Part 7 out of 8
"Oh, no," she whispered, she had not forgotten, only the stars--
the night--the dark--
"You're like a bird half asleep in its nest, Rachel. You're asleep.
You're talking in your sleep."
Half asleep, and murmuring broken words, they stood in the angle
made by the bow of the boat. It slipped on down the river.
Now a bell struck on the bridge, and they heard the lapping of water
as it rippled away on either side, and once a bird startled in its
sleep creaked, flew on to the next tree, and was silent again.
The darkness poured down profusely, and left them with scarcely
any feeling of life, except that they were standing there together
in the darkness.
The darkness fell, but rose again, and as each day spread widely
over the earth and parted them from the strange day in the forest
when they had been forced to tell each other what they wanted,
this wish of theirs was revealed to other people, and in the process
became slightly strange to themselves. Apparently it was not anything
unusual that had happened; it was that they had become engaged
to marry each other. The world, which consisted for the most part
of the hotel and the villa, expressed itself glad on the whole
that two people should marry, and allowed them to see that they were
not expected to take part in the work which has to be done in order
that the world shall go on, but might absent themselves for a time.
They were accordingly left alone until they felt the silence as if,
playing in a vast church, the door had been shut on them.
They were driven to walk alone, and sit alone, to visit secret places
where the flowers had never been picked and the trees were solitary.
In solitude they could express those beautiful but too vast desires
which were so oddly uncomfortable to the ears of other men and women--
desires for a world, such as their own world which contained two
people seemed to them to be, where people knew each other intimately
and thus judged each other by what was good, and never quarrelled,
because that was waste of time.
They would talk of such questions among books, or out in the sun,
or sitting in the shade of a tree undisturbed. They were no
longer embarrassed, or half-choked with meaning which could not
express itself; they were not afraid of each other, or, like travellers
down a twisting river, dazzled with sudden beauties when the corner
is turned; the unexpected happened, but even the ordinary was lovable,
and in many ways preferable to the ecstatic and mysterious,
for it was refreshingly solid, and called out effort, and effort
under such circumstances was not effort but delight.
While Rachel played the piano, Terence sat near her, engaged,
as far as the occasional writing of a word in pencil testified,
in shaping the world as it appeared to him now that he and Rachel
were going to be married. It was different certainly. The book
called _Silence_ would not now be the same book that it would
have been. He would then put down his pencil and stare in front
of him, and wonder in what respects the world was different--
it had, perhaps, more solidity, more coherence, more importance,
greater depth. Why, even the earth sometimes seemed to him very deep;
not carved into hills and cities and fields, but heaped in great masses.
He would look out of the window for ten minutes at a time; but no, he did
not care for the earth swept of human beings. He liked human beings--
he liked them, he suspected, better than Rachel did. There she was,
swaying enthusiastically over her music, quite forgetful of him,--
but he liked that quality in her. He liked the impersonality
which it produced in her. At last, having written down a series
of little sentences, with notes of interrogation attached to them,
he observed aloud, "'Women--'under the heading Women I've written:
"'Not really vainer than men. Lack of self-confidence at the base
of most serious faults. Dislike of own sex traditional, or founded
on fact? Every woman not so much a rake at heart, as an optimist,
because they don't think.' What do you say, Rachel?" He paused
with his pencil in his hand and a sheet of paper on his knee.
Rachel said nothing. Up and up the steep spiral of a very late Beethoven
sonata she climbed, like a person ascending a ruined staircase,
energetically at first, then more laboriously advancing her feet
with effort until she could go no higher and returned with a run
to begin at the very bottom again.
"'Again, it's the fashion now to say that women are more practical
and less idealistic than men, also that they have considerable
organising ability but no sense of honour'--query, what is meant
by masculine term, honour?--what corresponds to it in your sex? Eh?"
Attacking her staircase once more, Rachel again neglected
this opportunity of revealing the secrets of her sex.
She had, indeed, advanced so far in the pursuit of wisdom
that she allowed these secrets to rest undisturbed; it seemed
to be reserved for a later generation to discuss them philosophically.
Crashing down a final chord with her left hand, she exclaimed at last,
swinging round upon him:
"No, Terence, it's no good; here am I, the best musician in
South America, not to speak of Europe and Asia, and I can't play
a note because of you in the room interrupting me every other second."
"You don't seem to realise that that's what I've been aiming
at for the last half-hour," he remarked. "I've no objection
to nice simple tunes--indeed, I find them very helpful
to my literary composition, but that kind of thing is merely
like an unfortunate old dog going round on its hind legs in the rain."
He began turning over the little sheets of note-paper which were
scattered on the table, conveying the congratulations of their friends.
"'--all possible wishes for all possible happiness,'" he read;
"correct, but not very vivid, are they?"
"They're sheer nonsense!" Rachel exclaimed. "Think of words
compared with sounds!" she continued. "Think of novels and plays
and histories--" Perched on the edge of the table, she stirred
the red and yellow volumes contemptuously. She seemed to herself
to be in a position where she could despise all human learning.
Terence looked at them too.
"God, Rachel, you do read trash!" he exclaimed. "And you're
behind the times too, my dear. No one dreams of reading this kind
of thing now--antiquated problem plays, harrowing descriptions
of life in the east end--oh, no, we've exploded all that.
Read poetry, Rachel, poetry, poetry, poetry!"
Picking up one of the books, he began to read aloud, his intention
being to satirise the short sharp bark of the writer's English;
but she paid no attention, and after an interval of meditation exclaimed:
"Does it ever seem to you, Terence, that the world is composed
entirely of vast blocks of matter, and that we're nothing but
patches of light--" she looked at the soft spots of sun wavering
over the carpet and up the wall--"like that?"
"No," said Terence, "I feel solid; immensely solid; the legs of my
chair might be rooted in the bowels of the earth. But at Cambridge,
I can remember, there were times when one fell into ridiculous states
of semi-coma about five o'clock in the morning. Hirst does now,
I expect--oh, no, Hirst wouldn't."
Rachel continued, "The day your note came, asking us to go on
the picnic, I was sitting where you're sitting now, thinking that;
I wonder if I could think that again? I wonder if the world's changed?
and if so, when it'll stop changing, and which is the real world?"
"When I first saw you," he began, "I thought you were like a
creature who'd lived all its life among pearls and old bones.
Your hands were wet, d'you remember, and you never said a word until
I gave you a bit of bread, and then you said, 'Human Beings!'"
"And I thought you--a prig," she recollected. "No; that's not quite it.
There were the ants who stole the tongue, and I thought you and
St. John were like those ants--very big, very ugly, very energetic,
with all your virtues on your backs. However, when I talked to you
I liked you--"
"You fell in love with me," he corrected her. "You were in love
with me all the time, only you didn't know it."
"No, I never fell in love with you," she asserted.
"Rachel--what a lie--didn't you sit here looking at my window--
didn't you wander about the hotel like an owl in the sun--?"
"No," she repeated, "I never fell in love, if falling in love
is what people say it is, and it's the world that tells the lies
and I tell the truth. Oh, what lies--what lies!"
She crumpled together a handful of letters from Evelyn M., from
Mr. Pepper, from Mrs. Thornbury and Miss Allan, and Susan Warrington.
It was strange, considering how very different these people were,
that they used almost the same sentences when they wrote to
congratulate her upon her engagement.
That any one of these people had ever felt what she felt, or could
ever feel it, or had even the right to pretend for a single second
that they were capable of feeling it, appalled her much as the church
service had done, much as the face of the hospital nurse had done;
and if they didn't feel a thing why did they go and pretend to?
The simplicity and arrogance and hardness of her youth, now concentrated
into a single spark as it was by her love of him, puzzled Terence;
being engaged had not that effect on him; the world was different,
but not in that way; he still wanted the things he had always wanted,
and in particular he wanted the companionship of other people
more than ever perhaps. He took the letters out of her hand,
"Of course they're absurd, Rachel; of course they say things just
because other people say them, but even so, what a nice woman Miss
Allan is; you can't deny that; and Mrs. Thornbury too; she's got
too many children I grant you, but if half-a-dozen of them had gone
to the bad instead of rising infallibly to the tops of their trees--
hasn't she a kind of beauty--of elemental simplicity as Flushing
would say? Isn't she rather like a large old tree murmuring
in the moonlight, or a river going on and on and on? By the way,
Ralph's been made governor of the Carroway Islands--the youngest
governor in the service; very good, isn't it?"
But Rachel was at present unable to conceive that the vast majority
of the affairs of the world went on unconnected by a single thread
with her own destiny.
"I won't have eleven children," she asserted; "I won't have the eyes
of an old woman. She looks at one up and down, up and down,
as if one were a horse."
"We must have a son and we must have a daughter," said Terence,
putting down the letters, "because, let alone the inestimable
advantage of being our children, they'd be so well brought up."
They went on to sketch an outline of the ideal education--
how their daughter should be required from infancy to gaze at a large
square of cardboard painted blue, to suggest thoughts of infinity,
for women were grown too practical; and their son--he should be taught
to laugh at great men, that is, at distinguished successful men,
at men who wore ribands and rose to the tops of their trees.
He should in no way resemble (Rachel added) St. John Hirst.
At this Terence professed the greatest admiration for St. John Hirst.
Dwelling upon his good qualities he became seriously convinced of them;
he had a mind like a torpedo, he declared, aimed at falsehood.
Where should we all be without him and his like? Choked in weeds;
Christians, bigots,--why, Rachel herself, would be a slave with a fan
to sing songs to men when they felt drowsy.
"But you'll never see it!" he exclaimed; "because with all your virtues
you don't, and you never will, care with every fibre of your being
for the pursuit of truth! You've no respect for facts, Rachel;
you're essentially feminine." She did not trouble to deny it,
nor did she think good to produce the one unanswerable argument
against the merits which Terence admired. St. John Hirst said
that she was in love with him; she would never forgive that;
but the argument was not one to appeal to a man.
"But I like him," she said, and she thought to herself that she also
pitied him, as one pities those unfortunate people who are outside the warm
mysterious globe full of changes and miracles in which we ourselves
move about; she thought that it must be very dull to be St. John Hirst.
She summed up what she felt about him by saying that she would
not kiss him supposing he wished it, which was not likely.
As if some apology were due to Hirst for the kiss which she then
bestowed upon him, Terence protested:
"And compared with Hirst I'm a perfect Zany."
The clock here struck twelve instead of eleven.
"We're wasting the morning--I ought to be writing my book, and you
ought to be answering these."
"We've only got twenty-one whole mornings left," said Rachel.
"And my father'll be here in a day or two."
However, she drew a pen and paper towards her and began to write laboriously,
"My dear Evelyn--"
Terence, meanwhile, read a novel which some one else had written,
a process which he found essential to the composition of his own.
For a considerable time nothing was to be heard but the ticking
of the clock and the fitful scratch of Rachel's pen, as she produced
phrases which bore a considerable likeness to those which she
had condemned. She was struck by it herself, for she stopped writing
and looked up; looked at Terence deep in the arm-chair, looked
at the different pieces of furniture, at her bed in the corner,
at the window-pane which showed the branches of a tree filled
in with sky, heard the clock ticking, and was amazed at the gulf
which lay between all that and her sheet of paper. Would there
ever be a time when the world was one and indivisible? Even with
Terence himself--how far apart they could be, how little she knew
what was passing in his brain now! She then finished her sentence,
which was awkward and ugly, and stated that they were "both very happy,
and going to be married in the autumn probably and hope to live
in London, where we hope you will come and see us when we get back."
Choosing "affectionately," after some further speculation,
rather than sincerely, she signed the letter and was doggedly
beginning on another when Terence remarked, quoting from his book:
"Listen to this, Rachel. 'It is probable that Hugh' (he's the hero,
a literary man), 'had not realised at the time of his marriage,
any more than the young man of parts and imagination usually
does realise, the nature of the gulf which separates the needs
and desires of the male from the needs and desires of the female.
. . . At first they had been very happy. The walking tour in Switzerland
had been a time of jolly companionship and stimulating revelations
for both of them. Betty had proved herself the ideal comrade.
. . . They had shouted _Love_ _in_ _the_ _Valley_ to each other across
the snowy slopes of the Riffelhorn' (and so on, and so on--I'll skip
the descriptions). . . . 'But in London, after the boy's birth,
all was changed. Betty was an admirable mother; but it did not
take her long to find out that motherhood, as that function is
understood by the mother of the upper middle classes, did not absorb
the whole of her energies. She was young and strong, with healthy
limbs and a body and brain that called urgently for exercise.
. . .' (In short she began to give tea-parties.) . . . 'Coming
in late from this singular talk with old Bob Murphy in his smoky,
book-lined room, where the two men had each unloosened his soul
to the other, with the sound of the traffic humming in his ears,
and the foggy London sky slung tragically across his mind . . . he
found women's hats dotted about among his papers. Women's wraps
and absurd little feminine shoes and umbrellas were in the hall.
. . . Then the bills began to come in. . . . He tried to speak
frankly to her. He found her lying on the great polar-bear skin
in their bedroom, half-undressed, for they were dining with the Greens
in Wilton Crescent, the ruddy firelight making the diamonds wink
and twinkle on her bare arms and in the delicious curve of her breast--
a vision of adorable femininity. He forgave her all.' (Well, this
goes from bad to worse, and finally about fifty pages later,
Hugh takes a week-end ticket to Swanage and 'has it out with himself
on the downs above Corfe.' . . . Here there's fifteen pages or so
which we'll skip. The conclusion is . . .) 'They were different.
Perhaps, in the far future, when generations of men had struggled
and failed as he must now struggle and fail, woman would be, indeed,
what she now made a pretence of being--the friend and companion--
not the enemy and parasite of man.'
"The end of it is, you see, Hugh went back to his wife, poor fellow.
It was his duty, as a married man. Lord, Rachel," he concluded,
"will it be like that when we're married?"
Instead of answering him she asked,
"Why don't people write about the things they do feel?"
"Ah, that's the difficulty!" he sighed, tossing the book away.
"Well, then, what will it be like when we're married? What are
the things people do feel?"
She seemed doubtful.
"Sit on the floor and let me look at you," he commanded.
Resting her chin on his knee, she looked straight at him.
He examined her curiously.
"You're not beautiful," he began, "but I like your face.
I like the way your hair grows down in a point, and your eyes too--
they never see anything. Your mouth's too big, and your cheeks
would be better if they had more colour in them. But what I like
about your face is that it makes one wonder what the devil you're
thinking about--it makes me want to do that--" He clenched his fist
and shook it so near her that she started back, "because now you look
as if you'd blow my brains out. There are moments," he continued,
"when, if we stood on a rock together, you'd throw me into the sea."
Hypnotised by the force of his eyes in hers, she repeated, "If we
stood on a rock together--"
To be flung into the sea, to be washed hither and thither, and driven
about the roots of the world--the idea was incoherently delightful.
She sprang up, and began moving about the room, bending and thrusting
aside the chairs and tables as if she were indeed striking through
the waters. He watched her with pleasure; she seemed to be cleaving
a passage for herself, and dealing triumphantly with the obstacles
which would hinder their passage through life.
"It does seem possible!" he exclaimed, "though I've always thought
it the most unlikely thing in the world--I shall be in love
with you all my life, and our marriage will be the most exciting
thing that's ever been done! We'll never have a moment's peace--"
He caught her in his arms as she passed him, and they fought
for mastery, imagining a rock, and the sea heaving beneath them.
At last she was thrown to the floor, where she lay gasping,
and crying for mercy.
"I'm a mermaid! I can swim," she cried, "so the game's up."
Her dress was torn across, and peace being established, she fetched
a needle and thread and began to mend the tear.
"And now," she said, "be quiet and tell me about the world;
tell me about everything that's ever happened, and I'll tell you--
let me see, what can I tell you?--I'll tell you about Miss Montgomerie
and the river party. She was left, you see, with one foot in the boat,
and the other on shore."
They had spent much time already in thus filling out for the other
the course of their past lives, and the characters of their friends
and relations, so that very soon Terence knew not only what Rachel's
aunts might be expected to say upon every occasion, but also how
their bedrooms were furnished, and what kind of bonnets they wore.
He could sustain a conversation between Mrs. Hunt and Rachel, and carry
on a tea-party including the Rev. William Johnson and Miss Macquoid,
the Christian Scientists, with remarkable likeness to the truth.
But he had known many more people, and was far more highly skilled
in the art of narrative than Rachel was, whose experiences were,
for the most part, of a curiously childlike and humorous kind,
so that it generally fell to her lot to listen and ask questions.
He told her not only what had happened, but what he had thought and felt,
and sketched for her portraits which fascinated her of what other men
and women might be supposed to be thinking and feeling, so that she
became very anxious to go back to England, which was full of people,
where she could merely stand in the streets and look at them.
According to him, too, there was an order, a pattern which made
life reasonable, or if that word was foolish, made it of deep
interest anyhow, for sometimes it seemed possible to understand
why things happened as they did. Nor were people so solitary
and uncommunicative as she believed. She should look for vanity--
for vanity was a common quality--first in herself, and then
in Helen, in Ridley, in St. John, they all had their share of it--
and she would find it in ten people out of every twelve she met;
and once linked together by one such tie she would find them
not separate and formidable, but practically indistinguishable,
and she would come to love them when she found that they were
If she denied this, she must defend her belief that human beings
were as various as the beasts at the Zoo, which had stripes
and manes, and horns and humps; and so, wrestling over the entire
list of their acquaintances, and diverging into anecdote
and theory and speculation, they came to know each other.
The hours passed quickly, and seemed to them full to leaking-point.
After a night's solitude they were always ready to begin again.
The virtues which Mrs. Ambrose had once believed to exist
in free talk between men and women did in truth exist for both
of them, although not quite in the measure she prescribed.
Far more than upon the nature of sex they dwelt upon the nature
of poetry, but it was true that talk which had no boundaries
deepened and enlarged the strangely small bright view of a girl.
In return for what he could tell her she brought him such curiosity
and sensitiveness of perception, that he was led to doubt
whether any gift bestowed by much reading and living was quite
the equal of that for pleasure and pain. What would experience
give her after all, except a kind of ridiculous formal balance,
like that of a drilled dog in the street? He looked at her face
and wondered how it would look in twenty years' time, when the eyes
had dulled, and the forehead wore those little persistent wrinkles
which seem to show that the middle-aged are facing something hard
which the young do not see? What would the hard thing be for them,
he wondered? Then his thoughts turned to their life in England.
The thought of England was delightful, for together they would see
the old things freshly; it would be England in June, and there would be
June nights in the country; and the nightingales singing in the lanes,
into which they could steal when the room grew hot; and there would
be English meadows gleaming with water and set with stolid cows,
and clouds dipping low and trailing across the green hills.
As he sat in the room with her, he wished very often to be back
again in the thick of life, doing things with Rachel.
He crossed to the window and exclaimed, "Lord, how good it is to
think of lanes, muddy lanes, with brambles and nettles, you know,
and real grass fields, and farmyards with pigs and cows, and men
walking beside carts with pitchforks--there's nothing to compare
with that here--look at the stony red earth, and the bright blue sea,
and the glaring white houses--how tired one gets of it! And the air,
without a stain or a wrinkle. I'd give anything for a sea mist."
Rachel, too, had been thinking of the English country: the flat land
rolling away to the sea, and the woods and the long straight roads,
where one can walk for miles without seeing any one, and the great
church towers and the curious houses clustered in the valleys,
and the birds, and the dusk, and the rain falling against the windows.
"But London, London's the place," Terence continued. They looked
together at the carpet, as though London itself were to be seen
there lying on the floor, with all its spires and pinnacles pricking
through the smoke.
"On the whole, what I should like best at this moment,"
Terence pondered, "would be to find myself walking down Kingsway,
by those big placards, you know, and turning into the Strand.
Perhaps I might go and look over Waterloo Bridge for a moment.
Then I'd go along the Strand past the shops with all the new
books in them, and through the little archway into the Temple.
I always like the quiet after the uproar. You hear your own footsteps
suddenly quite loud. The Temple's very pleasant. I think I should
go and see if I could find dear old Hodgkin--the man who writes
books about Van Eyck, you know. When I left England he was very sad
about his tame magpie. He suspected that a man had poisoned it.
And then Russell lives on the next staircase. I think you'd
like him. He's a passion for Handel. Well, Rachel," he concluded,
dismissing the vision of London, "we shall be doing that together
in six weeks' time, and it'll be the middle of June then--and June
in London--my God! how pleasant it all is!"
"And we're certain to have it too," she said. "It isn't as if we
were expecting a great deal--only to walk about and look at things."
"Only a thousand a year and perfect freedom," he replied.
"How many people in London d'you think have that?"
"And now you've spoilt it," she complained. "Now we've got to think
of the horrors." She looked grudgingly at the novel which had once
caused her perhaps an hour's discomfort, so that she had never opened
it again, but kept it on her table, and looked at it occasionally,
as some medieval monk kept a skull, or a crucifix to remind him
of the frailty of the body.
"Is it true, Terence," she demanded, "that women die with bugs
crawling across their faces?"
"I think it's very probable," he said. "But you must admit,
Rachel, that we so seldom think of anything but ourselves
that an occasional twinge is really rather pleasant."
Accusing him of an affection of cynicism which was just as bad as
sentimentality itself, she left her position by his side and knelt upon
the window sill, twisting the curtain tassels between her fingers.
A vague sense of dissatisfaction filled her.
"What's so detestable in this country," she exclaimed, "is the blue--
always blue sky and blue sea. It's like a curtain--all the things
one wants are on the other side of that. I want to know what's going
on behind it. I hate these divisions, don't you, Terence? One person
all in the dark about another person. Now I liked the Dalloways,"
she continued, "and they're gone. I shall never see them again.
Just by going on a ship we cut ourselves off entirely from the rest
of the world. I want to see England there--London there--all sorts
of people--why shouldn't one? why should one be shut up all by oneself
in a room?"
While she spoke thus half to herself and with increasing vagueness,
because her eye was caught by a ship that had just come into the bay,
she did not see that Terence had ceased to stare contentedly in front
of him, and was looking at her keenly and with dissatisfaction.
She seemed to be able to cut herself adrift from him, and to pass away
to unknown places where she had no need of him. The thought roused
"I sometimes think you're not in love with me and never will be,"
he said energetically. She started and turned round at his words.
"I don't satisfy you in the way you satisfy me," he continued.
"There's something I can't get hold of in you. You don't want me
as I want you--you're always wanting something else."
He began pacing up and down the room.
"Perhaps I ask too much," he went on. "Perhaps it isn't really
possible to have what I want. Men and women are too different.
You can't understand--you don't understand--"
He came up to where she stood looking at him in silence.
It seemed to her now that what he was saying was perfectly true,
and that she wanted many more things than the love of one human being--
the sea, the sky. She turned again the looked at the distant blue,
which was so smooth and serene where the sky met the sea; she could
not possibly want only one human being.
"Or is it only this damnable engagement?" he continued. "Let's be
married here, before we go back--or is it too great a risk?
Are we sure we want to marry each other?"
They began pacing up and down the room, but although they came
very near each other in their pacing, they took care not to touch
each other. The hopelessness of their position overcame them both.
They were impotent; they could never love each other sufficiently
to overcome all these barriers, and they could never be satisfied
with less. Realising this with intolerable keenness she stopped
in front of him and exclaimed:
"Let's break it off, then."
The words did more to unite them than any amount of argument.
As if they stood on the edge of a precipice they clung together.
They knew that they could not separate; painful and terrible it
might be, but they were joined for ever. They lapsed into silence,
and after a time crept together in silence. Merely to be so close
soothed them, and sitting side by side the divisions disappeared,
and it seemed as if the world were once more solid and entire, and as if,
in some strange way, they had grown larger and stronger.
It was long before they moved, and when they moved it was with
great reluctance. They stood together in front of the looking-glass,
and with a brush tried to make themselves look as if they had been
feeling nothing all the morning, neither pain nor happiness.
But it chilled them to see themselves in the glass, for instead of
being vast and indivisible they were really very small and separate,
the size of the glass leaving a large space for the reflection
of other things.
But no brush was able to efface completely the expression of happiness,
so that Mrs. Ambrose could not treat them when they came downstairs as if
they had spent the morning in a way that could be discussed naturally.
This being so, she joined in the world's conspiracy to consider
them for the time incapacitated from the business of life,
struck by their intensity of feeling into enmity against life,
and almost succeeded in dismissing them from her thoughts.
She reflected that she had done all that it was necessary to do in
practical matters. She had written a great many letters, and had obtained
Willoughby's consent. She had dwelt so often upon Mr. Hewet's prospects,
his profession, his birth, appearance, and temperament, that she had
almost forgotten what he was really like. When she refreshed herself
by a look at him, she used to wonder again what he was like, and then,
concluding that they were happy at any rate, thought no more about it.
She might more profitably consider what would happen in three years'
time, or what might have happened if Rachel had been left
to explore the world under her father's guidance. The result,
she was honest enough to own, might have been better--who knows?
She did not disguise from herself that Terence had faults. She was
inclined to think him too easy and tolerant, just as he was inclined
to think her perhaps a trifle hard--no, it was rather that she
was uncompromising. In some ways she found St. John preferable;
but then, of course, he would never have suited Rachel.
Her friendship with St. John was established, for although she
fluctuated between irritation and interest in a way that did credit
to the candour of her disposition, she liked his company on the whole.
He took her outside this little world of love and emotion.
He had a grasp of facts. Supposing, for instance, that England made
a sudden move towards some unknown port on the coast of Morocco,
St. John knew what was at the back of it, and to hear him engaged
with her husband in argument about finance and the balance of power,
gave her an odd sense of stability. She respected their arguments
without always listening to them, much as she respected a solid
brick wall, or one of those immense municipal buildings which,
although they compose the greater part of our cities, have been built
day after day and year after year by unknown hands. She liked to sit
and listen, and even felt a little elated when the engaged couple,
after showing their profound lack of interest, slipped from the room,
and were seen pulling flowers to pieces in the garden. It was not
that she was jealous of them, but she did undoubtedly envy them
their great unknown future that lay before them. Slipping from
one such thought to another, she was at the dining-room with fruit
in her hands. Sometimes she stopped to straighten a candle stooping
with the heat, or disturbed some too rigid arrangement of the chairs.
She had reason to suspect that Chailey had been balancing herself
on the top of a ladder with a wet duster during their absence,
and the room had never been quite like itself since. Returning from
the dining-room for the third time, she perceived that one of
the arm-chairs was now occupied by St. John. He lay back in it,
with his eyes half shut, looking, as he always did, curiously buttoned
up in a neat grey suit and fenced against the exuberance of a foreign
climate which might at any moment proceed to take liberties with him.
Her eyes rested on him gently and then passed on over his head.
Finally she took the chair opposite.
"I didn't want to come here," he said at last, "but I was positively
driven to it. . . . Evelyn M.," he groaned.
He sat up, and began to explain with mock solemnity how the detestable
woman was set upon marrying him.
"She pursues me about the place. This morning she appeared
in the smoking-room. All I could do was to seize my hat and fly.
I didn't want to come, but I couldn't stay and face another meal
"Well, we must make the best of it," Helen replied philosophically.
It was very hot, and they were indifferent to any amount of silence,
so that they lay back in their chairs waiting for something to happen.
The bell rang for luncheon, but there was no sound of movement in
the house. Was there any news? Helen asked; anything in the papers?
St. John shook his head. O yes, he had a letter from home, a letter
from his mother, describing the suicide of the parlour-maid. She
was called Susan Jane, and she came into the kitchen one afternoon,
and said that she wanted cook to keep her money for her; she had
twenty pounds in gold. Then she went out to buy herself a hat.
She came in at half-past five and said that she had taken poison.
They had only just time to get her into bed and call a doctor before
"Well?" Helen enquired.
"There'll have to be an inquest," said St. John.
Why had she done it? He shrugged his shoulders. Why do people
kill themselves? Why do the lower orders do any of the things
they do do? Nobody knows. They sat in silence.
"The bell's run fifteen minutes and they're not down," said Helen
When they appeared, St. John explained why it had been necessary
for him to come to luncheon. He imitated Evelyn's enthusiastic
tone as she confronted him in the smoking-room. "She thinks there
can be nothing _quite_ so thrilling as mathematics, so I've lent
her a large work in two volumes. It'll be interesting to see
what she makes of it."
Rachel could now afford to laugh at him. She reminded him of Gibbon;
she had the first volume somewhere still; if he were undertaking
the education of Evelyn, that surely was the test; or she had heard
that Burke, upon the American Rebellion--Evelyn ought to read them
both simultaneously. When St. John had disposed of her argument
and had satisfied his hunger, he proceeded to tell them that the
hotel was seething with scandals, some of the most appalling kind,
which had happened in their absence; he was indeed much given
to the study of his kind.
"Evelyn M., for example--but that was told me in confidence."
"Nonsense!" Terence interposed.
"You've heard about poor Sinclair, too?"
"Oh, yes, I've heard about Sinclair. He's retired to his mine
with a revolver. He writes to Evelyn daily that he's thinking of
committing suicide. I've assured her that he's never been so happy
in his life, and, on the whole, she's inclined to agree with me."
"But then she's entangled herself with Perrott," St. John continued;
"and I have reason to think, from something I saw in the passage,
that everything isn't as it should be between Arthur and Susan.
There's a young female lately arrived from Manchester. A very good
thing if it were broken off, in my opinion. Their married life is
something too horrible to contemplate.
Oh, and I distinctly heard old Mrs. Paley rapping out the most
fearful oaths as I passed her bedroom door. It's supposed that she
tortures her maid in private--it's practically certain she does.
One can tell it from the look in her eyes."
"When you're eighty and the gout tweezes you, you'll be swearing
like a trooper," Terence remarked. "You'll be very fat, very testy,
very disagreeable. Can't you imagine him--bald as a coot, with a pair
of sponge-bag trousers, a little spotted tie, and a corporation?"
After a pause Hirst remarked that the worst infamy had still
to be told. He addressed himself to Helen.
"They've hoofed out the prostitute. One night while we were away that
old numskull Thornbury was doddering about the passages very late.
(Nobody seems to have asked him what _he_ was up to.) He saw
the Signora Lola Mendoza, as she calls herself, cross the passage
in her nightgown. He communicated his suspicions next morning
to Elliot, with the result that Rodriguez went to the woman and
gave her twenty-four hours in which to clear out of the place.
No one seems to have enquired into the truth of the story, or to
have asked Thornbury and Elliot what business it was of theirs;
they had it entirely their own way. I propose that we should all
sign a Round Robin, go to Rodriguez in a body, and insist upon
a full enquiry. Something's got to be done, don't you agree?"
Hewet remarked that there could be no doubt as to the lady's profession.
"Still," he added, "it's a great shame, poor woman; only I don't
see what's to be done--"
"I quite agree with you, St. John," Helen burst out. "It's monstrous.
The hypocritical smugness of the English makes my blood boil.
A man who's made a fortune in trade as Mr. Thornbury has is bound
to be twice as bad as any prostitute."
She respected St. John's morality, which she took far more seriously
than any one else did, and now entered into a discussion with him
as to the steps that were to be taken to enforce their peculiar
view of what was right. The argument led to some profoundly
gloomy statements of a general nature. Who were they, after all--
what authority had they--what power against the mass of superstition
and ignorance? It was the English, of course; there must be something
wrong in the English blood. Directly you met an English person,
of the middle classes, you were conscious of an indefinable sensation
of loathing; directly you saw the brown crescent of houses above Dover,
the same thing came over you. But unfortunately St. John added,
you couldn't trust these foreigners--
They were interrupted by sounds of strife at the further end
of the table. Rachel appealed to her aunt.
"Terence says we must go to tea with Mrs. Thornbury because she's
been so kind, but I don't see it; in fact, I'd rather have my right
hand sawn in pieces--just imagine! the eyes of all those women!"
"Fiddlesticks, Rachel," Terence replied. "Who wants to look at you?
You're consumed with vanity! You're a monster of conceit!
Surely, Helen, you ought to have taught her by this time that she's
a person of no conceivable importance whatever--not beautiful,
or well dressed, or conspicuous for elegance or intellect,
or deportment. A more ordinary sight than you are," he concluded,
"except for the tear across your dress has never been seen.
However, stay at home if you want to. I'm going."
She appealed again to her aunt. It wasn't the being looked at, she explained,
but the things people were sure to say. The women in particular.
She liked women, but where emotion was concerned they were as flies
on a lump of sugar. They would be certain to ask her questions.
Evelyn M. would say: "Are you in love? Is it nice being in love?"
And Mrs. Thornbury--her eyes would go up and down, up and down--
she shuddered at the thought of it. Indeed, the retirement
of their life since their engagement had made her so sensitive,
that she was not exaggerating her case.
She found an ally in Helen, who proceeded to expound her views
of the human race, as she regarded with complacency the pyramid
of variegated fruits in the centre of the table. It wasn't
that they were cruel, or meant to hurt, or even stupid exactly;
but she had always found that the ordinary person had so little
emotion in his own life that the scent of it in the lives of others
was like the scent of blood in the nostrils of a bloodhound.
Warming to the theme, she continued:
"Directly anything happens--it may be a marriage, or a birth,
or a death--on the whole they prefer it to be a death--every one
wants to see you. They insist upon seeing you. They've got
nothing to say; they don't care a rap for you; but you've got to go
to lunch or to tea or to dinner, and if you don't you're damned.
It's the smell of blood," she continued; "I don't blame 'em; only
they shan't have mind if I know it!"
She looked about her as if she had called up a legion of human beings,
all hostile and all disagreeable, who encircled the table,
with mouths gaping for blood, and made it appear a little island
of neutral country in the midst of the enemy's country.
Her words roused her husband, who had been muttering rhythmically
to himself, surveying his guests and his food and his wife with eyes
that were now melancholy and now fierce, according to the fortunes
of the lady in his ballad. He cut Helen short with a protest.
He hated even the semblance of cynicism in women. "Nonsense, nonsense,"
he remarked abruptly.
Terence and Rachel glanced at each other across the table, which meant
that when they were married they would not behave like that.
The entrance of Ridley into the conversation had a strange effect.
It became at once more formal and more polite. It would have been
impossible to talk quite easily of anything that came into their heads,
and to say the word prostitute as simply as any other word.
The talk now turned upon literature and politics, and Ridley told
stories of the distinguished people he had known in his youth.
Such talk was of the nature of an art, and the personalities
and informalities of the young were silenced. As they rose to go,
Helen stopped for a moment, leaning her elbows on the table.
"You've all been sitting here," she said, "for almost an hour,
and you haven't noticed my figs, or my flowers, or the way
the light comes through, or anything. I haven't been listening,
because I've been looking at you. You looked very beautiful;
I wish you'd go on sitting for ever."
She led the way to the drawing-room, where she took up her embroidery,
and began again to dissuade Terence from walking down to the
hotel in this heat. But the more she dissuaded, the more he
was determined to go. He became irritated and obstinate.
There were moments when they almost disliked each other.
He wanted other people; he wanted Rachel, to see them with him.
He suspected that Mrs. Ambrose would now try to dissuade her
from going. He was annoyed by all this space and shade and beauty,
and Hirst, recumbent, drooping a magazine from his wrist.
"I'm going," he repeated. "Rachel needn't come unless she wants to."
"If you go, Hewet, I wish you'd make enquiries about the prostitute,"
said Hirst. "Look here," he added, "I'll walk half the way with you."
Greatly to their surprise he raised himself, looked at his watch,
and remarked that, as it was now half an hour since luncheon,
the gastric juices had had sufficient time to secrete; he was trying
a system, he explained, which involved short spells of exercise
interspaced by longer intervals of rest.
"I shall be back at four," he remarked to Helen, "when I shall lie
down on the sofa and relax all my muscles completely."
"So you're going, Rachel?" Helen asked. "You won't stay with me?"
She smiled, but she might have been sad.
Was she sad, or was she really laughing? Rachel could not tell, and she
felt for the moment very uncomfortable between Helen and Terence.
Then she turned away, saying merely that she would go with Terence,
on condition that he did all the talking.
A narrow border of shadow ran along the road, which was broad
enough for two, but not broad enough for three. St. John therefore
dropped a little behind the pair, and the distance between
them increased by degrees. Walking with a view to digestion,
and with one eye upon his watch, he looked from time to time at
the pair in front of him. They seemed to be so happy, so intimate,
although they were walking side by side much as other people walk.
They turned slightly toward each other now and then, and said
something which he thought must be something very private.
They were really disputing about Helen's character, and Terence was
trying to explain why it was that she annoyed him so much sometimes.
But St. John thought that they were saying things which they did
not want him to hear, and was led to think of his own isolation.
These people were happy, and in some ways he despised them for
being made happy so simply, and in other ways he envied them.
He was much more remarkable than they were, but he was not happy.
People never liked him; he doubted sometimes whether even Helen
liked him. To be simple, to be able to say simply what one felt,
without the terrific self-consciousness which possessed him,
and showed him his own face and words perpetually in a mirror,
that would be worth almost any other gift, for it made one happy.
Happiness, happiness, what was happiness? He was never happy.
He saw too clearly the little vices and deceits and flaws
of life, and, seeing them, it seemed to him honest to take notice
of them. That was the reason, no doubt, why people generally
disliked him, and complained that he was heartless and bitter.
Certainly they never told him the things he wanted to be told,
that he was nice and kind, and that they liked him. But it was
true that half the sharp things that he said about them were said
because he was unhappy or hurt himself. But he admitted that he
had very seldom told any one that he cared for them, and when he
had been demonstrative, he had generally regretted it afterwards.
His feelings about Terence and Rachel were so complicated that he
had never yet been able to bring himself to say that he was glad
that they were going to be married. He saw their faults so clearly,
and the inferior nature of a great deal of their feeling for
each other, and he expected that their love would not last.
He looked at them again, and, very strangely, for he was so used
to thinking that he seldom saw anything, the look of them filled him
with a simple emotion of affection in which there were some traces
of pity also. What, after all, did people's faults matter in comparison
with what was good in them? He resolved that he would now tell them
what he felt. He quickened his pace and came up with them just
as they reached the corner where the lane joined the main road.
They stood still and began to laugh at him, and to ask him whether
the gastric juices--but he stopped them and began to speak very quickly
"D'you remember the morning after the dance?" he demanded.
"It was here we sat, and you talked nonsense, and Rachel made little
heaps of stones. I, on the other hand, had the whole meaning
of life revealed to me in a flash." He paused for a second,
and drew his lips together in a tight little purse. "Love," he said.
"It seems to me to explain everything. So, on the whole, I'm very glad
that you two are going to be married." He then turned round abruptly,
without looking at them, and walked back to the villa. He felt both
exalted and ashamed of himself for having thus said what he felt.
Probably they were laughing at him, probably they thought him
a fool, and, after all, had he really said what he felt?
It was true that they laughed when he was gone; but the dispute
about Helen which had become rather sharp, ceased, and they became
peaceful and friendly.
They reached the hotel rather early in the afternoon, so that most
people were still lying down, or sitting speechless in their bedrooms,
and Mrs. Thornbury, although she had asked them to tea, was nowhere
to be seen. They sat down, therefore, in the shady hall,
which was almost empty, and full of the light swishing sounds of
air going to and fro in a large empty space. Yes, this arm-chair
was the same arm-chair in which Rachel had sat that afternoon when
Evelyn came up, and this was the magazine she had been looking at,
and this the very picture, a picture of New York by lamplight.
How odd it seemed--nothing had changed.
By degrees a certain number of people began to come down the stairs
and to pass through the hall, and in this dim light their figures
possessed a sort of grace and beauty, although they were all
unknown people. Sometimes they went straight through and out into
the garden by the swing door, sometimes they stopped for a few minutes
and bent over the tables and began turning over the newspapers.
Terence and Rachel sat watching them through their half-closed eyelids--
the Johnsons, the Parkers, the Baileys, the Simmons', the Lees,
the Morleys, the Campbells, the Gardiners. Some were dressed
in white flannels and were carrying racquets under their arms,
some were short, some tall, some were only children, and some perhaps
were servants, but they all had their standing, their reason for
following each other through the hall, their money, their position,
whatever it might be. Terence soon gave up looking at them,
for he was tired; and, closing his eyes, he fell half asleep
in his chair. Rachel watched the people for some time longer;
she was fascinated by the certainty and the grace of their movements,
and by the inevitable way in which they seemed to follow each other,
and loiter and pass on and disappear. But after a time her thoughts
wandered, and she began to think of the dance, which had been held
in this room, only then the room itself looked quite different.
Glancing round, she could hardly believe that it was the same room.
It had looked so bare and so bright and formal on that night
when they came into it out of the darkness; it had been filled,
too, with little red, excited faces, always moving, and people so
brightly dressed and so animated that they did not seem in the least
like real people, nor did you feel that you could talk to them.
And now the room was dim and quiet, and beautiful silent people
passed through it, to whom you could go and say anything you liked.
She felt herself amazingly secure as she sat in her arm-chair, and
able to review not only the night of the dance, but the entire past,
tenderly and humorously, as if she had been turning in a fog
for a long time, and could now see exactly where she had turned.
For the methods by which she had reached her present position,
seemed to her very strange, and the strangest thing about them
was that she had not known where they were leading her. That was
the strange thing, that one did not know where one was going,
or what one wanted, and followed blindly, suffering so much in secret,
always unprepared and amazed and knowing nothing; but one thing led
to another and by degrees something had formed itself out of nothing,
and so one reached at last this calm, this quiet, this certainty,
and it was this process that people called living. Perhaps, then,
every one really knew as she knew now where they were going;
and things formed themselves into a pattern not only for her,
but for them, and in that pattern lay satisfaction and meaning.
When she looked back she could see that a meaning of some kind
was apparent in the lives of her aunts, and in the brief visit
of the Dalloways whom she would never see again, and in the life of
The sound of Terence, breathing deep in his slumber, confirmed her
in her calm. She was not sleepy although she did not see anything
very distinctly, but although the figures passing through the hall
became vaguer and vaguer, she believed that they all knew exactly
where they were going, and the sense of their certainty filled her
with comfort. For the moment she was as detached and disinterested
as if she had no longer any lot in life, and she thought that she
could now accept anything that came to her without being perplexed
by the form in which it appeared. What was there to frighten or
to perplex in the prospect of life? Why should this insight ever
again desert her? The world was in truth so large, so hospitable,
and after all it was so simple. "Love," St. John had said, "that seems
to explain it all." Yes, but it was not the love of man for woman,
of Terence for Rachel. Although they sat so close together, they had
ceased to be little separate bodies; they had ceased to struggle
and desire one another. There seemed to be peace between them.
It might be love, but it was not the love of man for woman.
Through her half-closed eyelids she watched Terence lying back
in his chair, and she smiled as she saw how big his mouth was,
and his chin so small, and his nose curved like a switchback
with a knob at the end. Naturally, looking like that he was lazy,
and ambitious, and full of moods and faults. She remembered
their quarrels, and in particular how they had been quarreling about
Helen that very afternoon, and she thought how often they would
quarrel in the thirty, or forty, or fifty years in which they would
be living in the same house together, catching trains together,
and getting annoyed because they were so different. But all this
was superficial, and had nothing to do with the life that went
on beneath the eyes and the mouth and the chin, for that life
was independent of her, and independent of everything else.
So too, although she was going to marry him and to live with him
for thirty, or forty, or fifty years, and to quarrel, and to be
so close to him, she was independent of him; she was independent
of everything else. Nevertheless, as St. John said, it was love that
made her understand this, for she had never felt this independence,
this calm, and this certainty until she fell in love with him,
and perhaps this too was love. She wanted nothing else.
For perhaps two minutes Miss Allan had been standing at a little distance
looking at the couple lying back so peacefully in their arm-chairs.
She could not make up her mind whether to disturb them or not,
and then, seeming to recollect something, she came across the hall.
The sound of her approach woke Terence, who sat up and rubbed his eyes.
He heard Miss Allan talking to Rachel.
"Well," she was saying, "this is very nice. It is very nice indeed.
Getting engaged seems to be quite the fashion. It cannot often
happen that two couples who have never seen each other before meet
in the same hotel and decide to get married." Then she paused
and smiled, and seemed to have nothing more to say, so that Terence
rose and asked her whether it was true that she had finished her book.
Some one had said that she had really finished it. Her face lit up;
she turned to him with a livelier expression than usual.
"Yes, I think I can fairly say I have finished it," she said.
"That is, omitting Swinburne--Beowulf to Browning--I rather
like the two B's myself. Beowulf to Browning," she repeated,
"I think that is the kind of title which might catch one's eye on
a railway book-stall."
She was indeed very proud that she had finished her book, for no one
knew what an amount of determination had gone to the making of it.
Also she thought that it was a good piece of work, and, considering
what anxiety she had been in about her brother while she wrote it,
she could not resist telling them a little more about it.
"I must confess," she continued, "that if I had known how many
classics there are in English literature, and how verbose the best
of them contrive to be, I should never have undertaken the work.
They only allow one seventy thousand words, you see."
"Only seventy thousand words!" Terence exclaimed.
"Yes, and one has to say something about everybody," Miss Allan added.
"That is what I find so difficult, saying something different
about everybody." Then she thought that she had said enough
about herself, and she asked whether they had come down to join
the tennis tournament. "The young people are very keen about it.
It begins again in half an hour."
Her gaze rested benevolently upon them both, and, after a momentary
pause, she remarked, looking at Rachel as if she had remembered
something that would serve to keep her distinct from other people.
"You're the remarkable person who doesn't like ginger." But the
kindness of the smile in her rather worn and courageous face made them
feel that although she would scarcely remember them as individuals,
she had laid upon them the burden of the new generation.
"And in that I quite agree with her," said a voice behind;
Mrs. Thornbury had overheard the last few words about not liking ginger.
"It's associated in my mind with a horrid old aunt of ours (poor thing,
she suffered dreadfully, so it isn't fair to call her horrid)
who used to give it to us when we were small, and we never had
the courage to tell her we didn't like it. We just had to put
it out in the shrubbery--she had a big house near Bath."
They began moving slowly across the hall, when they were stopped
by the impact of Evelyn, who dashed into them, as though in running
downstairs to catch them her legs had got beyond her control.
"Well," she exclaimed, with her usual enthusiasm, seizing Rachel
by the arm, "I call this splendid! I guessed it was going to happen
from the very beginning! I saw you two were made for each other.
Now you've just got to tell me all about it--when's it to be,
where are you going to live--are you both tremendously happy?"
But the attention of the group was diverted to Mrs. Elliot,
who was passing them with her eager but uncertain movement,
carrying in her hands a plate and an empty hot-water bottle.
She would have passed them, but Mrs. Thornbury went up and stopped her.
"Thank you, Hughling's better," she replied, in answer to Mrs. Thornbury's
enquiry, "but he's not an easy patient. He wants to know what his
temperature is, and if I tell him he gets anxious, and if I don't
tell him he suspects. You know what men are when they're ill!
And of course there are none of the proper appliances, and, though he
seems very willing and anxious to help" (here she lowered her voice
mysteriously), "one can't feel that Dr. Rodriguez is the same
as a proper doctor. If you would come and see him, Mr. Hewet,"
she added, "I know it would cheer him up--lying there in bed all day--
and the flies--But I must go and find Angelo--the food here--
of course, with an invalid, one wants things particularly nice."
And she hurried past them in search of the head waiter. The worry
of nursing her husband had fixed a plaintive frown upon her forehead;
she was pale and looked unhappy and more than usually inefficient,
and her eyes wandered more vaguely than ever from point to point.
"Poor thing!" Mrs. Thornbury exclaimed. She told them that for some
days Hughling Elliot had been ill, and the only doctor available
was the brother of the proprietor, or so the proprietor said,
whose right to the title of doctor was not above suspicion.
"I know how wretched it is to be ill in a hotel," Mrs. Thornbury
remarked, once more leading the way with Rachel to the garden.
"I spent six weeks on my honeymoon in having typhoid at Venice,"
she continued. "But even so, I look back upon them as some of the
happiest weeks in my life. Ah, yes," she said, taking Rachel's arm,
"you think yourself happy now, but it's nothing to the happiness
that comes afterwards. And I assure you I could find it in my heart
to envy you young people! You've a much better time than we had,
I may tell you. When I look back upon it, I can hardly believe
how things have changed. When we were engaged I wasn't allowed to go
for walks with William alone--some one had always to be in the room
with us--I really believe I had to show my parents all his letters!--
though they were very fond of him too. Indeed, I may say they
looked upon him as their own son. It amuses me," she continued,
"to think how strict they were to us, when I see how they spoil
The table was laid under the tree again, and taking her place
before the teacups, Mrs. Thornbury beckoned and nodded until she had
collected quite a number of people, Susan and Arthur and Mr. Pepper,
who were strolling about, waiting for the tournament to begin.
A murmuring tree, a river brimming in the moonlight, Terence's words
came back to Rachel as she sat drinking the tea and listening
to the words which flowed on so lightly, so kindly, and with such
silvery smoothness. This long life and all these children had
left her very smooth; they seemed to have rubbed away the marks
of individuality, and to have left only what was old and maternal.
"And the things you young people are going to see!"
Mrs. Thornbury continued. She included them all in her forecast,
she included them all in her maternity, although the party
comprised William Pepper and Miss Allan, both of whom might
have been supposed to have seen a fair share of the panorama.
"When I see how the world has changed in my lifetime," she went on,
"I can set no limit to what may happen in the next fifty years.
Ah, no, Mr. Pepper, I don't agree with you in the least," she laughed,
interrupting his gloomy remark about things going steadily
from bad to worse. "I know I ought to feel that, but I don't,
I'm afraid. They're going to be much better people than we were.
Surely everything goes to prove that. All round me I see women,
young women, women with household cares of every sort, going out
and doing things that we should not have thought it possible to do."
Mr. Pepper thought her sentimental and irrational like all old women,
but her manner of treating him as if he were a cross old baby baffled
him and charmed him, and he could only reply to her with a curious
grimace which was more a smile than a frown.
"And they remain women," Mrs. Thornbury added. "They give a great
deal to their children."
As she said this she smiled slightly in the direction of Susan
and Rachel. They did not like to be included in the same lot,
but they both smiled a little self-consciously, and Arthur and Terence
glanced at each other too. She made them feel that they were all in
the same boat together, and they looked at the women they were going
to marry and compared them. It was inexplicable how any one could
wish to marry Rachel, incredible that any one should be ready to spend
his life with Susan; but singular though the other's taste must be,
they bore each other no ill-will on account of it; indeed, they liked
each other rather the better for the eccentricity of their choice.
"I really must congratulate you," Susan remarked, as she leant
across the table for the jam.
There seemed to be no foundation for St. John's gossip about Arthur
and Susan. Sunburnt and vigorous they sat side by side, with their
racquets across their knees, not saying much but smiling slightly
all the time. Through the thin white clothes which they wore, it was
possible to see the lines of their bodies and legs, the beautiful
curves of their muscles, his leanness and her flesh, and it was
natural to think of the firm-fleshed sturdy children that would
be theirs. Their faces had too little shape in them to be beautiful,
but they had clear eyes and an appearance of great health and power
of endurance, for it seemed as if the blood would never cease
to run in his veins, or to lie deeply and calmly in her cheeks.
Their eyes at the present moment were brighter than usual, and wore
the peculiar expression of pleasure and self-confidence which is
seen in the eyes of athletes, for they had been playing tennis,
and they were both first-rate at the game.
Evelyn had not spoken, but she had been looking from Susan
to Rachel. Well--they had both made up their minds very easily,
they had done in a very few weeks what it sometimes seemed to her
that she would never be able to do. Although they were so different,
she thought that she could see in each the same look of satisfaction
and completion, the same calmness of manner, and the same slowness
of movement. It was that slowness, that confidence, that content
which she hated, she thought to herself. They moved so slowly
because they were not single but double, and Susan was attached
to Arthur, and Rachel to Terence, and for the sake of this one man
they had renounced all other men, and movement, and the real things
of life. Love was all very well, and those snug domestic houses,
with the kitchen below and the nursery above, which were so secluded
and self-contained, like little islands in the torrents of the world;
but the real things were surely the things that happened, the causes,
the wars, the ideals, which happened in the great world outside,
and went so independently of these women, turning so quietly and
beautifully towards the men. She looked at them sharply. Of course
they were happy and content, but there must be better things than that.
Surely one could get nearer to life, one could get more out of life,
one could enjoy more and feel more than they would ever do.
Rachel in particular looked so young--what could she know of life?
She became restless, and getting up, crossed over to sit beside Rachel.
She reminded her that she had promised to join her club.
"The bother is," she went on, "that I mayn't be able to start work
seriously till October. I've just had a letter from a friend of mine
whose brother is in business in Moscow. They want me to stay with them,
and as they're in the thick of all the conspiracies and anarchists,
I've a good mind to stop on my way home. It sounds too thrilling."
She wanted to make Rachel see how thrilling it was. "My friend
knows a girl of fifteen who's been sent to Siberia for life merely
because they caught her addressing a letter to an anarchist.
And the letter wasn't from her, either. I'd give all I have in
the world to help on a revolution against the Russian government,
and it's bound to come."
She looked from Rachel to Terence. They were both a little touched
by the sight of her remembering how lately they had been listening
to evil words about her, and Terence asked her what her scheme was,
and she explained that she was going to found a club--a club for
doing things, really doing them. She became very animated, as she
talked on and on, for she professed herself certain that if once
twenty people--no, ten would be enough if they were keen--set about
doing things instead of talking about doing them, they could abolish
almost every evil that exists. It was brains that were needed.
If only people with brains--of course they would want a room,
a nice room, in Bloomsbury preferably, where they could meet once
a week. . . .
As she talked Terence could see the traces of fading youth in her face,
the lines that were being drawn by talk and excitement round her mouth
and eyes, but he did not pity her; looking into those bright, rather hard,
and very courageous eyes, he saw that she did not pity herself,
or feel any desire to exchange her own life for the more refined
and orderly lives of people like himself and St. John, although,
as the years went by, the fight would become harder and harder.
Perhaps, though, she would settle down; perhaps, after all,
she would marry Perrott. While his mind was half occupied with
what she was saying, he thought of her probable destiny, the light
clouds of tobacco smoke serving to obscure his face from her eyes.
Terence smoked and Arthur smoked and Evelyn smoked, so that the air
was full of the mist and fragrance of good tobacco. In the intervals
when no one spoke, they heard far off the low murmur of the sea,
as the waves quietly broke and spread the beach with a film of water,
and withdrew to break again. The cool green light fell through
the leaves of the tree, and there were soft crescents and diamonds
of sunshine upon the plates and the tablecloth. Mrs. Thornbury,
after watching them all for a time in silence, began to ask Rachel
kindly questions--When did they all go back? Oh, they expected
her father. She must want to see her father--there would be a
great deal to tell him, and (she looked sympathetically at Terence)
he would be so happy, she felt sure. Years ago, she continued,
it might have been ten or twenty years ago, she remembered meeting
Mr. Vinrace at a party, and, being so much struck by his face,
which was so unlike the ordinary face one sees at a party, that she
had asked who he was, and she was told that it was Mr. Vinrace,
and she had always remembered the name,--an uncommon name,--and he
had a lady with him, a very sweet-looking woman, but it was one of
those dreadful London crushes, where you don't talk,--you only look
at each other,--and although she had shaken hands with Mr. Vinrace,
she didn't think they had said anything. She sighed very slightly,
remembering the past.
Then she turned to Mr. Pepper, who had become very dependent on her,
so that he always chose a seat near her, and attended to what she
was saying, although he did not often make any remark of his own.
"You who know everything, Mr. Pepper," she said, "tell us how did
those wonderful French ladies manage their salons? Did we ever
do anything of the same kind in England, or do you think that there
is some reason why we cannot do it in England?"
Mr. Pepper was pleased to explain very accurately why there has
never been an English salon. There were three reasons, and they were
very good ones, he said. As for himself, when he went to a party,
as one was sometimes obliged to, from a wish not to give offence--
his niece, for example, had been married the other day--he walked
into the middle of the room, said "Ha! ha!" as loud as ever he could,
considered that he had done his duty, and walked away again.
Mrs. Thornbury protested. She was going to give a party directly
she got back, and they were all to be invited, and she should set
people to watch Mr. Pepper, and if she heard that he had been caught
saying "Ha! ha!" she would--she would do something very dreadful
indeed to him. Arthur Venning suggested that what she must do
was to rig up something in the nature of a surprise--a portrait,
for example, of a nice old lady in a lace cap, concealing a bath
of cold water, which at a signal could be sprung on Pepper's head;
or they'd have a chair which shot him twenty feet high directly he sat
Susan laughed. She had done her tea; she was feeling very well
contented, partly because she had been playing tennis brilliantly,
and then every one was so nice; she was beginning to find it so much
easier to talk, and to hold her own even with quite clever people,
for somehow clever people did not frighten her any more.
Even Mr. Hirst, whom she had disliked when she first met him,
really wasn't disagreeable; and, poor man, he always looked so ill;
perhaps he was in love; perhaps he had been in love with Rachel--
she really shouldn't wonder; or perhaps it was Evelyn--she was of
course very attractive to men. Leaning forward, she went on with
the conversation. She said that she thought that the reason why
parties were so dull was mainly because gentlemen will not dress:
even in London, she stated, it struck her very much how people
don't think it necessary to dress in the evening, and of course
if they don't dress in London they won't dress in the country.
It was really quite a treat at Christmas-time when there were
the Hunt balls, and the gentlemen wore nice red coats, but Arthur
didn't care for dancing, so she supposed that they wouldn't go
even to the ball in their little country town. She didn't think
that people who were fond of one sport often care for another,
although her father was an exception. But then he was an exception
in every way--such a gardener, and he knew all about birds and animals,
and of course he was simply adored by all the old women in the village,
and at the same time what he really liked best was a book.
You always knew where to find him if he were wanted; he would be
in his study with a book. Very likely it would be an old, old book,
some fusty old thing that no one else would dream of reading.
She used to tell him that he would have made a first-rate old bookworm
if only he hadn't had a family of six to support, and six children,
she added, charmingly confident of universal sympathy, didn't leave
one much time for being a bookworm.
Still talking about her father, of whom she was very proud, she rose,
for Arthur upon looking at his watch found that it was time they
went back again to the tennis court. The others did not move.
"They're very happy!" said Mrs. Thornbury, looking benignantly
after them. Rachel agreed; they seemed to be so certain of themselves;
they seemed to know exactly what they wanted.
"D'you think they _are_ happy?" Evelyn murmured to Terence in
an undertone, and she hoped that he would say that he did not think
them happy; but, instead, he said that they must go too--go home,
for they were always being late for meals, and Mrs. Ambrose,
who was very stern and particular, didn't like that. Evelyn laid
hold of Rachel's skirt and protested. Why should they go?
It was still early, and she had so many things to say to them.
"No," said Terence, "we must go, because we walk so slowly. We stop
and look at things, and we talk."
"What d'you talk about?" Evelyn enquired, upon which he laughed
and said that they talked about everything.
Mrs. Thornbury went with them to the gate, trailing very slowly
and gracefully across the grass and the gravel, and talking all
the time about flowers and birds. She told them that she had taken up
the study of botany since her daughter married, and it was wonderful
what a number of flowers there were which she had never seen,
although she had lived in the country all her life and she was now
seventy-two. It was a good thing to have some occupation which was
quite independent of other people, she said, when one got old.
But the odd thing was that one never felt old. She always felt that
she was twenty-five, not a day more or a day less, but, of course,
one couldn't expect other people to agree to that.
"It must be very wonderful to be twenty-five, and not merely to
imagine that you're twenty-five," she said, looking from one to the
other with her smooth, bright glance. "It must be very wonderful,
very wonderful indeed." She stood talking to them at the gate
for a long time; she seemed reluctant that they should go.
The afternoon was very hot, so hot that the breaking of the waves on
the shore sounded like the repeated sigh of some exhausted creature,
and even on the terrace under an awning the bricks were hot,
and the air danced perpetually over the short dry grass.
The red flowers in the stone basins were drooping with the heat,
and the white blossoms which had been so smooth and thick only a few
weeks ago were now dry, and their edges were curled and yellow.
Only the stiff and hostile plants of the south, whose fleshy leaves
seemed to be grown upon spines, still remained standing upright
and defied the sun to beat them down. It was too hot to talk,
and it was not easy to find any book that would withstand the power
of the sun. Many books had been tried and then let fall, and now
Terence was reading Milton aloud, because he said the words of Milton
had substance and shape, so that it was not necessary to understand
what he was saying; one could merely listen to his words; one could
almost handle them.
There is a gentle nymph not far from hence,
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream.
Sabrina is her name, a virgin pure;
Whilom she was the daughter of Locrine,
That had the sceptre from his father Brute.
The words, in spite of what Terence had said, seemed to be laden
with meaning, and perhaps it was for this reason that it was painful
to listen to them; they sounded strange; they meant different things
from what they usually meant. Rachel at any rate could not keep
her attention fixed upon them, but went off upon curious trains of
thought suggested by words such as "curb" and "Locrine" and "Brute,"
which brought unpleasant sights before her eyes, independently of
their meaning. Owing to the heat and the dancing air the garden
too looked strange--the trees were either too near or too far,
and her head almost certainly ached. She was not quite certain,
and therefore she did not know, whether to tell Terence now,
or to let him go on reading. She decided that she would wait until
he came to the end of a stanza, and if by that time she had turned
her head this way and that, and it ached in every position undoubtedly,
she would say very calmly that her head ached.
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber dropping hair,
Listen for dear honour's sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save!
But her head ached; it ached whichever way she turned it.
She sat up and said as she had determined, "My head aches so that
I shall go indoors." He was half-way through the next verse,
but he dropped the book instantly.
"Your head aches?" he repeated.
For a few moments they sat looking at one another in silence,
holding each other's hands. During this time his sense of dismay
and catastrophe were almost physically painful; all round him he
seemed to hear the shiver of broken glass which, as it fell to earth,
left him sitting in the open air. But at the end of two minutes,
noticing that she was not sharing his dismay, but was only rather
more languid and heavy-eyed than usual, he recovered, fetched Helen,
and asked her to tell him what they had better do, for Rachel had
Mrs. Ambrose was not discomposed, but advised that she should go
to bed, and added that she must expect her head to ache if she sat up
to all hours and went out in the heat, but a few hours in bed would
cure it completely. Terence was unreasonably reassured by her words,
as he had been unreasonably depressed the moment before. Helen's sense
seemed to have much in common with the ruthless good sense of nature,
which avenged rashness by a headache, and, like nature's good sense,
might be depended upon.
Rachel went to bed; she lay in the dark, it seemed to her,
for a very long time, but at length, waking from a transparent
kind of sleep, she saw the windows white in front of her,
and recollected that some time before she had gone to bed with
a headache, and that Helen had said it would be gone when she woke.
She supposed, therefore, that she was now quite well again.
At the same time the wall of her room was painfully white,
and curved slightly, instead of being straight and flat. Turning her
eyes to the window, she was not reassured by what she saw there.
The movement of the blind as it filled with air and blew slowly out,
drawing the cord with a little trailing sound along the floor, seemed to
her terrifying, as if it were the movement of an animal in the room.
She shut her eyes, and the pulse in her head beat so strongly
that each thump seemed to tread upon a nerve, piercing her forehead
with a little stab of pain. It might not be the same headache,
but she certainly had a headache. She turned from side to side,
in the hope that the coolness of the sheets would cure her, and that
when she next opened her eyes to look the room would be as usual.
After a considerable number of vain experiments, she resolved to put
the matter beyond a doubt. She got out of bed and stood upright,
holding on to the brass ball at the end of the bedstead.
Ice-cold at first, it soon became as hot as the palm of her hand,
and as the pains in her head and body and the instability of the floor
proved that it would be far more intolerable to stand and walk
than to lie in bed, she got into bed again; but though the change
was refreshing at first, the discomfort of bed was soon as great
as the discomfort of standing up. She accepted the idea that she
would have to stay in bed all day long, and as she laid her head
on the pillow, relinquished the happiness of the day.
When Helen came in an hour or two later, suddenly stopped her
cheerful words, looked startled for a second and then unnaturally calm,
the fact that she was ill was put beyond a doubt. It was confirmed
when the whole household knew of it, when the song that some
one was singing in the garden stopped suddenly, and when Maria,
as she brought water, slipped past the bed with averted eyes.
There was all the morning to get through, and then all the afternoon,
and at intervals she made an effort to cross over into the ordinary world,
but she found that her heat and discomfort had put a gulf between
her world and the ordinary world which she could not bridge.
At one point the door opened, and Helen came in with a little
dark man who had--it was the chief thing she noticed about him--
very hairy hands. She was drowsy and intolerably hot, and as he
seemed shy and obsequious she scarcely troubled to answer him,
although she understood that he was a doctor. At another point
the door opened and Terence came in very gently, smiling too steadily,
as she realised, for it to be natural. He sat down and talked to her,
stroking her hands until it became irksome to her to lie any more
in the same position and she turned round, and when she looked up
again Helen was beside her and Terence had gone. It did not matter;
she would see him to-morrow when things would be ordinary again.
Her chief occupation during the day was to try to remember how the
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber dropping hair;
and the effort worried her because the adjectives persisted
in getting into the wrong places.
The second day did not differ very much from the first day,
except that her bed had become very important, and the world outside,
when she tried to think of it, appeared distinctly further off.
The glassy, cool, translucent wave was almost visible before her,
curling up at the end of the bed, and as it was refreshingly cool
she tried to keep her mind fixed upon it. Helen was here, and Helen
was there all day long; sometimes she said that it was lunchtime,
and sometimes that it was teatime; but by the next day all landmarks
were obliterated, and the outer world was so far away that the
different sounds, such as the sounds of people moving overhead,
could only be ascribed to their cause by a great effort of memory.
The recollection of what she had felt, or of what she had been
doing and thinking three days before, had faded entirely.
On the other hand, every object in the room, and the bed itself,
and her own body with its various limbs and their different sensations
were more and more important each day. She was completely cut off,
and unable to communicate with the rest of the world, isolated alone
with her body.
Hours and hours would pass thus, without getting any further through
the morning, or again a few minutes would lead from broad daylight to
the depths of the night. One evening when the room appeared very dim,
either because it was evening or because the blinds were drawn,
Helen said to her, "Some one is going to sit here to-night. You
Opening her eyes, Rachel saw not only Helen but a nurse in spectacles,
whose face vaguely recalled something that she had once seen.
She had seen her in the chapel. "Nurse McInnis," said Helen,
and the nurse smiled steadily as they all did, and said that she
did not find many people who were frightened of her. After waiting
for a moment they both disappeared, and having turned on her pillow
Rachel woke to find herself in the midst of one of those interminable
nights which do not end at twelve, but go on into the double figures--
thirteen, fourteen, and so on until they reach the twenties,
and then the thirties, and then the forties. She realised that
there is nothing to prevent nights from doing this if they choose.
At a great distance an elderly woman sat with her head bent down;
Rachel raised herself slightly and saw with dismay that she was playing
cards by the light of a candle which stood in the hollow of a newspaper.
The sight had something inexplicably sinister about it, and she
was terrified and cried out, upon which the woman laid down her
cards and came across the room, shading the candle with her hands.
Coming nearer and nearer across the great space of the room,
she stood at last above Rachel's head and said, "Not asleep?
Let me make you comfortable."
She put down the candle and began to arrange the bedclothes.
It struck Rachel that a woman who sat playing cards in a cavern all
night long would have very cold hands, and she shrunk from the touch
"Why, there's a toe all the way down there!" the woman said,
proceeding to tuck in the bedclothes. Rachel did not realise
that the toe was hers.
"You must try and lie still," she proceeded, "because if you lie still
you will be less hot, and if you toss about you will make yourself
more hot, and we don't want you to be any hotter than you are."
She stood looking down upon Rachel for an enormous length of time.
"And the quieter you lie the sooner you will be well," she repeated.
Rachel kept her eyes fixed upon the peaked shadow on the ceiling,
and all her energy was concentrated upon the desire that this shadow
should move. But the shadow and the woman seemed to be eternally fixed
above her. She shut her eyes. When she opened them again several
more hours had passed, but the night still lasted interminably.
The woman was still playing cards, only she sat now in a tunnel
under a river, and the light stood in a little archway in the wall
above her. She cried "Terence!" and the peaked shadow again moved
across the ceiling, as the woman with an enormous slow movement rose,
and they both stood still above her.
"It's just as difficult to keep you in bed as it was to keep
Mr. Forrest in bed," the woman said, "and he was such a tall gentleman."
In order to get rid of this terrible stationary sight Rachel again
shut her eyes, and found herself walking through a tunnel under
the Thames, where there were little deformed women sitting in archways
playing cards, while the bricks of which the wall was made oozed
with damp, which collected into drops and slid down the wall.
But the little old women became Helen and Nurse McInnis after a time,
standing in the window together whispering, whispering incessantly.
Meanwhile outside her room the sounds, the movements, and the lives of
the other people in the house went on in the ordinary light of the sun,
throughout the usual succession of hours. When, on the first day
of her illness, it became clear that she would not be absolutely well,
for her temperature was very high, until Friday, that day
being Tuesday, Terence was filled with resentment, not against her,
but against the force outside them which was separating them.
He counted up the number of days that would almost certainly be
spoilt for them. He realised, with an odd mixture of pleasure
and annoyance, that, for the first time in his life, he was so
dependent upon another person that his happiness was in her keeping.
The days were completely wasted upon trifling, immaterial things,
for after three weeks of such intimacy and intensity all the usual
occupations were unbearably flat and beside the point. The least
intolerable occupation was to talk to St. John about Rachel's illness,
and to discuss every symptom and its meaning, and, when this subject
was exhausted, to discuss illness of all kinds, and what caused them,
and what cured them.
Twice every day he went in to sit with Rachel, and twice
every day the same thing happened. On going into her room,
which was not very dark, where the music was lying about as usual,
and her books and letters, his spirits rose instantly. When he
saw her he felt completely reassured. She did not look very ill.
Sitting by her side he would tell her what he had been doing,
using his natural voice to speak to her, only a few tones lower
down than usual; but by the time he had sat there for five minutes
he was plunged into the deepest gloom. She was not the same;
he could not bring them back to their old relationship; but although
he knew that it was foolish he could not prevent himself from
endeavouring to bring her back, to make her remember, and when this
failed he was in despair. He always concluded as he left her room
that it was worse to see her than not to see her, but by degrees,
as the day wore on, the desire to see her returned and became almost
too great to be borne.
On Thursday morning when Terence went into her room he felt the usual
increase of confidence. She turned round and made an effort to remember
certain facts from the world that was so many millions of miles away.
"You have come up from the hotel?" she asked.
"No; I'm staying here for the present," he said. "We've just
had luncheon," he continued, "and the mail has come in.
There's a bundle of letters for you--letters from England."
Instead of saying, as he meant her to say, that she wished to see them,
she said nothing for some time.
"You see, there they go, rolling off the edge of the hill,"
she said suddenly.
"Rolling, Rachel? What do you see rolling? There's nothing rolling."
"The old woman with the knife," she replied, not speaking to Terence
in particular, and looking past him. As she appeared to be looking
at a vase on the shelf opposite, he rose and took it down.
"Now they can't roll any more," he said cheerfully. Nevertheless she
lay gazing at the same spot, and paid him no further attention
although he spoke to her. He became so profoundly wretched that he
could not endure to sit with her, but wandered about until he
found St. John, who was reading _The_ _Times_ in the verandah.
He laid it aside patiently, and heard all that Terence had to say
about delirium. He was very patient with Terence. He treated him
like a child.
By Friday it could not be denied that the illness was no longer
an attack that would pass off in a day or two; it was a real illness
that required a good deal of organisation, and engrossed the attention
of at least five people, but there was no reason to be anxious.
Instead of lasting five days it was going to last ten days.
Rodriguez was understood to say that there were well-known varieties
of this illness. Rodriguez appeared to think that they were treating
the illness with undue anxiety. His visits were always marked
by the same show of confidence, and in his interviews with Terence
he always waved aside his anxious and minute questions with a kind
of flourish which seemed to indicate that they were all taking it
much too seriously. He seemed curiously unwilling to sit down.
"A high temperature," he said, looking furtively about the room,
and appearing to be more interested in the furniture and in Helen's
embroidery than in anything else. "In this climate you must
expect a high temperature. You need not be alarmed by that.
It is the pulse we go by" (he tapped his own hairy wrist), "and
the pulse continues excellent."
Thereupon he bowed and slipped out. The interview was conducted
laboriously upon both sides in French, and this, together with the fact
that he was optimistic, and that Terence respected the medical
profession from hearsay, made him less critical than he would
have been had he encountered the doctor in any other capacity.
Unconsciously he took Rodriguez' side against Helen, who seemed
to have taken an unreasonable prejudice against him.
When Saturday came it was evident that the hours of the day must
be more strictly organised than they had been. St. John offered
his services; he said that he had nothing to do, and that he might
as well spend the day at the villa if he could be of use. As if they
were starting on a difficult expedition together, they parcelled out
their duties between them, writing out an elaborate scheme of hours
upon a large sheet of paper which was pinned to the drawing-room door.
Their distance from the town, and the difficulty of procuring
rare things with unknown names from the most unexpected places,
made it necessary to think very carefully, and they found it
unexpectedly difficult to do the simple but practical things that
were required of them, as if they, being very tall, were asked
to stoop down and arrange minute grains of sand in a pattern on the ground.
It was St. John's duty to fetch what was needed from the town,
so that Terence would sit all through the long hot hours alone in the
drawing-room, near the open door, listening for any movement upstairs,
or call from Helen. He always forgot to pull down the blinds,
so that he sat in bright sunshine, which worried him without his
knowing what was the cause of it. The room was terribly stiff
and uncomfortable. There were hats in the chairs, and medicine bottles
among the books. He tried to read, but good books were too good,
and bad books were too bad, and the only thing he could tolerate
was the newspaper, which with its news of London, and the movements
of real people who were giving dinner-parties and making speeches,
seemed to give a little background of reality to what was otherwise
mere nightmare. Then, just as his attention was fixed on the print,
a soft call would come from Helen, or Mrs. Chailey would bring
in something which was wanted upstairs, and he would run up
very quietly in his socks, and put the jug on the little table
which stood crowded with jugs and cups outside the bedroom door;
or if he could catch Helen for a moment he would ask, "How is she?"
"Rather restless. . . . On the whole, quieter, I think."
The answer would be one or the other.
As usual she seemed to reserve something which she did not say,
and Terence was conscious that they disagreed, and, without saying
it aloud, were arguing against each other. But she was too hurried
and pre-occupied to talk.
The strain of listening and the effort of making practical arrangements
and seeing that things worked smoothly, absorbed all Terence's power.
Involved in this long dreary nightmare, he did not attempt to think
what it amounted to. Rachel was ill; that was all; he must see that
there was medicine and milk, and that things were ready when they
were wanted. Thought had ceased; life itself had come to a standstill.
Sunday was rather worse than Saturday had been, simply because
the strain was a little greater every day, although nothing else
had changed. The separate feelings of pleasure, interest, and pain,
which combine to make up the ordinary day, were merged in one long-drawn
sensation of sordid misery and profound boredom. He had never been
so bored since he was shut up in the nursery alone as a child.
The vision of Rachel as she was now, confused and heedless,
had almost obliterated the vision of her as she had been once
long ago; he could hardly believe that they had ever been happy,
or engaged to be married, for what were feelings, what was there
to be felt? Confusion covered every sight and person, and he
seemed to see St. John, Ridley, and the stray people who came up
now and then from the hotel to enquire, through a mist; the only
people who were not hidden in this mist were Helen and Rodriguez,
because they could tell him something definite about Rachel.
Nevertheless the day followed the usual forms. At certain hours
they went into the dining-room, and when they sat round the table
they talked about indifferent things. St. John usually made it
his business to start the talk and to keep it from dying out.
"I've discovered the way to get Sancho past the white house,"
said St. John on Sunday at luncheon. "You crackle a piece of paper
in his ear, then he bolts for about a hundred yards, but he goes
on quite well after that."
"Yes, but he wants corn. You should see that he has corn."
"I don't think much of the stuff they give him; and Angelo seems
a dirty little rascal."
There was then a long silence. Ridley murmured a few lines of
poetry under his breath, and remarked, as if to conceal the fact
that he had done so, "Very hot to-day."
"Two degrees higher than it was yesterday," said St. John.
"I wonder where these nuts come from," he observed, taking a nut
out of the plate, turning it over in his fingers, and looking at
"London, I should think," said Terence, looking at the nut too.
"A competent man of business could make a fortune here in no time,"
St. John continued. "I suppose the heat does something funny to
people's brains. Even the English go a little queer. Anyhow they're
hopeless people to deal with. They kept me three-quarters of an hour
waiting at the chemist's this morning, for no reason whatever."
There was another long pause. Then Ridley enquired, "Rodriguez
"Quite," said Terence with decision. "It's just got to run its course."
Whereupon Ridley heaved a deep sigh. He was genuinely sorry
for every one, but at the same time he missed Helen considerably,
and was a little aggrieved by the constant presence of the two
They moved back into the drawing-room.
"Look here, Hirst," said Terence, "there's nothing to be done
for two hours." He consulted the sheet pinned to the door.
"You go and lie down. I'll wait here. Chailey sits with Rachel
while Helen has her luncheon."
It was asking a good deal of Hirst to tell him to go without waiting
for a sight of Helen. These little glimpses of Helen were the only
respites from strain and boredom, and very often they seemed to make
up for the discomfort of the day, although she might not have anything
to tell them. However, as they were on an expedition together,
he had made up his mind to obey.
Helen was very late in coming down. She looked like a person who has
been sitting for a long time in the dark. She was pale and thinner,
and the expression of her eyes was harassed but determined.
She ate her luncheon quickly, and seemed indifferent to what she
was doing. She brushed aside Terence's enquiries, and at last,
as if he had not spoken, she looked at him with a slight frown
"We can't go on like this, Terence. Either you've got to find
another doctor, or you must tell Rodriguez to stop coming, and I'll
manage for myself. It's no use for him to say that Rachel's better;
she's not better; she's worse."
Terence suffered a terrific shock, like that which he had suffered
when Rachel said, "My head aches." He stilled it by reflecting
that Helen was overwrought, and he was upheld in this opinion
by his obstinate sense that she was opposed to him in the argument.
"Do you think she's in danger?" he asked.
"No one can go on being as ill as that day after day--" Helen replied.
She looked at him, and spoke as if she felt some indignation
"Very well, I'll talk to Rodriguez this afternoon," he replied.
Helen went upstairs at once.
Nothing now could assuage Terence's anxiety. He could not read,
nor could he sit still, and his sense of security was shaken, in spite
of the fact that he was determined that Helen was exaggerating,
and that Rachel was not very ill. But he wanted a third person
to confirm him in his belief.
Directly Rodriguez came down he demanded, "Well, how is she?
Do you think her worse?"
"There is no reason for anxiety, I tell you--none," Rodriguez replied
in his execrable French, smiling uneasily, and making little
movements all the time as if to get away.
Hewet stood firmly between him and the door. He was determined
to see for himself what kind of man he was. His confidence in
the man vanished as he looked at him and saw his insignificance,
his dirty appearance, his shiftiness, and his unintelligent,
hairy face. It was strange that he had never seen this before.
"You won't object, of course, if we ask you to consult another doctor?"
At this the little man became openly incensed.
"Ah!" he cried. "You have not confidence in me? You object
to my treatment? You wish me to give up the case?"
"Not at all," Terence replied, "but in serious illness of this kind--"
Rodriguez shrugged his shoulders.
"It is not serious, I assure you. You are overanxious. The young
lady is not seriously ill, and I am a doctor. The lady of course
is frightened," he sneered. "I understand that perfectly."
"The name and address of the doctor is--?" Terence continued.
"There is no other doctor," Rodriguez replied sullenly. "Every one
has confidence in me. Look! I will show you."
He took out a packet of old letters and began turning them over
as if in search of one that would confute Terence's suspicions.
As he searched, he began to tell a story about an English lord
who had trusted him--a great English lord, whose name he had,
"There is no other doctor in the place," he concluded, still turning
over the letters.
"Never mind," said Terence shortly. "I will make enquiries for myself."
Rodriguez put the letters back in his pocket.
"Very well," he remarked. "I have no objection."
He lifted his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, as if to repeat
that they took the illness much too seriously and that there was
no other doctor, and slipped out, leaving behind him an impression
that he was conscious that he was distrusted, and that his malice
After this Terence could no longer stay downstairs. He went up,
knocked at Rachel's door, and asked Helen whether he might see
her for a few minutes. He had not seen her yesterday. She made
no objection, and went and sat at a table in the window.
Terence sat down by the bedside. Rachel's face was changed.
She looked as though she were entirely concentrated upon the effort
of keeping alive. Her lips were drawn, and her cheeks were sunken
and flushed, though without colour. Her eyes were not entirely shut,
the lower half of the white part showing, not as if she saw,
but as if they remained open because she was too much exhausted
to close them. She opened them completely when he kissed her.
But she only saw an old woman slicing a man's head off with a knife.
"There it falls!" she murmured. She then turned to Terence and
asked him anxiously some question about a man with mules, which he
could not understand. "Why doesn't he come? Why doesn't he come?"
she repeated. He was appalled to think of the dirty little man downstairs
in connection with illness like this, and turning instinctively
to Helen, but she was doing something at a table in the window,
and did not seem to realise how great the shock to him must be.
He rose to go, for he could not endure to listen any longer;
his heart beat quickly and painfully with anger and misery.
As he passed Helen she asked him in the same weary, unnatural,
but determined voice to fetch her more ice, and to have the jug
outside filled with fresh milk.
When he had done these errands he went to find Hirst. Exhausted and
very hot, St. John had fallen asleep on a bed, but Terence woke
him without scruple.
"Helen thinks she's worse," he said. "There's no doubt she's
frightfully ill. Rodriguez is useless. We must get another doctor."
"But there is no other doctor," said Hirst drowsily, sitting up
and rubbing his eyes.
"Don't be a damned fool!" Terence exclaimed. "Of course there's
another doctor, and, if there isn't, you've got to find one. It ought
to have been done days ago. I'm going down to saddle the horse."
He could not stay still in one place.
In less than ten minutes St. John was riding to the town in the
scorching heat in search of a doctor, his orders being to find
one and bring him back if he had to be fetched in a special train.
"We ought to have done it days ago," Hewet repeated angrily.
When he went back into the drawing-room he found that Mrs. Flushing
was there, standing very erect in the middle of the room,
having arrived, as people did in these days, by the kitchen
or through the garden unannounced.
"She's better?" Mrs. Flushing enquired abruptly; they did not
attempt to shake hands.
"No," said Terence. "If anything, they think she's worse."
Mrs. Flushing seemed to consider for a moment or two, looking straight
at Terence all the time.
"Let me tell you," she said, speaking in nervous jerks, "it's always
about the seventh day one begins to get anxious. I daresay you've