a sort of dishonesty in his kindness. He would not
let you have the bitter truth. He would not say he did not
love you. . . .

"He was too kind to life ever to call it the foolish thing it
is. He took it seriously because it takes itself seriously.
He worked for it and killed himself with work for
it . . . . "

She turned to Dr. Martineau and her face was streaming with
tears. "And life, you know, isn't to be taken seriously. It
is a joke--a bad joke--made by some cruel little god who has
caught a neglected planet. . . . Like torturing a stray
cat. . . . But he took it seriously and he gave up his life
for it.

"There was much happiness he might have had. He was very
capable of happiness. But he never seemed happy. This work of
his came before it. He overworked and fretted our happiness
away. He sacrificed his happiness and mine."

She held out her hands towards the doctor. "What am I to do
now with the rest of my life? Who is there to laugh with me
now and jest?

"I don't complain of him. I don't blame him. He did his
best--to be kind.

"But all my days now I shall mourn for him and long for
him. . . . "

She turned back to the coffin. Suddenly she lost every
vestige of self-control. She sank down on her knees beside
the trestle. "Why have you left me!" she cried.

"Oh! Speak to me, my darling! Speak to me, I TELL YOU! Speak
to me!"

It was a storm of passion, monstrously childish and dreadful.
She beat her hands upon the coffin. She wept loudly and
fiercely as a child does....

Dr. Martineau drifted feebly to the window.

He wished he had locked the door. The servants might hear and
wonder what it was all about. Always he had feared love for
the cruel thing it was, but now it seemed to him for the
first time that he realized its monstrous cruelty.


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