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Title:      The Fox (1923)
Author:     D. H. Lawrence
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Fox (1923)
Author:     D. H. Lawrence

The two girls were usually known by their surnames, Banford and
March.  They had taken the farm together, intending to work it all
by themselves: that is, they were going to rear chickens, make a
living by poultry, and add to this by keeping a cow, and raising
one or two young beasts.  Unfortunately, things did not turn out

Banford was a small, thin, delicate thing with spectacles.  She,
however, was the principal investor, for March had little or no
money.  Banford's father, who was a tradesman in Islington, gave
his daughter the start, for her health's sake, and because he loved
her, and because it did not look as if she would marry.  March was
more robust.  She had learned carpentry and joinery at the evening
classes in Islington.  She would be the man about the place.  They
had, moreover, Banford's old grandfather living with them at the
start.  He had been a farmer.  But unfortunately the old man died
after he had been at Bailey Farm for a year.  Then the two girls
were left alone.

They were neither of them young: that is, they were near thirty.
But they certainly were not old.  They set out quite gallantly with
their enterprise.  They had numbers of chickens, black Leghorns and
white Leghorns, Plymouths and Wyandottes; also some ducks; also two
heifers in the fields.  One heifer, unfortunately, refused
absolutely to stay in the Bailey Farm closes.  No matter how March
made up the fences, the heifer was out, wild in the woods, or
trespassing on the neighbouring pasture, and March and Banford were
away, flying after her, with more haste than success.  So this
heifer they sold in despair.  Then, just before the other beast was
expecting her first calf, the old man died, and the girls, afraid
of the coming event, sold her in a panic, and limited their
attentions to fowls and ducks.

In spite of a little chagrin, it was a relief to have no more
cattle on hand.  Life was not made merely to be slaved away.  Both
girls agreed in this.  The fowls were quite enough trouble.  March
had set up her carpenter's bench at the end of the open shed.  Here
she worked, making coops and doors and other appurtenances.  The
fowls were housed in the bigger building, which had served as barn
and cow-shed in old days.  They had a beautiful home, and should
have been perfectly content.  Indeed, they looked well enough.  But
the girls were disgusted at their tendency to strange illnesses, at
their exacting way of life, and at their refusal, obstinate refusal
to lay eggs.

March did most of the outdoor work.  When she was out and about, in
her puttees and breeches, her belted coat and her loose cap, she
looked almost like some graceful, loose-balanced young man, for her
shoulders were straight, and her movements easy and confident, even
tinged with a little indifference or irony.  But her face was not a
man's face, ever.  The wisps of her crisp dark hair blew about her
as she stooped, her eyes were big and wide and dark, when she
looked up again, strange, startled, shy and sardonic at once.  Her
mouth, too, was almost pinched as if in pain and irony.  There was
something odd and unexplained about her.  She would stand balanced
on one hip, looking at the fowls pattering about in the obnoxious
fine mud of the sloping yard, and calling to her favourite white
hen, which came in answer to her name.  But there was an almost
satirical flicker in March's big, dark eyes as she looked at her
three-toed flock pottering about under her gaze, and the same
slight dangerous satire in her voice as she spoke to the favoured
Patty, who pecked at March's boot by way of friendly demonstration.

Fowls did not flourish at Bailey Farm, in spite of all that March
did for them.  When she provided hot food for them in the morning,
according to rule, she noticed that it made them heavy and dozy for
hours.  She expected to see them lean against the pillars of the
shed in their languid processes of digestion.  And she knew quite
well that they ought to be busily scratching and foraging about, if
they were to come to any good.  So she decided to give them their
hot food at night, and let them sleep on it.  Which she did.  But
it made no difference.

War conditions, again, were very unfavourable to poultry-keeping.
Food was scarce and bad.  And when the Daylight Saving Bill was
passed, the fowls obstinately refused to go to bed as usual, about
nine o'clock in the summer-time.  That was late enough, indeed, for
there was no peace till they were shut up and asleep.  Now they
cheerfully walked around, without so much as glancing at the barn,
until ten o'clock or later.  Both Banford and March disbelieved in
living for work alone.  They wanted to read or take a cycle-ride in
the evening, or perhaps March wished to paint curvilinear swans on
porcelain, with green background, or else make a marvellous fire-
screen by processes of elaborate cabinet work.  For she was a
creature of odd whims and unsatisfied tendencies.  But from all
these things she was prevented by the stupid fowls.

One evil there was greater than any other.  Bailey Farm was a
little homestead, with ancient wooden barn and low-gabled farm-
house, lying just one field removed from the edge of the wood.
Since the war the fox was a demon.  He carried off the hens under
the very noses of March and Banford.  Banford would start and stare
through her big spectacles with all her eyes, as another squawk and
flutter took place at her heels.  Too late!  Another white Leghorn
gone.  It was disheartening.

They did what they could to remedy it.  When it became permitted to
shoot foxes, they stood sentinel with their guns, the two of them,
at the favoured hours.  But it was no good.  The fox was too quick
for them.  So another year passed, and another, and they were
living on their losses, as Banford said.  They let their farm-house
one summer, and retired to live in a railway-carriage that was
deposited as a sort of out-house in a corner of the field.  This
amused them, and helped their finances.  None the less, things
looked dark.

Although they were usually the best of friends, because Banford,
though nervous and delicate, was a warm, generous soul, and March,
though so odd and absent in herself, had a strange magnanimity,
yet, in the long solitude, they were apt to become a little
irritable with one another, tired of one another.  March had four-
fifths of the work to do, and though she did not mind, there seemed
no relief, and it made her eyes flash curiously sometimes.  Then
Banford, feeling more nerve-worn than ever, would become
despondent, and March would speak sharply to her.  They seemed to
be losing ground, somehow, losing hope as the months went by.
There alone in the fields by the wood, with the wide country
stretching hollow and dim to the round hills of the White Horse, in
the far distance, they seemed to have to live too much off
themselves.  There was nothing to keep them up--and no hope.

The fox really exasperated them both.  As soon as they had let the
fowls out, in the early summer mornings, they had to take their
guns and keep guard: and then again as soon as evening began to
mellow, they must go once more.  And he was so sly.  He slid along
in the deep grass; he was difficult as a serpent to see.  And he
seemed to circumvent the girls deliberately.  Once or twice March
had caught sight of the white tip of his brush, or the ruddy shadow
of him in the deep grass, and she had let fire at him.  But he made
no account of this.

One evening March was standing with her back to the sunset, her gun
under her arm, her hair pushed under her cap.  She was half
watching, half musing.  It was her constant state.  Her eyes were
keen and observant, but her inner mind took no notice of what she
saw.  She was always lapsing into this odd, rapt state, her mouth
rather screwed up.  It was a question whether she was there,
actually conscious present, or not.

The trees on the wood-edge were a darkish, brownish green in the
full light--for it was the end of August.  Beyond, the naked,
copper-like shafts and limbs of the pine trees shone in the air.
Nearer the rough grass, with its long, brownish stalks all agleam,
was full of light.  The fowls were round about--the ducks were
still swimming on the pond under the pine trees.  March looked at
it all, saw it all, and did not see it.  She heard Banford speaking
to the fowls in the distance--and she did not hear.  What was she
thinking about?  Heaven knows.  Her consciousness was, as it were,
held back.

She lowered her eyes, and suddenly saw the fox.  He was looking up
at her.  Her chin was pressed down, and his eyes were looking up.
They met her eyes.  And he knew her.  She was spellbound--she knew
he knew her.  So he looked into her eyes, and her soul failed her.
He knew her, he was not daunted.

She struggled, confusedly she came to herself, and saw him making
off, with slow leaps over some fallen boughs, slow, impudent jumps.
Then he glanced over his shoulder, and ran smoothly away.  She saw
his brush held smooth like a feather, she saw his white buttocks
twinkle.  And he was gone, softly, soft as the wind.

She put her gun to her shoulder, but even then pursed her mouth,
knowing it was nonsense to pretend to fire.  So she began to
walk slowly after him, in the direction he had gone, slowly,
pertinaciously.  She expected to find him.  In her heart she was
determined to find him.  What she would do when she saw him again
she did not consider.  But she was determined to find him.  So she
walked abstractedly about on the edge of the wood, with wide, vivid
dark eyes, and a faint flush in her cheeks.  She did not think.  In
strange mindlessness she walked hither and thither.

At last she became aware that Banford was calling her.  She made an
effort of attention, turned, and gave some sort of screaming call
in answer.  Then again she was striding off towards the homestead.
The red sun was setting, the fowls were retiring towards their
roost.  She watched them, white creatures, black creatures,
gathering to the barn.  She watched them spellbound, without seeing
them.  But her automatic intelligence told her when it was time to
shut the door.

She went indoors to supper, which Banford had set on the table.
Banford chatted easily.  March seemed to listen, in her distant,
manly way.  She answered a brief word now and then.  But all the
time she was as if spellbound.  And as soon as supper was over, she
rose again to go out, without saying why.

She took her gun again and went to look for the fox.  For he had
lifted his eyes upon her, and his knowing look seemed to have
entered her brain.  She did not so much think of him: she was
possessed by him.  She saw his dark, shrewd, unabashed eye looking
into her, knowing her.  She felt him invisibly master her spirit.
She knew the way he lowered his chin as he looked up, she knew his
muzzle, the golden brown, and the greyish white.  And again she saw
him glance over his shoulder at her, half inviting, half
contemptuous and cunning.  So she went, with her great startled
eyes glowing, her gun under her arm, along the wood edge.
Meanwhile the night fell, and a great moon rose above the pine
trees.  And again Banford was calling.

So she went indoors.  She was silent and busy.  She examined her
gun, and cleaned it, musing abstractedly by the lamplight.  Then
she went out again, under the great moon, to see if everything was
right.  When she saw the dark crests of the pine trees against the
blood-red sky, again her heart beat to the fox, the fox.  She
wanted to follow him, with her gun.

It was some days before she mentioned the affair to Banford.  Then
suddenly one evening she said:

'The fox was right at my feet on Saturday night.'

'Where?' said Banford, her eyes opening behind her spectacles.

'When I stood just above the pond.'

'Did you fire?' cried Banford.

'No, I didn't.'

'Why not?'

'Why, I was too much surprised, I suppose.'

It was the same old, slow, laconic way of speech March always had.
Banford stared at her friend for a few moments.

'You saw him?' she cried.

'Oh yes!  He was looking up at me, cool as anything.'

'I tell you,' cried Banford--'the cheek!  They're not afraid of us,

'Oh, no,' said March.

'Pity you didn't get a shot at him,' said Banford.

'Isn't it a pity!  I've been looking for him ever since.  But I
don't suppose he'll come so near again.'

'I don't suppose he will,' said Banford.

And she proceeded to forget about it, except that she was more
indignant than ever at the impudence of the beggar.  March also was
not conscious that she thought of the fox.  But whenever she fell
into her half-musing, when she was half rapt and half intelligently
aware of what passed under her vision, then it was the fox which
somehow dominated her unconsciousness, possessed the blank half of
her musing.  And so it was for weeks, and months.  No matter
whether she had been climbing the trees for the apples, or beating
down the last of the damsons, or whether she had been digging out
the ditch from the duck-pond, or clearing out the barn, when she
had finished, or when she straightened herself, and pushed the
wisps of her hair away again from her forehead, and pursed up her
mouth again in an odd, screwed fashion, much too old for her years,
there was sure to come over her mind the old spell of the fox, as
it came when he was looking at her.  It was as if she could smell
him at these times.  And it always recurred, at unexpected moments,
just as she was going to sleep at night, or just as she was pouring
the water into the tea-pot to make tea--it was the fox, it came
over her like a spell.

So the months passed.  She still looked for him unconsciously when
she went towards the wood.  He had become a settled effect in her
spirit, a state permanently established, not continuous, but always
recurring.  She did not know what she felt or thought: only the
state came over her, as when he looked at her.

The months passed, the dark evenings came, heavy, dark November,
when March went about in high boots, ankle deep in mud, when the
night began to fall at four o'clock, and the day never properly
dawned.  Both girls dreaded these times.  They dreaded the almost
continuous darkness that enveloped them on their desolate little
farm near the wood.  Banford was physically afraid.  She was afraid
of tramps, afraid lest someone should come prowling around.  March
was not so much afraid as uncomfortable, and disturbed.  She felt
discomfort and gloom in all her physique.

Usually the two girls had tea in the sitting-room.  March lighted a
fire at dusk, and put on the wood she had chopped and sawed during
the day.  Then the long evening was in front, dark, sodden, black
outside, lonely and rather oppressive inside, a little dismal.
March was content not to talk, but Banford could not keep still.
Merely listening to the wind in the pines outside or the drip of
water, was too much for her.

One evening the girls had washed up the tea-cups in the kitchen,
and March had put on her house-shoes, and taken up a roll of
crochet-work, which she worked at slowly from time to time.  So she
lapsed into silence.  Banford stared at the red fire, which, being
of wood, needed constant attention.  She was afraid to begin to
read too early, because her eyes would not bear any strain.  So she
sat staring at the fire, listening to the distant sounds, sound of
cattle lowing, of a dull, heavy moist wind, of the rattle of the
evening train on the little railway not far off.  She was almost
fascinated by the red glow of the fire.

Suddenly both girls started, and lifted their heads.  They heard a
footstep--distinctly a footstep.  Banford recoiled in fear.  March
stood listening.  Then rapidly she approached the door that led
into the kitchen.  At the same time they heard the footsteps
approach the back door.  They waited a second.  The back door
opened softly.  Banford gave a loud cry.  A man's voice said


March recoiled, and took a gun from a corner.

'What do you want?' she cried, in a sharp voice.

Again the soft, softly-vibrating man's voice said:

'Hello!  What's wrong!'

'I shall shoot!' cried March.  'What do you want?'

'Why, what's wrong?  What's wrong?' came the soft, wondering,
rather scared voice: and a young soldier, with his heavy kit on his
back, advanced into the dim light.

'Why,' he said, 'who lives here then?'

'We live here,' said March.  'What do you want?'

'Oh!' came the long, melodious, wonder-note from the young soldier.
'Doesn't William Grenfel live here then?'

'No--you know he doesn't.'

'Do I?  Do I?  I don't, you see.  He did LIVE here, because he was
my grandfather, and I lived here myself five years ago.  What's
become of him then?'

The young man--or youth, for he would not be more than twenty--now
advanced and stood in the inner doorway.  March, already under the
influence of his strange, soft, modulated voice, stared at him
spellbound.  He had a ruddy, roundish face, with fairish hair,
rather long, flattened to his forehead with sweat.  His eyes were
blue, and very bright and sharp.  On his cheeks, on the fresh ruddy
skin were fine, fair hairs, like a down, but sharper.  It gave him
a slightly glistening look.  Having his heavy sack on his
shoulders, he stooped, thrusting his head forward.  His hat was
loose in one hand.  He stared brightly, very keenly from girl to
girl, particularly at March, who stood pale, with great dilated
eyes, in her belted coat and puttees, her hair knotted in a big
crisp knot behind.  She still had the gun in her hand.  Behind her,
Banford, clinging to the sofa-arm, was shrinking away, with half-
averted head.

'I thought my grandfather still lived here?  I wonder if he's

'We've been here for three years,' said Banford, who was beginning
to recover her wits, seeing something boyish in the round head with
its rather long, sweaty hair.

'Three years!  You don't say so!  And you don't know who was here
before you?'

'I know it was an old man, who lived by himself.'

'Ay!  Yes, that's him!  And what became of him then?'

'He died.  I know he died.'

'Ay!  He's dead then!'

The youth stared at them without changing colour or expression.  If
he had any expression, besides a slight baffled look of wonder, it
was one of sharp curiosity concerning the two girls; sharp,
impersonal curiosity, the curiosity of that round young head.

But to March he was the fox.  Whether it was the thrusting forward
of his head, or the glisten of fine whitish hairs on the ruddy
cheek-bones, or the bright, keen eyes, that can never be said: but
the boy was to her the fox, and she could not see him otherwise.

'How is it you didn't know if your grandfather was alive or dead?'
asked Banford, recovering her natural sharpness.

'Ay, that's it,' replied the softly-breathing youth.  'You see, I
joined up in Canada, and I hadn't heard for three or four years.  I
ran away to Canada.'

'And now have you just come from France?'

'Well--from Salonika really.'

There was a pause, nobody knowing quite what to say.

'So you've nowhere to go now?' said Banford rather lamely.

'Oh, I know some people in the village.  Anyhow, I can go to the

'You came on the train, I suppose.  Would you like to sit down a

'Well--I don't mind.'

He gave an odd little groan as he swung off his kit.  Banford
looked at March.

'Put the gun down,' she said.  'We'll make a cup of tea.'

'Ay,' said the youth.  'We've seen enough of rifles.'

He sat down rather tired on the sofa, leaning forward.

March recovered her presence of mind, and went into the kitchen.
There she heard the soft young voice musing:

'Well, to think I should come back and find it like this!'  He did
not seem sad, not at all--only rather interestedly surprised.

'And what a difference in the place, eh?' he continued, looking
round the room.

'You see a difference, do you?' said Banford.

'Yes--don't I!'

His eyes were unnaturally clear and bright, though it was the
brightness of abundant health.

March was busy in the kitchen preparing another meal.  It was about
seven o'clock.  All the time, while she was active, she was
attending to the youth in the sitting-room, not so much listening
to what he said as feeling the soft run of his voice.  She primmed
up her mouth tighter and tighter, puckering it as if it were sewed,
in her effort to keep her will uppermost.  Yet her large eyes
dilated and glowed in spite of her; she lost herself.  Rapidly and
carelessly she prepared the meal, cutting large chunks of bread and
margarine--for there was no butter.  She racked her brain to think
of something else to put on the tray--she had only bread,
margarine, and jam, and the larder was bare.  Unable to conjure
anything up, she went into the sitting-room with her tray.

She did not want to be noticed.  Above all, she did not want him to
look at her.  But when she came in, and was busy setting the table
just behind him, he pulled himself up from his sprawling, and
turned and looked over his shoulder.  She became pale and wan.

The youth watched her as she bent over the table, looked at her
slim, well-shapen legs, at the belted coat dropping around her
thighs, at the knot of dark hair, and his curiosity, vivid and
widely alert, was again arrested by her.

The lamp was shaded with a dark-green shade, so that the light was
thrown downwards and the upper half of the room was dim.  His face
moved bright under the light, but March loomed shadowy in the

She turned round, but kept her eyes sideways, dropping and lifting
her dark lashes.  Her mouth unpuckered as she said to Banford:

'Will you pour out?'

Then she went into the kitchen again.

'Have your tea where you are, will you?' said Banford to the youth--
'unless you'd rather come to the table.'

'Well,' said he, 'I'm nice and comfortable here, aren't I?  I will
have it here, if you don't mind.'

'There's nothing but bread and jam,' she said.  And she put his
plate on a stool by him.  She was very happy now, waiting on him.
For she loved company.  And now she was no more afraid of him than
if he were her own younger brother.  He was such a boy.

'Nellie,' she called.  'I've poured you a cup out.'

March appeared in the doorway, took her cup, and sat down in a
corner, as far from the light as possible.  She was very sensitive
in her knees.  Having no skirts to cover them, and being forced to
sit with them boldly exposed, she suffered.  She shrank and shrank,
trying not to be seen.  And the youth sprawling low on the couch,
glanced up at her, with long, steady, penetrating looks, till she
was almost ready to disappear.  Yet she held her cup balanced, she
drank her tea, screwed up her mouth and held her head averted.  Her
desire to be invisible was so strong that it quite baffled the
youth.  He felt he could not see her distinctly.  She seemed like a
shadow within the shadow.  And ever his eyes came back to her,
searching, unremitting, with unconscious fixed attention.

Meanwhile he was talking softly and smoothly to Banford, who loved
nothing so much as gossip, and who was full of perky interest, like
a bird.  Also he ate largely and quickly and voraciously, so that
March had to cut more chunks of bread and margarine, for the
roughness of which Banford apologized.

'Oh, well,' said March, suddenly speaking, 'if there's no butter to
put on it, it's no good trying to make dainty pieces.'

Again the youth watched her, and he laughed, with a sudden, quick
laugh, showing his teeth and wrinkling his nose.

'It isn't, is it,' he answered in his soft, near voice.

It appeared he was Cornish by birth and upbringing.  When he was
twelve years old he had come to Bailey Farm with his grandfather,
with whom he had never agreed very well.  So he had run away to
Canada, and worked far away in the West.  Now he was here--and that
was the end of it.

He was very curious about the girls, to find out exactly what they
were doing.  His questions were those of a farm youth; acute,
practical, a little mocking.  He was very much amused by their
attitude to their losses: for they were amusing on the score of
heifers and fowls.

'Oh, well,' broke in March, 'we don't believe in living for nothing
but work.'

'Don't you?' he answered.  And again the quick young laugh came
over his face.  He kept his eyes steadily on the obscure woman in
the corner.

'But what will you do when you've used up all your capital?' he

'Oh, I don't know,' answered March laconically.  'Hire ourselves
out for land-workers, I suppose.'

'Yes, but there won't be any demand for women land-workers now the
war's over,' said the youth.

'Oh, we'll see.  We shall hold on a bit longer yet,' said March,
with a plangent, half-sad, half-ironical indifference.

'There wants a man about the place,' said the youth softly.

Banford burst out laughing.

'Take care what you say,' she interrupted.  'We consider ourselves
quite efficient.'

'Oh,' came March's slow plangent voice, 'it isn't a case of
efficiency, I'm afraid.  If you're going to do farming you must be
at it from morning till night, and you might as well be a beast

'Yes, that's it,' said the youth.  'You aren't willing to put
yourselves into it.'

'We aren't,' said March, 'and we know it.'

'We want some of our time for ourselves,' said Banford.

The youth threw himself back on the sofa, his face tight with
laughter, and laughed silently but thoroughly.  The calm scorn of
the girls tickled him tremendously.

'Yes,' he said, 'but why did you begin then?'

'Oh,' said March, 'we had a better opinion of the nature of fowls
then than we have now.'

'Of Nature altogether, I'm afraid,' said Banford.  'Don't talk to
me about Nature.'

Again the face of the youth tightened with delighted laughter.

'You haven't a very high opinion of fowls and cattle, have you?' he

'Oh no--quite a low one,' said March.

He laughed out.

'Neither fowls nor heifers,' said Banford, 'nor goats nor the

The youth broke into a sharp yap of laughter, delighted.  The girls
began to laugh too, March turning aside her face and wrinkling her
mouth in amusement.

'Oh, well,' said Banford, 'we don't mind, do we, Nellie?'

'No,' said March, 'we don't mind.'

The youth was very pleased.  He had eaten and drunk his fill.
Banford began to question him.  His name was Henry Grenfel--no, he
was not called Harry, always Henry.  He continued to answer with
courteous simplicity, grave and charming.  March, who was not
included, cast long, slow glances at him from her recess, as he sat
there on the sofa, his hands clasping his knees, his face under the
lamp bright and alert, turned to Banford.  She became almost
peaceful at last.  He was identified with the fox--and he was here
in full presence.  She need not go after him any more.  There in
the shadow of her corner she gave herself up to a warm, relaxed
peace, almost like sleep, accepting the spell that was on her.  But
she wished to remain hidden.  She was only fully at peace whilst he
forgot her, talking to Banford.  Hidden in the shadow of the
corner, she need not any more be divided in herself, trying to keep
up two planes of consciousness.  She could at last lapse into the
odour of the fox.

For the youth, sitting before the fire in his uniform, sent a faint
but distinct odour into the room, indefinable, but something like a
wild creature.  March no longer tried to reserve herself from it.
She was still and soft in her corner like a passive creature in its

At last the talk dwindled.  The youth relaxed his clasp of his
knees, pulled himself together a little, and looked round.  Again
he became aware of the silent, half-invisible woman in the corner.

'Well,' he said unwillingly, 'I suppose I'd better be going, or
they'll be in bed at the "Swan ".'

'I'm afraid they're in bed, anyhow,' said Banford.  'They've all
got this influenza.'

'Have they!' he exclaimed.  And he pondered.  'Well,' he continued,
'I shall find a place somewhere.'

'I'd say you could stay here, only--' Banford began.

He turned and watched her, holding his head forward.

'What?' he asked.

'Oh, well,' she said, 'propriety, I suppose.'  She was rather

'It wouldn't be improper, would it?' he said, gently surprised.

'Not as far as we're concerned,' said Banford.

'And not as far as I'M concerned,' he said, with grave naivete.
'After all, it's my own home, in a way.'

Banford smiled at this.

'It's what the village will have to say,' she said.

There was a moment's blank pause.

'What do you say, Nellie?' asked Banford.

'I don't mind,' said March, in her distinct tone.  'The village
doesn't matter to me, anyhow.'

'No,' said the youth, quick and soft.  'Why should it?  I mean,
what should they say?'

'Oh, well,' came March's plangent, laconic voice, 'they'll easily
find something to say.  But it makes no difference what they say.
We can look after ourselves.'

'Of course you can,' said the youth.

'Well then, stop if you like,' said Banford.  'The spare room is
quite ready.'

His face shone with pleasure.

'If you're quite sure it isn't troubling you too much,' he said,
with that soft courtesy which distinguished him.

'Oh, it's no trouble,' they both said.

He looked, smiling with delight, from one to another.

'It's awfully nice not to have to turn out again, isn't it?' he
said gratefully.

'I suppose it is,' said Banford.

March disappeared to attend the room.  Banford was as pleased and
thoughtful as if she had her own young brother home from France.
It gave her just the same kind of gratification to attend on him,
to get out the bath for him, and everything.  Her natural warmth
and kindliness had now an outlet.  And the youth luxuriated in her
sisterly attention.  But it puzzled him slightly to know that March
was silently working for him too.  She was so curiously silent and
obliterated.  It seemed to him he had not really seen her.  He felt
he should not know her if he met her in the road.

That night March dreamed vividly.  She dreamed she heard a singing
outside which she could not understand, a singing that roamed round
the house, in the fields, and in the darkness.  It moved her so
that she felt she must weep.  She went out, and suddenly she knew
it was the fox singing.  He was very yellow and bright, like corn.
She went nearer to him, but he ran away and ceased singing.  He
seemed near, and she wanted to touch him.  She stretched out her
hand, but suddenly he bit her wrist, and at the same instant, as
she drew back, the fox, turning round to bound away, whisked his
brush across her face, and it seemed his brush was on fire, for it
seared and burned her mouth with a great pain.  She awoke with the
pain of it, and lay trembling as if she were really seared.

In the morning, however, she only remembered it as a distant
memory.  She arose and was busy preparing the house and attending
to the fowls.  Banford flew into the village on her bicycle to try
and buy food.  She was a hospitable soul.  But alas, in the year
1918 there was not much food to buy.  The youth came downstairs in
his shirt-sleeves.  He was young and fresh, but he walked with his
head thrust forward, so that his shoulders seemed raised and
rounded, as if he had a slight curvature of the spine.  It must
have been only a manner of bearing himself, for he was young and
vigorous.  He washed himself and went outside, whilst the women
were preparing breakfast.

He saw everything, and examined everything.  His curiosity was
quick and insatiable.  He compared the state of things with that
which he remembered before, and cast over in his mind the effect of
the changes.  He watched the fowls and the ducks, to see their
condition; he noticed the flight of wood-pigeons overhead: they
were very numerous; he saw the few apples high up, which March had
not been able to reach; he remarked that they had borrowed a draw-
pump, presumably to empty the big soft-water cistern which was on
the north side of the house.

'It's a funny, dilapidated old place,' he said to the girls, as he
sat at breakfast.

His eyes were wise and childish, with thinking about things.  He
did not say much, but ate largely.  March kept her face averted.
She, too, in the early morning could not be aware of him, though
something about the glint of his khaki reminded her of the
brilliance of her dream-fox.

During the day the girls went about their business.  In the morning
he attended to the guns, shot a rabbit and a wild duck that was
flying high towards the wood.  That was a great addition to the
empty larder.  The girls felt that already he had earned his keep.
He said nothing about leaving, however.  In the afternoon he went
to the village.  He came back at tea-time.  He had the same alert,
forward-reaching look on his roundish face.  He hung his hat on a
peg with a little swinging gesture.  He was thinking about

'Well,' he said to the girls, as he sat at table.  'What am I going
to do?'

'How do you mean--what are you going to do?' said Banford.

'Where am I going to find a place in the village to stay?' he said.

'I don't know,' said Banford.  'Where do you think of staying?'

'Well'--he hesitated--'at the "Swan" they've got this flu, and at
the "Plough and Harrow" they've got the soldiers who are collecting
the hay for the army: besides, in the private houses, there's ten
men and a corporal altogether billeted in the village, they tell
me.  I'm not sure where I could get a bed.'

He left the matter to them.  He was rather calm about it.  March
sat with her elbows on the table, her two hands supporting her
chin, looking at him unconsciously.  Suddenly he lifted his clouded
blue eyes, and unthinking looked straight into March's eyes.  He
was startled as well as she.  He, too, recoiled a little.  March
felt the same sly, taunting, knowing spark leap out of his eyes, as
he turned his head aside, and fall into her soul, as it had fallen
from the dark eyes of the fox.  She pursed her mouth as if in pain,
as if asleep too.

'Well, I don't know,' Banford was saying.  She seemed reluctant, as
if she were afraid of being imposed upon.  She looked at March.
But, with her weak, troubled sight, she only saw the usual semi-
abstraction on her friend's face.  'Why don't you speak, Nellie?'
she said.

But March was wide-eyed and silent, and the youth, as if fascinated,
was watching her without moving his eyes.

'Go on--answer something,' said Banford.  And March turned her head
slightly aside, as if coming to consciousness, or trying to come to

'What do you expect me to say?' she asked automatically.

'Say what you think,' said Banford.

'It's all the same to me,' said March.

And again there was silence.  A pointed light seemed to be on the
boy's eyes, penetrating like a needle.

'So it is to me,' said Banford.  'You can stop on here if you

A smile like a cunning little flame came over his face, suddenly
and involuntarily.  He dropped his head quickly to hide it, and
remained with his head dropped, his face hidden.

'You can stop on here if you like.  You can please yourself,
Henry,' Banford concluded.

Still he did not reply, but remained with his head dropped.  Then
he lifted his face.  It was bright with a curious light, as if
exultant, and his eyes were strangely clear as he watched March.
She turned her face aside, her mouth suffering as if wounded, and
her consciousness dim.

Banford became a little puzzled.  She watched the steady, pellucid
gaze of the youth's eyes as he looked at March, with the invisible
smile gleaming on his face.  She did not know how he was smiling,
for no feature moved.  It seemed only in the gleam, almost the
glitter of the fine hairs on his cheeks.  Then he looked with quite
a changed look at Banford.

'I'm sure,' he said in his soft, courteous voice, 'you're awfully
good.  You're too good.  You don't want to be bothered with me, I'm

'Cut a bit of bread, Nellie,' said Banford uneasily, adding:  'It's
no bother, if you like to stay.  It's like having my own brother
here for a few days.  He's a boy like you are.'

'That's awfully kind of you,' the lad repeated.  'I should like to
stay ever so much, if you're sure I'm not a trouble to you.'

'No, of course you're no trouble.  I tell you, it's a pleasure to
have somebody in the house beside ourselves,' said warmhearted

'But Miss March?' he said in his soft voice, looking at her.

'Oh, it's quite all right as far as I'm concerned,' said March

His face beamed, and he almost rubbed his hands with pleasure.

'Well then,' he said, 'I should love it, if you'd let me pay my
board and help with the work.'

'You've no need to talk about board,' said Banford.

One or two days went by, and the youth stayed on at the farm.
Banford was quite charmed by him.  He was so soft and courteous in
speech, not wanting to say much himself, preferring to hear what
she had to say, and to laugh in his quick, half-mocking way.  He
helped readily with the work--but not too much.  He loved to be out
alone with the gun in his hands, to watch, to see.  For his sharp-
eyed, impersonal curiosity was insatiable, and he was most free
when he was quite alone, half-hidden, watching.

Particularly he watched March.  She was a strange character to him.
Her figure, like a graceful young man's, piqued him.  Her dark eyes
made something rise in his soul, with a curious elate excitement,
when he looked into them, an excitement he was afraid to let be
seen, it was so keen and secret.  And then her odd, shrewd speech
made him laugh outright.  He felt he must go further, he was
inevitably impelled.  But he put away the thought of her and went
off towards the wood's edge with the gun.

The dusk was falling as he came home, and with the dusk, a fine,
late November rain.  He saw the fire-light leaping in the window of
the sitting-room, a leaping light in the little cluster of the dark
buildings.  And he thought to himself it would be a good thing to
have this place for his own.  And then the thought entered him
shrewdly:  Why not marry March?  He stood still in the middle of
the field for some moments, the dead rabbit hanging still in his
hand, arrested by this thought.  His mind waited in amazement--it
seemed to calculate--and then he smiled curiously to himself in
acquiescence.  Why not?  Why not indeed?  It was a good idea.  What
if it was rather ridiculous?  What did it matter?  What if she was
older than he?  It didn't matter.  When he thought of her dark,
startled, vulnerable eyes he smiled subtly to himself.  He was
older than she, really.  He was master of her.

He scarcely admitted his intention even to himself.  He kept it as
a secret even from himself.  It was all too uncertain as yet.  He
would have to see how things went.  Yes, he would have to see how
things went.  If he wasn't careful, she would just simply mock at
the idea.  He knew, sly and subtle as he was, that if he went to
her plainly and said:  'Miss March, I love you and want you to
marry me,' her inevitable answer would be:  'Get out.  I don't want
any of that tomfoolery.'  This was her attitude to men and their
'tomfoolery'.  If he was not careful, she would turn round on him
with her savage, sardonic ridicule, and dismiss him from the farm
and from her own mind for ever.  He would have to go gently.  He
would have to catch her as you catch a deer or a woodcock when you
go out shooting.  It's no good walking out into the forest and
saying to the deer:  'Please fall to my gun.'  No, it is a slow,
subtle battle.  When you really go out to get a deer, you gather
yourself together, you coil yourself inside yourself, and you
advance secretly, before dawn, into the mountains.  It is not so
much what you do, when you go out hunting, as how you feel.  You
have to be subtle and cunning and absolutely fatally ready.  It
becomes like a fate.  Your own fate overtakes and determines the
fate of the deer you are hunting.  First of all, even before you
come in sight of your quarry, there is a strange battle, like
mesmerism.  Your own soul, as a hunter, has gone out to fasten on
the soul of the deer, even before you see any deer.  And the soul
of the deer fights to escape.  Even before the deer has any wind of
you, it is so.  It is a subtle, profound battle of wills which
takes place in the invisible.  And it is a battle never finished
till your bullet goes home.  When you are REALLY worked up to the
true pitch, and you come at last into range, you don't then aim as
you do when you are firing at a bottle.  It is your own WILL which
carries the bullet into the heart of your quarry.  The bullet's
flight home is a sheer projection of your own fate into the fate of
the deer.  It happens like a supreme wish, a supreme act of
volition, not as a dodge of cleverness.

He was a huntsman in spirit, not a farmer, and not a soldier stuck
in a regiment.  And it was as a young hunter that he wanted to
bring down March as his quarry, to make her his wife.  So he
gathered himself subtly together, seemed to withdraw into a kind of
invisibility.  He was not quite sure how he would go on.  And March
was suspicious as a hare.  So he remained in appearance just the
nice, odd stranger-youth, staying for a fortnight on the place.

He had been sawing logs for the fire in the afternoon.  Darkness
came very early.  It was still a cold, raw mist.  It was getting
almost too dark to see.  A pile of short sawed logs lay beside the
trestle.  March came to carry them indoors, or into the shed, as he
was busy sawing the last log.  He was working in his shirt-sleeves,
and did not notice her approach; she came unwillingly, as if shy.
He saw her stooping to the bright-ended logs, and he stopped
sawing.  A fire like lightning flew down his legs in the nerves.

'March?' he said in his quiet, young voice.

She looked up from the logs she was piling.

'Yes!' she said.

He looked down on her in the dusk.  He could see her not too

'I wanted to ask you something,' he said.

'Did you?  What was it?' she said.  Already the fright was in her
voice.  But she was too much mistress of herself.

'Why'--his voice seemed to draw out soft and subtle, it penetrated
her nerves--'why, what do you think it is?'

She stood up, placed her hands on her hips, and stood looking at
him transfixed, without answering.  Again he burned with a sudden

'Well,' he said, and his voice was so soft it seemed rather like a
subtle touch, like the merest touch of a cat's paw, a feeling
rather than a sound.'  Well--I wanted to ask you to marry me.'

March felt rather than heard him.  She was trying in vain to turn
aside her face.  A great relaxation seemed to have come over her.
She stood silent, her head slightly on one side.  He seemed to be
bending towards her, invisibly smiling.  It seemed to her fine
sparks came out of him.

Then very suddenly she said:

'Don't try any of your tomfoolery on me.'

A quiver went over his nerves.  He had missed.  He waited a moment
to collect himself again.  Then he said, putting all the strange
softness into his voice, as if he were imperceptibly stroking her:

'Why, it's not tomfoolery.  It's not tomfoolery.  I mean it.  I
mean it.  What makes you disbelieve me?'

He sounded hurt.  And his voice had such a curious power over her;
making her feel loose and relaxed.  She struggled somewhere for her
own power.  She felt for a moment that she was lost--lost--lost.
The word seemed to rock in her as if she were dying.  Suddenly
again she spoke.

'You don't know what you are talking about,' she said, in a brief
and transient stroke of scorn.  'What nonsense!  I'm old enough to
be your mother.'

'Yes, I do know what I'm talking about.  Yes, I do,' he persisted
softly, as if he were producing his voice in her blood.  'I know
quite well what I'm talking about.  You're not old enough to be my
mother.  That isn't true.  And what does it matter even if it was.
You can marry me whatever age we are.  What is age to me?  And what
is age to you!  Age is nothing.'

A swoon went over her as he concluded.  He spoke rapidly--in the
rapid Cornish fashion--and his voice seemed to sound in her
somewhere where she was helpless against it.  'Age is nothing!'
The soft, heavy insistence of it made her sway dimly out there in
the darkness.  She could not answer.

A great exultance leaped like fire over his limbs.  He felt he had

'I want to marry you, you see.  Why shouldn't I?' he proceeded,
soft and rapid.  He waited for her to answer.  In the dusk he saw
her almost phosphorescent.  Her eyelids were dropped, her face
half-averted and unconscious.  She seemed to be in his power.  But
he waited, watchful.  He dared not yet touch her.

'Say then,' he said, 'say then you'll marry me.  Say--say!'  He was
softly insistent.

'What?' she asked, faint, from a distance, like one in pain.  His
voice was now unthinkably near and soft.  He drew very near to her.

'Say yes.'

'Oh, I can't,' she wailed helplessly, half-articulate, as if
semiconscious, and as if in pain, like one who dies.  'How can I?'

'You can,' he said softly, laying his hand gently on her shoulder
as she stood with her head averted and dropped, dazed.  'You can.
Yes, you can.  What makes you say you can't?  You can.  You can.'
And with awful softness he bent forward and just touched her neck
with his mouth and his chin.

'Don't!' she cried, with a faint mad cry like hysteria, starting
away and facing round on him.  'What do you mean?'  But she had no
breath to speak with.  It was as if she was killed.

'I mean what I say,' he persisted softly and cruelly.  'I want you
to marry me.  I want you to marry me.  You know that, now, don't
you?  You know that, now?  Don't you?  Don't you?'

'What?' she said.

'Know,' he replied.

'Yes,' she said.  'I know you say so.'

'And you know I mean it, don't you?'

'I know you say so.'

'You believe me?' he said.

She was silent for some time.  Then she pursed her lips.

'I don't know what I believe,' she said.

'Are you out there?' came Banford's voice, calling from the house.

'Yes, we're bringing in the logs,' he answered.

'I thought you'd gone lost,' said Banford disconsolately.  'Hurry
up, do, and come and let's have tea.  The kettle's boiling.'

He stooped at once to take an armful of little logs and carry them
into the kitchen, where they were piled in a corner.  March also
helped, filling her arms and carrying the logs on her breast as if
they were some heavy child.  The night had fallen cold.

When the logs were all in, the two cleaned their boots noisily on
the scraper outside, then rubbed them on the mat.  March shut the
door and took off her old felt hat--her farm-girl hat.  Her thick,
crisp, black hair was loose, her face was pale and strained.  She
pushed back her hair vaguely and washed her hands.  Banford came
hurrying into the dimly-lighted kitchen, to take from the oven the
scones she was keeping hot.

'Whatever have you been doing all this time?' she asked fretfully.
'I thought you were never coming in.  And it's ages since you
stopped sawing.  What were you doing out there?'

'Well,' said Henry, 'we had to stop that hole in the barn to keeps
the rats out.'

'Why, I could see you standing there in the shed.  I could see your
shirt-sleeves,' challenged Banford.

'Yes, I was just putting the saw away.'

They went in to tea.  March was quite mute.  Her face was pale and
strained and vague.  The youth, who always had the same ruddy,
self-contained look on his face, as though he were keeping himself
to himself, had come to tea in his shirt-sleeves as if he were at
home.  He bent over his plate as he ate his food.

'Aren't you cold?' said Banford spitefully.  'In your shirtsleeves.'

He looked up at her, with his chin near his plate, and his eyes
very clear, pellucid, and unwavering as he watched her.

'No, I'm not cold,' he said with his usual soft courtesy.  'It's
much warmer in here than it is outside, you see.'

'I hope it is,' said Banford, feeling nettled by him.  He had a
strange, suave assurance and a wide-eyed bright look that got on
her nerves this evening.

'But perhaps,' he said softly and courteously, 'you don't like me
coming to tea without my coat.  I forgot that.'

'Oh, I don't mind,' said Banford: although she DID.

'I'll go and get it, shall I?' he said.

March's dark eyes turned slowly down to him.

'No, don't you bother,' she said in her queer, twanging tone.  'If
you feel all right as you are, stop as you are.'  She spoke with a
crude authority.

'Yes,' said he, 'I FEEL all right, if I'm not rude.'

'It's usually considered rude,' said Banford.  'But we don't mind.'

'Go along, "considered rude",' ejaculated March.  'Who considers it

'Why, you do, Nellie, in anybody else,' said Banford, bridling a
little behind her spectacles, and feeling her food stick in her

But March had again gone vague and unheeding, chewing her food as
if she did not know she was eating at all.  And the youth looked
from one to another, with bright, watching eyes.

Banford was offended.  For all his suave courtesy and soft voice,
the youth seemed to her impudent.  She did not like to look at him.
She did not like to meet his clear, watchful eyes, she did not like
to see the strange glow in his face, his cheeks with their delicate
fine hair, and his ruddy skin that was quite dull and yet which
seemed to burn with a curious heat of life.  It made her feel a
little ill to look at him: the quality of his physical presence was
too penetrating, too hot.

After tea the evening was very quiet.  The youth rarely went into
the village.  As a rule, he read: he was a great reader, in his own
hours.  That is, when he did begin, he read absorbedly.  But he was
not very eager to begin.  Often he walked about the fields and
along the hedges alone in the dark at night, prowling with a queer
instinct for the night, and listening to the wild sounds.

Tonight, however, he took a Captain Mayne Reid book from Banford's
shelf and sat down with knees wide apart and immersed himself in
his story.  His brownish fair hair was long, and lay on his head
like a thick cap, combed sideways.  He was still in his shirt-
sleeves, and bending forward under the lamplight, with his knees
stuck wide apart and the book in his hand and his whole figure
absorbed in the rather strenuous business of reading, he gave
Banford's sitting-room the look of a lumber-camp.  She resented
this.  For on her sitting-room floor she had a red Turkey rug and
dark stain round, the fire-place had fashionable green tiles, the
piano stood open with the latest dance music: she played quite
well: and on the walls were March's hand-painted swans and water-
lilies.  Moreover, with the logs nicely, tremulously burning in the
grate, the thick curtains drawn, the doors all shut, and the pine
trees hissing and shuddering in the wind outside, it was cosy, it
was refined and nice.  She resented the big, raw, long-legged youth
sticking his khaki knees out and sitting there with his soldier's
shirt-cuffs buttoned on his thick red wrists.  From time to time he
turned a page, and from time to time he gave a sharp look at the
fire, settling the logs.  Then he immersed himself again in the
intense and isolated business of reading.

March, on the far side of the table, was spasmodically crocheting.
Her mouth was pursed in an odd way, as when she had dreamed the
fox's brush burned it, her beautiful, crisp black hair strayed in
wisps.  But her whole figure was absorbed in its bearing, as if she
herself was miles away.  In a sort of semi-dream she seemed to be
hearing the fox singing round the house in the wind, singing wildly
and sweetly and like a madness.  With red but well-shaped hands she
slowly crocheted the white cotton, very slowly, awkwardly.

Banford was also trying to read, sitting in her low chair.  But
between those two she felt fidgety.  She kept moving and looking
round and listening to the wind, and glancing secretly from one to
the other of her companions.  March, seated on a straight chair,
with her knees in their close breeches crossed, and slowly,
laboriously crocheting, was also a trial.

'Oh dear!' said Banford, 'My eyes are bad tonight.'  And she
pressed her fingers on her eyes.

The youth looked up at her with his clear, bright look, but did not

'Are they, Jill?' said March absently.

Then the youth began to read again, and Banford perforce returned
to her book.  But she could not keep still.  After a while she
looked up at March, and a queer, almost malignant little smile was
on her thin face.

'A penny for them, Nell,' she said suddenly.

March looked round with big, startled black eyes, and went pale as
if with terror.  She had been listening to the fox singing so
tenderly, so tenderly, as he wandered round the house.

'What?' she said vaguely.

'A penny for them,' said Banford sarcastically.  'Or twopence, if
they're as deep as all that.'

The youth was watching with bright, clear eyes from beneath the

'Why,' came March's vague voice, 'what do you want to waste your
money for?'

'I thought it would be well spent,' said Banford.

'I wasn't thinking of anything except the way the wind was
blowing,' said March.

'Oh dear,' replied Banford, 'I could have had as original thought
as that myself.  I'm afraid I HAVE wasted my money this time.'

'Well, you needn't pay,' said March.

The youth suddenly laughed.  Both women looked at him: March rather
surprised-looking, as if she had hardly known he was there.

'Why, do you ever pay up on these occasions?' he asked.

'Oh yes,' said Banford.  'We always do.  I've sometimes had to pass
a shilling a week to Nellie, in the winter-time.  It costs much
less in summer.'

'What, paying for each other's thoughts?' he laughed.

'Yes, when we've absolutely come to the end of everything else.'

He laughed quickly, wrinkling his nose sharply like a puppy and
laughing with quick pleasure, his eyes shining.

'It's the first time I ever heard of that,' he said.

'I guess you'd hear of it often enough if you stayed a winter on
Bailey Farm,' said Banford lamentably.

'Do you get so tired, then?' he asked.

'So bored,' said Banford.

'Oh!' he said gravely.  'But why should you be bored?'

'Who wouldn't be bored?' said Banford.

'I'm sorry to hear that,' he said gravely.

'You must be, if you were hoping to have a lively time here,' said

He looked at her long and gravely.

'Well,' he said, with his odd, young seriousness, 'it's quite
lively enough for me.'

'I'm glad to hear it,' said Banford.

And she returned to her book.  In her thin, frail hair were already
many threads of grey, though she was not yet thirty.  The boy did
not look down, but turned his eyes to March, who was sitting with
pursed mouth laboriously crocheting, her eyes wide and absent.  She
had a warm, pale, fine skin and a delicate nose.  Her pursed mouth
looked shrewish.  But the shrewish look was contradicted by the
curious lifted arch of her dark brows, and the wideness of her
eyes; a look of startled wonder and vagueness.  She was listening
again for the fox, who seemed to have wandered farther off into the

From under the edge of the lamp-light the boy sat with his face
looking up, watching her silently, his eyes round and very clear
and intent.  Banford, biting her fingers irritably, was glancing at
him under her hair.  He sat there perfectly still, his ruddy face
tilted up from the low level under the light, on the edge of the
dimness, and watching with perfect abstract intentness.  March
suddenly lifted her great, dark eyes from her crocheting and saw
him.  She started, giving a little exclamation.

'There he is!' she cried involuntarily, as if terribly startled.

Banford looked round in amazement, sitting up straight.

'Whatever has got you, Nellie?' she cried.

But March, her face flushed a delicate rose colour, was looking
away to the door.

'Nothing!  Nothing!' she said crossly.  'Can't one speak?'

'Yes, if you speak sensibly,' said Banford.  'What ever did you

'I don't know what I meant,' cried March testily

Oh, Nellie, I hope you aren't going jumpy and nervy.  I feel I
can't stand another THING!  Whoever did you mean?  Did you mean
Henry?' cried poor, frightened Banford.

'Yes.  I suppose so,' said March laconically.  She would never
confess to the fox.

'Oh dear, my nerves are all gone for tonight,' wailed Banford.

At nine o'clock March brought in a tray with bread and cheese and
tea--Henry had confessed that he liked a cup of tea.  Banford drank
a glass of milk and ate a little bread.  And soon she said:

'I'm going to bed, Nellie, I'm all nerves tonight.  Are you

'Yes, I'm coming the minute I've taken the tray away,' said March.

'Don't be long then,' said Banford fretfully.  'Good-night, Henry.
You'll see the fire is safe, if you come up last, won't you?'

'Yes, Miss Banford, I'll see it's safe,' he replied in his
reassuring way.

March was lighting the candle to go to the kitchen.  Banford took
her candle and went upstairs.  When March came back to the fire,
she said to him:

'I suppose we can trust you to put out the fire and everything?'
She stood there with her hand on her hip, and one knee loose, her
head averted shyly, as if she could not look at him.  He had his
face lifted, watching her.

'Come and sit down a minute,' he said softly.

'No, I'll be going.  Jill will be waiting, and she'll get upset, if
I don't come.'

'What made you jump like that this evening?' he asked.

'When did I jump?' she retorted, looking at him.

'Why, just now you did,' he said.  'When you cried out.'

'Oh!' she said.  'Then!--Why, I thought you were the fox!'  And her
face screwed into a queer smile, half-ironic.

'The fox!  Why the fox?' he asked softly.

'Why, one evening last summer when I was out with the gun I saw the
fox in the grass nearly at my feet, looking straight up at me.  I
don't know--I suppose he made an impression on me.'  She turned
aside her head again and let one foot stray loose, self-

'And did you shoot him?' asked the boy.

'No, he gave me such a start, staring straight at me as he did, and
then stopping to look back at me over his shoulder with a laugh on
his face.'

'A laugh on his face!' repeated Henry, also laughing.  'He
frightened you, did he?'

'No, he didn't frighten me.  He made an impression on me, that's

'And you thought I was the fox, did you?' he laughed, with the same
queer, quick little laugh, like a puppy wrinkling his nose.

'Yes, I did, for the moment,' she said.  'Perhaps he'd been in my
mind without my knowing.'

'Perhaps you think I've come to steal your chickens or something,'
he said, with the same young laugh.

But she only looked at him with a wide, dark, vacant eye.

'It's the first time,' he said, 'that I've ever been taken for a
fox.  Won't you sit down for a minute?'  His voice was very soft
and cajoling.

'No,' she said.  'Jill will be waiting.'  But still she did not go,
but stood with one foot loose and her face turned aside, just
outside the circle of light.

'But won't you answer my question?' he said, lowering his voice
still more.

'I don't know what question you mean.'

'Yes, you do.  Of course you do.  I mean the question of you
marrying me.'

'No, I shan't answer that question,' she said flatly.

'Won't you?'  The queer, young laugh came on his nose again.  'Is
it because I'm like the fox?  Is that why?'  And still he laughed.

She turned and looked at him with a long, slow look.

'I wouldn't let that put you against me,' he said.  'Let me turn
the lamp low, and come and sit down a minute.'

He put his red hand under the glow of the lamp and suddenly made
the light very dim.  March stood there in the dimness quite
shadowy, but unmoving.  He rose silently to his feet, on his long
legs.  And now his voice was extraordinarily soft and suggestive,
hardly audible.

'You'll stay a moment,' he said.  'Just a moment.'  And he put his
hand on her shoulder.  She turned her face from him.  'I'm sure you
don't really think I'm like the fox,' he said, with the same
softness and with a suggestion of laughter in his tone, a subtle
mockery.  'Do you now?'  And he drew her gently towards him and
kissed her neck, softly.  She winced and trembled and hung away.
But his strong, young arm held her, and he kissed her softly again,
still on the neck, for her face was averted.

'Won't you answer my question?  Won't you now?' came his soft,
lingering voice.  He was trying to draw her near to kiss her face.
And he kissed her cheek softly, near the ear.

At that moment Banford's voice was heard calling fretfully, crossly
from upstairs.

'There's Jill!' cried March, starting and drawing erect.

And as she did so, quick as lightning he kissed her on the mouth,
with a quick, brushing kiss.  It seemed to burn through her every
fibre.  She gave a queer little cry.

'You will, won't you?  You will?' he insisted softly.

'Nellie!  NELLIE!  What ever are you so long for?' came Banford's
faint cry from the outer darkness.

But he held her fast, and was murmuring with that intolerable
softness and insistency:

'You will, won't you?  Say yes!  Say yes!'

March, who felt as if the fire had gone through her and scathed
her, and as if she could do no more, murmured:

'Yes!  Yes!  Anything you like!  Anything you like!  Only let me
go!  Only let me go!  Jill's calling.'

'You know you've promised,' he said insidiously.

'Yes!  Yes!  I do!'  Her voice suddenly rose into a shrill cry.
'All right, Jill, I'm coming.'

Startled, he let her go, and she went straight upstairs.

In the morning at breakfast, after he had looked round the place
and attended to the stock and thought to himself that one could
live easily enough here, he said to Banford:

'Do you know what, Miss Banford?'

'Well, what?' said the good-natured, nervy Banford.

He looked at March, who was spreading jam on her bread.

'Shall I tell?' he said to her.

She looked up at him, and a deep pink colour flushed over her face.

'Yes, if you mean Jill,' she said.  'I hope you won't go talking
all over the village, that's all.'  And she swallowed her dry bread
with difficulty.

'Whatever's coming?' said Banford, looking up with wide, tired,
slightly reddened eyes.  She was a thin, frail little thing, and
her hair, which was delicate and thin, was bobbed, so it hung
softly by her worn face in its faded brown and grey.

'Why, what do you think?' he said, smiling like one who has a

'How do I know!' said Banford.

'Can't you guess?' he said, making bright eyes and smiling, pleased
with himself.

'I'm sure I can't.  What's more, I'm not going to try.'

'Nellie and I are going to be married.'

Banford put down her knife out of her thin, delicate fingers, as if
she would never take it up to eat any more.  She stared with blank,
reddened eyes.

'You what?' she exclaimed.

'We're going to get married.  Aren't we, Nellie?' and he turned to

'You say so, anyway,' said March laconically.  But again she
flushed with an agonized flush.  She, too, could swallow no more.

Banford looked at her like a bird that has been shot: a poor,
little sick bird.  She gazed at her with all her wounded soul in
her face, at the deep-flushed March.

'Never!' she exclaimed, helpless.

'It's quite right,' said the bright and gloating youth.

Banford turned aside her face, as if the sight of the food on the
table made her sick.  She sat like this for some moments, as if she
were sick.  Then, with one hand on the edge of the table, she rose
to her feet.

'I'll NEVER believe it, Nellie,' she cried.  'It's absolutely

Her plaintive, fretful voice had a thread of hot anger and despair.

'Why?  Why shouldn't you believe it?' asked the youth, with all his
soft, velvety impertinence in his voice.

Banford looked at him from her wide, vague eyes, as if he were some
creature in a museum.

'Oh,' she said languidly, 'because she can never be such a fool.
She can't lose her self-respect to such an extent.'  Her voice was
cold and plaintive, drifting.

'In what way will she lose her self-respect?' asked the boy.

Banford looked at him with vague fixity from behind her spectacles.

'If she hasn't lost it already,' she said.

He became very red, vermilion, under the slow, vague stare from
behind the spectacles.

'I don't see it at all,' he said.

'Probably you don't.  I shouldn't expect you would,' said Banford,
with that straying, mild tone of remoteness which made her words
even more insulting.

He sat stiff in his chair, staring with hot, blue eyes from his
scarlet face.  An ugly look had come on his brow.

'My word, she doesn't know what she's letting herself in for,' said
Banford, in her plaintive, drifting, insulting voice.

'What has it got to do with you, anyway?' said the youth, in a

'More than it has to do with you, probably,' she replied, plaintive
and venomous.

'Oh, has it!  I don't see that at all,' he jerked out.

'No, you wouldn't,' she answered, drifting.

'Anyhow,' said March, pushing back her hair and rising uncouthly.
'It's no good arguing about it.'  And she seized the bread and the
tea-pot and strode away to the kitchen.

Banford let her fingers stray across her brow and along her hair,
like one bemused.  Then she turned and went away upstairs.

Henry sat stiff and sulky in his chair, with his face and his eyes
on fire.  March came and went, clearing the table.  But Henry sat
on, stiff with temper.  He took no notice of her.  She had regained
her composure and her soft, even, creamy complexion.  But her mouth
was pursed up.  She glanced at him each time as she came to take
things from the table, glanced from her large, curious eyes, more
in curiosity than anything.  Such a long, red-faced, sulky boy!
That was all he was.  He seemed as remote from her as if his red
face were a red chimney-pot on a cottage across the fields, and she
looked at him just as objectively, as remotely.

At length he got up and stalked out into the fields with the gun.
He came in only at dinner-time, with the devil still in his face,
but his manners quite polite.  Nobody said anything particular;
they sat each one at the sharp corner of a triangle, in obstinate
remoteness.  In the afternoon he went out again at once with the
gun.  He came in at nightfall with a rabbit and a pigeon.  He
stayed in all the evening, but hardly opened his mouth.  He was in
the devil of a temper, feeling he had been insulted.

Banford's eyes were red, she had evidently been crying.  But her
manner was more remote and supercilious than ever; the way she
turned her head if he spoke at all, as if he were some tramp or
inferior intruder of that sort, made his blue eyes go almost black
with rage.  His face looked sulkier.  But he never forgot his
polite intonation, if he opened his mouth to speak.  March seemed
to flourish in this atmosphere.  She seemed to sit between the two
antagonists with a little wicked smile on her face, enjoying
herself.  There was even a sort of complacency in the way she
laboriously crocheted this evening.

When he was in bed, the youth could hear the two women talking and
arguing in their room.  He sat up in bed and strained his ears to
hear what they said.  But he could hear nothing, it was too far
off.  Yet he could hear the soft, plaintive drip of Banford's
voice, and March's deeper note.

The night was quiet, frosty.  Big stars were snapping outside,
beyond the ridge-tops of the pine trees.  He listened and listened.
In the distance he heard a fox yelping: and the dogs from the farms
barking in answer.  But it was not that he wanted to hear.  It was
what the two women were saying.

He got stealthily out of bed and stood by his door.  He could hear
no more than before.  Very, very carefully he began to lift the
door latch.  After quite a time he had his door open.  Then he
stepped stealthily out into the passage.  The old oak planks were
cold under his feet, and they creaked preposterously.  He crept
very, very gently up the one step, and along by the wall, till he
stood outside their door.  And there he held his breath and
listened.  Banford's voice:

'No, I simply couldn't stand it.  I should be dead in a month.
Which is just what he would be aiming at, of course.  That would
just be his game, to see me in the churchyard.  No, Nellie, if you
were to do such a thing as to marry him, you could never stop here.
I couldn't, I couldn't live in the same house with him.  Oh!--oh! I
feel quite sick with the smell of his clothes.  And his red face
simply turns me over.  I can't eat my food when he's at the table.
What a fool I was ever to let him stop.  One ought NEVER to try to
do a kind action.  It always flies back in your face like a

'Well, he's only got two more days,' said March.

'Yes, thank heaven.  And when he's gone he'll never come in this
house again.  I feel so bad while he's here.  And I know, I know
he's only counting what he can get out of you.  I KNOW that's all
it is.  He's just a good-for-nothing, who doesn't want to work, and
who thinks he'll live on us.  But he won't live on me.  If you're
such a fool, then it's your own lookout.  Mrs Burgess knew him all
the time he was here.  And the old man could never get him to do
any steady work.  He was off with the gun on every occasion, just
as he is now.  Nothing but the gun!  Oh, I do hate it.  You don't
know what you're doing, Nellie, you don't.  If you marry him he'll
just make a fool of you.  He'll go off and leave you stranded.  I
know he will, if he can't get Bailey Farm out of us--and he's not
going to, while I live.  While I live he's never going to set foot
here.  I know what it would be.  He'd soon think he was master of
both of us, as he thinks he's master of you already.'

'But he isn't,' said Nellie.

'He thinks he is, anyway.  And that's what he wants: to come and be
master here.  Yes, imagine it!  That's what we've got the place
together for, is it, to be bossed and bullied by a hateful, red-
faced boy, a beastly labourer.  Oh, we DID make a mistake when we
let him stop.  We ought never to have lowered ourselves.  And I've
had such a fight with all the people here, not to be pulled down to
their level.  No, he's not coming here.  And then you see--if he
can't have the place, he'll run off to Canada or somewhere again,
as if he'd never known you.  And here you'll be, absolutely ruined
and made a fool of.  I know I shall never have any peace of mind

'We'll tell him he can't come here.  We'll tell him that,' said

'Oh, don't you bother; I'm going to tell him that, and other things
as well, before he goes.  He's not going to have all his own way
while I've got the strength left to speak.  Oh, Nellie, he'll
despise you, he'll despise you, like the awful little beast he is,
if you give way to him.  I'd no more trust him than I'd trust a cat
not to steal.  He's deep, he's deep, and he's bossy, and he's
selfish through and through, as cold as ice.  All he wants is to
make use of you.  And when you're no more use to him, then I pity

'I don't think he's as bad as all that,' said March.

'No, because he's been playing up to you.  But you'll find out, if
you see much of him.  Oh, Nellie, I can't bear to think of it.'

'Well, it won't hurt you, Jill, darling.'

'Won't it!  Won't it!  I shall never know a moment's peace again
while I live, nor a moment's happiness.  No, Nellie--' and Banford
began to weep bitterly.

The boy outside could hear the stifled sound of the woman's
sobbing, and could hear March's soft, deep, tender voice
comforting, with wonderful gentleness and tenderness, the weeping

His eyes were so round and wide that he seemed to see the whole
night, and his ears were almost jumping off his head.  He was
frozen stiff.  He crept back to bed, but felt as if the top of his
head were coming off.  He could not sleep.  He could not keep
still.  He rose, quietly dressed himself, and crept out on to the
landing once more.  The women were silent.  He went softly
downstairs and out to the kitchen.

Then he put on his boots and his overcoat and took the gun.  He did
not think to go away from the farm.  No, he only took the gun.  As
softly as possible he unfastened the door and went out into the
frosty December night.  The air was still, the stars bright, the
pine trees seemed to bristle audibly in the sky.  He went
stealthily away down a fence-side, looking for something to shoot.
At the same time he remembered that he ought not to shoot and
frighten the women.

So he prowled round the edge of the gorse cover, and through the
grove of tall old hollies, to the woodside.  There he skirted the
fence, peering through the darkness with dilated eyes that seemed
to be able to grow black and full of sight in the dark, like a
cat's.  An owl was slowly and mournfully whooing round a great oak
tree.  He stepped stealthily with his gun, listening, listening,

As he stood under the oaks of the wood-edge he heard the dogs from
the neighbouring cottage up the hill yelling suddenly and
startlingly, and the wakened dogs from the farms around barking
answer.  And suddenly it seemed to him England was little and
tight, he felt the landscape was constricted even in the dark, and
that there were too many dogs in the night, making a noise like a
fence of sound, like the network of English hedges netting the
view.  He felt the fox didn't have a chance.  For it must be the
fox that had started all this hullabaloo.

Why not watch for him, anyhow!  He would, no doubt, be coming
sniffing round.  The lad walked downhill to where the farmstead
with its few pine trees crouched blackly.  In the angle of the long
shed, in the black dark, he crouched down.  He knew the fox would
be coming.  It seemed to him it would be the last of the foxes in
this loudly-barking, thick-voiced England, tight with innumerable
little houses.

He sat a long time with his eyes fixed unchanging upon the open
gateway, where a little light seemed to fall from the stars or from
the horizon, who knows.  He was sitting on a log in a dark corner
with the gun across his knees.  The pine trees snapped.  Once a
chicken fell off its perch in the barn with a loud crawk and cackle
and commotion that startled him, and he stood up, watching with all
his eyes, thinking it might be a rat.  But he FELT it was nothing.
So he sat down again with the gun on his knees and his hands tucked
in to keep them warm, and his eyes fixed unblinking on the pale
reach of the open gateway.  He felt he could smell the hot, sickly,
rich smell of live chickens on the cold air.

And then--a shadow.  A sliding shadow in the gateway.  He gathered
all his vision into a concentrated spark, and saw the shadow of the
fox, the fox creeping on his belly through the gate.  There he
went, on his belly like a snake.  The boy smiled to himself and
brought the gun to his shoulder.  He knew quite well what would
happen.  He knew the fox would go to where the fowl door was
boarded up and sniff there.  He knew he would lie there for a
minute, sniffing the fowls within.  And then he would start again
prowling under the edge of the old barn, waiting to get in.

The fowl door was at the top of a slight incline.  Soft, soft as a
shadow the fox slid up this incline, and crouched with his nose to
the boards.  And at the same moment there was the awful crash of a
gun reverberating between the old buildings, as if all the night
had gone smash.  But the boy watched keenly.  He saw even the white
belly of the fox as the beast beat his paws in death.  So he went

There was a commotion everywhere.  The fowls were scuffling and
crawking, the ducks were quark-quarking, the pony had stamped
wildly to his feet.  But the fox was on his side, struggling in his
last tremors.  The boy bent over him and smelt his foxy smell.

There was a sound of a window opening upstairs, then March's voice

'Who is it?'

'It's me,' said Henry; 'I've shot the fox.'

'Oh, goodness!  You nearly frightened us to death.'

'Did I?  I'm awfully sorry.'

'Whatever made you get up?'

'I heard him about.'

'And have you shot him?'

'Yes, he's here,' and the boy stood in the yard holding up the
warm, dead brute.  'You can't see, can you?  Wait a minute.'  And
he took his flash-light from his pocket and flashed it on to the
dead animal.  He was holding it by the brush.  March saw, in the
middle of the darkness, just the reddish fleece and the white belly
and the white underneath of the pointed chin, and the queer,
dangling paws.  She did not know what to say.

'He's a beauty,' he said.  'He will make you a lovely fur.'

'You don't catch me wearing a fox fur,' she replied.

'Oh!' he said.  And he switched off the light.

'Well, I should think you'll come in and go to bed again now,' she

'Probably I shall.  What time is it?'

'What time is it, Jill?' called March's voice.  It was a quarter to

That night March had another dream.  She dreamed that Banford was
dead, and that she, March, was sobbing her heart out.  Then she had
to put Banford into her coffin.  And the coffin was the rough wood-
box in which the bits of chopped wood were kept in the kitchen, by
the fire.  This was the coffin, and there was no other, and March
was in agony and dazed bewilderment, looking for something to line
the box with, something to make it soft with, something to cover up
the poor, dead darling.  Because she couldn't lay her in there just
in her white, thin nightdress, in the horrible wood-box.  So she
hunted and hunted, and picked up thing after thing, and threw it
aside in the agony of dream-frustration.  And in her dream-despair
all she could find that would do was a fox-skin.  She knew that it
wasn't right, that this was not what she should have.  But it was
all she could find.  And so she folded the brush of the fox, and
laid her darling Jill's head on this, and she brought round the
skin of the fox and laid it on the top of the body, so that it
seemed to make a whole ruddy, fiery coverlet, and she cried and
cried, and woke to find the tears streaming down her face.

The first thing that both she and Banford did in the morning was to
go out to see the fox.  Henry had hung it up by the heels in the
shed, with its poor brush falling backwards.  It was a lovely dog-
fox in its prime, with a handsome, thick, winter coat: a lovely
golden-red colour, with grey as it passed to the belly, and belly
all white, and a great full brush with a delicate black and grey
and pure white tip.

'Poor brute!' said Banford.  'If it wasn't such a thieving wretch,
you'd feel sorry for it.'

March said nothing, but stood with her foot trailing aside, one hip
out; her face was pale and her eyes big and black, watching the
dead animal that was suspended upside down.  White and soft as snow
his belly: white and soft as snow.  She passed her hand softly down
it.  And his wonderful black-glinted brush was full and frictional,
wonderful.  She passed her hand down this also, and quivered.  Time
after time she took the full fur of that thick tail between her
fingers, and passed her hand slowly downwards.  Wonderful, sharp,
thick, splendour of a tail.  And he was dead!  She pursed her lips,
and her eyes went black and vacant.  Then she took the head in her

Henry was sauntering up, so Banford walked rather pointedly away.
March stood there bemused, with the head of the fox in her hand.
She was wondering, wondering, wondering over his long, fine muzzle.
For some reason it reminded her of a spoon or a spatula.  She felt
she could not understand it.  The beast was a strange beast to her,
incomprehensible, out of her range.  Wonderful silver whiskers he
had, like ice-threads.  And pricked ears with hair inside.  But
that long, long, slender spoon of a nose!--and the marvellous white
teeth beneath!  It was to thrust forward and bite with, deep, deep,
deep into the living prey, to bite and bite the blood.

'He's a beauty, isn't he?' said Henry, standing by.

'Oh yes, he's a fine big fox.  I wonder how many chickens he's
responsible for,' she replied.

'A good many.  Do you think he's the same one you saw in the

'I should think very likely he is,' she replied.

He watched her, but he could make nothing of her.  Partly she was
so shy and virgin, and partly she was so grim, matter-of-fact,
shrewish.  What she said seemed to him so different from the look
of her big, queer, dark eyes.

'Are you going to skin him?' she asked.

'Yes, when I've had breakfast, and got a board to peg him on.'

'My word, what a strong smell he's got!  Pooo!  It'll take some
washing off one's hands.  I don't know why I was so silly as to
handle him.'  And she looked at her right hand, that had passed
down his belly and along his tail, and had even got a tiny streak
of blood from one dark place in his fur.

'Have you seen the chickens when they smell him, how frightened
they are?' he said.

'Yes, aren't they!'

'You must mind you don't get some of his fleas.'

'Oh, fleas!' she replied, nonchalant.

Later in the day she saw the fox's skin nailed flat on a board, as
if crucified.  It gave her an uneasy feeling.

The boy was angry.  He went about with his mouth shut, as if he had
swallowed part of his chin.  But in behaviour he was polite and
affable.  He did not say anything about his intention.  And he left
March alone.

That evening they sat in the dining-room.  Banford wouldn't have
him in her sitting-room any more.  There was a very big log on the
fire.  And everybody was busy.  Banford had letters to write.
March was sewing a dress, and he was mending some little

Banford stopped her letter-writing from time to time to look round
and rest her eyes.  The boy had his head down, his face hidden over
his job.

'Let's see,' said Banford.  'What train do you go by, Henry?'

He looked up straight at her.

'The morning train.  In the morning,' he said.

'What, the eight-ten or the eleven-twenty?'

'The eleven-twenty, I suppose,' he said.

'That is the day after tomorrow?' said Banford.

'Yes, the day after tomorrow.'

'Mm!' murmured Banford, and she returned to her writing.  But as
she was licking her envelope, she asked:

'And what plans have you made for the future, if I may ask?'

'Plans?' he said, his face very bright and angry.

'I mean about you and Nellie, if you are going on with this
business.  When do you expect the wedding to come off?'  She spoke
in a jeering tone.

'Oh, the wedding!' he replied.  'I don't know.'

'Don't you know anything?' said Banford.  'Are you going to clear
out on Friday and leave things no more settled than they are?'

'Well, why shouldn't I?  We can always write letters.'

'Yes, of course you can.  But I wanted to know because of this
place.  If Nellie is going to get married all of a sudden, I shall
have to be looking round for a new partner.'

'Couldn't she stay on here if she were married?' he said.  He knew
quite well what was coming.

'Oh,' said Banford, 'this is no place for a married couple.
There's not enough work to keep a man going, for one thing.  And
there's no money to be made.  It's quite useless your thinking of
staying on here if you marry.  Absolutely!'

'Yes, but I wasn't thinking of staying on here,' he said.

'Well, that's what I want to know.  And what about Nellie, then?
How long is SHE going to be here with me, in that case?'

The two antagonists looked at one another.

'That I can't say,' he answered.

'Oh, go along,' she cried petulantly.  'You must have some idea
what you are going to do, if you ask a woman to marry you.  Unless
it's all a hoax.'

'Why should it be a hoax?  I am going back to Canada.'

'And taking her with you?'

'Yes, certainly.'

'You hear that, Nellie?' said Banford.

March, who had had her head bent over her sewing, now looked up
with a sharp, pink blush on her face, and a queer, sardonic laugh
in her eyes and on her twisted mouth.

'That's the first time I've heard that I was going to Canada,' she

'Well, you have to hear it for the first time, haven't you?' said
the boy.

'Yes, I suppose I have,' she said nonchalantly.  And she went back
to her sewing.

'You're quite ready, are you, to go to Canada?  Are you, Nellie?'
asked Banford.

March looked up again.  She let her shoulders go slack, and let her
hand that held the needle lie loose in her lap.

'It depends on HOW I'm going,' she said.  'I don't think I want to
go jammed up in the steerage, as a soldier's wife.  I'm afraid I'm
not used to that way.'

The boy watched her with bright eyes.

'Would you rather stay over here while I go first?' he asked.

'I would, if that's the only alternative,' she replied.

'That's much the wisest.  Don't make it any fixed engagement,' said
Banford.  'Leave yourself free to go or not after he's got back and
found you a place, Nellie.  Anything else is madness, madness.'

'Don't you think,' said the youth, 'we ought to get married before
I go--and then go together, or separate, according to how it

'I think it's a terrible idea,' cried Banford.

But the boy was watching March.

'What do you think?' he asked her.

She let her eyes stray vaguely into space.

'Well, I don't know,' she said.  'I shall have to think about it.'

'Why?' he asked pertinently.

'Why?'  She repeated his question in a mocking way and looked at
him laughing, though her face was pink again.  'I should think
there's plenty of reasons why.'

He watched her in silence.  She seemed to have escaped him.  She
had got into league with Banford against him.  There was again the
queer, sardonic look about her; she would mock stoically at
everything he said or which life offered.

'Of course,' he said, 'I don't want to press you to do anything you
don't wish to do.'

'I should think not, indeed,' cried Banford indignantly.

At bed-time Banford said plaintively to March:

'You take my hot bottle up for me, Nellie, will you?'

'Yes, I'll do it,' said March, with the kind of willing
unwillingness she so often showed towards her beloved but uncertain

The two women went upstairs.  After a time March called from the
top of the stairs:  'Good-night, Henry.  I shan't be coming down.
You'll see to the lamp and the fire, won't you?'

The next day Henry went about with the cloud on his brow and his
young cub's face shut up tight.  He was cogitating all the time.
He had wanted March to marry him and go back to Canada with him.
And he had been sure she would do it.  Why he wanted her he didn't
know.  But he did want her.  He had set his mind on her.  And he
was convulsed with a youth's fury at being thwarted.  To be
thwarted, to be thwarted!  It made him so furious inside that he
did not know what to do with himself.  But he kept himself in hand.
Because even now things might turn out differently.  She might come
over to him.  Of course she might.  It was her business to do so.

Things drew to a tension again towards evening.  He and Banford had
avoided each other all day.  In fact, Banford went in to the little
town by the 11.20 train.  It was market day.  She arrived back on
the 4.25.  Just as the night was falling Henry saw her little
figure in a dark-blue coat and a dark-blue tam-o'-shanter hat
crossing the first meadow from the station.  He stood under one of
the wild pear trees, with the old dead leaves round his feet.  And
he watched the little blue figure advancing persistently over the
rough winter-ragged meadow.  She had her arms full of parcels, and
advanced slowly, frail thing she was, but with that devilish little
certainty which he so detested in her.  He stood invisible under
the pear tree, watching her every step.

And if looks could have affected her, she would have felt a log of
iron on each of her ankles as she made her way forward.  'You're a
nasty little thing, you are,' he was saying softly, across the
distance.  'You're a nasty little thing.  I hope you'll be paid
back for all the harm you've done me for nothing.  I hope you will--
you nasty little thing.  I hope you'll have to pay for it.  You
will, if wishes are anything.  You nasty little creature that you

She was toiling slowly up the slope.  But if she had been slipping
back at every step towards the Bottomless Pit, he would not have
gone to help her with her parcels.  Aha, there went March, striding
with her long, land stride in her breeches and her short tunic!
Striding downhill at a great pace, and even running a few steps now
and then, in her great solicitude and desire to come to the rescue
of the little Banford.  The boy watched her with rage in his heart.
See her leap a ditch, and run, run as if a house was on fire, just
to get to that creeping, dark little object down there!  So, the
Banford just stood still and waited.  And March strode up and took
ALL the parcels except a bunch of yellow chrysanthemums.  These the
Banford still carried--yellow chrysanthemums!

'Yes, you look well, don't you?' he said softly into the dusk air.
'You look well, pottering up there with a bunch of flowers, you do.
I'd make you eat them for your tea if you hug them so tight.  And
I'd give them you for breakfast again, I would.  I'd give you
flowers.  Nothing but flowers.'

He watched the progress of the two women.  He could hear their
voices: March always outspoken and rather scolding in her
tenderness, Banford murmuring rather vaguely.  They were evidently
good friends.  He could not hear what they said till they came to
the fence of the home meadow, which they must climb.  Then he saw
March manfully climbing over the bars with all her packages in her
arms, and on the still air he heard Banford's fretful:

'Why don't you let me help you with the parcels?'  She had a queer,
plaintive hitch in her voice.  Then came March's robust and

'Oh, I can manage.  Don't you bother about me.  You've all you can
do to get yourself over.'

'Yes, that's all very well,' said Banford fretfully.  'You say,
Don't you bother about me, and then all the while you feel injured
because nobody thinks of you.'

'When do I feel injured?' said March.

'Always.  You always feel injured.  Now you're feeling injured
because I won't have that boy to come and live on the farm.'

'I'm not feeling injured at all,' said March.  'I know you are.
When he's gone you'll sulk over it.  I know you will.'

'Shall I?' said March.  'We'll see.'

'Yes, we SHALL see, unfortunately.  I can't think how you can make
yourself so cheap.  I can't IMAGINE how you can lower yourself like

'I haven't lowered myself,' said March.

'I don't know what you call it, then.  Letting a boy like that come
so cheeky and impudent and make a mug of you.  I don't know what
you think of yourself.  How much respect do you think he's going to
have for you afterwards?  My word, I wouldn't be in your shoes, if
you married him.'

'Of course you wouldn't.  My boots are a good bit too big for you,
and not half dainty enough,' said March, with rather a misfire

'I thought you had too much pride, really I did.  A woman's got to
hold herself high, especially with a youth like that.  Why, he's
impudent.  Even the way he forced himself on us at the start.'

'We asked him to stay,' said March.

'Not till he'd almost forced us to.  And then he's so cocky and
self-assured.  My word, he puts my back up.  I simply can't imagine
how you can let him treat you so cheaply.'

'I don't let him treat me cheaply,' said March.  'Don't you worry
yourself, nobody's going to treat me cheaply.  And even you aren't,
either.'  She had a tender defiance and a certain fire in her

'Yes, it's sure to come back to me,' said Banford bitterly.
'That's always the end of it.  I believe you only do it to spite

They went now in silence up the steep, grassy slope and over the
brow, through the gorse bushes.  On the other side of the hedge the
boy followed in the dusk, at some little distance.  Now and then,
through the huge ancient hedge of hawthorn, risen into trees, he
saw the two dark figures creeping up the hill.  As he came to the
top of the slope he saw the homestead dark in the twilight, with a
huge old pear tree leaning from the near gable, and a little yellow
light twinkling in the small side windows of the kitchen.  He heard
the clink of the latch and saw the kitchen door open into light as
the two women went indoors.  So they were at home.

And so!--this was what they thought of him.  It was rather in his
nature to be a listener, so he was not at all surprised whatever he
heard.  The things people said about him always missed him
personally.  He was only rather surprised at the women's way with
one another.  And he disliked the Banford with an acid dislike.
And he felt drawn to the March again.  He felt again irresistibly
drawn to her.  He felt there was a secret bond, a secret thread
between him and her, something very exclusive, which shut out
everybody else and made him and her possess each other in secret.

He hoped again that she would have him.  He hoped with his blood
suddenly firing up that she would agree to marry him quite quickly:
at Christmas, very likely.  Christmas was not far off.  He wanted,
whatever else happened, to snatch her into a hasty marriage and a
consummation with him.  Then for the future, they could arrange
later.  But he hoped it would happen as he wanted it.  He hoped
that tonight she would stay a little while with him, after Banford
had gone upstairs.  He hoped he could touch her soft, creamy cheek,
her strange, frightened face.  He hoped he could look into her
dilated, frightened dark eyes, quite near.  He hoped he might even
put his hand on her bosom and feel her soft breasts under her
tunic.  His heart beat deep and powerful as he thought of that.  He
wanted very much to do so.  He wanted to make sure of her soft
woman's breasts under her tunic.  She always kept the brown linen
coat buttoned so close up to her throat.  It seemed to him like
some perilous secret, that her soft woman's breasts must be
buttoned up in that uniform.  It seemed to him, moreover, that they
were so much softer, tenderer, more lovely and lovable, shut up in
that tunic, than were the Banford's breasts, under her soft blouses
and chiffon dresses.  The Banford would have little iron breasts,
he said to himself.  For all her frailty and fretfulness and
delicacy, she would have tiny iron breasts.  But March, under her
crude, fast, workman's tunic, would have soft, white breasts, white
and unseen.  So he told himself, and his blood burned.

When he went in to tea, he had a surprise.  He appeared at the
inner door, his face very ruddy and vivid and his blue eyes
shining, dropping his head forward as he came in, in his usual way,
and hesitating in the doorway to watch the inside of the room,
keenly and cautiously, before he entered.  He was wearing a long-
sleeved waistcoat.  His face seemed extraordinarily like a piece of
the out-of-doors come indoors: as holly-berries do.  In his second
of pause in the doorway he took in the two women sitting at table,
at opposite ends, saw them sharply.  And to his amazement March was
dressed in a dress of dull, green silk crape.  His mouth came open
in surprise.  If she had suddenly grown a moustache he could not
have been more surprised.

'Why,' he said, 'do you wear a dress, then?'

She looked up, flushing a deep rose colour, and twisting her mouth
with a smile, said:

'Of course I do.  What else do you expect me to wear but a dress?'

'A land girl's uniform, of course,' said he.

'Oh,' she cried, nonchalant, 'that's only for this dirty, mucky
work about here.'

'Isn't it your proper dress, then?' he said.

'No, not indoors it isn't,' she said.  But she was blushing all the
time as she poured out his tea.  He sat down in his chair at table,
unable to take his eyes off her.  Her dress was a perfectly simple
slip of bluey-green crape, with a line of gold stitching round the
top and round the sleeves, which came to the elbow.  It was cut
just plain and round at the top, and showed her white, soft throat.
Her arms he knew, strong and firm muscled, for he had often seen
her with her sleeves rolled up.  But he looked her up and down, up
and down,

Banford, at the other end of the table, said not a word, but
piggled with the sardine on her plate.  He had forgotten her
existence.  He just simply stared at March while he ate his bread
and margarine in huge mouthfuls, forgetting even his tea.

'Well, I never knew anything make such a difference!' he murmured,
across his mouthfuls.

'Oh, goodness!' cried March, blushing still more.  'I might be a
pink monkey!'

And she rose quickly to her feet and took the tea-pot to the fire,
to the kettle.  And as she crouched on the hearth with her green
slip about her, the boy stared more wide-eyed than ever.  Through
the crape her woman's form seemed soft and womanly.  And when she
stood up and walked he saw her legs move soft within her modernly
short skirt.  She had on black silk stockings, and small patent
shoes with little gold buckles.

No, she was another being.  She was something quite different.
Seeing her always in the hard-cloth breeches, wide on the hips,
buttoned on the knee, strong as armour, and in the brown puttees
and thick boots, it had never occurred to him that she had a
woman's legs and feet.  Now it came upon him.  She had a woman's
soft, skirted legs, and she was accessible.  He blushed to the
roots of his hair, shoved his nose in his tea-cup and drank his tea
with a little noise that made Banford simply squirm: and strangely,
suddenly he felt a man, no longer a youth.  He felt a man, with all
a man's grave weight of responsibility.  A curious quietness and
gravity came over his soul.  He felt a man, quiet, with a little of
the heaviness of male destiny upon him.

She was soft and accessible in her dress.  The thought went home in
him like an everlasting responsibility.

'Oh, for goodness' sake, say something, somebody,' cried Banford
fretfully.  'It might be a funeral.'  The boy looked at her, and
she could not bear his face.

'A funeral!' said March, with a twisted smile.  'Why, that breaks
my dream.'

Suddenly she had thought of Banford in the wood-box for a coffin.

'What, have you been dreaming of a wedding?' said Banford

'Must have been,' said March.

'Whose wedding?' asked the boy.

'I can't remember,' said March.

She was shy and rather awkward that evening, in spite of the fact
that, wearing a dress, her bearing was much more subdued than in
her uniform.  She felt unpeeled and rather exposed.  She felt
almost improper.

They talked desultorily about Henry's departure next morning, and
made the trivial arrangement.  But of the matter on their minds,
none of them spoke.  They were rather quiet and friendly this
evening; Banford had practically nothing to say.  But inside
herself she seemed still, perhaps kindly.

At nine o'clock March brought in the tray with the everlasting tea
and a little cold meat which Banford had managed to procure.  It
was the last supper, so Banford did not want to be disagreeable.
She felt a bit sorry for the boy, and felt she must be as nice as
she could.

He wanted her to go to bed.  She was usually the first.  But she
sat on in her chair under the lamp, glancing at her book now and
then, and staring into the fire.  A deep silence had come into the
room.  It was broken by March asking, in a rather small tone:

'What time is it, Jill?'

'Five past ten,' said Banford, looking at her wrist.

And then not a sound.  The boy had looked up from the book he was
holding between his knees.  His rather wide, cat-shaped face had
its obstinate look, his eyes were watchful.

'What about bed?' said March at last.

'I'm ready when you are,' said Banford.

'Oh, very well,' said March.  'I'll fill your bottle.'

She was as good as her word.  When the hot-water bottle was ready,
she lit a candle and went upstairs with it.  Banford remained in
her chair, listening acutely.  March came downstairs again.

'There you are, then,' she said.  'Are you going up?'

'Yes, in a minute,' said Banford.  But the minute passed, and she
sat on in her chair under the lamp.

Henry, whose eyes were shining like a cat's as he watched from
under his brows, and whose face seemed wider, more chubbed and cat-
like with unalterable obstinacy, now rose to his feet to try his

'I think I'll go and look if I can see the she-fox,' he said.  'She
may be creeping round.  Won't you come as well for a minute,
Nellie, and see if we see anything?'

'Me!' cried March, looking up with her startled, wondering face.

'Yes.  Come on,' he said.  It was wonderful how soft and warm and
coaxing his voice could be, how near.  The very sound of it made
Banford's blood boil.  'Come on for a minute,' he said, looking
down into her uplifted, unsure face.

And she rose to her feet as if drawn up by his young, ruddy face
that was looking down on her.

'I should think you're never going out at this time of night,
Nellie!' cried Banford.

'Yes, just for a minute,' said the boy, looking round on her, and
speaking with an odd, sharp yelp in his voice.

March looked from one to the other, as if confused, vague.  Banford
rose to her feet for battle.

'Why, it's ridiculous.  It's bitter cold.  You'll catch your death
in that thin frock.  And in those slippers.  You're not going to do
any such thing.'

There was a moment's pause.  Banford turtled up like a little
fighting cock, facing March and the boy.

'Oh, I don't think you need worry yourself,' he replied.  'A moment
under the stars won't do anybody any damage.  I'll get the rug off
the sofa in the dining-room.  You're coming, Nellie.'

His voice had so much anger and contempt and fury in it as he spoke
to Banford: and so much tenderness and proud authority as he spoke
to March, that the latter answered:

'Yes, I'm coming.'

And she turned with him to the door.

Banford, standing there in the middle of the room, suddenly burst
into a long wail and a spasm of sobs.  She covered her face with
her poor, thin hands, and her thin shoulders shook in an agony of
weeping.  March looked back from the door.

'Jill!' she cried in a frantic tone, like someone just coming
awake.  And she seemed to start towards her darling.

But the boy had March's arm in his grip, and she could not move.
She did not know why she could not move.  It was as in a dream when
the heart strains and the body cannot stir.

'Never mind,' said the boy softly.  'Let her cry.  Let her cry.
She will have to cry sooner or later.  And the tears will relieve
her feelings.  They will do her good.'

So he drew March slowly through the doorway.  But her last look was
back to the poor little figure which stood in the middle of the
room with covered face and thin shoulders shaken with bitter

In the dining-room he picked up the rug and said:

'Wrap yourself up in this.'

She obeyed--and they reached the kitchen door, he holding her soft
and firm by the arm, though she did not know it.  When she saw the
night outside she started back.

'I must go back to Jill,' she said.  'I MUST!  Oh yes, I must.'

Her tone sounded final.  The boy let go of her and she turned
indoors.  But he seized her again and arrested her.

'Wait a minute,' he said.  'Wait a minute.  Even if you go, you're
not going yet.'

'Leave go!  Leave go!' she cried.  'My place is at Jill's side.
Poor little thing, she's sobbing her heart out.'

'Yes,' said the boy bitterly.  'And your heart too, and mine as

'Your heart?' said March.  He still gripped her and detained her.

'Isn't it as good as her heart?' he said.  'Or do you think it's

'Your heart?' she said again, incredulous.

'Yes, mine!  Mine!  Do you think I haven't GOT a heart?'  And with
his hot grasp he took her hand and pressed it under his left
breast.  'There's my heart,' he said, 'if you don't believe in it.'

It was wonder which made her attend.  And then she felt the deep,
heavy, powerful stroke of his heart, terrible, like something from
beyond.  It was like something from beyond, something awful from
outside, signalling to her.  And the signal paralysed her.  It beat
upon her very soul, and made her helpless.  She forgot Jill.  She
could not think of Jill any more.  She could not think of her.
That terrible signalling from outside!

The boy put his arm round her waist.

'Come with me,' he said gently.  'Come and let us say what we've
got to say.'

And he drew her outside, closed the door.  And she went with him
darkly down the garden path.  That he should have a beating heart!
And that he should have his arm round her, outside the blanket!
She was too confused to think who he was or what he was.

He took her to a dark corner of the shed, where there was a tool-
box with a lid, long and low.

'We'll sit here a minute,' he said.

And obediently she sat down by his side.

'Give me your hand,' he said.

She gave him both her hands, and he held them between his own.  He
was young, and it made him tremble.

'You'll marry me.  You'll marry me before I go back, won't you?' he

'Why, aren't we both a pair of fools?' she said.

He had put her in the corner, so that she should not look out and
see the lighted window of the house across the dark garden.  He
tried to keep her all there inside the shed with him.

'In what way a pair of fools?' he said.  'If you go back to Canada
with me, I've got a job and a good wage waiting for me, and it's a
nice place, near the mountains.  Why shouldn't you marry me?  Why
shouldn't we marry?  I should like to have you there with me.  I
should like to feel I'd got somebody there, at the back of me, all
my life.'

'You'd easily find somebody else who'd suit you better,' she said.

'Yes, I might easily find another girl.  I know I could.  But not
one I really wanted.  I've never met one I really wanted for good.
You see, I'm thinking of all my life.  If I marry, I want to feel
it's for all my life.  Other girls: well, they're just girls, nice
enough to go a walk with now and then.  Nice enough for a bit of
play.  But when I think of my life, then I should be very sorry to
have to marry one of them, I should indeed.'

'You mean they wouldn't make you a good wife.'

'Yes, I mean that.  But I don't mean they wouldn't do their duty by
me.  I mean--I don't know what I mean.  Only when I think of my
life, and of you, then the two things go together.'

'And what if they didn't?' she said, with her odd, sardonic touch.

'Well, I think they would.'

They sat for some time silent.  He held her hands in his, but he
did not make love to her.  Since he had realized that she was a
woman, and vulnerable, accessible, a certain heaviness had
possessed his soul.  He did not want to make love to her.  He
shrank from any such performance, almost with fear.  She was a
woman, and vulnerable, accessible to him finally, and he held back
from that which was ahead, almost with dread.  It was a kind of
darkness he knew he would enter finally, but of which he did not
want as yet even to think.  She was the woman, and he was
responsible for the strange vulnerability he had suddenly realized
in her.

'No,' she said at last, 'I'm a fool.  I know I'm a fool.'

'What for?' he asked.

'To go on with this business.'

'Do you mean me?' he asked.

'No, I mean myself.  I'm making a fool of myself, and a big one.'

'Why, because you don't want to marry me, really?'

'Oh, I don't know whether I'm against it, as a matter of fact.
That's just it.  I don't know.'

He looked at her in the darkness, puzzled.  He did not in the least
know what she meant.

'And don't you know whether you like to sit here with me this
minute or not?' he asked.

'No, I don't really.  I don't know whether I wish I was somewhere
else, or whether I like being here.  I don't know, really.'

'Do you wish you were with Miss Banford?  Do you wish you'd gone to
bed with her?' he asked, as a challenge.

She waited a long time before she answered:

'No,' she said at last.  'I don't wish that.'

'And do you think you would spend all your life with her--when your
hair goes white, and you are old?' he said.

'No,' she said, without much hesitation.  'I don't see Jill and me
two old women together.'

'And don't you think, when I'm an old man and you're an old woman,
we might be together still, as we are now?' he said.

'Well, not as we are now,' she replied.  'But I could imagine--no,
I can't.  I can't imagine you an old man.  Besides, it's dreadful!'

'What, to be an old man?'

'Yes, of course.'

'Not when the time comes,' he said.  'But it hasn't come.  Only it
will.  And when it does, I should like to think you'd be there as

'Sort of old age pensions,' she said dryly.

Her kind of witless humour always startled him.  He never knew what
she meant.  Probably she didn't quite know herself.

'No,' he said, hurt.

'I don't know why you harp on old age,' she said.  'I'm not

'Did anybody ever say you were?' he asked, offended.

They were silent for some time, pulling different ways in the

'I don't want you to make fun of me,' he said.

'Don't you?' she replied, enigmatic.

'No, because just this minute I'm serious.  And when I'm serious, I
believe in not making fun of it.'

'You mean nobody else must make fun of you,' she replied.

'Yes, I mean that.  And I mean I don't believe in making fun of it
myself.  When it comes over me so that I'm serious, then--there it
is, I don't want it to be laughed at.'

She was silent for some time.  Then she said, in a vague, almost
pained voice:

'No, I'm not laughing at you.'

A hot wave rose in his heart.

'You believe me, do you?' he asked.

'Yes, I believe you,' she replied, with a twang of her old, tired
nonchalance, as if she gave in because she was tired.  But he
didn't care.  His heart was hot and clamorous.

'So you agree to marry me before I go?--perhaps at Christmas?'

'Yes, I agree.'

'There!' he exclaimed.  'That's settled it.'

And he sat silent, unconscious, with all the blood burning in all
his veins, like fire in all the branches and twigs of him.  He only
pressed her two hands to his chest, without knowing.  When the
curious passion began to die down, he seemed to come awake to the

'We'll go in, shall we?' he said: as if he realized it was cold.

She rose without answering.

'Kiss me before we go, now you've said it,' he said.

And he kissed her gently on the mouth, with a young, frightened
kiss.  It made her feel so young, too, and frightened, and
wondering: and tired, tired, as if she were going to sleep.

They went indoors.  And in the sitting-room, there, crouched by the
fire like a queer little witch, was Banford.  She looked round with
reddened eyes as they entered, but did not rise.  He thought she
looked frightening, unnatural, crouching there and looking round at
them.  Evil he thought her look was, and he crossed his fingers.

Banford saw the ruddy, elate face on the youth: he seemed strangely
tall and bright and looming.  And March had a delicate look on her
face; she wanted to hide her face, to screen it, to let it not be

'You've come at last,' said Banford uglily.

'Yes, we've come,' said he.

'You've been long enough for anything,' she said.

'Yes, we have.  We've settled it.  We shall marry as soon as
possible,' he replied.

'Oh, you've settled it, have you!  Well, I hope you won't live to
repent it,' said Banford.

'I hope so too,' he replied.

'Are you going to bed NOW, Nellie?' said Banford.

'Yes, I'm going now.'

'Then for goodness' sake come along.'

March looked at the boy.  He was glancing with his very bright eyes
at her and at Banford.  March looked at him wistfully.  She wished
she could stay with him.  She wished she had married him already,
and it was all over.  For oh, she felt suddenly so safe with him.
She felt so strangely safe and peaceful in his presence.  If only
she could sleep in his shelter, and not with Jill.  She felt afraid
of Jill.  In her dim, tender state, it was agony to have to go with
Jill and sleep with her.  She wanted the boy to save her.  She
looked again at him.

And he, watching with bright eyes, divined something of what she
felt.  It puzzled and distressed him that she must go with Jill.

'I shan't forget what you've promised,' he said, looking clear into
her eyes, right into her eyes, so that he seemed to occupy all
herself with his queer, bright look.

She smiled to him faintly, gently.  She felt safe again--safe with

But in spite of all the boy's precautions, he had a setback.  The
morning he was leaving the farm he got March to accompany him to
the market-town, about six miles away, where they went to the
registrar and had their names stuck up as two people who were going
to marry.  He was to come at Christmas, and the wedding was to take
place then.  He hoped in the spring to be able to take March back
to Canada with him, now the war was really over.  Though he was so
young, he had saved some money.

'You never have to be without SOME money at the back of you, if you
can help it,' he said.

So she saw him off in the train that was going West: his camp was
on Salisbury Plain.  And with big, dark eyes she watched him go,
and it seemed as if everything real in life was retreating as the
train retreated with his queer, chubby, ruddy face, that seemed so
broad across the cheeks, and which never seemed to change its
expression, save when a cloud of sulky anger hung on the brow, or
the bright eyes fixed themselves in their stare.  This was what
happened now.  He leaned there out of the carriage window as the
train drew off, saying good-bye and staring back at her, but his
face quite unchanged.  There was no emotion on his face.  Only his
eyes tightened and became fixed and intent in their watching like a
cat's when suddenly she sees something and stares.  So the boy's
eyes stared fixedly as the train drew away, and she was left
feeling intensely forlorn.  Failing his physical presence, she
seemed to have nothing of him.  And she had nothing of anything.
Only his face was fixed in her mind: the full, ruddy, unchanging
cheeks, and the straight snout of a nose and the two eyes staring
above.  All she could remember was how he suddenly wrinkled his
nose when he laughed, as a puppy does when he is playfully
growling.  But him, himself, and what he was--she knew nothing, she
had nothing of him when he left her.

On the ninth day after he had left her he received this letter.

Dear Henry,

I have been over it all again in my mind, this business of me and
you, and it seems to me impossible.  When you aren't there I see
what a fool I am.  When you are there you seem to blind me to
things as they actually are.  You make me see things all unreal,
and I don't know what.  Then when I am along again with Jill I seem
to come to my own senses and realise what a fool I am making of
myself, and how I am treating you unfairly.  Because it must be
unfair to you for me to go on with this affair when I can't feel in
my heart that I really love you.  I know people talk a lot of stuff
and nonsense about love, and I don't want to do that.  I want to
keep to plain facts and act in a sensible way.  And that seems to
me what I'm not doing.  I don't see on what grounds I am going to
marry you.  I know I am not head over heels in love with you, as I
have fancied myself to be with fellows when I was a young fool of a
girl.  You are an absolute stranger to me, and it seems to me you
will always be one.  So on what grounds am I going to marry you?
When I think of Jill, she is ten times more real to me.  I know her
and I'm awfully fond of her, and I hate myself for a beast if I
ever hurt her little finger.  We have a life together.  And even if
it can't last for ever, it is a life while it does last.  And it
might last as long as either of us lives.  Who knows how long we've
got to live?  She is a delicate little thing, perhaps nobody but me
knows how delicate.  And as for me, I feel I might fall down the
well any day.  What I don't seem to see at all is you.  When I
think of what I've been and what I've done with you, I'm afraid I
am a few screws loose.  I should be sorry to think that softening
of the brain is setting in so soon, but that is what it seems like.
You are such an absolute stranger, and so different from what I'm
used to, and we don't seem to have a thing in common.  As for love,
the very word seems impossible.  I know what love means even in
Jill's case, and I know that in this affair with you it's an
absolute impossibility.  And then going to Canada.  I'm sure I must
have been clean off my chump when I promised such a thing.  It
makes me feel fairly frightened of myself.  I feel I might do
something really silly that I wasn't responsible for--and end my
days in a lunatic asylum.  You may think that's all I'm fit for
after the way I've gone on, but it isn't a very nice thought for
me.  Thank goodness Jill is here, and her being here makes me feel
sane again, else I don't know what I might do; I might have an
accident with the gun one evening.  I love Jill, and she makes me
feel safe and sane, with her loving anger against me for being such
a fool.  Well, what I want to say is, won't you let us cry the
whole thing off?  I can't marry you, and really, I won't do such a
thing if it seems to me wrong.  It is all a great mistake.  I've
made a complete fool of myself, and all I can do is to apologise to
you and ask you please to forget it, and please to take no further
notice of me.  Your fox-skin is nearly ready, and seems all right,
I will post it to you if you will let me know if this address is
still right, and if you will accept my apology for the awful and
lunatic way I have behaved with you, and then let the matter rest.

Jill sends her kindest regards.  Her mother and father are staying
with us over Christmas,

Yours very sincerely,


The boy read this letter in camp as he was cleaning his kit.  He
set his teeth, and for a moment went almost pale, yellow round the
eyes with fury.  He said nothing and saw nothing and felt nothing
but a livid rage that was quite unreasoning.  Balked!  Balked
again!  Balked!  He wanted the woman, he had fixed like doom upon
having her.  He felt that was his doom, his destiny, and his
reward, to have this woman.  She was his heaven and hell on earth,
and he would have none elsewhere.  Sightless with rage and thwarted
madness he got through the morning.  Save that in his mind he was
lurking and scheming towards an issue, he would have committed some
insane act.  Deep in himself he felt like roaring and howling and
gnashing his teeth and breaking things.  But he was too
intelligent.  He knew society was on top of him, and he must
scheme.  So with his teeth bitten together, and his nose curiously
slightly lifted, like some creature that is vicious, and his eyes
fixed and staring, he went through the morning's affairs drunk with
anger and suppression.  In his mind was one thing--Banford.  He
took no heed of all March's outpouring: none.  One thorn rankled,
stuck in his mind.  Banford.  In his mind, in his soul, in his
whole being, one thorn rankling to insanity.  And he would have to
get it out.  He would have to get the thorn of Banford out of his
life, if he died for it.

With this one fixed idea in his mind, he went to ask for twenty-
four hours' leave of absence.  He knew it was not due to him.  His
consciousness was supernaturally keen.  He knew where he must go--
he must go to the captain.  But how could he get at the captain?
In that great camp of wooden huts and tents he had no idea where
his captain was.

But he went to the officers' canteen.  There was his captain
standing talking with three other officers.  Henry stood in the
doorway at attention.

'May I speak to Captain Berryman?'  The captain was Cornish like

'What do you want?' called the captain.

'May I speak to you, Captain?'

'What do you want?' replied the captain, not stirring from among
his group of fellow officers.

Henry watched his superior for a minute without speaking.

'You won't refuse me, sir, will you?' he asked gravely.

'It depends what it is.'

'Can I have twenty-four hours' leave?'

'No, you've no business to ask.'

'I know I haven't.  But I must ask you.'

'You've had your answer.'

'Don't send me away, Captain.'

There was something strange about the boy as he stood there so
everlasting in the doorway.  The Cornish captain felt the
strangeness at once, and eyed him shrewdly.

'Why, what's afoot?' he said, curious.

'I'm in trouble about something.  I must go to Blewbury,' said the

'Blewbury, eh?  After the girls?'

'Yes, it is a woman, Captain.'  And the boy, as he stood there with
his head reaching forward a little, went suddenly terribly pale, or
yellow, and his lips seemed to give off pain.  The captain saw and
paled a little also.  He turned aside.

'Go on, then,' he said.  'But for God's sake don't cause any
trouble of any sort.'

'I won't, Captain, thank you.'

He was gone.  The captain, upset, took a gin and bitters.  Henry
managed to hire a bicycle.  It was twelve o'clock when he left the
camp.  He had sixty miles of wet and muddy crossroads to ride.  But
he was in the saddle and down the road without a thought of food.

At the farm, March was busy with a work she had had some time in
hand.  A bunch of Scotch fir trees stood at the end of the open
shed, on a little bank where ran the fence between two of the
gorse-shaggy meadows.  The farthest of these trees was dead--it had
died in the summer, and stood with all its needles brown and sere
in the air.  It was not a very big tree.  And it was absolutely
dead.  So March determined to have it, although they were not
allowed to cut any of the timber.  But it would make such splendid
firing, in these days of scarce fuel.

She had been giving a few stealthy chops at the trunk for a week or
more, every now and then hacking away for five minutes, low down,
near the ground, so no one should notice.  She had not tried the
saw, it was such hard work, alone.  Now the tree stood with a great
yawning gap in his base, perched, as it were, on one sinew, and
ready to fall.  But he did not fall.

It was late in the damp December afternoon, with cold mists
creeping out of the woods and up the hollows, and darkness waiting
to sink in from above.  There was a bit of yellowness where the sun
was fading away beyond the low woods of the distance.  March took
her axe and went to the tree.  The small thud-thud of her blows
resounded rather ineffectual about the wintry homestead.  Banford
came out wearing her thick coat, but with no hat on her head, so
that her thin, bobbed hair blew on the uneasy wind that sounded in
the pines and in the wood.

'What I'm afraid of,' said Banford, 'is that it will fall on the
shed and we sh'll have another job repairing that.'

'Oh, I don't think so,' said March, straightening herself and
wiping her arm over her hot brow.  She was flushed red, her eyes
were very wide open and queer, her upper lip lifted away from her
two white, front teeth with a curious, almost rabbit look.

A little stout man in a black overcoat and a bowler hat came
pottering across the yard.  He had a pink face and a white beard
and smallish, pale-blue eyes.  He was not very old, but nervy, and
he walked with little short steps.

'What do you think, father?' said Banford.  'Don't you think it
might hit the shed in falling?'

'Shed, no!' said the old man.  'Can't hit the shed.  Might as well
say the fence.'

'The fence doesn't matter,' said March, in her high voice.

'Wrong as usual, am I!' said Banford, wiping her straying hair from
her eyes.

The tree stood as it were on one spelch of itself, leaning, and
creaking in the wind.  It grew on the bank of a little dry ditch
between the two meadows.  On the top of the bank straggled one
fence, running to the bushes up-hill.  Several trees clustered
there in the corner of the field near the shed and near the gate
which led into the yard.  Towards this gate, horizontal across the
weary meadows, came the grassy, rutted approach from the high road.
There trailed another rickety fence, long split poles joining the
short, thick, wide-apart uprights.  The three people stood at the
back of the tree, in the corner of the shed meadow, just above the
yard gate.  The house, with its two gables and its porch, stood
tidy in a little grassed garden across the yard.  A little, stout,
rosy-faced woman in a little red woollen shoulder shawl had come
and taken her stand in the porch.

'Isn't it down yet?' she cried, in a high little voice.

'Just thinking about it,' called her husband.  His tone towards the
two girls was always rather mocking and satirical.  March did not
want to go on with her hitting while he was there.  As for him, he
wouldn't lift a stick from the ground if he could help it,
complaining, like his daughter, of rheumatics in his shoulder.  So
the three stood there a moment silent in the cold afternoon, in the
bottom corner near the yard.

They heard the far-off taps of a gate, and craned to look.  Away
across, on the green horizontal approach, a figure was just
swinging on to a bicycle again, and lurching up and down over the
grass, approaching.

'Why, it's one of our boys--it's Jack,' said the old man.

'Can't be,' said Banford.

March craned her head to look.  She alone recognized the khaki
figure.  She flushed, but said nothing.

'No, it isn't Jack, I don't think,' said the old man, staring with
little round blue eyes under his white lashes.

In another moment the bicycle lurched into sight, and the rider
dropped off at the gate.  It was Henry, his face wet and red and
spotted with mud.  He was altogether a muddy sight.

'Oh!' cried Banford, as if afraid.  'Why, it's Henry!'

'What?' muttered the old man.  He had a thick, rapid, muttering way
of speaking, and was slightly deaf.  'What?  What?  Who is it?  Who
is it, do you say?  That young fellow?  That young fellow of
Nellie's?  Oh!  Oh!'  And the satiric smile came on his pink face
and white eyelashes.

Henry, pushing the wet hair off his steaming brow, had caught sight
of them and heard what the old man said.  His hot, young face
seemed to flame in the cold light.

'Oh, are you all there!' he said, giving his sudden, puppy's little
laugh.  He was so hot and dazed with cycling he hardly knew where
he was.  He leaned the bicycle against the fence and climbed over
into the corner on to the bank, without going into the yard.

'Well, I must say, we weren't expecting YOU,' said Banford

'No, I suppose not,' said he, looking at March.

She stood aside, slack, with one knee drooped and the axe resting
its head loosely on the ground.  Her eyes were wide and vacant, and
her upper lip lifted from her teeth in that helpless, fascinated
rabbit look.  The moment she saw his glowing, red face it was all
over with her.  She was as helpless as if she had been bound.  The
moment she saw the way his head seemed to reach forward.

'Well, who is it?  Who is it, anyway?' asked the smiling, satiric
old man in his muttering voice.

'Why, Mr Grenfel, whom you've heard us tell about, father,' said
Banford coldly.

'Heard you tell about, I should think so.  Heard of nothing else
practically,' muttered the elderly man, with his queer little
jeering smile on his face.  'How do you do,' he added, suddenly
reaching out his hand to Henry.

The boy shook hands just as startled.  Then the two men fell apart.

'Cycled over from Salisbury Plain, have you?' asked the old man.


'Hm!  Longish ride.  How long d'it take you, eh?  Some time, eh?
Several hours, I suppose.'

'About four.'

'Eh?  Four!  Yes, I should have thought so.  When are you going
back, then?'

'I've got till tomorrow evening.'

'Till tomorrow evening, eh?  Yes.  Hm!  Girls weren't expecting
you, were they?'

And the old man turned his pale-blue, round little eyes under their
white lashes mockingly towards the girls.  Henry also looked round.
He had become a little awkward.  He looked at March, who was still
staring away into the distance as if to see where the cattle were.
Her hand was on the pommel of the axe, whose head rested loosely on
the ground.

'What were you doing there?' he asked in his soft, courteous voice.
'Cutting a tree down?'

March seemed not to hear, as if in a trance.

'Yes,' said Banford.  'We've been at it for over a week.'

'Oh!  And have you done it all by yourselves then?'

'Nellie's done it all, I've done nothing,' said Banford.

'Really!  You must have worked quite hard,' he said, addressing
himself in a curious gentle tone direct to March.  She did not
answer, but remained half averted staring away towards the woods
above as if in a trance.

'NELLIE!' cried Banford sharply.  'Can't you answer?'

'What--me?' cried March, starting round and looking from one to the
other.  'Did anyone speak to me?'

'Dreaming!' muttered the old man, turning aside to smile.  'Must be
in love, eh, dreaming in the daytime!'

'Did you say anything to me?' said March, looking at the boy as
from a strange distance, her eyes wide and doubtful, her face
delicately flushed.

'I said you must have worked hard at the tree,' he replied

'Oh, that!  Bit by bit.  I thought it would have come down by now.'

'I'm thankful it hasn't come down in the night, to frighten us to
death,' said Banford.

'Let me just finish it for you, shall I?' said the boy.

March slanted the axe-shaft in his direction.

'Would you like to?' she said.

'Yes, if you wish it,' he said.

'Oh, I'm thankful when the thing's down, that's all,' she replied,

'Which way is it going to fall?' said Banford.  'Will it hit the

'No, it won't hit the shed,' he said.  'I should think it will fall
there--quite clear.  Though it might give a twist and catch the

'Catch the fence!' cried the old man.  'What, catch the fence!
When it's leaning at that angle?  Why, it's farther off than the
shed.  It won't catch the fence.'

'No,' said Henry, 'I don't suppose it will.  It has plenty of room
to fall quite clear, and I suppose it will fall clear.'

'Won't tumble backwards on top of US, will it?' asked the old man,

'No, it won't do that,' said Henry, taking off his short overcoat
and his tunic.  'Ducks!  Ducks!  Go back!'

A line of four brown-speckled ducks led by a brown-and-green drake
were stemming away downhill from the upper meadow, coming like
boats running on a ruffled sea, cockling their way top speed
downwards towards the fence and towards the little group of people,
and cackling as excitedly as if they brought news of the Spanish

'Silly things!  Silly things!' cried Banford, going forward to turn
them off.  But they came eagerly towards her, opening their yellow-
green beaks and quacking as if they were so excited to say

'There's no food.  There's nothing here.  You must wait a bit,'
said Banford to them.  'Go away.  Go away.  Go round to the yard.'

They didn't go, so she climbed the fence to swerve them round under
the gate and into the yard.  So off they waggled in an excited
string once more, wagging their rumps like the stems of little
gondolas, ducking under the bar of the gate.  Banford stood on the
top of the bank, just over the fence, looking down on the other

Henry looked up at her, and met her queer, round-pupilled, weak
eyes staring behind her spectacles.  He was perfectly still.  He
looked away, up at the weak, leaning tree.  And as he looked into
the sky, like a huntsman who is watching a flying bird, he thought
to himself:  'If the tree falls in just such a way, and spins just
so much as it falls, then the branch there will strike her exactly
as she stands on top of that bank.'

He looked at her again.  She was wiping the hair from her brow
again, with that perpetual gesture.  In his heart he had decided
her death.  A terrible still force seemed in him, and a power that
was just his.  If he turned even a hair's breadth in the wrong
direction, he would lose the power.

'Mind yourself, Miss Banford,' he said.  And his heart held
perfectly still, in the terrible pure will that she should not

'Who, me, mind myself?' she cried, her father's jeering tone in her
voice.  'Why, do you think you might hit me with the axe?'

'No, it's just possible the tree might, though,' he answered
soberly.  But the tone of his voice seemed to her to imply that he
was only being falsely solicitous, and trying to make her move
because it was his will to move her.

'Absolutely impossible,' she said.

He heard her.  But he held himself icy still, lest he should lose
his power.

'No, it's just possible.  You'd better come down this way.'

'Oh, all right.  Let us see some crack Canadian tree-felling,' she

'Ready, then,' he said, taking the axe, looking round to see he was

There was a moment of pure, motionless suspense, when the world
seemed to stand still.  Then suddenly his form seemed to flash up
enormously tall and fearful, he gave two swift, flashing blows, in
immediate succession, the tree was severed, turning slowly,
spinning strangely in the air and coming down like a sudden
darkness on the earth.  No one saw what was happening except
himself.  No one heard the strange little cry which the Banford
gave as the dark end of the bough swooped down, down on her.  No
one saw her crouch a little and receive the blow on the back of the
neck.  No one saw her flung outwards and laid, a little twitching
heap, at the foot of the fence.  No one except the boy.  And he
watched with intense bright eyes, as he would watch a wild goose he
had shot.  Was it winged or dead?  Dead!

Immediately he gave a loud cry.  Immediately March gave a wild
shriek that went far, far down the afternoon.  And the father
started a strange bellowing sound.

The boy leapt the fence and ran to the fringe.  The back of the
neck and head was a mass of blood, of horror.  He turned it over.
The body was quivering with little convulsions.  But she was dead
really.  He knew it, that it was so.  He knew it in his soul and
his blood.  The inner necessity of his life was fulfilling itself,
it was he who was to live.  The thorn was drawn out of his bowels.
So he put her down gently.  She was dead.

He stood up.  March was standing there petrified and absolutely
motionless.  Her face was dead white, her eyes big black pools.
The old man was scrambling horribly over the fence.

'I'm afraid it's killed her,' said the boy.

The old man was making curious, blubbering noises as he huddled
over the fence.  'What!' cried March, starting electric.

'Yes, I'm afraid,' repeated the boy.

March was coming forward.  The boy was over the fence before she
reached it.

'What do you say, killed her?' she asked in a sharp voice.

'I'm afraid so,' he answered softly.

She went still whiter, fearful.  The two stood facing one another.
Her black eyes gazed on him with the last look of resistance.  And
then in a last agonized failure she began to grizzle, to cry in a
shivery little fashion of a child that doesn't want to cry, but
which is beaten from within, and gives that little first shudder of
sobbing which is not yet weeping, dry and fearful.

He had won.  She stood there absolutely helpless, shuddering her
dry sobs and her mouth trembling rapidly.  And then, as in a child,
with a little crash came the tears and the blind agony of sightless
weeping.  She sank down on the grass, and sat there with her hands
on her breast and her face lifted in sightless, convulsed weeping.
He stood above her, looking down on her, mute, pale, and
everlasting seeming.  He never moved, but looked down on her.  And
among all the torture of the scene, the torture of his own heart
and bowels, he was glad, he had won.

After a long time he stooped to her and took her hands.

'Don't cry,' he said softly.  'Don't cry.'

She looked up at him with tears running from her eyes, a senseless
look of helplessness and submission.  So she gazed on him as if
sightless, yet looking up to him.  She would never leave him again.
He had won her.  And he knew it and was glad, because he wanted her
for his life.  His life must have her.  And now he had won her.  It
was what his life must have.

But if he had won her, he had not yet got her.  They were married
at Christmas as he had planned, and he got again ten days' leave.
They went to Cornwall, to his own village, on the sea.  He realized
that it was awful for her to be at the farm any more.

But though she belonged to him, though she lived in his shadow, as
if she could not be away from him, she was not happy.  She did not
want to leave him: and yet she did not feel free with him.
Everything round her seemed to watch her, seemed to press on her.
He had won her, he had her with him, she was his wife.  And she--
she belonged to him, she knew it.  But she was not glad.  And he
was still foiled.  He realized that though he was married to her
and possessed her in every possible way, apparently, and though she
WANTED him to possess her, she wanted it, she wanted nothing else,
now, still he did not quite succeed.

Something was missing.  Instead of her soul swaying with new life,
it seemed to droop, to bleed, as if it were wounded.  She would sit
for a long time with her hand in his, looking away at the sea.  And
in her dark, vacant eyes was a sort of wound, and her face looked a
little peaked.  If he spoke to her, she would turn to him with a
faint new smile, the strange, quivering little smile of a woman who
has died in the old way of love, and can't quite rise to the new
way.  She still felt she ought to DO something, to strain herself
in some direction.  And there was nothing to do, and no direction
in which to strain herself.  And she could not quite accept the
submergence which his new love put upon her.  If she was in love,
she ought to EXERT herself, in some way, loving.  She felt the
weary need of our day to EXERT herself in love.  But she knew that
in fact she must no more exert herself in love.  He would not have
the love which exerted itself towards him.  It made his brow go
black.  No, he wouldn't let her exert her love towards him.  No,
she had to be passive, to acquiesce, and to be submerged under the
surface of love.  She had to be like the seaweeds she saw as she
peered down from the boat, swaying forever delicately under water,
with all their delicate fibrils put tenderly out upon the flood,
sensitive, utterly sensitive and receptive within the shadowy sea,
and never, never rising and looking forth above water while they
lived.  Never.  Never looking forth from the water until they died,
only then washing, corpses, upon the surface.  But while they
lived, always submerged, always beneath the wave.  Beneath the wave
they might have powerful roots, stronger than iron; they might be
tenacious and dangerous in their soft waving within the flood.
Beneath the water they might be stronger, more indestructible than
resistant oak trees are on land.  But it was always under-water,
always under-water.  And she, being a woman, must be like that.

And she had been so used to the very opposite.  She had had to take
all the thought for love and for life, and all the responsibility.
Day after day she had been responsible for the coming day, for the
coming year: for her dear Jill's health and happiness and well-
being.  Verily, in her own small way, she had felt herself
responsible for the well-being of the world.  And this had been her
great stimulant, this grand feeling that, in her own small sphere,
she was responsible for the well-being of the world.

And she had failed.  She knew that, even in her small way, she had
failed.  She had failed to satisfy her own feeling of responsibility.
It was so difficult.  It seemed so grand and easy at first.  And the
more you tried, the more difficult it became.  It had seemed so easy
to make one beloved creature happy.  And the more you tried, the
worse the failure.  It was terrible.  She had been all her life
reaching, reaching, and what she reached for seemed so near, until
she had stretched to her utmost limit.  And then it was always
beyond her.

Always beyond her, vaguely, unrealizably beyond her, and she was
left with nothingness at last.  The life she reached for, the
happiness she reached for, the well-being she reached for all
slipped back, became unreal, the farther she stretched her hand.
She wanted some goal, some finality--and there was none.  Always
this ghastly reaching, reaching, striving for something that might
be just beyond.  Even to make Jill happy.  She was glad Jill was
dead.  For she had realized that she could never make her happy.
Jill would always be fretting herself thinner and thinner, weaker
and weaker.  Her pains grew worse instead of less.  It would be so
for ever.  She was glad she was dead.

And if Jill had married a man it would have been just the same.
The woman striving, striving to make the man happy, striving within
her own limits for the well-being of her world.  And always
achieving failure.  Little, foolish successes in money or in
ambition.  But at the very point where she most wanted success, in
the anguished effort to make some one beloved human being happy and
perfect, there the failure was almost catastrophic.  You wanted to
make your beloved happy, and his happiness seemed always achievable.
If only you did just this, that, and the other.  And you did this,
that, and the other, in all good faith, and every time the failure
became a little more ghastly.  You could love yourself to ribbons
and strive and strain yourself to the bone, and things would go from
bad to worse, bad to worse, as far as happiness went.  The awful
mistake of happiness.

Poor March, in her good-will and her responsibility, she had
strained herself till it seemed to her that the whole of life and
everything was only a horrible abyss of nothingness.  The more you
reached after the fatal flower of happiness, which trembles so blue
and lovely in a crevice just beyond your grasp, the more fearfully
you became aware of the ghastly and awful gulf of the precipice
below you, into which you will inevitably plunge, as into the
bottomless pit, if you reach any farther.  You pluck flower after
flower--it is never THE flower.  The flower itself--its calyx is a
horrible gulf, it is the bottomless pit.

That is the whole history of the search for happiness, whether it
be your own or somebody else's that you want to win.  It ends, and
it always ends, in the ghastly sense of the bottomless nothingness
into which you will inevitably fall if you strain any farther.

And women?--what goal can any woman conceive, except happiness?
Just happiness for herself and the whole world.  That, and nothing
else.  And so, she assumes the responsibility and sets off towards
her goal.  She can see it there, at the foot of the rainbow.  Or
she can see it a little way beyond, in the blue distance.  Not far,
not far.

But the end of the rainbow is a bottomless gulf down which you can
fall forever without arriving, and the blue distance is a void pit
which can swallow you and all your efforts into its emptiness, and
still be no emptier.  You and all your efforts.  So, the illusion
of attainable happiness!

Poor March, she had set off so wonderfully towards the blue goal.
And the farther and farther she had gone, the more fearful had
become the realization of emptiness.  An agony, an insanity at

She was glad it was over.  She was glad to sit on the shore and
look westwards over the sea, and know the great strain had ended.
She would never strain for love and happiness any more.  And Jill
was safely dead.  Poor Jill, poor Jill.  It must be sweet to be

For her own part, death was not her destiny.  She would have to
leave her destiny to the boy.  But then, the boy.  He wanted more
than that.  He wanted her to give herself without defences, to sink
and become submerged in him.  And she--she wanted to sit still,
like a woman on the last milestone, and watch.  She wanted to see,
to know, to understand.  She wanted to be alone: with him at her

And he!  He did not want her to watch any more, to see any more, to
understand any more.  He wanted to veil her woman's spirit, as
Orientals veil the woman's face.  He wanted her to commit herself
to him, and to put her independent spirit to sleep.  He wanted to
take away from her all her effort, all that seemed her very raison
d'etre.  He wanted to make her submit, yield, blindly pass away out
of all her strenuous consciousness.  He wanted to take away her
consciousness, and make her just his woman.  Just his woman.

And she was so tired, so tired, like a child that wants to go to
sleep, but which fights against sleep as if sleep were death.  She
seemed to stretch her eyes wider in the obstinate effort and
tension of keeping awake.  She WOULD keep awake.  She WOULD know.
She WOULD consider and judge and decide.  She would have the reins
of her own life between her own hands.  She WOULD be an independent
woman to the last.  But she was so tired, so tired of everything.
And sleep seemed near.  And there was such rest in the boy.

Yet there, sitting in a niche of the high, wild, cliffs of West
Cornwall, looking over the westward sea, she stretched her eyes
wider and wider.  Away to the West, Canada, America.  She WOULD
know and she WOULD see what was ahead.  And the boy, sitting beside
her, staring down at the gulls, had a cloud between his brows and
the strain of discontent in his eyes.  He wanted her asleep, at
peace in him.  He wanted her at peace asleep in him.  And THERE she
was, dying with the strain of her own wakefulness.  Yet she would
not sleep: no, never.  Sometimes he thought bitterly that he ought
to have left her.  He ought never to have killed Banford.  He
should have left Banford and March to kill one another.

But that was only impatience: and he knew it.  He was waiting,
waiting to go West.  He was aching almost in torment to leave
England, to go West, to take March away.  To leave this shore!  He
believed that as they crossed the seas, as they left this England
which he so hated, because in some way it seemed to have stung him
with poison, she would go to sleep.  She would close her eyes at
last and give in to him.

And then he would have her, and he would have his own life at last.
He chafed, feeling he hadn't got his own life.  He would never have
it till she yielded and slept in him.  Then he would have all his
own life as a young man and a male, and she would have all her own
life as a woman and a female.  There would be no more of this awful
straining.  She would not be a man any more, an independent woman
with a man's responsibility.  Nay, even the responsibility for her
own soul she would have to commit to him.  He knew it was so, and
obstinately held out against her, waiting for the surrender.

'You'll feel better when once we get over the seas to Canada over
there,' he said to her as they sat among the rocks on the cliff.

She looked away to the sea's horizon, as if it were not real.  Then
she looked round at him, with the strained, strange look of a child
that is struggling against sleep.

'Shall I?' she said.

'Yes,' he answered quietly.

And her eyelids dropped with the slow motion, sleep weighing them
unconscious.  But she pulled them open again to say:

'Yes, I may.  I can't tell.  I can't tell what it will be like over

'If only we could go soon!' he said, with pain in his voice.


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