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The Foolish Lovers by St. John G. Ervine

Part 8 out of 8

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"I was saying I'd a good mind to let the flat until she comes back. I
could go to Miss Squibb's for a while. It 'ud really be cheaper!..."

"Would you let strangers walk into your house and use your furniture?"

"Yes. Why not? We shall be able to pay the rent and have a profit out
of what we shall get for sub-letting it."

"Making a hotel out of your home," Mrs. MacDermott said in disgust.

"Och, we're not all home-mad," John retorted.

"That's the pity," his mother rejoined.

V

Three weeks later, Eleanor, and Mrs. MacDermott departed for Ballyards.
Eleanor had refused to go away from London until she had seen John
settled in his work and the flat sub-let to suitable tenants. She
arranged for his return to Miss Squibb who, most opportunely, had his
old room vacant, and she made Lizzie promise to take particular care of
his comfort. "I can tyke care of 'im all right," Lizzie said. "I've
tyken care of Mr. 'Inde for years, an' I feel I can tyke care of
anybody after 'im. You leave 'im to me, Mrs. MacDermott, an' I wown't
let 'im come to no 'arm!" She leant forward suddenly and whispered to
Eleanor. "I do 'ope it's a boy," she said.

"Why?" said Eleanor blushing.

"Ow, I dunno. Looks better some'ow to 'ave a boy first go off. You can
always 'ave a girl afterwards. Wot you goin' to call it, if it's a
boy?"

"John, of course!" said Eleanor.

"Um-m-m. Well, I suppose you'll 'ave to, after 'is father, but if I 'ad
a son I'd call 'im Perceval. I dunno why! I just would. It sounds nice
some'ow. I mean it 'as a nice sound. Only people 'ud call 'im Perce, of
course, an' that would be 'orrible. I dessay you're right. It's better
to be called John than to be called Perce!"

"Why don't you get married, Lizzie?" Eleanor said.

"Never been ast. That's why. I'd jump at the chance if I got it. You
down't think I'm 'angin' on 'ere out of love for Aunt. I'm just 'angin'
on in 'ope!..."

But before Eleanor and Mrs. MacDermott went to Ballyards, they realised
that John's sub-editorial work was hard and inconvenient. The unnatural
hours of labour in noisy and insanitary surroundings left him very
tired and crochetty in the morning, and he felt disinclined for other
work. He had written his series of articles on London Streets for the
_Evening Herald_, and Hinde had professed to like them
sufficiently to ask for more of them. Twelve of them had been
printed ... one each day for a fortnight ... and the money had cleared
John of debt and left a little for the coming expense. Cream's two pounds
per week came regularly every Monday morning, and this, with the income
from the _Sensation_, and an occasional article made the prospects
of life seem clearer. "There's no fame in it," he told himself, "but at
least I'm paying my way!" In a little while, his second novel would be
published, and perhaps it would bring a reward which he had
unaccountably missed with his first book and his tragedy. More than
anything else now, he wanted recognition. Money was good and acceptable
and he would gladly have much more of it, but far beyond money he
valued recognition. If he had to make choice between a large income and
a large reputation, he would unhesitatingly choose a large reputation.
He longed to hear Hinde admitting that he had been mistaken in John's
quality. Indeed, in the last analysis, it seemed that more than money
and more than general recognition, he craved for recognition from
Hinde. He wished to see Hinde coming to him in a respectful manner!...

But there was little likelihood of that happening while he performed
sub-editorial work on the _Sensation_. Every night he and the
other sub-editors, young and unhealthy-looking men, sat round a big
table, handling "flimsies" and scribbling rapidly. They invented
head-lines and cross-headings, and they cut down the work of the outside
staff. When a nugget of gold was found in Wales and was pronounced to
be a lump of quartz with streaks of gold in it rather than a nugget of
pure gold, John had headed the paragraph in which the news was
reported, ALL IS NOT GOLD THAT GLITTERS. He glanced at the heading
after he had written it. "I seem to be getting into the way of this
sort of thing," he said with a sigh. He put the paper down and got up
from the table. The baskets lying about, full of "copy" or "flimsies"
or cuttings from other papers; the hard, blinding light from the
unshaded electric globes; the litter of newspapers and torn envelopes;
the incessant _rurr-rurr-rurr_ of the printing machines; and the
hot, exhausted air of the room ... all these seemed disgusting. He shut
his eyes for a moment. "Oh, God," he prayed, "let my book be a success!
Get me out of this, Oh, God, for Jesus Christ's sake!..."

He understood the dislike which speedily grew up in Eleanor for this
work. There would be very little fun for her, less even than for him,
in a life that took him to Fleet Street in the evening and kept him
there until the middle of the night. He must escape from it somehow,
but in what way he was to escape from it he could not imagine. Vaguely,
he felt that a book or a play would lift him out of Fleet Street and
set him down in ease and comfort somewhere in agreeable surroundings;
but it might be many years before that desired bliss was achieved. He
would spend his youth in this atmosphere of neurosis and hasty
judgment, and perhaps when he was old and no longer full of zest for
enjoyment, he would have leisure for the things he could no longer
delight in. And Eleanor, too ... she would have to struggle with penury
until she grew tired and lustreless!... "No, she won't!" he vowed. "I'm
not going to let her down whatever happens. I'll make a position
somehow!..."

Then Eleanor and Mrs. MacDermott went to Ballyards. He stood by the
carriage-door talking to them both while the train filled with
passengers, and as the guard blew a succession of blasts on his
whistle, he leant forward to kiss Eleanor "Good-bye!" A tear rolled
down her cheek.... "I wish I weren't going now," she said, clinging to
him.

"It won't be for long," he murmured. "Will it, mother?" he added to
Mrs. MacDermott.

But his mother did not make any reply. She sat very tightly in her
seat, and he saw that there was a hard look in her eyes and that her
lips were closely joined together.

VI

He wandered out of the station... it was Saturday night and therefore
he had not to go to the _Sensation_ office ... and entered the
Hampstead Tube railway. On Monday, the agent would make an inventory of
the furniture, and John would move to Brixton. Until then, he would
stay at the flat, taking his meals at restaurants. He left the Tube at
Hampstead and walked home. The flat seemed very dark and cheerless when
he entered it, and he wandered from room to room in a disturbed state
as if he were searching for something and had forgotten for what he was
searching. A petticoat of Eleanor's, flung hastily on to the bed,
caught his eye, a blue silk petticoat that he remembered her buying
soon after they were married. He wondered why she had thrown it aside,
for she was fond of blue garments, and this was new from the laundry.
He rubbed his hand over its silk surface and listened to the sound it
made. Dear Eleanor! Most sweet and precious Eleanor!... He left the
bedroom and went into the combined sitting and dining-room and then
into the kitchen. At the door of the tiny spare bedroom, he stopped and
turned away. What was the use of wandering about the house in this
disconsolate manner? Eleanor had gone and it was idle to pretend
that he might suddenly come to her in some corner of the flat. It
was much too early to go to bed and, since he could not sit still
indoors, he resolved to go out and walk off his mood of depression
and loneliness. The trees on Hampstead Heath stood up in deep darkness,
and overhead he saw the innumerable stars shining coldly. In the
dusk and shadow he could hear the murmur of subdued voices and now
and then a peal of girlish laughter, or the deeper sound of a man's
mirth. Young, eager-eyed men and women went by, intent on love-making,
their faces shining with youth and the happiness of the unburdened.
All the beauty of the world lay still before them, untouched and undimmed,
drawing them towards it with rich and strange promises of wonderful
fulfilment. And no shadow fell upon their happiness to darken it or
make it cold.... He could feel his heart singing within him, and he asked
himself why it was that he should feel happy in this street, in which
Eleanor and he had walked in love together, when he had felt restless
and unhappy in the flat where they had lived and loved. He stood under
a lamp to look at his watch, and wondered where Eleanor was now ... what
stage of her journey she had reached. The train had left Euston at
half-past eight, and now the hour was twenty minutes past ten. Nearly
two hours since she had gone away from him. Sixty or eighty miles,
perhaps a hundred, separated them, and every moment the distance between
them was lengthening. He could stand here, leaning against these rails and
looking over the hollows of the Heath towards the softened glare of
London, and almost tell off the miles that were consumed by the
rushing, roaring train!... One mile ... two miles ... three miles!...

The laughter and the shining eyes of the young lovers made him feel
old, now that Eleanor was not with him to make him feel young. He felt
old, though he was not old, because he was lonely again, more lonely
than he had been before he saw Eleanor at the Albert Hall. He had
followed her as a man lost in a desert follows a star, and she had
brought him home at last ... and now she was gone from him, bearing a
baby. Soon, though, very soon, the time would pass and she would return
to him and they would never be separated again. He would fulfil his
desires. He would write great books and great plays, and Eleanor would
grow in loveliness and dignity, and his son ... for he was certain that
the child would be a boy ... would reach up from childhood to manhood
in strength and beauty!...

VII

The last post had brought the proofs of his second novel to him. He
tore the packet open, and began to correct them at once. _Hearts of
Controversy_ was the title of the book, and it was dedicated:

To the Memory of my Uncle Matthew.

THE FOURTH CHAPTER

I

When Eleanor's son was born, John was still in London. He had intended
to be with her, but Mr. Clotworthy would not give leave to him because
of illness among the staff. "I'm sorry," he had said, "but I can't let
you go. You'd only be in the way anyhow. A man's a cursed nuisance at a
time like that. When Corcoran comes back, I'll see if I can manage a
few days for you!" John murmured thanks and turned to go. "I hear good
accounts of you," Mr. Clotworthy continued. "Tarleton says you're
working splendidly. I'm glad you've learned sense at last!" John smiled
rather drearily, and then left the editor's room. So he was learning
sense, was he?... A few months ago, had Mr. Clotworthy told him that
leave to go to his wife was denied to him, he would have sent Mr.
Clotworthy to blazes ... but he was learning sense now, and so, though
he ached to go to Eleanor, he was remaining in London. Tarleton ... the
most common-minded man John had ever encountered ... said that he was
working splendidly. They were all pleased with him. He could invent
headlines and cross-headings and write paragraphs to the satisfaction
of Tarleton, whose conception of a romantic love story was some dull,
sordid intrigue heard in the Divorce Court. Tarleton always described a
street accident as a tragedy. Tarleton referred ... in print ... to the
greedy amours of a chorus girl as a "Thrilling Romance of the Stage,"
though he had other words to describe them in conversation. And John
was giving satisfaction to Tarleton....

He wrote to his mother and to Eleanor explaining why he could not
immediately go to Ballyards. Eleanor could not reply to his letter, but
Mrs. MacDermott wrote that she was recovering rapidly from her illness
and that the baby was a fine, healthy child. _"A MacDermott to the
backbone,"_ she wrote. _"It's queer work that keeps a man out of
his bed half the night and won't let him go to his wife when she's
having a child! Your Uncle William isn't looking well ... he feels the
weight of his years and the work on him ... and he is worried about the
shop. But he's greatly pleased with Eleanor being here. Him and her
gets on well together. He's near demented over the child!..."_

II

His son was a month old before John saw him. Mrs. MacDermott led him to
the cradle where the baby was sleeping, and as he looked down on it,
the child awoke and screwed up its face and began to cry. Mrs.
MacDermott took it in her arms and soothed it.

"Well?" she said to John.

He looked at the child with puzzled eyes. "Is it all right?" he asked.

"All right!" she exclaimed. "Of course, it's all right! What would be
wrong with it?"

"It's so ugly-looking!..."

She stared incredulously at him. "Ugly," she said, "it's a beautiful
baby. One of the loveliest children I've ever clapped my eyes on. Look
at it!..." She held the baby forward to him.

"I can see it right enough," he answered. "I think it's ugly!"

"You don't know a fine-looking child when you see it," she answered
indignantly.

He went back to Eleanor's room ... she was out of bed now, but because
the day was cold was sitting before a fire in her bedroom ... and sat
with her while she talked of little things that had happened to her
during their separation. "You know, John," she said, "you're not
looking well. You're getting thin and grey!..."

"Grey?"

"Yes ... your face looks grey. I'm sure that life isn't good for you!"

"I feel tired, but that may be the journey. The sea was rough last
night, crossing from Liverpool to Belfast, and I didn't get any sleep.
Mebbe that's what it is, I daresay I'll be looking all right to-morrow!"

"How long are you going to stay?" she asked.

"Well, Clotworthy told me to get back as soon as possible. Do you think
you'll be able to come home with me at the end of the week?"

She did not answer.

"Of course," he went on, "we've got to get the tenants out of the flat
first. I thought mebbe you'd come to Miss Squibb's with me till the
flat was ready!"

"I don't think I should like that," she answered.

"No, mebbe not, but I'm terribly lonesome without you, Eleanor. It's
been miserable all this while!..."

She put her arms about him and kissed him. "Poor old thing," she said.

"And I'd like you to come home as soon as possible."

Mrs. MacDermott brought the baby into the room. "John says he's an ugly
child," she said to Eleanor, glancing angrily at her son.

"Oh, John!" Eleanor exclaimed reproachfully. "He isn't ugly. He's
handsome!..."

"Well, I don't know what women call beautiful or handsome," John said,
"but if you call that screwed-up face good-looking, then I don't know
what good looks are!"

"I'm sure you weren't half so beautiful as baby is," Eleanor murmured.

Mrs. MacDermott put the child in its mother's arms, and happed the
covering about its head. "Eight pounds he weighed when he was born,"
she said. "Eight pounds! And then you say he isn't beautiful! And him
your own son, too!"

"Oh, well, if you only mean he's weighty when you say he's beautiful,
mebbe you're right!..."

"You're unnatural, John," said Mrs. MacDermott.

"Are all babies like that?" he asked.

"All the good-looking ones are. Give him to me again, Eleanor, dear!"
She took the baby from its mother, and holding it tightly in her arms,
walked up and down the room singing it to sleep. "He's asleep," she
said in a whisper, coming closer to them. She held the child so that
they could see the tiny face in the firelight. They did not speak.
Eleanor, leaning back in her chair, and John sitting forward in his,
and Mrs. MacDermott standing with the baby in her arms, looked on the
child.

"I'm its father," said John, at last. "That seems comic!"

"And I'm its mother," Eleanor murmured.

Mrs. MacDermott lifted the child so that her lips could touch its tiny
mouth. "Five generations in the one house," she said. "I bless God for
this day!"

III

"Will you be able to come with me to London at the end of the week?"
John said at tea that evening.

"She's not near herself yet," Uncle William exclaimed.

"No, indeed she's not. You'd best leave her here another month," Mrs.
MacDermott added.

"You're forgetting, aren't you that she's been here more than three
months already."

"Och, what's three months when you're young," Uncle William replied.

"A great deal," said John. "Will you be ready, do you think, Eleanor?"

Eleanor hesitated. "I don't know," she said. "I don't feel very well
yet. Can't you stay on a while longer, John? You know you're tired and
need a rest, and it'll do you a lot of good to stay on for a week or
two!"

"I must get back. I've a living to earn for three of us now!"

"I shall be sorry to leave Ballyards," Eleanor replied.

"There's no need for either of you to leave it," Mrs. MacDermott
exclaimed. "Your home's here and there's no necessity for you to go
tramping the world among strangers!"

"We've settled all that, ma!" John retorted.

"You don't like that life on newspapers, do you, John?" Eleanor asked.

"No, but I have to live it until I can earn enough to keep us from my
books. It's no use arguing, ma. My mind's made up on that subject. It
was made up long ago!" Constraint fell upon them, and John, feeling
that he must make conversation again, turned to his Uncle. "How's the
shop doing?" he asked.

"Middling ... middling," Uncle William replied. "We're having a wee bit
of opposition to fight against. One of these big firms has just opened
a branch here. Pippin's! They're causing me a bit of anxiety, the way
they're cutting prices down, but I think we'll hold our own with them.
We always gave good value for the money, and some of these big shops
only pretends to do that. But it's anxious work!"

"A MacDermott ought to be ready to fight for the good name of his
family," said Mrs. MacDermott.

"Oh, I'm willing to fight all right," Uncle William answered.

"I know you are. I wasn't doubting you," Mrs. MacDermott assured him.

Their conversation became vague and disjointed. Several times John
turned to Eleanor and tried to settle a date on which she should return
to town, but on each occasion something interrupted them, and Eleanor
showed no inclination to be definite. "There's no hurry for a day or
two, is there?" she said at last, and then, pleading fatigue, she went
to bed.

"I can't see what you want to go back to London for," Mrs. MacDermott
said when Eleanor had gone. "The neither of you don't look well on that
life, and you could write your books here just as well as you can
there. Better, mebbe! Eleanor likes Ballyards. She doesn't care much
for London."

Suspicion entered John's mind. "Have you been putting notions into her
head?" he demanded.

"Notions! What notions?" she answered innocently.

"You know rightly what notions. Have you been trying to persuade her to
stay here?"

"It's well you know, my son, I never try to persuade no one to do
anything. I just let them find things out for themselves. It's the best
way in the end."

"As long as you act up to that, you can do what you like," John said.
"You may as well know, though, for good and all, that we're going back
to London. I've a new book coming out soon!..."

"I wonder will you make as much out of it as you made out of your other
book," Mrs. MacDermott said.

IV

There was a letter for John in the morning. His subtenant wrote to say
that he liked the flat and found it so convenient that he was very
anxious to know whether there was a chance of John giving up possession
of it. He was willing to buy the furniture at a fair valuation!...

"Damned cheek," said John. He told the others of the contents of the
letter.

"If we were to stay here," Eleanor said, "that offer would be very
useful, wouldn't it?"

"It's of no use to us," he answered. "We're not going to stay here!"

In the afternoon, a telegram came from Clotworthy instructing John to
return to London immediately. "Will you come with me or come later by
yourself?" John said to Eleanor.

She hesitated for a few moments, then going quickly to him and putting
her arms about his neck, she whispered, "I don't want to go back to
London, John. I want to stay here!"

"You what?"

"I want to stay here. Oh, give up this work and stay at home. Your
Uncle is getting old and needs help, and I'll be much happier here than
in London!..."

"Give up writing!..."

"You'll be able to do some writing here if you want to!"

"Uncle William hasn't time to take a holiday. What time will I have to
write if I take on his work?"

"He has no one to help him. I'll help you!"

"The thing's absurd!"

"No, it isn't. I like being in the shop. I've helped Uncle William a
lot. I've made suggestions!..."

"My mother put this idea into your head!"

"No, she didn't. She's talked to me about Ballyards, of course, and the
MacDermotts and the shop, but she has not asked me to stay here. It's
my own idea. I like this little town, John, and its quiet ways and the
comfort of this house. I've always wanted comfort and quietness, and
I've got it here. I don't want to go back to the misery of London ...
always wondering whether we shall have enough money to pay our bills,
and you out half the night. Oh, let's stay here!"

He put her away from him. "No," he said obstinately. "I'm not going to
give in!..."

"I'm not asking you to give in!"

"You are. You're asking me to come back here where everybody knows me
and knows what I went out to do, and you're asking me to admit to them
that I've failed!"

"No, no, dear!..."

"Yes, you are. Because I haven't made a fortune at the start, you all
think I'm a failure. Hasn't every man had to struggle and fight for his
position, and amn't I fighting and struggling for mine? If you cared
for me!..."

"I do care for you, John!"

"Then you'd be glad to fight with me ... and struggle!..."

"Yes, I am prepared to fight with you ... but I'm not going to take
risks with the baby!..."

"What's he got to do with it?"

She turned on him angrily. "Are you willing to let him suffer for your
books, too? Do you think I'm going to let my child go without things to
feed your pride?..."

"He won't have to go without things. I'll earn enough for him and for
you."

"Yes, I know. We've seen something of that already. Well, I'm not going
back to London, John. I'm simply not going back. You can't expect me to
go from this house where I'm happy to that little poky flat in
Hampstead and sit there night after night while you are at the
office!..."

"Other women do it, don't they?"

"Other women can do what they like. If they're content to live like
that, they can, but I'm not content. I don't like that life, and I
won't live it. You must make up your mind to that. It isn't necessary
for you to go back to the _Sensation_ office--you can stay here
and help Uncle William!"

"Become a grocer!..."

"Why not? Isn't it better to be a good grocer than a bad novelist?"

His face flushed and he breathed very heavily. "You're all against me,
the whole lot of you. You make little of me. I get no help or
encouragement at all. My ma and you and Hinde!..."

"If you were good at that work, you would not need encouragement, would
you?"

"I don't need it. I can do without it. I'll prove to you yet that I can
write as well as anybody. Never you fear, Eleanor!..."

"I'm not going back to London," she said.

"Well, then, you can stay behind. I'll go back by myself!"

Mrs. MacDermott came into the room. "What's the matter?" she asked.

"Nothing," John replied. "I'm going back to London this evening.
Eleanor says she's going to stay here!..."

"For good?"

"Aye ... for good."

"And you? When are you coming back?"

"I'm not coming back. She'll have to come to me. You're always talking
about the pride of the MacDermotts. Well, I'll show you some of it.
I'll not put my foot inside this house till Eleanor comes back to me.
It's me that settles where we live ... not her ... not anybody. Do you
think I'm going to throw up everything now when I've made a start? I've
a new book coming out soon. You know that well ... the whole of you. I
know you don't think much of it, Eleanor!..."

"I didn't say that," she interjected.

"But I think a lot of it. I know it's good. I'm sure it's good. And if
it does well. I'll be able to leave the _Sensation_ office, and we
can live happily together ... but you'll have to come to me. I won't
come here to you!..."

He turned to his mother. "Mebbe you're content now," he said. "You've
got your way. There's a MacDermott in the house to carry on the
business when he's old enough. You'll not need me now!"

He went out of the room, slamming the door behind him, and a little
while later, they heard him leaving the house.

"Wait, daughter," said Mrs. MacDermott, taking hold of Eleanor by the
hand. "Don't fret yourself, daughter, dear. I lived with his
father!..."

"But he always had his own way. You told me so yourself."

"Yes, that's true, but John has some of my blood in him, and my blood
clings to its home. Content yourself a wee while!"

V

He met Uncle William crossing the Square, and suddenly he realised how
old Uncle William was, and how tired he looked.

"Come a piece of the road with me," he said, putting his arm in his
Uncle's. "Eleanor and me have just have a fall-out, and I want to walk
my anger off. I'm going back to London to-night!..."

"You're going soon, aren't you?"

"Yes. I had a telegram from the office a while ago. Eleanor doesn't
want to go home. She wants to stay here!"

"Aye, she's well content with us!"

"But her place is with me. I'm her husband!..."

"Indeed, you are. A wife's place is with her husband. It's a pity you
can't agree to be in the same place!

"Listen, John," he went on, as they came away from the town and
strolled along the road leading to the Lough, "there's a thing I'm
going to tell you that I've never said to no one before. It's this. The
thing that destroyed your father and your Uncle Matthew was their pride
in themselves. They never stopped to consider other people. They did
what they wanted to do regardless of how it affected their neighbours
or their friends. And nothing came out of their work. Your father died
and left an angry memory behind him. Your Uncle Matthew died and left
nothing but a wrong view of things to you. Your mother ... well, I
hardly know what to say about her. She's had much to thole, and it's
made her bitter in her mind, and many's a time I think she's demented
about the pride of the MacDermotts. I'm proud of my name, too, and
proud of the respect we've earned for ourselves, but I'm old and tired,
John, and I've nothing to comfort me, and the pride of the MacDermotts
gives me little consolation for the things I've missed. I'd give the
two eyes out of my head to have a wife like your wife, and a wee child
for my own, but I've had to do without the both of them. You see, John,
I had to keep the family going when the others failed to support it,
I'd be a glad and happy man if I had my wife and my child in the
shop!..."

"Do you want me to come home too, then?"

"Every man must do the best for himself, I'm only telling you not to
eat up other people's lives when you're holding on to your own opinion.
I daresay you know what's best for yourself, but I wonder whether
you'll think that in ten years' time. Or twenty years' time. If you can
comfort your mind with the thought that this world is a romance, the
way your Uncle Matthew did, then you'll mebbe be content, but I never
saw any romance in it, and the only comfort I get from it is the
thought that I'm keeping up a good name. The MacDermotts always gave
good value for the money. I wouldn't mind if they put that on my
gravestone!" He changed his tone abruptly. "Do you think you're a good
writer, John?" he asked.

"I don't know, Uncle William. I try hard to believe I am, but I'm not
sure. Do you think I am?"

"How can I tell? I've no knowledge of these things, and I can't
distinguish between my pride in you and my judgment. I liked your book
well enough, but I'm doubtful would I have bothered my head about it if
someone else had written it. Is your next book a good one?"

"_I_ think so, but Eleanor doesn't!"

"The position isn't very satisfactory, is it? You're going to leave
that young girl for the sake of something that you're uncertain of?"

"I want to prove my worth to her!"

"You mean you want to content yourself. You want to make her think you
were right and she was wrong!"

"I have my pride!..."

"Aye, you have your pride, but I'm wondering would you rather have that
than Eleanor?"

They sat down on the edge of the Lough and did not speak for a long
time. John picked up pebbles and threw them into the water, while his
Uncle gazed at the opposite shore. They sat there until it was time to
go home to tea.

"We'd better be moving," said Uncle William. "Are you settled in your
mind that you're going back to London?"

"Yes," said John.

VI

"Good-bye, Eleanor!" he said when the time came to catch the train to
Belfast.

"Good-bye, John!"

He took hold of her hand and waited for her to offer her lips to him,
but she did not offer them.

"If you change your mind," he said, but she interrupted him quickly.

"I shan't change my mind," she said.

"Very well. Good-bye!"

She did not speak. She was afraid to speak.

"Well, good-bye again!" he said.

He turned to his mother. Her eyes were very bright, but there were no
tears in them. She looked steadily at him.

"It's a pity," she said.

Her hand sought Eleanor's and pressed it. "We must all do what's for
the best," she said. "None of us can do any more!"

THE FIFTH CHAPTER

I

He oscillated between an almost uncontrollable desire to return to
Eleanor and a cold rage against her. Women, he told himself, always
stepped between men and their work. Women drew men away from great
labours and made creatures of comfort of them. They took an aspiring
angel and made a domestic animal of him. He was prepared to endure
hunger and thirst for righteousness' sake, but Eleanor demanded that
first of all he should provide comfort and security for her and her
child. She would gladly turn a creative artist into a small tradesman
for the sake of the greater profit that was made by the small
tradesman. He would not be seduced from his proper work ... and yet,
when he went back to Miss Squibb's after the _Sensation_ had gone
to bed, walking sometimes all the way from Fleet Street, over
Blackfriars Bridge, he would spend the time of the journey in dreaming
of Eleanor as he first saw her or as he saw her in the box at the
Albert Hall when Tetrazzini sang. He would conjure up pictures of her
standing at the bookstall at Charing Cross, waiting for him, or saying
goodbye to him at the steps of the Women's Club in Bayswater or
kneeling beside him in St. Chad's Church as the priest blessed their
marriage or sitting before the fire in Ballyards holding her baby in
her arms. And when these visions of her went through his mind, he felt
an intense longing to go away from London at once and stay contentedly
with her wherever she chose to be. Sometimes his mind was full of
thoughts about his child. He had not felt much emotion about it when he
was at Ballyards ... he had thought of it mostly with amazement and
with some dislike of its shapeless face ... but now there were
stirrings in his heart when he thought of it, and he wished that he
could be with Eleanor and watch the gradual growth of the baby into a
recognising being. His work at the _Sensation_ office had become
mechanical, and he worked at the table in the sub-editors' room without
any consciousness of it; but he consoled himself for the fatigue and
the dullness by promising himself a swift and brilliant release from
Fleet Street when his second book was published. Even if his book were
not to make money, it would establish his reputation, and when that was
done, he could surely persuade Eleanor to believe that his life must be
lived elsewhere than behind the counter of the shop. He had written to
her several times since his return to London, and she had written to
him, but there were signs of restraint in his letters and in hers. He
told her that he had made arrangements for the sub-tenants to remain in
the flat for the present. He wrote "for the present" deliberately. The
phrase that shaped itself in his mind as he wrote the letter was "until
you come back to London," but he changed it before he put his thoughts
into written words. She gave long accounts of the baby to him, and
described her life in Ballyards. She was helping Uncle William who said
that her help was very useful to him. They were going to fight Pippin's
multiple shops and beat them. She had suggested some alterations in the
shop to Uncle William, and he, agreeing that one must move with the
times, had consented to make the alterations. She did not ask John to
come back, but when he read her letters, he felt that she was
preventing herself, with difficulty, from doing so.

II

A month after his return to London, _Hearts of Controversy_ was
published. He took the complimentary copies out of their parcel and
fingered them, turning the leaves backward and forward, and looking for
a long while at the dedication "To the Memory of my Uncle Matthew." How
pleased and proud Uncle Matthew would have been of this book, but how
little pleasure John was deriving from it. He hardly cared now whether
it failed or succeeded. If only something would happen that would
enable him to return to Ballyards and Eleanor with some sort of pride
left! ... Uncle Matthew's romantic dreams had remained romantic dreams
because he had never left Ballyards; but John had gone out into the
world to seek adventures, and all of them had ended dismally ... except
his adventure with Eleanor. He had pursued her and won her and made her
his wife and the mother of his son, and she was still his, even
although he had left her and was living angrily away from her. He
remembered how he had wandered into Hanging Sword Alley when he first
came to London, and had been bitterly disappointed to find that this
romantically-named lane was a dirty, grimy gutter of a street....

"I've been living a fool's life," he said to himself. "I had one great
adventure, finding Eleanor, and I did not realise that that was the
only romance I could hope for!"

He put the book down. "I'm not a writer," he said mournfully, "I'm a
grocer. I'm not even a grocer. I'm ... a hack journalist!"

He had written a tragedy that was dead. He had written a novel that was
dead. This second novel ... in a little while it, too, would be dead.
Perhaps it was dead already. Perhaps it had never been alive. And he
had written a music-hall sketch ... that lived. He had done no other
work than his sub-editing on the _Sensation_ since his return to
London, and he realised that he would never do any more while he
remained in Fleet Street....

Hinde entered the room while these thoughts were in his mind. "When's
Eleanor coming back?" he asked, throwing himself into a chair in front
of the fire.

"She's not coming back," John answered.

Hinde looked up sharply. "Oh?" he said in a questioning manner.

"I'm going to her ... as soon as I can. I've had my fill of this life.
Do you remember asking me why I didn't sell happorths of tea and
sugar?" Hinde nodded his head. "Well, I'm going back to sell them. The
author of _The Enchanted Lover_ and _Hearts of Controversy_
has retired from the trade of writing and will now ... now devote
himself to ... selling happorths of tea and sugar!" He laughed
nervously as he spoke.

Hinde did not make any reply.

"I shall go and see the man who has the flat to-morrow. He wants to buy
our furniture. It's a piece of luck, isn't it? The only piece of luck
I've had.... By God, Hinde, this serves me right. Eleanor always said I
was selfish, and I am. I'm terribly self-satisfied and thick-skinned. I
had no qualification for this work ... nothing but my conceit ... and
I've been let down. I'm a failure!..."

"We're all failures," said Hinde. "The only thing we can do, all of us,
is to lull ourselves to sleep and hope for forgetfulness. Compared with
you, I suppose I'm a success ... as a journalist anyhow ... but this is
the end of my work ... this room, with Lizzie and Miss Squibb and
sometimes the Creams. You've got Eleanor and a son ... what more do you
want? Isn't it enough luck for a man to have a wife that he loves and
who loves him, and to have a child? What's a book anyway? Paper with
words on it. All over the world, there are thousands and thousands of
books ... with millions and millions of words in them. What's the good
of them? We make a little stir and then we die ... we poor scribblers.
And that's all. It's much better to marry and breed healthy babies than
to live in an attic making songs about the stars. The stars don't care,
but the babies may!"

"You're a cheerful fellow, Hinde," said John, rallying a little.

"Don't pay any heed to me. I was always a dismal devil at the best of
times. You see, Mac, I've got ink in my veins. I'm not a man ... I'm
part of a printing press. That's what you'd become if you were to stay
in Fleet Street. Go home, my lad, and get more babies!..."

III

He wrote to Eleanor that night, telling her that he would capitulate.
Immediately he had settled about the flat and had arranged for his
withdrawal from the office of the _Sensation_, he would return to
Ballyards. He would write no more books!... In the morning, there was a
letter from Eleanor. She could hold out no longer. If he would come and
fetch her and the little John, she would do whatever he asked of her.
She loved him so much that she could not keep up this pretence of
strength!...

He laughed to himself as he read her letter. "She wrote before I
did," he said. "I suppose I've won. I suppose I held out longer than
she did ... but I don't feel that I've gained anything!"

The copies of _Hearts of Controversy_ were lying where he had left
them on the previous night. "I don't care what the papers say about
them," he said to himself picking one of them up. "What's a book anyway
when I've got Eleanor!"

He was able to arrange the sale of his furniture to the sub-tenant and
get his release from the _Sensation_ in less than a week, and he
wired to Eleanor to say that he was coming home and would arrive at
Ballyards on Sunday. "I'm going home with my tail between my legs," he
said to himself, as he walked down the gangway from the Liverpool boat
on to the quay at Belfast. He was too early for the Ballyards train,
and he went for a walk to fill the time of waiting. He passed the
restaurant where Maggie Carmichael had been employed, and saw that a
new name was on the lintel of the door. "Well, I hope she's happy with
her peeler!" he said to himself. He went on, and presently found
himself before the Theatre Royal, and when he glanced at the playbills,
he saw that a Shakespearian Company were in possession of it. _Romeo
and Juliet_ had been performed on Saturday night, and he remembered
the line that had sustained him after his love-making with Maggie
Carmichael:

_If love be rough with you, be rough with love._

"How can you?" he said aloud. "You can't, no matter what it does to
you!"

He went at last to the station and caught his train to Ballyards.
Eleanor was waiting on the platform for him. She did not speak when he
arrived. She ran to him and put her arms about him and hugged him and
cried over him. "My dear, my dear!" she said when she had recovered
herself. He took her arm and led her out of the station, and they
walked home together.

"It was terrible." she said. "I had to fight hard to keep myself from
going to you. We've been very foolish, John, haven't we?"

He nodded his head.

They entered the house by the side-door and went into the kitchen where
Mrs. MacDermott was preparing the mid-day meal. She waited for him to
speak to her.

"I've come home, mother!" he said, going to her and kissing her.

"I'm thankful glad, son!" she replied.

IV

Uncle William took him into the shop, and they sat together on stools
in the "Counting House."

"I'm troubled, John," he said, "about the shop. Pippin's have offered
to buy the business!..."

"Buy the business. But we don't want to sell it!"

"I know that. They're threatening me. They say they'll undercut me till
my trade's gone. I'm too old to fight them!..."

John called to his mother and Eleanor. "Come here a minute," he said,
and when they had done so, he told them of Pippin's offer and threat.
"What do you think of that?" he demanded.

"I think we should fight them," said Eleanor.

"So we will," John replied. "The MacDermotts had a name in this town
before ever a Pippin was heard of, and the MacDermotts'll still have a
name when the Pippins are dead and damned!" He stopped suddenly, and
then began to laugh. "By the Hokey O," he exclaimed, "there's a romance
at the end of it all!"

He looked at his mother. "I'm going to carry on the shop, mother!" he
said.

She did not answer. She put out her hands to him, and he saw that she
was smiling with great content. And yet she was crying, too.

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