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Mary Olivier: A Life by May Sinclair

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brings you the next all bright and new.

Heaven would be like that. Imagine an eternity of heaven; being with
Richard for ever and ever. But nobody ever did imagine an eternity of
heaven. People only talk about it because they can't imagine it. What
they mean is that if they had one minute of it they would remember that
for ever and ever.

* * * * *

This is Richard's life. This is what I'd have taken from him if I'd let
him marry me.

I daren't even think what it would have been like if I'd tried to mix up
Mamma and Richard in the same house.... And poor little Mamma in a
strange place with nothing about it that she could remember, going up and
down in it, trying to get at me, and looking reproachful and disapproving
all the time. She'd have to be shut in her own rooms because Richard
wouldn't have her in his. Sitting up waiting to be read aloud to and
played halma with when Richard wanted me. Saying the same things over and
over again. Sighing.

Richard would go off his head if he heard Mamma sigh.

He wants to be by himself the whole time, "working like blazes." He likes
to feel that the very servants are battened down in the basement so that
he doesn't know they're there. He couldn't stand Tiedeman and Peters if
they weren't doing the same thing. Tiedeman working like blazes in the
flat above him and Peters working like blazes in the flat below.

Richard slept in this room last night. He will sleep in it again when I'm

She switched the light on to look at it for another second: the
privet-white panelled cabin, the small wine-coloured chest of drawers,
the small golden-brown wardrobe, shining.

My hat's in that wardrobe, lying on Richard's waistcoat, fast asleep.

If Tiedeman's flat's up there, that's Richard walking up and down over my
head.... If it rains there'll be a row on the skylight and he won't
sleep. He isn't sleeping now.


It would be much nicer to walk home through Kensington Gardens and Hyde

She was glad that they were going to have a quiet evening. After three
evenings at the play and Richard ruining himself in hansoms and not
sleeping.... After this unbelievable afternoon. All those people, those
terribly important people.

It was amusing to go about with Richard and feel important yourself
because you were with him. And to see Richard's ways with them, his nice
way of behaving as if _he_ wasn't important in the least, as if it was
you they had made all that fuss about.

To think that the little dried up schoolmasterish man was Professor Lee
Ramsden, prowling about outside the group, eager and shy, waiting to be
introduced to you, nobody taking the smallest notice of him. The woman
who had brought him making soft, sentimental eyes at you through the gaps
in the group, and trying to push him in a bit nearer. Then Richard asking
you to be kind for one minute to the poor old thing. It hurt you to see
him shy and humble and out of it.

And when you thought of his arrogance at Durlingham.

It was the women's voices that tired you so, and their nervous, snapping

The best of all was going away from them quietly with Richard into
Kensington Gardens.

"Did you like it, Mary?"

"Frightfully. But not half so much as this."


She was all alone in the front room, stretched out on the flat couch in
the corner facing the door.

He was still writing his letter in the inner room. When she heard him
move she would slide her feet to the floor and sit up.

She wanted to lie still with her hands over her shut eyes, making the
four long, delicious days begin again and go on in her head.

Richard _would_ take hansoms. You couldn't stop him. Perhaps he was
afraid if you walked too far you would drop down dead. When it was all
over your soul would still drive about London in a hansom for ever and
ever, through blue and gold rain-sprinkled days, through poignant white
evenings, through the streaming, steep, brown-purple darkness and the
streaming flat, thin gold of the wet nights.

They were not going to have any more tiring parties. There wasn't enough

When she opened her eyes he was sitting on the chair by the foot of the
couch, leaning forward, looking at her. She saw nothing but his loose,
hanging hands and straining eyes.

"Oh, Richard--what time is it?" She swung her feet to the floor and sat
up suddenly.

"Only nine."

"Only nine. The evening's nearly gone."

* * * * *

"Is that why you aren't sleeping, Richard? ... I didn't know. I didn't
know I was hurting you."

"What-did-you-think? What-did-you-think? Isn't it hurting you?"

"Me? I've got used to it. I was so happy just being with you."

"So happy and so quiet that I thought you didn't care.... Well, what was
I to think? If you won't marry me."

"That's because I care so frightfully. Don't let's rake that up again."

"Well, there it is."

She thought: "I've no business to come here to his rooms, turning him
out, making him so wretched that he can't sleep. No business....

"And we've got to go on living with it," he said.

He thinks I haven't the courage ... I can't _tell_ him.

"Yes," she said, "there it is."

Why shouldn't I tell him? ... We've only ten days. As long as I'm here
nothing matters but Richard ... If I keep perfectly still, still like
this, if I don't say a word he'll think of it....

"Richard--would you rather I hadn't come?"


"You remember the evening I came--you got up so suddenly and left me?
What did you do that for?"

"Because if I'd stayed another minute I couldn't have left you at all."

He stood up.

"And you're only going now because you can't see that I'm not a coward."

* * * * *

This wouldn't last, the leaping and knocking of her heart, the eyelids
screwing themselves tight, the jerking of her nerves at every sound: at
the two harsh rattling screams of the curtain rings along the pole, at
the light click of the switches. Only the small green-shaded lamp still
burning on Richard's writing table in the inner room. She could hear him
moving about, softly and secretly, in there.

He was Richard. That was Richard, moving about in there.


Richard thought his flat was a safe place. But it wasn't. People creeping
up the stairs every minute and standing still to listen. People would
come and try the handle of the door.

"They won't, dear. Nobody ever comes in. It has never happened. It isn't
going to happen now."

Yet you couldn't help thinking that just this night it would happen.

She thought that Peters knew. He wouldn't come out of his door till you
had turned the corner of the stairs.

She thought the woman in the basement knew. She remembered the evening at
Greffington: Baxter's pinched mouth and his eyes sliding sideways to look
at you. She knew now what Baxter had been thinking. The woman's look was
the female of Baxter's.

As if that could hurt you!


"Mary, do you know you're growing younger every minute?"

"I shall go on growing younger and younger till it's all over."

"Till what's all over?"

"This. So will you, Richard."

"Not in the same way. My hair isn't young any more. My face isn't young
any more."

"I don't want it to be young. It wasn't half so nice a face when it was
young.... Some other woman loved it when it was young."

"Yes. Another woman loved it when it was young."

"Is she alive and going about?"

"Oh, yes; she's alive and she goes about a lot."

"Does she love you now?"

"I suppose she does."

"I wish she didn't."

"You needn't mind her, Mary. She was never anything to me. She never will

"But I do mind her. I mind her awfully. I can't bear to think of her
going about and loving you. She's no business to.... Why do I mind her
loving you more than I'd mind your loving her?"

"Because you like loving more than being loved."

"How do you know?"

"I know every time I hold you in my arms."

There have been other women then, or he wouldn't know the difference.
There must have been a woman that he loved.

I don't care. It wasn't the same thing.

"What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking nothing was ever the same thing as this."

"No.... Whatever we do, Mary, we mustn't go back on it.... If we could
have done anything else. But I can't see.... It's not as if it could last
long. Nothing lasts long. Life doesn't last long."

He sounded as if he were sorry, as if already, in his mind, he had gone
back on it. After three days.

"You're not _sorry_, Richard?"

"Only when I think of you. The awful risks I've made you take."

"Can't you see I _like_ risks? I always have liked risks. When we were
children my brothers and I were always trying to see just how near we
could go to breaking our necks."

"I know you've courage enough for anything. But that was rather a
different sort of risk."

"No. No. There are no different sorts of risk. All intense moments of
danger are the same. It's always the same feeling. I don't know whether
I've courage or not, but I do know that when danger comes you don't care.
You're hoisted up above caring."

"You _do_ care, Mary."

"About my 'reputation '? You wouldn't like to think I didn't care about
it.... Of course, I care frightfully. If I didn't, where's the risk?"

"I hate your having to take it all. I don't risk anything."

"I wish you did. Then you'd be happier. Poor Richard--so safe in his
man's world.... You can be sorry about that, if you like. But not about
me. I shall never be sorry. Nothing in this world can make me sorry.... I
shouldn't like Mamma to know about it. But even Mamma couldn't make me
sorry.... I've always been happy about the things that matter, the real
things. I hate people who sneak and snivel about real things.... People
who have doubts about God and don't like them and snivel. I had doubts
about God once, and they made me so happy I could hardly bear it....
Mamma couldn't bear it making me happy. She wouldn't have minded half so
much if I had been sorry and snivelled. She wouldn't mind so much if I
was sorry and snivelled about this."

"You _said_ you weren't going to think about your mother."

"I'm not thinking about her. I'm thinking about how happy I have been and
am and shall be."

Even thinking about Mamma couldn't hurt you now. Nothing could hurt the
happiness you shared with Richard. What it was now it would always be.
Pure and remorseless.


Delicious, warm, shining day. She had her coat and hat on ready to go
down with him. The hansom stood waiting in the street.

They were looking up the place on the map, when the loud double knock

"That's for Peters. He's always getting wires--"

"If we don't go to-day we shall never go. We've only got five more now."

The long, soft rapping on the door of the room. Knuckles rapping out
their warning. "You can't say I don't give you time."

Richard took the orange envelope.

"It's for you, Mary."

"Oh, Richard, '_Come at once. Mother ill.--DORSY_.'"

She would catch the ten train. That was what the hansom was there for.

"I'll send your things on after you."

The driver and the slog-slogging horse knew that she would catch the
train. Richard knew.

He had the same look on his face that was there before when Mamma was
ill. Sorrow that wasn't sorrow. And the same clear thought behind it.



Dorsey's nerves were in a shocking state. You could see she had been
afraid all the time; from the first day when Mamma had kept on saying,
"Has Mary come back?"

Dorsy was sure that was how it began; but she couldn't tell you whether
it was before or afterwards that she had forgotten the days of the week.

Anybody could forget the days of the week. What frightened Dorsy was
hearing her say suddenly, "Mary's _gone_." She said it to herself when
she didn't know Dorsy was in the room. Then she had left off asking and
wondering. For five days she hadn't said anything about you. Not anything
at all. When she heard your name she stared at them with a queer, scared

Catty said that yesterday she had begun to be afraid of Dorsy and
couldn't bear her in the room. That was what made them send the wire.

* * * * *

What had she been thinking of those five days? It was as though she knew.

Dorsy said she didn't believe she was thinking anything at all. Dorsy
didn't know.


Somebody knew. Somebody had been talking. She had found Catty in the room
making up the bed for her in the corner. Catty was crying as she tucked
in the blankets. "There's some people," she said, "as had ought to be
poisoned." But she wouldn't say why she was crying.

You could tell by Mr. Belk's face, his mouth drawn in between claws of
nose and chin; by Mrs. Belk's face and her busy eyes, staring. By the old
men sitting on the bench at the corner, their eyes coming together as you

And Mr. Spencer Rollitt, stretching himself straight and looking away
over your head and drawing in his breath with a "Fivv-vv-vv" when he
asked how Mamma was. His thoughts were hidden behind his bare, wooden
face. He was a just and cautious man. He wouldn't accept any statement
outside the Bible without proof.

You had to go down and talk to Mrs. Waugh. She had come to see how you
would look. Her mouth talked about Mamma but her face was saying all the
time, "I'm not going to ask you what you were doing in London in Mr.
Nicholson's flat, Mary. I'm sure you wouldn't do anything you'd be sorry
to think of with your poor mother in the state she's in."

I don't care. I don't care what they think.

There would still be Catty and Dorsy and Louisa Wright and Miss Kendal
and Dr. Charles with their kind eyes that loved you. And Richard living
his eternal life in your heart.

And Mamma would never know.


Mamma was going backwards and forwards between the open work-table and
the cabinet. She was taking out the ivory reels and thimbles and button
boxes, wrapping them in tissue paper and hiding them in the cabinet. When
she had locked the doors she waited till you weren't looking to lift up
her skirt and hide the key in her petticoat pocket.

She was happy, like a busy child at play.

She was never ill, only tired like a child that plays too long. Her face
was growing smooth and young and pretty again; a pink flush under her
eyes. She would never look disapproving or reproachful any more. She
couldn't listen any more when you read aloud to her. She had forgotten
how to play halma.

One day she found the green box in the cabinet drawer. She came to you
carrying it with care. When she had put it down on the table she lifted
the lid and looked at the little green and white pawns and smiled.

"Roddy's soldiers," she said.

* * * * *

Richard doesn't know what he's talking about when he asks me to give up
Mamma. He might as well ask me to give up my child. It's no use his
saying she "isn't there." Any minute she may come back and remember and
know me.

She must have known me yesterday when she asked me to go and see what
Papa was doing.

As for "waiting," he may have to wait years and years. And I'm forty-five


The round black eye of the mirror looked at them. Their figures would be
there, hers and Richard's, at the bottom of the black crystal bowl, small
like the figures in the wrong end of a telescope, very clear in the deep,
clear swirl of the glass.

They were sitting close together on the old rose-chintz-covered couch.
_Her_ couch. You could see him putting the cushions at her back, tucking
the wide Victorian skirt in close about the feet in the black velvet
slippers. And she would lie there with her poor hands folded in the white
cashmere shawl.

Richard knew what you were thinking.

"You can't expect me," he was saying, "to behave like my uncle....
Besides, it's a little too late, isn't it?... We said, whatever we did we
wouldn't go back on it. If it wasn't wrong then, Mary, it isn't wrong

"It isn't that, Richard."

(No. Not that. Pure and remorseless then. Pure and remorseless now.)

She wondered whether he had heard it. The crunching on the gravel walk
under the windows, stopping suddenly when the feet stepped on to the
grass. And the hushed growl of the men's voices. Baxter and the gardener.
They had come to see whether the light would go out again behind the
yellow blinds as it had gone out last night.

If you were a coward; if you had wanted to get off scot-free, it was too

Richard knows I'm not a coward. Funk wouldn't keep me from him. It isn't

"What is it, then?"

"Can't you see, can't you feel that it's no use coming again, just for
this? It'll never be what it was then. It'll always be like last night,
and you'll think I don't care. Something's holding me back from you.
Something that's happened to me. I don't know yet what it is."

"Nerves. Nothing but nerves."

"No. I thought it was nerves last night. I thought it was this room.
Those two poor ghosts, looking at us. I even thought it might be Mark and
Roddy--all of them--tugging at me to get me away from you.... But it
isn't that. It's something in me."

"You're trying to tell me you don't want me."

"I'm trying to tell you what happened. I did want you, all last year. It
was so awful that I had to stop it. You couldn't go on living like
that.... I willed and willed not to want you."

"So did I. All the willing in the world couldn't stop me."

"It isn't that sort of willing. You might go on all your life like that
and nothing would happen. You have to find it out for yourself; and even
that might take you all your life.... It isn't the thing people call
willing at all. It's much queerer. Awfully queer."


"Oh--the sort of queerness you don't like talking about."

"I'm sorry, Mary. You seem to be talking about something, but I haven't
the faintest notion what it is. But you can make yourself believe
anything you like if you keep on long enough."

"No. Half the time I'm doing it I don't believe it'll come off.... But it
always does. Every time it's the same. Every time; exactly as if
something had happened."

"Poor Mary."

"But, Richard, it makes you absolutely happy. That's the queer part of
it. It's how you know."

"Know _what_?"

He was angry.

"That there's something there. That it's absolutely real."


"Why not? If it makes you happy without the thing you care most for in
the whole world.... There must be something there. It must be real. Real
in a way that nothing else is."

"You aren't happy now," he said.

"No. And you're with me. And I care for you more than anything in the
whole world."

"I thought you said that was all over."

"No. It's only just begun."

"I can't say I see it."

"You'll see it all right soon.... When you've gone."


It was no use not marrying him, no use sending him away, as long as he
was tied to you by his want.

You had no business to be happy. It wasn't fair. There was he, tied to
you tighter than if you _had_ married him. And there you were in your
inconceivable freedom. Supposing you could give him the same freedom, the
same happiness? Supposing you could "work" it for him, make It (whatever
it was) reach out and draw him into your immunity, your peace?


Whatever It was It was there. You could doubt away yourself and Richard,
but you couldn't doubt away It.

It might leave you for a time, but it came back. It came back. Its going
only intensified the wonder of its return. You might lose all sense of it
between its moments; but the thing was certain while it lasted. Doubt it
away, and still what had been done for you lasted. Done for you once for
all, two years ago. And that wasn't the first time.

Even supposing you could doubt away the other times.--You might have made
the other things happen by yourself. But not that. Not giving Richard up
and still being happy. That was something you couldn't possibly have done
yourself. Or you might have done it in time--time might have done it for
you--but not like that, all at once, making that incredible, supernatural
happiness and peace out of nothing at all, in one night, and going on in
it, without Richard. Richard himself didn't believe it was possible. He
simply thought it hadn't happened.

Still, even then, you might have said it didn't count so long as it was
nothing but your private adventure; but not now, never again now when it
had happened to Richard.

His letter didn't tell you whether he thought there was anything in it.
He saw the "queerness" of it and left it there:

"Something happened that night after you'd gone. You know how I felt. I
couldn't stop wanting you. My mind was tied to you and couldn't get away.
Well--that night something let go--quite suddenly. Something went.

"It's a year ago and it hasn't come back.

"I didn't know what on earth you meant by 'not wanting and still caring';
but I think I see now. I don't 'want' you any more and I 'care' more than

"Don't 'work like blazes.' Still I'm glad you like it. I can get you any
amount of the same thing--more than you'll care to do."


He didn't know how hard it was to "work like blazes." You had to keep
your eyes ready all the time to see what Mamma was doing. You had to take
her up and down stairs, holding her lest she should turn dizzy and fall.
If you left her a minute she would get out of the room, out of the house
and on to the Green by herself and be frightened.

Mamma couldn't remember the garden. She looked at her flowers with

You had brought her on a visit to a strange, disagreeable place and left
her there. She was angry with you because she couldn't get away.

Then, suddenly, for whole hours she would be good: a child playing its
delicious game of goodness. When Dr. Charles came in and you took him out
of the room to talk about her you would tell her to sit still until you
came back. And she would smile, the sweet, serious smile of a child that
is being trusted, and sit down on the parrot chair; and when you came
back you would find her sitting there, still smiling to herself because
she was so good.

Why do I love her now, when she is like this--when "_this_" is what I was
afraid of, what I thought I could not bear--why do I love her more, if
anything, now than I've ever done before? Why am I happier now than I've
ever been before, except in the times when I was writing and the times
when I was with Richard?


Forty-five. Yesterday she was forty-five, and to-day. To-morrow she would
be forty-six. She had come through the dreadful, dangerous year without
thinking of it, and nothing had happened. Nothing at all. She couldn't
imagine why she had ever been afraid of it; she could hardly remember
what being afraid of it had felt like.

Aunt Charlotte--Uncle Victor--

If I were going to be mad I should have gone mad long ago: when Roddy
came back; when Mark died; when I sent Richard away. I should be mad now.

It was getting worse.

In the cramped room where the big bed stuck out from the wall to within a
yard of the window, Mamma went about, small and weak, in her wadded
lavender Japanese dressing-gown, like a child that can't sit still,
looking for something it wants that nobody can find. You couldn't think
because of the soft pad-pad of the dreaming, sleepwalking feet in the
lamb's-wool slippers.

When you weren't looking she would slip out of the room on to the landing
to the head of the stairs, and stand there, vexed and bewildered when you
caught her.


Mamma was not well enough now to get up and be dressed. They had moved
her into Papa's room. It was bright all morning with the sun. She was
happy there. She remembered the yellow furniture. She was back in the old
bedroom at Five Elms.

Mamma lay in the big bed, waiting for you to brush her hair. She was
playing with her white flannel dressing jacket, spread out before her on
the counterpane, ready. She talked to herself.

"Lindley Vickers--Vickers Lindley."

But she was not thinking of Lindley Vickers; she was thinking of Dan,
trying to get back to Dan.

"Is Jenny there? Tell her to go and see what Master Roddy's doing." She
thought Catty was Jenny.... "Has Dan come in?"

Sometimes it would be Papa; but not often; she soon left him for Dan and

Always Dan and Roddy. And never Mark.

Never Mark and never Mary. Had she forgotten Mark or did she remember him
too well? Or was she afraid to remember? Supposing there was a black hole
in her mind where Mark's death was, and another black hole where Mary had
been? Had she always held you together in her mind so that you went down
together? Did she hold you together now, in some time and place safer
than memory?

She was still playing with the dressing-jacket. She smoothed it, and
patted it, and folded it up and laid it beside her on the bed. She took
up her pocket-handkerchief and shook it out and folded it and put it on
the top of the dressing-jacket.

"What are you doing, you darling?"

"Going to bed."

She looked at you with a half-happy, half-frightened smile, because you
had found her out. She was putting out the baby clothes, ready. Serious
and pleased and frightened.

"Who will take care of my little children when I'm laid aside?"

She knew what she was lying in the big bed for.


It was really bedtime. She was sitting up in the armchair while Catty who
was Jenny made her bed. The long white sheet lay smooth and flat on the
high mattress; it hung down on the floor.

Mamma was afraid of the white sheet. She wouldn't go back to bed.

"There's a coffin on the bed. Somebody's died of cholera," she said.

Cholera? That was what she thought Mark had died of.

* * * * *

She knows who I am now.


Richard had written to say he was married. On the twenty-fifth of
February. That was just ten days after Mamma died.

"We've known each other the best part of our lives. So you see it's a
very sober middle-aged affair."

He had married the woman who loved him when he was young. "A very sober
middle-aged affair." Not what it would have been if you and he--He
didn't want you to think that _that_ would ever happen again. He wanted
you to see that with him and you it had been different, that you had
loved him and lived with him in that other time he had made for you where
you were always young.

He had only made it for you. She, poor thing, would have to put up with
other people's time, time that made them middle-aged, made them old.

You had got to write and tell him you were glad. You had got to tell him
Mamma died ten days ago. And he would say to himself, "If I'd waited
another ten days--" There was nothing he could say to you.

That was why he didn't write again. There was nothing to say.



She would never get used to the house.

She couldn't think why she had been such a fool as to take it. On a seven
years' lease, too; it would feel like being in prison for seven years.

That was the worst of moving about for a whole year in boats and trains,
and staying at hotels; it gave you an unnatural longing to settle down,
in a place of your own.

Your own--Undying lust of possession. If you _had_ to have things, why a
house? Why six rooms when two would have done as well and left you your
freedom? After all that ecstasy of space, that succession of heavenly
places with singing names: Carcassone and Vezelay; Rome and Florence and
San Gimignano; Marseilles and Arles and Avignon; filling up time,
stretching it out, making a long life out of one year.

If you could go moving on and on while time stood still.

Oh this damned house. It would be you sitting still while time tore by,
as it used to tear by at Morfe before Richard came, and in the three
years after he had gone, when Mamma--


It was rather attractive, when you turned the corner and came on it
suddenly, flat-roofed and small, clean white and innocent. The spring
twilight gave it that look of being somewhere in Italy, the look that
made you fall in love with it at first sight.

As for not getting used to it, that was precisely the effect she wanted:
rooms that wouldn't look like anything in the house at Morfe, things that
she would always come on with a faint, exquisite surprise: the worn
magentaish rug on the dark polished floor, the oak table, the gentian
blue chair, the thin magenta curtains letting the light through: the
things Richard had given her because in their beginning they had been
meant for her. Richard knew that you were safe from unhappiness, that you
had never once "gone back on it," if you could be happy with his things.

He had thought, too, that if you had a house you would settle down and

You would have to; you would have to work like blazes, after spending all
the money Aunt Charlotte left you on rushing about, and half the money
Aunt Lavvy left you on settling down. It was horrible this living on
other people's deaths.


Catty couldn't bear it being so different. You could see she thought you
were unfaithful not to have kept the piano when Mamma had played on it.

Catty's faithfulness was unsurpassable. She had wanted to marry
Blenkiron, the stonemason at Morfe, but first she wouldn't because of
Mamma and then she wouldn't because of Miss Mary. When you told her to go
back and marry him at once she would only laugh and say, "There's your
husband, and there's your children. You're my child, Miss Mary. Master
Roddy was Jenny's child and you was always mine."

You were only ten years younger than Catty, but like Richard she couldn't
see that you were old.

You would never know whether Catty knew about Richard; or whether Dorsy
knew. Whatever you did they would love you, Catty because you were her
child, and Dorsy because you were Mark's sister.


The sun had been shining for a fortnight. She could sit out all day now
in the garden.

It was nonsense to talk about time standing still if you kept on moving.
Just now, in the garden, when the light came through the thin green silk
leaves of the lime tree, for a moment, while she sat looking at the lime
tree, time stood still.

Catty had taken away the tea-things and was going down the four steps
into the house. It happened between the opening and shutting of the door.

She saw that the beauty of the tree was its real life, and that its real
life was in her real self and that her real self was God. The leaves and
the light had nothing to do with it; she had seen it before when the tree
was a stem and bare branches on a grey sky; and that beauty too was the
real life of the tree.


If she could only dream about Mark. But if she dreamed about any of them
it was always Mamma. She had left her in the house by herself and she had
got out of her room to the stair-head. Or they were in London at the
crossing by the Bank and Mamma was frightened. She had to get her through
the thick of the traffic. The horses pushed at Mamma and you tried to
hold back their noses, but she sank down and slid away from you sideways
under the wheel.

Or she would come into this room and find her in it. At first she would
be glad to see that Mamma was still there; then she would be unhappy and
afraid. She would go on to a clear thought: if Mamma was still there,
then she had got back somehow to Morfe. The old life was still going on;
it had never really stopped. But if that was real, then this was not
real. Her secure, shining life of last year and now wasn't real; nothing
could make it real; her exquisite sense of it was not real. She had only
thought it had happened.

Nothing had happened but what had happened before; it was happening now;
it would go on and on till it frightened you, till you could not bear it.
When she woke up she was glad that the dream had been nothing but a

But that meant that you were glad Mamma was not there. The dream showed
you what you were hiding from yourself. Supposing the dead knew?
Supposing Mamma knew, and Mark knew that you were glad--


It came to her at queer times, in queer ways. After that horrible evening
at the Dining Club when the secretary woman put her as far as possible
from Richard, next to the little Jew financier who smelt of wine.

She couldn't even hear what Richard was saying; the little wine-lapping
Jew went on talking about Women's Suffrage and his collection of
Fragonards and his wife's portrait by Sargent. His tongue slid between
one overhanging and one dropping jaw, in and out like a shuttle.

She tried not to hate him, not to shrink back from his puffing, wine-sour
breath, to be kind to him and listen and smile and remember that his real
secret self was God, and was holy; not to attend to Richard's voice
breaking the beat of her heart.

She had gone away before Richard could get up and come to her. She wanted
to be back in her house by herself. She had pushed open the French
windows of the study to breathe the air of the garden and see the tall
sycamore growing deep into the thick blue night. Half the room, reflected
on the long pane, was thrown out into the garden. She saw it thinning
away, going off from the garden into another space, existing there with
an unearthly reality of its own. She had sat down at last, too tired to
go upstairs, and had found herself crying, incredibly crying; all the
misery, all the fear, all the boredom of her life gathered together and
discharging now.

"If I could get out of it all"--Her crying stopped with a start as if
somebody had come in and put a hand on her shoulder. Everything went
still. She had a sense of happiness and peace suddenly there with her in
the room. Not so much her own as the happiness and peace of an immense,
invisible, intangible being of whose life she was thus aware. She knew,
somehow through It, that there was no need to get away; she was out of it
all now, this minute. There was always a point where she could get out of
it and into this enduring happiness and peace.


They were talking to-night about Richard and his wife. They said he
wasn't happy; he wasn't in love with her.

He never had been; she knew it; yet she took him, and tied him to her, an
old woman, older than Richard, with grey hair.

Oh well--she had had to wait for him longer than he waited for me, and
she's in love with him still. She's making it impossible for him to see

Then I shan't see him. I don't want him to see me if it hurts her. I
don't want her to be hurt.

I wonder if she knows? _They_ know. I can hear them talking about me when
I've gone.

..."Mary Olivier, the woman who translated Euripides."

..."Mary Olivier, the woman Nicholson discovered."

..."Mary Olivier, the woman who was Nicholson's mistress."

Richard's mistress--I know that's what they say, but I can't feel that
they're saying it about _me_. It must be somebody else, some woman I
never heard of.


Mr. Sutcliffe is dead. He died two weeks ago at Agaye.

I can see now how beautiful they were; how beautiful he was, going away
like that, letting her take him away so that the sight of me shouldn't
hurt her.

I can see that what I thought so ugly was really beautiful, their
sticking to each other through it all, his faithfulness and her
forgiveness, their long life of faithfulness and forgiveness.

But my short life with Richard was beautiful too; my coming to him and
leaving him free. I shall never go back on that; I shall never be sorry
for it.

The things I'm sorry for are not caring more for Papa, being unkind to
Mamma, not doing enough for her, not knowing what she was really like.
I'd give anything to have been able to think about her as Mark thought,
to feel about her as he felt. If only I had known what she was really
like. Even now I don't know. I never shall.

But going to Richard--No. If it was to be done again to-morrow I'd do it.

And I don't humbug myself about it. If I made Richard happy I made myself
happy too; _he_ made me happy. Still, if I had had no happiness in it, if
I'd hated it, I'd have done it for Richard all the same.


All this religious resignation. And the paradox of prayer: people praying
one minute, "Thy will be done," then praying for things to happen or not
happen, just as they please.

God's will be done--as if it wouldn't be done whatever they did or didn't
do. God's will was your fate. The thing was to know it and not waste your
strength in the illusion of resistance.

If you were part of God your will was God's will at the moment when you
really willed. There was always a point when you knew it: the flash point
of freedom. You couldn't mistake your flash when it came. You couldn't
doubt away that certainty of freedom any more than you could doubt away
the certainty of necessity and determination. From the outside they were
part of the show of existence, the illusion of separation from God. From
the inside they were God's will, the way things were willed. Free-will
was the reality underneath the illusion of necessity. The flash point of
freedom was your consciousness of God.

Then praying would be willing. There would be no such thing as passive
prayer. There could be no surrender.... And yet there was. Not the
surrender of your will, but of all the things that entangle and confuse
it; that stand between it and you, between God and you. When you lay
still with your eyes shut and made the darkness come on, wave after wave,
blotting out your body and the world, blotting out everything but your
self and your will, that was a dying to live; a real dying, a real life.

The Christians got hold of real things and turned them into something
unreal, impossible to believe. The grace of God was a real thing. It was
that miracle of perfect happiness, with all its queerness, its divine
certainty and uncertainty. The Christians knew at least one thing about
it; they could see it had nothing to do with deserving. But it had
nothing to do with believing, either, or with being good and getting into
heaven. It _was_ heaven. It had to do with beauty, absolutely un-moral
beauty, more than anything else.

She couldn't see the way of it beyond that. It had come to her when she
was a child in brilliant, clear flashes; it had come again and again in
her adolescence, with more brilliant and clearer flashes; then, after
leaving her for twenty-three years, it had come like this--streaming in
and out of her till its ebb and flow were the rhythm of her life.

Why hadn't she known that this would happen, instead of being afraid that
she would "go like" Aunt Charlotte or Uncle Victor? People talked a lot
about compensation, but nobody told you that after forty-five life would
have this exquisite clearness and intensity.

Why, since it _could_ happen when you were young--reality breaking
through, if only in flashes coming and going, going altogether and
forgotten--why had you to wait so long before you could remember it and
be aware of it as one continuous, shining background? She had never been
aware of it before; she had only thought about and about it, about
Substance, the Thing-in-itself, Reality, God. Thinking was not being

She made it out more and more. For twenty-three years something had come
between her and reality. She could see what it was now. She had gone
through life wanting things, wanting people, clinging to the thought of
them, not able to keep off them and let them go.


All her life she had gone wrong about happiness. She had attached it to
certain things and certain people: Mamma and Mark, Jenny, visits to Aunt
Bella, the coming of Aunt Charlotte and Aunt Lavvy and Uncle Victor, the
things people would say and do which they had not said and not done: when
she was older she had attached it to Maurice Jourdain and to Mark still
and Mamma; to going back to Mamma after Dover; to the unknown houses in
Morfe; to Maurice Jourdain's coming; then to Mark's coming, to Lindley
Vickers. And in the end none of these things had brought her the
happiness she had seemed to foresee in them.

She knew only one thing about perfect happiness: it didn't hide; it
didn't wait for you behind unknown doors. There were little happinesses,
pleasures that came like that: the pleasure of feeling good when you sat
with Maggie's sister; the pleasure of doing things for Mamma or Dorsy;
all the pleasures that had come through the Sutcliffes. The Sutcliffes
went, and yet she had been happy. They had all gone, and yet she was

If you looked back on any perfect happiness you saw that it had not come
from the people or the things you thought it had come from, but from
somewhere inside yourself. When you attached it to people and things they
ceased for that moment to be themselves; the space they then seemed to
inhabit was not their own space; the time of the wonderful event was not
their time. They became part of the kingdom of God within you.

Not Richard. He had become part of the kingdom of God without ceasing to
be himself.

That was because she had loved him more than herself. Loving him more
than herself she had let him go.

Letting go had somehow done the trick.


I used to think there was nothing I couldn't give up for Richard.

Could I give up this? If I had to choose between losing Richard and
losing this? (I suppose it would be generally considered that I _had_
lost Richard.) If I had had to choose seven years ago, before I knew,
I'd have chosen Richard; I couldn't have helped myself. But if I had
to choose now--knowing what reality is--between losing Richard in the
way I have lost him and losing reality, absolutely and for ever, losing,
absolutely and for ever, my real self, knowing that I'd lost it?...

If there's anything in it at all, losing my real self would be losing
Richard, losing Richard's real self absolutely and for ever. Knowing
reality is knowing that you can't lose it. That or nothing.


Supposing there isn't anything in it? Supposing--Supposing--

Last night I began thinking about it again. I stripped my soul; I opened
all the windows and let my ice-cold thoughts in on the poor thing; it
stood shivering between certainty and uncertainty.

I tried to doubt away this ultimate passion, and it turned my doubt into
its own exquisite sting, the very thrill of the adventure.

Supposing there's nothing in it, nothing at all?

That's the risk you take.


There isn't any risk. This time it was clear, clear as the black pattern
the sycamore makes on the sky. If it never came again I should remember.


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