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Title:      Woolf Short Stories
Author:     Virginia Woolf
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eBook No.:  0200781.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          October 2002
Date most recently updated: October 2002

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Woolf Short Stories
Author:     Virginia Woolf


The Mark on the Wall (1917)
Kew Gardens (1919)
Solid Objects (1920)
An Unwritten Novel (1920)
A Haunted House (1921)
Monday or Tuesday (1921)
The String Quartet (1921)
A Society (1921)
Blue and Green (1921)
In the Orchard (1923)
Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street (1923)
A Woman's College from the Outside(1926)
The New Dress (1927)
Moments of Being. "SLATER'S PINS HAVE NO POINTS" (1928)
The Lady in the Looking-Glass (1929)
The Shooting Party (1938)
The Duchess and the Jeweller (1938)
Lappin and Lappinova (1939)
The Man who Loved his Kind (1944)
The Searchlight (1944)
The Legacy (1944)
Together and Apart (1944)
A Summing Up (1944)


Perhaps it was the middle of January in the present that I first looked
up and saw the mark on the wall. In order to fix a date it is necessary
to remember what one saw. So now I think of the fire; the steady film of
yellow light upon the page of my book; the three chrysanthemums in the
round glass bowl on the mantelpiece. Yes, it must have been the winter
time, and we had just finished our tea, for I remember that I was smoking
a cigarette when I looked up and saw the mark on the wall for the first
time. I looked up through the smoke of my cigarette and my eye lodged for
a moment upon the burning coals, and that old fancy of the crimson flag
flapping from the castle tower came into my mind, and I thought of the
cavalcade of red knights riding up the side of the black rock. Rather to
my relief the sight of the mark interrupted the fancy, for it is an old
fancy, an automatic fancy, made as a child perhaps. The mark was a small
round mark, black upon the white wall, about six or seven inches above
the mantelpiece.

How readily our thoughts swarm upon a new object, lifting it a little
way, as ants carry a blade of straw so feverishly, and then leave it. . .
If that mark was made by a nail, it can't have been for a picture, it
must have been for a miniature--the miniature of a lady with white
powdered curls, powder-dusted cheeks, and lips like red carnations. A
fraud of course, for the people who had this house before us would have
chosen pictures in that way--an old picture for an old room. That is the
sort of people they were--very interesting people, and I think of them so
often, in such queer places, because one will never see them again, never
know what happened next. They wanted to leave this house because they
wanted to change their style of furniture, so he said, and he was in
process of saying that in his opinion art should have ideas behind it
when we were torn asunder, as one is torn from the old lady about to pour
out tea and the young man about to hit the tennis ball in the back garden
of the suburban villa as one rushes past in the train.

But as for that mark, I'm not sure about it; I don't believe it was made
by a nail after all; it's too big, too round, for that. I might get up,
but if I got up and looked at it, ten to one I shouldn't be able to say
for certain; because once a thing's done, no one ever knows how it
happened. Oh! dear me, the mystery of life; The inaccuracy of thought!
The ignorance of humanity! To show how very little control of our
possessions we have--what an accidental affair this living is after all
our civilization--let me just count over a few of the things lost in one
lifetime, beginning, for that seems always the most mysterious of
losses--what cat would gnaw, what rat would nibble--three pale blue
canisters of book-binding tools? Then there were the bird cages, the iron
hoops, the steel skates, the Queen Anne coal-scuttle, the bagatelle
board, the hand organ--all gone, and jewels, too. Opals and emeralds,
they lie about the roots of turnips. What a scraping paring affair it is
to be sure! The wonder is that I've any clothes on my back, that I sit
surrounded by solid furniture at this moment. Why, if one wants to
compare life to anything, one must liken it to being blown through the
Tube at fifty miles an hour--landing at the other end without a single
hairpin in one's hair! Shot out at the feet of God entirely naked!
Tumbling head over heels in the asphodel meadows like brown paper parcels
pitched down a shoot in the post office! With one's hair flying back like
the tail of a race-horse. Yes, that seems to express the rapidity of
life, the perpetual waste and repair; all so casual, all so haphazard. . .

But after life. The slow pulling down of thick green stalks so that the
cup of the flower, as it turns over, deluges one with purple and red
light. Why, after all, should one not be born there as one is born here,
helpless, speechless, unable to focus one's eyesight, groping at the
roots of the grass, at the toes of the Giants? As for saying which are
trees, and which are men and women, or whether there are such things,
that one won't be in a condition to do for fifty years or so. There will
be nothing but spaces of light and dark, intersected by thick stalks, and
rather higher up perhaps, rose-shaped blots of an indistinct colour--dim
pinks and blues--which will, as time goes on, become more definite,
become--I don't know what. . .

And yet that mark on the wall is not a hole at all. It may even be caused
by some round black substance, such as a small rose leaf, left over from
the summer, and I, not being a very vigilant housekeeper--look at the
dust on the mantelpiece, for example, the dust which, so they say, buried
Troy three times over, only fragments of pots utterly refusing
annihilation, as one can believe.

The tree outside the window taps very gently on the pane. . . I want to
think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have
to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without
any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper,
away from the surface, with its hard separate facts. To steady myself,
let me catch hold of the first idea that passes. . . Shakespeare. . .
Well, he will do as well as another. A man who sat himself solidly in an
arm-chair, and looked into the fire, so--A shower of ideas fell
perpetually from some very high Heaven down through his mind. He leant
his forehead on his hand, and people, looking in through the open
door,--for this scene is supposed to take place on a summer's
evening--But how dull this is, this historical fiction! It doesn't
interest me at all. I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought,
a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the
pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest
mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear
their own praises. They are not thoughts directly praising oneself; that
is the beauty of them; they are thoughts like this:

"And then I came into the room. They were discussing botany. I said how
I'd seen a flower growing on a dust heap on the site of an old house in
Kingsway. The seed, I said, must have been sown in the reign of Charles
the First. What flowers grew in the reign of Charles the First?" I
asked--(but, I don't remember the answer). Tall flowers with purple
tassels to them perhaps. And so it goes on. All the time I'm dressing up
the figure of myself in my own mind, lovingly, stealthily, not openly
adoring it, for if I did that, I should catch myself out, and stretch my
hand at once for a book in self-protection. Indeed, it is curious how
instinctively one protects the image of oneself from idolatry or any
other handling that could make it ridiculous, or too unlike the original
to be believed in any longer. Or is it not so very curious after all? It
is a matter of great importance. Suppose the looking glass smashes, the
image disappears, and the romantic figure with the green of forest depths
all about it is there no longer, but only that shell of a person which is
seen by other people--what an airless, shallow, bald, prominent world it
becomes! A world not to be lived in. As we face each other in omnibuses
and underground railways we are looking into the mirror that accounts for
the vagueness, the gleam of glassiness, in our eyes. And the novelists in
future will realize more and more the importance of these reflections,
for of course there is not one reflection but an almost infinite number;
those are the depths they will explore, those the phantoms they will
pursue, leaving the description of reality more and more out of their
stories, taking a knowledge of it for granted, as the Greeks did and
Shakespeare perhaps--but these generalizations are very worthless. The
military sound of the word is enough. It recalls leading articles,
cabinet ministers--a whole class of things indeed which as a child one
thought the thing itself, the standard thing, the real thing, from which
one could not depart save at the risk of nameless damnation.
Generalizations bring back somehow Sunday in London, Sunday afternoon
walks, Sunday luncheons, and also ways of speaking of the dead, clothes,
and habits--like the habit of sitting all together in one room until a
certain hour, although nobody liked it. There was a rule for everything.
The rule for tablecloths at that particular period was that they should
be made of tapestry with little yellow compartments marked upon them,
such as you may see in photographs of the carpets in the corridors of the
royal palaces. Tablecloths of a different kind were not real tablecloths.
How shocking, and yet how wonderful it was to discover that these real
things, Sunday luncheons, Sunday walks, country houses, and tablecloths
were not entirely real, were indeed half phantoms, and the damnation
which visited the disbeliever in them was only a sense of illegitimate
freedom. What now takes the place of those things I wonder, those real
standard things? Men perhaps, should you be a woman; the masculine point
of view which governs our lives, which sets the standard, which
establishes Whitaker's Table of Precedency, which has become, I suppose,
since the war half a phantom to many men and women, which soon--one may
hope, will be laughed into the dustbin where the phantoms go, the
mahogany sideboards and the Landseer prints, Gods and Devils, Hell and so
forth, leaving us all with an intoxicating sense of illegitimate
freedom--if freedom exists. . .

In certain lights that mark on the wall seems actually to project from
the wall. Nor is it entirely circular. I cannot be sure, but it seems to
cast a perceptible shadow, suggesting that if I ran my finger down that
strip of the wall it would, at a certain point, mount and descend a small
tumulus, a smooth tumulus like those barrows on the South Downs which
are, they say, either tombs or camps. Of the two I should prefer them to
be tombs, desiring melancholy like most English people, and finding it
natural at the end of a walk to think of the bones stretched beneath the
turf. . . There must be some book about it. Some antiquary must have dug
up those bones and given them a name. . . What sort of a man is an
antiquary, I wonder? Retired Colonels for the most part, I daresay,
leading parties of aged labourers to the top here, examining clods of
earth and stone, and getting into correspondence with the neighbouring
clergy, which, being opened at breakfast time, gives them a feeling of
importance, and the comparison of arrow-heads necessitates cross-country
journeys to the county towns, an agreeable necessity both to them and to
their elderly wives, who wish to make plum jam or to clean out the study,
and have every reason for keeping that great question of the camp or the
tomb in perpetual suspension, while the Colonel himself feels agreeably
philosophic in accumulating evidence on both sides of the question. It is
true that he does finally incline to believe in the camp; and, being
opposed, indites a pamphlet which he is about to read at the quarterly
meeting of the local society when a stroke lays him low, and his last
conscious thoughts are not of wife or child, but of the camp and that
arrowhead there, which is now in the case at the local museum, together
with the foot of a Chinese murderess, a handful of Elizabethan nails, a
great many Tudor clay pipes, a piece of Roman pottery, and the wine-glass
that Nelson drank out of--proving I really don't know what.

No, no, nothing is proved, nothing is known. And if I were to get up at
this very moment and ascertain that the mark on the wall is really--what
shall we say?--the head of a gigantic old nail, driven in two hundred
years ago, which has now, owing to the patient attrition of many
generations of housemaids, revealed its head above the coat of paint, and
is taking its first view of modern life in the sight of a white-walled
fire-lit room, what should I gain?--Knowledge? Matter for further
speculation? I can think sitting still as well as standing up. And what
is knowledge? What are our learned men save the descendants of witches
and hermits who crouched in caves and in woods brewing herbs,
interrogating shrew-mice and writing down the language of the stars? And
the less we honour them as our superstitions dwindle and our respect for
beauty and health of mind increases. . . Yes, one could imagine a very
pleasant world. A quiet, spacious world, with the flowers so red and blue
in the open fields. A world without professors or specialists or
house-keepers with the profiles of policemen, a world which one could
slice with one's thought as a fish slices the water with his fin, grazing
the stems of the water-lilies, hanging suspended over nests of white sea
eggs. . . How peaceful it is drown here, rooted in the centre of the world
and gazing up through the grey waters, with their sudden gleams of light,
and their reflections--if it were not for Whitaker's Almanack--if it were
not for the Table of Precedency!

I must jump up and see for myself what that mark on the wall really is--a
nail, a rose-leaf, a crack in the wood?

Here is nature once more at her old game of self-preservation. This train
of thought, she perceives, is threatening mere waste of energy, even some
collision with reality, for who will ever be able to lift a finger
against Whitaker's Table of Precedency? The Archbishop of Canterbury is
followed by the Lord High Chancellor; the Lord High Chancellor is
followed by the Archbishop of York. Everybody follows somebody, such is
the philosophy of Whitaker; and the great thing is to know who follows
whom. Whitaker knows, and let that, so Nature counsels, comfort you,
instead of enraging you; and if you can't be comforted, if you must
shatter this hour of peace, think of the mark on the wall.

I understand Nature's game--her prompting to take action as a way of
ending any thought that threatens to excite or to pain. Hence, I suppose,
comes our slight contempt for men of action--men, we assume, who don't
think. Still, there's no harm in putting a full stop to one's
disagreeable thoughts by looking at a mark on the wall.

Indeed, now that I have fixed my eyes upon it, I feel that I have grasped
a plank in the sea; I feel a satisfying sense of reality which at once
turns the two Archbishops and the Lord High Chancellor to the shadows of
shades. Here is something definite, something real. Thus, waking from a
midnight dream of horror, one hastily turns on the light and lies
quiescent, worshipping the chest of drawers, worshipping solidity,
worshipping reality, worshipping the impersonal world which is a proof of
some existence other than ours. That is what one wants to be sure of. . .
Wood is a pleasant thing to think about. It comes from a tree; and trees
grow, and we don't know how they grow. For years and years they grow,
without paying any attention to us, in meadows, in forests, and by the
side of rivers--all things one likes to think about. The cows swish their
tails beneath them on hot afternoons; they paint rivers so green that
when a moorhen dives one expects to see its feathers all green when it
comes up again. I like to think of the fish balanced against the stream
like flags blown out; and of water-beetles slowly raiding domes of mud
upon the bed of the river. I like to think of the tree itself:--first the
close dry sensation of being wood; then the grinding of the storm; then
the slow, delicious ooze of sap. I like to think of it, too, on winter's
nights standing in the empty field with all leaves close-furled, nothing
tender exposed to the iron bullets of the moon, a naked mast upon an
earth that goes tumbling, tumbling, all night long. The song of birds
must sound very loud and strange in June; and how cold the feet of
insects must feel upon it, as they make laborious progresses up the
creases of the bark, or sun themselves upon the thin green awning of the
leaves, and look straight in front of them with diamond-cut red eyes. . .
One by one the fibres snap beneath the immense cold pressure of the
earth, then the last storm comes and, falling, the highest branches drive
deep into the ground again. Even so, life isn't done with; there are a
million patient, watchful lives still for a tree, all over the world, in
bedrooms, in ships, on the pavement, lining rooms, where men and women
sit after tea, smoking cigarettes. It is full of peaceful thoughts, happy
thoughts, this tree. I should like to take each one separately--but
something is getting in the way. . . Where was I? What has it all been
about? A tree? A river? The Downs? Whitaker's Almanack? The fields of
asphodel? I can't remember a thing. Everything's moving, falling,
slipping, vanishing. . . There is a vast upheaval of matter. Someone is
standing over me and saying--

"I'm going out to buy a newspaper."


"Though it's no good buying newspapers. . . Nothing ever happens. Curse
this war; God damn this war! . . . All the same, I don't see why we should
have a snail on our wall."

Ah, the mark on the wall! It was a snail.


From the oval-shaped flower-bed there rose perhaps a hundred stalks
spreading into heart-shaped or tongue-shaped leaves half way up and
unfurling at the tip red or blue or yellow petals marked with spots of
colour raised upon the surface; and from the red, blue or yellow gloom of
the throat emerged a straight bar, rough with gold dust and slightly
clubbed at the end. The petals were voluminous enough to be stirred by
the summer breeze, and when they moved, the red, blue and yellow lights
passed one over the other, staining an inch of the brown earth beneath
with a spot of the most intricate colour. The light fell either upon the
smooth, grey back of a pebble, or, the shell of a snail with its brown,
circular veins, or falling into a raindrop, it expanded with such
intensity of red, blue and yellow the thin walls of water that one
expected them to burst and disappear. Instead, the drop was left in a
second silver grey once more, and the light now settled upon the flesh of
a leaf, revealing the branching thread of fibre beneath the surface, and
again it moved on and spread its illumination in the vast green spaces
beneath the dome of the heart-shaped and tongue-shaped leaves. Then the
breeze stirred rather more briskly overhead and the colour was flashed
into the air above, into the eyes of the men and women who walk in Kew
Gardens in July.

The figures of these men and women straggled past the flower-bed with a
curiously irregular movement not unlike that of the white and blue
butterflies who crossed the turf in zig-zag flights from bed to bed. The
man was about six inches in front of the woman, strolling carelessly,
while she bore on with greater purpose, only turning her head now and
then to see that the children were not too far behind. The man kept this
distance in front of the woman purposely, though perhaps unconsciously,
for he wished to go on with his thoughts.

"Fifteen years ago I came here with Lily," he thought. "We sat somewhere
over there by a lake and I begged her to marry me all through the hot
afternoon. How the dragonfly kept circling round us: how clearly I see
the dragonfly and her shoe with the square silver buckle at the toe. All
the time I spoke I saw her shoe and when it moved impatiently I knew
without looking up what she was going to say: the whole of her seemed to
be in her shoe. And my love, my desire, were in the dragonfly; for some
reason I thought that if it settled there, on that leaf, the broad one
with the red flower in the middle of it, if the dragonfly settled on the
leaf she would say "Yes" at once. But the dragonfly went round and round:
it never settled anywhere--of course not, happily not, or I shouldn't be
walking here with Eleanor and the children--Tell me, Eleanor. D'you ever
think of the past?"

"Why do you ask, Simon?"

"Because I've been thinking of the past. I've been thinking of Lily, the
woman I might have married. . . Well, why are you silent? Do you mind my
thinking of the past?"

"Why should I mind, Simon? Doesn't one always think of the past, in a
garden with men and women lying under the trees? Aren't they one's past,
all that remains of it, those men and women, those ghosts lying under the
trees. . . one's happiness, one's reality?"

"For me, a square silver shoe buckle and a dragonfly--"

"For me, a kiss. Imagine six little girls sitting before their easels
twenty years ago, down by the side of a lake, painting the water-lilies,
the first red water-lilies I'd ever seen. And suddenly a kiss, there on
the back of my neck. And my hand shook all the afternoon so that I
couldn't paint. I took out my watch and marked the hour when I would
allow myself to think of the kiss for five minutes only--it was so
precious--the kiss of an old grey-haired woman with a wart on her nose,
the mother of all my kisses all my life. Come, Caroline, come, Hubert."

They walked on the past the flower-bed, now walking four abreast, and
soon diminished in size among the trees and looked half transparent as
the sunlight and shade swam over their backs in large trembling irregular

In the oval flower bed the snail, whose shelled had been stained red,
blue, and yellow for the space of two minutes or so, now appeared to be
moving very slightly in its shell, and next began to labour over the
crumbs of loose earth which broke away and rolled down as it passed over
them. It appeared to have a definite goal in front of it, differing in
this respect from the singular high stepping angular green insect who
attempted to cross in front of it, and waited for a second with its
antenna trembling as if in deliberation, and then stepped off as rapidly
and strangely in the opposite direction. Brown cliffs with deep green
lakes in the hollows, flat, blade-like trees that waved from root to tip,
round boulders of grey stone, vast crumpled surfaces of a thin crackling
texture--all these objects lay across the snail's progress between one
stalk and another to his goal. Before he had decided whether to
circumvent the arched tent of a dead leaf or to breast it there came past
the bed the feet of other human beings.

This time they were both men. The younger of the two wore an expression
of perhaps unnatural calm; he raised his eyes and fixed them very
steadily in front of him while his companion spoke, and directly his
companion had done speaking he looked on the ground again and sometimes
opened his lips only after a long pause and sometimes did not open them
at all. The elder man had a curiously uneven and shaky method of walking,
jerking his hand forward and throwing up his head abruptly, rather in the
manner of an impatient carriage horse tired of waiting outside a house;
but in the man these gestures were irresolute and pointless. He talked
almost incessantly; he smiled to himself and again began to talk, as if
the smile had been an answer. He was talking about spirits--the spirits
of the dead, who, according to him, were even now telling him all sorts
of odd things about their experiences in Heaven.

"Heaven was known to the ancients as Thessaly, William, and now, with
this war, the spirit matter is rolling between the hills like thunder."
He paused, seemed to listen, smiled, jerked his head and continued:----

"You have a small electric battery and a piece of rubber to insulate the
wire--isolate?--insulate?--well, we'll skip the details, no good going
into details that wouldn't be understood--and in short the little machine
stands in any convenient position by the head of the bed, we will say, on
a neat mahogany stand. All arrangements being properly fixed by workmen
under my direction, the widow applies her ear and summons the spirit by
sign as agreed. Women! Widows! Women in black----"

Here he seemed to have caught sight of a woman's dress in the distance,
which in the shade looked a purple black. He took off his hat, placed his
hand upon his heart, and hurried towards her muttering and gesticulating
feverishly. But William caught him by the sleeve and touched a flower
with the tip of his walking-stick in order to divert the old man's
attention. After looking at it for a moment in some confusion the old man
bent his ear to it and seemed to answer a voice speaking from it, for he
began talking about the forests of Uruguay which he had visited hundreds
of years ago in company with the most beautiful young woman in Europe. He
could be heard murmuring about forests of Uruguay blanketed with the wax
petals of tropical roses, nightingales, sea beaches, mermaids, and women
drowned at sea, as he suffered himself to be moved on by William, upon
whose face the look of stoical patience grew slowly deeper and deeper.

Following his steps so closely as to be slightly puzzled by his gestures
came two elderly women of the lower middle class, one stout and
ponderous, the other rosy cheeked and nimble. Like most people of their
station they were frankly fascinated by any signs of eccentricity
betokening a disordered brain, especially in the well-to-do; but they
were too far off to be certain whether the gestures were merely eccentric
or genuinely mad. After they had scrutinised the old man's back in
silence for a moment and given each other a queer, sly look, they went on
energetically piecing together their very complicated dialogue:

"Nell, Bert, Lot, Cess, Phil, Pa, he says, I says, she says, I says, I
says, I says----"

"My Bert, Sis, Bill, Grandad, the old man, sugar,
Sugar, flour, kippers, greens,
Sugar, sugar, sugar."

The ponderous woman looked through the pattern of falling words at the
flowers standing cool, firm, and upright in the earth, with a curious
expression. She saw them as a sleeper waking from a heavy sleep sees a
brass candlestick reflecting the light in an unfamiliar way, and closes
his eyes and opens them, and seeing the brass candlestick again, finally
starts broad awake and stares at the candlestick with all his powers. So
the heavy woman came to a standstill opposite the oval-shaped flower bed,
and ceased even to pretend to listen to what the other woman was saying.
She stood there letting the words fall over her, swaying the top part of
her body slowly backwards and forwards, looking at the flowers. Then she
suggested that they should find a seat and have their tea.

The snail had now considered every possible method of reaching his goal
without going round the dead leaf or climbing over it. Let alone the
effort needed for climbing a leaf, he was doubtful whether the thin
texture which vibrated with such an alarming crackle when touched even by
the tip of his horns would bear his weight; and this determined him
finally to creep beneath it, for there was a point where the leaf curved
high enough from the ground to admit him. He had just inserted his head
in the opening and was taking stock of the high brown roof and was
getting used to the cool brown light when two other people came past
outside on the turf. This time they were both young, a young man and a
young woman. They were both in the prime of youth, or even in that season
which precedes the prime of youth, the season before the smooth pink
folds of the flower have burst their gummy case, when the wings of the
butterfly, though fully grown, are motionless in the sun.

"Lucky it isn't Friday," he observed.

"Why? D'you believe in luck?"

"They make you pay sixpence on Friday."

"What's sixpence anyway? Isn't it worth sixpence?"

"What's 'it'--what do you mean by 'it'?"

"O, anything--I mean--you know what I mean."

Long pauses came between each of these remarks; they were uttered in
toneless and monotonous voices. The couple stood still on the edge of the
flower bed, and together pressed the end of her parasol deep down into
the soft earth. The action and the fact that his hand rested on the top
of hers expressed their feelings in a strange way, as these short
insignificant words also expressed something, words with short wings for
their heavy body of meaning, inadequate to carry them far and thus
alighting awkwardly upon the very common objects that surrounded them,
and were to their inexperienced touch so massive; but who knows (so they
thought as they pressed the parasol into the earth) what precipices
aren't concealed in them, or what slopes of ice don't shine in the sun on
the other side? Who knows? Who has ever seen this before? Even when she
wondered what sort of tea they gave you at Kew, he felt that something
loomed up behind her words, and stood vast and solid behind them; and the
mist very slowly rose and uncovered--O, Heavens, what were those
shapes?--little white tables, and waitresses who looked first at her and
then at him; and there was a bill that he would pay with a real two
shilling piece, and it was real, all real, he assured himself, fingering
the coin in his pocket, real to everyone except to him and to her; even
to him it began to seem real; and then--but it was too exciting to stand
and think any longer, and he pulled the parasol out of the earth with a
jerk and was impatient to find the place where one had tea with other
people, like other people.

"Come along, Trissie; it's time we had our tea."

"Wherever DOES one have one's tea?" she asked with the oddest thrill of
excitement in her voice, looking vaguely round and letting herself be
drawn on down the grass path, trailing her parasol, turning her head this
way and that way, forgetting her tea, wishing to go down there and then
down there, remembering orchids and cranes among wild flowers, a Chinese
pagoda and a crimson crested bird; but he bore her on.

Thus one couple after another with much the same irregular and aimless
movement passed the flower-bed and were enveloped in layer after layer of
green blue vapour, in which at first their bodies had substance and a
dash of colour, but later both substance and colour dissolved in the
green-blue atmosphere. How hot it was! So hot that even the thrush chose
to hop, like a mechanical bird, in the shadow of the flowers, with long
pauses between one movement and the next; instead of rambling vaguely the
white butterflies danced one above another, making with their white
shifting flakes the outline of a shattered marble column above the
tallest flowers the glass roofs of the palm house shone as if a whole
market full of shiny green umbrellas had opened in the sun; and in the
drone of the aeroplane the voice of the summer sky murmured its fierce
soul. Yellow and black, pink and snow white, shapes of all these colours,
men, women, and children were spotted for a second upon the horizon, and
then, seeing the breadth of yellow that lay upon the grass, they wavered
and sought shade beneath the trees, dissolving like drops of water in the
yellow and green atmosphere, staining it faintly with red and blue. It
seemed as if all gross and heavy bodies had sunk down in the heat
motionless and lay huddled upon the ground, but their voices went
wavering from them as if they were flames lolling from the thick waxen
bodies of candles. Voices. Yes, voices. Wordless voices, breaking the
silence suddenly with such depth of contentment, such passion of desire,
or, in the voices of children, such freshness of surprise; breaking the
silence? But there was no silence; all the time the motor omnibuses were
turning their wheels and changing their gear; like a vast nest of Chinese
boxes all of wrought steel turning ceaselessly one within another the
city murmured; on the top of which the voices cried aloud and the petals
of myriads of flowers flashed their colours into the air.


The only thing that moved upon the vast semicircle of the beach was one
small black spot. As it came nearer to the ribs and spine of the
stranded pilchard boat, it became apparent from a certain tenuity in its
blackness that this spot possessed four legs; and moment by moment it
became more unmistakable that it was composed of the persons of two
young men. Even thus in outline against the sand there was an
unmistakable vitality in them; an indescribable vigour in the approach
and withdrawal of the bodies, slight though it was, which proclaimed
some violent argument issuing from the tiny mouths of the little round
heads. This was corroborated on closer view by the repeated lunging of a
walking-stick on the right-hand side. "You mean to tell me . . . You
actually believe . . ." thus the walkingstick on the right-hand side
next the waves seemed to be asserting as it cut long straight stripes
upon the sand.

"Politics be damned!" issued clearly from the body on the left-hand
side, and, as these words were uttered, the mouths, noses, chins, little
moustaches, tweed caps, rough boots, shooting coats, and check stockings
of the two speakers became clearer and clearer; the smoke of their pipes
went up into the air; nothing was so solid, so living, so hard, red,
hirsute and virile as these two bodies for miles and miles of sea and

They flung themselves down by the six ribs and spine of the black
pilchard boat. You know how the body seems to shake itself free from an
argument, and to apologize for a mood of exaltation; flinging itself
down and expressing in the looseness of its attitude a readiness to take
up with something new--whatever it may be that comes next to hand. So
Charles, whose stick had been slashing the beach for half a mile or so,
began skimming flat pieces of slate over the water; and John, who had
exclaimed "Politics be damned!" began burrowing his fingers down, down,
into the sand. As his hand went further and further beyond the wrist, so
that he had to hitch his sleeve a little higher, his eyes lost their
intensity, or rather the background of thought and experience which
gives an inscrutable depth to the eyes of grown people disappeared,
leaving only the clear transparent surface, expressing nothing but
wonder, which the eyes of young children display. No doubt the act of
burrowing in the sand had something to do with it. He remembered that,
after digging for a little, the water oozes round your finger-tips; the
hole then becomes a moat; a well; a spring; a secret channel to the sea.
As he was choosing which of these things to make it, still working his
fingers in the water, they curled round something hard--a full drop of
solid matter--and gradually dislodged a large irregular lump, and brought
it to the surface. When the sand coating was wiped off, a green tint
appeared. It was a lump of glass, so thick as to be almost opaque; the
smoothing of the sea had completely worn off any edge or shape, so that
it was impossible to say whether it had been bottle, tumbler or
window-pane; it was nothing but glass; it was almost a precious stone.
You had only to enclose it in a rim of gold, or pierce it with a wire,
and it became a jewel; part of a necklace, or a dull, green light upon a
finger. Perhaps after all it was really a gem; something worn by a dark
Princess trailing her finger in the water as she sat in the stern of the
boat and listened to the slaves singing as they rowed her across the
Bay. Or the oak sides of a sunk Elizabethan treasure-chest had split
apart, and, rolled over and over, over and over, its emeralds had come
at last to shore. John turned it in his hands; he held it to the light;
he held it so that its irregular mass blotted out the body and extended
right arm of his friend. The green thinned and thickened slightly as it
was held against the sky or against the body. It pleased him; it puzzled
him; it was so hard, so concentrated, so definite an object compared
with the vague sea and the hazy shore.

Now a sigh disturbed him--profound, final, making him aware that his
friend Charles had thrown all the flat stones within reach, or had come
to the conclusion that it was not worth while to throw them. They ate
their sandwiches side by side. When they had done, and were shaking
themselves and rising to their feet, John took the lump of glass and
looked at it in silence. Charles looked at it too. But he saw
immediately that it was not flat, and filling his pipe he said with the
energy that dismisses a foolish strain of thought:

"To return to what I was saying----"

He did not see, or if he had seen would hardly have noticed, that John,
after looking at the lump for a moment, as if in hesitation, slipped it
inside his pocket. That impulse, too, may have been the impulse which
leads a child to pick up one pebble on a path strewn with them,
promising it a life of warmth and security upon the nursery mantelpiece,
delighting in the sense of power and benignity which such an action
confers, and believing that the heart of the stone leaps with joy when
it sees itself chosen from a million like it, to enjoy this bliss
instead of a life of cold and wet upon the high road. "It might so
easily have been any other of the millions of stones, but it was I, I, I!"

Whether this thought or not was in John's mind, the lump of glass had
its place upon the mantelpiece, where it stood heavy upon a little pile
of bills and letters and served not only as an excellent paper-weight,
but also as a natural stopping place for the young man's eyes when they
wandered from his book. Looked at again and again half consciously by a
mind thinking of something else, any object mixes itself so profoundly
with the stuff of thought that it loses its actual form and recomposes
itself a little differently in an ideal shape which haunts the brain
when we least expect it. So John found himself attracted to the windows
of curiosity shops when he was out walking, merely because he saw
something which reminded him of the lump of glass. Anything, so long as
it was an object of some kind, more or less round, perhaps with a dying
flame deep sunk in its mass, anything--china, glass, amber, rock,
marble--even the smooth oval egg of a prehistoric bird would do. He took,
also, to keeping his eyes upon the ground, especially in the
neighbourhood of waste land where the household refuse is thrown away.
Such objects often occurred there--thrown away, of no use to anybody,
shapeless, discarded. In a few months he had collected four or five
specimens that took their place upon the mantelpiece. They were useful,
too, for a man who is standing for Parliament upon the brink of a
brilliant career has any number of papers to keep in order--addresses to
constituents, declarations of policy, appeals for subscriptions,
invitations to dinner, and so on.

One day, starting from his rooms in the Temple to catch a train in order
to address his constituents, his eyes rested upon a remarkable object
lying half-hidden in one of those little borders of grass which edge the
bases of vast legal buildings. He could only touch it with the point of
his stick through the railings; but he could see that it was a piece of
china of the most remarkable shape, as nearly resembling a starfish as
anything--shaped, or broken accidentally, into five irregular but
unmistakable points. The colouring was mainly blue, but green stripes or
spots of some kind overlaid the blue, and lines of crimson gave it a
richness and lustre of the most attractive kind. John was determined to
possess it; but the more he pushed, the further it receded. At length he
was forced to go back to his rooms and improvise a wire ring attached to
the end of a stick, with which, by dint of great care and skill, he
finally drew the piece of china within reach of his hands. As he seized
hold of it he exclaimed in triumph. At that moment the clock struck. It
was out of the question that he should keep his appointment. The meeting
was held without him. But how had the piece of china been broken into
this remarkable shape? A careful examination put it beyond doubt that
the star shape was accidental, which made it all the more strange, and
it seemed unlikely that there should be another such in existence. Set
at the opposite end of the mantelpiece from the lump of glass that had
been dug from the sand, it looked like a creature from another
world--freakish and fantastic as a harlequin. It seemed to be pirouetting
through space, winking light like a fitful star. The contrast between
the china so vivid and alert, and the glass so mute and contemplative,
fascinated him, and wondering and amazed he asked himself how the two
came to exist in the same world, let alone to stand upon the same narrow
strip of marble in the same room. The question remained unanswered.

He now began to haunt the places which are most prolific of broken
china, such as pieces of waste land between railway lines, sites of
demolished houses, and commons in the neighbourhood of London. But china
is seldom thrown from a great height; it is one of the rarest of human
actions. You have to find in conjunction a very high house, and a woman
of such reckless impulse and passionate prejudice that she flings her
jar or pot straight from the window without thought of who is below.
Broken china was to be found in plenty, but broken in some trifling
domestic accident, without purpose or character. Nevertheless, he was
often astonished as he came to go into the question more deeply, by the
immense variety of shapes to be found in London alone, and there was
still more cause for wonder and speculation in the differences of
qualities and designs. The finest specimens he would bring home and
place upon his mantelpiece, where, however, their duty was more and more
of an ornamental nature, since papers needing a weight to keep them down
became scarcer and scarcer.

He neglected his duties, perhaps, or discharged them absent-mindedly, or
his constituents when they visited him were unfavourably impressed by
the appearance of his mantelpiece. At any rate he was not elected to
represent them in Parliament, and his friend Charles, taking it much to
heart and hurrying to condole with him, found him so little cast down by
the disaster that he could only suppose that it was too serious a matter
for him to realize all at once.

In truth, John had been that day to Barnes Common, and there under a
furze bush had found a very remarkable piece of iron. It was almost
identical with the glass in shape, massy and globular, but so cold and
heavy, so black and metallic, that it was evidently alien to the earth
and had its origin in one of the dead stars or was itself the cinder of
a moon. It weighed his pocket down; it weighed the mantelpiece down; it
radiated cold. And yet the meteorite stood upon the same ledge with the
lump of glass and the star-shaped china.

As his eyes passed from one to another, the determination to possess
objects that even surpassed these tormented the young man. He devoted
himself more and more resolutely to the search. If he had not been
consumed by ambition and convinced that one day some newly-discovered
rubbish heap would reward him, the disappointments he had suffered, let
alone the fatigue and derision, would have made him give up the pursuit.
Provided with a bag and a long stick fitted with an adaptable hook, he
ransacked all deposits of earth; raked beneath matted tangles of scrub;
searched all alleys and spaces between walls where he had learned to
expect to find objects of this kind thrown away. As his standard became
higher and his taste more severe the disappointments were innumerable,
but always some gleam of hope, some piece of china or glass curiously
marked or broken lured him on. Day after day passed. He was no longer
young. His career--that is his political career--was a thing of the past.
People gave up visiting him. He was too silent to be worth asking to
dinner. He never talked to anyone about his serious ambitions; their
lack of understanding was apparent in their behaviour.

He leaned back in his chair now and watched Charles lift the stones on
the mantelpiece a dozen times and put them down emphatically to mark
what he was saying about the conduct of the Government, without once
noticing their existence.

"What was the truth of it, John?" asked Charles suddenly, turning and
facing him. "What made you give it up like that all in a second?"

"I've not given it up," John replied.

"But you've not the ghost of a chance now," said Charles roughly.

"I don't agree with you there," said John with conviction. Charles
looked at him and was profoundly uneasy; the most extraordinary doubts
possessed him; he had a queer sense that they were talking about
different things. He looked round to find some relief for his horrible
depression, but the disorderly appearance of the room depressed him
still further. What was that stick, and the old carpet bag hanging
against the wall? And then those stones? Looking at John, something
fixed and distant in his expression alarmed him. He knew only too well
that his mere appearance upon a platform was out of the question.

"Pretty stones," he said as cheerfully as he could; and saying that he
had an appointment to keep, he left John--for ever.


Such an expression of unhappiness was enough by itself to make one's eyes
slide above the paper's edge to the poor woman's face--insignificant
without that look, almost a symbol of human destiny with it. Life's what
you see in people's eyes; life's what they learn, and, having learnt it,
never, though they seek to hide it, cease to be aware of--what? That
life's like that, it seems. Five faces opposite--five mature faces--and
the knowledge in each face. Strange, though, how people want to conceal
it! Marks of reticence are on all those faces: lips shut, eyes shaded,
each one of the five doing something to hide or stultify his knowledge.
One smokes; another reads; a third checks entries in a pocket book; a
fourth stares at the map of the line framed opposite; and the fifth--the
terrible thing about the fifth is that she does nothing at all. She looks
at life. Ah, but my poor, unfortunate woman, do play the game--do, for
all our sakes, conceal it!

As if she heard me, she looked up, shifted slightly in her seat and
sighed. She seemed to apologise and at the same time to say to me, "If
only you knew!" Then she looked at life again. "But I do know," I
answered silently, glancing at the TIMES for manners' sake. "I know the
whole business. 'Peace between Germany and the Allied Powers was
yesterday officially ushered in at Paris--Signor Nitti, the Italian Prime
Minister--a passenger train at Doncaster was in collision with a goods
train. . .' We all know--the TIMES knows--but we pretend we don't." My
eyes had once more crept over the paper's rim She shuddered, twitched her
arm queerly to the middle of her back and shook her head. Again I dipped
into my great reservoir of life. "Take what you like," I continued,
"births, deaths, marriages, Court Circular, the habits of birds, Leonardo
da Vinci, the Sandhills murder, high wages and the cost of living--oh,
take what you like," I repeated, "it's all in the TIMES!" Again with
infinite weariness she moved her head from side to side until, like a top
exhausted with spinning, it settled on her neck.

The TIMES was no protection against such sorrow as hers. But other human
beings forbade intercourse. The best thing to do against life was to fold
the paper so that it made a perfect square, crisp, thick, impervious even
to life. This done, I glanced up quickly, armed with a shield of my own.
She pierced through my shield; she gazed into my eyes as if searching any
sediment of courage at the depths of them and damping it to clay. Her
twitch alone denied all hope, discounted all illusion.

So we rattled through Surrey and across the border into Sussex. But with
my eyes upon life I did not see that the other travellers had left, one
by one, till, save for the man who read, we were alone together. Here was
Three Bridges station. We drew slowly down the platform and stopped. Was
he going to leave us? I prayed both ways--I prayed last that he might
stay. At that instant he roused himself, crumpled his paper
contemptuously, like a thing done with, burst open the door, and left us

The unhappy woman, leaning a little forward, palely and colourlessly
addressed me--talked of stations and holidays, of brothers at Eastbourne,
and the time of year, which was, I forget now, early or late. But at last
looking from the window and seeing, I knew, only life, she breathed,
"Staying away--that's the drawback of it--" Ah, now we approached the
catastrophe, "My sister-in-law"--the bitterness of her tone was like
lemon on cold steel, and speaking, not to me, but to herself, she
muttered, "nonsense, she would say--that's what they all say," and while
she spoke she fidgeted as though the skin on her back were as a plucked
fowl's in a poulterer's shop-window.

"Oh, that cow!" she broke off nervously, as though the great wooden cow
in the meadow had shocked her and saved her from some indiscretion. Then
she shuddered, and then she made the awkward angular movement that I had
seen before, as if, after the spasm, some spot between the shoulders
burnt or itched. Then again she looked the most unhappy woman in the
world, and I once more reproached her, though not with the same
conviction, for if there were a reason, and if I knew the reason, the
stigma was removed from life.

"Sisters-in-law," I said----

Her lips pursed as if to spit venom at the word; pursed they remained.
All she did was to take her glove and rub hard at a spot on the
window-pane. She rubbed as if she would rub something out for ever--some
stain, some indelible contamination. Indeed, the spot remained for all
her rubbing, and back she sank with the shudder and the clutch of the arm
I had come to expect. Something impelled me to take my glove and rub my
window. There, too, was a little speck on the glass. For all my rubbing
it remained. And then the spasm went through me I crooked my arm and
plucked at the middle of my back. My skin, too, felt like the damp
chicken's skin in the poulterer's shop-window; one spot between the
shoulders itched and irritated, felt clammy, felt raw. Could I reach it?
Surreptitiously I tried. She saw me. A smile of infinite irony, infinite
sorrow, flitted and faded from her face. But she had communicated, shared
her secret, passed her poison she would speak no more. Leaning back in my
corner, shielding my eyes from her eyes, seeing only the slopes and
hollows, greys and purples, of the winter's landscape, I read her
message, deciphered her secret, reading it beneath her gaze.

Hilda's the sister-in-law. Hilda? Hilda? Hilda Marsh--Hilda the blooming,
the full bosomed, the matronly. Hilda stands at the door as the cab draws
up, holding a coin. "Poor Minnie, more of a grasshopper than ever--old
cloak she had last year. Well, well, with too children these days one
can't do more. No, Minnie, I've got it; here you are, cabby--none of your
ways with me. Come in, Minnie. Oh, I could carry YOU, let alone your
basket!" So they go into the dining-room. "Aunt Minnie, children."

Slowly the knives and forks sink from the upright. Down they get (Bob and
Barbara), hold out hands stiffly; back again to their chairs, staring
between the resumed mouthfuls. [But this we'll skip; ornaments, curtains,
trefoil china plate, yellow oblongs of cheese, white squares of
biscuit--skip--oh, but wait! Half-way through luncheon one of those
shivers; Bob stares at her, spoon in mouth. "Get on with your pudding,
Bob;" but Hilda disapproves. "Why SHOULD she twitch?" Skip, skip, till we
reach the landing on the upper floor; stairs brass-bound; linoleum worn;
oh, yes! little bedroom looking out over the roofs of
Eastbourne--zigzagging roofs like the spines of caterpillars, this way,
that way, striped red and yellow, with blue-black slating]. Now, Minnie,
the door's shut; Hilda heavily descends to the basement; you unstrap the
straps of your basket, lay on the bed a meagre nightgown, stand side by
side furred felt slippers. The looking-glass--no, you avoid the
looking-glass. Some methodical disposition of hat-pins. Perhaps the shell
box has something in it? You shake it; it's the pearl stud there was last
year--that's all. And then the sniff, the sigh, the sitting by the
window. Three o'clock on a December afternoon; the rain drizzling; one
light low in the skylight of a drapery emporium; another high in a
servant's bedroom--this one goes out. That gives her nothing to look at.
A moment's blankness--then, what are you thinking? (Let me peep across at
her opposite; she's asleep or pretending it; so what would she think
about sitting at the window at three o'clock in the afternoon? Health,
money, bills, her God?) Yes, sitting on the very edge of the chair
looking over the roofs of Eastbourne, Minnie Marsh prays to Gods. That's
all very well; and she may rub the pane too, as though to see God better;
but what God does she see? Who's the God of Minnie Marsh, the God of the
back streets of Eastbourne, the God of three o'clock in the afternoon? I,
too, see roofs, I see sky; but, oh, dear--this seeing of Gods! More like
President Kruger than Prince Albert--that's the best I can do for him;
and I see him on a chair, in a black frock-coat, not so very high up
either; I can manage a cloud or two for him to sit on; and then his hand
trailing in the cloud holds a rod, a truncheon is it?--black, thick,
thorned--a brutal old bully--Minnie's God! Did he send the itch and the
patch and the twitch? Is that why she prays? What she rubs on the window
is the stain of sin. Oh, she committed some crime!

I have my choice of crimes. The woods flit and fly--in summer there are
bluebells; in the opening there, when Spring comes, primroses. A parting,
was it, twenty years ago? Vows broken? Not Minnie's! . . . She was
faithful. How she nursed her mother! All her savings on the tombstone--
wreaths under glass--daffodils in jars. But I'm off the track. A
crime. . . They would say she kept her sorrow, suppressed her secret--her
sex, they'd say--the scientific people. But what flummery to saddle her
with sex! No--more like this. Passing down the streets of Croydon twenty
years ago, the violet loops of ribbon in the draper's window spangled in
the electric light catch her eye. She lingers--past six. Still by running
she can reach home. She pushes through the glass swing door. It's
sale-time. Shallow trays brim with ribbons. She pauses, pulls this,
fingers that with the raised roses on it--no need to choose, no need to
buy, and each tray with its surprises. "We don't shut till seven," and
then it is seven. She runs, she rushes, home she reaches, but too late.
Neighbours--the doctor--baby brother--the kettle--scalded--hospital--
dead--or only the shock of it, the blame? Ah, but the detail matters
nothing! It's what she carries with her; the spot, the crime, the thing
to expiate, always there between her shoulders.

"Yes," she seems to nod to me, "it's the thing I did."

Whether you did, or what you did, I don't mind; it's not the thing I
want. The draper's window looped with violet--that'll do; a little cheap
perhaps, a little commonplace--since one has a choice of crimes, but then
so many (let me peep across again--still sleeping, or pretending sleep!
white, worn, the mouth closed--a touch of obstinacy, more than one would
think--no hint of sex)--so many crimes aren't your crime; your crime was
cheap; only the retribution solemn; for now the church door opens, the
hard wooden pew receives her; on the brown tiles she kneels; every day,
winter, summer, dusk, dawn (here she's at it) prays. All her sins fall,
fall, for ever fall. The spot receives them. It's raised, it's red, it's
burning. Next she twitches. Small boys point. "Bob at lunch to-day"--But
elderly women are the worst.

Indeed now you can't sit praying any longer. Kruger's sunk beneath the
clouds--washed over as with a painter's brush of liquid grey, to which he
adds a tinge of black--even the tip of the truncheon gone now. That's
what always happens! Just as you've seen him, felt him, someone
interrupts. It's Hilda now.

How you hate her! She'll even lock the bathroom door overnight, too,
though it's only cold water you want, and sometimes when the night's been
bad it seems as if washing helped. And John at breakfast--the
children--meals are worst, and sometimes there are friends--ferns don't
altogether hide 'em--they guess, too; so out you go along the front,
where the waves are grey, and the papers blow, and the glass shelters
green and draughty, and the chairs cost tuppence--too much--for there
must be preachers along the sands. Ah, that's a nigger--that's a funny
man--that's a man with parakeets--poor little creatures! Is there no one
here who thinks of God?--just up there, over the pier, with his rod--but
no--there's nothing but grey in the sky or if it's blue the white clouds
hide him, and the music--it's military music--and what they are fishing
for? Do they catch them? How the children stare! Well, then home a back
way--"Home a back way!" The words have meaning; might have been spoken by
the old man with whiskers--no, no, he didn't really speak; but everything
has meaning--placards leaning against doorways--names above
shop-windows--red fruit in baskets--women's heads in the
hairdresser's--all say "Minnie Marsh!" But here's a jerk. "Eggs are
cheaper!" That's what always happens! I was heading her over the
waterfall, straight for madness, when, like a flock of dream sheep, she
turns t'other way and runs between my fingers. Eggs are cheaper. Tethered
to the shores of the world, none of the crimes, sorrows, rhapsodies, or
insanities for poor Minnie Marsh; never late for luncheon; never caught
in a storm without a mackintosh; never utterly unconscious of the
cheapness of eggs. So she reaches home--scrapes her boots.

Have I read you right? But the human face--the human face at the top of
the fullest sheet of print holds more, withholds more. Now, eyes open,
she looks out; and in the human eye--how d'you define it?--there's a
break--a division--so that when you've grasped the stem the butterfly's
off--the moth that hangs in the evening over the yellow flower--move,
raise your hand, off, high, away. I won't raise my hand. Hang still,
then, quiver, life, soul, spirit, whatever you are of Minnie Marsh--I,
too, on my flower--the hawk over the down--alone, or what were the worth
of life? To rise; hang still in the evening, in the midday; hang still
over the down. The flicker of a hand--off, up! then poised again. Alone,
unseen; seeing all so still down there, all so lovely. None seeing, none
caring. The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. Air
above, air below. And the moon and immortality. . . Oh, but I drop to the
turf! Are you down too, you in the corner, what's your
name--woman--Minnie Marsh; some such name as that? There she is, tight to
her blossom; opening her hand-bag, from which she takes a hollow
shell--an egg--who was saying that eggs were cheaper? You or I? Oh, it
was you who said it on the way home, you remember, when the old
gentleman, suddenly opening his umbrella--or sneezing was it? Anyhow,
Kruger went, and you came "home a back way," and scraped your boots. Yes.
And now you lay across your knees a pocket-handkerchief into which drop
little angular fragments of eggshell--fragments of a map--a puzzle. I
wish I could piece them together! If you would only sit still. She's
moved her knees--the map's in bits again. Down the slopes of the Andes
the white blocks of marble go bounding and hurtling, crushing to death a
whole troop of Spanish muleteers, with their convoy--Drake's booty, gold
and silver. But to return--

To what, to where? She opened the door, and, putting her umbrella in the
stand--that goes without saying; so, too, the whiff of beef from the
basement; dot, dot, dot. But what I cannot thus eliminate, what I must,
head down, eyes shut, with the courage of a battalion and the blindness
of a bull, charge and disperse are, indubitably, the figures behind the
ferns, commercial travellers. There I've hidden them all this time in the
hope that somehow they'd disappear, or better still emerge, as indeed
they must, if the story's to go on gathering richness and rotundity,
destiny and tragedy, as stories should, rolling along with it two, if not
three, commercial travellers and a whole grove of aspidistra. "The fronds
of the aspidistra only partly concealed the commercial traveller--"
Rhododendrons would conceal him utterly, and into the bargain give me my
fling of red and white, for which I starve and strive; but rhododendrons
in Eastbourne--in December--on the Marshes' table--no, no, I dare not;
it's all a matter of crusts and cruets, frills and ferns. Perhaps
there'll be a moment later by the sea. Moreover, I feel, pleasantly
pricking through the green fretwork and over the glacis of cut glass, a
desire to peer and peep at the man opposite--one's as much as I can
manage. James Moggridge is it, whom the Marshes call Jimmy? [Minnie, you
must promise not to twitch till I've got this straight]. James Moggridge
travels in--shall we say buttons?--but the time's not come for bringing
them in--the big and the little on the long cards, some peacock-eyed,
others dull gold; cairngorms some, and others coral sprays--but I say the
time's not come. He travels, and on Thursdays, his Eastbourne day, takes
his meals with the Marshes. His red face, his little steady eyes--by no
means. altogether commonplace--his enormous appetite (that's safe; he
won't look at Minnie till the bread's swamped the gravy dry), napkin
tucked diamond-wise--but this is primitive, and, whatever it may do the
reader, don't take me in. Let's dodge to the Moggridge household, set
that in motion. Well, the family boots are mended on Sundays by James
himself. He reads Truth. But his passion? Roses--and his wife a retired
hospital nurse--interesting--for God's sake let me have one woman with a
name I like! But no; she's of the unborn children of the mind, illicit,
none the less loved, like my rhododendrons. How many die in every novel
that's written--the best, the dearest, while Moggridge lives. It's life's
fault. Here's Minnie eating her egg at the moment opposite and at t'other
end of the line--are we past Lewes?--there must be Jimmy--or what's her
twitch for?

There must be Moggridge--life's fault. Life imposes her laws; life blocks
the way; life's behind the fern; life's the tyrant; oh, but not the
bully! No, for I assure you I come willingly; I come wooed by Heaven
knows what compulsion across ferns and cruets, table splashed and bottles
smeared. I come irresistibly to lodge myself somewhere on the firm flesh,
in the robust spine, wherever I can penetrate or find foothold on the
person, in the soul, of Moggridge the man. The enormous stability of the
fabric; the spine tough as whalebone, straight as oaktree; the ribs
radiating branches; the flesh taut tarpaulin; the red hollows; the suck
and regurgitation of the heart; while from above meat falls in brown
cubes and beer gushes to be churned to blood again--and so we reach the
eyes. Behind the aspidistra they see something: black, white, dismal; now
the plate again; behind the aspidistra they see elderly woman; "Marsh's
sister, Hilda's more my sort;" the tablecloth now. "Marsh would know
what's wrong with Morrises. . ." talk that over; cheese has come; the plate
again; turn it round--the enormous fingers; now the woman opposite.
"Marsh's sister--not a bit like Marsh; wretched, elderly female. . . You
should feed your hens. . . God's truth, what's set her twitching? Not what
I said? Dear, dear, dear! these elderly women. Dear, dear!"

[Yes, Minnie; I know you've twitched, but one moment--James Moggridge].

"Dear, dear, dear!" How beautiful the sound is! like the knock of a
mallet on seasoned timber, like the throb of the heart of an ancient
whaler when the seas press thick and the green is clouded. "Dear, dear!"
what a passing bell for the souls of the fretful to soothe them and
solace them, lap them in linen, saying, "So long. Good luck to you!" and
then, "What's your pleasure?" for though Moggridge would pluck his rose
for her, that's done, that's over. Now what's the next thing? "Madam,
you'll miss your train," for they don't linger.

That's the man's way; that's the sound that reverberates; that's St.
Paul's and the motor-omnibuses. But we're brushing the crumbs off. Oh,
Moggridge, you won't stay? You must be off? Are you driving through
Eastbourne this afternoon in one of those little carriages? Are you man
who's walled up in green cardboard boxes, and sometimes has the blinds
down, and sometimes sits so solemn staring like a sphinx, and always
there's a look of the sepulchral, something of the undertaker, the
coffin, and the dusk about horse and driver? Do tell me--but the doors
slammed. We shall never meet again. Moggridge, farewell!

Yes, yes, I'm coming. Right up to the top of the house. One moment I'll
linger. How the mud goes round in the mind--what a swirl these monsters
leave, the waters rocking, the weeds waving and green here, black there,
striking to the sand, till by degrees the atoms reassemble, the deposit
sifts itself, and again through the eyes one sees clear and still, and
there comes to the lips some prayer for the departed, some obsequy for
the souls of those one nods to, the people one never meets again.

James Moggridge is dead now, gone for ever. Well, Minnie--"I can face it
no longer." If she said that--(Let me look at her. She is brushing the
eggshell into deep declivities). She said it certainly, leaning against
the wall of the bedroom, and plucking at the little balls which edge the
claret-coloured curtain. But when the self speaks to the self, who is
speaking?--the entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central
catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world--a coward
perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly
up and down the dark corridors. "I can bear it no longer," her spirit
says. "That man at lunch--Hilda--the children." Oh, heavens, her sob!
It's the spirit wailing its destiny, the spirit driven hither, thither,
lodging on the diminishing carpets--meagre footholds--shrunken shreds of
all the vanishing universe--love, life, faith, husband, children, I know
not what splendours and pageantries glimpsed in girlhood. "Not for
me--not for me."

But then--the muffins, the bald elderly dog? Bead mats I should fancy and
the consolation of underlinen. If Minnie Marsh were run over and taken to
hospital, nurses and doctors themselves would exclaim. . . There's the
vista and the vision--there's the distance--the blue blot at the end of
the avenue, while, after all, the tea is rich, the muffin hot, and the
dog--"Benny, to your basket, sir, and see what mother's brought you!" So,
taking the glove with the worn thumb, defying once more the encroaching
demon of what's called going in holes, you renew the fortifications,
threading the grey wool, running it in and out.

Running it in and out, across and over, spinning a web through which God
himself--hush, don't think of God! How firm the stitches are! You must be
proud of your darning. Let nothing disturb her. Let the light fall
gently, and the clouds show an inner vest of the first green leaf. Let
the sparrow perch on the twig and shake the raindrop hanging to the
twig's elbow. . . Why look up? Was it a sound, a thought? Oh, heavens!
Back again to the thing you did, the plate glass with the violet loops?
But Hilda will come. Ignominies, humiliations, oh! Close the breach.

Having mended her glove, Minnie Marsh lays it in the drawer. She shuts
the drawer with decision. I catch sight of her face in the glass. Lips
are pursed. Chin held high. Next she laces her shoes. Then she touches
her throat. What's your brooch? Mistletoe or merry-thought? And what is
happening? Unless I'm much mistaken, the pulse's quickened, the moment's
coming, the threads are racing, Niagara's ahead. Here's the crisis!
Heaven be with you! Down she goes. Courage, courage! Face it, be it! For
God's sake don't wait on the mat now! There's the door! I'm on your side.
Speak! Confront her, confound her soul!

"Oh, I beg your pardon! Yes, this is Eastbourne. I'll reach it down for
you. Let me try the handle." [But, Minnie, though we keep up pretences,
I've read you right--I'm with you now].

"That's all your luggage?"

"Much obliged, I'm sure."

(But why do you look about you? Hilda don't come to the station, nor
John; and Moggridge is driving at the far side of Eastbourne).

"I'll wait by my bag, ma'am, that's safest. He said he'd meet me. . . Oh,
there he is! That's my son."

So they walk off together.

Well, but I'm confounded. . . Surely, Minnie, you know better! A strange
young man. . . Stop! I'll tell him--Minnie!--Miss Marsh!--I don't know
though. There's something queer in her cloak as it blows. Oh, but it's
untrue, it's indecent. . . Look how he bends as they reach the gateway.
She finds her ticket. What's the joke? Off they go, down the road, side
by side. . . Well, my world's done for! What do I stand on? What do I
know? That's not Minnie. There never was Moggridge. Who am I? Life's bare
as bone.

And yet the last look of them--he stepping from the kerb and she
following him round the edge of the big building brims me with
wonder--floods me anew. Mysterious figures! Mother and son. Who are you?
Why do you walk down the street? Where to-night will you sleep, and then,
to-morrow? Oh, how it whirls and surges--floats me afresh! I start after
them. People drive this way and that. The white light splutters and
pours. Plate-glass windows. Carnations; chrysanthemums. Ivy in dark
gardens. Milk carts at the door. Wherever I go, mysterious figures, I see
you, turning the corner, mothers and sons; you, you, you. I hasten, I
follow. This, I fancy, must be the sea. Grey is the landscape; dim as
ashes; the water murmurs and moves. If I fall on my knees, if I go
through the ritual, the ancient antics, it's you, unknown figures, you I
adore; if I open my arms, it's you I embrace, you I draw to me--adorable


Whatever hour you woke there was a door shunting. From room to room they
went, hand in hand, lifting here, opening there, making sure--a ghostly

"Here we left it," she said. And he added, "Oh, but here too!" "It's
upstairs," she murmured. "And in the garden," he whispered "Quietly,"
they said, "or we shall wake them."

But it wasn't that you woke us. Oh, no. "They're looking for it; they're
drawing the curtain," one might say, and so read on a page or two. "Now
they've found it," one would be certain, stopping the pencil on the
margin. And then, tired of reading, one might rise and see for oneself,
the house all empty, the doors standing open, only the wood pigeons
bubbling with content and the hum of the threshing machine sounding from
the farm. "What did I come in here for? What did I want to find?" My
hands were empty. "Perhaps it's upstairs then?" The apples were in the
loft. And so down again, the garden still as ever, only the book had
slipped into the grass.

But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see
them. The window panes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves
were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple
only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was
opened, spread about the floor, hung upon the walls, pendant from the
ceiling--what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the
carpet; from the deepest wells of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble
of sound. "Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the house beat softly. "The
treasure buried; the room. . ." the pulse stopped short. Oh, was that the
buried treasure?

A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees
spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. So fine, so rare, coolly sunk
beneath the surface the beam I sought always burnt behind the glass.
Death was the glass; death was between us; coming to the woman first,
hundreds of years ago, leaving the house, sealing all the windows; the
rooms were darkened. He left it, left her, went North, went East, saw the
stars turned in the Southern sky; sought the house, found it dropped
beneath the Downs. "Safe, safe, safe," the pulse of the house beat
gladly. "The Treasure yours."

The wind roars up the avenue. Trees stoop and bend this way and that.
Moonbeams splash and spill wildly in the rain. But the beam of the lamp
falls straight from the window. The candle burns stiff and still.
Wandering through the house, opening the windows, whispering not to wake
us, the ghostly couple seek their joy.

"Here we slept," she says. And he adds, "Kisses without number." "Waking
in the morning--" "Silver between the trees--" "Upstairs--" "In the
garden--" "When summer came--" "In winter snowtime--" The doors go
shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.

Nearer they come; cease at the doorway. The wind falls, the rain slides
silver down the glass. Our eyes darken; we hear no steps beside us; we
see no lady spread her ghostly cloak. His hands shield the lantern.
"Look," he breathes. "Sound asleep. Love upon their lips."

Stooping, holding their silver lamp above us, long they look and deeply.
Long they pause. The wind drives straightly; the flame stoops slightly.
Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain
the faces bent; the faces pondering; the faces that search the sleepers
and seek their hidden joy.

"Safe, safe, safe," the heart of the house beats proudly. "Long years--"
he sighs. "Again you found me." "Here," she murmurs, "sleeping; in the
garden reading; laughing, rolling apples in the loft. Here we left our
treasure--" Stooping, their light lifts the lids upon my eyes. "Safe!
safe! safe!" the pulse of the house beats wildly. Waking, I cry "Oh, is
this your buried treasure? The light in the heart."


Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his
way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant,
absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and
remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfect--the
sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers,
for ever and ever----

Desiring truth, awaiting it, laboriously distilling a few words, for ever
desiring--(a cry starts to the left, another to the right. Wheels strike
divergently. Omnibuses conglomerate in conflict)--for ever desiring--(the
clock asseverates with twelve distinct strokes that it is midday; light
sheds gold scales; children swarm)--for ever desiring truth. Red is the
dome; coins hang on the trees; smoke trails from the chimneys; bark,
shout, cry "Iron for sale"--and truth?

Radiating to a point men's feet and women's feet, black or
gold-encrusted--(This foggy weather--Sugar? No, thank you--The
commonwealth of the future)--the firelight darting and making the room
red, save for the black figures and their bright eyes, while outside a
van discharges, Miss Thingummy drinks tea at her desk, and plate-glass
preserves fur coats----

Flaunted, leaf--light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels,
silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in
separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembled--and truth?

Now to recollect by the fireside on the white square of marble. From
ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate.
Fallen the book; in the flame, in the smoke, in the momentary sparks--or
now voyaging, the marble square pendant, minarets beneath and the Indian
seas, while space rushes blue and stars glint--truth? content with

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then
bares them.


Well, here we are, and if you cast your eye over the room you will see
that Tubes and trams and omnibuses, private carriages not a few, even, I
venture to believe, landaus with bays in them, have been busy at it,
weaving threads from one end of London to the other. Yet I begin to have
my doubts--

If indeed it's true, as they're saying, that Regent Street is up, and the
Treaty signed, and the weather not cold for the time of year, and even at
that rent not a flat to be had, and the worst of influenza its after
effects; if I bethink me of having forgotten to write about the leak in
the larder, and left my glove in the train; if the ties of blood require
me, leaning forward, to accept cordially the hand which is perhaps
offered hesitatingly--

"Seven years since we met!"

"The last time in Venice."

"And where are you living now?"

"Well, the late afternoon suits me the best, though, if it weren't asking
too much----"

"But I knew you at once!"

"Still, the war made a break----"

If the mind's shot through by such little arrows, and--for human society
compels it--no sooner is one launched than another presses forward; if
this engenders heat and in addition they've turned on the electric light;
if saying one thing does, in so many cases, leave behind it a need to
improve and revise, stirring besides regrets, pleasures, vanities, and
desires--if it's all the facts I mean, and the hats, the fur boas, the
gentlemen's swallow-tail coats, and pearl tie-pins that come to the
surface--what chance is there?

Of what? It becomes every minute more difficult to say why, in spite of
everything, I sit here believing I can't now say what, or even remember
the last time it happened.

"Did you see the procession?"

"The King looked cold."

"No, no, no. But what was it?"

"She's bought a house at Malmesbury."

"How lucky to find one!"

On the contrary, it seems to me pretty sure that she, whoever she may be,
is damned, since it's all a matter of flats and hats and sea gulls, or so
it seems to be for a hundred people sitting here well dressed, walled in,
furred, replete. Not that I can boast, since I too sit passive on a gilt
chair, only turning the earth above a buried memory, as we all do, for
there are signs, if I'm not mistaken, that we're all recalling something,
furtively seeking something. Why fidget? Why so anxious about the sit of
cloaks; and gloves--whether to button or unbutton? Then watch that
elderly face against the dark canvas, a moment ago urbane and flushed;
now taciturn and sad, as if in shadow. Was it the sound of the second
violin tuning in the ante-room? Here they come; four black figures,
carrying instruments, and seat themselves facing the white squares under
the downpour of light; rest the tips of their bows on the music stand;
with a simultaneous movement lift them; lightly poise them, and, looking
across at the player opposite, the first violin counts one, two, three--

Flourish, spring, burgeon, burst! The pear tree on the top of the
mountain. Fountains jet; drops descend. But the waters of the Rhone flow
swift and deep, race under the arches, and sweep the trailing water
leaves, washing shadows over the silver fish, the spotted fish rushed
down by the swift waters, now swept into an eddy where--it's difficult
this--conglomeration of fish all in a pool; leaping, splashing, scraping
sharp fins; and such a boil of current that the yellow pebbles are
churned round and round, round and round--free now, rushing downwards, or
even somehow ascending in exquisite spirals into the air; curled like
thin shavings from under a plane; up and up. . . How lovely goodness is in
those who, stepping lightly, go smiling through the world! Also in jolly
old fishwives, squatted under arches, oh scene old women, how deeply they
laugh and shake and rollick, when they walk, from side to side, hum, hah!

"That's an early Mozart, of course--"

"But the tune, like all his tunes, makes one despair--I mean hope. What
do I mean? That's the worst of music! I want to dance, laugh, eat pink
cakes, yellow cakes, drink thin, sharp wine. Or an indecent story, now--I
could relish that. The older one grows the more one likes indecency.
Hall, hah! I'm laughing. What at? You said nothing, nor did the old
gentleman opposite. . . But suppose--suppose--Hush!"

The melancholy river bears us on. When the moon comes through the
trailing willow boughs, I see your face, I hear your voice and the bird
singing as we pass the osier bed. What are you whispering? Sorrow,
sorrow. Joy, joy. Woven together, like reeds in moonlight. Woven
together, inextricably commingled, bound in pain and strewn in

The boat sinks. Rising, the figures ascend, but now leaf thin, tapering
to a dusky wraith, which, fiery tipped, draws its twofold passion from my
heart. For me it sings, unseals my sorrow, thaws compassion, floods with
love the sunless world, nor, ceasing, abates its tenderness but deftly,
subtly, weaves in and out until in this pattern, this consummation, the
cleft ones unify; soar, sob, sink to rest, sorrow and joy.

Why then grieve? Ask what? Remain unsatisfied? I say all's been settled;
yes; laid to rest under a coverlet of rose leaves, falling. Falling. Ah,
but they cease. One rose leaf, falling from an enormous height, like a
little parachute dropped from an invisible balloon, turns, flutters
waveringly. It won't reach us.

"No, no. I noticed nothing. That's the worst of music--these silly
dreams. The second violin was late, you say?"

"There's old Mrs. Munro, feeling her way out--blinder each year, poor
woman--on this slippery floor."

Eyeless old age, grey-headed Sphinx. . . There she stands on the pavement,
beckoning, so sternly, the red omnibus.

"How lovely! How well they play! How--how--how!"

The tongue is but a clapper. Simplicity itself. The feathers in the hat
next me are bright and pleasing as a child's rattle. The leaf on the
plane-tree flashes green through the chink in the curtain. Very strange,
very exciting.

"How--how--how!" Hush!

These are the lovers on the grass.

"If, madam, you will take my hand--"

"Sir, I would trust you with my heart. Moreover, we have left our bodies
in the banqueting hall. Those on the turf are the shadows of our souls."

"Then these are the embraces of our souls." The lemons nod assent. The
swan pushes from the bank and floats dreaming into mid stream.

"But to return. He followed me down the corridor, and, as we turned the
corner, trod on the lace of my petticoat. What could I do but cry 'Ah!'
and stop to finger it? At which he drew his sword, made passes as if he
were stabbing something to death, and cried, 'Mad! Mad! Mad!' Whereupon I
screamed, and the Prince, who was writing in the large vellum book in the
oriel window, came out in his velvet skull-cap and furred slippers,
snatched a rapier from the wall--the King of Spain's gift, you know--on
which I escaped, flinging on this cloak to hide the ravages to my
skirt--to hide. . . But listen! the horns!"

The gentleman replies so fast to the lady, and she runs up the scale with
such witty exchange of compliment now culminating in a sob of passion,
that the words are indistinguishable though the meaning is plain
enough--love, laughter, flight, pursuit, celestial bliss--all floated out
on the gayest ripple of tender endearment--until the sound of the silver
horns, at first far distant, gradually sounds more and more distinctly,
as if seneschals were saluting the dawn or proclaiming ominously the
escape of the lovers. . . The green garden, moonlit pool, lemons, lovers,
and fish are all dissolved in the opal sky, across which, as the horns
are joined by trumpets and supported by clarions there rise white arches
firmly planted on marble pillars. . . Tramp and trumpeting. Clang and
clangour. Firm establishment. Fast foundations. March of myriads.
Confusion and chaos trod to earth. But this city to which we travel has
neither stone nor marble; hangs enduring; stands unshakable; nor does a
face, nor does a flag greet or welcome. Leave then to perish your hope;
droop in the desert my joy; naked advance. Bare are the pillars;
auspicious to none; casting no shade; resplendent; severe. Back then I
fall, eager no more, desiring only to go, find the street, mark the
buildings, greet the applewoman, say to the maid who opens the door: A
starry night.

"Good night, good night. You go this way?"

"Alas. I go that."


This is how it all came about. Six or seven of us were sitting one day
after tea. Some were gazing across the street into the windows of a
milliner's shop where the light still shone brightly upon scarlet
feathers and golden slippers. Others were idly occupied in building
little towers of sugar upon the edge of the tea tray. After a time, so
far as I can remember, we drew round the fire and began as usual to
praise men--how strong, how noble, how brilliant, how courageous, how
beautiful they were--how we envied those who by hook or by crook managed
to get attached to one for life--when Poll, who had said nothing, burst
into tears. Poll, I must tell you, has always been queer. For one thing
her father was a strange man. He left her a fortune in his will, but on
condition that she read all the books in the London Library. We comforted
her as best we could; but we knew in our hearts how vain it was. For
though we like her, Poll is no beauty; leaves her shoe laces untied; and
must have been thinking, while we praised men, that not one of them would
ever wish to marry her. At last she dried her tears. For some time we
could make nothing of what she said. Strange enough it was in all
conscience. She told us that, as we knew, she spent most of her time in
the London Library, reading. She had begun, she said, with English
literature on the top floor; and was steadily working her way down to the
Times on the bottom. And now half, or perhaps only a quarter, way through
a terrible thing had happened. She could read no more. Books were not
what we thought them. "Books," she cried, rising to her feet and speaking
with an intensity of desolation which I shall never forget, "are for the
most part unutterably bad!"

Of course we cried out that Shakespeare wrote books, and Milton and

"Oh, yes," she interrupted us. "You've been well taught, I can see. But
you are not members of the London Library." Here her sobs broke forth
anew. At length, recovering a little, she opened one of the pile of books
which she always carried about with her--"From a Window" or "In a Garden,"
or some such name as that it was called, and it was written by a man
called Benton or Henson, or something of that kind. She read the first
few pages. We listened in silence. "But that's not a book," someone said.
So she chose another. This time it was a history, but I have forgotten
the writer's name. Our trepidation increased as she went on. Not a word
of it seemed to be true, and the style in which it was written was

"Poetry! Poetry!" we cried, impatiently.

"Read us poetry!" I cannot describe the desolation which fell upon us as
she opened a little volume and mouthed out the verbose, sentimental
foolery which it contained.

"It must have been written by a woman," one of us urged. But no. She told
us that it was written by a young man, one of the most famous poets of
the day. I leave you to imagine what the shock of the discovery was.
Though we all cried and begged her to read no more, she persisted and
read us extracts from the Lives of the Lord Chancellors. When she had
finished, Jane, the eldest and wisest of us, rose to her feet and said
that she for one was not convinced.

"Why," she asked, "if men write such rubbish as this, should our mothers
have wasted their youth in bringing them into the world?"

We were all silent; and, in the silence, poor Poll could be heard sobbing
out, "Why, why did my father teach me to read?"

Clorinda was the first to come to her senses. "It's all our fault," she
said. "Every one of us knows how to read. But no one, save Poll, has ever
taken the trouble to do it. I, for one, have taken it for granted that it
was a woman's duty to spend her youth in bearing children. I venerated my
mother for bearing ten; still more my grandmother for bearing fifteen; it
was, I confess, my own ambition to bear twenty. We have gone on all these
ages supposing that men were equally industrious, and that their works
were of equal merit. While we have borne the children, they, we supposed,
have borne the books and the pictures. We have populated the world. They
have civilized it. But now that we can read, what prevents us from
judging the results? Before we bring another child into the world we must
swear that we will find out what the world is like."

So we made ourselves into a society for asking questions. One of us was
to visit a man-of-war; another was to hide herself in a scholar's study;
another was to attend a meeting of business men; while all were to read
books, look at pictures, go to concerts, keep our eyes open in the
streets, and ask questions perpetually. We were very young. You can judge
of our simplicity when I tell you that before parting that night we
agreed that the objects of life were to produce good people and good
books. Our questions were to be directed to finding out how far these
objects were now attained by men. We vowed solemnly that we would not
bear a single child until we were satisfied.

Off we went then, some to the British Museum; others to the King's Navy;
some to Oxford; others to Cambridge; we visited the Royal Academy and the
Tate; heard modern music in concert rooms, went to the Law Courts, and
saw new plays. No one dined out without asking her partner certain
questions and carefully noting his replies. At intervals we met together
and compared our observations. Oh, those were merry meeting! Never have I
laughed so much as I did when Rose read her notes upon "Honour" and
described how she had dressed herself as an Ethiopian Prince and gone
aboard one of His Majesty's ships. Discovering the hoax, the Captain
visited her (now disguised as a private gentleman) and demanded that
honour should be satisfied. "But how?" she asked. "How?" he bellowed.
"With the cane of course!" Seeing that he was beside himself with rage
and expecting that her last moment had come, she bent over and received,
to her amazement, six light taps upon the behind. "The honour of the
British Navy is avenged!" he cried, and, raising herself, she saw him
with the sweat pouring down his face holding out a trembling right hand.
"Away!" she exclaimed, striking an attitude and imitating the ferocity of
his own expression, "My honour has still to be satisfied!" "Spoken like a
gentleman!" he returned, and fell into profound thought. "If six strokes
avenge the honour of the King's Navy," he mused, "how many avenge the
honour of a private gentleman?" He said he would prefer to lay the case
before his brother officers. She replied haughtily that she could not
wait. He praised her sensibility. "Let me see," he cried suddenly, "did
your father keep a carriage?" "No," she said. "Or a riding horse?" "We
had a donkey," she bethought her, "which drew the mowing machine." At
this his face lighted. "My mother's name--" she added. "For God's sake,
man, don't mention your mother's name!" he shrieked, trembling like an
aspen and flushing to the roots of his hair, and it was ten minutes at
least before she could induce him to proceed. At length he decreed that
if she gave him four strokes and a half in the small of the back at a
spot indicated by himself (the half conceded, he said, in recognition of
the fact that her great grandmother's uncle was killed at Trafalgar) it
was his opinion that her honour would be as good as new. This was done;
they retired to a restaurant; drank two bottles of wine for which he
insisted upon paying; and parted with protestations of eternal

Then we had Fanny's account of her visit to the Law Courts. At her first
visit she had come to the conclusion that the Judges were either made of
wood or were impersonated by large animals resembling man who had been
trained to move with extreme dignity, mumble and nod their heads. To test
her theory she had liberated a handkerchief of bluebottles at the
critical moment of a trial, but was unable to judge whether the creatures
gave signs of humanity for the buzzing of the flies induced so sound a
sleep that she only woke in time to see the prisoners led into the cells
below. But from the evidence she brought we voted that it is unfair to
suppose that the Judges are men.

Helen went to the Royal Academy, but when asked to deliver her report
upon the pictures she began to recite from a pale blue volume, "O! for
the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still. Home
is the hunter, home from the hill. He gave his bridle reins a shake. Love
is sweet, love is brief. Spring, the fair spring, is the year's pleasant
King. O! to be in England now that April's there. Men must work and women
must weep. The path of duty is the way to glory--" We could listen to no
more of this gibberish.

"We want no more poetry!" we cried.

"Daughters of England!" she began, but here we pulled her down, a vase of
water getting spilt over her in the scuffle.

"Thank God!" she exclaimed, shaking herself like a dog. "Now I'll roll on
the carpet and see if I can't brush off what remains of the Union Jack.
Then perhaps--" here she rolled energetically. Getting up she began to
explain to us what modern pictures are like when Castalia stopped her.

"What is the average size of a picture?" she asked. "Perhaps two feet by
two and a half," she said. Castalia made notes while Helen spoke, and
when she had done, and we were trying not to meet each other's eyes, rose
and said, "At your wish I spent last week at Oxbridge, disguised as a
charwoman. I thus had access to the rooms of several Professors and will
now attempt to give you some idea--only," she broke off, "I can't think
how to do it. It's all so queer. These Professors," she went on, "live in
large houses built round grass plots each in a kind of cell by himself.
Yet they have every convenience and comfort. You have only to press a
button or light a little lamp. Theirs papers are beautifully filed. Books
abound. There are no children or animals, save half a dozen stray cats
and one aged bullfinch--a cock. I remember," she broke off, "an Aunt of
mine who lived at Dulwich and kept cactuses. You reached the conservatory
through the double drawing-room, and there, on the hot pipes, were dozens
of them, ugly, squat, bristly little plants each in a separate pot. Once
in a hundred years the Aloe flowered, so my Aunt said. But she died
before that happened--" We told her to keep to the point. "Well," she
resumed, "when Professor Hobkin was out, I examined his life work, an
edition of Sappho. It's a queer looking book, six or seven inches thick,
not all by Sappho. Oh, no. Most of it is a defence of Sappho's chastity,
which some German had denied, add I can assure you the passion with which
these two gentlemen argued, the learning they displayed, the prodigious
ingenuity with which they disputed the use of some implement which looked
to me for all the world like a hairpin astounded me; especially when the
door opened and Professor Hobkin himself appeared. A very nice, mild, old
gentleman, but what could he know about chastity?" We misunderstood her.

"No, no," she protested, "he's the soul of honour I'm sure--not that he
resembled Rose's sea captain in the least. I was thinking rather of my
Aunt's cactuses. What could they know about chastity?"

Again we told her not to wander from the point,--did the Oxbridge
professors help to produce good people and good books?--the objects of

"There!" she exclaimed. "It never struck me to ask. It never occurred to
me that they could possibly produce anything."

"I believe," said Sue, "that you made some mistake. Probably Professor
Hobkin was a gynecologist. A scholar is a very different sort of man. A
scholar is overflowing with humour and invention--perhaps addicted to
wine, but what of that?--a delightful companion, generous, subtle,
imaginative--as stands to reason. For he spends his life in company with
the finest human beings that have ever existed."

"Hum," said Castalia. "Perhaps I'd better go back and try again."

Some three months later it happened that I was sitting alone when
Castalia entered. I don't know what it was in the look of her that so
moved me; but I could not restrain myself, and, dashing across the room,
I clasped her in my arms. Not only was she very beautiful; she seemed
also in the highest spirits. "How happy you look!" I exclaimed, as she
sat down.

"I've been at Oxbridge," she said.

"Asking questions?"

"Answering them," she replied.

"You have not broken our vows?" I said anxiously, noticing something
about her figure.

"Oh, the vow," she said casually. "I'm going to have a baby, if that's
what you mean. You can't imagine," she burst out, "how exciting, how
beautiful, how satisfying--"

"What is?" I asked.

"To--to--answer questions," she replied in some confusion. Whereupon she
told me the whole of her story. But in the middle of an account which
interested and excited me more than anything I had ever heard, she gave
the strangest cry, half whoop, half holloa--

"Chastity! Chastity! Where's my chastity!" she cried. "Help Ho! The scent

There was nothing in the room but a cruet containing mustard, which I was
about to administer when she recovered her composure.

"You should have thought of that three months ago," I said severely.

"True," she replied. "There's not much good in thinking of it now. It was
unfortunate, by the way, that my mother had me called Castalia."

"Oh, Castalia, your mother--" I was beginning when she reached for the
mustard pot.

"No, no, no," she said, shaking her head. "If you'd been a chaste woman
yourself you would have screamed at the sight of me--instead of which you
rushed across the room and took me in your arms. No, Cassandra. We are
neither of us chaste." So we went on talking.

Meanwhile the room was filling up, for it was the day appointed to
discuss the results of our observations. Everyone, I thought, felt as I
did about Castalia. They kissed her and said how glad they were to see
her again. At length, when we were all assembled, Jane rose and said that
it was time to begin. She began by saying that we had now asked questions
for over five years, and that though the results were bound to be
inconclusive--here Castalia nudged me and whispered that she was not so
sure about that. Then she got up, and, interrupting Jane in the middle of
a sentence, said:

"Before you say any more, I want to know--am I to stay in the room?
Because," she added, "I have to confess that I am an impure woman."

Everyone looked at her in astonishment.

"You are going to have a baby?" asked Jane.

She nodded her head.

It was extraordinary to see the different expressions on their faces. A
sort of hum went through the room, in which I could catch the words
"impure," "baby," "Castalia," and so on. Jane, who was herself
considerably moved, put it to us:

"Shall she go? Is she impure?"

Such a roar filled the room as might have been heard in the street

"No! No! No! Let her stay! Impure? Fiddlesticks!" Yet I fancied that some
of the youngest, girls of nineteen or twenty, held back as if overcome
with shyness. Then we all came about her and began asking questions, and
at last I saw one of the youngest, who had kept in the background,
approach shyly and say to her:

"What is chastity then? I mean is it good, or is it bad, or is it nothing
at all?" She replied so low that I could not catch what she said.

"You know I was shocked," said another, "for at least ten minutes."

"In my opinion," said Poll, who was growing crusty from always reading in
the London Library, "chastity is nothing but ignorance--a most
discreditable state of mind. We should admit only the unchaste to our
society. I vote that Castalia shall be our President."

This was violently disputed.

"It is as unfair to brand women with chastity as with unchastity," said
Poll. "Some of us haven't the opportunity either. Moreover, I don't
believe Cassy herself maintains that she acted as she did from a pure
love of knowledge."

"He is only twenty-one and divinely beautiful," said Cassy, with a
ravishing gesture.

"I move," said Helen, "that no one be allowed to talk of chastity or
unchastity save those who are in love."

"Oh, bother," said Judith, who had been enquiring into scientific
matters, "I'm not in love and I'm longing to explain my measures for
dispensing with prostitutes and fertilizing virgins by Act of

She went on to tell us of an invention of hers to be erected at Tube
stations and other public resorts, which, upon payment of a small fee,
would safeguard the nation's health, accommodate its sons, and relieve
its daughters. Then she had contrived a method of preserving in sealed
tubes the germs of future Lord Chancellors "or poets or painters or
musicians," she went on, "supposing, that is to say, that these breeds
are not extinct, and that women still wish to bear children--"

"Of course we wish to bear children!" cried Castalia, impatiently. Jane
rapped the table.

"That is the very point we are met to consider," she said. "For five
years we have been trying to find out whether we are justified in
continuing the human race. Castalia has anticipated our decision. But it
remains for the rest of us to make up our minds."

Here one after another of our messengers rose and delivered their
reports. The marvels of civilisation far exceeded our expectations, and,
as we learnt for the first time how man flies in the air, talks across
space, penetrates to the heart of an atom, and embraces the universe in
his speculations, a murmur of admiration burst from our lips.

"We are proud," we cried, "that our mothers sacrificed their youth in
such a cause as this!" Castalia, who had been listening intently, looked
prouder than all the rest. Then Jane reminded us that we had still much
to learn, and Castalia begged us to make haste. On we went through a vast
tangle of statistics. We learnt that England has a population of so many
millions, and that such and such a proportion of them is constantly
hungry and in prison; that the average size of a working man's family is
such, and that so great a percentage of women die from maladies incident
to childbirth. Reports were read of visits to factories, shops, slums,
and dockyards. Descriptions were given of the Stock Exchange, of a
gigantic house of business in the City, and of a Government Office. The
British Colonies were now discussed, and some account was given of our
rule in India, Africa and Ireland. I was sitting by Castalia and I
noticed her uneasiness.

"We shall never come to any conclusion at all at this rate," she said.
"As it appears that civilisation is so much more complex than we had any
notion, would it not be better to confine ourselves to our original
enquiry? We agreed that it was the object of life to produce good people
and good books. All this time we have been talking of aeroplanes,
factories, and money. Let us talk about men themselves and their arts,
for that is the heart of the matter."

So the diners out stepped forward with long slips of paper containing
answers to their questions. These had been framed after much
consideration. A good man, we had agreed, must at any rate be honest,
passionate, and unworldly. But whether or not a particular man possessed
those qualities could only be discovered by asking questions, often
beginning at a remote distance from the centre. Is Kensington a nice
place to live in? Where is your son being educated--and your daughter? Now
please tell me, what do you pay for your cigars? By the way, is Sir
Joseph a baronet or only a knight? Often it seemed that we learnt more
from trivial questions of this kind than from more direct ones. "I
accepted my peerage," said Lord Bunkum, "because my wife wished it." I
forget how many titles were accepted for the same reason. "Working
fifteen hours out of the twenty-four, as I do--" ten thousand
professional men began.

"No, no, of course you can neither read nor write. But why do you work so
hard?" "My dear lady, with a growing family--" "But why does your family
grow?" Their wives wished that too, or perhaps it was the British Empire.
But more significant than the answers were the refusals to answer. Very
few would reply at all to questions about morality and religion, and such
answers as were given were not serious. Questions as to the value of
money and power were almost invariably brushed aside, or pressed at
extreme risk to the asker. "I'm sure," said Jill, "that if Sir Harley
Tightboots hadn't been carving the mutton when I asked him about the
capitalist system he would have cut my throat. The only reason why we
escaped with our lives over and over again is that men are at once so
hungry and so chivalrous. They despise us too much to mind what we say."

"Of course they despise us," said Eleanor. "At the same time how do you
account for this--I made enquiries among the artists. Now, no woman has
ever been an artist, has she, Polls?"

"Jane--Austen--Charlotte--Bronte--George--Eliot," cried Poll, like a man
crying muffins in a back street.

"Damn the woman!" someone exclaimed. "What a bore she is!"

"Since Sappho there has been no female of first rate--" Eleanor began,
quoting from a weekly newspaper.

"It's now well known that Sappho was the somewhat lewd invention of
Professor Hobkin," Ruth interrupted.

"Anyhow, there is no reason to suppose that any woman ever has been able
to write or ever will be able to write," Eleanor continued. "And yet,
whenever I go among authors they never cease to talk to me about their
books. Masterly! I say, or Shakespeare himself! (for one must say
something) and I assure you, they believe me."

"That proves nothing," said Jane. "They all do it. Only," she sighed, "it
doesn't seem to help us much. Perhaps we had better examine modern
literature next. Liz, it's your turn."

Elizabeth rose and said that in order to prosecute her enquiry she had
dressed as a man and been taken for a reviewer.

"I have read new books pretty steadily for the past five years," said
she. "Mr. Wells is the most popular living writer; then comes Mr. Arnold
Bennett; then Mr. Compton Makenzie; Mr. McKenna and Mr. Walpole may be
bracketed together." She sat down.

"But you've told us nothing!" we expostulated. "Or do you mean that these
gentlemen have greatly surpassed Jane-Elliot and that English fiction
is--where's that review of yours? Oh, yes, 'safe in their hands.'"

"Safe, quite safe," she said, shifting uneasily from foot to foot. "And
I'm sure that they give away even more than they receive."

We were all sure of that. "But," we pressed her, "do they write good

"Good books?" she said, looking at the ceiling "You must remember," she
began, speaking with extreme rapidity, "that fiction is the mirror of
life. And you can't deny that education is of the highest importance, and
that it would be extremely annoying, if you found yourself alone at
Brighton late at night, not to know which was the best boarding house to
stay at, and suppose it was a dripping Sunday evening--wouldn't it be nice
to go to the Movies?"

"But what has that got to do with it?" we asked.

"Nothing--nothing--nothing whatever," she replied.

"Well, tell us the truth," we bade her.

"The truth? But isn't it wonderful," she broke off--"Mr. Chitter has
written a weekly article for the past thirty years upon love or hot
buttered toast and has sent all his sons to Eton--"

"The truth!" we demanded.

"Oh, the truth," she stammered, "the truth has nothing to do with
literature," and sitting down she refused to say another word.

It all seemed to us very inconclusive.

"Ladies, we must try to sum up the results," Jane was beginning, when a
hum, which had been heard for some time through the open window, drowned
her voice.

"War! War! War! Declaration of War!" men were shouting in the street

We looked at each other in horror.

"What war?" we cried. "What war?" We remembered, too late, that we had
never thought of sending anyone to the House of Commons. We had forgotten
all about it. We turned to Poll, who had reached the history shelves in
the London Library, and asked her to enlighten us.

"Why," we cried, "do men go to war?"

"Sometimes for one reason, sometimes for another," she replied calmly.
"In 1760, for example--" The shouts outside drowned her words. "Again in
1797--in 1804--It was the Austrians in 1866-1870 was the
Franco-Prussian--In 1900 on the other hand--"

"But it's now 1914!" we cut her short.

"Ah, I don't know what they're going to war for now," she admitted.

*    *    *    *    *

The war was over and peace was in process of being signed, when I once
more found myself with Castalia in the room where our meetings used to be
held. We began idly turning over the pages of our old minute books.
"Queer," I mused, "to see what we were thinking five years ago." "We are
agreed," Castalia quoted, reading over my shoulder, "that it is the
object of life to produce good people and good books." We made no comment
upon that. "A good man is at any rate honest, passionate and unworldly."
"What a woman's language!" I observed. "Oh, dear," cried Castalia,
pushing the book away from her, "what fools we were! It was all Poll's
father's fault," she went on. "I believe he did it on purpose--that
ridiculous will, I mean, forcing Poll to read all the books in the London
Library. If we hadn't learnt to read," she said bitterly, "we might still
have been bearing children in ignorance and that I believe was the
happiest life after all. I know what you're going to say about war," she
checked me, "and the horror of bearing children to see them killed, but
our mothers did it, and their mothers, and their mothers before them. And
they didn't complain. They couldn't read. I've done my best," she sighed,
"to prevent my little girl from learning to read, but what's the use? I
caught Ann only yesterday with a newspaper in her hand and she was
beginning to ask me if it was 'true.' Next she'll ask me whether Mr.
Lloyd George is a good man, then whether Mr. Arnold Bennett is a good
novelist, and finally whether I believe in God. How can I bring my
daughter up to believe in nothing?" she demanded.

"Surely you could teach her to believe that a man's intellect is, and
always will be, fundamentally superior to a woman's?" I suggested. She
brightened at this and began to turn over our old minutes again. "Yes,"
she said, "think of their discoveries, their mathematics, their science,
their philosophy, their scholarship--" and then she began to laugh, "I
shall never forget old Hobkin and the hairpin," she said, and went on
reading and laughing and I thought she was quite happy, when suddenly she
drew the book from her and burst out, "Oh, Cassandra, why do you torment
me? Don't you know that our belief in man's intellect is the greatest
fallacy of them all?" "What?" I exclaimed. "Ask any journalist,
schoolmaster, politician or public house keeper in the land and they will
all tell you that men are much cleverer than women." "As if I doubted
it," she said scornfully. "How could they help it? Haven't we bred them
and fed and kept them in comfort since the beginning of time so that they
may be clever even if they're nothing else? It's all our doing!" she
cried. "We insisted upon having intellect and now we've got it. And it's
intellect," she continued, "that's at the bottom of it. What could be
more charming than a boy before he has begun to cultivate his intellect?
He is beautiful to look at; he gives himself no airs; he understands the
meaning of art and literature instinctively; he goes about enjoying his
life and making other people enjoy theirs. Then they teach him to
cultivate his intellect. He becomes a barrister, a civil servant, a
general, an author, a professor. Every day he goes to an office. Every
year he produces a book. He maintains a whole family by the products of
his brain--poor devil! Soon he cannot come into a room without making us
all feel uncomfortable; he condescends to every woman he meets, and dares
not tell the truth even to his own wife; instead of rejoicing our eyes we
have to shut them if we are to take him in our arms. True, they console
themselves with stars of all shapes, ribbons of all shades, and incomes
of all sizes--but what is to console us? That we shall be able in ten
years' time to spend a weekend at Lahore? Or that the least insect in
Japan has a name twice the length of its body? Oh, Cassandra, for
Heaven's sake let us devise a method by which men may bear children! It
is our only chance. For unless we provide them with some innocent
occupation we shall get neither good people nor good books; we shall
perish beneath the fruits of their unbridled activity; and not a human
being will survive to know that there once was Shakespeare!"

"It is too late," I replied. "We cannot provide even for the children
that we have."

"And then you ask me to believe in intellect," she said.

While we spoke, man were crying hoarsely and wearily in the street, and,
listening, we heard that the Treaty of Peace had just been signed. The
voices died away. The rain was falling and interfered no doubt with the
proper explosion of the fireworks.

"My cook will have bought the Evening News," said Castalia, "and Ann will
be spelling it out over her tea. I must go home."

"It's no good--not a bit of good," I said. "Once she knows how to read
there's only one thing you can teach her to believe in--and that is

"Well, that would be a change," sighed Castalia.

So we swept up the papers of our Society, and, though Ann was playing
with her doll very happily, we solemnly made her a present of the lot and
told her we had chosen her to be President of the Society of the
future--upon which she burst into tears, poor little girl.



The ported fingers of glass hang downwards. The light slides down the
glass, and drops a pool of green. All day long the ten fingers of the
lustre drop green upon the marble. The feathers of parakeets--their harsh
cries--sharp blades of palm trees--green, too; green needles glittering
in the sun. But the hard glass drips on to the marble; the pools hover
above the dessert sand; the camels lurch through them; the pools settle
on the marble; rushes edge them; weeds clog them; here and there a white
blossom; the frog flops over; at night the stars are set there unbroken.
Evening comes, and the shadow sweeps the green over the mantelpiece; the
ruffled surface of ocean. No ships come; the aimless waves sway beneath
the empty sky. It's night; the needles drip blots of blue. The green's


The snub-nosed monster rises to the surface and spouts through his blunt
nostrils two columns of water, which, fiery-white in the centre, spray
off into a fringe of blue beads. Strokes of blue line the black tarpaulin
of his hide. Slushing the water through mouth and nostrils he sings,
heavy with water, and the blue closes over him dowsing the polished
pebbles of his eyes. Thrown upon the beach he lies, blunt, obtuse,
shedding dry blue scales. Their metallic blue stains the rusty iron on
the beach. Blue are the ribs of the wrecked rowing boat. A wave rolls
beneath the blue bells. But the cathedral's different, cold, incense
laden, faint blue with the veils of madonnas.


Miranda slept in the orchard, lying in a long chair beneath the
apple tree. Her book had fallen into the grass, and her finger still
seemed to point at the sentence 'Ce pays est vraiment un des coins du
monde oui le rire des filles elate le mieux . . .' as if she had fallen
asleep just there. The opals on her finger flushed green, flushed rosy,
and again flushed orange as the sun, oozing through the apple-trees,
filled them. Then, when the breeze blew, her purple dress rippled like a
flower attached to a stalk; the grasses nodded; and the white butterfly
came blowing this way and that just above her face.

Four feet in the air over her head the apples hung. Suddenly there was a
shrill clamour as if they were gongs of cracked brass beaten violently,
irregularly, and brutally. It was only the school-children saying the
multiplication table in unison, stopped by the teacher, scolded, and
beginning to say the multiplication table over again. But this clamour
passed four feet above Miranda's head, went through the apple boughs,
and, striking against the cowman's little boy who was picking
blackberries in the hedge when he should have been at school, made him
tear his thumb on the thorns.

Next there was a solitary cry--sad, human, brutal. Old Parsley was,
indeed, blind drunk.

Then the very topmost leaves of the apple-tree, flat like little fish
against the blue, thirty feet above the earth, chimed with a pensive and
lugubrious note. It was the organ in the church playing one of Hymns
Ancient and Modern. The sound floated out and was cut into atoms by a
flock of field-fares flying at an enormous speed--somewhere or other.
Miranda lay asleep thirty feet beneath.

Then above the apple-tree and the pear-tree two hundred feet above
Miranda lying asleep in the orchard bells thudded, intermittent, sullen,
didactic, for six poor women of the parish were being churched and the
Rector was returning thanks to heaven.

And above that with a sharp squeak the golden feather of the church tower
turned from south to east. The wind changed. Above everything else it
droned, above the woods, the meadows, the hills, miles above Miranda
lying in the orchard asleep. It swept on, eyeless, brainless, meeting
nothing that could stand against it, until, wheeling the other way, it
turned south again. Miles below, in a space as big as the eye of a
needle, Miranda stood upright and cried aloud: 'Oh, I shall be late for

Miranda slept in the orchard--or perhaps she was not asleep, for her
lips moved very slightly as if they were saying, 'Ce pays est vraiment un
des coins du monde . . . oui le rire des filles . . . eclate . . . eclate . . .
eclate .'and then she smiled and let her body sink all its weight on to
the enormous earth which rises, she thought, to carry me on its back as
if I were a leaf, or a queen (here the children said the multiplication
table), or, Miranda went on, I might be lying on the top of a cliff with
the gulls screaming above me. The higher they fly, she continued, as the
teacher scolded the children and rapped Jimmy over the knuckles till they
bled, the deeper they look into the sea--into the sea, she repeated, and
her fingers relaxed and her lips closed gently as if she were floating on
the sea, and then, when the shout of the drunken man sounded overhead,
she drew breath with an extraordinary ecstasy, for she thought that she
heard life itself crying out from a rough tongue in a scarlet mouth, from
the wind, from the bells, from the curved green leaves of the cabbages.

Naturally she was being married when the organ played the tune from Hymns
Ancient and Modern, and, when the bells rang after the six poor women had
been churched, the sullen intermittent thud made her think that the very
earth shook with the hoofs of the horse that was galloping towards her
('Ah, I have only to wait!' she sighed), and it seemed to her that
everything had already begun moving, crying, riding, flying round her,
across her, towards her in a pattern.

Mary is chopping the wood, she thought; Pearman is herding the cows; the
carts are coming up from the meadows; the rider--and she traced out the
lines that the men, the carts, the birds, and the rider made over the
countryside until they all seemed driven out, round, and across by the
beat of her own heart.

Miles up in the air the wind changed; the golden feather of the church
tower squeaked; and Miranda jumped up and cried: 'Oh, I shall be late for

Miranda slept in the orchard, or was she asleep or was she not asleep?
Her purple dress stretched between the two apple-trees. There were
twenty-four apple-trees in the orchard, some slanting slightly, others
growing straight with a rush up the trunk which spread wide into branches
and formed into round red or yellow drops. Each apple-tree had sufficient
space. The sky exactly fitted the leaves. When the breeze blew, the line
of the boughs against the wall slanted slightly and then returned. A
wagtail flew diagonally from one corner to another. Cautiously hopping, a
thrush advanced towards a fallen apple; from the other wall a sparrow
fluttered just above the grass. The uprush of the trees was tied down by
these movements; the whole was compacted by the orchard walls. For miles
beneath the earth was clamped together; rippled on the surface with
wavering air; and across the corner of the orchard the blue-green was
slit by a purple streak. The wind changing, one bunch of apples was
tossed so high that it blotted out two cows in the meadow ('Oh, I shall
be late for tea!' cried Miranda), and the apples hung straight across the
wall again.


Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the gloves herself.

Big Ben was striking as she stepped out into the street. It was eleven
o'clock and the unused hour was fresh as if issued to children on a
beach. But there was something solemn in the deliberate swing of the
repeated strokes; something stirring in the murmur of wheels and the
shuffle of footsteps.

No doubt they were not all bound on errands of happiness. There is much
more to be said about us than that we walk the streets of Westminster.
Big Ben too is nothing but steel rods consumed by rust were it not for
the care of H.M.'s Office of Works. Only for Mrs Dalloway the moment was
complete; for Mrs Dalloway June was fresh. A happy childhood--and it was
not to his daughters only that Justin Parry had seemed a fine fellow
(weak of course on the Bench); flowers at evening, smoke rising; the caw
of rooks falling from ever so high, down down through the October air -
there is nothing to take the place of childhood. A leaf of mint brings it
back: or a cup with a blue ring.

Poor little wretches, she sighed, and pressed forward. Oh, right under
the horses' noses, you little demon! and there she was left on the kerb
stretching her hand out, while Jimmy Dawes grinned on the further side.

A charming woman, poised, eager, strangely white-haired for her pink
cheeks, so Scope Purvis, C.C.B., saw her as he hurried to his office.
She stiffened a little, waiting for burthen's van to pass. Big Ben struck
the tenth; struck the eleventh stroke. The leaden circles dissolved in
the air. Pride held her erect, inheriting, handing on, acquainted with
discipline and with suffering. How people suffered, how they suffered,
she thought, thinking of Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night decked
with jewels, eating her heart out, because that nice boy was dead, and
now the old Manor House (Durtnall's van passed) must go to a cousin.

'Good morning to you!' said Hugh Whitbread raising his hat rather
extravagantly by the china shop, for they had known each other as
children. 'Where are you off to?'

'I love walking in London,' said Mrs Dalloway. 'Really it's better than
walking in the country!'

'We've just come up,' said Hugh Whitbread. 'Unfortunately to see doctors.'

'Milly?' said Mrs Dalloway, instantly compassionate.

'Out of sorts,' said Hugh Whitbread. 'That sort of thing. Dick all right?'

'First rate!' said Clarissa.

Of course, she thought, walking on, Milly is about my age--fifty,
fifty-two. So it is probably that, Hugh's manner had said so, said it
perfectly--dear old Hugh, thought Mrs Dalloway, remembering with
amusement, with gratitude, with emotion, how shy, like a brother--one
would rather die than speak to one's brother--Hugh had always been, when
he was at Oxford, and came over, and perhaps one of them (drat the
thing!) couldn't ride. How then could women sit in Parliament? How could
they do things with men? For there is this extra-ordinarily deep
instinct, something inside one; you can't get over it; it's no use
trying; and men like Hugh respect it without our saying it, which is what
one loves, thought Clarissa, in dear old Hugh.

She had passed through the Admiralty Arch and saw at the end of the empty
road with its thin trees Victoria's white mound, Victoria's billowing
motherliness, amplitude and homeliness, always ridiculous, yet how
sublime, thought Mrs Dalloway, remembering Kensington Gardens and the old
lady in horn spectacles and being told by Nanny to stop dead still and
bow to the Queen. The flag flew above the Palace. The King and Queen were
back then. Dick had met her at lunch the other day--a thoroughly nice
woman. It matters so much to the poor, thought Clarissa, and to the
soldiers. A man in bronze stood heroically on a pedestal with a gun on
her left hand side--the South African war. It matters, thought Mrs
Dalloway walking towards Buckingham Palace. There it stood four-square,
in the broad sunshine, uncompromising, plain. But it was character, she
thought; something inborn in the race; what Indians respected. The Queen
went to hospitals, opened bazaars--the Queen of England, thought
Clarissa, looking at the Palace. Already at this hour a motor car passed
out at the gates; soldiers saluted; the gates were shut. And Clarissa,
crossing the road, entered the Park, holding herself upright.

June had drawn out every leaf on the trees. The mothers of Westminster
with mottled breasts gave suck to their young. Quite respectable girls
lay stretched on the grass. An elderly man, stooping very stiffly, picked
up a crumpled paper, spread it out flat and flung it away. How horrible!
Last night at the Embassy Sir Dighton had said, 'If 1 want a fellow to
hold my horse, I have only to put up my hand.' But the religious question
is far more serious than the economic, Sir Dighton had said, which she
thought extraordinarily interesting, from a man like Sir Dighton. 'Oh,
the country will never know what it has lost,' he had said, talking of
his own accord, about dear Jack Stewart.

She mounted the little hill lightly. The air stirred with energy.
Messages were passing from the Fleet to the Admiralty. Piccadilly and
Arlington Street and the Mall seemed to chafe the very air in the Park
and lift its leaves hotly, brilliantly, upon waves of that divine
vitality which Clarissa loved. To ride; to dance; she had adored all
that. Or going long walks in the country, talking, about books, what to
do with one's life, for young people were amazingly priggish--oh, the
things one had said! But one had conviction. Middle age is the devil.
People like Jack'll never know that, she thought; for he never once
thought of death, never, they said, knew he was dying. And now can never
mourn--how did it go?--a head grown grey . . . From the contagion of the
world's slow stain, . . . have drunk their cup a round or two
before. . . . From the contagion of the world's slow stain!
She held herself upright.

But how jack would have shouted! Quoting Shelley, in Piccadilly, 'You
want a pin,' he would have said. He hated frumps. 'My God Clarissa! My
God Clarissa!'--she could hear him now at the Devonshire House party,
about poor Sylvia Hunt in her amber necklace and that dowdy old silk.
Clarissa held herself upright for she had spoken aloud and now she was in
Piccadilly, passing the house with the slender green columns, and the
balconies; passing club windows full of newspapers; passing old Lady
Burdett-Coutts' house where the glazed white parrot used to hang; and
Devonshire House, without its gilt leopards; and Claridge's, where she
must remember Dick wanted her to leave a card on Mrs Jepson or she would
be gone. Rich Americans can be very charming. There was St James's
Palace; like a child's game with bricks; and now--she had passed Bond
Street--she was by Hatchard's book shop. The stream was endless--endless
endless. Lords, Ascot, Hurlingham--what was it? What a duck, she
thought, looking at the frontispiece of some book of memoirs spread wide
in the bow window, Sir Joshua perhaps or Romney; arch, bright, demure;
the sort of girl--like her own Elizabeth--the only real sort of girl.
And there was that absurd book, Soapy Sponge, which Jim used to quote
by the yard; and Shakespeare's Sonnets. She knew them by heart. Phil and
she had argued all day about the Dark Lady, and Dick had said straight
out at dinner that night that he had never heard of her. Really, she had
married him for that! He had never read Shakespeare! There must be some
little cheap book she could buy for Milly--Cranford of course!
Was there ever anything so enchanting as the cow in petticoats? If only
people had that sort of humour, that sort of self-respect now, thought
Clarissa, for she remembered the broad pages; the sentences ending; the
characters--how one talked about them as if they were real. For all the
great things one must go to the past, she thought. From the contagion of
the world's slow stain . . . Fear no more the heat o' the sun. . . .
And now can never mourn, can never mourn, she repeated, her eyes straying
over the window; for it ran in her head; the test of great poetry; the
moderns had never written anything one wanted to read about death, she
thought; and turned.

Omnibuses joined motor cars; motor cars vans; vans taxicabs, taxicabs
motor cars--here was an open motor car with a girl, alone. Up till four,
her feet tingling, I know, thought Clarissa, for the girl looked washed
out, half asleep, in the corner of the car after the dance. And another
car came; and another. No! No! No! Clarissa smiled good-naturedly. The
fat lady had taken every sort of trouble, but diamonds! orchids! at
this hour of the morning! No! No! No! The excellent policeman would,
when the time came, hold up his hand. Another motor car passed.
How utterly unattractive! Why should a girl of that age paint black round
her eyes? And a young man, with a girl, at this hour, when the country--
The admirable policeman raised his hand and Clarissa acknowledging his
sway, taking her time, crossed, walked towards Bond Street; saw the
narrow crooked street, the yellow banners; the thick notched telegraph
wires stretched across the sky.

A hundred years ago her great-great-grandfather, Seymour Parry, who ran
away with Conway's daughter, had walked down Bond Street. Down Bond
Street the Parrys had walked for a hundred years, and might have met the
Dalloways (Leighs on the mother's side) going up. Her father got his
clothes from Hill's. There was a roll of cloth in the window,
and here just one jar on a black table, incredibly expensive;
like the thick pink salmon on the ice block at the fish monger's. The
jewels were exquisite--pink and orange stars, paste, Spanish, she
thought, and chains of old gold; starry buckles, little brooches which
had been worn on sea-green satin by ladies with high head-dresses. But no
good looking! One must economise. She must go on past the picture
dealer's where one of the odd French pictures hung, as if people had
thrown confetti--pink and blue--for a joke. If you had lived with
pictures (and it's the same with books and music) thought Clarissa,
passing the Aeolian Hall, you can't be taken in by a joke.

The river of Bond Street was clogged. There, like a Queen at a
tournament, raised, regal, was Lady Bexborough. She sat in her carriage,
upright, alone, looking through her glasses. The white glove was loose at
her wrist. She was in black, quite shabby, yet, thought Clarissa, how
extraordinarily it tells, breeding, self-respect, never saying a word too
much or letting people gossip; an astonishing friend; no one can pick a
hole in her after all these years, and now, there she is, thought
Clarissa, passing the Countess who waited powdered, perfectly still, and
Clarissa would have given anything to be like that, the mistress of
Clarefield, talking politics, like a man. But she never goes anywhere,
thought Clarissa, and it's quite useless to ask her, and the carriage
went on and Lady Bexborough was borne past like a Queen at a tournament,
though she had nothing to live for and the old man is failing and they
say she is sick of it all, thought Clarissa and the tears actually rose
to her eyes as she entered the shop.

'Good morning,' said Clarissa in her charming voice. 'Gloves,' she said
with her exquisite friendliness and putting her bag on the counter began,
very slowly, to undo the buttons. 'White gloves,' she said. 'Above the
elbow,' and she looked straight into the shop-woman's face--but this was
not the girl she remembered? She looked quite old. 'These really don't
fit,' said Clarissa. The shop-girl looked at them. 'Madame wears
bracelets?' Clarissa spread out her fingers. 'Perhaps it's my rings.' And
the girl took the grey gloves with her to the end of the counter.

Yes, thought Clarissa, if it's the girl I remember, she's twenty years
older. . .. There was only one other customer, sitting sideways at the
counter, her elbow poised, her bare hand drooping, vacant; like a figure
on a Japanese fan, thought Clarissa, too vacant perhaps, yet some men
would adore her. The lady shook her head sadly. Again the gloves were too
large. She turned round the glass. 'Above the wrist,' she reproached the
grey-headed woman; who looked and agreed.

They waited; a clock ticked; Bond Street hummed, dulled, distant; the
woman went away holding gloves. 'Above the wrist,' said the lady,
mournfully, raising her voice. And she would have to order chairs, ices,
flowers, and cloak-room tickets, thought Clarissa. The people she didn't
want would come; the others wouldn't. She would stand by the door. They
sold stockings--silk stockings. A lady is known by her gloves and her
shoes, old Uncle William used to say. And through the hanging silk
stockings quivering silver she looked at the lady, sloping shouldered,
her hand drooping, her bag slipping, her eyes vacantly on the floor. It
would be intolerable if dowdy women came to her party! Would one have
liked Keats if he had worn red socks? Oh, at last--she drew into the
counter and it flashed into her mind:

'Do you remember before the war you had gloves with pearl buttons?'

'French gloves, Madame?'

'Yes, they were French,' said Clarissa. The other lady rose very sadly
and took her bag, and looked at the gloves on the counter. But they were
all too large--always too large at the wrist.

'With pearl buttons,' said the shop-girl, who looked ever so much older.
She split the lengths of tissue paper apart on the counter. With pearl
buttons, thought Clarissa, perfectly simple--how French!

'Madame's hands are so slender,' said the shop-girl, drawing the glove
firmly, smoothly, down over her rings. And Clarissa looked at her arm in
the looking-glass. The glove hardly came to the elbow. Were there others
half an inch longer? Still it seemed tiresome to bother her perhaps the
one day in the month, thought Clarissa, when it's an agony to stand. 'Oh,
don't bother,' she said. But the gloves were brought.

'Don't you get fearfully tired,' she said in her charming voice,
'standing? When d'you get your holiday?'

'In September, Madame, when we're not so busy.'

When we're in the country thought Clarissa. Or shooting. She has a
fortnight at Brighton. In some stuffy lodging. The landlady takes the
sugar. Nothing would be easier than to send her to Mrs Lumley's right in
the country (and it was on the tip of her tongue). But then she
remembered how on their honeymoon Dick had shown her the folly of giving
impulsively. It was much more important, he said, to get trade with
China. Of course he was right. And she could feel the girl wouldn't like
to be given things. There she was in her place. So was Dick. Selling
gloves was her job. She had her own sorrows quite separate, 'and now can
never mourn, can never mourn,' the words ran in her head. 'From the
contagion of the world's slow stain,' thought Clarissa holding her arm
stiff, for there are moments when it seems utterly futile (the glove was
drawn off leaving her arm flecked with powder)--simply one doesn't
believe, thought Clarissa, any more in God.

The traffic suddenly roared; the silk stockings brightened. A customer
came in.

'White gloves,' she said, with some ring in her voice that Clarissa

It used, thought Clarissa, to be so simple. Down down through the air
came the caw of the rooks. When Sylvia died, hundreds of years ago, the
yew hedges looked so lovely with the diamond webs in the mist before
early church. But if Dick were to die tomorrow, as for believing in
God--no, she would let the children choose, but for herself, like Lady
Bexborough, who opened the bazaar, they say, with the telegram in her
hand--Roden, her favourite, killed--she would go on. But why, if one
doesn't believe? For the sake of others, she thought, taking the glove in
her hand. The girl would be much more unhappy if she didn't believe.

'Thirty shillings,' said the shop-woman. 'No, pardon me Madame,
thirty-five. The French gloves are more.'

For one doesn't live for oneself, thought Clarissa.

And then the other customer took a glove, tugged it, and it split.

'There!' she exclaimed .

'A fault of the skin,' said the grey-headed woman hurriedly. 'Sometimes a
drop of acid in tanning. Try this pair, Madame.'

'But it's an awful swindle to ask two pound ten!'

Clarissa looked at the lady; the lady looked at Clarissa.

'Gloves have never been quite so reliable since the war,' said the
shop-girl, apologising, to Clarissa.

But where had she seen the other lady?--elderly, with a frill under her
chin; wearing a black ribbon for gold eyeglasses; sensual, clever, like a
Sargent drawing. How one can tell from a voice when people are in the
habit, thought Clarissa, of making other people--'It's a shade too
tight,' she said--obey. The shop-woman went off again. Clarissa was left
waiting. Fear no more she repeated, playing her finger on the counter.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun. Fear no more she repeated. There were
little brown spots on her arm. And the girl crawled like a snail. Thou
thy worldly task hast done. Thousands of young men had died that things
might go on. At last! Half an rich above the elbow; pearl buttons; five
and a quarter. My dear slow coach, thought Clarissa, do you think I can
sit here the whole morning? Now you'll take twenty-five minutes to bring
me my change!

There was a violent explosion in the street outside. The shop-women
cowered behind the counters. But Clarissa, sitting very upright, smiled
at the other lady. 'Miss Anstruther!' she exclaimed.


The feathery-white moon never let the sky grow dark; all night the
chestnut blossoms were white in the green, and dim was the cow-parsley in
the meadows. Neither to Tartary nor to Arabia went the wind of the
Cambridge courts, but lapsed dreamily in the midst of grey-blue clouds
over the roofs of Newnham. There, in the garden, if she needed space to
wander, she might find it among the trees; and as none but women's faces
could meet her face, she might unveil it blank, featureless, and gaze
into rooms where at that hour, blank, featureless, eyelids white over
eyes, ringless hands extended upon sheets, slept innumerable women. But
here and there a light still burned.

A double light one might figure in Angela's room, seeing how bright
Angela herself was, and how bright came back the reflection of herself
from the square glass. The whole of her was perfectly delineated--perhaps
the soul. For the glass held up an untrembling image--white and gold,
red slippers, pale hair with blue stones in it, and never a ripple or
shadow to break the smooth kiss of Angela and her reflection in the
glass, as if she were glad to be Angela. Anyhow the moment was glad the
bright picture hung in the heart of night, the shrine hollowed in the
nocturnal blackness. Strange indeed to have this visible proof of the
rightness of things; this lily floating flawless upon Time's pool,
fearless, as if this were sufficient--this reflection. Which meditation
she betrayed by turning, and the mirror held nothing at all, or only the
brass bedstead, and she, running here and there, patting, and darting,
became like a woman in a house, and changed again, pursing her lips over
a black book and marking with her finger what surely could not be a firm
grasp of the science of economics. Only Angela Williams was at Newnham
for the purpose of earning her living, and could not forget even in
moments of impassioned adoration the cheques of her father at Swansea;
her mother washing in the scullery: pink frocks out to dry on the line;
tokens that even the lily no longer floats flawless upon the pool, but
has a name on a card like another.

A. Williams--one may read it in the moonlight; and next to it some Mary
or Eleanor, Mildred, Sarah, Phoebe upon square cards on their doors. All
names, nothing but names. The cool white light withered them and
starched them until it seemed as if the only purpose of all these names
was to rise martially in order should there be a call on them to
extinguish a fire, suppress an insurrection, or pass an examination. Such
is the power of names written upon cards pinned upon doors. Such too the
resemblance, what with tiles, corridors, and bedroom doors, to dairy or
nunnery, a place of seclusion or discipline, where the bowl of milk
stands cool and pure and there's a great washing of linen.

At that very moment soft laughter came from behind a door. A prim-voiced
clock struck the hour--one, two. Now if the clock were issuing his
commands, they were disregarded. Fire, insurrection, examination, were
all snowed under by laughter, or softly uprooted, the sound seeming to
bubble up from the depths and gently waft away the hour, rules,
discipline. The bed was strewn with cards. Sally was on the floor. Helena
in the chair. Good Bertha clasping her hands by the fire-place. A.
Williams came in yawning.

'Because it's utterly and intolerably damnable,' said Helena.

'Damnable,' echoed Bertha. Then yawned.

'We're not eunuchs.'

'I saw her slipping in by the back gate with that old hat on. They don't
want us to know.'

'They?' said Angela. 'She.'

Then the laughter.

The cards were spread, falling with their red and yellow, faces on the
table, and hands were dabbled in the cards. Good Bertha, leaning with her
head against the chair, sighed profoundly. For she would willingly have
slept, but since night is free pasturage, a limitless field, since night
is unmoulded richness, one must tunnel into its darkness. One must hang
it with jewels. Night was shared in secret, day browsed on by the whole
flock. The blinds were up. A mist was on the garden. Sitting on the floor
by the window (while the others played), body, mind, both together,
seemed blown through the air, to trail across the bushes. Ah, but she
desired to stretch out in bed and to sleep! She believed that no one felt
her desire for sleep; she believed humbly--sleepily--with sudden nods
and lurchings, that other people were wide awake. When they laughed all
together a bird chirped in its sleep out in the garden, as if the
laughter. . .

Yes, as if the laughter (for she dozed now) floated out much like mist
and attached itself by soft elastic shreds to plants and bushes, so that
the garden was vaporous and clouded. And then, swept by the wind, the
bushes would bow themselves and the white vapour blow off across the

From all the rooms where women slept this vapour issued, attaching itself
to shrubs, like mist, and then blew freely out into the open. Elderly
women slept, who would on waking immediately clasp the ivory rod of
office. Now smooth and colourless, reposing deeply, they lay surrounded,
lay supported, by the bodies of youth recumbent or grouped at the window;
pouring forth into the garden this bubbling laughter, this irresponsible
laughter: this laughter of mind and body floating away rules, hours,
discipline: immensely fertilising, yet formless, chaotic, trailing and
straying and tufting the rose-bushes with shreds of vapour.

'Ah,' breathed Angela, standing at the window in her night-gown. Pain was
in her voice. She leant her head out. The mist was cleft as if her voice
parted it. She had been talking, while the others played, to Alice Avery,
about Bamborough Castle; the colour of the sands at evening; upon which
Alice said she would write and settle the day, in August, and stooping,
kissed her, at least touched her head with her hand, and Angela,
positively unable to sit still, like one possessed of a wind-lashed sea
in her heart, roamed up and down the room (the witness of such a scene)
throwing her arms out to relieve this excitement, this astonishment at
the incredible stooping of the miraculous tree with the golden fruit at
its summit--hadn't it dropped into her arms? She held it glowing to her
breast, a thing not to be touched, thought of, or spoken about, but left
to glow there. And then, slowly putting there her stockings, there her
slippers, folding her petticoat neatly on top, Angela, her other name
being Williams, realised--how could she express it?--that after the dark
churning of myriad ages here was light at the end of the tunnel; life;
the world. Beneath her it lay--all good; all lovable. Such was her

Indeed, how could one then feel surprise if, lying in bed, she could not
close her eyes?--something irresistibly unclosed them--if in the shallow
darkness chair and chest of drawers looked stately, and the looking-glass
precious with its ashen hint of day? Sucking her thumb like a child (her
age nineteen last November), she lay in this good world, this new world,
this world at the end of the tunnel, until a desire to see it or
forestall it drove her, tossing her blankets, to guide herself to the
window, and there, looking out upon the garden, where the mist lay, all
the windows open, one fiery-bluish, something murmuring in the distance,
the world of course, and the morning coming, 'Oh,' she cried, as if in


Mabel had her first serious suspicion that something was wrong as she
took her cloak off and Mrs. Barnet, while handing her the mirror and
touching the brushes and thus drawing her attention, perhaps rather
markedly, to all the appliances for tidying and improving hair,
complexion, clothes, which existed on the dressing table, confirmed the
suspicion--that it was not right, not quite right, which growing stronger
as she went upstairs and springing at her, with conviction as she greeted
Clarissa Dalloway, she went straight to the far end of the room, to a
shaded corner where a looking-glass hung and looked. No! It was not RIGHT.
And at once the misery which she always tried to hide, the profound
dissatisfaction--the sense she had had, ever since she was a child, of
being inferior to other people--set upon her, relentlessly, remorselessly,
with an intensity which she could not beat off, as she would when she woke
at night at home, by reading Borrow or Scott; for oh these men, oh these
women, all were thinking--"What's Mabel wearing? What a fright she looks!
What a hideous new dress!"--their eyelids flickering as they came up and
then their lids shutting rather tight. It was her own appalling
inadequacy; her cowardice; her mean, water-sprinkled blood that depressed
her. And at once the whole of the room where, for ever so many hours,
she had planned with the little dressmaker how it was to go, seemed
sordid, repulsive; and her own drawing-room so shabby, and herself,
going out, puffed up with vanity as she touched the letters on the hall
table and said: "How dull!" to show off--all this now seemed unutterably
silly, paltry, and provincial. All this had been absolutely destroyed,
shown up, exploded, the moment she came into Mrs. Dalloway's drawing-room.

What she had thought that evening when, sitting over the teacups,
Mrs. Dalloway's invitation came, was that, of course, she could not
be fashionable. It was absurd to pretend it even--fashion meant cut,
meant style, meant thirty guineas at least--but why not be original?
Why not be herself, anyhow? And, getting up, she had taken that old
fashion book of her mother's, a Paris fashion book of the time of the
Empire, and had thought how much prettier, more dignified, and more
womanly they were then, and so set herself--oh, it was foolish--trying
to be like them, pluming herself in fact, upon being modest and
old-fashioned, and very charming, giving herself up, no doubt about it,
to an orgy of self-love, which deserved to be chastised, and so rigged
herself out like this.

But she dared not look in the glass. She could not face the whole
horror--the pale yellow, idiotically old-fashioned silk dress with its
long skirt and its high sleeves and its waist and all the things that
looked so charming in the fashion book, but not on her, not among all
these ordinary people. She felt like a dressmaker's dummy standing
there, for young people to stick pins into.

"But, my dear, it's perfectly charming!" Rose Shaw said, looking her up
and down with that little satirical pucker of the lips which she
expected--Rose herself being dressed in the height of the fashion,
precisely like everybody else, always.

We are all like flies trying to crawl over the edge of the saucer, Mabel
thought, and repeated the phrase as if she were crossing herself, as if
she were trying to find some spell to annul this pain, to make this
agony endurable. Tags of Shakespeare, lines from books she had read ages
ago, suddenly came to her when she was in agony, and she repeated them
over and over again. "Flies trying to crawl," she repeated. If she could
say that over often enough and make herself see the flies, she would
become numb, chill, frozen, dumb. Now she could see flies crawling
slowly out of a saucer of milk with their wings stuck together; and she
strained and strained (standing in front of the looking-glass, listening
to Rose Shaw) to make herself see Rose Shaw and all the other people
there as flies, trying to hoist themselves out of something, or into
something, meagre, insignificant, toiling flies. But she could not see
them like that, not other people. She saw herself like that--she was a
fly, but the others were dragonflies, butterflies, beautiful insects,
dancing, fluttering, skimming, while she alone dragged herself up out of
the saucer. (Envy and spite, the most detestable of the vices, were her
chief faults.)

"I feel like some dowdy, decrepit, horribly dingy old fly," she said,
making Robert Haydon stop just to hear her say that, just to reassure
herself by furbishing up a poor weak-kneed phrase and so showing how
detached she was, how witty, that she did not feel in the least out of
anything. And, of course, Robert Haydon answered something, quite
polite, quite insincere, which she saw through instantly, and said to
herself, directly he went (again from some book), "Lies, lies, lies!"
For a party makes things either much more real, or much less real, she
thought; she saw in a flash to the bottom of Robert Haydon's heart; she
saw through everything. She saw the truth. THIS was true, this
drawing-room, this self, and the other false. Miss Milan's little
workroom was really terribly hot, stuffy, sordid. It smelt of clothes
and cabbage cooking; and yet, when Miss Milan put the glass in her hand,
and she looked at herself with the dress on, finished, an
extraordinary bliss shot through her heart. Suffused with light, she
sprang into existence. Rid of cares and wrinkles, what she had dreamed
of herself was there--a beautiful woman. just for a second (she had not
dared look longer, Miss Milan wanted to know about the length of the
skirt), there looked at her, framed in the scrolloping mahogany, a
grey-white, mysteriously smiling, charming girl, the core of herself,
the soul of herself; and it was not vanity only, not only self-love that
made her think it good, tender, and true. Miss Milan said that the skirt
could not well be longer; if anything the skirt, said Miss Milan,
puckering her forehead, considering with all her wits about her, must be
shorter; and she felt, suddenly, honestly, full of love for Miss Milan,
much, much fonder of Miss Milan than of any one in the whole world, and
could have cried for pity that she should be crawling on the floor with
her mouth full of pins, and her face red and her eyes bulging--that one
human being should be doing this for another, and she saw them all as
human beings merely, and herself going off to her party, and Miss Milan
pulling the cover over the canary's cage, or letting him pick a
hemp-seed from between her lips, and the thought of it, of this side of
human nature and its patience and its endurance and its being content
with such miserable, scanty, sordid, little pleasures filled her eyes
with tears.

And now the whole thing had vanished. The dress, the room, the love, the
pity, the scrolloping looking-glass, and the canary's cage--all had
vanished, and here she was in a corner of Mrs. Dalloway's drawing-room,
suffering tortures, woken wide awake to reality.

But it was all so paltry, weak-blooded, and petty-minded to care so much
at her age with two children, to be still so utterly dependent on
people's opinions and not have principles or convictions, not to be able
to say as other people did, "There's Shakespeare! There's death! We're
all weevils in a captain's biscuit"--or whatever it was that people did

She faced herself straight in the glass; she pecked at her left
shoulder; she issued out into the room, as if spears were thrown at her
yellow dress from all sides. But instead of looking fierce or tragic, as
Rose Shaw would have done--Rose would have looked like Boadicea--she
looked foolish and self-conscious, and simpered like a schoolgirl and
slouched across the room, positively slinking, as if she were a beaten
mongrel, and looked at a picture, an engraving. As if one went to a
party to look at a picture! Everybody knew why she did it--it was from
shame, from humiliation.

"Now the fly's in the saucer," she said to herself, "right in the
middle, and can't get out, and the milk," she thought, rigidly staring
at the picture, "is sticking its wings together."

"It's so old-fashioned," she said to Charles Burt, making him stop
(which by itself he hated) on his way to talk to some one else.

She meant, or she tried to make herself think that she meant, that it
was the picture and not her dress, that was old-fashioned. And one word
of praise, one word of affection from Charles would have made all the
difference to her at the moment. If he had only said, "Mabel, you're
looking charming to-night!" it would have changed her life. But then she
ought to have been truthful and direct. Charles said nothing of the
kind, of course. He was malice itself. He always saw through one,
especially if one were feeling particularly mean, paltry, or

"Mabel's got a new dress!" he said, and the poor fly was absolutely
shoved into the middle of the saucer. Really, he would like her to
drown, she believed. He had no heart, no fundamental kindness, only a
veneer of friendliness. Miss Milan was much more real, much kinder. If
only one could feel that and stick to it, always. "Why," she asked
herself--replying to Charles much too pertly, letting him see that she
was out of temper, or "ruffled" as he called it ("Rather ruffled?" he
said and went on to laugh at her with some woman over there)--"Why," she
asked herself, "can't I feel one thing always, feel quite sure that Miss
Milan is right, and Charles wrong and stick to it, feel sure about the
canary and pity and love and not be whipped all round in a second by
coming into a room full of people?" It was her odious, weak, vacillating
character again, always giving at the critical moment and not being
seriously interested in conchology, etymology, botany, archeology,
cutting up potatoes and watching them fructify like Mary Dennis, like
Violet Searle.

Then Mrs. Holman, seeing her standing there, bore down upon her. Of
course a thing like a dress was beneath Mrs. Holman's notice, with her
family always tumbling downstairs or having the scarlet fever. Could
Mabel tell her if Elmthorpe was ever let for August and September? Oh,
it was a conversation that bored her unutterably!--it made her furious
to be treated like a house agent or a messenger boy, to be made use of.
Not to have value, that was it, she thought, trying to grasp something
hard, something real, while she tried to answer sensibly about the
bathroom and the south aspect and the hot water to the top of the house;
and all the time she could see little bits of her yellow dress in the
round looking-glass which made them all the size of boot-buttons or
tadpoles; and it was amazing to think how much humiliation and agony and
self-loathing and effort and passionate ups and downs of feeling were
contained in a thing the size of a threepenny bit. And what was still
odder, this thing, this Mabel Waring, was separate, quite disconnected;
and though Mrs. Holman (the black button) was leaning forward and
telling her how her eldest boy had strained his heart running, she could
see her, too, quite detached in the looking-glass, and it was impossible
that the black dot, leaning forward, gesticulating, should make the
yellow dot, sitting solitary, self-centred, feel what the black dot was
feeling, yet they pretended.

"So impossible to keep boys quiet"--that was the kind of thing one said.

And Mrs. Holman, who could never get enough sympathy and snatched what
little there was greedily, as if it were her right (but she deserved
much more for there was her little girl who had come down this morning
with a swollen knee-joint), took this miserable offering and looked at
it suspiciously, grudgingly, as if it were a halfpenny when it ought to
have been a pound and put it away in her purse, must put up with it,
mean and miserly though it was, times being hard, so very hard; and on
she went, creaking, injured Mrs. Holman, about the girl with the swollen
joints. Ah, it was tragic, this greed, this clamour of human beings,
like a row of cormorants, barking and flapping their wings for
sympathy--it was tragic, could one have felt it and not merely pretended
to feel it!

But in her yellow dress to-night she could not wring out one drop more;
she wanted it all, all for herself. She knew (she kept on looking into
the glass, dipping into that dreadfully showing-up blue pool) that she
was condemned, despised, left like this in a backwater, because of her
being like this a feeble, vacillating creature; and it seemed to her
that the yellow dress was a penance which she had deserved, and if she
had been dressed like Rose Shaw, in lovely, clinging green with a ruffle
of swansdown, she would have deserved that; and she thought that there
was no escape for her--none whatever. But it was not her fault
altogether, after all. It was being one of a family of ten; never having
money enough, always skimping and paring; and her mother carrying great
cans, and the linoleum worn on the stair edges, and one sordid little
domestic tragedy after another--nothing catastrophic, the sheep farm
failing, but not utterly; her eldest brother marrying beneath him but
not very much--there was no romance, nothing extreme about them all. They
petered out respectably in seaside resorts; every watering-place had one
of her aunts even now asleep in some lodging with the front windows not
quite facing the sea. That was so like them--they had to squint at
things always. And she had done the same--she was just like her aunts.
For all her dreams of living in India, married to some hero like Sir
Henry Lawrence, some empire builder (still the sight of a native in a
turban filled her with romance), she had failed utterly. She had married
Hubert, with his safe, permanent underling's job in the Law Courts, and
they managed tolerably in a smallish house, without proper maids, and
hash when she was alone or just bread and butter, but now and then--Mrs.
Holman was off, thinking her the most dried-up, unsympathetic twig she
had ever met, absurdly dressed, too, and would tell every one about
Mabel's fantastic appearance--now and then, thought Mabel Waring, left
alone on the blue sofa, punching the cushion in order to look occupied,
for she would not join Charles Burt and Rose Shaw, chattering like
magpies and perhaps laughing at her by the fireplace--now and then, there
did come to her delicious moments, reading the other night in bed, for
instance, or down by the sea on the sand in the sun, at Easter--let her
recall it--a great tuft of pale sand-grass standing all twisted like a
shock of spears against the sky, which was blue like a smooth china egg,
so firm, so hard, and then the melody of the waves--"Hush, hush," they
said, and the children's shouts paddling--yes, it was a divine moment,
and there she lay, she felt, in the hand of the Goddess who was the
world; rather a hard-hearted, but very beautiful Goddess, a little lamb
laid on the altar (one did think these silly things, and it didn't
matter so long as one never said them). And also with Hubert sometimes
she had quite unexpectedly--carving the mutton for Sunday lunch, for no
reason, opening a letter, coming into a room--divine moments, when she
said to herself (for she would never say this to anybody else), "This is
it. This has happened. This is it!" And the other way about it was
equally surprising--that is, when everything was arranged--music,
weather, holidays, every reason for happiness was there--then nothing
happened at all. One wasn't happy. It was flat, just flat, that was all.

Her wretched self again, no doubt! She had always been a fretful, weak,
unsatisfactory mother, a wobbly wife, lolling about in a kind of
twilight existence with nothing very clear or very bold, or more one
thing than another, like all her brothers and sisters, except perhaps
Herbert--they were all the same poor water-veined creatures who did
nothing. Then in the midst of this creeping, crawling life, suddenly she
was on the crest of a wave. That wretched fly--where had she read the
story that kept coming into her mind about the fly and the
saucer?--struggled out. Yes, she had those moments. But now that she was
forty, they might come more and more seldom. By degrees she would cease to
struggle any more. But that was deplorable! That was not to be endured!
That made her feel ashamed of herself!

She would go to the London Library to-morrow. She would find some
wonderful, helpful, astonishing book, quite by chance, a book by a
clergyman, by an American no one had ever heard of; or she would walk
down the Strand and drop, accidentally, into a hall where a miner was
telling about the life in the pit, and suddenly she would become a new
person. She would be absolutely transformed. She would wear a uniform;
she would be called Sister Somebody; she would never give a thought to
clothes again. And for ever after she would be perfectly clear about
Charles Burt and Miss Milan and this room and that room; and it would be
always, day after day, as if she were lying in the sun or carving the
mutton. It would be it!

So she got up from the blue sofa, and the yellow button in the
looking-glass got up too, and she waved her hand to Charles and Rose to
show them she did not depend on them one scrap, and the yellow button
moved out of the looking-glass, and all the spears were gathered into
her breast as she walked towards Mrs. Dalloway and said "Good night."

"But it's top early to go," said Mrs. Dalloway, who was always so

"I'm afraid I must," said Mabel Waring. "But," she added in her weak,
wobbly voice which only sounded ridiculous when she tried to strengthen
it, "I have enjoyed myself enormously."

'I have enjoyed myself," she said to Mr. Dalloway, whom she met on the

"Lies, lies, lies!" she said to herself, going downstairs, and "Right in
the saucer!" she said to herself as she thanked Mrs. Barnet for helping
her and wrapped herself, round and round and round, in the Chinese cloak
she had worn these twenty years.



"Slater's pins have no points--don't you always find that?" said Miss
Craye, turning round as the rose fell out of Fanny Wilmot's dress, and
Fanny stooped, with her ears full of the music, to look for the pin on
the floor.

The words gave her an extraordinary shock, as Miss Craye struck the last
chord of the Bach fugue. Did Miss Craye actually go to Slater's and buy
pins then, Fanny Wilmot asked herself, transfixed for a moment. Did she
stand at the counter waiting like anybody else, and was she given a bill
with coppers wrapped in it, and did she slip them into her purse and
then, an hour later, stand by her dressing table and take out the pins?
What need had she of pins? For she was not so much dressed as cased,
like a beetle compactly in its sheath, blue in winter, green in summer.
What need had she of pins--Julia Craye--who lived, it seemed in the cool
glassy world of Bach fugues, playing to herself what she liked, to take
one or two pupils at the one and only consenting Archer Street College of
Music (so the Principal, Miss Kingston, said) as a special favour to
herself, who had "the greatest admiration for her in every way." Miss
Craye was left badly off, Miss Kingston was afraid, at her brother's
death. Oh, they used to have such lovely things, when they lived at
Salisbury, and her brother Julius was, of course, a very well-known man:
a famous archaeologist. It was a great privilege to stay with them, Miss
Kingston said ("My family had always known them--they were regular
Canterbury people," Miss Kingston said), but a little frightening for a
child; one had to be careful not to slam the door or bounce into the
room unexpectedly. Miss Kingston, who gave little character sketches
like this on the first day of term while she received cheques and wrote
out receipts for them, smiled here. Yes, she had been rather a tomboy;
she had bounced in and set all those green Roman glasses and things
jumping in their case. The Crayes were not used to children. The Crayes
were none of them married. They kept cats; the cats, one used to feel,
knew as much about the Roman urns and things as anybody.

"Far more than I did!" said Miss Kingston brightly, writing her name
across the stamp in her dashing, cheerful, full-bodied hand, for she had
always been practical. That was how she made her living, after all.

Perhaps then, Fanny Wilmot thought, looking for the pin, Miss Craye said
that about "Slater's pins having no points," at a venture. None of the
Crayes had ever married. She knew nothing about pins--nothing whatever.
But she wanted to break the spell that had fallen on the house; to break
the pane of glass which separated them from other people. When Polly
Kingston, that merry little girl, had slammed the door and made the
Roman vases jump, Julius, seeing that no harm was done (that would be
his first instinct) looked, for the case was stood in the window, at
Polly skipping home across the fields; looked with the look his sister
often had, that lingering, driving look.

"Stars, sun, moon," it seemed to say, "the daisy in the grass, fires,
frost on the window pane, my heart goes out to you. But," it always
seemed to add, "you break, you pass, you go." And simultaneously it
covered the intensity of both these states of mind with "I can't reach
you--I can't get at you," spoken wistfully, frustratedly. And the stars
faded, and the child went. That was the kind of spell that was the
glassy surface, that Miss Craye wanted to break by showing, when she had
played Bach beautifully as a reward to a favourite pupil (Fanny Wilmot
knew that she was Miss Craye's favourite pupil), that she, too, knew,
like other people, about pins. Slater's pins had no points.

Yes, the "famous archaeologist" had looked like that too. "The famous
archaeologist"--as she said that, endorsing cheques, ascertaining the
day of the month, speaking so brightly and frankly, there was in Miss
Kingston's voice an indescribable tone which hinted at something odd;
something queer in Julius Craye; it was the very same thing that was odd
perhaps in Julia too. One could have sworn, thought Fanny Wilmot, as she
looked for the pin, that at parties, meetings (Miss Kingston's father
was a clergyman), she had picked up some piece of gossip, or it might
only have been a smile, or a tone when his name was mentioned, which had
given her "a feeling" about Julius Craye. Needless to say, she had never
spoken about it to anybody. Probably she scarcely knew what she meant by
it. But whenever she spoke of Julius, or heard him mentioned, that was
the first thing that came to mind; and it was a seductive thought; there
was something odd about Julius Craye.

It was so that Julia looked too, as she sat half turned on the music
stool, smiling. It's on the field, it's on the pane, it's in the
sky--beauty; and I can't get at it; I can't have it--I, she seemed to
add, with that little clutch of the hand which was so characteristic,
who adore it so passionately, would give the whole world to possess it!
And she picked up the carnation which had fallen on the floor, while
Fanny searched for the pin. She crushed it, Fanny felt, voluptuously in
her smooth veined hands stuck about with water-coloured rings set in
pearls. The pressure of her fingers seemed to increase all that was most
brilliant in the flower; to set it off; to make it more frilled, fresh,
immaculate. What was odd in her, and perhaps in her brother, too, was
that this crush and grasp of the finger was combined with a perpetual
frustration. So it was even now with the carnation. She had her hands on
it; she pressed it; but she did not possess it, enjoy it, not entirely
and altogether.

None of the Crayes had married, Fanny Wilmot remembered. She had in mind
how one evening when the lesson had lasted longer than usual and it was
dark, Julia Craye had said "it's the use of men, surely, to protect us,"
smiling at her that same odd smile, as she stood fastening her cloak,
which made her, like the flower, conscious to her finger tips of youth
and brilliance, but, like the flower, too, Fanny suspected, made her
feel awkward.

"Oh, but I don't want protection," Fanny had laughed, and when Julia
Craye, fixing on her that extraordinary look, had said she was not so
sure of that, Fanny positively blushed under the admiration in her eyes.

It was the only use of men, she had said. Was it for that reason then,
Fanny wondered, with her eyes on the floor, that she had never married?
After all, she had not lived all her life in Salisbury. "Much the nicest
part of London," she had said once, "(but I'm speaking of fifteen or
twenty years ago) is Kensington. One was in the Gardens in ten
minutes--it was like the heart of the country. One could dine out in
one's slippers without catching cold. Kensington--it was like a village
then, you know," she had said.

Here she broke off, to denounce acridly the draughts in the Tubes.

"It was the use of men," she had said, with a queer wry acerbity. Did
that throw any light on the problem why she had not married? One could
imagine every sort of scene in her youth, when with her good blue eyes,
her straight firm nose, her air of cool distinction, her piano playing,
her rose flowering with chaste passion in the bosom of her muslin dress,
she had attracted first the young men to whom such things, the china tea
cups and the silver candlesticks and the inlaid table, for the Crayes
had such nice things, were wonderful; young men not sufficiently
distinguished; young men of the cathedral town with ambitions. She had
attracted them first, and then her brother's friends from Oxford or
Cambridge. They would come down in the summer; row her on the river;
continue the argument about Browning by letter; and arrange perhaps, on
the rare occasions when she stayed in London, to show her Kensington

"Much the nicest part of London--Kensington (I'm speaking of fifteen or
twenty years ago)," she had said once. One was in the gardens in ten
minutes--in the heart of the country. One could make that yield what one
liked, Fanny Wilmot thought, single out, for instance, Mr. Sherman, the
painter, an old friend of hers; make him call for her, by appointment,
one sunny day in June; take her to have tea under the trees. (They had
met, too, at those parties to which one tripped in slippers without fear
of catching cold.) The aunt or other elderly relative was to wait there
while they looked at the Serpentine. They looked at the Serpentine. He
may have rowed her across. They compared it with the Avon. She would
have considered the comparison very furiously. Views of rivers were
important to her. She sat hunched a little, a little angular, though she
was graceful then, steering. At the critical moment, for he had
determined that he must speak now--it was his only chance of getting her
alone--he was speaking with his head turned at an absurd angle, in his
great nervousness, over his shoulder--at that very moment she interrupted
fiercely. He would have them into the Bridge, she cried. It was a moment
of horror, of disillusionment, of revelation, for both of them. I can't
have it, I can't possess it, she thought. He could not see why she had
come then. With a great splash of his oar he pulled the boat round.
Merely to snub him? He rowed her back and said good-bye to her.

The setting of that scene could be varied as one chose, Fanny Wilmot
reflected. (Where had that pin fallen?) It might be Ravenna; or
Edinburgh, where she had kept house for her brother. The scene could be
changed; and the young man and the exact manner of it all, but one thing
was constant--her refusal, and her frown, and her anger with herself
afterwards, and her argument, and her relief--yes, certainly her immense
relief. The very next day, perhaps, she would get up at six, put on her
cloak, and walk all the way from Kensington to the river. She was so
thankful that she had not sacrificed her right to go and look at things
when they are at their best--before people are up, that is to say she
could have her breakfast in bed if she liked. She had not sacrificed her

Yes, Fanny Wilmot smiled, Julia had not endangered her habits. They
remained safe; and her habits would have suffered if she had married.
"They're ogres," she had said one evening, half laughing, when another
pupil, a girl lately married, suddenly bethinking her that she would
miss her husband, had rushed off in haste.

"They're ogres," she had said, laughing grimly. An ogre would have
interfered perhaps with breakfast in bed; with walks at dawn down to the
river. What would have happened (but one could hardly conceive this) had
she had children? She took astonishing precautions against chills,
fatigue, rich food, the wrong food, draughts, heated rooms, journeys in
the Tube. for she could never determine which of these it was exactly
that brought on those terrible headaches that gave her life the
semblance of a battlefield. She was always engaged in outwitting the
enemy, until it seemed as if the pursuit had its interest; could she
have beaten the enemy finally she would have found life a little dull.
As it was, the tug-of-war was perpetual--on the one side the nightingale
or the view which she loved with passion--yes, for views and birds she
felt nothing less than passion; on the other the damp path or the horrid
long drag up a steep hill which would certainly make her good for
nothing next day and bring on one of her headaches. When, therefore,
from time to time, she managed her forces adroitly and brought off a
visit to Hampton Court the week the crocuses--those glossy bright flowers
were her favourite--were at their best, it was a victory. It was
something that lasted; something that mattered for ever. She strung the
afternoon on the necklace of memorable days, which was not too long for
her to be able to recall this one or that one; this view, that city; to
finger it, to feel it, to savour, sighing, the quality that made it

"It was so beautiful last Friday," she said, "that I determined I must
go there." So she had gone off to Waterloo on her great undertaking--to
visit Hampton Court--alone. Naturally, but perhaps foolishly, one pitied
her for the thing she never asked pity for (indeed she was reticent
habitually, speaking of her health only as a warrior might speak of his
foe)--one pitied her for always doing everything alone. Her brother was
dead. Her sister was asthmatic. She found the climate of Edinburgh good
for her. It was too bleak for Julia. Perhaps, too, she found the
associations painful, for her brother, the famous archaeologist, had
died there; and she had loved her brother. She lived in a little house
off the Brompton Road entirely alone.

Fanny Wilmot saw the pin; she picked it up. She looked at Miss Craye.
Was Miss Craye so lonely? No, Miss Craye was steadily, blissfully, if
only for that moment, a happy woman. Fanny had surprised her in a moment
of ecstasy. She sat there, half turned away from the piano, with her
hands clasped in her lap holding the carnation upright, while behind her
was the sharp square of the window, uncurtained, purple in the evening,
intensely purple after the brilliant electric lights which burnt
unshaded in the bare music room. Julia Craye, sitting hunched and
compact holding her flower, seemed to emerge out of the London night,
seemed to fling it like a cloak behind her, it seemed, in its bareness
and intensity, the effluence of her spirit, something she had made which
surrounded her. Fanny stared.

All seemed transparent, for a moment, to the gaze of Fanny Wilmot, as if
looking through Miss Craye, she saw the very fountain of her being
spurting its pure silver drops. She saw back and back into the past
behind her. She saw the green Roman vases stood in their case; heard the
choristers playing cricket; saw Julia quietly descend the curving steps
on to the lawn; then saw her pour out tea beneath the cedar tree; softly
enclosed the old man's hand in hers; saw her going round and about the
corridors of that ancient Cathedral dwelling place with towels in her
hand to mark them; lamenting, as she went, the pettiness of daily life;
and slowly ageing, and putting away clothes when summer came, because at
her age they were too bright to wear; and tending her father's sickness;
and cleaving her way ever more definitely as her will stiffened towards
her solitary goal; travelling frugally; counting the cost and measuring
out of her tight shut purse the sum needed for this journey or for that
old mirror; obstinately adhering, whatever people might say, in choosing
her pleasures for herself. She saw Julia----

Julia blazed. Julia kindled. Out of the night she burnt like a dead
white star. Julia opened her arms. Julia kissed her on the lips. Julia
possessed it.

"Slater's pins have no points," Miss Craye said, laughing queerly and
relaxing her arms, as Fanny Wilmot pinned the flower to her breast with
trembling fingers.



People should not leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms any more
than they should leave open cheque books or letters confessing some
hideous crime. One could not help looking, that summer afternoon, in the
long glass that hung outside in the hall. Chance had so arranged it.
From the depths of the sofa in the drawing-room one could see reflected
in the Italian glass not only the marble-topped table opposite, but a
stretch of the garden beyond. One could see a long grass path leading
between banks of tall flowers until, slicing off an angle, the gold rim
cut it off.

The house was empty, and one felt, since one was the only person in the
drawing-room, like one of those naturalists who, covered with grass and
leaves, lie watching the shyest animals--badgers, otters,
kingfishers--moving about freely, themselves unseen. The room that
afternoon was full of such shy creatures, lights and shadows, curtains
blowing, petals falling--things that never happen, so it seems, if
someone is looking. The quiet old country room with its rugs and stone
chimney pieces, its sunken book-cases and red and gold lacquer cabinets,
was full of such nocturnal creatures. They came pirouetting across the
floor, stepping delicately with high-lifted feet and spread tails and
pecking allusive beaks as if they had been cranes or flocks of elegant
flamingoes whose pink was faded, or peacocks whose trains were veiled
with silver. And there were obscure flushes and darkenings too, as if a
cuttlefish had suddenly suffused the air with purple; and the room had
its passions and rages and envies and sorrows coming over it and
clouding it, like a human being. Nothing stayed the same for two seconds

But, outside, the looking-glass reflected the hall table, the
sunflowers, the garden path so accurately and so fixedly that they
seemed held there in their reality unescapably. It was a strange
contrast--all changing here, all stillness there. One could not help
looking from one to the other. Meanwhile, since all the doors and
windows were open in the heat, there was a perpetual sighing and ceasing
sound, the voice of the transient and the perishing, it seemed, coming
and going like human breath, while in the looking-glass things had
ceased to breathe and lay still in the trance of immortality.

Half an hour ago the mistress of the house, Isabella Tyson, had gone
down the grass path in her thin summer dress, carrying a basket, and had
vanished, sliced off by the gilt rim of the looking-glass. She had gone
presumably into the lower garden to pick flowers; or as it seemed more
natural to suppose, to pick something light and fantastic and leafy and
trailing, travellers' joy, or one of those elegant sprays of convolvulus
that twine round ugly walls and burst here and there into white and
violet blossoms. She suggested the fantastic and the tremulous
convolvulus rather than the upright aster, the starched zinnia, or her
own burning roses alight like lamps on the straight posts of their rose
trees. The comparison showed how very little, after all these years, one
knew about her; for it is impossible that any woman of flesh and blood
of fifty-five or sixty should be really a wreath or a tendril. Such
comparisons are worse than idle and superficial--they are cruel even, for
they come like the convolvulus itself trembling between one's eyes and
the truth. There must be truth; there must be a wall. Yet it was strange
that after knowing her all these years one could not say what the truth
about Isabella was; one still made up phrases like this about
convolvulus and travellers' joy. As for facts, it was a fact that she
was a spinster; that she was rich; that she had bought this house and
collected with her own hands--often in the most obscure corners of the
world and at great risk from poisonous stings and Oriental diseases--the
rugs, the chairs, the cabinets which now lived their nocturnal life
before one's eyes. Sometimes it seemed as if they knew more about her
than we, who sat on them, wrote at them, and trod on them so carefully,
were allowed to know. In each of these cabinets were many little
drawers, and each almost certainly held letters, tied with bows of
ribbon, sprinkled with sticks of lavender or rose leaves. For it was
another fact--if facts were what one wanted--that Isabella had known many
people, had had many friends; and thus if one had the audacity to open a
drawer and read her letters, one would find the traces of many
agitations, of appointments to meet, of upbraidings for not having met,
long letters of intimacy and affection, violent letters of jealousy and
reproach, terrible final words of parting--for all those interviews and
assignations had led to nothing--that is, she had never married, and yet,
judging from the mask-like indifference of her face, she had gone
through twenty times more of passion and experience than those whose
loves are trumpeted forth for all the world to hear. Under the stress of
thinking about Isabella, her room became more shadowy and symbolic; the
corners seemed darker, the legs of chairs and tables more spindly and

Suddenly these reflections were ended violently--and yet without a
sound. A large black form loomed into the looking-glass; blotted out
everything, strewed the table with a packet of marble tablets veined
with pink and grey, and was gone. But the picture was entirely altered.
For the moment it was unrecognizable and irrational and entirely out of
focus. One could not relate these tablets to any human purpose. And then
by degrees some logical process set to work on them and began ordering
and arranging them and bringing them into the fold of common experience.
One realized at last that they were merely letters. The man had brought
the post.

There they lay on the marble-topped table, all dripping with light and
colour at first and crude and unabsorbed. And then it was strange to see
how they were drawn in and arranged and composed and made part of the
picture and granted that stillness and immortality which the
looking-glass conferred. They lay there invested with a new reality and
significance and with a greater heaviness, too, as if it would have
needed a chisel to dislodge them from the table. And, whether it was
fancy or not, they seemed to have become not merely a handful of casual
letters but to be tablets graven with eternal truth--if one could read
them, one would know everything there was to be known about Isabella,
yes, and about life, too. The pages inside those marble-looking
envelopes must be cut deep and scored thick with meaning. Isabella would
come in, and take them, one by one, very slowly, and open them, and read
them carefully word by word, and then with a profound sigh of
comprehension, as if she had seen to the bottom of everything, she would
tear the envelopes to little bits and tie the letters together and lock
the cabinet drawer in her determination to conceal what she did not wish
to be known.

The thought served as a challenge. Isabella did not wish to be known--but
she should no longer escape. It was absurd, it was monstrous. If she
concealed so much and knew so much one must prise her open with the
first tool that came to hand--the imagination. One must fix one's mind
upon her at that very moment. One must fasten her down there. One must
refuse to be put off any longer with sayings and doings such as the
moment brought forth--with dinners and visits and polite conversations.
One must put oneself in her shoes. If one took the phrase literally, it
was easy to see the shoes in which she stood, down in the lower garden,
at this moment. They were very narrow and long and fashionable--they were
made of the softest and most flexible leather. Like everything she wore,
they were exquisite. And she would be standing under the high hedge in
the lower part of the garden, raising the scissors that were tied to her
waist to cut some dead flower, some overgrown branch. The sun would beat
down on her face, into her eyes; but no, at the critical moment a veil
of cloud covered the sun, making the expression of her eyes doubtful--was
it mocking or tender, brilliant or dull? One could only see the
indeterminate outline of her rather faded, fine face looking at the sky.
She was thinking, perhaps, that she must order a new net for the
strawberries; that she must send flowers to Johnson's widow; that it was
time she drove over to see the Hippesleys in their new house. Those were
the things she talked about at dinner certainly. But one was tired of
the things that she talked about at dinner. It was her profounder state
of being that one wanted to catch and turn to words, the state that is
to the mind what breathing is to the body, what one calls happiness or
unhappiness. At the mention of those words it became obvious, surely,
that she must be happy. She was rich; she was distinguished; she had
many friends; she travelled--she bought rugs in Turkey and blue pots in
Persia. Avenues of pleasure radiated this way and that from where she
stood with her scissors raised to cut the trembling branches while the
lacy clouds veiled her face.

Here with a quick movement of her scissors she snipped the spray of
travellers' joy and it fell to the ground. As it fell, surely some light
came in too, surely one could penetrate a little farther into her being.
Her mind then was filled with tenderness and regret. . . . To cut an
overgrown branch saddened her because it had once lived, and life was
dear to her. Yes, and at the same time the fall of the branch would
suggest to her how she must die herself and all the futility and
evanescence of things. And then again quickly catching this thought up,
with her instant good sense, she thought life had treated her well; even
if fall she must, it was to lie on the earth and moulder sweetly into
the roots of violets. So she stood thinking. Without making any thought
precise--for she was one of those reticent people whose minds hold their
thoughts enmeshed in clouds of silence--she was filled with thoughts. Her
mind was like her room, in which lights advanced and retreated, came
pirouetting and stepping delicately, spread their tails, pecked their
way; and then her whole being was suffused, like the room again, with a
cloud of some profound knowledge, some unspoken regret, and then she was
full of locked drawers, stuffed with letters, like her cabinets. To talk
of "prising her open" as if she were an oyster, to use any but the
finest and subtlest and most pliable tools upon her was impious and
absurd. One must imagine--here was she in the looking-glass. It made one

She was so far off at first that one could not see her clearly. She came
lingering and pausing, here straightening a rose, there lifting a pink
to smell it, but she never stopped; and all the time she became larger
and larger in the looking-glass, more and more completely the person
into whose mind one had been trying to penetrate. One verified her by
degrees--fitted the qualities one had discovered into this visible body.
There were her grey-green dress, and her long shoes, her basket, and
something sparkling at her throat. She came so gradually that she did
not seem to derange the pattern in the glass, but only to bring in some
new element which gently moved and altered the other objects as if
asking them, courteously, to make room for her. And the letters and the
table and the grass walk and the sunflowers which had been waiting in
the looking-glass separated and opened out so that she might be received
among them. At last there she was, in the hall. She stopped dead. She
stood by the table. She stood perfectly still. At once the lookingglass
began to pour over her a light that seemed to fix her; that seemed like
some acid to bite off the unessential and superficial and to leave only
the truth. It was an enthralling spectacle. Everything dropped from
her--clouds, dress, basket, diamond--all that one had called the creeper
and convolvulus. Here was the hard wall beneath. Here was the woman
herself. She stood naked in that pitiless light. And there was nothing.
Isabella was perfectly empty. She had no thoughts. She had no friends.
She cared for nobody. As for her letters, they were all bills. Look, as
she stood there, old and angular, veined and lined, with her high nose
and her wrinkled neck, she did not even trouble to open them.

People should not leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms.


She got in and put her suit case in the rack, and the brace of pheasants
on top of it. Then she sat down in the corner. The train was rattling
through the midlands, and the fog, which came in when she opened the
door, seemed to enlarge the carriage and set the four travellers apart.
Obviously M. M.--those were the initials on the suit case--had been
staying the week-end with a shooting party. Obviously, for she was
telling over the story now, lying back in her corner. She did not shut
her eyes. But clearly she did not see the man opposite, nor the coloured
photograph of York Minster. She must have heard, too, what they had been
saying. For as she gazed, her lips moved; now and then she smiled. And
she was handsome; a cabbage rose; a russet apple; tawny; but scarred on
the jaw--the scar lengthened when she smiled. Since she was telling over
the story she must have been a guest there, and yet, dressed as she was
out of fashion as women dressed, years ago, in pictures, in sporting
newspapers, she did not seem exactly a guest, nor yet a maid. Had she
had a basket with her she would have been the woman who breeds fox
terriers; the owner of the Siamese cat; some one connected with hounds
and horses. But she had only a suit case and the pheasants. Somehow,
therefore, she must have wormed her way into the room that she was
seeing through the stuffing of the carriage, and the man's bald head,
and the picture of York Minster. And she must have listened to what they
were saying, for now, like somebody imitating the noise that someone
else makes, she made a little click at the back of her throat. "Chk."
Then she smiled.

"Chk," said Miss Antonia, pinching her glasses on her nose. The damp
leaves fell across the long windows of the gallery; one or two stuck,
fish shaped, and lay like inlaid brown wood upon the window panes. Then
the trees in the Park shivered, and the leaves, flaunting down, seemed
to make the shiver visible--the damp brown shiver.

"Chk." Miss Antonia sniffed again, and pecked at the flimsy white stuff
that she held in her hands, as a hen pecks nervously rapidly at a piece
of white bread.

The wind sighed. The room was draughty. The doors did not fit, nor the
windows. Now and then a ripple, like a reptile, ran under the carpet. On
the carpet lay panels of green and yellow, where the sun rested, and
then the sun moved and pointed a finger as if in mockery at a hole in
the carpet and stopped. And then on it went, the sun's feeble but
impartial finger, and lay upon the coat of arms over the
fireplace--gently illumined--the shield, the pendant grapes, the mermaid,
and the spears. Miss Antonia looked up as the light strengthened. Vast
lands, so they said, the old people had owned--her forefathers--the
Rashleighs. Over there. Up the Amazons. Freebooter. Voyagers. Sacks of
emeralds. Nosing round the island. Taking captives. Maidens. There she
was, all scales from the tail to the waist. Miss Antonia grinned. Down
struck the finger of the sun and her eye went with it. Now it rested on
a silver frame; on a photograph; on an egg-shaped baldish head, on a lip
that stuck out under the moustache; and the name "Edward" written with a
flourish beneath.

"The King. . ." Miss Antonia muttered, turning the film of white upon
her knee--"had the Blue Room," she added with a toss of her head as the
light faded.

Out in the King's Ride the pheasants were being driven across the noses
of the guns. Up they spurted from the underwood like heavy rockets,
reddish purple rockets, and as they rose the guns cracked in order,
eagerly, sharply, as if a line of dogs had suddenly barked. Tufts of
white smoke held together for a moment; then gently solved themselves,
faded, and dispersed.

In the deep cut road beneath the hanger, a cart stood, laid already with
soft warm bodies, with limp claws, and still lustrous eyes. The birds
seemed alive still, but swooning under their rich damp feathers. They
looked relaxed and comfortable, stirring slightly, as if they slept upon
a warm bank of soft feathers on the floor of the cart.

Then the Squire, with the hang-dog stained face, in the shabby gaiters,
cursed and raised his gun.

Miss Antonia stitched on. Now and then a tongue of flame reached round
the grey log that stretched from one bar to another across the grate,
ate it greedily, then died out, leaving a white bracelet where the bark
had been eaten off. Miss Antonia looked up for a moment, stared wide
eyed, instinctively, as a dog stares at a flame. Then the flame sank and
she stitched again.

Then, silently, the enormously high door opened. Two lean men came in,
and drew a table over the hole in the carpet. They went out; they came
in. They laid a cloth upon the table. They went out; they came in. They
brought a green baize basket of knives and forks; and glasses; and sugar
casters; and salt cellars; and bread; and a silver vase with three
chrysanthemums in it. And the table was laid. Miss Antonia stitched on.

Again the door opened, pushed feebly this time. A little dog trotted in,
a spaniel nosing nimbly; it paused. The door stood open. And then,
leaning on her stick, heavily, old Miss Rashleigh entered. A white
shawl, diamond fastened, clouded her baldness. She hobbled; crossed the
room; hunched herself in the high-backed chair by the fireside. Miss
Antonia went on stitching.

"Shooting," she said at last.

Old Miss Rashleigh nodded. She gripped her stick. They sat waiting.

The shooters had moved now from the King's Ride to the Home Woods. They
stood in the purple ploughed field outside. Now and then a twig snapped;
leaves came whirling. But above the mist and the smoke was an island of
blue--faint blue, pure blue--alone in the sky. And in the innocent air, as
if straying alone like a cherub, a bell from a far hidden steeple
frolicked, gambolled, then faded. Then again up shot the rockets, the
reddish purple pheasants. Up and up they went. Again the guns barked;
the smoke balls formed; loosened, dispersed. And the busy little dogs
ran nosing nimbly over the fields; and the warm damp bodies, still
languid and soft, as if in a swoon, were bunched together by the men in
gaiters and flung into the cart.

"There!" grunted Milly Masters, the house-keeper, throwing down her
glasses. She was stitching, too, in the small dark room that overlooked
the stable yard. The jersey, the rough woollen jersey, for her son, the
boy who cleaned the Church, was finished. "The end 'o that!" she
muttered. Then she heard the cart. Wheels ground on the cobbles. Up she
got. With her hands to her hair, her chestnut coloured hair, she stood
in the yard, in the wind.

"Coming!" she laughed, and the scar on her cheek lengthened. She
unbolted the door of the game room as Wing, the keeper, drove the cart
over the cobbles. The birds were dead now, their claws gripped tight,
though they gripped nothing. The leathery eyelids were creased greyly
over their eyes. Mrs. Masters the housekeeper, Wing the gamekeeper, took
bunches of dead birds by the neck and flung them down on the slate floor
of the game larder. The slate floor became smeared and spotted with
blood. The pheasants looked smaller now, as if their bodies had shrunk
together. Then Wing lifted the tail of the cart and drove in the pins
which secured it. The sides of the cart were stuck about with little
grey-blue feathers, and the floor was smeared and stained with blood.
But it was empty.

"The last of the lot!" Milly Masters grinned as the cart drove off.

"Luncheon is served, ma'am," said the butler. He pointed at the table;
he directed the footman. The dish with the silver cover was placed
precisely there where he pointed. They waited, the butler and the

Miss Antonia laid her white film upon the basket; put away her silk; her
thimble; stuck her needle through a piece of flannel; and hung her
glasses on a hook upon her breast. Then she rose.

"Luncheon!" she barked in old Miss Rashleigh's ear. One second later old
Miss Rashleigh stretched her leg out; gripped her stick; and rose too.
Both old women advanced slowly to the table; and were tucked in by the
butler and the footman, one at this end, one at that. Off came the
silver cover. And there was the pheasant, featherless, gleaming; the
thighs tightly pressed to its side; and little mounds of breadcrumbs
were heaped at either end.

Miss Antonia drew the carving knife across the pheasant's breast firmly.
She cut two slices and laid them on a plate. Deftly the footman whipped
it from her, and old Miss Rashleigh raised her knife. Shots rang out in
the wood under the window.

"Coming?" said old Miss Rashleigh, suspending her fork.

The branches flung and flaunted on the trees in the Park.

She took a mouthful of pheasant. Falling leaves flicked the window pane;
one or two stuck to the glass.

"The Home Woods, now," said Miss Antonia. "Hugh's lost that."
"Shooting." She drew her knife down the other side of the breast. She
added potatoes and gravy, brussel sprouts and bread sauce methodically
in a circle round the slices on her plate. The butler and the footman
stood watching, like servers at a feast. The old ladies ate quietly;
silently; nor did they hurry themselves; methodically they cleaned the
bird. Bones only were left on their plates. Then the butler drew the
decanter towards Miss Antonia, and paused for a moment with his head

"Give it here, Griffiths," said Miss Antonia, and took the carcase in
her fingers and tossed it to the spaniel beneath the table. The butler
and the footman bowed and went out.

"Coming closer," said Miss Rashleigh, listening. The wind was rising. A
brown shudder shook the air; leaves flew too fast to stick. The glass
rattled in the windows.

"Birds wild," Miss Antonia nodded, watching the helter-skelter.

Old Miss Rashleigh filled her glass. As they sipped their eyes became
lustrous like half precious stones held to the light. Slate blue were
Miss Rashleigh's; Miss Antonia's red, like port. And their laces and
their flounces seemed to quiver, as if their bodies were warm and
languid underneath their feathers as they drank.

"It was a day like this, d'you remember?" said old Miss Rashleigh,
fingering her glass. "They brought him home--a bullet through his heart.
A bramble, so they said. Tripped. Caught his foot. . . ." She chuckled
as she sipped her wine.

"And John . . ." said Miss Antonia. "The mare, they said, put her foot
in a hole. Died in the field. The hunt rode over him. He came home, too,
on a shutter. . . They sipped again.

"Remember Lily?" said old Miss Rashleigh. "A bad 'un." She shook her
head. "Riding with a scarlet tassel on her cane. . . ."

"Rotten at the heart!" cried Miss Antonia.

"Remember the Colonel's letter. Your son rode as if he had twenty devils
in him--charged at the head of his men. Then one white devil--ah hah!"
She sipped again.

"The men of our house," began Miss Rashleigh. She raised her glass. She
held it high, as if she toasted the mermaid carved in plaster on the
fireplace. She paused. The guns were barking. Something cracked in the
woodwork. Or was it a rat running behind the plaster?

"Always women . . ." Miss Antonia nodded. "The men of our house. Pink
and white Lucy at the Mill--d'you remember?"

"Ellen's daughter at the Goat and Sickle," Miss Rashleigh added.

"And the girl at the tailor's," Miss Antonia murmured, "where Hugh
bought his riding breeches, the little dark shop on the right . . ."

". . . that used to be flooded every winter. It's his boy," Miss Antonia
chuckled, leaning towards her sister, "that cleans the Church."

There was a crash. A slate had fallen down the chimney. The great log
had snapped in two. Flakes of plaster fell from the shield above the

"Falling," old Miss Rashleigh chuckled. "Falling."

"And who," said Miss Antonia, looking at the flakes on the carpet,
"who's to pay?"

Crowing like old babies, indifferent, reckless, they laughed; crossed to
the fireplace, and sipped the sherry by the wood ashes and the plaster,
until each glass held only one drop of wine, reddish purple, at the
bottom. And this the old women did not wish to part with, so it seemed;
for they fingered their glasses, as they sat side by side by the ashes;
but they never raised them to their lips.

"Milly Masters in the still room," began old Miss Rashleigh. "She's our
brother's . . ."

A shot barked beneath the window. It cut the string that held the rain.
Down it poured, down, down, down, in straight rods whipping the windows.
Light faded from the carpet. Light faded in their eyes, too, as they sat
by the white ashes listening. Their eyes became like pebbles, taken from
water; grey stones dulled and dried. And their hands gripped their hands
like the claws of dead birds gripping nothing. And they shrivelled as if
the bodies inside the clothes had shrunk.

Then Miss Antonia raised her glass to the mermaid. It was the last drop;
she drank it off. "Coming!" she croaked, and slapped the glass down. A
door banged below. Then another. Then another. Feet could be heard
trampling, yet shuffling, along the corridor towards the gallery.

"Closer! Closer!" grinned Miss Rashleigh, baring her three yellow teeth.

The immensely high door burst open. In rushed three great hounds and
stood panting. Then there entered, slouching, the Squire himself in
shabby gaiters. The dogs pressed round him, tossing their heads,
snuffling at his pockets. Then they bounded forward. They smelt the
meat. The floor of the gallery waved like a windlashed forest with the
tails and backs of the great questing hounds. They snuffed the table.
They pawed the cloth. Then, with a wild neighing whimper, they flung
themselves upon the little yellow spaniel who was gnawing the carcass
under the table.

"Curse you, curse you!" howled the Squire. But his voice was weak, as if
he shouted against a wind. "Curse you, curse you!" he shouted, now
cursing his sisters.

Miss Antonia and Miss Rashleigh rose to their feet. The great dogs had
seized the spaniel. They worried him, they mauled him with their great
yellow teeth. The Squire swung a leather knotted tawse this way and that
way, cursing the dogs, cursing his sisters, in the voice that sounded so
loud yet so weak. With one lash he curled to the ground the vase of
chrysanthemums. Another caught old Miss Rashleigh on the cheek. The old
woman staggered backwards. She fell against the mantelpiece. Her stick,
striking wildly, struck the shield above the fireplace. She fell with a
thud upon the ashes. The shield of the Rashleighs crashed from the wall.
Under the mermaid, under the spears, she lay buried.

The wind lashed the panes of glass; shots volleyed in the Park and a
tree fell. And then King Edward, in the silver frame, slid, toppled, and
fell too.

The grey mist had thickened in the carriage. It hung down like a veil;
it seemed to put the four travellers in the corners at a great distance
from each other, though in fact they were as close as a third class
railway carriage could bring them. The effect was strange. The handsome,
if elderly, the well dressed, if rather shabby woman, who had got into
the train at some station in the midlands, seemed to have lost her
shape. Her body had become all mist. Only her eyes gleamed, changed,
lived all by themselves, it seemed; eyes without a body; eyes seeing
something invisible. In the misty air they shone out, they moved, so
that in the sepulchral atmosphere--the windows were blurred, the lamps
haloed with fog--they were like lights dancing, will o' the wisps that
move, people say, over the graves of unquiet sleepers in churchyards. An
absurd idea? Mere fancy! Yet after all, since there is nothing that does
not leave some residue, and memory is a light that dances in the mind
when the reality is buried, why should not the eyes there, gleaming,
moving, be the ghost of a family, of an age, of a civilization dancing
over the grave?

The train slowed down. Lamps stood up. They were felled. Up they stood
again as the train slid into the station. The lights blazed. And the
eyes in the corner? They were shut. Perhaps the light was too strong.
And of course in the full blaze of the station lamps it was plain--she
was quite an ordinary, rather elderly, woman, travelling to London on
some ordinary piece of business--something connected with a cat, or a
horse, or a dog. She reached for her suit case, rose, and took the
pheasants from the rack. But did she, all the same, as she opened the
carriage door and stepped out, murmur "Chk., Chk." as she passed?


Oliver Bacon lived at the top of a house overlooking the Green Park. He
had a flat; chairs jutted out at the right angles--chairs covered in
hide. Sofas filled the bays of the windows--sofas covered in tapestry.
The windows, the three long windows, had the proper allowance of
discreet net and figured satin. The mahogany sideboard bulged discreetly
with the right brandies, whiskeys and liqueurs. And from the middle
window he looked down upon the glossy roofs of fashionable cars packed
in the narrow straits of Piccadilly. A more Central position could not
be imagined. And at eight in the morning he would have his breakfast
brought in on a tray by a man-servant: the man-servant would unfold his
crimson dressing-gown; he would rip his letters open with his long
pointed nails and would extract thick white cards of invitation upon
which the engraving stood up roughly from duchesses, countesses,
viscountesses and Honourable Ladies. Then he would wash; then he would
eat his toast; then he would read his paper by the bright burning fire
of electric coals.

"Behold Oliver," he would say, addressing himself. "You who began life
in a filthy little alley, you who . . ." and he would look down at his
legs, so shapely in their perfect trousers; at his boots; at his spats.
They were all shapely, shining; cut from the best cloth by the best
scissors in Savile Row. But he dismantled himself often and became again
a little boy in a dark alley. He had once thought that the height of his
ambition--selling stolen dogs to fashionable women in Whitechapel. And
once he had been done. "Oh, Oliver," his mother had wailed. "Oh, Oliver!
When will you have sense, my son?" . . . Then he had gone behind a
counter; had sold cheap watches; then he had taken a wallet to
Amsterdam. . . . At that memory he would churckle--the old Oliver
remembering the young. Yes, he had done well with the three diamonds;
also there was the commission on the emerald. After that he went into
the private room behind the shop in Hatton Garden; the room with the
scales, the safe, the thick magnifying glasses. And then . . . and
then . . . He chuckled. When he passed through the knots of jewellers in
the hot evening who were discussing prices, gold mines, diamonds, reports
from South Africa, one of them would lay a finger to the side of his
nose and murmur, "Hum--m--m," as he passed. It was no more than a
murmur; no more than a nudge on the shoulder, a finger on the nose, a
buzz that ran through the cluster of jewellers in Hatton Garden on a hot
afternoon--oh, many years ago now! But still Oliver felt it purring down
his spine, the nudge, the murmur that meant, "Look at him--young Oliver,
the young jeweller--there he goes." Young he was then. And he dressed
better and better; and had, first a hansom cab; then a car; and first he
went up to the dress circle, then down into the stalls. And he had a
villa at Richmond, overlooking the river, with trellises of red roses;
and Mademoiselle used to pick one every morning and stick it in his

"So," said Oliver Bacon, rising and stretching his legs. "SO . . ."

And he stood beneath the picture of an old lady on the mantelpiece and
raised his hands. "I have kept my word," he said, laying his hands
together, palm to palm, as if he were doing homage to her. "I have won
my bet." That was so; he was the richest jeweller in England; but his
nose, which was long and flexible, like an elephant's trunk, seemed to
say by its curious quiver at the nostrils (but it seemed as if the whole
nose quivered, not only the nostrils) that he was not satisfied yet;
still smelt something under the ground a little further off. Imagine a
giant hog in a pasture rich with truffles; after unearthing this truffle
and that, still it smells a bigger, a blacker truffle under the ground
further off. So Oliver snuffed always in the rich earth of Mayfair another
truffle, a blacker, a bigger further off.

Now then he straightened the pearl in his tie, cased himself in his
smart blue overcoat; took his yellow gloves and his cane; and swayed as
he descended the stairs and half snuffed, half sighed through his long
sharp nose as he passed out into Piccadilly. For was he not still a sad
man, a dissatisfied man, a man who seeks something that is hidden,
though he had won his bet?

He swayed slightly as he walked, as the camel at the zoo sways from side
to side when it walks along the asphalt paths laden with grocers and
their wives eating from paper bags and throwing little bits of silver
paper crumpled up on to the path. The camel despises the grocers; the
camel is dissatisfied with its lot; the camel sees the blue lake and the
fringe of palm trees in front of it. So the great jeweller, the greatest
jeweller in the whole world, swung down Piccadilly, perfectly dressed,
with his gloves, with his cane; but dissatisfied still, till he reached
the dark little shop, that was famous in France, in Germany, in Austria,
in Italy, and all over America--the dark little shop in the street off
Bond Street.

As usual, he strode through the shop without speaking, though the four
men, the two old men, Marshall and Spencer, and the two young men,
Hammond and Wicks, stood straight and looked at him, envying him. It was
only with one finger of the amber-coloured glove, waggling, that he
acknowledged their presence. And he went in and shut the door of his
private room behind him.

Then he unlocked the grating that barred the window. The cries of Bond
Street came in; the purr of the distant traffic. The light from
reflectors at the back of the shop struck upwards. One tree waved six
green leaves, for it was June. But Mademoiselle had married Mr. Pedder
of the local brewery--no one stuck roses in his buttonhole now.

"So," he half sighed, half snorted, "so----"

Then he touched a spring in the wall and slowly the panelling slid open,
and behind it were the steel safes, five, no, six of them, all of
burnished steel. He twisted a key; unlocked one; then another. Each was
lined with a pad of deep crimson velvet; in each lay jewels--bracelets,
necklaces, rings, tiaras, ducal coronets; loose stones in glass shells;
rubies, emeralds, pearls, diamonds. All safe, shining, cool, yet
burning, eternally, with their own compressed light.

"Tears!" said Oliver, looking at the pearls.

"Heart's blood!" he said, looking at the rubies.

"Gunpowder!" he continued, rattling the diamonds so that they flashed
and blazed.

"Gunpowder enough to blow Mayfair--sky high, high, high!" He threw his
head back and made a sound like a horse neighing as he said it.

The telephone buzzed obsequiously in a low muted voice on his table. He
shut the safe.

"In ten minutes," he said. "Not before." And he sat down at his desk and
looked at the heads of the Roman emperors that were graved on his sleeve
links. And again he dismantled himself and became once more the little
boy playing marbles in the alley where they sell stolen dogs on Sunday.
He became that wily astute little boy, with lips like wet cherries. He
dabbled his fingers in ropes of tripe; he dipped them in pans of frying
fish; he dodged in and out among the crowds. He was slim, lissome, with
eyes like licked stones. And now--now--the hands of the clock ticked on,
one two, three, four. . . . The Duchess of Lambourne waited his pleasure;
the Duchess of Lambourne, daughter of a hundred Earls. She would wait
for ten minutes on a chair at the counter. She would wait his pleasure.
She would wait till he was ready to see her. He watched the clock in its
shagreen case. The hand moved on. With each tick the clock handed him--so
it seemed--PATE DE FOIE GRAS, a glass of champagne, another of fine
brandy, a cigar costing one guinea. The clock laid them on the table
beside him as the ten minutes passed. Then he heard soft slow footsteps
approaching; a rustle in the corridor. The door opened. Mr. Hammond
flattened himself against the wall.

"Her Grace!" he announced.

And he waited there, flattened against the wall.

And Oliver, rising, could hear the rustle of the dress of the Duchess as
she came down the passage. Then she loomed up, filling the door, filling
the room with the aroma, the prestige, the arrogance, the pomp, the
pride of all the Dukes and Duchesses swollen in one wave. And as a wave
breaks, she broke, as she sat down, spreading and splashing and falling
over Oliver Bacon, the great jeweller, covering him with sparkling
bright colours, green, rose, violet; and odours; and iridescences; and
rays shooting from fingers, nodding from plumes, flashing from silk; for
she was very large, very fat, tightly girt in pink taffeta, and past her
prime. As a parasol with many flounces, as a peacock with many feathers,
shuts its flounces, folds its feathers, so she subsided and shut herself
as she sank down in the leather armchair.

"Good morning, Mr. Bacon," said the Duchess. And she held out her hand
which came through the slit of her white glove. And Oliver bent low as
he shook it. And as their hands touched the link was forged between them
once more. They were friends, yet enemies; he was master, she was
mistress; each cheated the other, each needed the other, each feared the
other, each felt this and knew this every time they touched hands thus
in the little back room with the white light outside, and the tree with
its six leaves, and the sound of the street in the distance and behind
them the safes.

"And to-day, Duchess--what can I do for you to-day?" said Oliver, very

The Duchess opened her heart, her private heart, gaped wide. And with a
sigh but no words she took from her bag a long washleather pouch--it
looked like a lean yellow ferret. And from a slit in the ferret's belly
she dropped pearls--ten pearls. They rolled from the slit in the ferret's
belly--one, two, three, four--like the eggs of some heavenly bird.

"All's that's left me, dear Mr. Bacon," she moaned. Five, six,
seven--down they rolled, down the slopes of the vast mountain sides that
fell between her knees into one narrow valley--the eighth, the ninth, and
the tenth. There they lay in the glow of the peach-blossom taffeta. Ten

"From the Appleby cincture," she mourned. "The last . . . the last of them

Oliver stretched out and took one of the pearls between finger and
thumb. It was round, it was lustrous. But real was it, or false? Was she
lying again? Did she dare?

She laid her plump padded finger across her lips. "If the Duke knew . . ."
she whispered. "Dear Mr. Bacon, a bit of bad luck. . ."

Been gambling again, had she?

"That villain! That sharper!" she hissed.

The man with the chipped cheek bone? A bad 'un. And the Duke was
straight as a poker; with side whiskers; would cut her off, shut her up
down there if he knew--what I know, thought Oliver, and glanced at the

"Araminta, Daphne, Diana," she moaned. "It's for THEM."

The ladies Araminta, Daphne, Diana--her daughters. He knew them; adored
them. But it was Diana he loved.

"You have all my secrets," she leered. Tears slid; tears fell; tears,
like diamonds, collecting powder in the ruts of her cherry blossom

"Old friend," she murmured, "old friend."

"Old friend," he repeated, "old friend," as if he licked the words.

"How much?" he queried.

She covered the pearls with her hand.

"Twenty thousand," she whispered.

But was it real or false, the one he held in his hand? The Appleby
cincture--hadn't she sold it already? He would ring for Spencer or
Hammond. "Take it and test it," he would say. He stretched to the bell.

"You will come down to-morrow?" she urged, she interrupted. "The Prime
Minister--His Royal Highness . . ." She stopped. "And Diana . . ." she

Oliver took his hand off the bell.

He looked past her, at the backs of the houses in Bond Street. But he
saw, not the houses in Bond Street, but a dimpling river; and trout
rising and salmon; and the Prime Minister; and himself too, in white
waistcoat; and then, Diana. He looked down at the pearl in his hand. But
how could he test it, in the light of the river, in the light of the
eyes of Diana? But the eyes of the Duchess were on him.

"Twenty thousand," she moaned. "My honour!"

The honour of the mother of Diana! He drew his cheque book towards him;
he took out his pen.

"Twenty--" he wrote. Then he stopped writing. The eyes of the old woman
in the picture were on him--of the old woman his mother.

"Oliver!" she warned him. "Have sense! Don't be a fool!"

"Oliver!" the Duchess entreated--it was "Oliver" now, not "Mr. Bacon."
"You'll come for a long weekend?"

Alone in the woods with Diana! Riding alone in the woods with Diana!

"Thousand," he wrote, and signed it.

"Here you are," he said.

And there opened all the flounces of the parasol, all the plumes of the
peacock, the radiance of the wave, the swords and spears of Agincourt,
as she rose from her chair. And the two old men and the two young men,
Spencer and Marshall, Wicks and Hammond, flattened themselves behind the
counter envying him as he led her through the shop to the door. And he
waggled his yellow glove in their faces, and she held her honour--a
cheque for twenty thousand pounds with his signature--quite firmly in
her hands.

"Are they false or are they real?" asked Oliver, shutting his private
door. There they were, ten pearls on the blotting-paper on the table. He
took them to the window. He held them under his lens to the light. . . .
This, then, was the truffle he had routed out of the earth! Rotten at
the centre--rotten at the core!

"Forgive me, oh, my mother!" he sighed, raising his hand as if he asked
pardon of the old woman in the picture. And again he was a little boy in
the alley where they sold dogs on Sunday.

"For," he murmured, laying the palms of his hands together, "it is to be
a long week-end."


They were married. The wedding march pealed out. The pigeons fluttered.
Small boys in Eton jackets threw rice; a fox terrier sauntered across
the path; and Ernest Thorburn led his bride to the car through that
small inquisitive crowd of complete strangers which always collects in
London to enjoy other people's happiness or unhappiness. Certainly he
looked handsome and she looked shy. More rice was thrown, and the car
moved off.

That was on Tuesday. Now it was Saturday. Rosalind had still to get used
to the fact that she was Mrs. Ernest Thorburn. Perhaps she never would
get used to the fact that she was Mrs. Ernest Anybody, she thought, as
she sat in the bow window of the hotel looking over the lake to the
mountains, and waited for her husband to come down to breakfast. Ernest
was a difficult name to get used to. It was not the name she would have
chosen. She would have preferred Timothy, Antony, or Peter. He did not
look like Ernest either. The name suggested the Albert Memorial,
mahogany sideboards, steel engravings of the Prince Consort with his
family--her mother-in-law's dining-room in Porchester Terrace in short.

But here he was. Thank goodness he did not look like Ernest--no. But what
did he look like? She glanced at him sideways. Well, when he was eating
toast he looked like a rabbit. Not that anyone else would have seen a
likeness to a creature so diminutive and timid in this spruce, muscular
young man with the straight nose, the blue eyes, and the very firm
mouth. But that made it all the more amusing. His nose twitched very
slightly when he ate. So did her pet rabbit's. She kept watching his
nose twitch; and then she had to explain, when he caught her looking at
him, why she laughed.

"It's because you're like a rabbit, Ernest," she said. "Like a wild
rabbit," she added, looking at him. "A hunting rabbit; a King Rabbit; a
rabbit that makes laws for all the other rabbits."

Ernest had no objection to being that kind of rabbit, and since it
amused her to see him twitch his nose--he had never known that his nose
twitched--he twitched it on purpose. And she laughed and laughed; and he
laughed too, so that the maiden ladies and the fishing man and the Swiss
waiter in his greasy black jacket all guessed right; they were very
happy. But how long does such happiness last? they asked themselves; and
each answered according to his own circumstances.

At lunch time, seated on a clump of heather beside the lake, "Lettuce,
rabbit?" said Rosalind, holding out the lettuce that had been provided
to eat with the hardboiled eggs. "Come and take it out of my hand," she
added, and he stretched out and nibbled the lettuce and twitched his

"Good rabbit, nice rabbit," she said, patting him, as she used to pat
her tame rabbit at home. But that was absurd. He was not a tame rabbit,
whatever he was. She turned it into French. "Lapin," she called him. But
whatever he was, he was not a French rabbit. He was simply and solely
English-born at Porchester Terrace, educated at Rugby; now a clerk in
His Majesty's Civil Service. So she tried "Bunny" next; but that was
worse. "Bunny" was someone plump and soft and comic; he was thin and
hard and serious. Still, his nose twitched. "Lappin," she exclaimed
suddenly; and gave a little cry as if she had found the very word she
looked for.

"Lappin, Lappin, King Lappin," she repeated. It seemed to suit him
exactly; he was not Ernest, he was King Lappin. Why? She did not know.

When there was nothing new to talk about on their long solitary
walks--and it rained, as everyone had warned them that it would rain; or
when they were sitting over the fire in the evening, for it was cold,
and the maiden ladies had gone and the fishing man, and the waiter only
came if you rang the bell for him, she let her fancy play with the story
of the Lappin tribe. Under her hands--she was sewing; he was readingthey
became very real, very vivid, very amusing. Ernest put down the paper
and helped her. There were the black rabbits and the red; there were the
enemy rabbits and the friendly. There were the wood in which they lived
and the outlying prairies and the swamp. Above all there was King
Lappin, who, far from having only the one trick--that he twitched his
nose--became as the days passed an animal of the greatest character;
Rosalind was always finding new qualities in him. But above all he was a
great hunter.

"And what," said Rosalind, on the last day of the honeymoon, "did the
King do to-day?"

In fact they had been climbing all day; and she had worn a blister on
her heel; but she did not mean that.

"To-day," said Ernest, twitching his nose as he bit the end off his
cigar, "he chased a hare." He paused; struck a match, and twitched

"A woman hare," he added.

"A white hare!" Rosalind exclaimed, as if she had been expecting this.
"Rather a small hare; silver grey; with big bright eyes?"

"Yes," said Ernest, looking at her as she had looked at him, "a smallish
animal; with eyes popping out of her head, and two little front paws
dangling." It was exactly how she sat, with her sewing dangling in her
hands; and her eyes, that were so big and bright, were certainly a
little prominent.

"Ah, Lapinova," Rosalind murmured.

"Is that what she's called?" said Ernest--"the real Rosalind?" He looked
at her. He felt very much in love with her.

"Yes; that's what she's called," said Rosalind. "Lapinova." And before
they went to bed that night it was all settled. He was King Lappin; she
was Queen Lapinova. They were the opposite of each other; he was bold
and determined; she wary and undependable. He ruled over the busy world
of rabbits; her world was a desolate, mysterious place, which she ranged
mostly by moonlight. All the same, their territories touched; they were
King and Queen.

Thus when they came back from their honeymoon they possessed a private
world, inhabited, save for the one white hare, entirely by rabbits. No
one guessed that there was such a place, and that of course made it all
the more amusing. It made them feel, more even than most young married
couples, in league together against the rest of the world. Often they
looked slyly at each other when people talked about rabbits and woods
and traps and shooting. Or they winked furtively across the table when
Aunt Mary said that she could never bear to see a hare in a dish--it
looked so like a baby: or when John, Ernest's sporting brother, told
them what price rabbits were fetching that autumn in Wiltshire, skins
and all. Sometimes when they wanted a gamekeeper, or a poacher or a Lord
of the Manor, they amused themselves by distributing the parts among
their friends. Ernest's mother, Mrs. Reginald Thorburn, for example,
fitted the part of the Squire to perfection. But it was all secret--that
was the point of it; nobody save themselves knew that such a world

Without that world, how, Rosalind wondered, that winter could she have
lived at all? For instance, there was the golden-wedding party, when all
the Thorburns assembled at Porchester Terrace to celebrate the fiftieth
anniversary of that union which had been so blessed--had it not produced
Ernest Thorburn? and so fruitful--had it not produced nine other sons
and daughters into the bargain, many themselves married and also
fruitful? She dreaded that party. But it was inevitable. As she walked
upstairs she felt bitterly that she was an only child and an orphan at
that; a mere drop among all those Thorburns assembled in the great
drawing-room with the shiny satin wallpaper and the lustrous family
portraits. The living Thorburns much resembled the painted; save that
instead of painted lips they had real lips; out of which came jokes;
jokes about schoolrooms, and how they had pulled the chair from under
the governess; jokes about frogs and how they had put them between the
virgin sheets of maiden ladies. As for herself, she had never even made
an apple-pie bed. Holding her present in her hand she advanced toward
her mother-in-law sumptuous in yellow satin; and toward her
father-in-law decorated with a rich yellow carnation. All round them on
tables and chairs there were golden tributes, some nestling in cotton
wool; others branching resplendent--candlesticks; cigar boxes; chains;
each stamped with the goldsmith's proof that it was solid gold,
hall-marked, authentic. But her present was only a little pinchbeck box
pierced with holes; an old sand caster, an eighteenth-century relic,
once used to sprinkle sand over wet ink. Rather a senseless present she
felt--in an age of blotting paper; and as she proffered it, she saw in
front of her the stubby black handwriting in which her mother-in-law
when they were engaged had expressed the hope that "My son will make you
happy." No, she was not happy. Not at all happy. She looked at Ernest,
straight as a ramrod with a nose like all the noses in the family
portraits; a nose that never twitched at all.

Then they went down to dinner. She was half hidden by the great
chrysanthemums that curled their red and gold petals into large tight
balls. Everything was gold. A gold-edged card with gold initials
intertwined recited the list of all the dishes that would be set one
after another before them. She dipped her spoon in a plate of clear
golden fluid. The raw white fog outside had been turned by the lamps
into a golden mesh that blurred the edges of the plates and gave the
pineapples a rough golden skin. Only she herself in her white wedding
dress peering ahead of her with her prominent eyes seemed insoluble as
an icicle.

As the dinner wore on, however, the room grew steamy with heat. Beads of
perspiration stood out on the men's foreheads. She felt that her icicle
was being turned to water. She was being melted; dispersed; dissolved
into nothingness; and would soon faint. Then through the surge in her
head and the din in her ears she heard a woman's voice exclaim, "But
they breed so!"

The Thorburns-yes; they breed so, she echoed; looking at all the round
red faces that seemed doubled in the giddiness that overcame her; and
magnified in the gold mist that enhaloed them. "They breed so." Then
John bawled:

"Little devils! . . . Shoot 'em! Jump on 'em with big boots! That's the
only way to deal with 'em . . . rabbits!"

At that word, that magic word, she revived. Peeping between the
chrysanthemums she saw Ernest's nose twitch. It rippled, it ran with
successive twitches. And at that a mysterious catastrophe befell the
Thorburns. The golden table became a moor with the gorse in full bloom;
the din of voices turned to one peal of lark's laughter ringing down
from the sky. It was a blue sky--clouds passed slowly. And they had all
been changed--the Thorburns. She looked at her father-in-law, a furtive
little man with dyed moustaches. His foible was collecting things--seals,
enamel boxes, trifles from eighteenth-century dressing tables which he
hid in the drawers of his study from his wife. Now she saw him as he
was--a poacher, stealing off with his coat bulging with pheasants and
partridges to drop them stealthily into a three-legged pot in his smoky
little cottage. That was her real father-in-law--a poacher. And Celia,
the unmarried daughter, who always nosed out other people's secrets, the
little things they wished to hide--she was a white ferret with pink
eyes, and a nose clotted with earth from her horrid underground nosings
and pokings. Slung round men's shoulders, in a net, and thrust down a
hole--it was a pitiable life--Celia's; it was none of her fault. So she
saw Celia. And then she looked at her mother-in-law--whom they dubbed
The Squire. Flushed, coarse, a bully--she was all that, as she stood
returning thanks, but now that Rosalind--that is Lapinova--saw her, she
saw behind her the decayed family mansion, the plaster peeling off the
walls, and heard her, with a sob in her voice, giving thanks to her
children (who hated her) for a world that had ceased to exist. There was
a sudden silence. They all stood with their glasses raised; they all
drank; then it was over.

"Oh, King Lappin!" she cried as they went home together in the fog, "if
your nose hadn't twitched just at that moment, I should have been

"But you're safe," said King Lappin, pressing her paw.

"Quite safe," she answered.

And they drove back through the Park, King and Queen of the marsh, of
the mist, and of the gorse-scented moor.

Thus time passed; one year; two years of time. And on a winter's night,
which happened by a coincidence to be the anniversary of the
golden-wedding party--but Mrs. Reginald Thorburn was dead; the house was
to let; and there was only a caretaker in residence--Ernest came home from
the office. They had a nice little home; half a house above a saddler's
shop in South Kensington, not far from the tube station. It was cold,
with fog in the air, and Rosalind was sitting over the fire, sewing.

"What d'you think happened to me to-day?" she began as soon as he had
settled himself down with his legs stretched to the blaze. "I was
crossing the stream when----"

"What stream?" Ernest interrupted her.

"The stream at the bottom, where our wood meets the black wood," she

Ernest looked completely blank for a moment.

"What the deuce are you talking about?" he asked.

"My dear Ernest!" she cried in dismay. "King Lappin," she added,
dangling her little front paws in the firelight. But his nose did not
twitch. Her hands--they turned to hands--clutched the stuff she was
holding; her eyes popped half out of her head. It took him five minutes
at least to change from Ernest Thorburn to King Lappin; and while she
waited she felt a load on the back of her neck, as if somebody were
about to wring it. At last he changed to King Lappin; his nose twitched;
and they spent the evening roaming the woods much as usual.

But she slept badly. In the middle of the night she woke, feeling as if
something strange had happened to her. She was stiff and cold. At last
she turned on the light and looked at Ernest lying beside her. He was
sound asleep. He snored. But even though he snored, his nose remained
perfectly still. It looked as if it had never twitched at all. Was it
possible that he was really Ernest; and that she was really married to
Ernest? A vision of her mother-in-law's dining-room came before her; and
there they sat, she and Ernest, grown old, under the engravings, in
front of the sideboard. . . . It was their golden-wedding day. She could
not bear it.

"Lappin, King Lappin!" she whispered, and for a moment his nose seemed
to twitch of its own accord. But he still slept. "Wake up, Lappin, wake
up!" she cried.

Ernest woke; and seeing her sitting bolt upright beside him he asked:

"What's the matter?"

"I thought my rabbit was dead!" she whimpered. Ernest was angry.

"Don't talk such rubbish, Rosalind," he said. "Lie down and go to

He turned over. In another moment he was sound asleep and snoring.

But she could not sleep. She lay curled up on her side of the bed, like
a hare in its form. She had turned out the light, but the street lamp
lit the ceiling faintly, and the trees outside made a lacy network over
it as if there were a shadowy grove on the ceiling in which she
wandered, turning, twisting, in and out, round and round, hunting, being
hunted, hearing the bay of hounds and horns; flying, escaping . . . until
the maid drew the blinds and brought their early tea.

Next day she could settle to nothing. She seemed to have lost something.
She felt as if her body had shrunk; it had grown small, and black and
hard. Her joints seemed stiff too, and when she looked in the glass,
which she did several times as she wandered about the flat, her eyes
seemed to burst out of her head, like currants in a bun. The rooms also
seemed to have shrunk. Large pieces of furniture jutted out at odd
angles and she found herself knocking against them. At last she put on
her hat and went out. She walked along the Cromwell Road; and every room
she passed and peered into seemed to be a dining-room where people sat
eating under steel engravings, with thick yellow lace curtains, and
mahogany sideboards. At last she reached the Natural History Museum; she
used to like it when she was a child. But the first thing she saw when
she went in was a stuffed hare standing on sham snow with pink glass
eyes. Somehow it made her shiver all over. Perhaps it would be better
when dusk fell. She went home and sat over the fire, without a light,
and tried to imagine that she was out alone on a moor; and there was a
stream rushing; and beyond the stream a dark wood. But she could get no
further than the stream. At last she squatted down on the bank on the
wet grass, and sat crouched in her chair, with her hands dangling empty,
and her eyes glazed, like glass eyes, in the firelight. Then there was
the crack of a gun. . . . She started as if she had been shot. It was only
Ernest, turning his key in the door. She waited, trembling. He came in
and switched on the light. There he stood, tall, handsome, rubbing his
hands that were red with cold.

"Sitting in the dark?" he said.

"Oh, Ernest, Ernest!" she cried, starting up in her chair.

"Well, what's up now?" he asked briskly, warming his hands at the fire.

"It's Lapinova . . ." she faltered, glancing wildly at him out of her
great startled eyes. "She's gone, Ernest. I've lost her!"

Ernest frowned. He pressed his lips tight together. "Oh, that's what's
up, is it?" he said, smiling rather grimly at his wife. For ten seconds
he stood there, silent; and she waited, feeling hands tightening at the
back of her neck.

"Yes," he said at length. "Poor Lapinova. . ." He straightened his tie
at the looking-glass over the mantelpiece.

"Caught in a trap," he said, "killed," and sat down and read the

So that was the end of that marriage.


Trotting through Deans Yard that afternoon, Prickett Ellis ran straight
into Richard Dalloway, or rather, just as they were passing, the covert
side glance which each was casting on the other, under his hat, over his
shoulder, broadened and burst into recognition; they had not met for
twenty years. They had been at school together. And what was Ellis
doing? The Bar? Of course, of course--he had followed the case in the
papers. But it was impossible to talk here. Wouldn't he drop in that
evening. (They lived in the same old place--just round the corner). One
or two people were coming. Joynson perhaps. "An awful swell now," said

"Good--till this evening then," said Richard, and went his way, "jolly
glad" (that was quite true) to have met that queer chap, who hadn't
changed one bit since he had been at school--just the same knobbly,
chubby little boy then, with prejudices sticking out all over him, but
uncommonly brilliant--won the Newcastle. Well--off he went.

Prickett Ellis, however, as he turned and looked at Dalloway
disappearing, wished now he had not met him or, at least, for he had
always liked him personally, hadn't promised to come to this party.
Dalloway was married, gave parties; wasn't his sort at all. He would
have to dress. However, as the evening drew on, he supposed, as he had
said that, and didn't want to be rude, he must go there.

But what an appalling entertainment! There was Joynson; they had nothing
to say to each other. He had been a pompous little boy; he had grown
rather more self-important--that was all; there wasn't a single other
soul in the room that Prickett Ellis knew. Not one. So, as he could not
go at once, without saying a word to Dalloway, who seemed altogether
taken up with his duties, bustling about in a white waistcoat, there he
had to stand. It was the sort of thing that made his gorge rise. Think
of grown up, responsible men and women doing this every night of their
lives! The lines deepened on his blue and red shaven cheeks as he leant
against the wall in complete silence, for though he worked like a horse,
he kept himself fit by exercise; and he looked hard and fierce, as if
his moustaches were dipped in frost. He bristled; he grated. His
meagre dress clothes made him look unkempt, insignificant, angular.

Idle, chattering, overdressed, without an idea in their heads, these
fine ladies and gentlemen went on talking and laughing; and Prickett
Ellis watched them and compared them with the Brunners who, when they
won their case against Fenners' Brewery and got two hundred pounds
compensation (it was not half what they should have got) went and spent
five of it on a clock for him. That was a decent sort of thing to do;
that was the sort of thing that moved one, and he glared more severely
than ever at these people, overdressed, cynical, prosperous, and
compared what he felt now with what he felt at eleven o'clock that
morning when old Brunner and Mrs. Brunner, in their best clothes,
awfully respectable and clean looking old people, had called in to give
him that small token, as the old man put it, standing perfectly upright
to make his speech, of gratitude and respect for the very able way in
which you conducted our case, and Mrs. Brunner piped up, how it was all
due to him they felt. And they deeply appreciated his
generosity--because, of course, he hadn't taken a fee.

And as he took the clock and put it on the middle of his mantelpiece, he
had felt that he wished nobody to see his face. That was what he worked
for--that was his reward; and he looked at the people who were actually
before his eyes as if they danced over that scene in his chambers and
were exposed by it, and as it faded--the Brunners faded--there remained
as if left of that scene, himself, confronting this hostile population,
a perfectly plain, unsophisticated man, a man of the people (he
straightened himself) very badly dressed, glaring, with not an air or a
grace about him, a man who was an ill hand at concealing his feelings, a
plain man, an ordinary human being, pitted against the evil, the
corruption, the heartlessness of society. But he would not go on
staring. Now he put on his spectacles and examined the pictures. He read
the titles on a line of books; for the most part poetry. He would have
liked well enough to read some of his old favourites again--Shakespeare,
Dickens--he wished he ever had time to turn into the National Gallery,
but he couldn't--no, one could not. Really one could not--with the world
in the state it was in. Not when people all day long wanted your help,
fairly clamoured for help. This wasn't an age for luxuries. And he
looked at the arm chairs and the paper knives and the well bound books,
and shook his head, knowing that he would never have the time, never he
was glad to think have the heart, to afford himself such luxuries. The
people here would be shocked if they knew what he paid for his tobacco;
how he had borrowed his clothes. His one and only extravagance was his
little yacht on the Norfolk Broads. And that he did allow himself, He
did like once a year to get right away from everybody and lie on his
back in a field. He thought how shocked they would be--these fine folk--if
they realized the amount of pleasure he got from what he was old
fashioned enough to call the love of nature; trees and fields he had
known ever since he was a boy.

These fine people would be shocked. Indeed, standing there, putting his
spectacles away in his pocket, he felt himself grow more and more
shocking every instant. And it was a very disagreeable feeling. He did
not feel this--that he loved humanity, that he paid only fivepence an
ounce for tobacco and loved nature--naturally and quietly. Each of these
pleasures had been turned into a protest. He felt that these people whom
he despised made him stand and deliver and justify himself. "I am an
ordinary man," he kept saying. And what he said next he was really
ashamed of saying, but he said it. "I have done more for my kind in one
day than the rest of you in all your lives." Indeed, he could not help
himself; he kept recalling scene after scene, like that when the
Brunners gave him the clock--he kept reminding himself of the nice things
people had said of his humanity, of his generosity, how he had helped
them. He kept seeing himself as the wise and tolerant servant of
humanity. And he wished he could repeat his praises aloud. It was
unpleasant that the sense of his goodness should boil within him. It was
still more unpleasant that he could tell no one what people had said
about him. Thank the Lord, he kept saying, I shall be back at work
to-morrow; and yet he was no longer satisfied simply to slip through the
door and go home. He must stay, he must stay until he had justified
himself. But how could he? In all that room full of people, he did not
know a soul to speak to.

At last Richard Dalloway came up.

"I want to introduce Miss O'Keefe," he said. Miss O'Keefe looked him
full in the eyes. She was a rather arrogant, abrupt mannered woman in
the thirties.

Miss O'Keefe wanted an ice or something to drink. And the reason why she
asked Prickett Ellis to give it her in what he felt a haughty,
unjustifiable manner, was that she had seen a woman and two children,
very poor, very tired, pressing against the railings of a square,
peering in, that hot afternoon. Can't they be let in? she had thought,
her pity rising like a wave; her indignation boiling. No; she rebuked
herself the next moment, roughly, as if she boxed her own ears. The
whole force of the world can't do it. So she picked up the tennis ball
and hurled it back. The whole force of the world can't do it, she said
in a fury, and that was why she said so commandingly, to the unknown

"Give me an ice."

Long before she had eaten it, Prickett Ellis, standing beside her
without taking anything, told her that he had not been to a party for
fifteen years; told her that his dress suit was lent him by his
brother-in-law; told her that he did not like this sort of thing, and it
would have eased him greatly to go on to say that he was a plain man,
who happened to have a liking for ordinary people, and then would have
told her (and been ashamed of it afterwards) about the Brunners and the
clock, but she said:

"Have you seen the Tempest?"

then (for he had not seen the Tempest), had he read some book? Again no,
and then, putting her ice down, did he never read poetry?

And Prickett Ellis feeling something rise within him which would
decapitate this young woman, make a victim of her, massacre her, made
her sit down there, where they would not be interrupted, on two chairs,
in the empty garden, for everyone was upstairs, only you could hear a
buzz and a hum and a chatter and a jingle, like the mad accompaniment of
some phantom orchestra to a cat or two slinking across the grass, and
the wavering of leaves, and the yellow and red fruit like Chinese
lanterns wobbling this way and that--the talk seemed like a frantic
skeleton dance music set to something very real, and full of suffering.

"How beautiful!" said Miss O'Keefe.

Oh, it was beautiful, this little patch of grass, with the towers of
Westminster massed round it black, high in the air, after the
drawing-room; it was silent, after that noise. After all, they had
that--the tired woman, the children.

Prickett Ellis lit a pipe. That would shock her; he filled it with shag
tobacco--fivepence halfpenny an ounce. He thought how he would lie in
his boat smoking, he could see himself, alone, at night, smoking under
the stars. For always to-night he kept thinking how he would look if
these people here were to see him. He said to Miss O'Keefe, striking a
match on the sole of his boot, that he couldn't see anything
particularly beautiful out here.

"Perhaps," said Miss O'Keefe, "you don't care for beauty." (He had told
her that he had not seen the Tempest; that he had not read a book; he
looked ill-kempt, all moustache, chin, and silver watch chain.) She
thought nobody need pay a penny for this; the Museums are free and the
National Gallery; and the country. Of course she knew the objections--the
washing, cooking, children; but the root of things, what they were all
afraid of saying, was that happiness is dirt cheap. You can have it for
nothing. Beauty.

Then Prickett Ellis let her have it--this pale, abrupt, arrogant woman.
He told her, puffing his shag tobacco, what he had done that day. Up at
six; interviews; smelling a drain in a filthy slum; then to court.

Here he hesitated, wishing to tell her something of his own doings.
Suppressing that, he was all the more caustic. He said it made him sick
to hear well fed, well dressed women (she twitched her lips, for she was
thin, and her dress not up to standard) talk of beauty.

"Beauty!" he said. He was afraid he did not understand beauty apart from
human beings.

So they glared into the empty garden where the lights were swaying, and
one cat hesitating in the middle, its paw lifted.

Beauty apart from human beings? What did he mean by that? she demanded

Well this: getting more and more wrought up, he told her the story of
the Brunners and the clock, not concealing his pride in it. That was
beautiful, he said.

She had no words to specify the horror his story roused in her. First
his conceit; then his indecency in talking about human feelings; it was
a blasphemy; no one in the whole world ought to tell a story to prove
that they had loved their kind. Yet as he told it--how the old man had
stood up and made his speech--tears came into her eyes; ah, if any one
had ever said that to her! but then again, she felt how it was just this
that condemned humanity for ever; never would they reach beyond
affecting scenes with clocks; Brunners making speeches to Prickett
Ellises, and the Prickett Ellises would always say how they had loved
their kind; they would always be lazy, compromising, and afraid of
beauty. Hence sprang revolutions; from laziness and fear and this love
of affecting scenes. Still this man got pleasure from his Brunners; and
she was condemned to suffer for ever and ever from her poor poor women
shut out from squares. So they sat silent. Both were very unhappy. For
Prickett Ellis was not in the least solaced by what he had said; instead
of picking her thorn out he had rubbed it in; his happiness of the
morning had been ruined. Miss O'Keefe was muddled and annoyed; she was
muddy instead of clear.

"I am afraid I am one of those very ordinary people," he said, getting
up, "who love their kind."

Upon which Miss O'Keefe almost shouted: "So do I"

Hating each other, hating the whole houseful of people who had given
them this painful, this disillusioning evening, these two lovers of
their kind got up, and without a word, parted for ever.


The mansion of the eighteenth century Earl had been changed in the
twentieth century into a Club. And it was pleasant, after dining in the
great room with the pillars and the chandeliers under a glare of light
to go out on to the balcony overlooking the Park. The trees were in full
leaf, and had there been a moon, one could have seen the pink and cream
coloured cockades on the chestnut trees. But it was a moonless night;
very warm, after a fine summer's day.

Mr. and Mrs. Ivimey's party were drinking coffee and smoking on the
balcony. As if to relieve them from the need of talking, to entertain
them without any effort on their part, rods of light wheeled across the
sky. It was peace then; the air force was practising; searching for
enemy aircraft in the sky. After pausing to prod some suspected spot,
the light wheeled, like the wings of a windmill, or again like the
antennae of some prodigious insect and revealed here a cadaverous stone
front; here a chestnut tree with all its blossoms riding; and then
suddenly the light struck straight at the balcony, and for a second a
bright disc shone--perhaps it was a mirror in a ladies' hand-bag.

"Look!" Mrs. Ivimey exclaimed.

The light passed. They were in darkness again

"You'll never guess what THAT made me see! she added. Naturally, they

"No, no, no," she protested. Nobody could guess; only she knew; only she
could know, because she was the great-grand-daughter of the man himself.
He had told her the story. What story? If they liked, she would try to
tell it. There was still time before the play.

"But where do I begin?" she pondered. "In the year 1820? . . . It must
have been about then that my greatgrandfather was a boy. I'm not young
myself"--no, but she was very well set up and handsome--"and he was a
very old man when I was a child--when he told me the story. A very
handsome old man, with a shock of white hair, and blue eyes. He must
have been a beautiful boy. But queer. . . . That was only natural," she
explained, "seeing how they lived. The name was Comber. They'd come down
in the world. They'd been gentlefolk; they'd owned land up in Yorkshire.
But when he was a boy only the tower was left. The house was nothing but
a little farmhouse, standing in the middle of fields. We saw it ten
years ago and went over it. We had to leave the car and walk across the
fields. There isn't any road to the house. It stands all alone, the
grass grows right up to the gate . . . there were chickens pecking about,
running in and out of the rooms. All gone to rack and ruin. I remember a
stone fell from the tower suddenly." She paused. "There they lived," she
went on, "the old man, the woman and the boy. She wasn't his wife, or
the boy's mother. She was just a farm hand, a girl the old man had taken
to live with him when his wife died. Another reason perhaps why nobody
visited them--why the whole place was gone to rack and ruin. But I
remember a coat of arms over the door; and books, old books, gone
mouldy. He taught himself all he knew from books. He read and read, he
told me, old books, books with maps hanging out from the pages. He
dragged them up to the top of the tower--the rope's still there and the
broken steps. There's a chair still in the window with the bottom fallen
out; and the window swinging open, and the panes broken, and a view for
miles and miles across the moors."

She paused as if she were up in the tower looking from the window that
swung open.

"But we couldn't," she said, "find the telescope." In the dining-room
behind them the clatter of plates grew louder. But Mrs. Ivimey, on the
balcony, seemed puzzled, because she could not find the telescope.

"Why a telescope?" someone asked her.

"Why? Because if there hadn't been a telescope," she laughed, "I
shouldn't be sitting here now."

And certainly she was sitting there now, a well set-up, middle-aged
woman, with something blue over her shoulders.

"It must have been there," she resumed, "because, he told me, every
night when the old people had gone to bed he sat at the window, looking
through the telescope at the stars. Jupiter, Aldebaran, Cassiopeia." She
waved her hand at the stars that were beginning to show over the trees.
It was growing draker. And the searchlight seemed brighter, sweeping
across the sky, pausing here and there to stare at the stars.

"There they were," she went on, "the stars. And he asked himself, my
great-grandfather--that boy: 'What are they? Why are they? And who am
I?' as one does, sitting alone, with no one to talk to, looking at the

She was silent. They all looked at the stars that were coming out in the
darkness over the trees. The stars seemed very permanent, very
unchanging. The roar of London sank away. A hundred years seemed
nothing. They felt that the boy was looking at the stars with them. They
seemed to be with him, in the tower, looking out over the moors at the

Then a voice behind them said:

"Right you are. Friday."

They all turned, shifted, felt dropped down on to the balcony again.

"Ah, but there was nobody to say that to him," she murmured. The couple
rose and walked away.

"HE was alone," she resumed. "It was a fine summer's day. A June day.
One of those perfect summer days when everything seems to stand still in
the heat. There were the chickens pecking in the farm-yard; the old
horse stamping in the stable; the old man dozing over his glass. The
woman scouring pails in the scullery. Perhaps a stone fell from the
tower. It seemed as if the day would never end. And he had no one to
talk to--nothing whatever to do. The whole world stretched before him. The
moor rising and falling; the sky meeting the moor; green and blue, green
and blue, for ever and ever."

In the half light, they could see that Mrs. Ivimey was leaning over the
balcony, with her chin propped on her hands, as if she were looking out
over the moors from the top of a tower.

"Nothing but moor and sky, moor and sky, for ever and ever," she

Then she made a movement, as if she swung something into position.

"But what did the earth look like through the telescope?" she asked.

She made another quick little movement with her fingers as if she were
twirling something.

"He focussed it," she said. "He focussed it upon the earth. He focussed
it upon a dark mass of wood upon the horizon. He focussed it so that he
could see . . . each tree . . . each tree separate . . . and the birds
. . . rising and falling . . . and a stem of smoke . . . there . . . in
the midst of the trees. . . . And then . . . lower . . . lower . . . (she
lowered her eyes) . . . there was a house . . . a house among the trees
. . . a farm-house . . . every brick showed . . . and the tubs on either
side of the door . . . with flowers in them blue, pink, hydrangeas,
perhaps. . . ." She paused . . . "And then a girl came out of the house
. . . wearing something blue upon her head . . . and stood there . . .
feeding birds . . . pigeons . . . they came fluttering round her. . . .
And then . . . look. . . . A man. . . . A man! He came round the corner.
He seized her in his arms! They kissed . . . they kissed."

Mrs. Ivimey opened her arms and closed them as if she were kissing

"It was the first time he had seen a man kiss a woman--in his
telescope--miles and miles away across the moors!"

She thrust something from her--the telescope presumably. She sat upright.

"So he ran down the stairs. He ran through the fields. He ran down
lanes, out upon the high road, through woods. He ran for miles and
miles, and just when the stars were showing above the trees he reached
the house . . . covered with dust, streaming with sweat . . . ."

She stopped, as if she saw him.

"And then, and then . . . what did he do then? What did he say? And the
girl . . ." they pressed her.

A shaft of light fell upon Mrs. Ivimey as if someone had focussed the
lens of a telescope upon her. (It was the air force, looking for enemy
air craft.) She had risen. She had something blue on her head. She had
raised her hand, as if she stood in a doorway, amazed.

"Oh the girl. . . . She was my--" she hesitated, as if she were about to
say "myself." But she remembered; and corrected herself. "She was my
great-grand-mother," she said.

She turned to look for her cloak. It was on a chair behind her.

"But tell us--what about the other man, the man who came round the
corner?" they asked.

"That man? Oh, that man," Mrs. Ivimey murmured, stooping to fumble with
her cloak (the searchlight had left the balcony), "he I suppose,

"The light," she added, gathering her things about her, "only falls here
and there."

The searchlight had passed on. It was now focussed on the plain expanse
of Buckingham Palace. And it was time they went on to the play.


"For Sissy Miller." Gilbert Clandon, taking up the pearl brooch that lay
among a litter of rings and brooches on a little table in his wife's
drawing-room, read the inscription: "For Sissy Miller, with my love."

It was like Angela to have remembered even Sissy Miller, her secretary.
Yet how strange it was, Gilbert Clandon thought once more, that she had
left everything in such order--a little gift of some sort for every one
of her friends. It was as if she had foreseen her death. Yet she had
been in perfect health when she left the house that morning, six weeks
ago; when she stepped off the kerb in Piccadilly and the car had killed

He was waiting for Sissy Miller. He had asked her to come; he owed her,
he felt, after all the years she had been with them, this token of
consideration. Yes, he went on, as he sat there waiting, it was strange
that Angela had left everything in such order. Every friend had been
left some little token of her affection. Every ring, every necklace,
every little Chinese box--she had a passion for little boxes--had a name
on it. And each had some memory for him. This he had given her; this
--the enamel dolphin with the ruby eyes--she had pounced upon one day in a
back street in Venice. He could remember her little cry of delight. To
him, of course, she had left nothing in particular, unless it were her
diary. Fifteen little volumes, bound in green leather, stood behind him
on her writing table. Ever since they were married, she had kept a
diary. Some of their very few--he could not call them quarrels, say
tiffs--had been about that diary. When he came in and found her writing,
she always shut it or put her hand over it. "No, no, no," he could hear
her say, "After I'm dead--perhaps." So she had left it him, as her
legacy. It was the only thing they had not shared when she was alive.
But he had always taken it for granted that she would outlive him. If
only she had stopped one moment, and had thought what she was doing, she
would be alive now. But she had stepped straight off the kerb, the
driver of the car had said at the inquest. She had given him no chance
to pull up. . . . Here the sound of voices in the hall interrupted him.

"Miss Miller, Sir," said the maid.

She came in. He had never seen her alone in his life, nor, of course, in
tears. She was terribly distressed, and no wonder. Angela had been much
more to her than an employer. She had been a friend. To himself, he
thought, as he pushed a chair for her and asked her to sit down, she was
scarcely distinguishable from any other woman of her kind. There were
thousands of Sissy Millers--drab little women in black carrying attache
cases. But Angela, with her genius for sympathy, had discovered all
sorts of qualities in Sissy Miller. She was the soul of discretion; so
silent; so trustworthy, one could tell her anything, and so on.

Miss Miller could not speak at first. She sat there dabbing her eyes
with her pocket handkerchief. Then she made an effort.

"Pardon me, Mr. Clandon," she said.

He murmured. Of course he understood. It was only natural. He could
guess what his wife had meant to her.

"I've been so happy here," she said, looking round. Her eyes rested on
the writing table behind him. It was here they had worked--she and
Angela. For Angela had her share of the duties that fall to the lot of a
prominent politician's wife. She had been the greatest help to him in
his career. He had often seen her and Sissy sitting at that table--Sissy
at the typewriter, taking down letters from her dictation. No doubt Miss
Miller was thinking of that, too. Now all he had to do was to give her
the brooch his wife had left her. A rather incongruous gift it seemed.
It might have been better to have left her a sum of money, or even the
typewriter. But there it was--"For Sissy Miller, with my love." And,
taking the brooch, he gave it her with the little speech that he had
prepared. He knew, he said, that she would value it. His wife had often
worn it. . . . And she replied, as she took it almost as if she too had
prepared a speech, that it would always be a treasured possession. . . .
She had, he supposed, other clothes upon which a pearl brooch would not
look quite so incongruous. She was wearing the little black coat and
skirt that seemed the uniform of her profession. Then he remembered--she
was in mourning, of course. She, too, had had her tragedy--a brother, to
whom she was devoted, had died only a week or two before Angela. In
some accident was it? He could not remember--only Angela telling him.
Angela, with her genius for sympathy, had been terribly upset. Meanwhile
Sissy Miller had risen. She was putting on her gloves. Evidently she
felt that she ought not to intrude. But he could not let her go without
saying something about her future. What were her plans? Was there any
way in which he could help her?

She was gazing at the table, where she had sat at her typewriter, where
the diary lay. And, lost in her memories of Angela, she did not at once
answer his suggestion that he should help her. She seemed for a
moment not to understand. So he repeated:

"What are your plans, Miss Miller?"

"My plans? Oh, that's all right, Mr. Clandon," she exclaimed. "Please
don't bother yourself about me."

He took her to mean that she was in no need of financial assistance. It
would be better, he realized, to make any suggestion of that kind in a
letter. All he could do now was to say as he pressed her hand,
"Remember, Miss Miller, if there's any way in which I can help you, it
will be a pleasure. . . ." Then he opened the door. For a moment, on the
threshold, as if a sudden thought had struck her, she stopped.

"Mr. Clandon," she said, looking straight at him for the first time, and
for the first time he was struck by the expression, sympathetic yet
searching, in her eyes. "If at any time," she continued, "there's
anything I can do to help you, remember, I shall feel it, for your
wife's sake, a pleasure . . ."

With that she was gone. Her words and the look that went with them were
unexpected. It was almost as if she believed, or hoped, that he would
need her. A curious, perhaps a fantastic idea occurred to him as he
returned to his chair. Could it be, that during all those years when he
had scarcely noticed her, she, as the novelists say, had entertained a
passion for him? He caught his own reflection in the glass as he passed.
He was over fifty; but he could not help admitting that he was still, as
the looking-glass showed him, a very distinguished-looking man.

"Poor Sissy Miller!" he said, half laughing. How he would have liked to
share that joke with his wife! He turned instinctively to her diary.
"Gilbert," he read, opening it at random, "looked so wonderful. . . ."
It was as if she had answered his question. Of course, she seemed to
say, you're very attractive to women. Of course Sissy Miller felt that
too. He read on. "How proud I am to be his wife!" And he had always been
very proud to be her husband. How often, when they dined out somewhere,
he had looked at her across the table and said to himself, She is the
loveliest woman here! He read on. That first year he had been standing
for Parliament. They had toured his constituency. "When Gilbert sat down
the applause was terrific. The whole audience rose and sang: 'For he's a
jolly good fellow.' I was quite overcome." He remembered that, too. She
had been sitting on the platform beside him. He could still see the
glance she cast at him, and how she had tears in her eyes. And then? He
turned the pages. They had gone to Venice. He recalled that happy
holiday after the election. "We had ices at Florians." He smiled--she was
still such a child; she loved ices. "Gilbert gave me a most interesting
account of the history of Venice. He told me that the Doges. . ." she
had written it all out in her schoolgirl hand. One of the delights of
travelling with Angela had been that she was so eager to learn. She was
so terribly ignorant, she used to say, as if that were not one of her
charms. And then--he opened the next volume--they had come back to London.
"I was so anxious to make a good impression. I wore my wedding dress."
He could see her now sitting next old Sir Edward; and making a conquest
of that formidable old man, his chief. He read on rapidly, filling in
scene after scene from her scrappy fragments. "Dined at the House of
Commons. . . . To an evening party at the Lovegroves. Did I realize my
responsibility, Lady L. asked me, as Gilbert's wife?" Then, as the years
passed--he took another volume from the writing table--he had become more
and more absorbed in his work. And she, of course, was more often
alone. . . . It had been a great grief to her, apparently, that they had
had no children. "How I wish," one entry read, "that Gilbert had a son!"
Oddly enough he had never much regretted that himself. Life had been so
full, so rich as it was. That year he had been given a minor post in the
government. A minor post only, but her comment was: "I am quite certain
now that he will be Prime Minister!" Well, if things had gone
differently, it might have been so. He paused here to speculate upon
what might have been. Politics was a gamble, he reflected; but the game
wasn't over yet. Not at fifty. He cast his eyes rapidly over more pages,
full of the little trifles, the insignificant, happy, daily trifles that
had made up her life.

He took up another volume and opened it at random. "What a coward I am!
I let the chance slip again. But it seemed selfish to bother him with my
own affairs, when he has so much to think about. And we so seldom have
an evening alone." What was the meaning of that? Oh, here was the
explanation--it referred to her work in the East End. "I plucked up
courage and talked to Gilbert at last. He was so kind, so good. He made
no objection." He remembered that conversation. She had told him that
she felt so idle, so useless. She wished to have some work of her own.
She wanted to do something--she had blushed so prettily, he remembered,
as she said it, sitting in that very chair--to help others. He had
bantered her a little. Hadn't she enough to do looking after him, after
her home? Still, if it amused her, of course he had no objection. What
was it? Some district? Some committee? Only she must promise not to make
herself ill. So it seemed that every Wednesday she went to Whitechapel.
He remembered how he hated the clothes she wore on those occasions. But
she had taken it very seriously, it seemed. The diary was full of
references like this: "Saw Mrs. Jones. . . She has ten children. . . .
Husband lost his arm in an accident. . . . Did my best to find a job for
Lily." He skipped on. His own name occurred less frequently. His
interest slackened. Some of the entries conveyed nothing to him. For
example: "Had a heated argument about socialism with B. M." Who was
B. M.? He could not fill in the initials; some woman, he supposed, that
she had met on one of her committees. "B. M. made a violent attack upon
the upper classes. . . . I walked back after the meeting with B. M. and
tried to convince him. But he is so narrow-minded." So B. M. was a man--no
doubt one of those "intellectuals," as they call themselves, who are so
violent, as Angela said, and so narrow-minded. She had invited him to
come and see her apparently. "B. M. came to dinner. He shook hands with
Minnie!" That note of exclamation gave another twist to his mental
picture. B. M., it seemed, wasn't used to parlour-maids; he had shaken
hands with Minnie. Presumably he was one of those tame working men who
air their views in ladies' drawing-rooms. Gilbert knew the type, and had
no liking for this particular specimen, whoever B. M. might be. Here he
was again. "Went with B. M. to the Tower of London. . . . He said
revolution is bound to come . . . He said we live in a Fool's Paradise."
That was just the kind of thing B. M. would say--Gilbert could hear him.
He could also see him quite distinctly--a stubby little man, with a
rough beard, red tie, dressed as they always did in tweeds, who had
never done an honest day's work in his life. Surely Angela had the sense
to see through him? He read on. "B. M. said some very disagreeable
things about--" The name was carefully scratched out. "I told him I
would not listen to any more abuse of--" Again the name was obliterated.
Could it have been his own name? Was that why Angela covered the page so
quickly when he came in? The thought added to his growing dislike of
B.M. He had had the impertinence to discuss him in this very room. Why had
Angela never told him? It was very unlike her to conceal anything; she
had been the soul of candour. He turned the pages, picking out every
reference to B. M. "B. M. told me the story of his childhood. His mother
went out charring . . . When I think of it, I can hardly bear to go on
living in such luxury. . . . Three guineas for one hat!" If only she had
discussed the matter with him, instead of puzzling her poor little head
about questions that were much too difficult for her to understand! He
had lent her books. KARL MARX, THE COMING REVOLUTION. The initials B.M.,
B. M., B. M., recurred repeatedly. But why never the full name?
There was an informality, an intimacy in the use of initials that was
very unlike Angela. Had she called him B. M. to his face? He read on.
"B. M. came unexpectedly after dinner. Luckily, I was alone." That was
only a year ago. "Luckily"--why luckily?--"I was alone." Where had he
been that night? He checked the date in his engagement book. It had been
the night of the Mansion House dinner. And B. M. and Angela had spent
the evening alone! He tried to recall that evening. Was she waiting up
for him when he came back? Had the room looked just as usual? Were there
glasses on the table? Were the chairs drawn close together? He could
remember nothing--nothing whatever, nothing except his own speech at the
Mansion House dinner. It became more and more inexplicable to him--the
whole situation; his wife receiving an unknown man alone. Perhaps the
next volume would explain. Hastily he reached for the last of the
diaries--the one she had left unfinished when she died. There, on the
very first page, was that cursed fellow again. "Dined alone with
B.M. . . . He became very agitated. He said it was time we understood each
other. . . . I tried to make him listen. But he would not. He threatened
that if I did not . . ." the rest of the page was scored over. She had
written "Egypt. Egypt. Egypt," over the whole page. He could not make
out a single word; but there could be only one interpretation: the
scoundrel had asked her to become his mistress. Alone in his room! The
blood rushed to Gilbert Clandon's face. He turned the pages rapidly.
What had been her answer? Initials had ceased. It was simply "he" now.
"He came again. I told him I could not come to any decision. . . . I
implored him to leave me." He had forced himself upon her in this very
house. But why hadn't she told him? How could she have hesitated for an
instant? Then: "I wrote him a letter." Then pages were left blank. Then
there was this: "No answer to my letter." Then more blank pages; and
then this: "He has done what he threatened." After that--what came after
that? He turned page after page. All were blank. But there, on the very
day before her death, was this entry: "Have I the courage to do it too?"
That was the end.

Gilbert Clandon let the book slide to the floor. He could see her in
front of him. She was standing on the kerb in Piccadilly. Her eyes
stared; her fists were clenched. Here came the car. . . .

He could not bear it. He must know the truth. He strode to the

"Miss Miller!" There was silence. Then he heard someone moving in the

"Sissy Miller speaking"--her voice at last answered him.

"Who," he thundered, "is B. M.?"

He could hear the cheap clock ticking on her mantelpiece; then a long
drawn sigh. Then at last she said:

"He was my brother."

He WAS her brother; her brother who had killed himself. "Is there," he
heard Sissy Miller asking, "anything that I can explain?"

"Nothing!" he cried. "Nothing!"

He had received his legacy. She had told him the truth. She had stepped
off the kerb to rejoin her lover. She had stepped off the kerb to escape
from him.


Mrs. Dalloway introduced them, saying you will like him. The
conversation began some minutes before anything was said, for both Mr.
Serle and Miss Arming looked at the sky and in both of their minds the
sky went on pouring its meaning though very differently, until the
presence of Mr. Serle by her side became so distinct to Miss Anning that
she could not see the sky, simply, itself, any more, but the sky shored
up by the tall body, dark eyes, grey hair, clasped hands, the stern
melancholy (but she had been told "falsely melancholy") face of Roderick
Serle, and, knowing how foolish it was, she yet felt impelled to say:

"What a beautiful night!"

Foolish! Idiotically foolish! But if one mayn't be foolish at the age of
forty in the presence of the sky, which makes the wisest imbecile--mere
wisps of straw--she and Mr. Serle atoms, motes, standing there at Mrs.
Dalloway's window, and their lives, seen by moonlight, as long as an
insect's and no more important.

"Well!" said Miss Anning, patting the sofa cushion emphatically. And
down he sat beside her. Was he "falsely melancholy," as they said?
Prompted by the sky, which seemed to make it all a little futile--what
they said, what they did--she said something perfectly commonplace again:

"There was a Miss Serle who lived at Canterbury when I was a girl

With the sky in his mind, all the tombs of his ancestors immediately
appeared to Mr. Serle in a blue romantic light, and his eyes expanding
and darkening, he said: "Yes.

"We are originally a Norman family, who came over with the Conqueror.
That is a Richard Serle buried in the Cathedral. He was a knight of the

Miss Arming felt that she had struck accidentally the true man, upon
whom the false man was built. Under the influence of the moon (the moon
which symbolized man to her, she could see it through a chink of the
curtain, and she took dips of the moon) she was capable of saying almost
anything and she settled in to disinter the true man who was buried
under the false, saying to herself: "On, Stanley, on"--which was a
watchword of hers, a secret spur, or scourge such as middle-aged people
often make to flagellate some inveterate vice, hers being a deplorable
timidity, or rather indolence, for it was not so much that she lacked
courage, but lacked energy, especially in talking to men, who frightened
her rather, and so often her talks petered out into dull commonplaces,
and she had very few men friends--very few intimate friends at all, she
thought, but after all, did she want them? No. She had Sarah, Arthur,
the cottage, the chow and, of course THAT, she thought, dipping herself,
sousing herself, even as she sat on the sofa beside Mr. Serle, in THAT,
in the sense she had coming home of something collected there, a cluster
of miracles, which she could not believe other people had (since it was
she only who had Arthur, Sarah, the cottage, and the chow), but she
soused herself again in the deep satisfactory possession, feeling that
what with this and the moon (music that was, the moon), she could afford
to leave this man and that pride of his in the Serles buried. No! That
was the danger--she must not sink into torpidity--not at her age. "On,
Stanley, on," she said to herself, and asked him:

"Do you know Canterbury yourself?"

Did he know Canterbury! Mr. Serle smiled, thinking how absurd a question
it was--how little she knew, this nice quiet woman who played some
instrument and seemed intelligent and had good eyes, and was wearing a
very nice old necklace--knew what it meant. To be asked if he knew
Canterbury. When the best years of his life, all his memories, things he
had never been able to tell anybody, but had tried to write--ah, had
tried to write (and he sighed) all had centred in Canterbury; it made
him laugh.

His sigh and then his laugh, his melancholy and his humour, made people
like him, and he knew it, and yet being liked had not made up for the
disappointment, and if he sponged on the liking people had for him
(paying long calls on sympathetic ladies, long, long calls), it was half
bitterly, for he had never done a tenth part of what he could have done,
and had dreamed of doing, as a boy in Canterbury. With a stranger he
felt a renewal of hope because they could not say that he had not done
what he had promised, and yielding to his charm would give him a fresh
start--at fifty! She had touched the spring. Fields and flowers and grey
buildings dripped down into his mind, formed silver drops on the gaunt,
dark walls of his mind and dripped down. With such an image his poems
often began. He felt the desire to make images now, sitting by this
quiet woman.

"Yes, I know Canterbury," he said reminiscently, sentimentally,
inviting, Miss Anning felt, discreet questions, and that was what made
him interesting to so many people, and it was this extraordinary
facility and responsiveness to talk on his part that had been his
undoing, so he thought often, taking his studs out and putting his keys
and small change on the dressing-table after one of these parties (and
he went out sometimes almost every night in the season), and, going down
to breakfast, becoming quite different, grumpy, unpleasant at breakfast
to his wife, who was an invalid, and never went out, but had old friends
to see her sometimes, women friends for the most part, interested in
Indian philosophy and different cures and different doctors, which
Roderick Serle snubbed off by some caustic remark too clever for her to
meet, except by gentle expostulations and a tear or two--he had failed,
he often thought, because he could not cut himself off utterly from
society and the company of women, which was so necessary to him, and
write. He had involved himself too deep in life--and here he would cross
his knees (all his movements were a little unconventional and
distinguished) and not blame himself, but put the blame off upon the
richness of his nature, which he compared favourably with Wordsworth's,
for example, and, since he had given so much to people, he felt, resting
his head on his hands, they in their turn should help him, and this was
the prelude, tremulous, fascinating, exciting, to talk; and images
bubbled up in his mind.

"She's like a fruit tree--like a flowering cherry tree," he said, looking
at a youngish woman with fine white hair. It was a nice sort of image,
Ruth Anning thought--rather nice, yet she did not feel sure that she
liked this distinguished, melancholy man with his gestures; and it's
odd, she thought, how one's feelings are influenced. She did not like
HIM, though she rather liked that comparison of his of a woman to a
cherry tree. Fibres of her were floated capriciously this way and that,
like the tentacles of a sea anemone, now thrilled, now snubbed, and her
brain, miles away, cool and distant, up in the air, received messages
which it would sum up in time so that, when people talked about Roderick
Serle (and he was a bit of a figure) she would say unhesitatingly: "I
like him," or "I don't like him," and her opinion would be made up for
ever. An odd thought; a solemn thought; throwing a green light on what
human fellowship consisted of.

"It's odd that you should know Canterbury," said Mr. Serle. "It's always
a shock," he went on (the white-haired lady having passed), "when one
meets someone" (they had never met before), "by chance, as it were, who
touches the fringe of what has meant a great deal to oneself, touches
accidentally, for I suppose Canterbury was nothing but a nice old town
to you. So you stayed there one summer with an aunt?" (That was all Ruth
Anning was going to tell him about her visit to Canterbury.) "And you
saw the sights and went away and never thought of it again."

Let him think so; not liking him, she wanted him to run away with an
absurd idea of her. For really, her three months in Canterbury had been
amazing. She remembered to the last detail, though it was merely a
chance visit, going to see Miss Charlotte Serle, an acquaintance of her
aunt's. Even now she could repeat Miss Serle's very words about the
thunder. "Whenever I wake, or hear thunder in the night, I think
'Someone has been killed'." And she could see the hard, hairy,
diamond-patterned carpet, and the twinkling, suffused, brown eyes of the
elderly lady, holding the teacup out unfilled, while she said that about
the thunder. And always she saw Canterbury, all thundercloud and livid
apple blossom, and the long grey backs of the buildings.

The thunder roused her from her plethoric middle-aged swoon of
indifference; "On, Stanley, on," she said to herself; that is, this man
shall not glide away from me, like everybody else, on this false
assumption; I will tell him the truth.

"I loved Canterbury," she said.

He kindled instantly. It was his gift, his fault, his destiny.

"Loved it," he repeated. "I can see that you did."

Her tentacles sent back the message that Roderick Serle was nice.

Their eyes met; collided rather, for each felt that behind the eyes the
secluded being, who sits in darkness while his shallow agile companion
does all the tumbling and beckoning, and keeps the show going, suddenly
stood erect; flung off his cloak; confronted the other. It was alarming;
it was terrific. They were elderly and burnished into a glowing
smoothness, so that Roderick Serle would go, perhaps to a dozen parties
in a season, and feel nothing out of the common, or only sentimental
regrets, and the desire for pretty images--like this of the flowering
cherry tree--and all the time there stagnated in him unstirred a sort of
superiority to his company, a sense of untapped resources, which sent
him back home dissatisfied with life, with himself, yawning, empty,
capricious. But now, quite suddenly, like a white bolt in a mist (but
this image forged itself with the inevitability of lightning and loomed
up), there it had happened; the old ecstasy of life; its invincible
assault; for it was unpleasant, at the same time that it rejoiced and
rejuvenated and filled the veins and nerves with threads of ice and
fire; it was terrifying. "Canterbury twenty years ago," said Miss
Anning, as one lays a shade over an intense light, or covers some
burning peach with a green leaf, for it is too strong, too ripe, too

Sometimes she wished she had married. Sometimes the cool peace of middle
life, with its automatic devices for shielding mind and body from
bruises, seemed to her, compared with the thunder and the livid
apple-blossom of Canterbury, base. She could imagine something different,
more like lightning, more intense. She could imagine some physical
sensation. She could imagine----

And, strangely enough, for she had never seen him before, her senses,
those tentacles which were thrilled and snubbed, now sent no more
messages, now lay quiescent, as if she and Mr. Serle knew each other so
perfectly, were, in fact, so closely united that they had only to float
side by side down this stream.

Of all things, nothing is so strange as human intercourse, she thought,
because of its changes, its extraordinary irrationality, her dislike
being now nothing short of the most intense and rapturous love, but
directly the word "love" occurred to her, she rejected it, thinking
again how obscure the mind was, with its very few words for all these
astonishing perceptions, these alternations of pain and pleasure. For
how did one name this. That is what she felt now, the withdrawal of
human affection, Serle's disappearance, and the instant need they were
both under to cover up what was so desolating and degrading to human
nature that everyone tried to bury it decently from sight--this
withdrawal, this violation of trust, and, seeking some decent
acknowledged and accepted burial form, she said:

"Of course, whatever they may do, they can't spoil Canterbury."

He smiled; he accepted it; he crossed his knees the other way about. She
did her part; he his. So things came to an end. And over them both came
instantly that paralysing blankness of feeling, when nothing bursts from
the mind, when its walls appear like slate; when vacancy almost hurts,
and the eyes petrified and fixed see the same spot--a pattern, a coal
scuttle--with an exactness which is terrifying, since no emotion, no
idea, no impression of any kind comes to change it, to modify it, to
embellish it, since the fountains of feeling seem sealed and as the mind
turns rigid, so does the body; stark, statuesque, so that neither Mr.
Serle nor Miss Anning could move or speak, and they felt as if an
enchanter had freed them, and spring flushed every vein with streams of
life, when Mira Cartwright, tapping Mr. Serle archly on the shoulder,

"I saw you at the Meistersinger, and you cut me. Villain," said Miss
Cartwright, "you don't deserve that I should ever speak to you again."

And they could separate.


Since it had grown hot and crowded indoors, since there could be no
danger on a night like this of damp, since the Chinese lanterns seemed
hung red and green fruit in the depths of an enchanted forest, Mr.
Bertram Pritchard led Mrs. Latham into the garden.

The open air and the sense of being out of doors bewildered Sasha
Latham, the tall, handsome, rather indolent looking lady, whose majesty
of presence was so great that people never credited her with feeling
perfectly inadequate and gauche when she had to say something at a
party. But so it was; and she was glad that she was with Bertram, who
could be trusted, even out of doors, to talk without stopping. Written
down what he said would be incredible--not only was each thing he said in
itself insignificant, but there was no connection between the different
remarks. Indeed, if one had taken a pencil and written down his very
words--and one night of his talk would have filled a whole book--no one
could doubt, reading them, that the poor man was intellectually
deficient. This was far from the case, for Mr. Pritchard was an esteemed
civil servant and a Companion of the Bath; but what was even stranger
was that he was almost invariably liked. There was a sound in his voice,
some accent of emphasis, some lustre in the incongruity of his ideas,
some emanation from his round, cubbby brown face and robin redbreast's
figure, something immaterial, and unseizable, which existed and
flourished and made itself felt independently of his words, indeed,
often in opposition to them. Thus Sasha Latham would be thinking while
he chattered on about his tour in Devonshire, about inns and landladies,
about Eddie and Freddie, about cows and night travelling, about cream
and stars, about continental railways and Bradshaw, catching cod,
catching cold, influenza, rheumatism and Keats--she was thinking of him
in the abstract as a person whose existence was good, creating him as he
spoke in the guise that was different from what he said, and was
certainly the true Bertram Pritchard, even though one could not prove
it. How could one prove that he was a loyal friend and very sympathetic
and--but here, as so often happened, talking to Bertram Pritchard, she
forgot his existence, and began to think of something else.

It was the night she thought of, hitching herself together in some way,
taking a look up into the sky. It was the country she smelt suddenly,
the sombre stillness of fields under the stars, but here, in Mrs.
Dalloway's back garden, in Westminster, the beauty, country born and
bred as she was, thrilled her because of the contrast presumably; there
the smell of hay in the air and behind her the rooms full of people. She
walked with Bertram; she walked rather like a stag, with a little give
of the ankles, fanning herself, majestic, silent, with all her senses
roused, her ears pricked, snuffing the air, as if she had been some
wild, but perfectly controlled creature taking its pleasure by night.

This, she thought, is the greatest of marvels; the supreme achievement
of the human race. Where there were osier beds and coracles paddling
through a swamp, there is this; and she thought of the dry, thick, well
built house stored with valuables, humming with people coming close to
each other, going away from each other, exchanging their views,
stimulating each other. And Clarissa Dalloway had made it open in the
wastes of the night, had laid paving stones over the bog, and, when they
came to the end of the garden (it was in fact extremely small), and she
and Bertram sat down on deck chairs, she looked at the house
veneratingly, enthusiastically, as if a golden shaft ran through her and
tears formed on it and fell in profound thanksgiving. Shy though she was
and almost incapable when suddenly presented to someone of saying
anything, fundamentally humble, she cherished a profound admiration for
other people. To be them would be marvellous, but she was condemned to
be herself and could only in this silent enthusiastic way, sitting
outside in a garden, applaud the society of humanity from which she was
excluded. Tags of poetry in praise of them rose to her lips; they were
adorable and good, above all courageous, triumphers over night and fens,
the survivors, the company of adventurers who, set about with dangers,
sail on.

By some malice of fate she was unable to join, but she could sit and
praise while Bertram chattered on, he being among the voyagers, as cabin
boy or common seaman--someone who ran up masts, gaily whistling. Thinking
thus, the branch of some tree in front of her became soaked and steeped
in her admiration for the people of the house; dripped gold; or stood
sentinel erect. It was part of the gallant and carousing company a mast
from which the flag streamed. There was a barrel of some kind against
the wall, and this, too, she endowed.

Suddenly Bertram, who was restless physically, wanted to explore the
grounds, and, jumping on to a heap of bricks he peered over the garden
wall. Sasha peered over too. She saw a bucket or perhaps a boot. In a
second the illusion vanished. There was London again; the vast
inattentive impersonal world; motor omnibuses; affairs; lights before
public houses; and yawning policemen.

Having satisfied his curiosity, and replenished, by a moment's silence,
his bubbling fountains of talk, Bertram invited Mr. and Mrs. Somebody to
sit with them, pulling up two more chairs. There they sat again, looking
at the same house, the same tree, the same barrel; only having looked
over the wall and had a glimpse of the bucket, or rather of London going
its ways unconcernedly, Sasha could no longer spray over the world that
cloud of gold. Bertram talked and the somebodies--for the life of her she
could not remember if they were called Wallace or Freeman--answered, and
all their words passed through a thin haze of gold and fell into prosaic
daylight. She looked at the dry, thick Queen Anne House; she did her
best to remember what she had read at school about the Isle of Thorney
and men in coracles, oysters, and wild duck and mists, but it seemed to
her a logical affair of drains and carpenters, and this party--nothing
but people in evening dress.

Then she asked herself, which view is the true one? She could see the
bucket and the house half lit up, half unlit.

She asked this question of that somebody whom, in her humble way, she
had composed out of the wisdom and power of other people. The answer
came often by accident--she had known her old spaniel answer by wagging
his tail.

Now the tree, denuded of its gilt and majesty, seemed to supply her with
an answer; became a field tree--the only one in a marsh. She had often
seen it; seen the red-flushed clouds between its branches, or the moon
split up, darting irregular flashes of silver. But what answer? Well
that the soul--for she was conscious of a movement in her of some
creature beating its way about her and trying to escape which
momentarily she called the soul--is by nature unmated, a widow bird; a
bird perched aloof on that tree.

But then Bertram, putting his arm through hers in his familiar way, for
he had known her all her life, remarked that they were not doing their
duty and must go in.

At that moment, in some back street or public house, the usual terrible
sexless, inarticulate voice rang out; a shriek, a cry. And the widow
bird, startled, flew away, describing wider and wider circles until it
became (what she called her soul) remote as a crow which has been
startled up into the air by a stone thrown at it.


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