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  • 1900
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him by name.

“Is that you, Miss Heydinger?” he answered. “I didn’t see, I hope you have had a pleasant vacation.”



When he arrived at the top of the building he stood aside for the only remaining passenger to step out before him. It was the Miss Heydinger who had addressed him, the owner of that gilt-edged book in the cover of brown paper. No one else had come all the way up from the ground floor. The rest of the load in the lift had emerged at the “astronomical” and “chemical” floors, but these two had both chosen “zoology” for their third year of study, and zoology lived in the attics. She stepped into the light, with a rare touch of colour springing to her cheeks in spite of herself. Lewisham perceived an alteration in her dress. Perhaps she was looking for and noticed the transitory surprise in his face.

The previous session–their friendship was now nearly a year old–it had never once dawned upon him that she could possibly be pretty. The chief thing he had been able to recall with any definiteness during the vacation was, that her hair was not always tidy, and that even when it chanced to be so, she was nervous about it; she distrusted it. He remembered her gesture while she talked, a patting exploration that verged on the exasperating. From that he went on to remember that its colour was, on the whole, fair, a light brown. But he had forgotten her mouth, he had failed to name the colour of her eyes. She wore glasses, it is true. And her dress was indefinite in his memory–an amorphous dinginess.

And yet he had seen a good deal of her. They were not in the same course, but he had made her acquaintance on the committee of the school Debating Society. Lewisham was just then discovering Socialism. That had afforded a basis of conversation–an incentive to intercourse. She seemed to find something rarely interesting in his peculiar view of things, and, as chance would have it, he met her accidentally quite a number of times, in the corridors of the schools, in the big Education Library, and in the Art Museum. After a time those meetings appear to have been no longer accidental.

Lewisham for the first time in his life began to fancy he had conversational powers. She resolved to stir up his ambitions–an easy task. She thought he had exceptional gifts and that she might serve to direct them; she certainly developed his vanity. She had matriculated at the London University and they took the Intermediate Examination in Science together in July–she a little unwisely–which served, as almost anything will serve in such cases, as a further link between them. She failed, which in no way diminished Lewisham’s regard for her. On the examination days they discoursed about Friendship in general, and things like that, down the Burlington Arcade during the lunch time–Burlington Arcade undisguisedly amused by her learned dinginess and his red tie–and among other things that were said she reproached him for not reading poetry. When they parted in Piccadilly, after the examination, they agreed to write, about poetry and themselves, during the holidays, and then she lent him, with a touch of hesitation, Rossetti’s poems. He began to forget what had at first been very evident to him, that she was two or three years older than he.

Lewisham spent the vacation with an unsympathetic but kindly uncle who was a plumber and builder. His uncle had a family of six, the eldest eleven, and Lewisham made himself agreeable and instructive. Moreover he worked hard for the culminating third year of his studies (in which he had decided to do great things), and he learnt to ride the Ordinary Bicycle. He also thought about Miss Heydinger, and she, it would seem, thought about him.

He argued on social questions with his uncle, who was a prominent local Conservative. His uncle’s controversial methods were coarse in the extreme. Socialists, he said, were thieves. The object of Socialism was to take away what a man earned and give it to “a lot of lazy scoundrels.” Also rich people were necessary. “If there weren’t well-off people, how d’ye think I’d get a livin’? Hey? And where’d _you_ be then?” Socialism, his uncle assured him, was “got up” by agitators. “They get money out of young Gabies like you, and they spend it in champagne.” And thereafter he met Mr. Lewisham’s arguments with the word “Champagne” uttered in an irritating voice, followed by a luscious pantomime of drinking.

Naturally Lewisham felt a little lonely, and perhaps he laid stress upon it in his letters to Miss Heydinger. It came to light that she felt rather lonely too. They discussed the question of True as distinguished from Ordinary Friendship, and from that they passed to Goethe and Elective Affinities. He told her how he looked for her letters, and they became more frequent. Her letters were Indisputably well written. Had he been a journalist with a knowledge of “_per thou_.” he would have known each for a day’s work. After the practical plumber had been asking what he expected to make by this here science of his, re-reading her letters was balsamic. He liked Rossetti–the exquisite sense of separation in “The Blessed Damozel” touched him. But, on the whole, he was a little surprised at Miss Heydinger’s taste in poetry. Rossetti was so sensuous … so florid. He had scarcely expected that sort of thing.

Altogether he had returned to the schools decidedly more interested in her than when they had parted. And the curious vague memories of her appearance as something a little frayed and careless, vanished at sight of her emerging from the darkness of the lift. Her hair was in order, as the light glanced through it it looked even pretty, and she wore a well-made, dark-green and black dress, loose-gathered as was the fashion in those days, that somehow gave a needed touch of warmth to her face. Her hat too was a change from the careless lumpishness of last year, a hat that, to a feminine mind, would have indicated design. It suited her–these things are past a male novelist’s explaining.

“I have this book of yours, Miss Heydinger,” he said.

“I am glad you have written that paper on Socialism,” she replied, taking the brown-covered volume.

They walked along the little passage towards the biological laboratory side by side, and she stopped at the hat pegs to remove her hat. For that was the shameless way of the place, a girl student had to take her hat off publicly, and publicly assume the holland apron that was to protect her in the laboratory. Not even a looking-glass!

“I shall come and hear your paper,” she said.

“I hope you will like it,” said Lewisham at the door of the laboratory.

“And in the vacation I have been collecting evidence about ghosts–you remember our arguments. Though I did not tell you in my letters.”

“I’m sorry you’re still obdurate,” said Lewisham. “I thought that was over.”

“And have you read ‘Looking Backward’?”

“I want to.”

“I have it here with my other books, if you’d care for me to lend it to you. Wait till I reach my table. My hands are so full.”

They entered the laboratory together, Lewisham holding the door open courtly-wise, Miss Heydinger taking a reassuring pat at her hair. Near the door was a group of four girls, which group Miss Heydinger joined, holding the brown-covered book as inconspicuously as possible. Three of them had been through the previous two years with her, and they greeted her by her Christian name. They had previously exchanged glances at her appearance in Lewisham’s company.

A morose elderly young demonstrator brightened momentarily at the sight of Lewisham. “Well, we’ve got one of the decent ones anyhow,” said the morose elderly young demonstrator, who was apparently taking an inventory, and then brightening at a fresh entry. “Ah! and here’s Smithers.”



As one goes into the South Kensington Art Museum from the Brompton Road, the Gallery of Old Iron is overhead to the right. But the way thither is exceedingly devious and not to be revealed to everybody, since the young people who pursue science and art thereabouts set a peculiar value on its seclusion. The gallery is long and narrow and dark, and set with iron gates, iron-bound chests, locks, bolts and bars, fantastic great keys, lamps, and the like, and over the balustrade one may lean and talk of one’s finer feelings and regard Michael Angelo’s horned Moses, or Trajan’s Column (in plaster) rising gigantic out of the hall below and far above the level of the gallery. And here, on a Wednesday afternoon, were Lewisham and Miss Heydinger, the Wednesday afternoon immediately following that paper upon Socialism, that you saw announced on the notice-board in the hall.

The paper had been an immense success, closely reasoned, delivered with a disciplined emotion, the redoubtable Smithers practically converted, the reply after the debate methodical and complete, and it may be there were symptoms of that febrile affection known to the vulgar as “swelled ‘ed.” Lewisham regarded Moses and spoke of his future. Miss Heydinger for the most part watched his face.

“And then?” said Miss Heydinger.

“One must bring these views prominently before people. I believe still in pamphlets. I have thought …” Lewisham paused, it is to be hoped through modesty.

“Yes?” said Miss Heydinger.

“Well–Luther, you know. There is room, I think, in Socialism, for a Luther.”

“Yes,” said Miss Heydinger, imagining it. “Yes–that would be a grand way.”

So it seemed to many people in those days. But eminent reformers have been now for more than seven years going about the walls of the Social Jericho, blowing their own trumpets and shouting–with such small result beyond incidental displays of ill-temper within, that it is hard to recover the fine hopefulness of those departed days.

“Yes,” said Miss Heydinger. “That would be a grand way.”

Lewisham appreciated the quality of personal emotion in her voice. He turned his face towards her, and saw unstinted admiration in her eyes. “It would be a great thing to do,” he said, and added, quite modestly, “if only one could do it.”

“_You_ could do it.”

“You think I could?” Lewisham blushed vividly–with pleasure.

“I do. Certainly you could set out to do it. Even to fail hopelessly would be Great. Sometimes …”

She hesitated. He looked expectation. “I think sometimes it is greater even to fail than to succeed.”

“I don’t see that,” said the proposed Luther, and his eyes went back to the Moses. She was about to speak, and changed her mind.

Contemplative pause.

“And then, when a great number of people have heard of your views?” she said presently.

“Then I suppose we must form a party and … bring things about.”

Another pause–full, no doubt, of elevated thoughts.

“I say,” said Lewisham quite suddenly. “You do put–well–courage into a chap. I shouldn’t have done that Socialism paper if it hadn’t been for you.” He turned round and stood leaning with his back to the Moses, and smiling at her. “You do help a fellow,” he said.

That was one of the vivid moments of Miss Heydinger’s life. She changed colour a little. “Do I?” she said, standing straight and awkward and looking into his face, “I’m … glad.”

“I haven’t thanked you for your letters,” said Lewisham, “And I’ve been thinking …”


“We’re first-rate friends, aren’t we? The best of friends.”

She held out her hand and drew a breath. “Yes,” she said as they gripped. He hesitated whether to hold her hand. He looked into her eyes, and at that moment she would have given three-quarters of the years she had still to live, to have had eyes and features that could have expressed her. Instead, she felt her face hard, the little muscles of her mouth twitching insubordinate, and fancied that her self-consciousness made her eyes dishonest.

“What I mean,” said Lewisham, “is–that this will go on. We’re always going to be friends, side by side.”

“Always. Just as I am able to help you–I will help you. However I can help you, I will.”

“We two,” said Lewisham, gripping her hand.

Her face lit. Her eyes were for a moment touched with the beauty of simple emotion. “We two,” she said, and her lips trembled and her throat seemed to swell. She snatched her hand back suddenly and turned her face away. Abruptly she walked towards the end of the gallery, and he saw her fumbling for her handkerchief in the folds of the green and black dress.

She was going to cry!

It set Lewisham marvelling–this totally inappropriate emotion.

He followed her and stood by her. Why cry? He hoped no one would come into the little gallery until her handkerchief was put away. Nevertheless he felt vaguely flattered. She controlled herself, dashed her tears away, and smiled bravely at him with reddened eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said, gulping.

“I am so glad,” she explained.

“But we will fight together. We two. I _can_ help you. I know I can help you. And there is such Work to be done in the world!”

“You are very good to help me,” said Lewisham, quoting a phrase from what he had intended to say before he found out that he had a hold upon her emotions.


“Has it ever occurred to you,” she said abruptly, “how little a woman can do alone in the world?”

“Or a man,” he answered after a momentary meditation.

So it was Lewisham enrolled his first ally in the cause of the red tie–of the red tie and of the Greatness that was presently to come. His first ally; for hitherto–save for the indiscretion of his mural inscriptions–he had made a secret of his private ambitions. In that now half-forgotten love affair at Whortley even, he had, in spite of the considerable degree of intimacy attained, said absolutely nothing about his Career.



Miss Heydinger declined to disbelieve in the spirits of the dead, and this led to controversy in the laboratory over Tea. For the girl students, being in a majority that year, had organised Tea between four o’clock and the advent of the extinguishing policeman at five. And the men students were occasionally invited to Tea. But not more than two of them at a time really participated, because there were only two spare cups after that confounded Simmons broke the third.

Smithers, the square-headed student with the hard grey eyes, argued against the spirits of the dead with positive animosity, while Bletherley, who displayed an orange tie and lank hair in unshorn abundance, was vaguely open-minded, “What is love?” asked Bletherley, “surely that at any rate is immortal!” His remark was considered irrelevant and ignored.

Lewisham, as became the most promising student of the year, weighed the evidence–comprehensively under headings. He dismissed the mediumistic _seances_ as trickery.

“Rot and imposture,” said Smithers loudly, and with an oblique glance to see if his challenge reached its mark. Its mark was a grizzled little old man with a very small face and very big grey eyes, who had been standing listlessly at one of the laboratory windows until the discussion caught him. He wore a brown velvet jacket and was reputed to be enormously rich. His name was Lagune. He was not a regular attendant, but one of those casual outsiders who are admitted to laboratories that are not completely full. He was known to be an ardent spiritualist–it was even said that he had challenged Huxley to a public discussion on materialism, and he came to the biological lectures and worked intermittently, in order, he explained, to fight disbelief with its own weapons. He rose greedily to Smithers’ controversial bait.

“I say _no_!” he said, calling down the narrow laboratory and following his voice. He spoke with the ghost of a lisp. “Pardon my interrupting, sir. The question interests me profoundly. I hope I don’t intrude. Excuse me, sir. Make it personal. Am I a–fool, or an impostor?”

“Well,” parried Smithers, with all a South Kensington student’s want of polish, “that’s a bit personal.”

“Assume, sir, that I am an honest observer.”


“I have _seen_ spirits, _heard_ spirits, _felt_ the touch of spirits,” He opened his pale eyes very widely.

“Fool, then,” said Smithers in an undertone which did not reach the ears of the spiritualist.

“You may have been deceived,” paraphrased Lewisham.

“I can assure you … others can see, hear, feel. I have tested, sir. Tested! I have some scientific training and I have employed tests. Scientific and exhaustive tests! Every possible way. I ask you, sir–have you given the spirits a chance?”

“It is only paying guineas to humbugs,” said Smithers.

“There you are! Prejudice! Here is a man denies the facts and consequently _won’t_ see them, won’t go near them.”

“But you wouldn’t have every man in the three kingdoms, who disbelieved in spirits, attend _seances_ before he should be allowed to deny?”

“Most assuredly yes. Most assuredly yes! He knows nothing about it till then.”

The argument became heated. The little old gentleman was soon under way. He knew a person of the most extraordinary gifts, a medium …

“Paid?” asked Smithers.

“Would you muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn?” said Lagune promptly.

Smithers’ derision was manifest.

“Would you distrust a balance because you bought it? Come and see.” Lagune was now very excited and inclined to gesticulate and raise his voice. He invited the whole class incontinently to a series of special _seances_. “Not all at once–the spirits–new influences.” But in sections. “I warn you we may get nothing. But the chances are … I would rejoice infinitely …”

So it came about that Lewisham consented to witness a spirit-raising. Miss Heydinger it was arranged should be there, and the sceptic Smithers, Lagune, his typewriter and the medium would complete the party. Afterwards there was to be another party for the others. Lewisham was glad he had the moral support of Smithers. “It’s an evening wasted,” said Smithers, who had gallantly resolved to make the running for Lewisham in the contest for the Forbes medal. “But I’ll prove my case. You see if I don’t.” They were given an address in Chelsea.

The house, when Lewisham found it at last, proved a large one, with such an air of mellowed dignity that he was abashed. He hung his hat up for himself beside a green-trimmed hat of straw in the wide, rich-toned hall. Through an open door he had a glimpse of a palatial study, book shelves bearing white busts, a huge writing-table lit by a green-shaded electric lamp and covered thickly with papers. The housemaid looked, he thought, with infinite disdain at the rusty mourning and flamboyant tie, and flounced about and led him upstairs.

She rapped, and there was a discussion within. “They’re at it already, I believe,” she said to Lewisham confidentially. “Mr. Lagune’s always at it.”

There were sounds of chairs being moved, Smithers’ extensive voice making a suggestion and laughing nervously. Lagune appeared opening the door. His grizzled face seemed smaller and his big grey eyes larger than usual.

“We were just going to begin without you,” he whispered. “Come along.”

The room was furnished even more finely than the drawing-room of the Whortley Grammar School, hitherto the finest room (except certain of the State Apartments at Windsor) known to Lewisham. The furniture struck him in a general way as akin to that in the South Kensington Museum. His first impression was an appreciation of the vast social superiority of the chairs; it seemed impertinent to think of sitting on anything quite so quietly stately. He perceived Smithers standing with an air of bashful hostility against a bookcase. Then he was aware that Lagune was asking them all to sit down. Already seated at the table was the Medium, Chaffery, a benevolent-looking, faintly shabby gentleman with bushy iron-grey side-whiskers, a wide, thin-lipped mouth tucked in at the corners, and a chin like the toe of a boot. He regarded Lewisham critically and disconcertingly over gilt glasses. Miss Heydinger was quite at her ease and began talking at once. Lewisham’s replies were less confident than they had been in the Gallery of Old Iron; indeed there was almost a reversal of their positions. She led and he was abashed. He felt obscurely that she had taken an advantage of him. He became aware of another girlish figure in a dark dress on his right.

Everyone moved towards the round table in the centre of the room, on which lay a tambourine and a little green box. Lagune developed unsuspected lengths of knobby wrist and finger directing his guests to their seats. Lewisham was to sit next to him, between him and the Medium; beyond the Medium sat Smithers with Miss Heydinger on the other side of him, linked to Lagune by the typewriter. So sceptics compassed the Medium about. The company was already seated before Lewisham looked across Lagune and met the eyes of the girl next that gentleman. It was Ethel! The close green dress, the absence of a hat, and a certain loss of colour made her seem less familiar, but did not prevent the instant recognition. And there was recognition in her eyes.

Immediately she looked away. At first his only emotion was surprise. He would have spoken, but a little thing robbed him of speech. For a moment he was unable to remember her surname. Moreover, the strangeness of his surroundings made him undecided. He did not know what was the proper way to address her–and he still kept to the superstition of etiquette. Besides–to speak to her would involve a general explanation to all these people …

“Just leave a pin-point of gas, Mr. Smithers, please,” said Lagune, and suddenly the one surviving jet of the gas chandelier was turned down and they were in darkness. The moment for recognition had passed.

The joining of hands was punctiliously verified, the circle was linked little finger to little finger. Lewisham’s abstraction received a rebuke from Smithers. The Medium, speaking in an affable voice, premised that he could promise nothing, he had no “_directing_” power over manifestations. Thereafter ensued a silence….

For a space Lewisham was inattentive to all that happened.

He sat in the breathing darkness, staring at the dim elusive shape that had presented that remembered face. His mind was astonishment mingled with annoyance. He had settled that this girl was lost to him for ever. The spell of the old days of longing, of the afternoons that he had spent after his arrival in London, wandering through Clapham with a fading hope of meeting her, had not returned to him. But he was ashamed of his stupid silence, and irritated by the awkwardness of the situation. At one moment he was on the very verge of breaking the compact and saying “Miss Henderson” across the table….

How was it he had forgotten that “Henderson”? He was still young enough to be surprised at forgetfulness.

Smithers coughed, one might imagine with a warning intention.

Lewisham, recalling his detective responsibility with an effort, peered about him, but the room was very dark. The silence was broken ever and again by deep sighs and a restless stirring from the Medium. Out of this mental confusion Lewisham’s personal vanity was first to emerge. What did she think of him? Was she peering at him through the darkness even as he peered at her? Should he pretend to see her for the first time when the lights were restored? As the minutes lengthened it seemed as though the silence grew deeper and deeper. There was no fire in the room, and it looked, for lack of that glow, chilly. A curious scepticism arose in his mind as to whether he had actually seen Ethel or only mistaken someone else for her. He wanted the _seance_ over in order that he might look at her again. The old days at Whortley came out of his memory with astonishing detail and yet astonishingly free from emotion….

He became aware of a peculiar sensation down his back, that he tried to account for as a draught….

Suddenly a beam of cold air came like a touch against his face, and made him shudder convulsively. Then he hoped that she had not marked his shudder. He thought of laughing a low laugh to show he was not afraid. Someone else shuddered too, and he perceived an extraordinarily vivid odour of violets. Lagune’s finger communicated a nervous quivering.

What was happening?

The musical box somewhere on the table began playing a rather trivial, rather plaintive air that was strange to him. It seemed to deepen the silence about him, an accent on the expectant stillness, a thread of tinkling melody spanning an abyss.

Lewisham took himself in hand at this stage. What _was_ happening? He must attend. Was he really watching as he should do? He had been wool-gathering. There were no such things as spirits, mediums were humbugs, and he was here to prove that sole remaining Gospel. But he must keep up with things–he was missing points. What was that scent of violets? And who had set the musical box going? The Medium, of course; but how? He tried to recall whether he had heard a rustling or detected any movement before the music began. He could not recollect. Come! he must be more on the alert than this!

He became acutely desirous of a successful exposure. He figured the dramatic moment he had prepared with Smithers–Ethel a spectator. He peered suspiciously into the darkness.

Somebody shuddered again, someone opposite him this time. He felt Lagune’s finger quiver still more palpably, and then suddenly the raps began, abruptly, all about him. _Rap_!–making him start violently. A swift percussive sound, tap, rap, dap, under the table, under the chair, in the air, round the cornices. The Medium groaned again and shuddered, and his nervous agitation passed sympathetically round the circle. The music seemed to fade to the vanishing point and grew louder again.

How was it done?

He heard Lagune’s voice next him speaking with a peculiar quality of breathless reverence, “The alphabet?” he asked, “shall we–shall we use the alphabet?”

A forcible rap under the table.

“No!” interpreted the voice of the Medium.

The raps were continued everywhere.

Of course it was trickery, Lewisham endeavoured to think what the mechanism was. He tried to determine whether he really had the Medium’s little finger touching his. He peered at the dark shape next him. There was a violent rapping far away behind them with an almost metallic resonance. Then the raps ceased, and over the healing silence the little jet of melody from the musical box played alone. And after a moment that ceased also….

The stillness was profound, Mr. Lewisham was now highly strung. Doubts assailed him suddenly, and an overwhelming apprehension, a sense of vast occurrences gathering above him. The darkness was a physical oppression….

He started. Something had stirred on the table. There was the sharp ping of metal being struck. A number of little crepitating sounds like paper being smoothed. The sound of wind without the movement of air. A sense of a presence hovering over the table.

The excitement of Lagune communicated itself in convulsive tremblings; the Medium’s hand quivered. In the darkness on the table something faintly luminous, a greenish-white patch, stirred and hopped slowly among the dim shapes.

The object, whatever it was, hopped higher, rose slowly in the air, expanded. Lewisham’s attention followed this slavishly. It was ghostly–unaccountable–marvellous. For the moment he forgot even Ethel. Higher and higher this pallid luminosity rose overhead, and then he saw that it was a ghostly hand and arm, rising, rising. Slowly, deliberately it crossed the table, seemed to touch Lagune, who shivered. It moved slowly round and touched Lewisham. He gritted his teeth.

There was no mistaking the touch, firm and yet soft, of finger-tips. Almost simultaneously, Miss Heydinger cried out that something was smoothing her hair, and suddenly the musical box set off again with a reel. The faint oval of the tambourine rose, jangled, and Lewisham heard it pat Smithers in the face. It seemed to pass overhead. Immediately a table somewhere beyond the Medium began moving audibly on its castors.

It seemed impossible that the Medium, sitting so still beside him, could be doing all these things–grotesquely unmeaning though they might be. After all….

The ghostly hand was hovering almost directly in front of Mr. Lewisham’s eyes. It hung with a slight quivering. Ever and again its fingers flapped down and rose stiffly again.

Noise! A loud noise it seemed. Something moving? What was it he had to do?

Lewisham suddenly missed the Medium’s little finger. He tried to recover it. He could not find it. He caught, held and lost an arm. There was an exclamation. A faint report. A curse close to him bitten in half by the quick effort to suppress it. Tzit! The little pinpoint of light flew up with a hiss.

Lewisham, standing, saw a circle of blinking faces turned to the group of two this sizzling light revealed. Smithers was the chief figure of the group; he stood triumphant, one hand on the gas tap, the other gripping the Medium’s wrist, and in the Medium’s hand–the incriminatory tambourine.

“How’s this, Lewisham?” cried Smithers, with the shadows on his face jumping as the gas flared.

“_Caught_!” said Lewisham loudly, rising in his place and avoiding Ethel’s eyes.

“What’s this?” cried the Medium.

“Cheating,” panted Smithers.

“Not so,” cried the Medium. “When you turned up the light … put my hand up … caught tambourine … to save head.”

“Mr. Smithers,” cried Lagune. “Mr. Smithers, this is very wrong. This–shock–“

The tambourine fell noisily to the floor. The Medium’s face changed, he groaned strangely and staggered back. Lagune cried out for a glass of water. Everyone looked at the man, expecting him to fall, save Lewisham. The thought of Ethel had flashed back into his mind. He turned to see how she took this exposure in which he was such a prominent actor. He saw her leaning over the table as if to pick up something that lay across it. She was not looking at him, she was looking at the Medium. Her face was set and white. Then, as if she felt his glance, her eyes met his.

She started back, stood erect, facing him with a strange hardness in her eyes.

In the moment Lewisham did not grasp the situation. He wanted to show that he was acting upon equal terms with Smithers in the exposure. For the moment her action simply directed his attention to the object towards which she had been leaning, a thing of shrivelled membrane, a pneumatic glove, lying on the table. This was evidently part of the mediumistic apparatus. He pounced and seized it.

“Look!” he said, holding it towards Smithers. “Here is more! What is this?”

He perceived that the girl started. He saw Chaffery, the Medium, look instantly over Smithers’ shoulders, saw his swift glance of reproach at the girl. Abruptly the situation appeared to Lewisham; he perceived her complicity. And he stood, still in the attitude of triumph, with the evidence against her in his hand! But his triumph had vanished.

“Ah!” cried Smithers, leaning across the table to secure it. “_Good_ old Lewisham!… Now we _have_ it. This is better than the tambourine.”

His eyes shone with triumph. “Do you see, Mr. Lagune?” said Smithers. “The Medium held this in his teeth and blew it out. There’s no denying this. This wasn’t falling on your head, Mr. Medium, was it? _This_–this was the luminous hand!”



That night, as she went with him to Chelsea station, Miss Heydinger discovered an extraordinary moodiness in Lewisham. She had been vividly impressed by the scene in which they had just participated, she had for a time believed in the manifestations; the swift exposure had violently revolutionised her ideas. The details of the crisis were a little confused in her mind. She ranked Lewisham with Smithers in the scientific triumph of the evening. On the whole she felt elated. She had no objection to being confuted by Lewisham. But she was angry with the Medium, “It is dreadful,” she said. “Living a lie! How can the world grow better, when sane, educated people use their sanity and enlightenment to darken others? It is dreadful!

“He was a horrible man–such an oily, dishonest voice. And the girl–I was sorry for her. She must have been oh!–bitterly ashamed, or why should she have burst out crying? That _did_ distress me. Fancy crying like that! It was–yes–_abandon_. But what can one do?”

She paused. Lewisham was walking along, looking straight before him, lost in some grim argument with himself.

“It makes me think of Sludge the Medium,” she said.

He made no answer.

She glanced at him suddenly. “Have you read Sludge the Medium?”

“Eigh?” he said, coming back out of infinity. “What? I beg your pardon. Sludge, the Medium? I thought his name was–it _was_–Chaffery.”

He looked at her, clearly very anxious upon this question of fact.

“But I mean Browning’s ‘Sludge.’ You know the poem.”

“No–I’m afraid I don’t,” said Lewisham.

“I must lend it to you,” she said. “It’s splendid. It goes to the very bottom of this business.”

“Does it?”

“It never occurred to me before. But I see the point clearly now. If people, poor people, are offered money if phenomena happen, it’s too much. They are _bound_ to cheat. It’s bribery–immorality!”

She talked in panting little sentences, because Lewisham was walking in heedless big strides. “I wonder how much–such people–could earn honestly.”

Lewisham slowly became aware of the question at his ear. He hurried back from infinity. “How much they could earn honestly? I haven’t the slightest idea.”

He paused. “The whole of this business puzzles me,” he said. “I want to think.”

“It’s frightfully complex, isn’t it?” she said–a little staggered.

But the rest of the way to the station was silence. They parted with a hand-clasp they took a pride in–a little perfunctory so far as Lewisham was concerned on this occasion. She scrutinised his face as the train moved out of the station, and tried to account for his mood. He was staring before him at unknown things as if he had already forgotten her.

He wanted to think! But two heads, she thought, were better than one in a matter of opinion. It troubled her to be so ignorant of his mental states. “How we are wrapped and swathed about–soul from soul!” she thought, staring out of the window at the dim things flying by outside.

Suddenly a fit of depression came upon her. She felt alone–absolutely alone–in a void world.

Presently she returned to external things. She became aware of two people in the next compartment eyeing her critically. Her hand went patting at her hair.



Ethel Henderson sat at her machine before the window of Mr. Lagume’s study, and stared blankly at the greys and blues of the November twilight. Her face was white, her eyelids were red from recent weeping, and her hands lay motionless in her lap. The door had just slammed behind Lagune.

“Heigh-ho!” she said. “I wish I was dead. Oh! I wish I was out of it all.”

She became passive again. “I wonder what I have _done_,” she said, “that I should be punished like this.”

She certainly looked anything but a Fate-haunted soul, being indeed visibly and immediately a very pretty girl. Her head was shapely and covered with curly dark hair, and the eyebrows above her hazel eyes were clear and dark. Her lips were finely shaped, her mouth was not too small to be expressive, her chin small, and her neck white and full and pretty. There is no need to lay stress upon her nose–it sufficed. She was of a mediocre height, sturdy rather than slender, and her dress was of a pleasant, golden-brown material with the easy sleeves and graceful line of those aesthetic days. And she sat at her typewriter and wished she was dead and wondered what she had _done_.

The room was lined with bookshelves, and conspicuous therein were a long row of foolish pretentious volumes, the “works” of Lagune–the witless, meandering imitation of philosophy that occupied his life. Along the cornices were busts of Plato, Socrates, and Newton. Behind Ethel was the great man’s desk with its green-shaded electric light, and littered with proofs and copies of _Hesperus_, “A Paper for Doubters,” which, with her assistance, he edited, published, compiled, wrote, and (without her help) paid for and read. A pen, flung down forcibly, quivered erect with its one surviving nib in the blotting pad. Mr. Lagune had flung it down.

The collapse of the previous night had distressed him dreadfully, and ever and again before his retreat he had been breaking into passionate monologue. The ruin of a life-work, it was, no less. Surely she had known that Chaffery was a cheat. Had she not known? Silence. “After so many kindnesses–“

She interrupted him with a wailing, “Oh, I know–I know.”

But Lagune was remorseless and insisted she had betrayed him, worse–made him ridiculous! Look at the “work” he had undertaken at South Kensington–how could he go on with that now? How could he find the heart? When his own typewriter sacrificed him to her stepfather’s trickery? “Trickery!”

The gesticulating hands became active, the grey eyes dilated with indignation, the piping voice eloquent.

“If he hadn’t cheated you, someone else would,” was Ethel’s inadequate muttered retort, unheard by the seeker after phenomena.

It was perhaps not so bad as dismissal, but it certainly lasted longer. And at home was Chaffery, grimly malignant at her failure to secure that pneumatic glove. He had no right to blame her, he really had not; but a disturbed temper is apt to falsify the scales of justice. The tambourine, he insisted, he could have explained by saying he put up his hand to catch it and protect his head directly Smithers moved. But the pneumatic glove there was no explaining. He had made a chance for her to secure it when he had pretended to faint. It was rubbish to say anyone could have been looking on the table then–rubbish.

Beside that significant wreck of a pen stood a little carriage clock in a case, and this suddenly lifted a slender voice and announced _five_. She turned round on her stool and sat staring at the clock. She smiled with the corners of her mouth down. “Home,” she said, “and begin again. It’s like battledore and shuttlecock….

“I _was_ silly….

“I suppose I’ve brought it on myself. I ought to have picked it up, I suppose. I had time….

“Cheats … just cheats.

“I never thought I should see him again….

“He was ashamed, of course…. He had his own friends.”

For a space she sat still, staring blankly before her. She sighed, rubbed a knuckle in a reddened eye, rose.

She went into the hall, where her hat, transfixed by a couple of hat-pins, hung above her jacket, assumed these garments, and let herself out into the cold grey street.

She had hardly gone twenty yards from Lagune’s door before she became aware of a man overtaking her and walking beside her. That kind of thing is a common enough experience to girls who go to and from work in London, and she had had perforce to learn many things since her adventurous Whortley days. She looked stiffly in front of her. The man deliberately got in her way so that she had to stop. She lifted eyes of indignant protest. It was Lewisham–and his face was white.

He hesitated awkwardly, and then in silence held out his hand. She took it mechanically. He found his voice. “Miss Henderson,” he said.

“What do you want?” she asked faintly.

“I don’t know,” he said…. “I want to talk to you.”

“Yes?” Her heart was beating fast.

He found the thing unexpectedly difficult.

“May I–? Are you expecting–? Have you far to go? I would like to talk to you. There is a lot …”

“I walk to Clapham,” she said. “If you care … to come part of the way …”

She moved awkwardly. Lewisham took his place at her side. They walked side by side for a moment, their manner constrained, having so much to say that they could not find a word to begin upon.

“Have you forgotten Whortley?” he asked abruptly.


He glanced at her; her face was downcast. “Why did you never write?” he asked bitterly.

“I wrote.”

“Again, I mean.”

“I did–in July.”

“I never had it.”

“It came back.”

“But Mrs. Munday …”

“I had forgotten her name. I sent it to the Grammar School.”

Lewisham suppressed an exclamation.

“I am very sorry,” she said.

They went on again in silence. “Last night,” said Lewisham at length. “I have no business to ask. But–“

She took a long breath. “Mr. Lewisham,” she said. “That man you saw–the Medium–was my stepfather.”


“Isn’t that enough?”

Lewisham paused. “No,” he said.

There was another constrained silence. “No,” he said less dubiously. “I don’t care a rap what your stepfather is. Were _you_ cheating?”

Her face turned white. Her mouth opened and closed. “Mr. Lewisham,” she said deliberately, “you may not believe it, it may sound impossible, but on my honour … I did not know–I did not know for certain, that is–that my stepfather …”

“Ah!” said Lewisham, leaping at conviction. “Then I was right….”

For a moment she stared at him, and then, “I _did_ know,” she said, suddenly beginning to cry. “How can I tell you? It is a lie. I _did_ know. I _did_ know all the time.”

He stared at her in white astonishment. He fell behind her one step, and then in a stride came level again. Then, a silence, a silence that seemed it would never end. She had stopped crying, she was one huge suspense, not daring even to look at his face. And at last he spoke.

“No,” he said slowly. “I don’t mind even that. I don’t care–even if it was that.”

Abruptly they turned into the King’s Road, with its roar of wheeled traffic and hurrying foot-passengers, and forthwith a crowd of boys with a broken-spirited Guy involved and separated them. In a busy highway of a night one must needs talk disconnectedly in shouted snatches or else hold one’s peace. He glanced at her face and saw that it was set again. Presently she turned southward out of the tumult into a street of darkness and warm blinds, and they could go on talking again.

“I understand what you mean,” said Lewisham. “I know I do. You knew, but you did not want to know. It was like that.”

But her mind had been active. “At the end of this road,” she said, gulping a sob, “you must go back. It was kind of you to come, Mr. Lewisham. But you were ashamed–you are sure to be ashamed. My employer is a spiritualist, and my stepfather is a professional Medium, and my mother is a spiritualist. You were quite right not to speak to me last night. Quite. It was kind of you to come, but you must go back. Life is hard enough as it is … You must go back at the end of the road. Go back at the end of the road …”

Lewisham made no reply for a hundred yards. “I’m coming on to Clapham,” he said.

They came to the end of the road in silence. Then at the kerb corner she turned and faced him. “Go back,” she whispered.

“No,” he said obstinately, and they stood face to face at the cardinal point of their lives.

“Listen to me,” said Lewisham. “It is hard to say what I feel. I don’t know myself…. But I’m not going to lose you like this. I’m not going to let you slip a second time. I was awake about it all last night. I don’t care where you are, what your people are, nor very much whether you’ve kept quite clear of this medium humbug. I don’t. You will in future. Anyhow. I’ve had a day and night to think it over. I had to come and try to find you. It’s you. I’ve never forgotten you. Never. I’m not going to be sent back like this.”

“It can be no good for either of us,” she said as resolute as he.

“I shan’t leave you.”

“But what is the good?…”

“I’m coming,” said Lewisham, dogmatically.

And he came.

He asked her a question point blank and she would not answer him, and for some way they walked in grim silence. Presently she spoke with a twitching mouth. “I wish you would leave me,” she said. “You are quite different from what I am. You felt that last night. You helped find us out….”

“When first I came to London I used to wander about Clapham looking for you,” said Lewisham, “week after week.”

They had crossed the bridge and were in a narrow little street of shabby shops near Clapham Junction before they talked again. She kept her face averted and expressionless.

“I’m sorry,” said Lewisham, with a sort of stiff civility, “if I seem to be forcing myself upon you. I don’t want to pry into your affairs–if you don’t wish me to. The sight of you has somehow brought back a lot of things…. I can’t explain it. Perhaps–I had to come to find you–I kept on thinking of your face, of how you used to smile, how you jumped from the gate by the lock, and how we had tea … a lot of things.”

He stopped again.

“A lot of things.”

“If I may come,” he said, and went unanswered. They crossed the wide streets by the Junction and went on towards the Common.

“I live down this road,” she said, stopping abruptly at a corner. “I would rather …”

“But I have said nothing.”

She looked at him with her face white, unable to speak for a space. “It can do no good,” she said. “I am mixed up with this….”

She stopped.

He spoke deliberately. “I shall come,” he said, “to-morrow night.”

“No,” she said.

“But I shall come.”

“No,” she whispered.

“I shall come.” She could hide the gladness of her heart from herself no longer. She was frightened that he had come, but she was glad, and she knew he knew that she was glad. She made no further protest. She held out her hand dumbly. And on the morrow she found him awaiting her even as he had said.



For three days the Laboratory at South Kensington saw nothing of Lagune, and then he came back more invincibly voluble than ever. Everyone had expected him to return apostate, but he brought back an invigorated faith, a propaganda unashamed. From some source he had derived strength and conviction afresh. Even the rhetorical Smithers availed nothing. There was a joined battle over the insufficient tea-cups, and the elderly young assistant demonstrator hovered on the verge of the discussion, rejoicing, it is supposed, over the entanglements of Smithers. For at the outset Smithers displayed an overweening confidence and civility, and at the end his ears were red and his finer manners lost to him.

Lewisham, it was remarked by Miss Heydinger, made but a poor figure in this discussion. Once or twice he seemed about to address Lagune, and thought better of it with the words upon his lips.

Lagune’s treatment of the exposure was light and vigorous. “The man Chaffery,” he said, “has made a clean breast of it. His point of view–“

“Facts are facts,” said Smithers.

“A fact is a synthesis of impressions,” said Lagune; “but that you will learn when you are older. The thing is that we were at cross purposes. I told Chaffery you were beginners. He treated you as beginners–arranged a demonstration.”

“It _was_ a demonstration,” said Smithers.

“Precisely. If it had not been for your interruptions …”


“He forged elementary effects …”

“You can’t but admit that.”

“I don’t attempt to deny it. But, as he explained, the thing is necessary–justifiable. Psychic phenomena are subtle, a certain training of the observation is necessary. A medium is a more subtle instrument than a balance or a borax bead, and see how long it is before you can get assured results with a borax bead! In the elementary class, in the introductory phase, conditions are too crude….”

“For honesty.”

“Wait a moment. _Is_ it dishonest–rigging a demonstration?”

“Of course it is.”

“Your professors do it.”

“I deny that in toto,” said Smithers, and repeated with satisfaction, “in toto.”

“That’s all right,” said Lagune, “because I have the facts. Your chemical lecturers–you may go downstairs now and ask, if you disbelieve me–always cheat over the indestructibility of matter experiment–always. And then another–a physiography thing. You know the experiment I mean? To demonstrate the existence of the earth’s rotation. They use–they use–“

“Foucault’s pendulum,” said Lewisham. “They use a rubber ball with a pin-hole hidden in the hand, and blow the pendulum round the way it ought to go.”

“But that’s different,” said Smithers.

“Wait a moment,” said Lagune, and produced a piece of folded printed paper from his pocket. “Here is a review from _Nature_ of the work of no less a person than Professor Greenhill. And see–a convenient pin is introduced in the apparatus for the demonstration of virtual velocities! Read it–if you doubt me. I suppose you doubt me.”

Smithers abruptly abandoned his position of denial “in toto.” “This isn’t my point, Mr. Lagune; this isn’t my point,” he said. “These things that are done in the lecture theatre are not to prove facts, but to give ideas.”

“So was my demonstration,” said Lagune.

“We didn’t understand it in that light.”

“Nor does the ordinary person who goes to Science lectures understand it in that light. He is comforted by the thought that he is seeing things with his own eyes.”

“Well, I don’t care,” said Smithers; “two wrongs don’t make a right. To rig demonstrations is wrong.”

“There I agree with you. I have spoken plainly with this man Chaffery. He’s not a full-blown professor, you know, a highly salaried ornament of the rock of truth like your demonstration-rigging professors here, and so I can speak plainly to him without offence. He takes quite the view they would take. But I am more rigorous. I insist that there shall be no more of this….”

“Next time–” said Smithers with irony.

“There will be no next time. I have done with elementary exhibitions. You must take the word of the trained observer–just as you do in the matter of chemical analysis.”

“Do you mean you are going on with that chap when he’s been caught cheating under your very nose?”

“Certainly. Why not?”

Smithers set out to explain why not, and happened on confusion. “I still believe the man has powers,” said Lagune.

“Of deception,” said Smithers.

“Those I must eliminate,” said Lagune. “You might as well refuse to study electricity because it escaped through your body. All new science is elusive. No investigator in his senses would refuse to investigate a compound because it did unexpected things. Either this dissolves in acid or I have nothing more to do with it–eh? That’s fine research!”

Then it was the last vestiges of Smithers’ manners vanished. “I don’t care _what_ you say,” said Smithers. “It’s all rot–it’s all just rot. Argue if you like–but have you convinced anybody? Put it to the vote.”

“That’s democracy with a vengeance,” said Lagune. “A general election of the truth half-yearly, eh?”

“That’s simply wriggling out of it,” said Smithers. “That hasn’t anything to do with it at all.”

Lagune, flushed but cheerful, was on his way downstairs when Lewisham overtook him. He was pale and out of breath, but as the staircase invariably rendered Lagune breathless he did not remark the younger man’s disturbance. “Interesting talk,” panted Lewisham. “Very interesting talk, sir.”

“I’m glad you found it so–very,” said Lagune.

There was a pause, and then Lewisham plunged desperately. “There is a young lady–she is your typewriter….”

He stopped from sheer loss of breath.

“Yes?” said Lagune.

“Is she a medium or anything of that sort?”

“Well,” Lagune reflected, “She is not a medium, certainly. But–why do you ask?”

“Oh!… I wondered.”

“You noticed her eyes perhaps. She is the stepdaughter of that man Chaffery–a queer character, but indisputably mediumistic. It’s odd the thing should have struck you. Curiously enough I myself have fancied she might be something of a psychic–judging from her face.”

“A what?”

“A psychic–undeveloped, of course. I have thought once or twice. Only a little while ago I was speaking to that man Chaffery about her.”

“Were you?”

“Yes. He of course would like to see any latent powers developed. But it’s a little difficult to begin, you know.”

“You mean–she won’t?”

“Not at present. She is a good girl, but in this matter she is–timid. There is often a sort of disinclination–a queer sort of feeling–one might almost call it modesty.”

“I see,” said Lewisham.

“One can override it usually. I don’t despair.”

“No,” said Lewisham shortly. They were at the foot of the staircase now. He hesitated. “You’ve given me a lot to think about,” he said with an attempt at an off-hand manner. “The way you talked upstairs;” and turned towards the book he had to sign.

“I’m glad you don’t take up quite such an intolerant attitude as Mr. Smithers,” said Lagune; “very glad. I must lend you a book or two. If your _cramming_ here leaves you any time, that is.”

“Thanks,” said Lewisham shortly, and walked away from him. The studiously characteristic signature quivered and sprawled in an unfamiliar manner.

“I’m _damned_ if he overrides it,” said Lewisham, under his breath.



Lewisham was not quite clear what course he meant to take in the high enterprise of foiling Lagune, and indeed he was anything but clear about the entire situation. His logical processes, his emotions and his imagination seemed playing some sort of snatching game with his will. Enormous things hung imminent, but it worked out to this, that he walked home with Ethel night after night for–to be exact–seven-and-sixty nights. Every week night through November and December, save once, when he had to go into the far East to buy himself an overcoat, he was waiting to walk with her home. A curious, inconclusive affair, that walk, to which he came nightly full of vague longings, and which ended invariably under an odd shadow of disappointment. It began outside Lagune’s most punctually at five, and ended–mysteriously–at the corner of a side road in Clapham, a road of little yellow houses with sunk basements and tawdry decorations of stone. Up that road she vanished night after night, into a grey mist and the shadow beyond a feeble yellow gas-lamp, and he would watch her vanish, and then sigh and turn back towards his lodgings.

They talked of this and that, their little superficial ideas about themselves, and of their circumstances and tastes, and always there was something, something that was with them unspoken, unacknowledged, which made all these things unreal and insincere.

Yet out of their talk he began to form vague ideas of the home from which she came. There was, of course, no servant, and the mother was something meandering, furtive, tearful in the face of troubles. Sometimes of an afternoon or evening she grew garrulous. “Mother does talk so–sometimes.” She rarely went out of doors. Chaffery always rose late, and would sometimes go away for days together. He was mean; he allowed only a weekly twenty-five shillings for housekeeping, and sometimes things grew unsatisfactory at the week-end. There seemed to be little sympathy between mother and daughter; the widow had been flighty in a dingy fashion, and her marriage with her chief lodger Chaffery had led to unforgettable sayings. It was to facilitate this marriage that Ethel had been sent to Whortley, so that was counted a mitigated evil. But these were far-off things, remote and unreal down the long, ill-lit vista of the suburban street which swallowed up Ethel nightly. The walk, her warmth and light and motion close to him, her clear little voice, and the touch of her hand; that was reality.

The shadow of Chaffery and his deceptions lay indeed across all these things, sometimes faint, sometimes dark and present. Then Lewisham became insistent, his sentimental memories ceased, and he asked questions that verged on gulfs of doubt. Had she ever “helped”? She had not, she declared. Then she added that twice at home she had “sat down” to complete the circle. She would never help again. That she promised–if it needed promising. There had already been dreadful trouble at home about the exposure at Lagune’s. Her mother had sided with her stepfather and joined in blaming her. But was she to blame?

“Of _course_ you were not to blame,” said Lewisham. Lagune, he learnt, had been unhappy and restless for the three days after the _seance_–indulging in wearisome monologue–with Ethel as sole auditor (at twenty-one shillings a week). Then he had decided to give Chaffery a sound lecture on his disastrous dishonesty. But it was Chaffery gave the lecture. Smithers, had he only known it, had been overthrown by a better brain than Lagune’s, albeit it spoke through Lagune’s treble.

Ethel did not like talking of Chaffery and these other things. “If you knew how sweet it was to forget it all,” she would say; “to be just us two together for a little while.” And, “What good _does_ it do to keep on?” when Lewisham was pressing. Lewisham wanted very much to keep on at times, but the good of it was a little hard to demonstrate. So his knowledge of the situation remained imperfect and the weeks drifted by.

Wonderfully varied were those seven-and-sixty nights, as he came to remember in after life. There were nights of damp and drizzle, and then thick fogs, beautiful, isolating, grey-white veils, turning every yard of pavement into a private room. Grand indeed were these fogs, things to rejoice at mightily, since then it was no longer a thing for public scorn when two young people hurried along arm in arm, and one could do a thousand impudent, significant things with varying pressure and the fondling of a little hand (a hand in a greatly mended glove of cheap kid). Then indeed one seemed to be nearer that elusive something that threaded it all together. And the dangers of the street corners, the horses looming up suddenly out of the dark, the carters with lanterns at their horses’ heads, the street lamps, blurred, smoky orange at one’s nearest, and vanishing at twenty yards into dim haze, seemed to accentuate the infinite need of protection on the part of a delicate young lady who had already traversed three winters of fogs, thornily alone. Moreover, one could come right down the quiet street where she lived, halfway to the steps of her house, with a delightful sense of enterprise.

The fogs passed all too soon into a hard frost, into nights of starlight and presently moonlight, when the lamps looked hard, flashing like rows of yellow gems, and their reflections and the glare of the shop windows were sharp and frosty, and even the stars hard and bright, snapping noiselessly (if one may say so) instead of twinkling. A jacket trimmed with imitation Astrachan replaced Ethel’s lighter coat, and a round cap of Astrachan her hat, and her eyes shone hard and bright, and her forehead was broad and white beneath it. It was exhilarating, but one got home too soon, and so the way from Chelsea to Clapham was lengthened, first into a loop of side streets, and then when the first pulverulent snows told that Christmas was at hand, into a new loop down King’s Road, and once even through the Brompton Road and Sloane Street, where the shops were full of decorations and entertaining things.

And, under circumstances of infinite gravity, Mr. Lewisham secretly spent three-and-twenty shillings out of the vestiges of that hundred pounds, and bought Ethel a little gold ring set with pearls. With that there must needs be a ceremonial, and on the verge of the snowy, foggy Common she took off her glove and the ring was placed on her finger. Whereupon he was moved to kiss her–on the frost-pink knuckle next to an inky nail.

“It’s silly of us,” she said. “What can we do?–ever?”

“You wait.” he said, and his tone was full of vague promises.

Afterwards he thought over those promises, and another evening went into the matter more fully, telling her of all the brilliant things that he held it was possible for a South Kensington student to do and be–of headmasterships, northern science schools, inspectorships, demonstratorships, yea, even professorships. And then, and then–To all of which she lent a willing and incredulous ear, finding in that dreaming a quality of fear as well as delight.

The putting on of the pearl-set ring was mere ceremonial, of course; she could not wear it either at Lagune’s or at home, so instead she threaded it on a little white satin ribbon and wore it round her neck–“next her heart.” He thought of it there warm “next her heart.”

When he had bought the ring he had meant to save it for Christmas before he gave it to her. But the desire to see her pleasure had been too strong for him.

Christmas Eve, I know not by what deceit on her part, these young people spent together all day. Lagune was down with a touch of bronchitis and had given his typewriter a holiday. Perhaps she forgot to mention it at home. The Royal College was in vacation and Lewisham was free. He declined the plumber’s invitation; “work” kept him in London, he said, though it meant a pound or more of added expenditure. These absurd young people walked sixteen miles that Christmas Eve, and parted warm and glowing. There had been a hard frost and a little snow, the sky was a colourless grey, icicles hung from the arms of the street lamps, and the pavements were patterned out with frond-like forms that were trodden into slides as the day grew older. The Thames they knew was a wonderful sight, but that they kept until last. They went first along the Brompton Road….

And it is well that you should have the picture of them right: Lewisham in the ready-made overcoat, blue cloth and velvet collar, dirty tan gloves, red tie, and bowler hat; and Ethel in a two-year-old jacket and hat of curly Astrachan; both pink-cheeked from the keen air, shyly arm in arm occasionally, and very alert to miss no possible spectacle. The shops were varied and interesting along the Brompton Road, but nothing to compare with Piccadilly. There were windows in Piccadilly so full of costly little things, it took fifteen minutes to get them done, card shops, drapers’ shops full of foolish, entertaining attractions. Lewisham, in spite of his old animosities, forgot to be severe on the Shopping Class, Ethel was so vastly entertained by all these pretty follies.

Then up Regent Street by the place where the sham diamonds are, and the place where the girls display their long hair, and the place where the little chickens run about in the window, and so into Oxford Street, Holborn, Ludgate Hill, St. Paul’s Churchyard, to Leadenhall, and the markets where turkeys, geese, ducklings, and chickens–turkeys predominant, however–hang in rows of a thousand at a time.

“I _must_ buy you something,” said Lewisham, resuming a topic.

“No, no,” said Ethel, with her eye down a vista of innumerable birds.

“But I _must_,” said Lewisham. “You had better choose it, or I shall get something wrong.” His mind ran on brooches and clasps.

“You mustn’t waste your money, and besides, I have that ring.”

But Lewisham insisted.

“Then–if you must–I am starving. Buy me something to eat.”

An immense and memorable joke. Lewisham plunged recklessly–orientally–into an awe-inspiring place with mitred napkins. They lunched on cutlets–stripped the cutlets to the bone–and little crisp brown potatoes, and they drank between them a whole half bottle of–some white wine or other, Lewisham selected in an off-hand way from the list. Neither of them had ever taken wine at a meal before. One-and-ninepence it cost him, Sir, and the name of it was Capri! It was really very passable Capri–a manufactured product, no doubt, but warming and aromatic. Ethel was aghast at his magnificence and drank a glass and a half.

Then, very warm and comfortable, they went down by the Tower, and the Tower Bridge with its crest of snow, huge pendant icicles, and the ice blocks choked in its side arches, was seasonable seeing. And as they had had enough of shops and crowds they set off resolutely along the desolate Embankment homeward.

But indeed the Thames was a wonderful sight that year! ice-fringed along either shore, and with drift-ice in the middle reflecting a luminous scarlet from the broad red setting sun, and moving steadily, incessantly seaward. A swarm of mewing gulls went to and fro, and with them mingled pigeons and crows. The buildings on the Surrey side were dim and grey and very mysterious, the moored, ice-blocked barges silent and deserted, and here and there a lit window shone warm. The sun sank right out of sight into a bank of blue, and the Surrey side dissolved in mist save for a few insoluble, spots of yellow light, that presently became many. And after our lovers had come under Charing Cross Bridge the Houses of Parliament rose before them at the end of a great crescent of golden lamps, blue and faint, halfway between the earth and sky. And the clock on the Tower was like a November sun.

It was a day without a flaw, or at most but the slightest speck. And that only came at the very end.

“Good-bye, dear,” she said. “I have been very happy to-day.”

His face came very close to hers. “Good-bye,” he said, pressing her hand and looking into her eyes.

She glanced round, she drew nearer to him. “_Dearest_ one,” she whispered very softly, and then, “Good-bye.”

Suddenly he became unaccountably petulant, he dropped her hand. “It’s always like this. We are happy. _I_ am happy. And then–then you are taken away….”

There was a silence of mute interrogations.

“Dear,” she whispered, “we must wait.”

A moment’s pause. “_Wait_!” he said, and broke off. He hesitated. “Good-bye,” he said as though he was snapping a thread that held them together.



The way from Chelsea to Clapham and the way from South Kensington to Battersea, especially if the former is looped about a little to make it longer, come very near to each other. One night close upon Christmas two friends of Lewisham’s passed him and Ethel. But Lewisham did not see them, because he was looking at Ethel’s face.

“Did you see?” said the other girl, a little maliciously.

“Mr. Lewisham–wasn’t it?” said Miss Heydinger in a perfectly indifferent tone.

* * * * *

Miss Heydinger sat in the room her younger sisters called her “Sanctum.” Her Sanctum was only too evidently an intellectualised bedroom, and a cheap wallpaper of silvery roses peeped coquettishly from among her draped furniture. Her particular glories were the writing-desk in the middle and the microscope on the unsteady octagonal table under the window. There were bookshelves of workmanship patently feminine in their facile decoration and structural instability, and on them an array of glittering poets, Shelley, Rossetti, Keats, Browning, and odd volumes of Ruskin, South Place Sermons, Socialistic publications in torn paper covers, and above, science text-books and note-books in an oppressive abundance. The autotypes that hung about the room were eloquent of aesthetic ambitions and of a certain impermeability to implicit meanings. There were the Mirror of Venus by Burne Jones, Rossetti’s Annunciation, Lippi’s Annunciation, and the Love of Life and Love and Death of Watts. And among other photographs was one of last year’s Debating Society Committee, Lewisham smiling a little weakly near the centre, and Miss Heydinger out of focus in the right wing. And Miss Heydinger sat with her back to all these things, in her black horse-hair arm-chair, staring into the fire, her eyes hot, and her chin on her hand.

“I might have guessed–before,” she said. “Ever since that _seance_. It has been different …”

She smiled bitterly. “Some shop girl …”

She mused. “They are all alike, I suppose. They come back–a little damaged, as the woman says in ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan.’ Perhaps he will. I wonder …”

“Why should he be so deceitful? Why should he act to me …?”

“Pretty, pretty, pretty–that is our business. What man hesitates in the choice? He goes his own way, thinks his own thoughts, does his own work …

“His dissection is getting behind–one can see he takes scarcely any notes….”

For a long time she was silent. Her face became more intent. She began to bite her thumb, at first slowly, then faster. She broke out at last into words again.

“The things he might do, the great things he might do. He is able, he is dogged, he is strong. And then comes a pretty face! Oh God! _Why_ was I made with heart and brain?” She sprang to her feet, with her hands clenched and her face contorted. But she shed no tears.

Her attitude fell limp in a moment. One hand dropped by her side, the other rested on a fossil on the mantel-shelf, and she stared down into the red fire.

“To think of all we might have done! It maddens me!

“To work, and think, and learn. To hope and wait. To despise the petty arts of womanliness, to trust to the sanity of man….

“To awake like the foolish virgins,” she said, “and find the hour of life is past!”

Her face, her pose, softened into self-pity.

“Futility …

“It’s no good….” Her voice broke.

“I shall never be happy….”

She saw the grandiose vision of the future she had cherished suddenly rolled aside and vanishing, more and more splendid as it grew more and more remote–like a dream at the waking moment. The vision of her inevitable loneliness came to replace it, clear and acute. She saw herself alone and small in a huge desolation–infinitely pitiful, Lewisham callously receding with “some shop girl.” The tears came, came faster, until they were streaming down her face. She turned as if looking for something. She flung herself upon her knees before the little arm-chair, and began an incoherent sobbing prayer for the pity and comfort of God.

* * * * *

The next day one of the other girls in the biological course remarked to her friend that “Heydinger-dingery” had relapsed. Her friend glanced down the laboratory. “It’s a bad relapse,” she said. “Really … I couldn’t … wear my hair like that.”

She continued to regard Miss Heydinger with a critical eye. She was free to do this because Miss Heydinger was standing, lost in thought, staring at the December fog outside the laboratory windows. “She looks white,” said the girl who had originally spoken. “I wonder if she works hard.”

“It makes precious little difference if she does,” said her friend. “I asked her yesterday what were the bones in the parietal segment, and she didn’t know one. Not one.”

The next day Miss Heydinger’s place was vacant. She was ill–from overstudy–and her illness lasted to within three weeks of the terminal examination. Then she came back with a pallid face and a strenuous unavailing industry.



It was nearly three o’clock, and in the Biological Laboratory the lamps were all alight. The class was busy with razors cutting sections of the root of a fern to examine it microscopically. A certain silent frog-like boy, a private student who plays no further part in this story, was working intently, looking more like a frog than usual–his expression modest with a touch of effort. Behind Miss Heydinger, jaded and untidy in her early manner again, was a vacant seat, an abandoned microscope and scattered pencils and note-books.

On the door of the class-room was a list of those who had passed the Christmas examination. At the head of it was the name of the aforesaid frog-like boy; next to him came Smithers and one of the girls bracketed together. Lewisham ingloriously headed the second class, and Miss Heydinger’s name did not appear–there was, the list asserted, “one failure.” So the student pays for the finer emotions.

And in the spacious solitude of the museum gallery devoted to the Raphael cartoons sat Lewisham, plunged in gloomy meditation. A negligent hand pulled thoughtfully at the indisputable moustache, with particular attention to such portions as were long enough to gnaw.

He was trying to see the situation clearly. As he was just smarting acutely under his defeat, this speaks little for the clearness of his mind. The shadow of that defeat lay across everything, blotted out the light of his pride, shaded his honour, threw everything into a new perspective. The rich prettiness of his love-making had fled to some remote quarter of his being. Against the frog-like youngster he felt a savage animosity. And Smithers had betrayed him. He was angry, bitterly angry, with “swats” and “muggers” who spent their whole time grinding for these foolish chancy examinations. Nor had the practical examination been altogether fair, and one of the questions in the written portion was quite outside the lectures. Biver, Professor Biver, was an indiscriminating ass, he felt assured, and so too was Weeks, the demonstrator. But these obstacles could not blind his intelligence to the manifest cause of his overthrow, the waste of more than half his available evening, the best time for study in the twenty-four hours, day after day. And that was going on steadily, a perpetual leakage of time. To-night he would go to meet her again, and begin to accumulate to himself ignominy in the second part of the course, the botanical section, also. And so, reluctantly rejecting one cloudy excuse after another, he clearly focussed the antagonism between his relations to Ethel and his immediate ambitions.

Things had come so easily to him for the last two years that he had taken his steady upward progress in life as assured. It had never occurred to him, when he went to intercept Ethel after that _seance_, that he went into any peril of that sort. Now he had had a sharp reminder. He began to shape a picture of the frog-like boy at home–he was a private student of the upper middle class–sitting in a convenient study with a writing-table, book-shelves, and a shaded lamp–Lewisham worked at his chest of drawers, with his greatcoat on, and his feet in the lowest drawer wrapped in all his available linen–and in the midst of incredible conveniences the frog-like boy was working, working, working. Meanwhile Lewisham toiled through the foggy streets, Chelsea-ward, or, after he had left her, tramped homeward–full of foolish imaginings.

He began to think with bloodless lucidity of his entire relationship to Ethel. His softer emotions were in abeyance, but he told himself no lies. He cared for her, he loved to be with her and to talk to her and please her, but that was not all his desire. He thought of the bitter words of an orator at Hammersmith, who had complained that in our present civilisation even the elemental need of marriage was denied. Virtue had become a vice. “We marry in fear and trembling, sex for a home is the woman’s traffic, and the man comes to his heart’s desire when his heart’s desire is dead.” The thing which had seemed a mere flourish, came back now with a terrible air of truth. Lewisham saw that it was a case of divergent ways. On the one hand that shining staircase to fame and power, that had been his dream from the very dawn of his adolescence, and on the other hand–Ethel.

And if he chose Ethel, even then, would he have his choice? What would come of it? A few walks more or less! She was hopelessly poor, he was hopelessly poor, and this cheat of a Medium was her stepfather! After all she was not well-educated, she did not understand his work and his aims….

He suddenly perceived with absolute conviction that after the _seance_ he should have gone home and forgotten her. Why had he felt that irresistible impulse to seek her out? Why had his imagination spun such a strange web of possibilities about her? He was involved now, foolishly involved…. All his future was a sacrifice to this transitory ghost of love-making in the streets. He pulled spitefully at his moustache.

His picture began to shape itself into Ethel, and her mysterious mother, and the vague dexterous Chaffery holding him back, entangled in an impalpable net from that bright and glorious ascent to performance and distinction. Leaky boots and the splash of cabs for all his life as his portion! Already the Forbes Medal, the immediate step, was as good as lost….

What on earth had he been thinking about? He fell foul of his upbringing. Men of the upper or middle classes were put up to these things by their parents; they were properly warned against involving themselves in this love nonsense before they were independent. It was much better….

Everything was going. Not only his work–his scientific career, but the Debating Society, the political movement, all his work for Humanity…. Why not be resolute–even now?… Why not put the thing clearly and plainly to her? Or write? If he wrote now he could get the advantage of the evening at the Library. He must ask her to forgo these walks home–at least until the next examination. _She_ would understand. He had a qualm of doubt whether she would understand…. He grew angry at this possibility. But it was no good mincing matters. If once he began to consider her–Why should he consider her in that way? Simply because she was unreasonable!

Lewisham had a transitory gust of anger.

Yet that abandonment of the walks insisted on looking mean to him. And she would think it mean. Which was very much worse, somehow. _Why_ mean? Why should she think it mean? He grew angry again.

The portly museum policeman who had been watching him furtively, wondering why a student should sit in front of the “Sacrifice of Lystra” and gnaw lips and nails and moustache, and scowl and glare at that masterpiece, saw him rise suddenly to his feet with an air of resolution, spin on his heel, and set off with a quick step out of the gallery. He looked neither to the right nor the left. He passed out of sight down the staircase.

“Gone to get some more moustache to eat, I suppose,” said the policeman reflectively….

“One ‘ud think something had bit him.”

After some pensive moments the policeman strolled along down the gallery and came to a stop opposite the cartoon.

“Figgers is a bit big for the houses,” said the policeman, anxious to do impartial justice. “But that’s Art. I lay ‘_e_ couldn’t do anything … not arf so good.”



The night next but one after this meditation saw a new order in the world. A young lady dressed in an astrachan-edged jacket and with a face of diminished cheerfulness marched from Chelsea to Clapham alone, and Lewisham sat in the flickering electric light of the Education Library staring blankly over a business-like pile of books at unseen things.

The arrangement had not been effected without friction, the explanation had proved difficult. Evidently she did not appreciate the full seriousness of Lewisham’s mediocre position in the list. “But you have _passed_ all right,” she said. Neither could she grasp the importance of evening study. “Of course I don’t know,” she said judicially; “but I thought you were learning all day.” She calculated the time consumed by their walk as half an hour, “just one half hour;” she forgot that he had to get to Chelsea and then to return to his lodgings. Her customary tenderness was veiled by an only too apparent resentment. First at him, and then when he protested, at Fate. “I suppose it _has_ to be,” she said. “Of course, it doesn’t matter, I suppose, if we _don’t_ see each other quite so often,” with a quiver of pale lips.

He had returned from the parting with an uneasy mind, and that evening had gone in the composition of a letter that was to make things clearer. But his scientific studies rendered his prose style “hard,” and things he could whisper he could not write. His justification indeed did him no sort of justice. But her reception of it made her seem a very unreasonable person. He had some violent fluctuations. At times he was bitterly angry with her for her failure to see things as he did. He would wander about the museum conducting imaginary discussions with her and making even scathing remarks. At other times he had to summon all his powers of acrid discipline and all his memories of her resentful retorts, to keep himself from a headlong rush to Chelsea and unmanly capitulation.

And this new disposition of things endured for two weeks. It did not take Miss Heydinger all that time to discover that the disaster of the examination had wrought a change in Lewisham. She perceived those nightly walks were over. It was speedily evident to her that he was working with a kind of dogged fury; he came early, he went late. The wholesome freshness of his cheek paled. He was to be seen on each of the late nights amidst a pile of diagrams and text-books in one of the less draughty corners of the Educational Library, accumulating piles of memoranda. And nightly in the Students’ “club” he wrote a letter addressed to a stationer’s shop in Clapham, but that she did not see. For the most part these letters were brief, for Lewisham, South Kensington fashion, prided himself upon not being “literary,” and some of the more despatch-like wounded a heart perhaps too hungry for tender words.

He did not meet Miss Heydinger’s renewed advances with invariable kindness. Yet something of the old relations were presently restored. He would talk well to her for a time, and then snap like a dry twig. But the loaning of books was resumed, the subtle process of his aesthetic education that Miss Heydinger had devised. “Here is a book I promised you,” she said one day, and he tried to remember the promise.

The book was a collection of Browning’s Poems, and it contained “Sludge”; it also happened that it contained “The Statue and the Bust”–that stimulating lecture on half-hearted constraints. “Sludge” did not interest Lewisham, it was not at all his idea of a medium, but he read and re-read “The Statue and the Bust.” It had the profoundest effect upon him. He went to sleep–he used to read his literature in bed because it was warmer there, and over literature nowadays it did not matter as it did with science if one dozed a little–with these lines stimulating his emotion:–

“So weeks grew months, years; gleam by gleam The glory dropped from their youth and love, And both perceived they had dreamed a dream.”

By way of fruit it may be to such seed, he dreamed a dream that night. It concerned Ethel, and at last they were a-marrying. He drew her to his arms. He bent to kiss her. And suddenly he saw her lips were shrivelled and her eyes were dull, saw the wrinkles seaming her face! She was old! She was intolerably old! He woke in a kind of horror and lay awake and very dismal until dawn, thinking of their separation and of her solitary walk through the muddy streets, thinking of his position, the leeway he had lost and the chances there were against him in the battle of the world. He perceived the colourless truth; the Career was improbable, and that Ethel should be added to it was almost hopeless. Clearly the question was between these two. Or should he vacillate and lose both? And then his wretchedness gave place to that anger that comes of perpetually thwarted desires….

It was on the day after this dream that he insulted Parkson so grossly. He insulted Parkson after a meeting of the “Friends of Progress” at Parkson’s rooms.

No type of English student quite realises the noble ideal of plain living and high thinking nowadays. Our admirable examination system admits of extremely little thinking at any level, high or low. But the Kensington student’s living is at any rate insufficient, and he makes occasional signs of recognition towards the cosmic process.

One such sign was the periodic gathering of these “Friends of Progress,” an association begotten of Lewisham’s paper on Socialism. It was understood that strenuous things were to be done to make the world better, but so far no decisive action had been taken.

They met in Parkson’s sitting-room, because Parkson was the only one of the Friends opulent enough to have a sitting-room, he being a Whitworth Scholar and in receipt of one hundred pounds a year. The Friends were of various ages, mostly very young. Several smoked and others held pipes which they had discontinued smoking–but there was nothing to drink, except coffee, because that was the extent of their means. Dunkerley, an assistant master in a suburban school, and Lewisham’s former colleague at Whortley, attended these assemblies through the introduction of Lewisham. All the Friends wore red ties except Bletherley, who wore an orange one to show that he was aware of Art, and Dunkerley, who wore a black one with blue specks, because assistant masters in small private schools have to keep up appearances. And their simple procedure was that each talked as much as the others would suffer.

Usually the self-proposed “Luther of Socialism”–ridiculous Lewisham!–had a thesis or so to maintain, but this night he was depressed and inattentive. He sat with his legs over the arm of his chair by way of indicating the state of his mind. He had a packet of Algerian cigarettes (twenty for fivepence), and appeared chiefly concerned to smoke them all before the evening was out. Bletherley was going to discourse of “Woman under Socialism,” and he brought a big American edition of Shelley’s works and a volume of Tennyson with the “Princess,” both bristling with paper tongues against his marked quotations. He was all for the abolition of “monopolies,” and the _creche_ was to replace the family. He was unctuous when he was not pretty-pretty, and his views were evidently unpopular.

Parkson was a man from Lancashire, and a devout Quaker; his third and completing factor was Ruskin, with whose work and phraseology he was saturated. He listened to Bletherley with a marked disapproval, and opened a vigorous defence of that ancient tradition of loyalty that Bletherley had called the monopolist institution of marriage. “The pure and simple old theory–love and faithfulness,” said Parkson, “suffices for me. If we are to smear our political movements with this sort of stuff …”

“Does it work?” interjected Lewisham, speaking for the first time.

“What work?”

“The pure and simple old theory. I know the theory. I believe in the theory. Bletherley’s Shelley-witted. But it’s theory. You meet the inevitable girl. The theory says you may meet her anywhen. You meet too young. You fall in love. You marry–in spite of obstacles. Love laughs at locksmiths. You have children. That’s the theory. All very well for a man whose father can leave him five hundred a year. But how does it work for a shopman?… An assistant master like Dunkerley? Or … Me?”

“In these cases one must exercise restraint,” said Parkson. “Have faith. A man that is worth having is worth waiting for.”

“Worth growing old for?” said Lewisham.

“Chap ought to fight,” said Dunkerley. “Don’t see your difficulty, Lewisham. Struggle for existence keen, no doubt, tremendous in fact–still. In it–may as well struggle. Two–join forces–pool the luck. If I saw, a girl I fancied so that I wanted to, I’d marry her to-morrow. And my market value is seventy _non res_.”

Lewisham looked round at him eagerly, suddenly interested. “_Would_ you?” he said. Dunkerley’s face was slightly flushed.

“Like a shot. Why not?”

“But how are you to live?”

“That comes after. If …”

“I can’t agree with you, Mr. Dunkerley,” said Parkson. “I don’t know if you have read Sesame and Lilies, but there you have, set forth far more fairly than any words of mine could do, an ideal of a woman’s place …”

“All rot–Sesame and Lilies,” interrupted Dunkerley. “Read bits. Couldn’t stand it. Never _can_ stand Ruskin. Too many prepositions. Tremendous English, no doubt, but not my style. Sort of thing a wholesale grocer’s daughter might read to get refined. _We_ can’t afford to get refined.”

“But would you really marry a girl …?” began Lewisham, with an unprecedented admiration for Dunkerley in his eyes.

“Why not?”

“On–?” Lewisham hesitated.

“Forty pounds a year _res_. Whack! Yes.”

A silent youngster began to speak, cleared an accumulated huskiness from his throat and said, “Consider the girl.”

“Why _marry_?” asked Bletherley, unregarded.

“You must admit you are asking a great thing when you want a girl …” began Parkson.

“Not so. When a girl’s chosen a man, and he chooses her, her place is with him. What is the good of hankering? Mutual. Fight together.”

“Good!” said Lewisham, suddenly emotional. “You talk like a man, Dunkerley. I’m hanged if you don’t.”

“The place of Woman,” insisted Parkson, “is the Home. And if there is no home–! I hold that, if need be, a man should toil seven years–as Jacob did for Rachel–ruling his passions, to make the home fitting and sweet for her …”

“Get the hutch for the pet animal,” said Dunkerley. “No. I mean to marry a _woman_. Female sex always _has_ been in the struggle for existence–no great damage so far–always will be. Tremendous idea–that struggle for existence. Only sensible theory you’ve got hold of, Lewisham. Woman who isn’t fighting square side by side with a man–woman who’s just kept and fed and petted is …” He hesitated.

A lad with a spotted face and a bulldog pipe between his teeth supplied a Biblical word.

“That’s shag,” said Dunkerley, “I was going to say ‘a harem of one'”