Part 6 out of 6
Swithin drew her hand back within his arm. How round and soft it
was! He tried to see her face. When she was nearly home he said
goodbye, not wishing, for some dark reason, to be seen with her. He
watched till she had disappeared; then slowly retraced his steps to
the Mirabell Garden. When he came to where she had been sitting, he
slowly lighted his cigar, and for a long time after it was smoked out
remained there in the silent presence of the statues.
A crowd of people wandered round the booths, and Swithin found
himself obliged to give the girls his arms. 'Like a little Cockney
clerk!' he thought. His indignation passed unnoticed; they talked,
they laughed, each sight and sound in all the hurly-burly seemed to
go straight into their hearts. He eyed them ironically--their eager
voices, and little coos of sympathy seemed to him vulgar. In the
thick of the crowd he slipped his arm out of Margit's, but, just as
he thought that he was free, the unwelcome hand slid up again. He
tried again, but again Margit reappeared, serene, and full of
pleasant humour; and his failure this time appeared to him in a comic
light. But when Rozsi leaned across him, the glow of her round
cheek, her curving lip, the inscrutable grey gleam of her eyes, sent
a thrill of longing through him. He was obliged to stand by while
they parleyed with a gipsy, whose matted locks and skinny hands
inspired him with a not unwarranted disgust. "Folly!" he muttered,
as Rozsi held out her palm. The old woman mumbled, and shot a
malignant look at him. Rozsi drew back her hand, and crossed
herself. 'Folly!' Swithin thought again; and seizing the girls'
arms, he hurried them away.
"What did the old hag say?" he asked.
Rozsi shook her head.
"You don't mean that you believe?"
Her eyes were full of tears. "The gipsies are wise," she murmured.
"Come, what did she tell you?"
This time Rozsi looked hurriedly round, and slipped away into the
crowd. After a hunt they found her, and Swithin, who was scared,
growled: "You shouldn't do such things--it's not respectable."
On higher ground, in the centre of a clear space, a military band was
playing. For the privilege of entering this charmed circle Swithin
paid three kronen, choosing naturally the best seats. He ordered
wine, too, watching Rozsi out of the corner of his eye as he poured
it out. The protecting tenderness of yesterday was all lost in this
medley. It was every man for himself, after all! The colour had
deepened again in her cheeks, she laughed, pouting her lips.
Suddenly she put her glass aside. "Thank you, very much," she said,
"it is enough!"
Margit, whose pretty mouth was all smiles, cried, "Lieber Gott! is it
not good-life?" It was not a question Swithin could undertake to
answer. The band began to play a waltz. "Now they will dance.
Lieber Gott! and are the lights not wonderful?" Lamps were
flickering beneath the trees like a swarm of fireflies. There was a
hum as from a gigantic beehive. Passers-by lifted their faces, then
vanished into the crowd; Rozsi stood gazing at them spellbound, as if
their very going and coming were a delight.
The space was soon full of whirling couples. Rozsi's head began to
beat time. "O Margit!" she whispered.
Swithin's face had assumed a solemn, uneasy expression. A man
raising his hat, offered his arm to Margit. She glanced back across
her shoulder to reassure Swithin. "It is a friend," she said.
Swithin looked at Rozsi--her eyes were bright, her lips tremulous.
He slipped his hand along the table and touched her fingers. Then
she flashed a look at him--appeal, reproach, tenderness, all were
expressed in it. Was she expecting him to dance? Did she want to
mix with the rift-raff there; wish him to make an exhibition of
himself in this hurly-burly? A voice said, "Good-evening!" Before
them stood Kasteliz, in a dark coat tightly buttoned at the waist.
"You are not dancing, Rozsi Kozsanony?" (Miss Rozsi). "Let me, then,
have the pleasure." He held out his arm. Swithin stared in front of
him. In the very act of going she gave him a look that said as plain
as words: "Will you not?" But for answer he turned his eyes away,
and when he looked again she was gone. He paid the score and made
his way into the crowd. But as he went she danced by close to him,
all flushed and panting. She hung back as if to stop him, and he
caught the glistening of tears. Then he lost sight of her again. To
be deserted the first minute he was alone with her, and for that
jackanapes with the small head and the volcanic glances! It was too
much! And suddenly it occurred to him that she was alone with
Kasteliz--alone at night, and far from home. 'Well,' he thought,
'what do I care?' and shouldered his way on through the crowd. It
served him right for mixing with such people here. He left the fair,
but the further he went, the more he nursed his rage, the more
heinous seemed her offence, the sharper grew his jealousy. "A
beggarly baron!" was his thought.
A figure came alongside--it was Boleskey. One look showed Swithin
his condition. Drunk again! This was the last straw!
Unfortunately Boleskey had recognised him. He seemed violently
excited. "Where--where are my daughters?" he began.
Swithin brushed past, but Boleskey caught his arm. "Listen--
brother!" he said; "news of my country! After to-morrow...."
"Keep it to yourself!" growled Swithin, wrenching his arm free. He
went straight to his lodgings, and, lying on the hard sofa of his
unlighted sitting-room, gave himself up to bitter thoughts. But in
spite of all his anger, Rozsi's supply-moving figure, with its
pouting lips, and roguish appealing eyes, still haunted him.
Next morning there was not a carriage to be had, and Swithin was
compelled to put off his departure till the morrow. The day was grey
and misty; he wandered about with the strained, inquiring look of a
lost dog in his eyes.
Late in the afternoon he went back to his lodgings. In a corner of
the sitting-room stood Rozsi. The thrill of triumph, the sense of
appeasement, the emotion, that seized on him, crept through to his
lips in a faint smile. Rozsi made no sound, her face was hidden by
her hands. And this silence of hers weighed on Swithin. She was
forcing him to break it. What was behind her hands? His own face
was visible! Why didn't she speak? Why was she here? Alone? That
was not right surely.
Suddenly Rozsi dropped her hands; her flushed face was quivering--it
seemed as though a word, a sign, even, might bring a burst of tears.
He walked over to the window. 'I must give her time!' he thought;
then seized by unreasoning terror at this silence, spun round, and
caught her by the arms. Rozsi held back from him, swayed forward and
buried her face on his breast....
Half an hour later Swithin was pacing up and down his room. The
scent of rose leaves had not yet died away. A glove lay on the
floor; he picked it up, and for a long time stood weighing it in his
hand. All sorts of confused thoughts and feelings haunted him. It
was the purest and least selfish moment of his life, this moment
after she had yielded. But that pure gratitude at her fiery, simple
abnegation did not last; it was followed by a petty sense of triumph,
and by uneasiness. He was still weighing the little glove in his
hand, when he had another visitor. It was Kasteliz.
"What can I do for you?" Swithin asked ironically.
The Hungarian seemed suffering from excitement. Why had Swithin left
his charges the night before? What excuse had he to make? What sort
of conduct did he call this?
Swithin, very like a bull-dog at that moment, answered: What business
was it of his?
The business of a gentleman! What right had the Englishman to pursue
a young girl?
"Pursue?" said Swithin; "you've been spying, then?"
"Spying--I--Kasteliz--Maurus Johann--an insult!"
"Insult!" sneered Swithin; "d'you mean to tell me you weren't in the
street just now?"
Kasteliz answered with a hiss, "If you do not leave the city I will
make you, with my sword--do you understand?"
"And if you do not leave my room I will throw you out of the window!"
For some minutes Kasteliz spoke in pure Hungarian while Swithin
waited, with a forced smile and a fixed look in his eye. He did not
"If you are still in the city to-morrow evening," said Kasteliz at
last in English, "I will spit you in the street."
Swithin turned to the window and watched his visitor's retiring back
with a queer mixture of amusement, stubbornness, and anxiety.
'Well,' he thought, 'I suppose he'll run me through!' The thought
was unpleasant; and it kept recurring, but it only served to harden
his determination. His head was busy with plans for seeing Rozsi;
his blood on fire with the kisses she had given him.
Swithin was long in deciding to go forth next day. He had made up
his mind not to go to Rozsi till five o'clock. 'Mustn't make myself
too cheap,' he thought. It was a little past that hour when he at
last sallied out, and with a beating heart walked towards Boleskey's.
He looked up at the window, more than half expecting to see Rozsi
there; but she was not, and he noticed with faint surprise that the
window was not open; the plants, too, outside, looked singularly
arid. He knocked. No one came. He beat a fierce tatto. At last
the door was opened by a man with a reddish beard, and one of those
sardonic faces only to be seen on shoemakers of Teutonic origin.
"What do you want, making all this noise?" he asked in German.
Swithin pointed up the stairs. The man grinned, and shook his head.
"I want to go up," said Swithin.
The cobbler shrugged his shoulders, and Swithin rushed upstairs. The
rooms were empty. The furniture remained, but all signs of life were
gone. One of his own bouquets, faded, stood in a glass; the ashes of
a fire were barely cold; little scraps of paper strewed the hearth;
already the room smelt musty. He went into the bedrooms, and with a
feeling of stupefaction stood staring at the girls' beds, side by
side against the wall. A bit of ribbon caught his eye; he picked it
up and put it in his pocket--it was a piece of evidence that she had
once existed. By the mirror some pins were dropped about; a little
powder had been spilled. He looked at his own disquiet face and
thought, 'I've been cheated!'
The shoemaker's voice aroused him. "Tausend Teufel! Eilen Sie, nur!
Zeit is Geld! Kann nich' Langer warten!" Slowly he descended.
"Where have they gone?" asked Swithin painfully. "A pound for every
English word you speak. A pound!" and he made an O with his fingers.
The corners of the shoemaker's lips curled. "Geld! Mf! Eilen Sie,
But in Swithin a sullen anger had begun to burn. "If you don't tell
me," he said, "it'll be the worse for you."
"Sind ein komischer Kerl!" remarked the shoemaker. "Hier ist meine
A battered-looking woman came hurrying down the passage, calling out
in German, "Don't let him go!"
With a snarling sound the shoemaker turned his back, and shambled
The woman furtively thrust a letter into Swithin's hand, and
The letter was from Rozsi.
"Forgive me"--it ran--"that I leave you and do not say goodbye. To-
day our father had the call from our dear Father-town so long
awaited. In two hours we are ready. I pray to the Virgin to keep
you ever safe, and that you do not quite forget me.--Your
unforgetting good friend, ROZSI"
When Swithin read it his first sensation was that of a man sinking in
a bog; then his obstinacy stiffened. 'I won't be done,' he thought.
Taking out a sovereign he tried to make the woman comprehend that she
could earn it, by telling him where they had gone. He got her
finally to write the words out in his pocket-book, gave her the
sovereign, and hurried to the Goldene Alp, where there was a waiter
who spoke English. The translation given him was this:
"At three o'clock they start in a carriage on the road to Linz--they
have bad horses--the Herr also rides a white horse."
Swithin at once hailed a carriage and started at full gallop on the
road to Linz. Outside the Mirabell Garden he caught sight of
Kasteliz and grinned at him. 'I've sold him anyway,' he thought;
'for all their talk, they're no good, these foreigners!'
His spirits rose, but soon fell again. What chance had he of
catching them? They had three hours' start! Still, the roads were
heavy from the rain of the last two nights--they had luggage and bad
horses; his own were good, his driver bribed--he might overtake them
by ten o'clock! But did he want to? What a fool he had been not to
bring his luggage; he would then have had a respectable position.
What a brute he would look without a change of shirt, or anything to
shave with! He saw himself with horror, all bristly, and in soiled
linen. People would think him mad. 'I've given myself away,'
flashed across him, 'what the devil can I say to them?' and he stared
sullenly at the driver's back. He read Rozsi's letter again; it had
a scent of her. And in the growing darkness, jolted by the swinging
of the carriage, he suffered tortures from his prudence, tortures
from his passion.
It grew colder and dark. He turned the collar of his coat up to his
ears. He had visions of Piccadilly. This wild-goose chase appeared
suddenly a dangerous, unfathomable business. Lights, fellowship,
security! 'Never again!' he brooded; 'why won't they let me alone?'
But it was not clear whether by 'they' he meant the conventions, the
Boleskeys, his passions, or those haunting memories of Rozsi. If he
had only had a bag with him! What was he going to say? What was he
going to get by this? He received no answer to these questions. The
darkness itself was less obscure than his sensations. From time to
time he took out his watch. At each village the driver made
inquiries. It was past ten when he stopped the carriage with a jerk.
The stars were bright as steel, and by the side of the road a reedy
lake showed in the moonlight. Swithin shivered. A man on a horse
had halted in the centre of the road. "Drive on!" called Swithin,
with a stolid face. It turned out to be Boleskey, who, on a gaunt
white horse, looked like some winged creature. He stood where he
could bar the progress of the carriage, holding out a pistol.
'Theatrical beggar!' thought Swithin, with a nervous smile. He made
no sign of recognition. Slowly Boleskey brought his lean horse up to
the carriage. When he saw who was within he showed astonishment and
"You?" he cried, slapping his hand on his attenuated thigh, and
leaning over till his beard touched Swithin. "You have come? You
"It seems so," Swithin grunted out.
"You throw in your lot with us. Is it possible? You--you are a
"Good God!" said Swithin. Boleskey, flogging his dejected steed,
cantered forward in the moonlight. He came back, bringing an old
cloak, which he insisted on wrapping round Swithin's shoulders. He
handed him, too, a capacious flask.
"How cold you look!" he said. "Wonderful! Wonderful! you English!"
His grateful eyes never left Swithin for a moment. They had come up
to the heels of the other carriage now, but Swithin, hunched in the
cloak, did not try to see what was in front of him. To the bottom of
his soul he resented the Hungarian's gratitude. He remarked at last,
with wasted irony:
"You're in a hurry, it seems!"
"If we had wings," Boleskey answered, "we would use them."
"Wings!" muttered Swithin thickly; "legs are good enough for me."
Arrived at the inn where they were to pass the night, Swithin waited,
hoping to get into the house without a "scene," but when at last he
alighted the girls were in the doorway, and Margit greeted him with
an admiring murmur, in which, however, he seemed to detect irony.
Rozsi, pale and tremulous, with a half-scared look, gave him her
hand, and, quickly withdrawing it, shrank behind her sister. When
they had gone up to their room Swithin sought Boleskey. His spirits
had risen remarkably. "Tell the landlord to get us supper," he said;
"we'll crack a bottle to our luck." He hurried on the landlord's
preparations. The window of the, room faced a wood, so near that he
could almost touch the trees. The scent from the pines blew in on
him. He turned away from that scented darkness, and began to draw
the corks of winebottles. The sound seemed to conjure up Boleskey.
He came in, splashed all over, smelling slightly of stables; soon
after, Margit appeared, fresh and serene, but Rozsi did not come.
"Where is your sister?" Swithin said. Rozsi, it seemed, was tired.
"It will do her good to eat," said Swithin. And Boleskey, murmuring,
"She must drink to our country," went out to summon her, Margit
followed him, while Swithin cut up a chicken. They came back without
her. She had "a megrim of the spirit."
Swithin's face fell. "Look here!" he said, "I'll go and try. Don't
wait for me."
"Yes," answered Boleskey, sinking mournfully into a chair; "try,
brother, try-by all means, try."
Swithin walked down the corridor with an odd, sweet, sinking
sensation in his chest; and tapped on Rozsi's door. In a minute, she
peeped forth, with her hair loose, and wondering eyes.
"Rozsi," he stammered, "what makes you afraid of me, now?"
She stared at him, but did not answer.
"Why won't you come?"
Still she did not speak, but suddenly stretched out to him her bare
arm. Swithin pressed his face to it. With a shiver, she whispered
above him, "I will come," and gently shut the door.
Swithin stealthily retraced his steps, and paused a minute outside
the sitting-room to regain his self-control.
The sight of Boleskey with a bottle in his hand steadied him.
"She is coming," he said. And very soon she did come, her thick hair
roughly twisted in a plait.
Swithin sat between the girls; but did not talk, for he was really
hungry. Boleskey too was silent, plunged in gloom; Rozsi was dumb;
Margit alone chattered.
"You will come to our Father-town? We shall have things to show you.
Rozsi, what things we will show him!" Rozsi, with a little appealing
movement of her hands, repeated, "What things we will show you!" She
seemed suddenly to find her voice, and with glowing cheeks, mouths
full, and eyes bright as squirrels', they chattered reminiscences of
the "dear Father-town," of "dear friends," of the "dear home."
'A poor place!' Swithin could not help thinking. This enthusiasm
seemed to him common; but he was careful to assume a look of
interest, feeding on the glances flashed at him from Rozsi's restless
As the wine waned Boleskey grew more and more gloomy, but now and
then a sort of gleaming flicker passed over his face. He rose to his
feet at last.
"Let us not forget," he said, "that we go perhaps to ruin, to death;
in the face of all this we go, because our country needs--in this
there is no credit, neither to me nor to you, my daughters; but for
this noble Englishman, what shall we say? Give thanks to God for a
great heart. He comes--not for country, not for fame, not for money,
but to help the weak and the oppressed. Let us drink, then, to him;
let us drink again and again to heroic Forsyte!" In the midst of the
dead silence, Swithin caught the look of suppliant mockery in Rozsi's
eyes. He glanced at the Hungarian. Was he laughing at him? But
Boleskey, after drinking up his wine, had sunk again into his seat;
and there suddenly, to the surprise of all, he began to snore.
Margit rose and, bending over him like a mother, murmured: "He is
tired--it is the ride!" She raised him in her strong arms, and
leaning on her shoulder Boleskey staggered from the room. Swithin
and Rozsi were left alone. He slid his hand towards her hand that
lay so close, on the rough table-cloth. It seemed to await his
touch. Something gave way in him, and words came welling up; for the
moment he forgot himself, forgot everything but that he was near her.
Her head dropped on his shoulder, he breathed the perfume of her
hair. "Good-night!" she whispered, and the whisper was like a kiss;
yet before he could stop her she was gone. Her footsteps died away
in the passage, but Swithin sat gazing intently at a single bright
drop of spilt wine quivering on the table's edge. In that moment
she, in her helplessness and emotion, was all in all to him--his life
nothing; all the real things--his conventions, convictions, training,
and himself--all seemed remote, behind a mist of passion and strange
chivalry. Carefully with a bit of bread he soaked up the bright
drop; and suddenly he thought: 'This is tremendous!' For a long time
he stood there in the window, close to the dark pine-trees.
In the early morning he awoke, full of the discomfort of this strange
place and the medley of his dreams. Lying, with his nose peeping
over the quilt, he was visited by a horrible suspicion. When he
could bear it no longer, he started up in bed. What if it were all a
plot to get him to marry her? The thought was treacherous, and
inspired in him a faint disgust. Still, she might be ignorant of it!
But was she so innocent? What innocent girl would have come to his
room like that? What innocent girl? Her father, who pretended to be
caring only for his country? It was not probable that any man was
such a fool; it was all part of the game-a scheming rascal!
Kasteliz, too--his threats! They intended him to marry her! And the
horrid idea was strengthened by his reverence for marriage. It was
the proper, the respectable condition; he was genuinely afraid of
this other sort of liaison--it was somehow too primitive! And yet
the thought of that marriage made his blood run cold. Considering
that she had already yielded, it would be all the more monstrous!
With the cold, fatal clearness of the morning light he now for the
first time saw his position in its full bearings. And, like a fish
pulled out of water, he gasped at what was disclosed. Sullen
resentment against this attempt to force him settled deep into his
He seated himself on the bed, holding his head in his hands, solemnly
thinking out what such marriage meant. In the first place it meant
ridicule, in the next place ridicule, in the last place ridicule.
She would eat chicken bones with her fingers--those fingers his lips
still burned to kiss. She would dance wildly with other men. She
would talk of her "dear Father-town," and all the time her eyes would
look beyond him, some where or other into some d--d place he knew
nothing of. He sprang up and paced the room, and for a moment
thought he would go mad.
They meant him to marry her! Even she--she meant him to marry her!
Her tantalising inscrutability; her sudden little tendernesses; her
quick laughter; her swift, burning kisses; even the movements of her
hands; her tears--all were evidence against her. Not one of these
things that Nature made her do counted on her side, but how they
fanned his longing, his desire, and distress! He went to the glass
and tried to part his hair with his fingers, but being rather fine,
it fell into lank streaks. There was no comfort to be got from it.
He drew his muddy boots on. Suddenly he thought: 'If I could see her
alone, I could arrive at some arrangement!' Then, with a sense of
stupefaction, he made the discovery that no arrangement could
possibly be made that would not be dangerous, even desperate. He
seized his hat, and, like a rabbit that has been fired at, bolted
from the room. He plodded along amongst the damp woods with his head
down, and resentment and dismay in his heart. But, as the sun rose,
and the air grew sweet with pine scent, he slowly regained a sort of
equability. After all, she had already yielded; it was not as if...!
And the tramp of his own footsteps lulled him into feeling that it
would all come right.
'Look at the thing practically,' he thought. The faster he walked
the firmer became his conviction that he could still see it through.
He took out his watch--it was past seven--he began to hasten back.
In the yard of the inn his driver was harnessing the horses; Swithin
went up to him.
"Who told you to put them in?" he asked.
The driver answered, "Der Herr."
Swithin turned away. 'In ten minutes,' he thought, 'I shall be in
that carriage again, with this going on in my head! Driving away
from England, from all I'm used to-driving to-what?' Could he face
it? Could he face all that he had been through that morning; face it
day after day, night after night? Looking up, he saw Rozsi at her
open window gazing down at him; never had she looked sweeter, more
roguish. An inexplicable terror seized on him; he ran across the
yard and jumped into his carriage. "To Salzburg!" he cried; "drive
on!" And rattling out of the yard without a look behind, he flung a
sovereign at the hostler. Flying back along the road faster even
than he had come, with pale face, and eyes blank and staring like a
pug-dog's, Swithin spoke no single word; nor, till he had reached the
door of his lodgings, did he suffer the driver to draw rein.
Towards evening, five days later, Swithin, yellow and travel-worn,
was ferried in a gondola to Danielli's Hotel. His brother, who was
on the steps, looked at him with an apprehensive curiosity.
"Why, it's you!" he mumbled. "So you've got here safe?"
"Safe?" growled Swithin.
James replied, "I thought you wouldn't leave your friends!" Then,
with a jerk of suspicion, "You haven't brought your friends?"
"What friends?" growled Swithin.
James changed the subject. "You don't look the thing," he said.
"Really!" muttered Swithin; "what's that to you?"
He appeared at dinner that night, but fell asleep over his coffee.
Neither Traquair nor James asked him any further question, nor did
they allude to Salzburg; and during the four days which concluded the
stay in Venice Swithin went about with his head up, but his eyes
half-closed like a dazed man. Only after they had taken ship at
Genoa did he show signs of any healthy interest in life, when,
finding that a man on board was perpetually strumming, he locked the
piano up and pitched the key into the sea.
That winter in London he behaved much as usual, but fits of
moroseness would seize on him, during which he was not pleasant to
One evening when he was walking with a friend in Piccadilly, a girl
coming from a side-street accosted him in German. Swithin, after
staring at her in silence for some seconds, handed her a five-pound
note, to the great amazement of his friend; nor could he himself have
explained the meaning of this freak of generosity.
Of Rozsi he never heard again....
This, then, was the substance of what he remembered as he lay ill in
bed. Stretching out his hand he pressed the bell. His valet
appeared, crossing the room like a cat; a Swede, who had been with
Swithin many years; a little man with a dried face and fierce
moustache, morbidly sharp nerves, and a queer devotion to his master.
Swithin made a feeble gesture. "Adolf," he said, "I'm very bad."
"Why do you stand there like a cow?" asked Swithin; "can't you see
I'm very bad?"
"Yes, sir!" The valet's face twitched as though it masked the dance
of obscure emotions.
"I shall feel better after dinner. What time is it?"
"I thought it was more. The afternoons are very long."
"Yes, sir!" Swithin sighed, as though he had expected the consolation
"Very likely I shall have a nap. Bring up hot water at half-past six
and shave me before dinner."
The valet moved towards the door. Swithin raised himself.
"What did Mr. James say to you?"
"He said you ought to have another doctor; two doctors, he said,
better than one. He said, also, he would look in again on his way
Swithin grunted, "Umph! What else did he say?"
"He said you didn't take care of yourself."
"Has anybody else been to see me?"
The valet turned away his eyes. "Mrs. Thomas Forsyte came last
"How long have I been ill?"
"Five weeks on Saturday."
"Do you think I'm very bad?"
Adolf's face was covered suddenly with crow's-feet. "You have no
business to ask me question like that! I am not paid, sir, to answer
question like that."
Swithin said faintly: "You're a peppery fool! Open a bottle of
Adolf took a bottle of champagne--from a cupboard and held nippers to
it. He fixed his eyes on Swithin. "The doctor said--"
"Open the bottle!"
"It is not--"
"Open the bottle--or I give you warning."
Adolf removed the cork. He wiped a glass elaborately, filled it, and
bore it scrupulously to the bedside. Suddenly twirling his
moustaches, he wrung his hands, and burst out: "It is poison."
Swithin grinned faintly. "You foreign fool!" he said. "Get out!"
The valet vanished.
'He forgot himself!' thought Swithin. Slowly he raised the glass,
slowly put it back, and sank gasping on his pillows. Almost at once
he fell asleep.
He dreamed that he was at his club, sitting after dinner in the
crowded smoking-room, with its bright walls and trefoils of light.
It was there that he sat every evening, patient, solemn, lonely, and
sometimes fell asleep, his square, pale old face nodding to one side.
He dreamed that he was gazing at the picture over the fireplace, of
an old statesman with a high collar, supremely finished face, and
sceptical eyebrows--the picture, smooth, and reticent as sealing-wax,
of one who seemed for ever exhaling the narrow wisdom of final
judgments. All round him, his fellow members were chattering. Only
he himself, the old sick member, was silent. If fellows only knew
what it was like to sit by yourself and feel ill all the time! What
they were saying he had heard a hundred times. They were talking of
investments, of cigars, horses, actresses, machinery. What was that?
A foreign patent for cleaning boilers? There was no such thing;
boilers couldn't be cleaned, any fool knew that! If an Englishman
couldn't clean a boiler, no foreigner could clean one. He appealed
to the old statesman's eyes. But for once those eyes seemed
hesitating, blurred, wanting in finality. They vanished. In their
place were Rozsi's little deep-set eyes, with their wide and far-off
look; and as he gazed they seemed to grow bright as steel, and to
speak to him. Slowly the whole face grew to be there, floating on
the dark background of the picture; it was pink, aloof, unfathomable,
enticing, with its fluffy hair and quick lips, just as he had last
seen it. "Are you looking for something?" she seemed to say: "I
could show you."
"I have everything safe enough," answered Swithin, and in his sleep
He felt the touch of fingers on his forehead. 'I'm dreaming,' he
thought in his dream.
She had vanished; and far away, from behind the picture, came a sound
Aloud, in his sleep, Swithin muttered: "I've missed it."
Again he heard the rustling of those light footsteps, and close in
his ear a sound, like a sob. He awoke; the sob was his own. Great
drops of perspiration stood on his forehead. 'What is it?' he
thought; 'what have I lost?' Slowly his mind travelled over his
investments; he could not think of any single one that was unsafe.
What was it, then, that he had lost? Struggling on his pillows, he
clutched the wine-glass. His lips touched the wine. 'This isn't the
"Heidseck"!' he thought angrily, and before the reality of that
displeasure all the dim vision passed away. But as he bent to drink,
something snapped, and, with a sigh, Swithin Forsyte died above the
When James Forsyte came in again on his way home, the valet,
trembling took his hat and stick.
"How's your master?"
"My master is dead, sir!"
"Dead! He can't be! I left him safe an hour ago."
On the bed Swithin's body was doubled like a sack; his hand still
grasped the glass.
James Forsyte paused. "Swithin!" he said, and with his hand to his
ear he waited for an answer; but none came, and slowly in the glass a
last bubble rose and burst.
MABEL EDITH REYNOLDS
In a car of the Naples express a mining expert was diving into a bag
for papers. The strong sunlight showed the fine wrinkles on his
brown face and the shabbiness of his short, rough beard. A newspaper
cutting slipped from his fingers; he picked it up, thinking: 'How the
dickens did that get in here?' It was from a colonial print of three
years back; and he sat staring, as if in that forlorn slip of yellow
paper he had encountered some ghost from his past.
These were the words he read: "We hope that the setback to
civilisation, the check to commerce and development, in this
promising centre of our colony may be but temporary; and that capital
may again come to the rescue. Where one man was successful, others
should surely not fail? We are convinced that it only needs...."
And the last words: "For what can be sadder than to see the forest
spreading its lengthening shadows, like symbols of defeat, over the
untenanted dwellings of men; and where was once the merry chatter of
human voices, to pass by in the silence...."
On an afternoon, thirteen years before, he had been in the city of
London, at one of those emporiums where mining experts perch, before
fresh flights, like sea-gulls on some favourite rock. A clerk said
to him: "Mr. Scorrier, they are asking for you downstairs--Mr.
Hemmings of the New Colliery Company."
Scorrier took up the speaking tube. "Is that you, Mr. Scorrier? I
hope you are very well, sir, I am--Hemmings--I am--coming up."
In two minutes he appeared, Christopher Hemmings, secretary of the
New Colliery Company, known in the City-behind his back--as "Down-by-
the-starn" Hemmings. He grasped Scorrier's hand--the gesture was
deferential, yet distinguished. Too handsome, too capable, too
important, his figure, the cut of his iron-grey beard, and his
intrusively fine eyes, conveyed a continual courteous invitation to
inspect their infallibilities. He stood, like a City "Atlas," with
his legs apart, his coat-tails gathered in his hands, a whole globe
of financial matters deftly balanced on his nose. "Look at me!" he
seemed to say. "It's heavy, but how easily I carry it. Not the man
to let it down, Sir !"
"I hope I see you well, Mr. Scorrier," he began. "I have come round
about our mine. There is a question of a fresh field being opened
up--between ourselves, not before it's wanted. I find it difficult
to get my Board to take a comprehensive view. In short, the question
is: Are you prepared to go out for us, and report on it? The fees
will be all right." His left eye closed. "Things have been very--
er--dicky; we are going to change our superintendent. I have got
little Pippin--you know little Pippin?"
Scorrier murmured, with a feeling of vague resentment: "Oh yes. He's
not a mining man!"
Hemmings replied: "We think that he will do." 'Do you?' thought
Scorrier; 'that's good of you!'
He had not altogether shaken off a worship he had felt for Pippin--
"King" Pippin he was always called, when they had been boys at the
Camborne Grammar-school. "King" Pippin! the boy with the bright
colour, very bright hair, bright, subtle, elusive eyes, broad
shoulders, little stoop in the neck, and a way of moving it quickly
like a bird; the boy who was always at the top of everything, and
held his head as if looking for something further to be the top of.
He remembered how one day "King" Pippin had said to him in his soft
way, "Young Scorrie, I'll do your sums for you"; and in answer to his
dubious, "Is that all right?" had replied, "Of course--I don't want
you to get behind that beast Blake, he's not a Cornishman" (the beast
Blake was an Irishman not yet twelve). He remembered, too, an
occasion when "King" Pippin with two other boys fought six louts and
got a licking, and how Pippin sat for half an hour afterwards, all
bloody, his head in his hands, rocking to and fro, and weeping tears
of mortification; and how the next day he had sneaked off by himself,
and, attacking the same gang, got frightfully mauled a second time.
Thinking of these things he answered curtly: "When shall I start?"
"Down-by-the-starn" Hemmings replied with a sort of fearful
sprightliness: "There's a good fellow! I will send instructions; so
glad to see you well." Conferring on Scorrier a look--fine to the
verge of vulgarity--he withdrew. Scorrier remained, seated; heavy
with insignificance and vague oppression, as if he had drunk a
tumbler of sweet port.
A week later, in company with Pippin, he was on board a liner.
The "King" Pippin of his school-days was now a man of forty-four. He
awakened in Scorrier the uncertain wonder with which men look
backward at their uncomplicated teens; and staggering up and down the
decks in the long Atlantic roll, he would steal glances at his
companion, as if he expected to find out from them something about
himself. Pippin had still "King" Pippin's bright, fine hair, and
dazzling streaks in his short beard; he had still a bright colour and
suave voice, and what there were of wrinkles suggested only
subtleties of humour and ironic sympathy. From the first, and
apparently without negotiation, he had his seat at the captain's
table, to which on the second day Scorrier too found himself
translated, and had to sit, as he expressed it ruefully, "among the
During the voyage only one incident impressed itself on Scorrier's
memory, and that for a disconcerting reason. In the forecastle were
the usual complement of emigrants. One evening, leaning across the
rail to watch them, he felt a touch on his arm; and, looking round,
saw Pippin's face and beard quivering in the lamplight. "Poor
people!" he said. The idea flashed on Scorrier that he was like some
fine wire sound-recording instrument.
'Suppose he were to snap!' he thought. Impelled to justify this
fancy, he blurted out: "You're a nervous chap. The way you look at
those poor devils!"
Pippin hustled him along the deck. "Come, come, you took me off my
guard," he murmured, with a sly, gentle smile, "that's not fair."
He found it a continual source of wonder that Pippin, at his age,
should cut himself adrift from the associations and security of
London life to begin a new career in a new country with dubious
prospect of success. 'I always heard he was doing well all round,'
he thought; 'thinks he'll better himself, perhaps. He's a true
The morning of arrival at the mines was grey and cheerless; a cloud
of smoke, beaten down by drizzle, clung above the forest; the wooden
houses straggled dismally in the unkempt semblance of a street,
against a background of endless, silent woods. An air of blank
discouragement brooded over everything; cranes jutted idly over empty
trucks; the long jetty oozed black slime; miners with listless faces
stood in the rain; dogs fought under their very legs. On the way to
the hotel they met no one busy or serene except a Chinee who was
polishing a dish-cover.
The late superintendent, a cowed man, regaled them at lunch with his
forebodings; his attitude toward the situation was like the food,
which was greasy and uninspiring. Alone together once more, the two
newcomers eyed each other sadly.
"Oh dear!" sighed Pippin. "We must change all this, Scorrier; it
will never do to go back beaten. I shall not go back beaten; you
will have to carry me on my shield;" and slyly: "Too heavy, eh? Poor
fellow!" Then for a long time he was silent, moving his lips as if
adding up the cost. Suddenly he sighed, and grasping Scorrier's arm,
said: "Dull, aren't I? What will you do? Put me in your report,
'New Superintendent--sad, dull dog--not a word to throw at a cat!'"
And as if the new task were too much for him, he sank back in
thought. The last words he said to Scorrier that night were: "Very
silent here. It's hard to believe one's here for life. But I feel I
am. Mustn't be a coward, though!" and brushing his forehead, as
though to clear from it a cobweb of faint thoughts, he hurried off.
Scorrier stayed on the veranda smoking. The rain had ceased, a few
stars were burning dimly; even above the squalor of the township the
scent of the forests, the interminable forests, brooded. There
sprang into his mind the memory of a picture from one of his
children's fairy books--the picture of a little bearded man on
tiptoe, with poised head and a great sword, slashing at the castle of
a giant. It reminded him of Pippin. And suddenly, even to Scorrier-
-whose existence was one long encounter with strange places--the
unseen presence of those woods, their heavy, healthy scent, the
little sounds, like squeaks from tiny toys, issuing out of the gloomy
silence, seemed intolerable, to be shunned, from the mere instinct of
self-preservation. He thought of the evening he had spent in the
bosom of "Down-by-the-starn" Hemmings' family, receiving his last
instructions--the security of that suburban villa, its discouraging
gentility; the superior acidity of the Miss Hemmings; the noble names
of large contractors, of company promoters, of a peer, dragged with
the lightness of gun-carriages across the conversation; the autocracy
of Hemmings, rasped up here and there, by some domestic
contradiction. It was all so nice and safe--as if the whole thing
had been fastened to an anchor sunk beneath the pink cabbages of the
drawing-room carpet! Hemmings, seeing him off the premises, had said
with secrecy: "Little Pippin will have a good thing. We shall make
his salary L----. He'll be a great man-quite a king. Ha-ha!"
Scorrier shook the ashes from his pipe. 'Salary!' he thought,
straining his ears; 'I wouldn't take the place for five thousand
pounds a year. And yet it's a fine country,' and with ironic
violence he repeated, 'a dashed fine country!'
Ten days later, having finished his report on the new mine, he stood
on the jetty waiting to go abroad the steamer for home.
"God bless you!" said Pippin. "Tell them they needn't be afraid; and
sometimes when you're at home think of me, eh?"
Scorrier, scrambling on board, had a confused memory of tears in his
eyes, and a convulsive handshake.
It was eight years before the wheels of life carried Scorrier back to
that disenchanted spot, and this time not on the business of the New
Colliery Company. He went for another company with a mine some
thirty miles away. Before starting, however, he visited Hemmings.
The secretary was surrounded by pigeon-holes and finer than ever;
Scorrier blinked in the full radiance of his courtesy. A little man
with eyebrows full of questions, and a grizzled beard, was seated in
an arm-chair by the fire.
"You know Mr. Booker," said Hemmings--"one of my directors. This is
Mr. Scorrier, sir--who went out for us."
These sentences were murmured in a way suggestive of their uncommon
value. The director uncrossed his legs, and bowed. Scorrier also
bowed, and Hemmings, leaning back, slowly developed the full
resources of his waistcoat.
"So you are going out again, Scorrier, for the other side? I tell
Mr. Scorrier, sir, that he is going out for the enemy. Don't find
them a mine as good as you found us, there's a good man."
The little director asked explosively: "See our last dividend?
Twenty per cent; eh, what?"
Hemmings moved a finger, as if reproving his director. "I will not
disguise from you," he murmured, "that there is friction between us
and--the enemy; you know our position too well--just a little too
well, eh? 'A nod's as good as a wink.'"
His diplomatic eyes flattered Scorrier, who passed a hand over his
brow--and said: "Of course."
"Pippin doesn't hit it off with them. Between ourselves, he's a
leetle too big for his boots. You know what it is when a man in his
position gets a sudden rise!"
Scorrier caught himself searching on the floor for a sight of
Hemmings' boots; he raised his eyes guiltily. The secretary
continued: "We don't hear from him quite as often as we should like,
To his own surprise Scorrier murmured: "It's a silent place!"
The secretary smiled. "Very good! Mr. Scorrier says, sir, it's a
silent place; ha-ha! I call that very good!" But suddenly a secret
irritation seemed to bubble in him; he burst forth almost violently:
"He's no business to let it affect him; now, has he? I put it to
you, Mr. Scorrier, I put it to you, sir!"
But Scorrier made no reply, and soon after took his leave: he had
been asked to convey a friendly hint to Pippin that more frequent
letters would be welcomed. Standing in the shadow of the Royal
Exchange, waiting to thread his way across, he thought: 'So you must
have noise, must you--you've got some here, and to spare....'
On his arrival in the new world he wired to Pippin asking if he might
stay with him on the way up country, and received the answer: "Be
sure and come."
A week later he arrived (there was now a railway) and found Pippin
waiting for him in a phaeton. Scorrier would not have known the
place again; there was a glitter over everything, as if some one had
touched it with a wand. The tracks had given place to roads, running
firm, straight, and black between the trees under brilliant sunshine;
the wooden houses were all painted; out in the gleaming harbour
amongst the green of islands lay three steamers, each with a fleet of
busy boats; and here and there a tiny yacht floated, like a sea-bird
on the water. Pippin drove his long-tailed horses furiously; his
eyes brimmed with subtle kindness, as if according Scorrier a
continual welcome. During the two days of his stay Scorrier never
lost that sense of glamour. He had every opportunity for observing
the grip Pippin had over everything. The wooden doors and walls of
his bungalow kept out no sounds. He listened to interviews between
his host and all kinds and conditions of men. The voices of the
visitors would rise at first--angry, discontented, matter-of-fact,
with nasal twang, or guttural drawl; then would come the soft patter
of the superintendent's feet crossing and recrossing the room. Then
a pause, the sound of hard breathing, and quick questions--the
visitor's voice again, again the patter, and Pippin's ingratiating
but decisive murmurs. Presently out would come the visitor with an
expression on his face which Scorrier soon began to know by heart, a
kind of pleased, puzzled, helpless look, which seemed to say, "I've
been done, I know--I'll give it to myself when I'm round the corner."
Pippin was full of wistful questions about "home." He wanted to talk
of music, pictures, plays, of how London looked, what new streets
there were, and, above all, whether Scorrier had been lately in the
West Country. He talked of getting leave next winter, asked whether
Scorrier thought they would "put up with him at home"; then, with the
agitation which had alarmed Scorrier before, he added: "Ah! but I'm
not fit for home now. One gets spoiled; it's big and silent here.
What should I go back to? I don't seem to realise."
Scorrier thought of Hemmings. "'Tis a bit cramped there, certainly,"
Pippin went on as if divining his thoughts. "I suppose our friend
Hemmings would call me foolish; he's above the little weaknesses of
imagination, eh? Yes; it's silent here. Sometimes in the evening I
would give my head for somebody to talk to--Hemmings would never give
his head for anything, I think. But all the same, I couldn't face
them at home. Spoiled!" And slyly he murmured: "What would the
Board say if they could hear that?"
Scorrier blurted out: "To tell you the truth, they complain a little
of not hearing from you."
Pippin put out a hand, as if to push something away. "Let them try
the life here!" he broke out; "it's like sitting on a live volcano--
what with our friends, 'the enemy,' over there; the men; the American
competition. I keep it going, Scorrier, but at what a cost--at what
Pippin only answered: "I try--I try!"
Scorrier felt with remorse and wonder that he had spoken the truth.
The following day he left for his inspection, and while in the camp
of "the enemy" much was the talk he heard of Pippin.
"Why!" said his host, the superintendent, a little man with a face
somewhat like an owl's, "d'you know the name they've given him down
in the capital--'the King'--good, eh? He's made them 'sit up' all
along this coast. I like him well enough--good--hearted man,
shocking nervous; but my people down there can't stand him at any
price. Sir, he runs this colony. You'd think butter wouldn't melt
in that mouth of his; but he always gets his way; that's what riles
'em so; that and the success he's making of his mine. It puzzles me;
you'd think he'd only be too glad of a quiet life, a man with his
nerves. But no, he's never happy unless he's fighting, something
where he's got a chance to score a victory. I won't say he likes it,
but, by Jove, it seems he's got to do it. Now that's funny! I'll
tell you one thing, though shouldn't be a bit surprised if he broke
down some day; and I'll tell you another," he added darkly, "he's
sailing very near the wind, with those large contracts that he makes.
I wouldn't care to take his risks. Just let them have a strike, or
something that shuts them down for a spell--and mark my words, sir--
it'll be all up with them. But," he concluded confidentially, "I
wish I had his hold on the men; it's a great thing in this country.
Not like home, where you can go round a corner and get another gang.
You have to make the best you can out of the lot you have; you won't,
get another man for love or money without you ship him a few hundred
miles." And with a frown he waved his arm over the forests to
indicate the barrenness of the land.
Scorrier finished his inspection and went on a shooting trip into the
forest. His host met him on his return. "Just look at this!" he
said, holding out a telegram. "Awful, isn't it?" His face expressed
a profound commiseration, almost ludicrously mixed with the ashamed
contentment that men experience at the misfortunes of an enemy.
The telegram, dated the day before, ran thus "Frightful explosion New
Colliery this morning, great loss of life feared."
Scorrier had the bewildered thought: 'Pippin will want me now.'
He took leave of his host, who called after him: "You'd better wait
for a steamer! It's a beastly drive!"
Scorrier shook his head. All night, jolting along a rough track cut
through the forest, he thought of Pippin. The other miseries of this
calamity at present left him cold; he barely thought of the smothered
men; but Pippin's struggle, his lonely struggle with this hydra-
headed monster, touched him very nearly. He fell asleep and dreamed
of watching Pippin slowly strangled by a snake; the agonised, kindly,
ironic face peeping out between two gleaming coils was so horribly
real, that he awoke. It was the moment before dawn: pitch-black
branches barred the sky; with every jolt of the wheels the gleams
from the lamps danced, fantastic and intrusive, round ferns and tree-
stems, into the cold heart of the forest. For an hour or more
Scorrier tried to feign sleep, and hide from the stillness, and
overmastering gloom of these great woods. Then softly a whisper of
noises stole forth, a stir of light, and the whole slow radiance of
the morning glory. But it brought no warmth; and Scorrier wrapped
himself closer in his cloak, feeling as though old age had touched
Close on noon he reached the township. Glamour seemed still to hover
over it. He drove on to the mine. The winding-engine was turning,
the pulley at the top of the head-gear whizzing round; nothing looked
unusual. 'Some mistake!' he thought. He drove to the mine
buildings, alighted, and climbed to the shaft head. Instead of the
usual rumbling of the trolleys, the rattle of coal discharged over
the screens, there was silence. Close by, Pippin himself was
standing, smirched with dirt. The cage, coming swift and silent from
below, shot open its doors with a sharp rattle. Scorrier bent
forward to look. There lay a dead man, with a smile on his face.
"How many?" he whispered.
Pippin answered: "Eighty-four brought up--forty-seven still below,"
and entered the man's name in a pocket-book.
An older man was taken out next; he too was smiling--there had been
vouchsafed to him, it seemed, a taste of more than earthly joy. The
sight of those strange smiles affected Scorrier more than all the
anguish or despair he had seen scored on the faces of other dead men.
He asked an old miner how long Pippin had been at work.
"Thirty hours. Yesterday he wer' below; we had to nigh carry mun up
at last. He's for goin' down again, but the chaps won't lower mun;"
the old man gave a sigh. "I'm waiting for my boy to come up, I am."
Scorrier waited too--there was fascination about those dead, smiling
faces. The rescuing of these men who would never again breathe went
on and on. Scorrier grew sleepy in the sun. The old miner woke him,
saying: "Rummy stuff this here chokedamp; see, they all dies drunk!"
The very next to be brought up was the chief engineer. Scorrier had
known him quite well, one of those Scotsmen who are born at the age
of forty and remain so all their lives. His face--the only one that
wore no smile--seemed grieving that duty had deprived it of that last
luxury. With wide eyes and drawn lips he had died protesting.
Late in the afternoon the old miner touched Scorrier's arm, and said:
"There he is--there's my boy!" And he departed slowly, wheeling the
body on a trolley.
As the sun set, the gang below came up. No further search was
possible till the fumes had cleared. Scorrier heard one man say:
"There's some we'll never get; they've had sure burial"
Another answered him: "'Tis a gude enough bag for me!" They passed
him, the whites of their eyes gleaming out of faces black as ink.
Pippin drove him home at a furious pace, not uttering a single word.
As they turned into the main street, a young woman starting out
before the horses obliged Pippin to pull up. The glance he bent on
Scorrier was ludicrously prescient of suffering. The woman asked for
her husband. Several times they were stopped thus by women asking
for their husbands or sons. "This is what I have to go through,"
When they had eaten, he said to Scorrier: "It was kind of you to come
and stand by me! They take me for a god, poor creature that I am.
But shall I ever get the men down again? Their nerve's shaken. I
wish I were one of those poor lads, to die with a smile like that!"
Scorrier felt the futility of his presence. On Pippin alone must be
the heat and burden. Would he stand under it, or would the whole
thing come crashing to the ground? He urged him again and again to
rest, but Pippin only gave him one of his queer smiles. "You don't
know how strong I am!" he said.
He himself slept heavily; and, waking at dawn, went down. Pippin was
still at his desk; his pen had dropped; he was asleep. The ink was
wet; Scorrier's eye caught the opening words:
"GENTLEMEN,--Since this happened I have not slept...."
He stole away again with a sense of indignation that no one could be
dragged in to share that fight. The London Board-room rose before
his mind. He imagined the portentous gravity of Hemmings; his face
and voice and manner conveying the impression that he alone could
save the situation; the six directors, all men of commonsense and
certainly humane, seated behind large turret-shaped inkpots; the
concern and irritation in their voices, asking how it could have
happened; their comments: "An awful thing!" "I suppose Pippin is
doing the best he can!" "Wire him on no account to leave the mine
idle!" "Poor devils!" "A fund? Of course, what ought we to give?"
He had a strong conviction that nothing of all this would disturb the
commonsense with which they would go home and eat their mutton. A
good thing too; the less it was taken to heart the better! But
Scorrier felt angry. The fight was so unfair! A fellow all nerves--
with not a soul to help him! Well, it was his own lookout! He had
chosen to centre it all in himself, to make himself its very soul.
If he gave way now, the ship must go down! By a thin thread,
Scorrier's hero-worship still held. 'Man against nature,' he
thought, 'I back the man.' The struggle in which he was so powerless
to give aid, became intensely personal to him, as if he had engaged
his own good faith therein.
The next day they went down again to the pit-head; and Scorrier
himself descended. The fumes had almost cleared, but there were some
places which would never be reached. At the end of the day all but
four bodies had been recovered. "In the day o' judgment," a miner
said, "they four'll come out of here." Those unclaimed bodies
haunted Scorrier. He came on sentences of writing, where men waiting
to be suffocated had written down their feelings. In one place, the
hour, the word "Sleepy," and a signature. In another, "A. F.--done
for." When he came up at last Pippin was still waiting, pocket-book
in hand; they again departed at a furious pace.
Two days later Scorrier, visiting the shaft, found its neighbourhood
deserted--not a living thing of any sort was there except one
Chinaman poking his stick into the rubbish. Pippin was away down the
coast engaging an engineer; and on his return, Scorrier had not the
heart to tell him of the desertion. He was spared the effort, for
Pippin said: "Don't be afraid--you've got bad news? The men have
gone on strike."
Scorrier sighed. "Lock, stock, and barrel"
"I thought so--see what I have here!" He put before Scorrier a
"At all costs keep working--fatal to stop--manage this somehow.--
Breathing quickly, he added: "As if I didn't know! 'Manage this
somehow'--a little hard!"
"What's to be done?" asked Scorrier.
"You see I am commanded!" Pippin answered bitterly. "And they're
quite right; we must keep working--our contracts! Now I'm down--not
a soul will spare me!"
The miners' meeting was held the following day on the outskirts of
the town. Pippin had cleared the place to make a public recreation-
ground--a sort of feather in the company's cap; it was now to be the
spot whereon should be decided the question of the company's life or
The sky to the west was crossed by a single line of cloud like a bar
of beaten gold; tree shadows crept towards the groups of men; the
evening savour, that strong fragrance of the forest, sweetened the
air. The miners stood all round amongst the burnt tree-stumps, cowed
and sullen. They looked incapable of movement or expression. It was
this dumb paralysis that frightened Scorrier. He watched Pippin
speaking from his phaeton, the butt of all those sullen, restless
eyes. Would he last out? Would the wires hold? It was like the
finish of a race. He caught a baffled look on Pippin's face, as if
he despaired of piercing that terrible paralysis. The men's eyes had
begun to wander. 'He's lost his hold,' thought Scorrier; 'it's all
A miner close beside him muttered: "Look out!"
Pippin was leaning forward, his voice had risen, the words fell like
a whiplash on the faces of the crowd: "You shan't throw me over; do
you think I'll give up all I've done for you? I'll make you the
first power in the colony! Are you turning tail at the first shot?
You're a set of cowards, my lads!"
Each man round Scorrier was listening with a different motion of the
hands--one rubbed them, one clenched them, another moved his closed
fist, as if stabbing some one in the back. A grisly-bearded, beetle-
browed, twinkling-eyed old Cornishman muttered: "A'hm not troublin'
about that." It seemed almost as if Pippin's object was to get the
men to kill him; they had gathered closer, crouching for a rush.
Suddenly Pippin's voice dropped to a whisper: "I'm disgraced
Men, are you going back on me?"
The old miner next Scorrier called out suddenly: "Anny that's
Cornishmen here to stand by the superintendent?" A group drew
together, and with murmurs and gesticulation the meeting broke up.
In the evening a deputation came to visit Pippin; and all night long
their voices and the superintendent's footsteps could be heard. In
the morning, Pippin went early to the mine. Before supper the
deputation came again; and again Scorrier had to listen hour after
hour to the sound of voices and footsteps till he fell asleep. Just
before dawn he was awakened by a light. Pippin stood at his bedside.
"The men go down to-morrow," he said: "What did I tell you? Carry me
home on my shield, eh?"
In a week the mine was in full work.
Two years later, Scorrier heard once more of Pippin. A note from
Hemmings reached him asking if he could make it convenient to attend
their Board meeting the following Thursday. He arrived rather before
the appointed time. The secretary received him, and, in answer to
inquiry, said: "Thank you, we are doing well--between ourselves, we
are doing very well."
The secretary frowned. "Ah, Pippin! We asked you to come on his
account. Pippin is giving us a lot of trouble. We have not had a
single line from him for just two years!" He spoke with such a sense
of personal grievance that Scorrier felt quite sorry for him. "Not a
single line," said Hemmings, "since that explosion--you were there at
the time, I remember! It makes it very awkward; I call it personal
"But how--" Scorrier began.
"We get--telegrams. He writes to no one, not even to his family.
And why? Just tell me why? We hear of him; he's a great nob out
there. Nothing's done in the colony without his finger being in the
pie. He turned out the last Government because they wouldn't grant
us an extension for our railway--shows he can't be a fool. Besides,
look at our balance-sheet!"
It turned out that the question on which Scorrier's opinion was
desired was, whether Hemmings should be sent out to see what was the
matter with the superintendent. During the discussion which.
ensued, he was an unwilling listener to strictures on Pippin's
silence. "The explosion," he muttered at last, "a very trying time!"
Mr. Booker pounced on him. "A very trying time! So it was--to all
of us. But what excuse is that--now, Mr. Scorrier, what excuse is
Scorrier was obliged to admit that it was none.
"Business is business--eh, what?"
Scorrier, gazing round that neat Board-room, nodded. A deaf
director, who had not spoken for some months, said with sudden
fierceness: "It's disgraceful!" He was obviously letting off the
fume of long-unuttered disapprovals. One perfectly neat, benevolent
old fellow, however, who had kept his hat on, and had a single vice--
that of coming to the Board-room with a brown paper parcel tied up
with string--murmured: "We must make all allowances," and started an
anecdote about his youth. He was gently called to order by his
secretary. Scorrier was asked for his opinion. He looked at
Hemmings. "My importance is concerned," was written all over the
secretary's face. Moved by an impulse of loyalty to Pippin, Scorrier
answered, as if it were all settled: "Well, let me know when you are
starting, Hemmings--I should like the trip myself."
As he was going out, the chairman, old Jolyon Forsyte, with a grave,
twinkling look at Hemmings, took him aside. "Glad to hear you say
that about going too, Mr. Scorrier; we must be careful--Pippin's such
a good fellow, and so sensitive; and our friend there--a bit heavy in
the hand, um?"
Scorrier did in fact go out with Hemmings. The secretary was sea-
sick, and his prostration, dignified but noisy, remained a memory for
ever; it was sonorous and fine--the prostration of superiority; and
the way in which he spoke of it, taking casual acquaintances into the
caves of his experience, was truly interesting.
Pippin came down to the capital to escort them, provided for their
comforts as if they had been royalty, and had a special train to take
them to the mines.
He was a little stouter, brighter of colour, greyer of beard, more
nervous perhaps in voice and breathing. His manner to Hemmings was
full of flattering courtesy; but his sly, ironical glances played on
the secretary's armour like a fountain on a hippopotamus. To
Scorrier, however, he could not show enough affection:
The first evening, when Hemmings had gone to his room, he jumped up
like a boy out of school. "So I'm going to get a wigging," he said;
"I suppose I deserve it; but if you knew--if you only knew...! Out
here they've nicknamed me 'the King'--they say I rule the colony.
It's myself that I can't rule"; and with a sudden burst of passion
such as Scorrier had never seen in him: "Why did they send this man
here? What can he know about the things that I've been through?" In
a moment he calmed down again. "There! this is very stupid; worrying
you like this!" and with a long, kind look into Scorrier's face, he
hustled him off to bed.
Pippin did not break out again, though fire seemed to smoulder behind
the bars of his courteous irony. Intuition of danger had evidently
smitten Hemmings, for he made no allusion to the object of his visit.
There were moments when Scorrier's common-sense sided with Hemmings--
these were moments when the secretary was not present.
'After all,' he told himself, 'it's a little thing to ask--one letter
a month. I never heard of such a case.' It was wonderful indeed how
they stood it! It showed how much they valued Pippin! What was the
matter with him? What was the nature of his trouble? One glimpse
Scorrier had when even Hemmings, as he phrased it, received "quite a
turn." It was during a drive back from the most outlying of the
company's trial mines, eight miles through the forest. The track led
through a belt of trees blackened by a forest fire. Pippin was
driving. The secretary seated beside him wore an expression of faint
alarm, such as Pippin's driving was warranted to evoke from almost
any face. The sky had darkened strangely, but pale streaks of light,
coming from one knew not where, filtered through the trees. No
breath was stirring; the wheels and horses' hoofs made no sound on
the deep fern mould. All around, the burnt tree-trunks, leafless and
jagged, rose like withered giants, the passages between them were
black, the sky black, and black the silence. No one spoke, and
literally the only sound was Pippin's breathing. What was it that
was so terrifying? Scorrier had a feeling of entombment; that nobody
could help him; the feeling of being face to face with Nature; a
sensation as if all the comfort and security of words and rules had
dropped away from him. And-nothing happened. They reached home and
During dinner he had again that old remembrance of a little man
chopping at a castle with his sword. It came at a moment when Pippin
had raised his hand with the carving-knife grasped in it to answer
some remark of Hemmings' about the future of the company. The
optimism in his uplifted chin, the strenuous energy in his whispering
voice, gave Scorrier a more vivid glimpse of Pippin's nature than he
had perhaps ever had before. This new country, where nothing but
himself could help a man--that was the castle! No wonder Pippin was
impatient of control, no wonder he was out of hand, no wonder he was
silent--chopping away at that! And suddenly he thought: 'Yes, and
all the time one knows, Nature must beat him in the end!'
That very evening Hemmings delivered himself of his reproof. He had
sat unusually silent; Scorrier, indeed, had thought him a little
drunk, so portentous was his gravity; suddenly, however he rose. It
was hard on a man, he said, in his position, with a Board (he spoke
as of a family of small children), to be kept so short of
information. He was actually compelled to use his imagination to
answer the shareholders' questions. This was painful and
humiliating; he had never heard of any secretary having to use his
imagination! He went further--it was insulting! He had grown grey
in the service of the company. Mr. Scorrier would bear him out when
he said he had a position to maintain--his name in the City was a
high one; and, by George! he was going to keep it a high one; he
would allow nobody to drag it in the dust--that ought clearly to be
understood. His directors felt they were being treated like
children; however that might be, it was absurd to suppose that he
(Hemmings) could be treated like a child...! The secretary paused;
his eyes seemed to bully the room.
"If there were no London office," murmured Pippin, "the shareholders
would get the same dividends."
Hemmings gasped. "Come!" he said, "this is monstrous!"
"What help did I get from London when I first came here? What help
have I ever had?"
Hemmings swayed, recovered, and with a forced smile replied that, if
this were true, he had been standing on his head for years; he did
not believe the attitude possible for such a length of time;
personally he would have thought that he too had had a little
something to say to the company's position, but no matter...! His
irony was crushing.... It was possible that Mr. Pippin hoped to
reverse the existing laws of the universe with regard to limited
companies; he would merely say that he must not begin with a company
of which he (Hemmings) happened to be secretary. Mr. Scorrier had
hinted at excuses; for his part, with the best intentions in the
world, he had great difficulty in seeing them. He would go further--
he did not see them! The explosion...! Pippin shrank so visibly
that Hemmings seemed troubled by a suspicion that he had gone too
"We know," he said, "that it was trying for you...."
"Trying!" "burst out Pippin.
"No one can say," Hemmings resumed soothingly, "that we have not
dealt liberally." Pippin made a motion of the head. "We think we
have a good superintendent; I go further, an excellent
superintendent. What I say is: Let's be pleasant! I am not making
an unreasonable request!" He ended on a fitting note of jocularity;
and, as if by consent, all three withdrew, each to his own room,
without another word.
In the course of the next day Pippin said to Scorrier: "It seems I
have been very wicked. I must try to do better"; and with a touch of
bitter humour, "They are kind enough to think me a good
superintendent, you see! After that I must try hard."
Scorrier broke in: "No man could have done so much for them;" and,
carried away by an impulse to put things absolutely straight, went on
"But, after all, a letter now and then--what does it amount to?"
Pippin besieged him with a subtle glance. "You too?" he said--
"I must indeed have been a wicked man!" and turned away.
Scorrier felt as if he had been guilty of brutality; sorry for
Pippin, angry with himself; angry with Pippin, sorry for himself. He
earnestly desired to see the back of Hemmings. The secretary
gratified the wish a few days later, departing by steamer with
ponderous expressions of regard and the assurance of his goodwill.
Pippin gave vent to no outburst of relief, maintaining a courteous
silence, making only one allusion to his late guest, in answer to a
remark of Scorrier:
"Ah! don't tempt me! mustn't speak behind his back."
A month passed, and Scorrier still--remained Pippin's guest. As each
mail-day approached he experienced a queer suppressed excitement. On
one of these occasions Pippin had withdrawn to his room; and when
Scorrier went to fetch him to dinner he found him with his head
leaning on his hands, amid a perfect fitter of torn paper. He looked
up at Scorrier.
"I can't do it," he said, "I feel such a hypocrite; I can't put
myself into leading-strings again. Why should I ask these people,
when I've settled everything already? If it were a vital matter they
wouldn't want to hear--they'd simply wire, 'Manage this somehow!'"
Scorrier said nothing, but thought privately 'This is a mad
business!' What was a letter? Why make a fuss about a letter? The
approach of mail-day seemed like a nightmare to the superintendent;
he became feverishly nervous like a man under a spell; and, when the
mail had gone, behaved like a respited criminal. And this had been
going on two years! Ever since that explosion. Why, it was
One day, a month after Hemmings' departure, Pippin rose early from
dinner; his face was flushed, he had been drinking wine. "I won't be
beaten this time," he said, as he passed Scorrier. The latter could
hear him writing in the next room, and looked in presently to say
that he was going for a walk. Pippin gave him a kindly nod.
It was a cool, still evening: innumerable stars swarmed in clusters
over the forests, forming bright hieroglyphics in the middle heavens,
showering over the dark harbour into the sea. Scorrier walked
slowly. A weight seemed lifted from his mind, so entangled had he
become in that uncanny silence. At last Pippin had broken through
the spell. To get that, letter sent would be the laying of a
phantom, the rehabilitation of commonsense. Now that this silence
was in the throes of being broken, he felt curiously tender towards
Pippin, without the hero-worship of old days, but with a queer
protective feeling. After all, he was different from other men. In
spite of his feverish, tenacious energy, in spite of his ironic
humour, there was something of the woman in him! And as for this
silence, this horror of control--all geniuses had "bees in their
bonnets," and Pippin was a genius in his way!
He looked back at the town. Brilliantly lighted it had a thriving
air-difficult to believe of the place he remembered ten years back;
the sounds of drinking, gambling, laughter, and dancing floated to
his ears. 'Quite a city!' he thought.
With this queer elation on him he walked slowly back along the
street, forgetting that he was simply an oldish mining expert, with a
look of shabbiness, such as clings to men who are always travelling,
as if their "nap" were for ever being rubbed off. And he thought of
Pippin, creator of this glory.
He had passed the boundaries of the town, and had entered the forest.
A feeling of discouragement instantly beset him. The scents and
silence, after the festive cries and odours of the town, were
undefinably oppressive. Notwithstanding, he walked a long time,
saying to himself that he would give the letter every chance. At
last, when he thought that Pippin must have finished, he went back to
Pippin had finished. His forehead rested on the table, his arms hung
at his sides; he was stone-dead! His face wore a smile, and by his
side lay an empty laudanum bottle.
The letter, closely, beautifully written, lay before him. It was a
fine document, clear, masterly, detailed, nothing slurred, nothing
concealed, nothing omitted; a complete review of the company's
position; it ended with the words: "Your humble servant, RICHARD
Scorrier took possession of it. He dimly understood that with those
last words a wire had snapped. The border-line had been overpassed;
the point reached where that sense of proportion, which alone makes
life possible, is lost. He was certain that at the moment of his
death Pippin could have discussed bimetallism, or any intellectual
problem, except the one problem of his own heart; that, for some
mysterious reason, had been too much for him. His death had been the
work of a moment of supreme revolt--a single instant of madness on a
single subject! He found on the blotting-paper, scrawled across the
impress of the signature, "Can't stand it!" The completion of that
letter had been to him a struggle ungraspable by Scorrier. Slavery?
Defeat? A violation of Nature? The death of justice? It were
better not to think of it! Pippin could have told--but he would
never speak again. Nature, at whom, unaided, he had dealt so many
blows, had taken her revenge...!
In the night Scorrier stole down, and, with an ashamed face, cut off
a lock of the fine grey hair. 'His daughter might like it!' he
He waited till Pippin was buried, then, with the letter in his
pocket, started for England.
He arrived at Liverpool on a Thursday morning, and travelling to
town, drove straight to the office of the company. The Board were
sitting. Pippin's successor was already being interviewed. He
passed out as Scorrier came in, a middle-aged man with a large, red
beard, and a foxy, compromising face. He also was a Cornishman.
Scorrier wished him luck with a very heavy heart.
As an unsentimental man, who had a proper horror of emotion, whose
living depended on his good sense, to look back on that interview
with the Board was painful. It had excited in him a rage of which he
was now heartily ashamed. Old Jolyon Forsyte, the chairman, was not
there for once, guessing perhaps that the Board's view of this death
would be too small for him; and little Mr. Booker sat in his place.
Every one had risen, shaken hands with Scorrier, and expressed
themselves indebted for his coming. Scorrier placed Pippin's letter
on the table, and gravely the secretary read out to his Board the
last words of their superintendent. When he had finished, a director
said, "That's not the letter of a madman!" Another answered: "Mad as
a hatter; nobody but a madman would have thrown up such a post."
Scorrier suddenly withdrew. He heard Hemmings calling after him.
"Aren't you well, Mr. Scorrier? aren't you well, sir?"
He shouted back: "Quite sane, I thank you....
The Naples "express" rolled round the outskirts of the town.
Vesuvius shone in the sun, uncrowned by smoke. But even as Scorrier
looked, a white puff went soaring up. It was the footnote to his