Part 2 out of 3
the left-hand seat next to the door. I really don't know what would have
happened if that seat had been occupied. I suppose Mr. Russell would have
sat upon the occupier.
"A good many people like this service," said Jay; "it is considered very
convenient. How is your search going?"
"It hasn't begun yet," said Mr. Russell. "We haven't got within three
hundred miles of the House we're looking for."
"You know more or less where it is, then?" asked Jay, who sometimes
wanted to know this herself.
"I do know, but I don't know how I know, nor what I know."
"How funny that you--an Older and Wiser Man--should feel that sort of
knowledge," said Jay. As an afterthought she called him Sir.
The 'bus grew fuller, and only Jay's bell punctured the silence that
followed. A lady asked Jay to "set her down at Charing Cross Post
Office." "The 'bus stops there automatically, Madam," said Jay, and the
lady told her not to be impertinent.
Jay seemed a little subdued after this, and it was only after she had
stood for a minute or two on her platform in silence that she said to Mr.
Russell, "London seems dead to-day, doesn't it? Not even fog, only a
lifeless light. What's the use of daylight in London to-day? You know, I
don't live in London."
"No," said Mr. Russell, "where do you live?"
"London," replied Jay. "I mean my heart doesn't live in London mostly. I
think it lives very far away in the same sort of place as the place you
know without knowing how you know it. The happy shore of God Knows Where
must have a great population of hearts. To-day I hate London so that I
could tear it into pieces like a rag."
"You ought to start your 'bus on the search for the happy shore," said
Mr. Russell. "You'd find the track of my tyres before you. I b'lieve
you'd find the place."
"Well, that would be the only perfect Service," said Jay. "But I don't
believe the public would use the route much. I would go on and on, and
leave all old ruts behind. I would stop for no fares, even the sea should
not stop me. I would go on to the horizon to see if that secret look just
after sunset really means that the stars are just over the brink. Why do
people end themselves on a note of despair? I would choose that way of
perpetuating my Perfect Day. The police would see the top seats of the
'bus sticking out at low tide, and the verdict would be, 'Suicide while
of even more than usually unsound mind.'"
A 'bus has an unromantic voice. The bass is a snarl, and the treble is
made up of a shrill rattle. It was curious how this 'bus managed to
retain withal its fantastic atmosphere.
Mr. Russell asked presently, "Why are you a 'bus-conductor?"
"To get some money," replied the conductor baldly. "I want to find out
what is the attraction of money. Besides, if one talks such a lot as I
do, to do anything--however small--saves one from being utterly futile.
When I get to Heaven, the angels won't be able to say, 'Tush tush, you
lived on the charity of God.' That's what unearned money is, isn't it?
And what's the use of charity?"
"Do you ever get a day off?" asked Mr. Russell.
"Will you meet me on the steps of St. Paul's next Sunday at ten?"
"No, because I shall be at work next Sunday."
"Will you meet me the Sunday after that?"
"Yes," said Jay. The Family's theories on the bringing up of girls had
evidently been wasted on her.
"What's the use of looking for this girl?" she asked, after a round of
duty. "Why not leave her on her happy shore? Do you know, sir, I
sympathise enormously with that girl."
"I don't expect you would if you knew her," said Mr. Russell. "She must
be quite different from you, by what I hear from her relations. I think
she must be an aggressive, suffragetty sort of girl. Girls nowadays seem
to find running away from home a sufficient profession."
"You say that because you are so dreadfully much Older and Wiser," said
Jay. "Why are you looking for her, then?"
"I'm not," said Mr. Russell. "She is just a trespasser. I'm looking for
the place because I know I know it."
"I hope you'll never find it," said Jay crossly. She announced Ludgate
Circus in a startling voice, and ended the conversation.
She was tired because she had been up all night among distressed friends
in the Brown Borough. There had been a fight in Tann Street. Mrs.
O'Rourke had broken the face of little Mrs. Love. Mrs. Love had never
fought before; her fists were like lamb cutlets, and she had had a good
mother with non-combatant principles. All these things are drawbacks in
a Brown Borough argument. But Mrs. Love was a friend of Jay's, and I
don't think she had found that a drawback. Feverish discussions with
dreadfully impartial policemen, feverish drying of feverish tears,
feverish extracting of medicaments from closed chemists, and finally a
feverish triumph of words with which Jay capped Mrs. O'Rourke's triumph
of fists were the items in the sum of a feverish night. So Jay was tired.
* * * * *
Mr. Russell was too early for his business, and he went into St. Paul's
and sat on a seat far back.
St. Paul was an anti-saint, I think, who very badly needed to get married
and be answered back now and then. I believe it is possible that he was
unworthy of that great house called by his name. The gospel of a very
splendid detachment speaks within its walls, its windows turn inward, its
music sings to itself. Tossed City sinners go in and out, and pass, and
penetrate, but still the music dreams, and still the dim gold blinks
above their heads. A muffled God walks the aisles, and you, in the
bristling wilderness of chairs, can clutch at His skirts and never see
His eyes. Nothing comes forward from that altar to meet you. It is as if
He walked talking to Himself, and as if even His speech were lost in
those devouring spaces.
Mr. Russell sat near the door, and found only his thoughts and the
shuffle of seeking feet to keep him company.
"An Older and Wiser Man ..." he thought. "God forgive me for
letting it pass."
If he had thought it worth while to profess an "ism" at all, he would
have been a fatalist. He was the victim of an unwitty cynicism, and of a
heavy irresponsibility. He applied either "It isn't worth while" or "It
doesn't matter" to everything. He never expressed his thoughts to
himself--it was not worth while,--but I think he knew within himself
that life was made of paper, and thrown together in a crackling chaos.
There was no depth in anything, and a mere thought could slay the
highest thing in the world. The only thing that ever made his heart
laugh was the idea of fineness finding place in himself. A dream of
himself in a heroic light sometimes made him poke himself in the ribs,
and mock the farce of human vanity. He was like a man in a world that
lacked mirrors, a man who sees his dark deformed shadow on the sands,
and thinks it represents him fairly.
He was without self-consciousness, knowing that he was not worth his own
recognition. At home he often recited little confused poems of his own
composition to his Hound, and never noticed the surprise of the servants.
He never knew that in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Gustus and Kew he was
hardly allowed to utter three consecutive words, although, when he was
away from them, and especially when he was with the 'bus-conductor, he
felt a delightful lack of restraint.
As he sat down and looked at the far unanswering altar, he had two dim
thoughts. One was that a man might get Older and Wiser, without getting
old enough or wise enough to choose his road. The other was a question as
to whether it is ever really worth while to read what the signpost says.
From the moment when Mr. Russell left her 'bus, Jay became stupefied by
an invasion of the Secret World.
She gave the tickets and change with accuracy, she kept count of the
stream of climbers on to the top of the 'bus, she stilled the angry
whirlpool of people on the pavement for whom there was no room, she
dislodged passengers at the corners of their own streets--even that
gentleman (almost always to be found in an obscure corner of an
east-going 'bus) who had sunk into a sudden and pathetic sleep just when
his pennyworth of ride was coming to an end,--she received an unexpected
inspector with the smile that comes of knowing every passenger to be
properly ticketed; she even laughed at his joke. She weeded out the
Whitechapel Jewesses at the Bank, and introduced them to the Mile End
'buses. She handed out to them their sombre and insolent-looking babies,
and when one mother thanked her profusely in Yiddish, she replied,
"Bitte, bitte...." Yet all the while the wind blew to her old
remembrances of the low chimneys and the bending roofs of the House by
the Sea, and the smell of the high curving fields, and the shouting of
the sea. And all the while her hands must grope for the handle of the
heavy door, and her eyes must fill with blindness because of the
wonderful promise of distant cliffs with the sun on them, and because the
sea was so shining. And all the while her ears must strain to hear a
voice within the house....
It is a very great honour to be given two lives to live.
The monotonous journeys trod on each other's heels. Slowly the day
consumed itself. It grew dimmer and dimmer for Jay, though I have no
doubt that habit protected her, and that she behaved herself throughout
with commonplace correctness.
She found presently that the great weight of copper money was gone from
her shoulder, and that it was evening, and that Chloris was coming down
Mabel Place to meet her. Chloris was wagging her whole person from the
shoulder-blades backwards; she never found adequate the tail that had
originally been provided for that purpose. Jay stumbled up the step of
Eighteen Mabel Place, and found at last the path she wanted.
The path was one that had never been touched by a professional
pathmaker. Feet, not hands, had made it. The rocks impatiently thrust it
aside every little way, and here and there were steps up and down for no
reason except that the rock would have it so. The path chose its way so
that you might see the sea from every inch of it. The thundering
headlands sprang from Jay's left hand, and she could see the cliffs
written over with strange lines, and the shadow that they cast upon deep
water. It was the colour of a great passion, and against that colour pink
foxgloves bowed dramatically upon the fringe of space. The white gulls
were in the valleys of the sea. I wish colour could be built by words. I
wish I could speak colour to myself in the dark. I can never fill my eyes
full enough of the colour of the sea, nor my ears of the crying of the
seagulls. I am most greedy of these things, and take no thought for the
morrow, so that if my morrow dawns darkly I have nothing stored away to
The path joins the more civilised road almost at the door of the House by
the Sea. You tumble over a great round rock that still bears the marks
of the sea's fingers, and you are at the door.
The house was full of sunlight. Great panels of sunlight lay across the
air. The fingers of the honeysuckle in the rough painted bowl by the
window caught and held sunlight. In every room of the house you can
always hear the eternal march of the sea up and down the shore. Nothing
ever drowns that measured confusion. Sometimes the voices of friends
thread in and out of it, sometimes the dogs bark, or a coming meal clinks
in the stone passage, or you can catch the squealing of the children in
their baths, sometimes your heart stops beating to listen to the speech
of the ghosts that haunt the house, but no sound ever usurps the throne
of the sea.
They were all on the stairs, the Secret Friend and the children. They all
wore untidy clothes, and hard-boiled eggs bulged from their pockets. The
Secret Friend has red hair, you might call its colour vulgar. But Jay
likes it very much. He hardly ever sits still, you can never see him
think, he has a way of answering you almost before you have finished
speaking. His mind always seems to be exploring among words, and
sometimes you can hear him telling himself splendid sentences without
meaning. For this reason everything connected with him has a name, from
his dog, which is called Trelawney, to the last cigarette he smokes at
night, which is called Isobel. This trick Jay has imported into her own
establishment: she has an umbrella called Macdonald, and a little
occasional pleurisy pain under one rib, which she introduces to the
Family as Julia.
The children in the house were just those very children that every woman
hopes, or has hoped, to have for her own.
They were just starting for a walk, and the Secret Friend was
finishing a story.
"How can you remember things that happened--I suppose--squillions of
years ago," said the eldest child. "You tell them as if they happened
yesterday. Doesn't it seem as if all the happiest things happened
"To me it seems that they will happen to-morrow," said the Secret Friend.
"But then there is so little difference between yesterday and to-morrow.
How can you tell which is which? Only clocks and calendars are silly
enough to tread on the tail of a little space between sunrise and sunset
and call it to-day. How do you know which way up time is happening?"
"Because yesterday the sun set, and we went to bed," said the
"I think to-morrow is a little person in dark clothes watching and
listening," said the eldest child. "And to-day is Cinderella, all shiny
and beautiful until twelve o'clock strikes."
"All yesterdays and all to-morrows are in this house listening," said the
Secret Friend. "This is the place where time is without a name. Here the
beginning comes after the end. To-morrow we shall be born. Yesterday we
died. To-day was just a little passage built of twenty-four odd hours.
And now we will sing the Loud Song."
They were on the rocky path now, and they sang the Loud Song. Both
that path and that song go on for ever, and the words of the song are
There is no house like our house
Even in Heaven.
There is no family like our family
Even in Heaven.
There is no Country like our Country
Even in Heaven.
There is no sea like our sea
Even in Heaven.
Most families sing this song, more or less, but few could sing it so
loudly as this family did.
The dog Trelawney ran after the shadows of the seagulls.
There is the track my feet have worn
By which my fate may find me:
From that dim place where I was born
Those footprints run behind me.
Uncertain was the trail I left,
For--oh, the way was stormy;
But now this splendid sea has cleft
My journey from before me.
Three things the sea shall never end,
Three things shall mock its power:
My singing soul, my Secret Friend,
And this my perfect hour.
And you shall seek me till you reach
The tangled tide advancing,
And you shall find upon the beach
The traces of my dancing,
And in the air the happy speech
Of Secret Friends romancing.
For some minutes some one had been knocking on the door. The sound was
like an intruder in the Secret World, beckoning insistently to Jay. But
she took no notice of it until a loud voice said: "You need not think you
are paddling in golden seas and inaccessible to your relations, because
you are here, and I can see you through the window."
After a moment's confusion, Jay found that this was so, and she got up
and let Kew in.
"I will just ask you how you are," he said hurriedly. "And how things are
going in the Other World, and all that. But you needn't answer, because I
haven't much time, and I want very badly to talk about myself. I never
get a chance when Anonyma is there, and when I return to France (which is
likely to happen soon), I shan't find much chance to talk there. I am so
glad I am going back, I am so sick of hearing other people talk about
things that are not worth mentioning. Poor dear Anonyma, she meant all
this recent gaiety as a reward to me for war work dutifully done. But if
this be jam, give me my next pill unadorned. A motor tour combined with
Anonyma is tiring. If I were alone with Russ I might enjoy it."
"Who is Russ?"
"The owner of Christina, and Christina is the vehicle which contains us
during the search for you."
He became aware of the velvet face of Chloris, gazing at him from between
"What does Chloris do while you are week-ending in Heaven. Do you take
her with you?"
"There is already a dog there, called Trelawney."
"By Jove, that would make a nice little clue for Anonyma. There can be
only one dog on the sea-coast called Trelawney. We could stop and ask
every dog we met what its name was. Besides, the name suggests
Cornwall. What breed is the dog? Look here, will you write the Family
a letter giving it a few neat clues for Anonyma? After all, we ought to
give her all the pleasure we can, I sometimes think we are a
disappointing family for her to have married. We lie to her, she lies
to us, her enthusiasms make us smile behind our hands, ours make her
yawn behind her notebook. Send us a good encouraging letter, addressed
to the house in Kensington. We always wire our address there as we
move. Give us details about Trelawney, and, if possible, the name of
the nearest post town. If we must lie, let us give all the pleasure we
can by doing so. Poor old Anonyma.
"It's getting dark, I must go back to the Family. I am as a babe in the
hands of Anonyma, and like a babe I promised her I would be back before
dark. Do you remember how we used to long to be lost after nightfall,
just for the dramatic effect? Yet we were awfully frightened of the dark.
Do you remember how we used to dare each other to get out of bed and run
three times round the night nursery? I have never felt so brave since, as
I used to feel as I jumped into bed conscious of an ordeal creditably
over. Why is bed such a safe place? I am not half so brave as I used to
be. I remember at the age of ten doing a thing that I have never dared to
do since. I sat in the bath with my back to the taps. Do you suppose the
innocent designer of baths meant everybody to sit like that, with a tap
looking over each shoulder? Taps are known to be savage brutes, and it is
everybody's instinct to sit the other way round, and keep an eye on the
danger. If I were as brave now as I was at ten, I could probably win the
War. Oh, Jay, I can't stop talking, I am so pleased to be nearly out of
the clutches of my relations."
"Are you sure you won't be killed?" asked Jay suddenly.
"I can't be," said Kew. "How could I be? I'm me. I'm not brave, and I
don't go to France with one eye on duty and the other on the
possibility of never coming back. I go because the crowd goes, and the
crowd--a rather shrunken crowd--will come back safe. I'm too average a
man to get killed."
"Don't you think all those million ghosts are thinking, 'What business
had Death to choose me?'" suggested Jay.
"No," said Kew. "I'm sure they know."
After a few seconds' pause he said, "By Jove, are you in fancy dress?"
"Why indeed. Why a kilt and yards of gaiters? Why a hat like a Colonial
"Oh, this is the uniform of a bus-conductor," replied Jay.
Kew scanned it with distaste. Presently he said, "Don't you think
you'd better give it up? Buy a new hat with a day's earnings, and get
"I can't quarrel with my bread and butter," said Jay.
"Surely this is only jam," said Kew. "You've got plenty of money of your
own for bread and butter."
"I haven't now," answered Jay. "I gave up having money when the
War started. Perhaps I chucked it into the Serpentine. Perhaps
not. I forget."
Kew got up slowly. "Well," he said, "sure you're all right? I must be
going. I don't know when the last train goes."
In London it is impossible to ignore the fact that you are late. The
self-righteous hands of clocks point out your guilt whichever way you
look. Your eye and your ear are accused on every side. You long for the
courteous clocklessness of the country; there, mercifully, the sun
neither ticks nor strikes, nor cavils at the minutes.
There was a crowd of home-goers at Brown Borough Church, and each 'bus as
it arrived was like the angel troubling the waters of Bethesda. There was
no hope for the old or timid. Kew was an expert in the small sciences of
London. He knew not only how to mount a 'bus, while others of his like
were trying four abreast to do the same, but also how to stand on a space
exactly half the size of his boot soles, without holding on. (This is
done, as you probably know too, by not looking out of the window.)
Kew had given up taxis and cigars in war-time. It was his pretence
never to do anything on principle, so he would have blushed if anybody
had commented on this ingenuous economy. The fact that he had joined
the Army the first day of the War was also, I think, a tender spot in
the conscience of Kew. A Victoria Cross would have been practically
unbearable, and even to be mentioned in despatches would have been a
most upsetting contradiction of that commonplace and unprincipled past
of which he boasted. He thought he was such a simple soul that he had
no motives or principles in anything that he did, but really he was
simpler than that. He was so simple that he did his best without
thinking about it. It certainly sounds rather a curious way to live in
the twentieth century.
"'Ere, you're seven standin' inside," said the gentleman 'bus--conductor,
when, after long sojourn in upper regions, he came down to his basement
floor. "Five standin' is all I'm supposed to 'ave, an' five standin' is
all I'll allow. Why should I get myself into trouble for 'avin' more'n
five standin', if five standin' is all I'm allowed to 'ave?"
In spite of a chorus of nervous assent from all his flock, and the
blushing disappearance of the two superfluous standers, the
'bus-conductor continued his lament in this strain. To the man with a
small but loud grievance, sympathy is a fatal offering.
The 'bus-conductor had a round red nose, and very defective teeth. Kew
studied him in a new light, for this was Jay's fellow-worker. Somehow it
seemed very regrettable.
"I wish I hadn't promised not to tell the Family," he thought.
He and Jay never broke their promises to each other, and there was a
tacit agreement that when they found it necessary to lie to each other,
they always gave each other warning. Where the rest of the world was
concerned, I am afraid they used their discretion in this matter.
"It ought to be stopped. The tactful foot of Family authority ought to
step on it."
He presented his penny angrily to the 'bus-conductor.
"I expect this sort of man asks Jay to walk out with him," he thought,
and with a cold glance took the ticket offered to him.
"Lucky I'm so utterly selfish," he thought, "or I should be
His train was one which boasted a restaurant car, and Kew patronised
this institution. But when he was in the middle of cold meat, he thought:
"She is probably trying to live on twopence-halfpenny a week. Continual
tripe and onions."
So he refused pudding. The pudding, persistent as only a railway pudding
can be, came back incredulously three times. But Kew pushed it away.
"If I could get anybody outside the Family to use their influence, I
should be within the letter of the law. But I mostly know subalterns, and
nobody below a Brigadier would be likely to have much influence with Jay.
She'd probably talk down even a sergeant-major."
It seems curious that he should deplore the fact that Jay had turned into
a bus-conductor more deeply than he had deplored her experiments in
sweated employment. I think that a uniformed sister or wife is almost
unbearable to most men, except, perhaps, one in the nurse's uniform, of
which even St. Paul might have approved. The gaiters of the
'bus-conductor had shaken Kew to his foundations. The thought of the
skirt still brought his heart into his mouth. He was so lacking in the
modern mind that he still considered himself a gentleman. No Socialist,
speaking between clenched teeth in a strangled voice of largely
groundless protest, had ever gained the ear of Kew. He had never joined a
society of any sort. He had never attended a public meeting since he gave
up being a Salvationist at the age of ten.
"It must be stopped," he said, as he got out of the train. "I'll think of
a way in my bath to-morrow." This was always the moment he looked forward
to for inspirations.
Anonyma was observable as he walked from the station to the inn, craning
extravagantly from the sitting-room window. She came downstairs, and met
him at the door.
"Such a disaster," she said, and handed him a telegram.
Kew stood aghast, as she meant him to. No disaster is ever so great as it
is before you know what it is. But Kew ought to have known Anonyma's
disasters by experience.
"Russ's wife has appeared."
"Why should she be introduced as a disaster?" asked Kew, with a sigh of
relief. "Is she a maniac, or a suffragette, or a Mormon, or just some one
who has never read any of your books?"
He opened the telegram. It called upon him to rejoin his battalion next
day at noon.
"Russ went to his house to fetch something this morning and found his
wife there. He looks quite ill. She insisted on coming here with him, and
now she wishes to go on the tour with us. As I hear the car is hers, we
can hardly refuse."
"I don't pretend to understand the subtleties of this disaster," said
Kew. "But as you evidently don't intend me to, I will not try. Notice,
however, that I am keeping my head. I have always wondered how I should
behave in a disaster."
"Wait till you meet her," said Anonyma.
Kew heard Mrs. Russell's melodramatic laughter as he approached the
sitting-room door, and he trembled. She laughed "Ha-ha-ha" in a concise
way, and the sound was constant.
"That is her ready sense of fun that you can hear," said Anonyma
bitterly. "She is teaching Gustus to see the humorous side."
They entered to find poor Cousin Gustus bending like a reed before a
perfect gale of "Ha-ha-ha's." Mrs. Russell was so much interested in what
she was saying that she left Kew on her leeward side for the moment,
hardly looking at him as she shook hands.
"It's enough to make the gods laugh on Olympus," she said, but it did not
make Cousin Gustus laugh. Noticing this, Mrs. Russell turned to Kew.
"I was telling your cousin about my pacificist efforts in the
States," she said. "Yes, I can see your eye twinkling; I know a pacifist
is a funny thing to be. But I'm not one of the--what I call
dumpy-toad-in-the-hole ones. I do it all joyously. I was telling your
cousin how very small was the chance that robbed us of success in Ohio."
"What sort of success?" asked Kew.
"Peace," said Mrs. Russell.
"But is Ohio at war?"
Mrs. Russell laughed heartily. Her unnecessarily frank laughter showed
her gums as well as her teeth, and made one wish that her sense of
humour were not quite so keen.
"I see you are one of us," she said. "What I call one of the Jolly
Fraternity. No, Ohio is still enjoying peace. But--if you follow me--from
the States peace will come; there we must fix our hopes. If we can get
those millions of brothers and sisters of ours 'across the duck-pond'--as
I call it--to see its urgency, peace must come. For brothers and sisters
they are, you know; patriotism will come in time to be considered a vice.
How can one's soul--if you take my meaning--be affected by the latitude
and longitude in which one's body was born? From the States the truth
shall come, salvation shall dawn in the west. Listen to me trying to be
poetic, it makes me laugh."
One noticed that it did.
"War is so reasonless as to be funny," she said.
"But you haven't told me yet about the little chance that you thought
would tickle Olympus," said Kew.
"You're laughing at me," said Mrs. Russell. "But I don't mind, for I
laugh at myself. I like you. Shake."
Kew immediately thought her a nice woman, though peculiar.
Mr. Russell looked in and saw the Shake in progress. He murmured
something and withdrew hurriedly. For a moment they could hear his
agitated voice in the passage reciting Milton to his Hound.
"Do listen to my husband, never silent," said Mrs. Russell. "Did you ever
see a man like him?"
There is no real answer to this sort of question, so Kew said "Yo," which
is always safe. Then he added, "Do tell me about the little chance."
"This was the little chance," smiled Mrs. Russell. "We ought to have had
a tremendously successful peace-meeting in a certain town in Ohio. We had
every reason to expect three thousand people, and we thought of proposing
the re-naming of the town--calling it Peace. But the little chance was a
printer's error--the advertisement gave the date wrong. A crowd turned up
at the empty hall, and two days later, when we arrived, they were so
tired of us that they booed our demonstration. Just the stupidity of an
inky printer between us and success."
"Do you mean to say that but for that we should have had peace by now?"
asked Kew in a reverent voice.
"You never know," said Mrs. Russell. "That meeting might have been the
match to light the flame of peace all over the world. It's bitterly and
satirically funny, isn't it, what Fate will do. Ha-ha-ha."
Cousin Gustus laughed hysterically in chorus, and then said that his
head ached, and that he thought he would go to bed early. Anonyma
led him away.
"Please don't make peace for a week or two yet," begged Kew. "Let me see
what I can do first. I am going to-morrow."
"How foolish of you," said Mrs. Russell. "If you like, I believe I have
enough influence to get you to America instead."
"I think I like France best," said Kew. "I don't feel as if I could be
content anywhere short of France just now."
"Surely you won't be content anywhere, murdering your fellow-men," said
Mrs. Russell. "You won't mind my incurable flippancy, will you? I can't
help treating things lightly."
"Not at all," replied Kew. "But I am often content in the intervals of
murdering my fellow-men. I play the penny whistle in my dug-out."
"Now tell me," said Mrs. Russell, "what are you all doing here? What
mischief are you leading my Herbert into?"
When Kew had recovered from a foolish astonishment at hearing that Mr.
Russell was known to others as Herbert, he said, "We're looking--not very
seriously--for my sister, who seems to have eloped by herself to the west
coast, without leaving us her address."
"I know. Herbert told me that much. A place on the sea-front, isn't it?
But you know, I feel a certain responsibility for Herbert, I have
neglected him so long. I cannot bear that he should waste his time in
what I call these stirring days. You mustn't think because I treat life
as one huge joke that I can never be serious. One can wear a gay mask,
but--you understand me, don't you? You are one of us."
There was a pause, and then she said, "Ha-ha. Doesn't it seem funny.
We've only known each other an hour, and here we are intimate...."
Kew obediently allowed himself for a moment to see the humorous side, and
then said, "What are your plans then, yours and Mr. Russell's?"
"I have neglected him too long, poor old thing," said Mrs. Russell. "I
must stay with him now, and cheer him up. A cheery heart can bridge any
gulf, don't you think? You know, I was just what I call a jolly girl when
I married him, and afterwards I forgot to grow up, I think. Perhaps my
treatment of him has been rather irresponsible. I must try and make
up--what I call 'kiss and be friends,' like two jolly little kiddies."
"Then why not join the motor tour?"
"I would rather take Herbert back to our little nest in London. There's
no place like home, as I always say. From there we might work together
for the great cause of Peace--what I call 'My Grail.'"
She had crimped hair and a long nose, the tip of which moved when she
spoke. You would never have given her credit for such influence as she
claimed in the world's affairs. Only her Homeric laughter, and a pair of
lorgnettes, reminded you of her greatness.
When Kew finally disentangled himself from the company of this jolly
creature, it was very late. But the voice of Anonyma arrested him on his
way to bed. Her face, with a corn-coloured plait on each side of it,
looked at him cautiously from a dark doorway.
"Kew," said Anonyma, "I won't stand it. We must be rescued."
"Nobody can remove her now without also removing Russ and Christina,"
said Kew. "The reconciliation has gone too far."
"Then Russ must be sacrificed, and even the car," said Anonyma firmly.
"Gustus and I can hire if we must. That woman must be removed. The
Kew began to see light. "I'll rescue you, then," he replied. "I'll think
of a way in my bath."
* * * * *
Next morning a great noise, centring in the bathroom, overflowed through
the inn. It was the noise of Kew singing joyful extracts from _Peer
Gynt_. Do you remember the beginning of the end of the Hall of the
Mountain King? It goes:
Tootle--tootle--tootle--tootle--tootle--tootle-tee.... Bomp-chink, ..."
The way in which Kew rendered this passage, notoriously a difficult one
for a solo voice, would have conveyed to any one who knew him that he had
solved both his problems.
Anonyma knocked on the bathroom door, and said, "Cousin Gustus's headache
is still bad."
Kew therefore broke into Anitra's Dance, which is more subdued.
Before breakfast he and Mr. Russell and the Hound walked to the downs.
The motor tour seemed to have come to a standstill. Cousin Gustus's
headache could be felt all over the house.
The moment Mr. Russell and Kew were out of earshot of the inn, Kew made
such a violent resolve to speak that he nearly broke a tooth.
"Russ," he said, "I want to get off my chest for your benefit something
that has been worrying me awfully."
Mr. Russell made no answer. He had got out of the habit of answering.
"It's about Jay," continued Kew. "I must break to you first that Jay's
'house on the sea-front,' with all its accessories--gulls, ghosts,
turrets, aeroplanes, and Friends--is one large and elaborate lie. She and
I are very much alike. The only difference between us used to be her
skirt, and now she has gone a good way towards discarding that. She is
nowhere near the sea. She is in London. Now you, Russ, are what she and I
used to call an 'Older and Wiser--'"
Mr. Russell jumped violently, but uttered nothing except a little curse
to his dog, which was almost under his feet.
"--And you are about the only person I could trust, in my absence, to get
Jay out of an uncommonly silly position. I can't bear her present pose.
It must stop at once, and if I had time I would stop it myself. I have
unfortunately sworn not to give her away to the Family, so I come to you.
She is a 'bus-conductor."
Mr. Russell refrained from jumping. I believe he had expected it. But he
said, "It would be too funny."
Kew looked at him nervously, fearing for a moment lest Mrs. Russell's
sense of humour had proved infectious.
Mr. Russell was thinking how funny it would be if the finger of desirable
coincidence had touched his life. How funny if a nice piece of
six-shilling fiction should have taken upon itself to make of him its
hero. Too funny to be true.
But you, I hope, will remember that the coincidence was not so funny as
he thought, since Jay had beckoned to it with her eyes open.
"Now, I have a prejudice against 'bus-conductors," said Kew.
"Why?" asked Mr. Russell rather indignantly.
"I can't explain it. If I could, it wouldn't be a prejudice, it would be
an opinion. But--well--just think.... The trousered 'bus-conductors
probably ask her to walk out with them in Victoria Park on Sundays."
"I see your point," said Mr. Russell.
"You are about double as old as she is--if I may say so--and you are not
one of the Family, two great advantages. You know, Jay has suffered from
not meeting enough Older and Wiser people. She has had to worry out
things too much by herself; she has never been talked to by grown-ups
whom she could respect. Anonyma never talked with us, though she
occasionally 'Had a Good Talk.' She never played, but sometimes suggested
'Having a Good Game.' It's different, somehow. You, Older and Wiser
without being too old or too wise, might impress Jay a lot, I think,
because you don't say overmuch. And I want you to tell her something of
what I feel about it too."
"I never realised before that from your point of view there was any
advantage in being Older and Wiser," said Mr. Russell.
"You don't mind my saying all this?" said Kew. It was an assumption
rather than a question.
"Not at all. But I don't understand exactly what you want me to do."
"To give up this idiotic motor tour," said Kew. "And go back to London,
and talk Jay out of her 'bus-ism. I want her to leave it off, and let
the Family discover her romantically enjoying some passable imitation of
her Secret World. I want the Family never to know of all that lay
between. I do want it all to come right. I'm going off to-day, and I may
not see her again. And I know hardly any trustable person but you."
"Right," said Mr. Russell.
He thought: It's too funny to be true, but if it isn't true, I shall be
Kew enlarged to him on the details of his mission.
On the breakfast table, when they returned, they found a letter from Jay,
evidently written for private circulation in the Family.
Dear Kew--I have just come in from a walk almost as exciting as it was
beautiful. We walked through our village, which clings to both sides of
a crack-like harbour that might just contain a carefully navigated
walnut-shell. The village is grey and white, all its walls are
whitewashed, all its roofs are slate with cushions of stone-crop
clinging to them. Sea-thistles grow outside its doors, seagulls are its
only birds. The slope on which it stands is so steep that the main road
is on a level with the roofs on one side, and if you were absentminded,
you might walk on to a roof and fall down a chimney before you became
aware that you had strayed from the street. But we were not
absent-minded. We sang Loud Songs all the way. We ran across the grass
after the shadows of the round clouds that bowled across the sky. In
single file we followed the dog Trelawney after the seagulls. Everything
was so clear that we could see the little rare island that keeps itself
to itself on our horizon. I don't know its name; they say it bears a
town and a post-office and a parson, but I don't think this is true. I
think that island is an intermittent dream of ours. When you get beyond
the village, the cliff leaves off indulging in coves and harbours and
such frivolities, and decides to look upon itself seriously as a giant
wall against a giant sea. Only it occasionally defeats its own object,
because it stands up so straight that the sea finds it easier to knock
down. On a point of cliff there was a Lorelei seagull standing, with its
eye on Trelawney. It had pale eyes, and a red drop on its beak. And
Trelawney, being a man-dog, did what the seagull meant him to do. He ran
for it, he ran too far, and fell over the edge. Well, this is not a
tragic incident, only an exciting one. Trelawney fell on to a ledge
about ten foot below the top of the cliff, and sat there in perfect
safety, shrieking for help. My Friend said: "This is a case of 'Bite my
teeth and Go.'" It is a saying in this family, dating from the Spartan
childhood of my Friend, that everything is possible to one who bites
his teeth and goes. The less you like it, the harder you bite your
teeth, and it certainly helps. My Friend said: "If we never meet again,
remember to catch and hang that seagull for wilful murder. It would look
rather nice stuffed in the hall." The cliff overhangs rather just there,
and when he got over the edge, not being a fly or used to walking upside
down, he missed his footing. We heard a yelp from Trelawney. But the
seagull's conscience is still free of murder, my Friend only fell on to
Trelawney's ledge. So it was all right, and we ate our hard-boiled eggs
on the scene of the incident.
"I remember--" said Mr. Russell.
"That letter," said Anonyma, "ought to help us a bit."
She was quite bright, because Kew had conveyed to her the hope that the
plot for the rescue of the Family was doing well. Cousin Gustus also,
with no traces of a headache except a faint smell of Eau-de-Cologne, had
come down hopefully to breakfast.
"Obviously the North coast of Cornwall," said Mrs. Russell. "The village
might be Boscastle, and the island is surely Lundy.... Such an intensely
funny name, Lundy, isn't it? Ha-ha! For some reason it amuses me more
and more every time I hear it. It reminds me of learning geography with
the taste of ink and bitten pen in my mouth. I used to catch my sister's
eye--just as I'm catching yours now--and laugh ever so much, over Lundy.
I used to be a terror to my governesses."
"I'm very much afraid that I can't spare much more time for the motor
tour," said Mr. Russell, and Anonyma was so anxious for the first signs
of rescue that she actually let him speak. "Business in London. I dare
say I could get you to Cornwall within the next few days, but some time
this week I must get back to town."
"I'll come with you," said his wife. "You can't shake me off so easily,
my dear. Ha-ha!"
"It's too rainy to start to-day," said Cousin Gustus. "I have known
people drowned by swollen rivers and such while trying to travel in just
such a deluge as this. We will start to-morrow."
"Wet or fine," added Anonyma.
"The fact remains," said Kew, "that I must leave you by the ten
something. I must leave you to sniff without my help, like bloodhounds,
along the trail of the elusive Jay. But I won't bid any one a fervent
good-bye, because I daresay I shall be back again on leave for lack of
anything else to do in three weeks' time, if we can't get across the
Channel. In that case I'll meet you one day next month--say at Land's End
or the Firth of Forth. Otherwise--say forty years hence in Heaven."
"It is very wrong to joke about Death," said Cousin Gustus. "I once knew
a man who died with just such a joke on his lips."
"I hope it was a better joke than that," said Kew. "It can't be wrong to
laugh at Death. Death is such a silly, cynical thing that a little
wholesome leg-pulling by an impartial observer ought to do it good."
Mr. Russell was heard asking his Hound in a low voice for the truth about
Death and Immortality.
So Kew went away, and left the Family gazing at the rain. Mrs. Russell
was conducting a mysterious process known as writing up notes. It was
hardly possible, by the way, that Anonyma could have loved the possessor
of a rival notebook.
It rained very earnestly. There was no hole in the sky for hope to look
through. The puddles in the village street jumped into the air with the
force of the rain. You will, without difficulty, remember that it rained
several times in the Spring of 1916. But this day was a most perfect
example of its kind.
Cousin Gustus was both depressed and depressing. I am afraid I have not
given you a very flattering portrait of Cousin Gustus. I ought to have
told you that he was very well provided with human affections, and that
he loved Kew better than any one else in the world. I might say that the
departure of Kew let loose Cousin Gustus's intense grievance against the
Germans, except that I could hardly describe a grievance as let loose
that had never been pent up.
Cousin Gustus was always angry with the Germans whatever they did, but
the thing that made him more angry than ever was to read in his paper
some report admitting courageous or gracious behaviour in a German.
"The partings and the troubles that these Germans have caused ought to
hang like mill-stones round their necks for ever," said Cousin Gustus.
"Talk about Iron Crosses--Pish! I should like to have a German here for
ten minutes. I should say to him: 'My Kew was a good boy, I would almost
say a clever boy, doing well in his profession: no more thought than that
dog has of being a soldier till War broke out. Does that look as if we
were prepared for War?' I should say. 'Doesn't that show where the blame
lies?' What could he answer?"
Mr. Russell and his Hound were apparently listening, but they could offer
"Kew's going has upset me so that my headache has returned, and I cannot
get any Aspirin here," continued Cousin Gustus. "I know a man who was
very much addicted to these neuralgic headaches, who committed suicide by
throwing himself from the bathroom window, solely owing to neuralgia. And
the rain does nothing towards improving matters. They say the German guns
bring on the rain. I tell you there is no limit to their guilt. Look at
this morning's paper: 'The enemy bombarded this section of our front with
increasing intensity during the day....' I ask you, IS THAT WAR?"
"Yes," said Mr. Russell absently.
"Nonsense," said Cousin Gustus. "What we ought to do is to shoot every
German we can catch. Shooting's too good for them. Hang them. That would
teach them. Any Government but ours would have thought of it long ago.
Iron Crosses, indeed, Pish!"
Cousin Gustus finds the Iron Cross very useful for the filling up of
crannies in his edifice of wrath.
Anonyma said: "When I think of those old fairy-like German songs, I feel
as if I had lost a bit of my heart and shall never find it again. That is
what I regret most about this War. It is bad art."
"Art, indeed," said Cousin Gustus. "Why, every time they steal a picture
they get an Iron Cross. I know a man who saw a German wearing a perfect
rosary of Iron Crosses; the fellow was boasting of having bayoneted more
babies than any other man in the regiment. Listen to this: 'The enemy
attacked the outskirts of the village of What D'you Call'em, and engaged
our troops in hand-to-hand fighting.' Think of it, and we used to say
they were a civilised race. At the point of the bayonet, it says--isn't
it atrocious? 'The enemy were finally repulsed at the point of the
bay--' oh well, of course that may be different. I don't pretend to be
a military expert...."
"I hate the Germans," said Anonyma, "because they have spoilt my own idea
of them. I hate having a mistake brought home to me."
"I hate the Germans," began Mr. Russell, "because--"
"I'm going for a walk," said Anonyma. "I am sick of sitting here and
hearing you two old fogies argue about the War. If War is bad art, it is
vulgar to refer to it."
I know exactly what Mr. Russell was going to say. He had a vague culinary
metaphor in his mind. I hate the Germans because they are underdone, they
are red meat. Their vices and their virtues and their music, and their
greed and their fairyism and their militarism, all seem to have been
roasted in a hurry, and to contain, like red meat, the natural juices to
an extent that seems to us excessive. The reason why some of us dislike
red meat is that it reminds us too much of what our food originally was.
As we ourselves, possibly, are rather overcooked by the fire of
civilisation, this vulgar deficiency in our enemy is very apparent to us.
This is an elaborate, but not a pleasing analogy, and it was fortunate
that Mr. Russell was interrupted. Otherwise, I think he might have been
trying to this day to explain it to an exasperated Cousin Gustus. He
spoke of it to his Hound, and the idea interested that animal very much.
Mr. Russell, unfortunately, had a cold, and was therefore unable on such
a wet day to leave the house or Cousin Gustus. But Anonyma went out in a
mackintosh that gave her the "silhouette" of a Cossack, and a beautiful
little tarpaulin sou'wester, and high boots, and a skirt short enough to
give the boots every chance of advertisement. The notebook was safe in a
She covered with great speed and enthusiasm the few miles to the sea. She
reached it at a point where the cliff dwindled into flatness, where the
gentle tide rattled on pebbles instead of on sand, where the tall
breakwaters contradicted the line of the shore. The furthest breakwater
had seaweed like hair waving on the water. At intervals it would seem to
be thrust up between two glassy waves, like a victim beckoning for
deliverance from the grip of some monster. And then the sea's lips would
close on it again. The sea was freckled by the rain, the waves were
beaten into submission. The tide was rather low, and not very far away a
great company of porpoises bowed each other through the mazes of a slow
quadrille. There were a few rocks spotted like leopards, and on one of
these a young brown seagull rested, and allowed itself occasionally to be
washed gracefully away.
"Lazy Nature!" said Anonyma reprovingly. "To sketch such a scheme in a
few careless lines."
For the whole world was rain-colour. There was no horizon to the sea, the
downs were blotted out, the wet shingle reflected its surroundings, the
waves broke unmarked by foam or shadow. There was nothing but the
porpoises and the breakwaters and the rocks, and a little bald sand
dune, sketched on the canvas of that pale day.
Anonyma perpetuated in her notebook her opinion of Nature as an artist.
On the whole, it was a flattering opinion. Then she sat on the
breakwater, and thought how fortunate she was to be able to think such
interesting thoughts about what she saw. How fortunate to enjoy thought
and to cause thought! How fortunate to feel oneself a member of the
comforting fellowship of intelligence! "It is much more delightful,"
Anonyma informed the sea, "to be intelligent than to be beautiful. Why do
we all try to make our outsides beautiful? There is competition in
beauty, but there is brotherhood in intelligence. To be clever is to
share a secret and a smile with all clever people." A vision of the coast
of the United Kingdom encircled by a ring of consciously clever Anonymas
sitting on breakwaters, sharing each with all a secret and a smile, came
vaguely to her.
She put all that she could of her soliloquy into her notebook.
And then she noticed the face of a man, with its eyes upon her,
appearing stealthily over a breakwater. The face wore the grin that some
people wear when they are doing anything with great caution. This gave it
a very empty, bright expression, like the mask that represents comedy in
a theatre decoration. The face dropped down behind the breakwater, after
meeting Anonyma's surprised eye for a second or two.
Anonyma kept her head.
First she thought it was the face of a bather, the path to whose clothes
she was unwittingly barring.
Then she thought it was the face of a picnicker, resentful of her
Then she thought it was the face of a German spy.
The first two of these three thoughts she rejected because the weather
reduced their possibility to a minimum. The third she instinctively
adopted as a certainty. The face at once became obviously German in her
eyes. It was broader about the chin than about the forehead, it was pink,
the architecture of the nose was painfully un-English.
She scanned the sea for the periscope of a submarine.
Anonyma remembered that she had written in her notebook, a day or two
before, an intimate description of the coast as seen from the Ring. She
also remembered distinctly seeing in the bar of the inn a notice warning
her to the effect that walls--and probably breakwaters--have ears and
eyes in these days, and that the German Government has a persistent wish
to possess itself of private diaries and notebooks.
"I am having an adventure," said Mrs. Gustus. "I must keep cool."
She got up from her breakwater, holding her notebook very tightly, and
began to walk away. When she looked back, she saw the top of the man's
head moving behind the breakwater, in a parallel direction to her own
course. When he reached the point where the breakwater ended and denied
him cover, he wavered for a moment, and then, with an expression of
elaborate indifference, followed her.
"I must keep even cooler than this," thought Anonyma. "I must try and
catch the spy."
She walked across some waste land sown with memories of picnics, and
reached the main road. The man crossed the waste land behind her. He
tried in a futile way to look as if he were not doing so.
On the main road, Anonyma turned and waited for him. It seemed useless in
that empty landscape to sustain the pretence that they were unaware of
"Did you wish to speak to me?" she asked, as well as she could for the
great lump of excitement that beat in her throat. Before her eyes visions
of headlines danced: "LADY NOVELIST'S PLUCKY CAPTURE OF A SPY."
The man became dark red as she spoke. "Yes," he said. "I wanted to ask
you what you were writing in that notebook?"
Anonyma paused for a moment, as she decided what she ought to do. Then
she said in a hoarse voice: "I have detailed military information about
this coast for twenty miles round in my notebook, with accurate reports
as to the depth of the water. If you come to my lodgings in D----, I can
show you a map that I have made."
A tremor ran through the stranger.
"A map?" he repeated.
"Yes, a map," said Anonyma; and then, as he did not move, she added on
the spur of the moment, "Also a design for a new kind of bomb which I
bought from a man in London."
"A bomb?" he said.
Anonyma thought that he was evidently a foreigner, though his accent was
English. He seemed to find English rather difficult to understand.
"Why do you tell me all this?" he asked finally.
"Because I recognise your face as that of a sp--I mean a fellow-worker
in the great brotherhood of espionage," said Anonyma.
"Come on, then," said the man.
So they walked off together.
"Why did you take up this--calling?" asked the man presently. "Are you
"Well, more or less," said Anonyma. "At least, I have never been a
Christian. I believe that one must take either War or Christianity
seriously. Hardly both."
It was a good opportunity for a monologue. Obviously the stranger was
not one who would resent a monopoly of the conversation.
"After all, men are only minor gods," said Anonyma, "and War is what gods
were born for. Germany knows that. That's why, under the present
circumstances, I'd rather take German money than English."
"Are we anywhere near D---- yet?"
Anonyma hoped that he still had no suspicions. His voice was distinctly
nervous. To reassure him, she said, "Why did you take up espionage
"Why, indeed?" said the stranger in an ardent voice. "Of course the pay
was enormous. Twenty thousand francs if I could get an exact chart of the
"Why francs?" asked Anonyma.
"Not francs. I find these various currencies so confusing, don't you? Of
course I mean pfennigs."
"Twenty thousand pfennigs?" said Anonyma. "Look here, are you trying to
"Far from it," said the man. "To tell you the truth, I am awfully
"Yes. No. I mean of discovery."
"You don't seem to be absolutely cut out for your job," said Anonyma.
They walked in silence for a while. Anonyma sought through her mind to
find something she could say in keeping with her part. She decided
finally on a rather ambiguous though imposing attitude.
"The Germans have discovered the truth that anything good is belligerent,
love included. You can't fight properly with any weapon but your life.
Death is not the only thing that passes by the peace-man. He remains
alive, but he also remains ignorant. All peace-men are really women in
disguise, and all women are utterly superfluous to-day. We only know men.
People who disapprove of War shall have no part in peace. The peace shall
be ours who suffered for it, and only we have earned it. The only decent
thing left for the Americans and Quakers to do now is to hold their
tongues when peace comes. They haven't earned the right to rejoice."
"I am a Quaker," said the stranger.
"I didn't know the Germans allowed Quakers at large."
"I am not a German," said the stranger.
"Then what has happened?" asked Anonyma, standing suddenly still at the
top of the main street of D----. "Why did you want my notebook?"
"Because I could plainly see you taking notes in it."
"You thought me a spy?"
"You don't leave me much room for doubt."
They guided each other to the gate of the police-station. There they
"This is where I was bringing you," said Anonyma, as their eyes fell
simultaneously on the label over the door: "Sussex County Police."
"It seems to me that honours are easy," she added after a pause. "Don't
you see what has happened?"
The stranger thought for a moment with a look of dawning relief on his
pink face. "But you couldn't have made up all those dreadful
opinions," he said.
"I didn't," said Anonyma. "I meant them all--as applied to England."
"Don't you think we'd better take each other in to make sure?" suggested
her companion. "The Inspector's quite a good sort. I know him well...."
"You may read my notebook if you like to make quite sure," said Anonyma.
"I'm almost sure the Inspector would have either too much or too little
sense of humour for the situation."
She was conscious of a certain disappointment. Her adventure had fallen
flat, she felt no pleasure in the idea of painting a vivid word-vignette
for the people at home. Even her notebook must never hear of this
"How foolish of you," she said irritably. "Do I look like a spy?"
She felt impelled to be angry with him, and seized upon another pretext.
"You are a conscientious objector, I suppose. And what business has a
conscientious objector to be spy-hunting? Do I understand that you will
only help your country when you can do it vicariously, through the
police, with no risk to yourself? It isn't very dignified."
"A spy is outside every pale," said the stranger. "My conscience objects
to the shedding of blood. Yet it is an English conscience all the same."
"English?" said Anonyma. "If you won't die for England, England isn't
yours to love. You shall not have that honour."
"If dying for England is the test of a patriot," said the pink Quaker,
"what about you?"
"I would die for England. I work for England," said Anonyma.
(Four hours a week.)
She went on: "I have told you already that women--in either sex--are
superfluous to-day. But after all, real women were born to their burden,
women were born to put up with second bests. And also posterity is mostly
a woman's job. But you were born a man, with a great heritage of honour.
You have kicked that honour away. You have sold your birthright."
The Quaker was the sort of man in whose face and mind one could see
exactly what his mother was like. Some men are like that, and others,
one would say, could never have been so intimate with a woman as to be
born of her.
"My soul is greater than I am," said the stranger. "There is no command
that drowns the command of the soul. I cannot possibly be wrong."
"You could not possibly be right," said Anonyma. "Good-morning."
Anonyma, on her return to the inn, was very generous with
"word-vignettes" dealing with Nature. Her Family during supper was not
left in ignorance as to the Peace and Meaning of the Sea, and the
Parallel between Waves and Generations, and the Miracles of the Mist, and
the Tranquil Musing of the Beaches, and the Unseen Imminence of the
Downs. "It would make a wonderful background to a short story," said
Anonyma, and then she stopped rather abruptly. Her silence after that
might have struck the Family as strange, had it not coincided with the
arrival of the evening paper, which turned the listeners' thoughts to
less beautiful matters.
"Air raid," said Cousin Gustus. "I prophesied quite a long time ago that
we should have another raid, but nobody ever listens to what I say. Two
horses killed somewhere in the Eastern Counties."
"I thought Somewhere was a town in France, ha-ha," said Mrs. Russell.
"Was London attacked?" asked Mr. Russell. "I'm rather anxious about--St.
Anonyma rose to the surface again. "I had such a wonderful talk with a
'bus-conductor once about his experiences during a raid. Such an
intelligent man. I dearly love 'bus conductors, such an interesting and
vivacious class. I should feel it an honour to be intimate with one. He
told me in the most vivid terms how a bomb fell in the street in front
of his 'bus, blowing the preceding 'bus to atoms. He told me how his
driver turned the 'bus in what he called 'The spice of 'arf a crown,'
and plunged into a side street. He said that he could see the Zeppelin
balanced on its searchlights like 'a sausage on stilts,' and when it was
directly above them, the top of his 'bus was suddenly cleared of people
as if by magic, except for one man who put up an umbrella and 'sat
tight.' I pitied the conductor, it must have been a terrible
experience, his eyes were starting from his head,--bulging like a
rabbit's,--he said he had a wife and baby up Leyton way, and that he was
so worried about them that he frequently called out his list of
destinations the wrong way round."
"Look here," said Mr. Russell, "I think I'd better go up and see
"Nonsense," said his wife. "I refuse to go to London until the moon is
there to protect me, as it were. So comic to look upon a heavenly body as
a practical protection. I will not allow you to run needlessly into
danger. Only this morning you were making plans to go to Cornwall,
"Darling, I insist," said Mrs. Russell. "Cornwall it is for the
present. If you say another word I shall smack you and put you in the
Cornwall it was.
The Family drew near to its destination on a misty day. The sun shone not
at all, but occasionally showed its bare pale outline through a veil of
cloud. The road in front of Christina was so dim that Mr. Russell could
people it for himself with imaginations. Now a knight in armour stood at
the next corner, now a phantom sea gleamed over the curve of the road,
now he saw great slim ghosts beckoning him on.
There were real sheep every few hundred yards, for a sheep fair was
taking place somewhere near by. The sheep came out of the mist like
armies of giants, and shrank as they grew clearer. The roads were rippled
with the footprints of many sheep. Even when there were no sheep in
sight, the mist filled their places with ghostly flocks.
Each sheep as it passed examined the wheels of Christina as long as the
dogs allowed it to do so. Each flock was followed by two men, and
sometimes a child in ill-fitting clothes on a pony, and sometimes a woman
with a shawl over her head.
Anonyma's notebook became very restless, and finally Mr. Russell was
obliged to drive the Family to the point whither the sheep were bound.
So they went to the little town, through which the excitement of the fair
thrilled like the blast from a trumpet. Bewildered sheep looked in at
its shop windows; farmers in dog-carts shouted affectionate remarks to
each other across its village green, and introduced dear friends at a
great distance to other dear friends with much formality. Dogs argued in
a professional way about the merits of their sheep. Mr. Russell's Hound,
who had never before heard the suggestion that dogs were intended for any
purpose but ornament, looked on breathless with surprise. His morals were
affected for life by the revolutionary sight of a dog biting the tail of
a disobedient sheep. "I'll try it in Kensington Gardens," thought Mr.
Russell's Hound, as he looked nervously at his master.
Christina, the motor-car, found her way to the centre of this activity.
There the sheep bleated in tight confinement, and to each pen was
attached the appropriate dog, looking very self-conscious. Dogs who had
come from great distances to buy sheep were anxiously sniffing up the
smell of their purchases, so that no mistake might be made on the way
home. Over the line of pens a two-plank viaduct ran, and it was bent
continually by the weight of large shepherds balancing their way along
to take a bird's-eye view of possible bargains. A facetious auctioneer
with the village policeman's arm round his neck was sitting on the wall
at the end of the field, addressing everybody very frequently as
"Gentlemen." Sheep arrived and sheep departed constantly.
"Isn't it terribly slavish, somehow?" said Anonyma. "The sheep
never being consulted at all. Bought and sold and smelt and spat
upon as if they had no heart beating beneath that wool. No 'Me,' as
Jay used to say."
Mr. Russell heard and remembered. There were few doubts left in him as to
the truth of his too-funny miracle.
He had a little tune, the scaffolding of a poem, in his head, and to the
sound of it he lived that day, although I don't expect he ever got the
poem into words.
If you start your idea along an uncertain course, you have to stop and
start afresh to get it straight. You can never finish it when once it has
a crooked swing. I gather that motor cyclists occasionally have much the
same experience with their machines.
But Mr. Russell, with a mind steering a tangled course, asked for
nothing better. He was very nearly sure of romance for the first time
in his life.
I hope that the feeling of making poetry is not confined to the people
who write it down. There is no luxury like it, and I hope we all share
it. I think perhaps the same thrill that goes through Mr. Russell and me
when the ghost of a completed thing begins to be seen, also delights the
khaki coster who writes his first--and very likely last--love-letter from
France; and the little old country mother who lies awake composing the In
Memoriam of her son for a local paper; and the burglar "down 'Oxton" who
takes off his cap as a child's funeral goes by. The feeling is: "This is
a thing out of my heart that I am showing. This is my best confession,
and nobody knew there was this within me." I am sure that that great
glory of poetry in one's heart does not wait on achievement. If it did,
what centuries would die unglorified. It is just perfection appearing, to
your equal pride and shame, a perfection that never taunts you with your
Mr. Russell and Christina knew well their road through the mist that
afternoon. There was no difficulty in the world, and no need to see or to
think. The sign-posts all spoke the names of fated places. It was useless
for Anonyma to study the map, she found no mention there of the enchanted
way on which their course was set.
"We will not go through Launceston," said Anonyma. "There must be a
quicker way to the sea than that."
Mr. Russell cared not for her and cared not for Launceston. The spell was
cast upon Christina's wheels. There was no escaping the appointed way.
Launceston reached out its net and caught them. Almost as far as the post
office, Anonyma was protesting: "We will NOT go through Launceston."
"Launceston was determined to get us," laughed Mrs. Russell. "Ha-ha!
isn't it humorous the way things happen?"
The sun was setting as they first saw the Cornish sea. The sky was swept
suddenly clear of mist. The seagulls against the sky were like little
The road ran to the shore.
The sun had little delicate clouds across its face, like the islands in
a Japanese painting. The wet rocks that lay in the sun's path were plated
with gold, and the tall waves with shadowed faces made of that path a
ladder. The fields of foam on the sea looked very blue in the pale light.
The sun was like an angel with a flaming sword. The angel dipped his feet
into the sea.
The sun was like a flaming stage for the comedies of gods. A ship passed
dramatically across it. One's dazzled eyes saw great phantom ships all
over the sea.
The sun was like a monster with horns of fire that pierced one's two
eyes. And gradually it sank.
The sun was like a word written between the sea and the sky, a word that
was swallowed up by the sea before any man had time to read it. There was
suddenly no sun. The little forsaken clouds were like flames for a
moment, and then they were blown out.
Mr. Russell waved his right hand towards great cliffs like the towers of
kings behind the village.
"This is the place," he said.
If I have dared to surrender some imitation of splendour,
Something I knew that was tender, something I loved that was brave,
If in my singing I shewed songs that I heard on my road,
Were they not debts that I owed rather than gifts that I gave?
If certain hours on their climb up the long ladder of time
Turned my confusion to rhyme, drove me to dare an attempt,
If by fair chance I might seem sometimes abreast of my theme,
Was I translating a dream? Was it a dream that you dreamt?
High and miraculous skies bless and astonish my eyes;
All my dead secrets arise, all my dead stories come true.
Here is the Gate to the Sea. Once you unlocked it for me;
Now, since you gave me the key, shall I unlock it for you?
Man ought to feel humble when he reflects upon the fact that he can
survive, and even thrive on, any distress except distress of the body.
God can wither his soul, and still he lives. Grief can swallow his heart,
and still he lives. But his stomach can kill him.
"All is apparently over between me and Peace," thought Jay. "But there
must be something to take the place of Peace."
There is only one thing that can adequately usurp the place of Peace. But
its name did not occur to Jay.
She did not know what had happened to her. She felt constantly a little
mad. Irresponsible wants clamoured in her breast from morning till night,
and all night the company of her Secret Friend was more glorious than
ever. She ran to her world as you perhaps run to church, yet even there
she felt expectant.
When a tall tough thundercloud bends across the sky I watch for the
first flash, and listen for the first roar, and in my heart stillness
seems impossible and at the same time imperative.
So Jay waited, feeling all the time that she could not wait
You shall not hear whence comes my fear.
You shall not know the name of it.
But out of strife it came to life,
And only striving came of it.
Though for its sake my heart may break,
Yet worse would I endure for it.
This thing shall be a God to me,
I will not seek a cure for it.
She thought a good deal about Mr. Russell. I am sure that he would have
laughed painfully could he have seen the picture of himself that remained
with the 'bus-conductor. The picture made him thinner, and his eyes more
intelligent, and the line of his mouth happier, but it did not make him
look younger, because Jay liked him to be Older and Wiser. He never came
into the Secret World; several times she tried to drag him thither, but
always at the critical moment he got left outside. Yet I cannot say that
in her Secret World she missed him; the point of the bubble enchantment
is that there is nothing lacking in it.
'Bus-conducting is a profession that does not engross the mind unduly.
The eye and the ear and the hand work by themselves. Charing Cross
whispered in a conductor's ear at the Bank produces a white ticket from
her hand without any calculation on her part. She becomes a
penny-in-the-slot machine, with her human brain free for other matters.
She grows a great hatred for all fares above fourpence, because they need
Jay filled her day with unsatisfactory thinking. She found to her
surprise that one may love life and yet also think lovingly of death. To
live is most interesting in an uneasy way, but to die is to forget at
once all these trivial turbulences, to forget equally the people you have
loved and the people you have hated, to forget everything you ever knew,
to be alone, and to be no longer disturbed by unceasing voices.
At this time I think Jay felt more hatred of everybody than love of any
one person. But then, of course, she had vowed to Chloris after the
affair with young William Morgan that she would never fall in love again.
She said, "I have been through love. It is not a sea, as people say. It
is only a river, and I have waded through it."
"Yet there is certainly something very remarkable about that man," she
thought. "I don't believe I like him much, I don't want to know him
better, though I should like him to know me. I believe he is my real next
of kin. I believe he has a Secret World too."
She was on her last homeward journey, and it was one of her early days.
The hours of a conductor move up and down the day. Sometimes Jay
punctured her first ticket at a time when you and I are asleep, and when
the coster-barrows, waving with ferns and fuchsias, move up the Strand
like Birnam Wood moving to Dunsinane. On those days she was due home at
half-past four or so. On other days she was able to have a late
breakfast and to darn her stockings after it, but that meant that she
did not get home till very late. Some 'buses, I gather, are called
"single 'buses," but in this case the word does not imply celibacy
alone. The single 'bus is occupied by one conductor all day Jong for a
fortnight. The "double 'bus" is shared by two conductors, one presiding
in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The double state also
lasts a fortnight; it is arranged as an opportunity for lady
'bus-conductors to recuperate after the rigours (the more remunerative
rigours) of service on a single 'bus. These statements of mine are open
to extensive correction. Jay's hours always struck me as so very
confusing that it is unlikely I should be able to retail the information
correctly. However, it doesn't matter very much.
This was one of the early days on a double 'bus, and Jay was on her last
journey, with several restless waking hours between her and possible
sleep. Her 'bus was full, but not pressed down and running over. For the
moment everybody in it was provided with a ticket. Jay was laboriously
thinking small thoughts because she was tired of thinking of Love and
Life and other things with capital letters.
She thought of the various indignities to which the public submits its
'bus-tickets. Some people use the ticket as a toothpick, some put
spectacles on and read it without understanding, some decorate
outstanding features of the 'bus with it. But I myself tear it gradually
into small strips, and grind the strips by means of massage into fine
powder. If the inspector comes, I am perfectly willing to pour the powder
into his hand, and yet he often seems annoyed.
Jay reviewed the perspective of faces that lined her 'bus. They were all
ugly, and not one of them was eager. The British public as a whole
considers a deaf, dumb, and blind expression the only decent one to wear
in a public conveyance. We roar through a wonderful and exciting world,
and all the while we sit with glazed eyes and cotton-wool in our ears,
and think about ourselves. They were mostly men in Jay's 'bus at that
moment; they were almost all alike, and all insignificant, but not one of
them knew it. Such a lot of men could never be loved by women, only found
But there was a sailor, a simple sub-lieutenant, sitting by the door.
Sailors are a race apart. They have twisty faces, their boots and
gloves look curiously accidental. In London they are rarely seen
without a _London Mail_ or a _London Opinion_ in their grasp. There is
something about a sailor that conduces to sentiment in every passer-by,
and Jay, who was fleeing from that very feeling, looked hastily at some
one else. Her seeking eye lit on a lady who had a complete skunk
climbing up the nape of her neck, and a hat of the approximate size of
a five-shilling piece worn over her right eyebrow. She looked such a
fool that Jay concluded that the look was intentional, and indeed I
suppose it must be, for the worst insult you can offer to young ladies
of this type is to suggest that they have brains. Jay pondered on this,
and then turned elsewhere for inspiration. All roads of thought at that
time led to one destination, so she only allowed herself to go a little
way along each road.
And presently she reached the end of her journey. She walked home, and
Chloris was as usual waiting for her just outside the rocking-horse
factory at the corner. Jay, as she passed that factory every day, watched
with interest the progress of the grey ghost rocking-horses, eyeless,
maneless, and tailless, as they ripened hourly into a form more like that
of the friend of youth.
She smelt the little smell that is always astray in Mabel Place, she
heard outside in the damp afternoon two rival barrow-men howling a cry
that sounded like "One pound hoo-ray!" A neighbour in the garden was
exchanging repartee with a gentleman caller. "Biby, siy Naughty Man,
Biby, tell 'im what a caution 'e is." But there seemed little hope that
the baby would. These sounds were provided with the constant Brown
Borough background of shouts and quarrels and laughter and children
crying and innumerable noises of work.
"Something has happened," said Jay to Chloris, as they went in. "I feel
as if I had no friends to-night. Not even a Secret Friend."
Chloris lay on her lap in her usual attitude, bent into a circle like a
tinned tongue. Chloris knew it was no use worrying about these things.
"Funny," thought Jay. "King David was a healthy man of ruddy countenance,
and presumably he never lived in the Brown Borough, yet he knew very
well what it feels like to have a temperature, and a sore heart, and to
be alone in lodgings. Whenever I am very tired, it is funny how my heart
quotes those tired Psalms of his, without my brain remembering the words.
I wonder how David knew."
The little house was empty but for her. I ought perhaps to have told you
before that Nana had been taken ill a month or so ago, and had gone away
at Jay's expense to a South Coast Home.
"I'll go round and see Mrs. 'Ero Edwards," said Jay, when she had changed
into mufti. "Neither Chloris nor David is adequate to the moment."
The ground-floor back room of Mrs. 'Ero Edwards was crowded. The Chap
from the Top Floor was there, and Mrs. Dusty Morgan, and little Mrs. Love
from Tann Street, and Mrs. 'Ero Edwards's daughter, Queenie, and several
people's children. Conversation never wavered as Jay knocked and came in.
When you find that your entrance no longer fills a Brown Borough room
with sudden silence, you may be glad and know that you have ceased to be
a lidy or a toff.
The Chap from the Top Floor was talking, and everybody else was there to
hear him do it, except Mrs. 'Ero Edwards who could hardly bear it,
because she only liked listening to herself. Jay sat modestly in a corner
and listened, like the other representatives of her generation.
The Chap from the Top Floor was an Older and Wiser Man. His wife could
not live with him, but he was very kind and fatherly to every one else,
and Jay was rather fond of him. He was about fifty, and anything but
beautiful. Also the C.O.S. would not have admired him. But I believe he
did a good deal of thinking inside that bristly head of his.
"Ow my dear," said Mrs. 'Ero Edwards, laying a fat hand on Jay's knee.
"We're all so 'appy. Dusty's wrote to siy 'e's got the sack from the Army
becos of 'is rheumatics. We're 'avin' a bit of a beano becos of it."
Everybody smiled at Jay, and her heart grew warmer. Some one handed her a
cup of tea sweetened with half an inch of sugar at the bottom of the
cup. The spoon had been plunged to its hilt in condensed milk. What
vulgar tastes she had!
"You can never mike a pal of a woman," said the Chap from the Top Floor,
continuing an argument for the benefit of an audience of women. "One
feller an' another--well--a pal's a pal. But women are all either wives
or--, there ain't no manner of palliness in them."
"'Tain't gentlemanly to talk so, Elbert," said Mrs. 'Ero Edwards. "Yore
mother was a woman, an' from 'er comes all you know, I'm thinkin', an'
all you are. Women is pals with women, an' men is pals with men. It's
only when men an' women gets assorted-like that palliness drops out."
"'Usbinds an' wives can be pals," said Mrs. Dusty. "Me an' Dusty useter
'ave a drop an' a jaw together every night for three months after we
married. Never 'ad a thought apart, we didn't."
"If I ars't Dusty," said the Top Floor Chap, "I don't know but what 'e
wouldn't tell a different tile."
"'Ere, 'bus-conductor, you can talk, an' you're a suffragette," said
Mrs. Dusty. "Ain't bein' a pal just as much a woman's job as a man's?"
"What is bein' a pal?" asked Mrs. Love bitterly. "'Avin' some one 'oo
drinks wiv you until she's sick, and then blacks your eye for you. There
ain't no pals, men or women."
"I think they're rare," said Jay. "Isn't being a pal just refusing to
admit a limit? Some people draw the line at a murderer, and some at a
suffragette, and some at a vegetarian, and some at a lady who wears the
same dress Sundays and week-days, but a real pal draws no line. Women and
dogs as well as men can be faithful beyond limit, I think, but it's very
rare in anybody."
"'Bus-conductors don't know nothink," said the Chap from the Top Floor in
a loud belligerent voice, illuminated by an amiable smile. "I orfen look
at 'bus-conductors, an' think, 'Pore devils, they don't know 'arf of
life, not even a quarter. They only meets the harisocracy wot 'as pennies
to frow about, they never passes the time of day with a plain walkin'
feller like me wot ses 'is mind an' never puts on no frills.
'Bus-conducting oughter be done by belted earls an' suchlike, it ain't a
real man's job. Pore devils,' I ses, lookin' at 'em bouncin' along, doin'
the pretty to all the nobs, wivout so much as puttin' their toe in the
mud. 'Pore devils.'"
"'Ere Elbert, 'old your jaw," said the tactful Mrs. 'Ero Edwards, nervous
lest Jay should resent this insult to her calling. "Let's all go roun' to
the Cross'n Beetle, an' see whether that won't stop 'is noise."
"After all, it's Dusty's birfdiy," said Mrs. Dusty with alacrity.
The day was evidently growing in importance every minute.
"You come along too," said little Mrs. Love, suddenly putting her
hand in Jay's.
"No treatin' nowadiys," said the Top Floor Chap amiably. "But I don't
mind 'andin' around the price of a drink before we start."
He only extended half-hearted generosity to Jay, because she was, after
all, a 'bus-conductor, and to that extent a nob. She shook her head and
laughed, when he held out to her the Law-circumventing coin.
Mrs. 'Ero Edwards only really found scope for her voice out of doors.
No sooner was she in the street than she seized the arm of the Chap
from the Top Floor and shouted him down, as she led him towards the
Mrs. Dusty and young Queenie walked arm in arm behind them, and whenever
they saw a soldier they squeaked loudly, and addressed him invariably as
Jay and little Mrs. Love, both rather confused and unhappy people, walked
hand in hand a little way behind.
"We needn't go as fur as the Cross'n Beetle, if we don't like," said Mrs.
Love. "They'll never notice if we 'ook it."
"I don't want to 'ook it," said Jay. "I want to keep very busy listening
to noisy people. I don't want to hear myself think."
"You're mopey, eh?" asked Mrs. Love gently.
"I'm cold," said Jay. "I believe I've lost something. I believe I've lost
a friend of mine."
"Friends is always gettin' lost," said Mrs. Love. "I told you so. Let's
go an' 'ave a look at the pictures. They've got the 'Curse of a Crook' on
up the street. Fairly mike yer 'air curl."
"I want noise," said Jay, "a much louder noise than that old piano. The
pictures are so horribly quiet. Just an underfed man turning a handle,
and an underfed woman hitting an underfed piano. At a play you can at
least pretend that the actors are having a little fun too, but the
pictures--there's only two sad people without smiles at the bottom of it
all. I won't go to the pictures, I'll go and get drunk."
"Come on then," said Mrs. Love. "You won't find no lost friends there,
but come on. I'll be yer pal for to-night. You've been a pal to me before
now. We're temp'ary pals right enough, there' ain't no permanent kind.
You won't find no shivers straying around in the ole Cross'n Beetle.
Let's 'urry, an' get drunk, and keep 'and in 'and all the time. That's
wot pals oughter do."
Jay suddenly saw the whole world as a thing running away from its
thoughts. The crowd that filled the pavement was fugitive, and every man
felt the hot breath of fear on the back of his neck. One only used one's
voice for the drowning of one's thoughts; one only used one's feet for
running away. The whole world was in flight along the endless streets,
and the lucky ones were in trams and donkey carts that they might flee
"Hurry, hurry," said Jay. And she and little Mrs. Love ran hand in hand.
The Chap from the Top Floor and Mrs. 'Ero Edwards were already leading
society in the Cross'n Beetle when Jay and Mrs. Love reached it. The
barman knew Mrs. Edwards too well to think that she was drunk already,
but you or I, transported suddenly thither, would have supposed that her
beano was over instead of yet to come.
"'Elbert," said Mrs. 'Ero Edwards, "yo're an 'Un, yo're an internal
alien, thet's what's the metter with you. I wonder I 'aven't blacked yer
eye for you many a time and oft."
There was almost enough noise even for Jay, and she and Mrs. Love, each
armed with a generously topped glass, sat in the background, on the
shiny seat that lined the wall.
To Jay this evening was an experiment, an experiment born of weariness of
a well-worn road. She watched Mrs. Love blow some of the superfluous
froth on to the floor, and did likewise. Directly she had put her lips to
the thick brim of her glass she knew that here was the stuff of which
certain dreams are made.
She had, I suppose, the weakest head in the world, and in three minutes
she was giddy and much comforted. The noise seemed to clothe itself in a
veil of music, there was hope in the shining brightness that shone from
the bar. The placards that looked like texts and were advertisements of
various drinks, seemed like jokes to Jay.
"There are only dreams," she thought very lucidly, "to keep our
souls alive. We are lucky if we get good dreams. We'll never get
Through the glass between the patriotic posters that darkened the windows
she could see the morbid colour of London air.
"Apart from dreams," thought this busconducting Omar Khayyam, "there is
nothing but disappointment. We expected too much. We expected
satisfaction. There is nothing in the world but second bests, but dreams
are an excellent second best. Our last attitude must be 'How interesting,
but how very far from what I wanted....'"
The speed of time, and the hurry of life suddenly rushed upon her again.
"I must hurry," she said. "Or I shan't have lived before I die. I
"No 'urry, Jine," said Mrs. Love. "Let's keep in the light for a bit."
"Is this the only light left us, after a deluge of War?" thought Jay. "It
doesn't matter, because of course War is hurrying too. Rushing over our
heads like the sea over drowned sailors. But it will be over in a minute;
this new kind of death must be a temporary death for temporary soldiers.
What do fifty years without friends matter? You can hardly breathe before
She was dazzled and deafened. She had emptied her glass, and she did not
know what steps she took to fill it again. Only she found it was
And in a minute she was on the path to the House by the Sea. She had
come by a new way.
There was less colour than usual about the sea, a certain air of guilt
seemed to haunt the path. And it was extraordinarily lonely, there seemed
to be no promise of a Friend waiting at the other end of the path.
She sang the Loud Song to encourage herself, but she did not sing it
There is no dream like my dream,
Even in Heaven.
There is no Friend like my Friend,
Even in Heaven.
There is no life like my life,
Even in Heaven.
A voice said, "For 'eaven's sike, Jine, don't begin to sing."
Jay laughed. "Treating me as if I were drunk ..." she thought. She did
not feel giddy any more. She could see the familiar outline of the House
against an unpretentious sky, and that calm shape steadied her.
No breath of sound came from the House. The sky was grey, the sea was
grey, there was no hint of sunlight. As Jay came to the door she noticed
that the honeysuckle in the bowl at the hall window was still there, but
dead. The wind had strewn the doorstep with leaves and straws and twigs,
little refugees of the air.
In the hall there was an old woman, dressed in a black dress patterned
with big red flowers. She was knitting. Her stiff skirts spread out in
angular folds round her. Jay knew she was a fellow-ghost, because
their eyes met.
Jay felt swallowed up by the silence. She could not speak, even to
think, she felt, would be too noisy. The stiff skirt of the old lady
made no rustle, the knitting needles made no click. But Jay could see
that she was counting. The House seemed to be full of unmoving time.
Outside the rain began to fall, and that grey sound enclosed the silence
of the House.
After a very long time Jay spoke. "Where is my Friend?" she asked.
"Gone to the War," answered the old woman.
"There is no War in this world," said Jay.
"On the contrary," the fellow-ghost replied, "war is, even here, where
Time is not. War is like air, in every house, in every land, on every
sea. For ever."
Between her sentences she counted. Unpausing numbers moved her lips.
"On these shores," she said, "time and Life and the sea go up and down.
Eternity has no logic. There are no reasons, there is no explanation. But
there is always War. There are fighting sea men in the caves on the
beach. Haven't you seen them, the dark sea people? Haven't you heard
their high voices that were tuned to cut through the voice of the sea?
Haven't you found their very wide, long-toed footprints in the sand? Have
you walked blind through this world?"
"No," said Jay, "I remember. The women decorate their hair with seaweed,
pink and green. I have watched them catch fish with their hands. I have
watched them put their babies to play in the pools among the rocks...."
"On the cliffs," said the fellow-ghost, "men clad in armour share the
camps of the Englishmen who fought at Cressy, and at Waterloo, and at
the Marne. On these seas the most ancient pirates sing and laugh in
chorus with Nelson's drowned sailors, and with men from the North Sea,
men whose mothers still cry in the night for them. Did you think there
was any seniority in Eternity?"
"But I don't understand," said Jay. "Time seems to leave itself behind so
"There is nothing to understand," said the old woman. "There is no
explanation. Time does not move. Men move." The noise of the rain seemed
to wash out everything but remembrance, and there was no feeling in Jay
but a terrible longing to have her Secret Friend with her again, and that
long secret childhood of theirs, and to wipe out half her days and all
her knowledge, and to hear once more those songs upon the sands of the
cove, and to feel the tingling ground of the sunny hills.
"My Friend has never forsaken me before," she said.
She felt a hand press her hand, and she met the eyes of little Mrs. Love.
"Yo're a mousey sort of kid," said Mrs. Love, "sittin' there as if you
was in church. Shall we go 'ome? The rine's gettin' worse an' worse, an'
it's no good wytin'. I'll see you 'ome."
When Jay, very wet and dazed, reached Eighteen Mabel Place, she found a
card pushed under the door. The name on it was Mr. Herbert Russell's, and
there was a suggestion in a beautiful little handwriting on the back of
it that she should ring him up next morning and tell him when to come and
see her, as he had a message from her brother.
"This is the sort of thing that couldn't possibly happen in real life,"
said Jay. "I must be drunk after all. On no doorstep except Heaven's
could one find a message so romantic."
She was instinctively disobedient to Older and Wiser people. She never
entertained the idea of telephoning. She could imagine Mr. Russell
answering the telephone in a prosaic voice like a double bass. She wrote
the following letter:
DEAR SIR--Don't you remember, I was to meet you anyway on the steps of
St. Paul's at ten o'clock next Sunday? I will wait till then for the
JANE ELIZABETH MARTIN, 'Bus-conductor.
"That letter ought to put two and two together for him," she thought, "if
he hasn't done it already. It's a complicated little sum, and the result
She felt hot and feverish when she wrote the letter. And directly she had
posted it she regretted having done so.
"I forget what I wrote," she said. "It is dangerous to post letters to
Older and Wiser Men when drunk."
All that night she lay awake and mourned the desertion of her
You promised War and Thunder and Romance.
You promised true, but we were very blind,
And very young, and in our ignorance
We never called to mind
That truth is seldom kind.
You promised love, immortal as a star.
You promised true, yet how the truth can lie!
For now we grope for hands where no hands are,
And, deathless, still we cry,
Nor hope for a reply.
You promised harvest and a perfect yield.
You promised true, for on the harvest morn,
Behold a reaper strode across the field,
And man of woman born
Was gathered in as corn.
You promised honour and ordeal by flame.
You promised true. In joy we trembled lest
We should be found unworthy when it came;
But--oh--we never guessed
The fury of the test.
You promised friends and songs and festivals.
You promised true. Our friends, who still are young,
Assemble for their feasting in those halls
Where speaks no human tongue.
And thus our songs are sung.
I have very rarely found Sunday in London a successful day. I hate
idleness without peace, and festivity without beauty, and noise without
music. I hate to see London people in unnatural clothes. I hate to see a
city holding its breath.
Jay waited ten minutes on the steps of St. Paul's for Mr. Russell. This
was not because he was late, but because she was early; and this again
was not because she was indecently eager, but because she had hit on an
unexpectedly non-stop 'bus. She felt a fool for ten minutes. And when you
have waited ten minutes on those enormous steps under the eye of the
pigeons, you will know why she felt a fool.
Mr. Russell arrived in Christina the motor car, and simultaneously a
shower fell. From the first moment Jay felt unsuccess in the air of that
much-anticipated day. She was introduced to Christina, and said, "But we
can't take that thing into the Cathedral."
"We don't want to," said Mr. Russell, although, as he was a born driver,
the challenge made him instinctively measure with his eye the depth of
the steps, and the width of the doorway, from Christina's point of view.
"We don't want to pray. We want to talk."
Anonyma would have been astonished to hear him say this.
"As a matter of fact," said Jay, "I brought Chloris for the same reason."
Chloris was eating the bread which a kind but short-sighted old lady
believed herself to be giving to the pigeons.
Mr. Russell had hardly been able to imagine his 'bus-conductor in any
dress but that of her calling. Now that he saw her in unambitious
London-coloured things, he was glad to notice that her clothes were not
Sunday clothes, but the sort that you forget about directly you look away
This was the sort of day that breaks up delusions, and as Christina the
motor car started away, Jay discovered that her hat was not adequately