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Title:      All Hallows' Eve (1914)
Author:     Charles Williams
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Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          January 2004
Date most recently updated: January 2004

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      All Hallows' Eve (1914)
Author:     Charles Williams





CONTENTS

I. THE NEW LIFE

II. THE BEETLES

III. CLERK SIMON

IV. THE DREAM

V. THE HALL BY HOLBORN

VI. THE WISE WATER

VII THE MAGICAL SACRIFICE

VIII. THE MAGICAL CREATION

IX. TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS

X. THE ACTS OF THE CITY



                            Chapter One

                           THE NEW LIFE

She was standing on Westminster Bridge. It was twilight, but the City
was no longer dark. The street lamps along the Embankment were still
dimmed, but in the buildings shutters and blinds and curtains had been
removed or left undrawn, and the lights were coming out there like the
first faint stars above. Those lights were the peace. It was true that
formal peace was not yet in being; all that had happened was that
fighting had ceased. The enemy, as enemy, no longer existed, and one
more crisis of agony was done. Labour, intelligence, patience-much need
for these; and much certainty of boredom and suffering and misery, but
no longer the sick vigils and daily despair.

Lester Furnival stood and. looked at the City while the twilight
deepened. The devastated areas were hidden; much was to be done but
could be. In the distance she could hear an occasional plane. Its sound
gave her a greater sense of relief than the silence. It was precisely
not dangerous; it promised a truer safety than all the squadrons of
fighters and bombers had held. Something was ended, and those remote
engines told her so. The moon was not yet risen; the river was dark
below. She put her hand on the parapet and looked at it; it should make
no more bandages if she could help it. It was not a bad hand, though it
was neither so clean nor so smooth as it had been years ago, before the
war. It was twenty-five now, and to her that seemed a great age. She
went on looking at it for a long while; in the silence and the peace,
until it occurred to her that the silence was very prolonged, except for
that recurrent solitary plane. No one, all the time she had been
standing there, had crossed the bridge; no voice, no step, no car had
sounded in the deepening night.

She took her hand off the wall, and turned. The bridge was as empty as
the river; no vehicles or pedestrians here, no craft there. In all that
City she might have been the only living thing. She had been so
impressed by the sense of security and peace while she had been looking
down at the river that only now did she begin to try and remember why
she was there on the bridge. There was a confused sense in her mind that
she was on her way somewhere; she was either going to or coming from her
own flat. It might have been to meet Richard, though she had an idea
that Richard, or someone with Richard, had told her not to come. But she
could not think of anyone, except Richard, who was at all likely to do
so, and anyhow she knew she had been determined to come. It was all
mixed up with that crash which had put everything out of her head; and
as she lifted her eyes, she saw beyond the Houses and the Abbey the
cause of the crash, the plane lying half in the river and half on the
Embankment. She looked at it with a sense of its importance to her, but
she could not tell why it should seem so important. Her only immediate
concern with it seemed to be that it might have blocked the direct road
home to her flat, which lay beyond Millbank and was where Richard was or
would be and her own chief affairs. She thought of it with pleasure; it
was reasonably new and fresh, and they had been lucky to get it when
Richard and she had been married yesterday. At least-yesterday? well,
not yesterday but not very much longer than yesterday, only the other
day. It had been the other day. The word for a moment worried her; it
had been indeed another, a separate, day. She felt as if she had almost
lost her memory of it, yet she knew she had not. She had been married,
and to Richard.

The plane, in the thickening darkness, was now but a thicker darkness,
and distinguishable only because her eyes were still fixed on it. If she
moved she would lose it. If she lost it, she would be left in the midst
of this-this lull. She knew the sudden London lulls well enough, but
this lull was lasting absurdly long. All the lulls she had ever known
were not as deep as this, in which there seemed no movement at all, if
the gentle agitation of the now visible stars were less than movement,
or the steady flow of the river beneath her; she had at least seen that
flowing-or had she? was that also still? She was alone with this night
in the City-a night of peace and lights and stars, and of bridges and
streets she knew, but all in a silence she did not know, so that if she
yielded to the silence she would not know those other things, and the
whole place would be different and dreadful.

She stood up from the parapet against which she had been leaning, and
shook herself impatiently. "I'm moithering," she said in a word she had
picked up from a Red Cross companion, and took a step forward. If she
could not get directly along Millbank, she must go round. Fortunately
the City was at least partially lit now. The lights in the houses shone
out, and by them she could see more clearly than in the bad old days.
Also she could see into them; and somewhere in her there was a small
desire to see someone-a woman reading, children playing, a man listening
to the wireless; something of that humanity which must be near, but of
which on that lonely bridge she could feel nothing. She turned her face
towards Westminster and began to walk.

She had hardly taken a dozen steps when she stopped. In the first
moment, she thought it was only the echo of her own steps that she
heard, but immediately she knew it was not. Someone else, at last, was
there; someone else was coming, and comipg quickly. Her heart leapt and
subsided; the sound at once delighted and frightened her. But she grew
angry with this sort of dallying, this over-consciousness of sensation.
It was more like Richard than herself. Richard could be aware of
sensation so and yet take it in its stride; it was apt to distract her.
She had admired him for it, and still did; only now she was a little
envious and irritated. She blamed Richard for her own incapacity. She
had paused, and before she could go on she knew the steps. They were
his. Six months of marriage had not dulled the recognition; she knew the
true time of it at once. It was Richard himself coming.   She went
quickly on.

In a few moments she saw him; her eyes as well as her ears recognized
him. Her relief increased her anger. Why had he let her in for this
inconvenience? had they arranged to meet? if so, why had he not been
there? why had she been kept waiting? and what had she been doing while
she had been kepThe lingering? lack of memory drove her on and increased
her irritation. He was coming. His fair bare head shone darkgold under a
farther street lamp; under the nearer they came face to face.

He stopped dead as he saw her, and his face went white. Then he sprang
towards her. She threw up her hand as if to keep him off. She said, with
a coldness against her deeper will, but she could not help it: "Where
have you been? what have you been doing? I've been waiting."

He said: "How did you get out? what do you mean waiting?"

The question startled her. She stared at him. His own gaze was troubled
and almost inimical; there was something in him which scared her more.
She wondered if she were going to faint, for he seemed almost to float
before her in the air and to be far away. She said: "What do you mean?
Where are you going? Richard!"

For he was going-in another sense. Her hand still raised, in that
repelling gesture, she saw him move backwards, uncertainly, out of the
range of that dimmed light. She went after him; he should not evade her.
She was almost up to him, and she saw him throw out his hands towards
her. She caught them; she knew she caught them, for she could see them
in her own, but she could not feel them. They were terrifying, and he
was terrifying. She brought her hands against her breast, and they grew
fixed there, as, wide-eyed with anger and fear, she watched him
disappearing before her. As if he were a ghost he faded; and with him
faded all the pleasant human soundsfeet, voices, bells, engines, wheels-
which now she knew that, while she had talked to him, she had again
clearly heard. He had gone; all was silent. She choked on his name; it
did not recall him. He had vanished, and she stood once more alone.

She could not tell how long she stood there, shocked and impotent to
move. Her fear was at first part of her rage, but presently it separated
itself, and was cold in her, and became a single definite thought. When
at last she could move, could step again to the parapet and lean against
it and rest her hands on it, the thought possessed her with its
desolation. It dominated everything-anger and perplexity and the
silence; it was in a word-"Dead," she thought, "dead." He could not
otherwise have gone; never in all their quarrels had he gone or she;
that certainty had allowed them a licence they dared not otherwise have
risked. She began to cry-unusually, helplessly, stupidly. She felt the
tears on her face and peered at the parapet for her handbag and a
handkerchief, since now she could not-O despair!-borrow his, as with her
most blasting taunts she ad sometimes done. It was not on the parapet.
She took a step or two away, brushed with her hand the tears from her
eyes, and looked about the pavement. It was not on the pavement. She was
crying in the street and she had neither handkerchief nor powder. This
was what happened when Richard was gone, was dead. He must be dead; how
else could he be gone? how else could she be there, and so?

Dead, and she had done it once too often. Dead, and this had been their
parting. Dead; her misery swamped her penitence. They had told each
other it made no difference, and now it had made this. They had
reassured each other in their reconciliations, for though they had been
fools and quick-tempered, high egotists and bitter of tongue, they had
been much in love and they had been but fighting their way. But she felt
her own inner mind had always foreboded this. Dead; separate; for ever
separate. It did not, in that separation, much matter who was dead. If
it had been she-

She. On the instant she knew it. The word still meant to her so much
only this separation that the knowledge did not at first surprise her.
One of them was; she was. Very well; she was. But then-she was. On that
apparent bridge, beneath those apparent stars, she stood up and knew it.
Her tears stopped and dried; she felt the stiffness and the stains on
her apparent flesh. She did not now doubt the fact and was still not
surprised. She remembered what had happened-herself setting out to meet
Evelyn at the Tube, and instead coming across her just over there, and
their stopping. And then the sudden loud noise, the shrieks, the violent
pain. The plane had crashed on them. She had then, or very soon after,
become what she now was.

She was no longer crying; her misery had frozen. The separation she
endured was deeper than even she had believed. She had seen Richard for
the last time, for now she herself was away, away beyond him. She was
entirely cut off; she was dead. It was now a more foreign word than it
had ever been and it meant this. She could perhaps, if it was he who had
been dead, have gone to him; now she could not. She could never get back
to him, and he would never come to her. He could not: she had thrown him
away. It was all quite proper; quite inevitable. She had pushed him
away, and there was an end to Richard. But there was no end to her.

Never in her life had she contemplated so final an end which was no end.
All change had carried on some kind of memory which was encouragement.
She had not always supposed it to be so; she had told herself, when she
left school, when she was married, that she was facing a new life. But
she had, on the whole, been fortunate in her passage, and some
pleasantness in her past had always offered her a promise in the future.
This however was a quite new life. Her good fortune had preserved her
from any experience of that state which is-almost adequately-called
"death-in-life"; it had consequently little prepared her for this life-
in-death. Her heart had not fallen ever, ever-through an unfathomed
emptiness, supported only on the fluttering wings of every-day life; and
not even realizing that it was so supported. She was a quite ordinary,
and rather lucky, girl, and she was dead.

Only the City lay silently around her; only the river flowed below, and
the stars flickered above, and in the houses lights shone. It occurred
to her presently to wonder vaguely-as in hopeless affliction men do
wonder-why the lights were shining. If the City were as empty as it
seemed, if there were no companion anywhere, why the lights? She gazed
at them, and the wonder flickered and went away, and after a while
returned and presently went away again, and so on for a long time. She
remained standing there, for though she had been a reasonably
intelligent and forceful creature, she had never in fact had to display
any initiative-much less such initiative as was needed here. She had
never much thought about death; she had never prepared for it; she had
never related anything to it; She had nothing whatever to do with it, or
(therefore) in it. As it seemed to have nothing to offer her except this
wide prospect of London, she remained helpless. She knew it was a wide
prospect, for after she had remained for a great while in the dark it
had grown slowly light again. A kind of pale October day had dawned, and
the lights in the apparent houses had gone out; and then it had once
more grown dark, and they had shone-and so on-twenty or thirty times.
There had been no sun. During the day she saw the River and the City;
during the night, the stars. Nothing else.

Why at last she began to move she could not have said. She was not
hungry or thirsty or cold or tired-well, perhaps a little cold and
tired, but only a little, and certainly not hungry or thirsty. But if
Richard, in this new sense, were not coming, it presently seemed to her
useless to wait. But besides Richard, the only thing in which she had
been interested had been the apparatus of mortal life; not people-she
had not cared for people particularly, except perhaps Evelyn; she was
sincerely used to Evelyn, whom she had known at school and since; but
apart from Evelyn, not people-only the things they used and lived in,
houses, dresses, furniture, gadgets of all kinds. That was what she had
liked, and (if she wanted it now) that was what she had got. She did
not, of course, know this, and she could not know that it was the
sincerity of her interest that procured her this relaxation in the void.
If Richard had died, this would have remained vivid to her. Since she
was dead, it remained also, though not (stripped of all forms of men and
women) particularly vivid.

She began to walk. It did not much matter which way. Her first conscious
movement-and even that was hardly a movement of volition-was to look
over her shoulder in the seeming daylight to see if the plane were
there. It was, though dimmer and smaller, as if it were fading. Would
the whole City gradually fade and leave her to emptiness? Or would she
too fade? She did not really attempt to grapple with the problem of her
seeming body; death did not offer her problems of that sort. Her body in
life had never been a problem; she had accepted it, inconveniences and
all, as a thing that simply was. Her pride-and she had a good deal of
pride, especially sexual-had kept her from commitments except with
Richard. It was her willingness to commit herself with Richard that made
her believe she (as she called it) loved Richard, though in her bad
moments she definitely wished Richard, in that sense, to love her more
than she loved him. But her bad moments were not many. She really did
want, need, and (so far) love Richard. Her lack and longing and despair
and self-blame were sincere enough, and they did not surprise her. It
had been plain honest passion, and plain honest passion it remained. But
now the passion more and more took the form of one thought; she had done
it again, she had done it once too often, and this was the unalterable
result.

She began to walk. She went up northward. That was instinct; she at
least knew that part of London. Up from the bridge, up Whitehall-no-one.
Into Trafalgar Square-noone. In the shops, in the offices-no-one. They
were all full and furnished with everything but man. At moments, as she
walked, a horrible fancy took her that those at which she was not, at
the moment, looking were completely empty; that everything was but a
facade, with nothing at all behind it; that if she had walked straight
through one of those shops, she would come out into entire nothing. It
was a creeping sensation of the void; she herself could not have put it
into words. But there the suspicion was.

She came to the bottom of Charing Cross Road, and began to go up it. In
front of her she saw the curtains of brick that hid the entrances to
Leicester Square Tube Station. By one of them, on the opposite side of
the road, someone was standing. She was still not conscious of any shock
of surprise or of fear or even of relief. Her emotions were not in
action. There had been no-one; there was now someone. It was not
Richard; it was another young woman. She crossed the road towards the
unknown; it seemed the thing to do. Unknown? not unknown. It was-and now
she did feel a faint surprise-it was Evelyn. In the sudden recollection
of having arranged to meet Evelyn there, she almost forgot that she was
dead. But then she remembered that their actual meeting had been
accidental. They had both happened to be on their way to their appointed
place. As she remembered, she felt a sudden renewal of the pain and of
the oblivion. It did not remain. There was nothing to do but go on. She
went on.

The figure of Evelyn moved and came towards her. The sound of her heels
was at first hideously loud on the pavement as she came, but after a
step or two it dwindled to almost nothing. Lester hardly noticed the
noise at the time or its diminution; her sense was in her eyes. She.
absorbed the approaching form as it neared her with a growing intensity
which caused her almost to forget Richard. The second-best was now the
only best. As they drew together, she could not find anything to say
beyond what she had said a hundred times-dull and careless: "O hallo,
Evelyn!" The sound of the words scared her, but much more the immediate
intolerable anxiety about the reply: would it come? It did come. The
shape of her friend said in a shaking voice: "O hallo, Lester!"

They stopped and looked at each other. Lester could not find it possible
to speak of their present state. Evelyn stood before her, a little
shorter than she, with her rather pinched face and quick glancing black
eyes. Her black hair was covered by a small green hat. She wore a green
coat; and her hands were fidgeting with each other. Lester saw at once
that she also was without a handbag. This lack of what, for both of
them, was almost, if not quite, part of their very dress, something
without which they were never seen in public; this loss of handkerchief,
compact, keys, money, letters, left them peculiarly desolate. They had
nothing but themselves and what they wore-no property, no convenience.
Lester felt nervous of the loss of her dress itself; she clutched it
defensively. Without her handbag she was doubly forlorn in this empty
City. But Evelyn was there, and Evelyn was something. They could, each
of them, whatever was to happen, meet it with something human close by.
Poor deserted vagrants as they were, they could at least be companions
in their wanderings.

She said: "So you're here!" and felt a little cheered. Perhaps soon she
would be able to utter the word death. Lester had no lack of courage.
She had always been willing, as it is called, "to face facts"; indeed,
her chief danger had been that, in a life with no particular. crisis and
no particular meaning, she would invent for herself facts to face. She
had the common, vague idea of her age that if your sexual life was all
right you were all right, and she had the common vague idea of all ages
that if you (and your sexual life) were not all right, it was probably
someone else's fault-perhaps undeliberate, but still their fault. Her
irritation with her husband had been much more the result of power
seeking material than mere fretfulness. Her courage and her power, when
she saw Evelyn, stirred; she half-prepared a part for them to play-
frankness, exploration, daring. Oh if it could but have been with
Richard!

Evelyn was speaking. Her quick and yet inaccurate voice rippled in words
and slurred them. She said: "You have been a long time. I quite thought
you wouldn't be coming. I've been waiting-you can't think how long.
Let's go into the Park and sit down."

Lester was about to answer when she was appalled by the mere flat
ordinariness of the words. She had been gripping to herself so long her
final loss of Richard that she had gripped also the new state in which
they were. This talk of sitting down in the Park came over her like a
nightmare, with a nightmare's horror of unreality become actual. She saw
before her the entrance to the station, and she remembered they had
meant to go somewhere by Tube. She began, with an equal idiocy, to say:
"But weren't we-" when Evelyn gripped her arm. Lester disliked being
held; she disliked Evelyn holding her; now she disliked it more than
ever. Her flesh shrank. Her eyes were on the station entrance, and the
repulsion of her flesh spread. There was the entrance; they had meant to
go-yes, but there could not now be any Tube below; or it would be as
empty as the street. A medieval would have feared other things in such a
moment-the way perhaps to the citta dolente, or the people of it, smooth
or hairy, tusked or clawed, malicious or lustful, creeping and
clambering up from the lower depths. She did not think of that, but she
did think of the spaces and what might fill them; what but the dead?
Perhaps-in a flash she saw them-perhaps there the people, the dead
people, of this empty City were; perhaps that was where the whole
population had been lying, waiting for her too, the entrance waiting and
all below the entrance. There were things her courage could not face.
Evelyn's clutch on her arm was light, light out of all proportion to the
fear in Evelyn's eyes, but in her own fear she yielded to it. She
allowed herself to be led away.

They went into the Park; they found a seat; they sat down. Evelyn had
begun to talk, and now she went on. Lester had always known Evelyn
talked a good deal, but she had never listened to more than she chose.
Now she could not help listening, and she had never before heard Evelyn
gabble like this. The voice was small and thin as it usually was, but it
was speedier and much more continuous. It was like a river; no, it was
like something thrown about on a river, twisted and tossed. It had no
pressure; it had no weight. But it went on. She was saying-"that we
wouldn't go to see it to-day, after all. I mean, there aren't many
people about, and I do hate an empty theatre, don't you? Even a cinema.
It always seems different. I hate not being with people. Should we go
and see Betty? I know you don't much care for Betty, or her mother. I
don't like her mother myself, though of course with Betty she must have
had a very difficult time. I wish I could have done more for her, but I
did try. I'm really very fond of Betty, and I've always said that there
was some simple explanation for that odd business with the little German
refugee a year or two ago. Naturally I never said anything to her about
it, because she's almost morbidly shy, isn't she? I did hear that that
painter had been there several times lately; what's his name? Drayton;
he's a friend of your husband, isn't he? but I shouldn't think he-"

Lester said-if she said; she was not certain, but she seemed to say: "Be
quiet, Evelyn."

The voice stopped. Lester knew that she had stopped it. She could not
herself say more. The stillness of the City was immediately present
again, and for a moment she almost regretted her words. But of the two
she knew she preferred the immense, the inimical stillness to that
insensate babble. Death as death was preferable to death mimicking a
foolish life. She sat, almost defiantly, silent; they both sat silent.
Presently Lester heard by her side a small and curious noise. She looked
round. Evelyn was sitting there crying as Lester had cried, the tears
running down her face, and the small noise came from her mouth. She was
shaking all over, and her teeth were knocking together. That was the
noise.

Lester looked at her. Once she would have been impatient or sympathetic.
She felt that, even now, she might be either, but in fact she was
neither. There was Evelyn, crying and chattering; well, there was Evelyn
crying and chattering. It was not a matter that seemed relevant. She
looked away again. They went on sitting.

The first shadow of another night was in the sky. There was never any
sun, so it could not sink. There was a moon, but a moon of some
difference, for it gave no light. It was large and bright and cold, and
it hung in the sky, but there was no moonlight on the ground. The lights
in the houses would come on, and then go out. It was certainly growing
darker. By her side the chattering went on; the crying became more full
of despair. Lester dimly remembered that she would once have been as
irritated by it as all but the truly compassionate always are by misery.
Now she was not. She said nothing; she did nothing. She could not help
being aware of Evelyn, and a slow recollection of her past with Evelyn
forced itself on her mind. She knew she had never really liked Evelyn,
but Evelyn had been a habit, almost a drug, with which she filled spare
hours. Evelyn usually did what Lester wanted. She would talk gossip
which Lester did not quite like to talk, but did rather like to hear
talked, because she could then listen to it while despising it. She kept
Lester up to date in all her less decent curiosities. She came because
she was invited and stayed because she was needed. They went out
together because it suited them; they had been going out that afternoon
because it suited them; and now they were dead and sitting in the Park
because it had suited someone or something else-someone who had let a
weakness into the plane or had not been able to manage the plane, or
perhaps this City of facades which in a mere magnetic emptiness had
drawn them to be there, just there.

Still motionlessly gazing across the darkening Park, Lester thought
again of Richard. If Richard had been in distress by her side-not, of
course, crying and chattering, more likely dumb and rigid-would she have
done anything? She thought probably not. But she might, she certainly
might, have cried to him. She would have expected him to help her. But
she could not think of it; the pang took her too quickly; he was not
there and could not be. Well ... the pang continued, but she was growing
used to it. She knew she would have to get used to it.

The voice by her side spoke again. It said, through its sobs, the sobs
catching and interrupting it: "Lester! Lester, I'm so frightened." And
then again: "Lester, why won't you let me talk?"

Lester began: "Why-" and had to pause, for in the shadow her voice was
dreadful to her. It did not sound like a voice; only like an echo. In
the apparent daylight, it had not been so bad, but in this twilight it
seemed only like something that, if it was happening at all, was
happening elsewhere. It could not hold any meaning, for all meaning had
been left behind; in her flat perhaps which she would never occupy
again; or perhaps with the other dead in the tunnels of the Tube; or
perhaps farther away yet, with, whatever it was that had drawn them
there and would draw them farther; this was only a little way-Oh what
else remained to know?

She paused, but she would not be defeated. She forced herself to speak;
she could and would dare that at least. She said: "Why.... Why do you
want to talk now?"

The other voice said: "I can't help it. It's getting so dark. Let's go
on talking. We can't do anything else."

Lester felt again the small weak hand on her arm, and now she had time
to feel it; nothing else intervened. She hated the contact. Evelyn's
hand might have been the hand of some pleading lover whose touch made
her flesh creep. She had, once or twice in her proud life, been caught
like that; once in a taxi-the present touch brought sharply back that
other clasp, in this very Park on a summer evening. She had only just
not snapped into irritation and resentment then; but in some ways she
had liked the unfortunate man, and they had been dining pleasantly
enough. She had remained kind; she had endured the fingers feeling up
her wrist, her whole body loathing them, until she could with sufficient
decency disengage herself. It was her first conscious recollection of an
incident in her past-that act of pure courtesy, though she did not then
recognize it either as recollection or as a courtesy. Only for a moment
she thought she saw a taxi race through the Park away before her, and
then she thought it could not be and was not. But she stiffened herself
now against her instinctive shrinking, and let her arm lie still, while
the feeble hand clutched and pawed at her.

Her apprehension quickened as she did so. To be what she was, to be in
this state of death, was bad enough, but at the same time to feel the
dead, to endure the clinging of the dead, being dead to know the dead-
the live man in the taxi was far better than this, this that was Evelyn,
the gabbling voice, the chattering teeth, the helpless sobs, the
crawling fingers. But she had gone out with Evelyn much more than with
the man in the taxi; her heart acknowledged a debt. She continued to sit
still. She said in a voice touched by pity if not by compassion: "It's
no good talking, especially like that. Don't you understand?"

Evelyn answered, resentfully choking, but still holding on: "I was only
telling you about Betty, and it's all quite true. And no-one can hear me
except you, so it doesn't matter."

No-one could hear; it was true enough-unless indeed the City heard,
unless the distant faqades, and the nearer fagade of trees and grass,
were listening, unless they had in them just that reality at least, a
capacity to overhear and oversee. The thin nothingness could perhaps
hear and know. Lester felt all about her a strange attention, and Evelyn
herself, as if frightened by her own words, gave a hasty look round, and
then burst again into a hysterical monologue: "Isn't it funny -we're all
alone? We never thought we'd be alone like this, did we? But I only said
what was quite true, even if I do hate Betty. I hate everyone except
you; of course I don't hate you; I'm very fond of you. You won't go
away, will you? It's nearly dark again, and I hate it when it's dark.
You don't know what the dark was like before you came. Why are we here
like this? I haven't done anything. I haven't; I tell you I haven't. I
haven't done anything."

The last word rose like a wail in the night, almost (as in the old
tales) as if a protesting ghost was loosed and fled, in a cry as thin as
its own tenuous wisp of existence, through the irresponsive air of a
dark world, where its own justification was its only, and worst,
accusation. So high and shrill was the wail that Lester felt as though
Evelyn herself must have been torn away and have vanished, but it was
not so. The fingers still clutched her wrist, and Evelyn still sat
there, crying and ejaculating, without strength to cry louder: "I
haven't done anything, anything. I haven't done anything at all."

And what then could be done now? If neither Evelyn nor she herself had
ever of old done anything, what could or should they do now-with nothing
and no-one about them? with only the shell of a City, and they
themselves but shell, and perhaps not even true shell? only a faint
memory and a pang worse than memory? It was too much to bear. As if
provoked by an ancient impetuosity of rage, Lester sprang to her feet;
shell or body, she sprang up, and the motion tore her from the hand that
held her. She took a step away. Better go alone than sit so companioned;
and then as her foot moved to the second step she paused. Evelyn had
wailed again: "Oh don't go! don't go!" Lester felt herself again
thrusting Richard away, and she paused. She looked back over her
shoulder; half in anger and half in pity, in fear and scorn and
tenderness, she looked back. She saw Evelyn, Evelyn instead of Richard.
She stared down at the other girl, and she exclaimed aloud: "Oh my god!"

It was the kind of casual exclamation she and Richard had been in the
habit of throwing about all over the place. It meant nothing; when they
were seriously aggressive or aggrieved, they used language borrowed from
bestiality or hell. She had never thought it meant anything. But in this
air every word meant something, meant itself; and this curious new
exactitude of speech hung there like a strange language, as if she had
sworn in Spanish or Pushtu, and the oath had echoed into an invocation.
Nothing now happened; no-one came; not a quiver disturbed the night, but
for a moment she felt as if someone might come, or perhaps not even
that-no more than a sudden sense that she was listening as if to hear if
it was raining. She was becoming strange to herself; her words, even her
intonations, were foreign. In a foreign land she was speaking a foreign
tongue; she spoke and did not know what she said. Her mouth was uttering
its own habits, but the meaning of those habits was not her own. She did
not recognize what she used. "I haven't done anything.... Oh my God!"
This was how they talked, and it was a great precise prehistoric
language forming itself out of the noises their mouths made. She
articulated the speech of Adam or Seth or Noah, and only dimly
recognized the intelligibility of it. She exclaimed again, despairingly:
"Richard!" and that word she did know. It was the only word common to
her and the City in which she stood. As she spoke, she almost saw his
face, himself saying something, and she thought she would have
understood that meaning, for his face was part of the meaning, as it
always had been, and she had lived with that meaning-loved, desired,
denounced it. Something intelligible and great loomed and was gone. She
was silent. She turned; she said, more gently than she had spoken
before: "Evelyn, let's do something now."

"But I haven't done anything," Evelyn sobbed again. The precise words
sounded round them, and Lester answered their meaning.

"No," she said, "I know. Nor have I-much." She had for six months kept
house for Richard and herself and meant it. She had meant it; quarrels
and bickerings could not alter that; even the throwing it away could not
alter it. She lifted her head; it was as certain as any of the stars now
above her in the sky. For the second time she felt-apart from Evelyn-her
past present with her. The first had been in the sense of that shadowy
taxi racing through the Park, but this was stronger and more fixed. She
lived more easily for that moment. She said again: "Not very much. Let's
go."

"But where can we go?" Evelyn cried. "Where are we? It's so horrible."

Lester looked round her. She saw the stars; she saw the lights; she saw
dim shapes of houses and trees in a landscape which was less familiar
through being so familiar. She could not even yet manage to enunciate to
her companion the word death. The landscape of death lay round them; the
future of death awaited them. Let them go to it; let them do something.
She thought of her own flat and of Richard-no. She did not wish to take
this other Evelyn there; besides, she herself would be, if anything at
all, only a dim shadow to Richard, a hallucination or a troubling
apparition. She could not bear that, if it could be avoided; she could
not bear to be only a terrifying dream. No; they must go elsewhere. She
wondered if Evelyn felt in the same way about her own home. She knew
that Evelyn had continuously snubbed and suppressed her mother, with
whom she lived; once or twice she had herself meant to say something, if
only out of an indifferent superiority. But the indifference had beaten
the superiority. It was now for Evelyn to choose. She said: "Shall we go
to your place?"

Evelyn said shrilly: "No; no. I won't see Mother. I hate Mother."

Lester shrugged. One way and another, they did seem to be rather
vagrants, unfortunate and helpless creatures, with no purpose and no
use. She said: "Well . . . let's go." Evelyn looked up at her. Lester,
with an effort at companionship, tried to smile at her. She did not very
well succeed, but at least Evelyn, slowly and reluctantly, got to her
feet. The lights in the houses had gone out, but a faint clarity was in
the air -perhaps (though it had come quickly) the first suggestion of
the day. Lester knew exactly what she had better do, and with an effort
she did it. She took Evelyn's arm. The two dead girls went together
slowly out of the Park.




                            Chapter Two

                            THE BEETLES

It was a month or so since Lester Furnival had been buried. The plane
crash had been explained and regretted by the authorities. Apologies and
condolences had been sent to Mrs. Furnival's husband and Miss Mercer's
mother. A correspondence on the possibility and propriety of
compensation had taken place in the Press, and a question or two had
been asked in the House. It was explained that nothing could be done,
but that a whole set of new instructions had been issued to everyone
connected with flying, from Air Marshals to factory hands.

The publicity of this discussion was almost a greater shock to Richard
Furnival than his wife's death; or, at least, the one confused the
other. He was just enough to see that, for the sake of the poor, the
Crown ought always at such times to be challenged to extend as a grace
what it refused as a claim. He was even conscious that Lester, if the
circumstances had been reversed, might properly have had no difficulty
in taking what he would have rejected; not that she was less fastidious
or less passionate than he, but it would have seemed to her natural and
proper to spoil those whom he was content to ignore.

The Foreign Office in which through the war he had been serving, pressed
on him prolonged leave. He had been half-inclined to refuse, for he
guessed that, after the first shock, it was not now that his distress
would begin. The most lasting quality of loss is its unexpectedness, No
doubt he would know his own loss in the expected places and times-in
streets and stations, in restaurants and theatres, in their own home. He
expected that. What he also expected, and yet knew he could not by its
nature expect, was his seizure by his    own loss in places uniquely
his-in his office while he read Norwegian minutes, in the Tube while he
read the morning paper, at a bar while he drank with a friend. These
habits     had existed before he had known Lester, but they could not
escape her. She had, remotely but certainly, and without her own
knowledge, overruled all. Her entrance into all was absolute, and
lacking her the entrance of the pain.

He went away; he returned. He went away to spare his office-companions
the slight embarrassment of the sight of him. He returned because he
could not bear to be away. He had not yet taken up his work; in a few
days he would. Meanwhile he determined unexpectedly one afternoon to
call on Jonathan Drayton.

He had known him for a number of years, long before Jonathan became a
well-known painter. He was also a very good painter, though there were
critics who disapproved of -him; they said his colour was too shrill.
But he had been appointed one of the official war-artists, and two of
his paintings-Submarine Submerging and Night Fighters over Paris-were
among the remarkable artistic achievements of the war. He also had been
for some time on leave, in preparation (it was understood) for the grand
meetings after the peace, when he would be expected to produce historic
records of historic occasions. He had been once or twice, a little
before the accident, at the Furnivals' flat, but he had then gone to
Scotland and written to Richard from there. A later postcard had
announced his return.

Richard had come across the card accidentally on this particular
afternoon, and had suddenly made up his mind to go round. Jonathan had
been living, or rather had left his things while he was away, on the top
floor of a building in the City, not far from St. Paul's, one room of
which was sufficiently well-lit to be used as a studio. It was to the
studio that he took Richard after a warm welcome. He was shorter and
stockier than his friend, and he had a gencral habit of leaving Richard
the most comfortable chair and himself sitting on the table. He settled
himself there, and went on: "I've got several things to tell you; at
least, I've got one to tell you and two to show you. If I tell you first
... the fact is I'm practically engaged."

"Splendid!" said Richard. Such thin        s were unlikely to distress
him, as Jonathan guessed; one could not altogether say what might, but
not that. He was quite simply pleased. He said: "Do I know her? and what
do you mean by'practically'?"

"I don't know if you know her," Jonathan said. "She's Betty Wallingford,
the daughter of the Air Marshal. She and her mother are coming here
presently."

"I remember hearing her name," Richard said. "She was a friend of
Lester's-or rather not a friend, but they knew each other some time ago.
But I rather gathered she was ill or something, and her mother didn't
let her go out much."

"That's true enough," Jonathan answered. "It was the Air Marshal who
asked me to dine one night after I'd painted him. He's a nice creature,
though not interesting to paint. Lady Wallingford keeps Betty rather
close, and why I say 'practically' is because, when things came to a
head with Betty the other day, she didn't seem very keen. She didn't
exactly refuse, but she didn't encourage. They're both coming here
presently. Don't go, whatever you do. I've a particular reason for
asking you to stay."

"Have you?" Richard said. "What is it?"

Jonathan nodded at an easel on which was a canvas covered by a cloth.
"That," he said, and looked at his watch. "We've an hour before they
come, and I'd like you to see it first. No; it's not a painting of
Betty, or of her mother. It's something quite different, but it may-I
don't know, but it just may-be a little awkward with Lady Wallingford.
However, there's something else for you to see first-d'you mind? If you
hadn't come along, 1. was going to ring you up. I'm never quite happy
about a thing till you've seen it."

This, as Richard knew, was a little extreme. But it had a basis of
truth, whenjonathan exaggerated, he exaggerated in the grand style. He
never said the same thing to two people; something similar perhaps, but
always distinguished, though occasionally hardly anyone but he could
distinguish the distinction. Richard answered: "I've never known you
take much notice of anything I said. But show it to me all the same,
whatever it is."

"Over here," Jonathan said, and took his friend round to the other side
of the room. A see  'ond easel was standing back to back with the first,
also holding a canvas, but this uncovered. Richard set himself to look
at it.

It was of a part of London after a raid-he thought, of the City proper,
for a shape on the right reminded him dimly of St. Paul's. At the back
were a few houses, but the rest of the painting was of a wide stretch of
desolation. The time was late dawn; the sky was clear; the light came,
it seemed at first, from the yet unrisen sun behind the single group of
houses. The light was the most outstanding thing in the painting;
presently, as Richard looked, it seemed to stand out from the painting,
and almost to dominate the room itself. At least it so governed the
painting that all other details and elements were contained within it.
They floated in that imaginary light as the earth does in the sun's. The
colours were so heightened that they were almost at odds. Richard saw
again what the critics meant when they said that Jonathan Drayton's
paintings "were shrill" or "shrieked", but he saw also that what
prevented this was a certain massiveness. The usual slight distinction
between shape and hue seemed wholly to have vanished. Colour was more
intensely image than it can usually manage to be, even in that art. A
beam of wood painted amber was more than that; it was light which had
become amber in order to become wood. All that massiveness of colour was
led, by delicate gradations almost like the vibrations of light itself,
towards the hidden sun; the eye encountered the gradations in their
outward passage and moved inwards towards their source. It was then that
the style of the painting came fully into its own. The spectator became
convinced that the source, of that light was not only in that hidden
sun; as, localized, it certainly was. "Here lies the east; does not the
day break here?" The day did, but the light did not. The eye, nearing
that particular day, realized that it was leaving the whole fullness of
the light behind. It was everywhere in the painting-- concealed in
houses and in their projected shadows, lying in ambush in the cathedral,
opening in the rubble, vivid in the vividness of the sky. It would
everywhere have burst through, had it not chosen rather to be shaped
into forms, and to restrain and change its greatness in the colours of
those lesser limits. It was universal, and lived.

Richard said at last: "I wish you could have shown the sun."

"Yes?" said Jonathan. "Why?"

"Because then I might have known whether the light's in the sun or the
sun's in the light. For the life of me, I can't be certain. It rather
looks as though, if one could see the sun, it would be a kind of
container... no, as if it would be made of the light as well as
everything else."

"And very agreeable criticism," Jonathan said. "I admit you imply a
whole lot of what I only hope are correct comments on the rest of it.
You approve?"

"It's far and away the best thing you've done," Richard answered. "It's
almost the only thing you've done-now you've done it. It's like a modern
Creation of the World, or at least a Creation of London. How did you
come to do it?"

"Sir Joshua Reynolds", said Jonathan, "once alluded to 'common
observation and a plain understanding' as the source of all art. I
should like to think I agreed with Sir Joshua here."

Richard still contemplated the painting. He said slowly: "You've always
been good at light. I remember how you did the moon in that other thing-
Doves on a Roof, and there was something of it in the Planes and the
Submarine. Of course one rather expects light effects in the sea and the
air, and perhaps one's more startled when the earth becomes like the sea
or the air, But I don't think that counts much. The odd thing is that
you don't at any time lose weight. No-one can say your mass isn't
massive."

"I should hope they couldn't," said Jonathan. "I've no notion of losing
one thing because I've put in another. Now to paint the massiveness of
light-"

"What do you call this?" Richard asked.

"A compromise, I fear," Jonathan answered. "A necessary momentary
compromise, I allow. Richard, you really are a blasted nuisance. I do
wish you wouldn't always be telling me what I ought to do next before
I've been let enjoy what I've done. This, I now see, is compromising
with light by turning it into things. Remains to leave out the things
and get into the light. "

Richard smiled. "What about the immediate future?" he asked. "Do you
propose to turn Churchill into a series of vibrations in pure light?"

Jonathan hummed a little. "At that-" he began and stopped. "No; I'm
babbling. Come and see the other thing, which is different."

He led the way back round the easels. He said: "Have you ever heard of
Father Simon?"

"Have I not?" said Richard. "Is he or is he not in all the papers,
almost as much as the Peace? The Foreign Office has been taking a mild
concern in all these new prophets, including this one. Then there's the
Russian one and the Chinese. You get them at times like these. But they
all seem, from our point of view, quite innocuous. I've not been very
interested myself."

"Nor was I, " said Jonathan, "till I met Lady Wallingford. Since then I
have read of him, listened to him, met him, and now painted him. Lady
Wallingford came across him in America when she was there soon after the
last war, and I gather fell for him then. During this war he became one
of their great religious leaders, and when he came over she was one of-
or rather she was-his reception committee. She's devoted to him; Betty-
not so much, but she goes with her mother." He paused frowning, as if he
were about to make a further remark about Betty and her mother, but he
changed his mind and went on: "Lady Wallingford thought it would be a
privilege for me to paint the Prophet."

Richard said: "Is that what they call him?"

His hand on the covering of the canvas, Jonathan hesitated. "No," he
said, "I don't want to be unfair. No. What she actually calls him is the
Father. I asked her if he was a priest, but she took no notice. He's got
a quite enormous following in America, though here, in spite of the
papers, he's kept himself rather quiet. It's been suggested that he's
the only man to evangelize Germany. It's also been suggested that he and
his opposite numbers in Russia and China shall make a threefold World
Leadership. But so far he's not done or said anything about it. He may
be just waiting. Well, I did the best I could. Here's the result."

He threw the covering back and Richard was confronted with the painting.
It was, at first glance, that of a man preaching. The congregation, of
which there seemed a vast number, had their backs to the spectator. They
were all a little inclined forward, as if (Richard supposed) in the act
of listening, so that they were a mass of slightly curved backs. They
were not in a church; they were not in a room; it was difficult to see
where they were, and Richard did not particularly mind. It was in an
open space somewhere; what he could see of the ground was not unlike the
devastation in the other picture, though more rock-like, more in the
nature of a wilderness than a City. Beyond them, in a kind of rock
pulpit against a great cliff, was the preacher. He seemed to be a
tallish dark man of late middle age, in a habit of some sort. His face,
clean-shaven, heavy, emaciated, was bent a little downward towards his
audience. One hand was stretched out towards them, also a little
downward, but the hand was open and turned palm upward.
Behind him his shadow was thrown on the rock; above, the sky was full of
heavy and rushing cloud.

Richard began to speak, and checked himself. He looked more closely at
the preaching figure, especially at the face. Though the canvas was
large the face inevitably was small, but it was done with care, and as
Richard studied it, the little painted oval began to loom out of the
picture till its downward-leaning weight seemed to dominate and press on
the audience below, and to make all- clouds and crowds and rock-pulpit
greyer and less determined around it. If it was a pulpit; Richard was
not clear whether the figure was casting a shadow on the rock or
emerging from a cleft in the rock. But the face -it was almost as if the
figure had lowered his face to avoid some expression being caught by the
painter, and had failed, for Jonathan had caught it too soon. But what
exactly had Jonathan caught? and why had Jonathan chosen to create
precisely that effect of attempted escape and capture? Richard said at
last: "It's a wonderful effect-especially the colour of the face. I
don't know how you got that dark deadness. But what-" He stopped.

"Richard," Jonathan said accusingly, "you were going to ask what it
meant."

"I don't think I was," Richard answered. "I may have been going to ask
what he meant. I feel as if there was something in him I hadn't grasped.
He's . . ." and again he paused.

"Go on!" Jonathan said. "The ladies won't be here just yet, and you may
now have got a general idea of why I'd like you to be here when they do
come. Anyhow, go on; say anything that occurs to you."

Richard obediently renewed his study and his reverie. They had done this
together on a number of occasions before a new painting. Richard did not
mind sounding foolish before his friend, and Jonathan did not mind being
denigrated by his friend; in fact, he always swore that one soliloquy of
this kind was worth a great deal of judicious criticism. Painting was
the only art, he maintained, about which it could be done; one couldn't
hear a poem or a symphony as one could look at a painting; in time one
could never get the whole at once, but one could in space-or all but;
there was bound perhaps to be a very small time-lag even there. Except
for that, all the aural arts aspired to escape from recollection into
the immediate condition of the visual.

Richard said: "The skin looks almost as if it were painted; I mean-as if
you were painting a painted effect. Very dark and very dull. Yet it's a
sort of massive dullness-much like your mass and light; only the
opposite. But what I don't get is the expression. At first he seems to
be just a preacher driving his point home-convicting them of sin or
something. Only, though that mass makes him effective enough-even his
hand seems to be pressing down on them, though it is back downwards; it
might almost be pulling the sky down on them by a kind of magic-a sort
of Samson and the pillars of cloud-yet the more I look at what I can see
of the face, the more I think that it doesn't mean anything. It seems to
be as near plain bewilderment as anything I ever saw."

"Ho! " said Jonathan, getting off the table to which he had retired.
"Ho! You're a genius, Richard. I thought that too. But I've looked at it
so often that I can't make out now who's bewildered-him or me."

Richard looked a question.

" I began painting the damned fellow, as one does, " Jonathan went on,
pacing up and down the room and frowning at the floor; "of course, he
wasn't sitting for me, so I had to do the best I could from one meeting
at St. Bartholomew's, a couple of orations, seven photographs in Picture
Post, a dozen daily papers, and other oddments. Lady Wallingford says he
won't sit because of his reserve, which may of course be true. But at a
pinch I can manage to get something out of such a general hodge-podge
fairly well, tiresome as the whole business always is, and this time I
took particular notice. I wasn't trying to paint his soul or anything; I
just wanted to get him done well enough to please Betty's mother. And
when I'd done it I stared at it and I thought: 'Either I don't know what
he is or he doesn't know where he is.' But a fellow who's put it over
all America and bits of England is likely to know where he is, I
suppose, so I must just have got him completely wrong. It's odd, all the
same. I generally manage to make something more or less definite. This
man looks as if he were being frightfully definite and completely
indefinite at the same moment-an absolute master and a lost loony at
once."

"Perhaps he is," said Richard doubtfully.

Jonathan came to a stop by the easel and sighed drearily. "No," he said,
"no. I'm afraid not. In fact, I'm afraid it's a complete give-away for
me. The main point is-do you think Lady Wallingford will notice it? And
what will she say if she does?"

"I shouldn't think she would," said Richard. "After all, I only just did
myself and I'm far more used to your style than she is."

"She may not be used to me, but she's extremely used to him," Jonathan
said gloomily. "She's one of the real inner circle. Betty and I will
have a much more difficult time if there's any trouble. Otherwise, I
shouldn't mind in the least. What do you people know about him,
Richard?"

"We know," said Richard, "that his name is Simon Leclerc -sometimes
called Father Simon and sometimes Simon the Clerk. We gather he's ajew
by descent, though born in France, and brought up in America. We know
that he has a great power of oratory-at least, over there; he hasn't
tried it much here so far-and, that it's said he's performed a number of
very remarkable cures, which I don't suppose we've checked. We know that
quite intelligent people are attached to him-and that's about all we do
know; at least, it's all I know. But, as I told you, I've not been
particularly interested. You say you've heard him preach; what does he
preach?"

"Love," said Jonathan, more gloomily than ever as he looked at his
watch. "They'll be here in a minute. Love, so far as I can gather, but I
was more looking at him than listening to him, and it's almost
impossible for me really to do both at once. I could sort of feel his
effect going on all round. But it was mostly Love, with a hint of some
secret behind, which Love no doubt could find out. He sometimes gives
private interviews, I know, but I really felt it'd be too embarrassing
to go to one. So I can only generalize from the bits I caught while I
was staring. Love, and something else."

There was a ring at the front door bell, Jonathan threw the cover again
over the painting, and said: "Richard, if you go now, I'll never forgive
you. And if you don't say the right thing, I'll never listen to a word
of yours again." He went hastily out.

He was back so soon that Richard had hardly time to do more than feel at
a distance within him that full and recollected life which, whenever it
did show itself, threatened to overthrow all other present experiences.
It was his first experience of such a nature, of "another" life. Almost,
as he too turned from the easel, he saw Lester's dead face, as he had
seen it, floating, dim and ill-defined, before his eyes; and the two
women who came into the room, though more spectacular, were more empty
and shell-like than she.

They were not unlike, with thirty years between. They were both
smallish. Lady Wallingford was grey and thin, and had something almost
of arrogance in her manner. Betty was fair and thinner than, at her age,
one would have thought she ought to be. She looked tired and rather wan.
Her eyes, as she entered, were turned on Jonathan, and Richard thought
he saw her hand drop from his. Jonathan presented him. Lady Wallingford
took him, so to speak, for granted-so granted as to be unnecessary.
Betty gave him a quick little glance of interest, which for the moment
he did not quite understand; having forgotten that she was supposed to
have known Lester. He bowed twice, and stepped back a pace. Jonathan
said: "You'll have some tea first, Lady Wallingford? It's not too warm
to-day."

Lady Wallingford said: "We'll look at the picture first. I'm anxious to
see it."

"I'm very cold, Mother," Betty said-a little nervously, Richard thought.
"Couldn't we have tea?"

Lady Wallingford entirely ignored this. She said: "Is that covere& thing
it? Let me see it."

Jonathan, with the faintest shrug, obeyed. He went to the easel; he
said, over his shoulder: "You'll understand that this is rather an
impression than a portrait," and he pulled aside the covering. There was
a silence, concentrated on the painting. Richard, discreetly in the
background, waited for its first quiver.

The first he observed was in Betty. She was just behind her mother, and
he saw her yield to a faint shudder. Jonathan saw it too; he almost made
a movement towards her, and checked it before Lady Wallingfbrd's
immobility. After what seemed like minutes, she said: "What is our
Father coming out of, Mr. Drayton?"

Jonathan pinched his lip, glanced at Betty, and answered: "What you
choose, Lady Wallingford."

Lady Wallingford said: "You must have some idea. What is he standing on?
rock?"

"Oh yes, rock," saidjonathan readily; and then, as if reluctantly
truthful, added: "At least, you might as well call it rock."

The private view was not going very well. Betty sat down, as if her
power had failed. Lady Wallingford said: "Is he standing on it?"

Jonathan answered: "It doesn't much matter, perhaps." He glanced rather
anxiously at Richard. Richard took a step forward, and said, as
engagingly as he could: "It's the whole impression that counts, don't
you think?"

It was quite certainly the wrong remark. Lady Wallingford took no notice
of it. She went on, still addressing herself to Jonathan, "And why are
the people so much like insects?"

Betty made an inarticulate sound. Jonathan and Richard both stared at
the painting. It had not occurred to either of them-not even apparently
to Jonathan-that the whole mass of inclined backs could be seen almost
as a ranked mass of beetles, their oval backs dully reflecting a distant
light. Once the word had been spoken, the painting became suddenly
sinister. Jonathan broke out, but his voice was unconvincing: "They're
not ... they weren't meant ... they don't look like beetles."

"They look exactly like beetles," Lady Wallingford said. "They are not
human beings at all. And Father Simon's face is exactly the same shape."

Richard saw that there at least she was right. The oval shape of the
face differed only in its features and its downward inclination from the
innumerable backs, and in the fact that it reflected no light. It was
this lack of reflection which gave it its peculiar deadness; the backs
had that dim reflection, but this face none. But now he saw it as so
similar in shape that it seemed to him for half a second not a face at
all, but another back; but this eyed and mouthed as if the living human
form ended in a gruesomeness, and had a huge beetle for its head, only a
beetle that looked out backward through its coat and had a wide speaking
mouth there also; a speaking beetle, an orating beetle, but also a dead
and watching beetle. He forgot the aesthetic remark he had been about to
make.

Jonathan was saying: "I think that's rather reading things into it." It
was not, for him, a particularly intelligent remark; but he was
distracted by the thought of Betty, and yet his voice was as cold as
Lady Wallingford's own. He could manage his words but not his tone.

Lady Wallingford moved her head a little more forward. Richard saw the
movement, and suddenly, as she stood in front of him, she too took on
the shape of an overgrown insect. Outside the painting her back repeated
the shapes in the painting. Richard suddenly found himself believing in
the painting. This then was what the hearers of Father Simon looked
like. He glanced at the face again, but he supposed he had lost that
special angle of sight; it was now more like a face, though of that dead
artificiality he had remarked before. Lady Wallingford leaned towards
the picture, as if she were feeling for it with invisible tentacles. But
she was feeling with a hideous and almost dangerous accuracy. She now
said, and her voice was more than cold; it was indignant: "Why have you
painted our Father as an imbecile?"

Here, however, Jonathan was driven to protest more strongly. He turned
his back on the painting, and he said with some passion: "No, really,
Lady Wallingford, I have not. I can see what you mean by complaining of
the shapes, though honestly I never thought of anything of the sort, and
I'll do something. I mean, I'll paint something different somehow. But I
never had the slightest intention of painting Father Simon in any
displeasing way. . . .

Lady Wallingford said: "You intended. . . . Look at it!" Jonathan
stopped speaking; he looked at the woman; then he looked beyond her at
Betty. She looked back despairingly. Richard observed the exchange of
their eyes, and the full crisis became clear to him. He felt, as they
did, Betty swept away on Lady Wallingford's receding anger; he saw her
throw out a hand towards Jonathan, and he saw Jonathan immediately
respond. He saw him move away from the painting and go across to Betty,
take her hands, and lift her from her chair so that she stood against
him. His arm round her, he turned again towards the painting. And again
Richard's eyes went with his.

It was as he had last seen it. Or was it? Was the face not quite so
down-turned? was it more lifted and already contemplating the room? Had
he misjudged the angle? of course, he must have misjudged the angle. But
to say it was "contemplating" was too much; it was not contemplating but
only staring. What he had called bewilderment was now plain lack of
meaning. Jonathan's phrase-"an absolute master and a lost loony at the
same time"-recurred to him. The extended hand was no longer a motion of
exposition or of convincing energy, holding the congregation attentive,
but rather drawing the congregation after it, a summons and a physical
enchantment. It drew them towards the figure, and behind the figure
itself perhaps to more; for the shadow of the figure on the cliff behind
was not now a shadow, but the darkness of a cleft which ran back very
deeply, almost infinitely deep, a corridor between two walls of rock.
Into that corridor the figure, hovering on its shadowy platform, was
about to recede; and below it all those inclined backs were on the point
of similar movement. A crowd of winged beetles, their wings yet folded
but at the very instant of loosing, was about to rise into the air and
disappear into that crevice and away down the prolonged corridor. And
the staring emaciated face that looked out at them and over them was the
face of an imbecile. Richard said impatiently to himself- "This is all
that old woman talking," because, though one did get different angles on
paintings, one did not usually so soon see on the same canvas what was
practically a different painting. Blatant and blank in the grey
twilight, where only a reflection of the sun shone from the beetles'
coats, the face hung receding; blank and blatant, the thousand insects
rose towards it; and beyond them the narrow corridor hinted some extreme
distance towards which the whole congregation and their master were on
the point of unchecked flight. And yet the face was not a true face at
all; it was not a mockery, but the hither side of something which was
hidden and looking away, a face as much stranger than the face they saw
as that-face or back-from the other insect backs below it.

They had all been silent; suddenly they all began to speak. Richard said
recklessly: "At least the colouring's superb." Betty said: "Oh.jon, need
you?" Jonathan said: "It's a trick of this light. Don't cry, Betty. I'll
do something else." Lady Wallingford said: "We won't keep you, Mr.
Drayton. If that's serious, we have very little in common. If it's not
serious, I didn't expect to be insulted. We'll go, Betty. My daughter
will write to you, Mr. Drayton."

"This is quite absurd," jonathan said. "Ask Mr. Furnival, and he'll tell
you that it wasn't in the least like that until you talked us into
believing it. I'm extremely sorry you don't like it, and I'll do
something different. But you can't think that I meant to show you a
painting of a madman and a mass of beetles as a portrait of your Father
Simon. Especially when I know what you think about him. Is it likely?"

"It appears to be a fact," said Lady Wallingford. She had turned her
back on the canvas, and was looking bitterly at Jonathan. "If we are
nothing more than vermin to you, Betty!"

Betty was still holding on to Jonathan. It seemed to give her some
strength, for she lifted her head and said: "But, Mother, Jonathan is
going to alter it."

"Alter it!" said Lady Wallingford. "He will alter it to something still
more like himself. You will have nothing more to do with him. Come."

Jonathan interrupted. "Lady Wallingford," he said, "I've apologized for
something I never thought or intended. But Betty's engagement to me is
another matter. I shan't accept any attempt to interfere with that."

"No?" Lady Wallingford said. "Betty will do what I tell her, and I have
other plans. This pretended engagement was always a ridiculous idea, and
now it is finished."

"Mother-" Betty began. Lady Wallingford, who had been looking at
Jonathan, turned her eyes slowly to her daughter. The slight movement of
her head was so deliberate that it concentrated a power not felt in that
-room till then. Her eyes held Betty as in the painting behind her the
outstretched hand held the attentive congregation; they summoned as that
summoned. Jonathan was thwarted, enraged, and abandoned. He stood,
helpless and alone, at the side of an exchange of messages which he
could not follow; he felt Betty flag in his arm and his arm was useless
to her. He tightened it, but she seemed to fall through it as a hurt
dove through the air by which it should be supported. Richard, as he saw
that slow movement, was reminded suddenly of Lester's way of throwing up
her hand; the physical action held something even greater than the
purpose which caused it. It was not only more than itself in its
exhibition of the mind behind it, but it was in itself more than the
mind. So killing, though it may express hate, is an utterly different
thing from hate. There was hate in the room, but that particular act was
not so much hate as killing, as pure deliberate murder. As a man weak
from illness might try to wrestle with a murderer and fail, he thought
he heard himself saying sillily: "Lady Wallingford, if I may speak,
wouldn't it be better if we talked about this another time? There's no
need to murder the girl at once, is there? I mean, if Jonathan did
something different, perhaps we could avoid it? or we might look at it-
at the portrait-in a different light? and then you might see her in a
different light? Sometimes a little attention. . . ."

He was not quite sure how much of this he had actually said, but he
stopped because Jonathan was speaking. Jonathan was speaking very
angrily and very quickly, and he was talking of Betty's father the Air
Marshal, and of his own aunt who would put Betty up for a few days, and
how they would get married almost to-morrow, and how all the paintings
and all the parents and all the prophets under heaven could not
interfere. He spoke close above Betty's ear, and several times he tried
to get her to turn and look at him. But she did not; she had gone even
paler than she had been before, and as Lady Wallingford took the first
step towards the door she too began to turn towards it. She twisted
herself suddenly out of Jonathan's arm, and she said nothing in reply to
the entreaties, persuasions, and commands which he continued to address
to her. Richard thought her face as she did so was very like another
face he had seen; the identification of that other troubled him for a
moment, and then was suddenly presentit was Lester's when he had last
seen it, Lester's when she was dead. The common likeness of the dead was
greater than any difference between their living faces; they were both
citizens of a remoter town than this London, and the other town was in
this room. He saw beyond Betty Lady Wallingford, who had walked across
the room and was looking back at Betty from the door, and her face,
though it was not that of the dead, was like a hard cliff in the world
of the dead, or like a building, if the dead had buildings, a house or a
temple of some different and disastrous stone. The whole ordinary room
became only an imitation of a room; Jonathan and he were ghosts in a
ghostly chamber, the realities were the man in the cleft of the rock and
the rising beetles, and the dead face of Betty, and the living face-but
in what way living?-of her tyrant. Even while he shivered in a sudden
bleakness, Betty had disengaged herself from Jonathan and gone over to
her mother. Lady Wallingford opened the door. She said to Betty: "We
will go to Holborn." She motioned her daughter before her; they went
out. The two men heard the shutting of the outer door.

They looked at each other. With that departure, the room became again a
room, and no more the outskirts of another world. Richard drew a breath,
and glanced again at the painting. It seemed to him now impossible to
miss its actuality. Seen as human beings, those shapes had been
motionless; seen as beetles, they were already in motion and on the
point of flight. The painting lived, as the Mona Lisa does, in the
moment of beginning, in the mathematical exactitude of beginning. Yet
now Richard uncertainly felt more; there was an ambiguity in it, for the
shapes might be either. That was its great, apparently unexpected, and
certainly unwanted, success: men who were beetles, beetles who were men;
insects who had just been men, men who had just become insects.
Metamorphosis was still in them. But could he then, he wondered, still
gazing, think of them the other way, insects who had just become men,
men who had just been insects? why not? Could humanity be living out of
them?-some miracle in process? animality made newly rational? and their
motion the rising into erect man? and the stretched arm the sign and
power that called them?

He looked along the arm; his eyes rose to the face that ruled and called
them? He saw it was impossible. That blank face could never work
miracles; or if it could, then only miracles of lowering and loss. He
could not persuade himself that it was growing into power; the
metempsychosis there, if any had been, was done. The distance in the
cleft behind, which he now clearly saw, as if the walls of it palely
shone with their own light, held no promise of a lordlier change. There
was no life there but that of rock-"lutto di Pietra di color ferrigno-
all iron-hued stone". What other life that stone might hold in itself,
the life in the woman's face by the door, the life that had seemed to
impinge on the room, could not be known by a face that had lost
understanding. And then he remembered that this was but the backward-
looking, the false, the devised face. What might the true face be that
looked away down the cleft, between the walls, to the end of the
corridor, if there was an end? That indeed might know more, much and
very terribly more.

He made an effort and turned his eyes away. Jonathan was moving towards
him; he said as he came, "What a mother!"

"But didn't you guess anything of this?" Richard asked, almost with
curiosity.

"Oh I don't know," Jonathan answered irritably. "I thought perhaps while
I was doing it that there was something odd about it, and then I thought
there wasn't and that I was imagining things. One gets confused and
can't judge. And I certainly thought she wouldn't notice it, or want to
notice it. Nor would she, but she doesn't mean me to marry Betty."

Richard said: "But supposing to destroy it was the only way? Suppose
Miss Wallingford asked you to?"

"Well, she hasn't," said Jonathan. "It'll be time enough, when she does.
I don't know-probably I should. It'd be tiresome, but if it eased
things.... She doesn't care for this Simon herself; she only goes
because her mother makes her."

"I'd like to see him for myself," Richard said. "Where is he? What was
that remark about Holborn?"

"You go," saidjonathan. "It's a place just between Holborn and Red Lion
Square-you'll easily find it. Go and hear him speak. He doesn't do it
often, but you'll find out when he's going to. Go and see, and tell me
the result."

"Well, I think I will," said Richard. "To-morrow. I'm very sorry about
all this. What do you think you'll do?"

"Just think first," Jonathan answered. "Shall I stick out or shall I try
and come to terms? I don't believe Sir Bartholomew'll be much good, even
when he does get back from Moscow, but at least I could see him, and
it's going to be damned difficult to keep in touch with Betty. She might
be a novice or a nun, the way her mother keeps her. I believe she even
reads her letters, and I'm sure she watches her telephone calls. Come
round to-morrow, will you, if it's not a bother? I shall want to talk to
you."

Richard promised and left. He came out into the London streets about the
time when everyone else was also going home, and after a glance at the
crowded transport he determined to walk. There was about the general
hubbub something that eased and pleased him. He relaxed his spirit a
little as he moved among them. He thought of Jonathan and Betty, and he
thought also: "I wish Lester were here; she'd know what to do, and she
knows Betty." It would be very convenient now if Lester could call on
Betty; he wished for Jonathan's sake that she could. A little of
Lester's energy and Lester's style and even Lester's temper might be of
a good deal of use to Betty now.

It occurred to him, with a light surprise, that he was thinking quite
naturally of Lester. He was sincerely sorry, for Jonathan's sake, that
her strong femininity was lost-for Jonathan's sake, not at that moment
for his own. It was what she was that was needed. What she was-not what
she was to him. It occurred to him then that he had on the whole been in
the habit of thinking of Lester only in relation to himself. He saw
suddenly in her the power that waited for use, and he saw also that he
had not taken any trouble about that power; that he had, in fact, been
vaguely content to suppose it was adequately used in attending to him.
He said, almost aloud: "Darling, did I neglect you?" It was no ordinary
neglect that he meant; of that certainly he had not been guilty-and of
this other perhaps she had been as guilty as he. No-not as guilty; she
knew more of him in himself than he had ever troubled to know of her in
herself. It was why her comments on him, in gaiety or rage, always had
such a tang of truth; whereas his were generally more like either
cultured jesting or mere abuse. The infinite accuracy of a wife's
intelligence stared out at him. He acknowledged what, in all his sincere
passion, he had been unwilling to acknowledge, that she was often simply
right, and the admission bound him to her the closer, dead though she
might be. He thought how many chances he had missed of delighting in her
entire veracity, instead of excusing, protesting, denying. The glowing
splendour of her beauty rose, and it was a beauty charged with
knowledge. It was that, among much else, that he had neglected. And now
they all needed her, and she was not there.

She was. It was along Holborn that he was walking, for he had half-
thought of going that night to look for Simon's hall or house or
whatever it was. And there, on the very pavement, the other side of a
crossing, she stood. He thought for the first second that there was
someone with her. He was held by the appearance as motionless as in
their early days he had thought he must be-though in fact in those early
days he had never actually stopped. Now he did. It was as if that shock
of her had at last compelled him to acknowledge it outwardly-at last,
but as he had always almost believed he did, perhaps more in those days
at the beginning when the strangeness was greater and the dear
familiarity less. But the strangeness, for all the familiarity, had
never quite gone, nor was it absent now; it was indeed, he felt, the
greater, as well it might be. They stood on either side that Holborn by-
way, and gazed.

He felt, as he gazed, more like a wraith than a man; against her vigour
of existence he hung like a ghost, and was fixed by it. -He did not then
remember the past hour in Jonathan's room, nor the tomb-like image of
Lady Wallingford. Had he done so, he would have felt Lester's to be as
much stronger than that woman's as hers had seemed stronger than his
own. Lester was not smiling any recognition; the recognition was in her
stillness. The passionate mouth was serious and the eyes deep with
wonder and knowledge: of him? certainly of him. He thought almost he saw
her suspire with a relief beyond joy. Never, never again would he
neglect. The broken oaths renewed themselves in him. One hand of hers
was raised and still almost as if it rested on some other arm, but the
other had flown to her breast where it lay as if in some way it held him
there. They made, for those few seconds, no movement, but their
stillness was natural and not strange; it was not because she was a
ghost but because she was she that he could not stir. This was their
thousandth meeting, but yet more their first, a new first and yet the
only first. More stable than rock, more transient in herself than
rivers, more distant-bright than stars, more comfortable than happy
sleep, more pleasant than wind, more dangerous than fire-all known
things similes of her; and beyond all known things the unknown power of
her. He could perhaps in a little have spoken; but before he could, she
had passed. She left with him precisely the sensation of seeing her go
on; past him? no; up the by-way? no; but it was not disappearance or
vanishing, for she had gone, as a hundred times she had, on her proper
occasions, gone, kissing, laughing, waving. Now she neither kissed nor
laughed nor waved, but that which was in all three lingered with him as
he saw she was no longer there.

Lights were coming out in the houses; the confused sound of the City was
in his ears. He was giddy with too much apprehension; he waited to
recover; then he crossed the by-way, and he too went on.




                           Chapter Three

                            CLERK SIMON

Jonathan spent the rest of the day in the abandoned studio. After the
first hour he made three efforts to ring up Betty. He gave his own name
the first time, but was told that Miss Wallingford was not in. The
second time he gave Richard's name, and for the third he invented a
flight lieutenant. But neither was more successful. It was, of course,
possible at first that the ladies had not returned from Holborn, but by
half-past ten it seemed more likely that Lady Wallingford had simply
secluded her daughter. He knew that if she had given orders that Miss
Betty was not to be disturbed, it was very unlikely that anybody would
disturb her. Between his two later calls he put in another. He knew that
Sir Bartholomew had some small property in Hampshire, just as Lady
Wallingford owned a house somewhere in Yorkshire, and he claimed to be
speaking on behalf of the Hampshire County Council on some business of
reconstruction. He asked if Sir Bartholomew had returned from Moscow or
if not, when he was likely to return. The answer was that nothing could
be said of Sir Bartholomew's movements. He suggested that Lady
Wallingford might be asked. The answer was that that would be useless;
instructions had been issued that no other answer could be given.
Jonathan at last gave up the telephone, and sat down to write letters.

He wrote to Betty; he wrote to Lady Wallingford. He offered, after a
slight struggle with his admiration of himself, to suppress the picture;
the admiration just managed to substitute "suppress" for "destroy". It
was still worth while trying to save Betty and the picture too. But he
knew that if he were driven far enough, he would consent to -its
destruction; though he could not quite avoid envisaging another picture
in which something much more drastic should be deliberately done about
Father Simon. He succeeded, however, in keeping this on the outskirts of
his mind and even in mentioning to himself the word "dishonesty". His
virtue, with some difficulty, maintained itself in the uncertain centre
of his mind. He told Betty he would be in his flat all the next day, in
case she could ring up or indeed come. He proposed an aunt's house in
Tunbridge Wells as a shelter for her. He told her that he would write to
Sir Bartholomew through the War Office. He was perfectly well aware that
Lady Wallingford would read the letter, but it told her nothing she
could not have guessed, and it would at least make clear that he had
other channels of communication with the Air Marshal.

He put off going to the post with these letters until almost midnight,
in case by any wild chance Betty should ring up. But at last he gave up
hope, took the letters, went to the door, and as he opened it switched
out the light. At that moment the front door bell rang. He caught his
breath and almost ran to it. He opened it; it was not she. In the dim
light of the landing he saw a tall figure, apparently wrapped in some
kind of cloak, and in his fierce disappointment he almost banged the
door shut. But as his hand tightened on it, a voice said: "Mr. Drayton?"

"Yes?" Jonathan said morosely. The voice was urbane, a little husky, and
had the very slightest foreign accent which Jonathan did not at once
recognize. He peered forward a little to see the face, but it was not
easy, even though the caller wore no hat. The voice continued: "Lady
Wallingford has been with me to-night to tell me of a painting. I am
Simon the Clerk."

"Oh!" saidjonathan; "yes. I see.... Look, won't you come in?" He had
been quite unprepared for this, and as he ushered his visitor into the
studio, his only feeling was one of extreme gratitude that in a moment
of peevishness he had flung the covering again over the canvas. It would
have been awkward to show Simon straight in at it. He could not quite
think why he had come. It must, of course, be about the painting, but
unless to see if he agreed with Lady Wallingford ... and it would be odd
to be as urgent as all that, especially as he disliked being painted.
Still, it would come out. He was very much on his guard, but as he
closed the door he said, as friendlily as he could: "Do sit down. Have a
drink?"

"No, thank you," Simon answered. He remained standing with his eyes on
the covered canvas. He was a tall man, with a smooth mass of grey-almost
white-hair; his head was large; his face thin, almost emaciated. The
face had about it a hint of the Jew-no more; so little indeed that
Jonathan wondered if it were only Richard's account that caused him to
think he saw it. But, considering more carefully, he saw it was there.
The skin was dark and Jonathan saw with a thrill of satisfaction that he
had got in his painting almost the exact kind of dead hue which it in
fact possessed. The eyes were more deeply set than he had thought;
otherwise he had been pretty accurate in detail. The only thing in which
he had been wrong was in producing any appearance of bewilderment or
imbecility. There was nothing at all of either in the Clerk's gaze. It
was not exactly a noble face, nor a prophetic; priestly, rather. A
remote sacerdotalism lived in it; the Clerk might have been some lonely
hierarch out of a waste desert. He stood perfectly still, and Jonathan
observed that he was indeed as near perfectly still as a man could be.
There was no slightest visible motion, no faintest sound of breath. He
was so quiet that quietness seemed to emanate from him. Jonathan felt
his own disturbance quelled. It was in a softer voice than his usual one
that he said, making what was almost an effort to move and speak at all:
"Are you sure you won't have a drink? . . . Well, I think I will, if
you'll excuse me." The other had very slightly shaken his head. Outside
the room, the bells of the City began to chime midnight. Jonathan said
to himself, as he had made a habit of doing since he had first met
Betty whenever he was awake at midnight, as he often was: "Benedicta
sit, et benedicti onmes parvuli Tui." He turned away and poured out his
drink. With the glass in his hand, he came back. The hour was striking,
near and far, wherever bells were still capable of sound, all over the
wide reaches of London. Jonathan heard it through the new quiet. He
said: "And now, Father Simon, Lady Wallingford?"

"Lady Wallingford was distressed about this painting," Simon answered.

"Distressed?" Jonathan said nastily. "Exhilarated was more the word, I
should have thought." Then the sense of the quiet and of the other's
presence made him ashamed of his petulance. He went on: "I beg your
pardon. But I can't think she was altogether unhappy. She was very
angry."

"Show it to me," the Clerk said. It was not perhaps quite a command, but
very nearly; it almost sounded like a Marshal of the Air speaking to an
official artist who ranked as a regular officer. Obedience was
enforceable, though unenforced. Jonathan hesitated. If Simon took Lady
Wallingford's view, he would be in a worse state than he was now. Was it
possible that Simon would not take Lady Wallingford's view? In that case
he might be very useful indeed; possibly he might persuade Lady
Wallingford to alter her own. It was a great risk. The other saw the
hesitation. The husky urbane voice said: "Come; you must not think I see
things as she does."

"No," said Jonathan doubtfully. "Only ... I mean she has talked to you.
I don't know what she's told you, but she's so damned convinced and
convincing that she'd even persuade, me that a smudge of umber was a
vermilion blot. Mind you, I think she's made up her mind to find
something wrong with it, in order to interfere with Betty and me, so she
wasn't disinterested."

"It doesn't matter what she told me," the other said. "I never see
things with other people's eyes. If she's wrong-I might be of use."

"Yes," said Jonathan, moving to the easel. "If you could convince her,
of course."

"She will think what I say," the Clerk said, and there was such a sudden
contempt in his voice that Jonathan looked round.

"I say, you are sure of her!" he said.

"I'm quite sure of her," the Clerk answered, and waited. All this time
he had not moved. The room itself, and it was large and by no means
over-furnished, seemed almost full and busy beside him. Jonathan, as he
threw back the cover, began to feel a warm attraction towards this
unmoving figure, which had the entire power to direct Lady Wallingford
what to think. He determined, if by any chance Simon should pass this
painting as harmless, to do him another about which there should be no
doubt whatever. He stepped aside, and for the third time that day the
picture was exposed to study.

As Jonathan looked at it, he became extremely uneasy. The beetles, the
blank gaze, the receding corridor, had not grown less striking since he
had seen them last. If this was the Father, he could not think the
Father would like himself. He wished again with all his heart that he
had never begun to paint it. He knew exactly how he could have avoided
it; he could have said he wasn't worthy. It would have been a lie, for
being worthy was not a thing that came in with painting; painting had
nothing to do with your personal merit. You could do it or you couldn't.
But it would have been a convenient-and to that woman an easily
credible-lie, and he wished he had told it, however difficult it would
have been to say it convincingly. Betty, after all.... He rather
wondered if he could say now that he realized he wasn't worthy. But the
Father did not look the sort of person who was taken in like that-
anyhow, at the present stage, when he obviously had thought himself
worthy. No; if things went wrong, he must argue again. By now he loathed
and hated the entire painting; he would have cut it up or given it to
the nation, if the nation had wanted it. He looked round.

Simon was still standing at gaze. The chimes rang a quarterpast twelve;
otherwise the City was silent. Outside the large window beyond Simon the
moon was high and cold. Her October chill interpenetrated the room.
Jonathan shivered; something was colder-the atmosphere or his heart.
Betty was far away, gone as lovers and wives do go, as Richard's wife
had gone, gone to her deathbed. Betty's own bed was cold, even like her
chastity. I would I were where Betty lies; no wedding-garment except
this fear, in the quiet, in the quiet, in the quiet, where a figure of
another world stood. All things rose fluttering round it; beetles? too
light for beetles: moths, bright light moths round a flame-formed dark;
the cloak of the dark and the hunger in the dark. The high moon a moth,
and he, only not Betty, Betty dead like Richard's wife, dead women in
the streets of the City under the moon.

A distant husky voice, with a strange accent, broke the silence. It
said: "That is I" Jonathan came to himself to see the Clerk staring. His
head was a little forward; his eyes were fixed. He was so gratified that
his voice let fall the words and ceased. The shock of them and of relief
was so great that Jonathan felt a little light-headed. He took a step or
two back to get his vision into focus. He began to say something, but
Simon was so clearly not listening that he gave it up and wandered away
towards the window. But even as he did so he listened for what else that
other should say which might give him hope, hope of Betty, hope of his
work. He looked out into the moonlight, he saw in it, below him, on the
other side of the road, two girls walking-they the only living in the
night; and as his eyes took them in he heard again the voice behind him
saying, but now in more than gratification, in low triumph: "That is I"

Jonathan turned. He said: "You like it?"

The other answered: "No-one has painted me so well for a hundred years.
Everything's there."

Jonathan went back. He did not quite see how to carry on the
conversation; the allusion to "a hundred years" baffled him. At last he
said doubtfully: "And Lady Wallingford?"

The Clerk slowly looked round at him, as if he were recalled. He said,
and his face twitched slightly, "Lady Wallingford? What has she to do
with it?"

"She was rather annoyed with it," said Jonathan. "In fact, she talked,
as no doubt she told you, about insects and imbeciles."

The Clerk, still looking at him, said: "They aren't insects; they are
something less. But insects is the nearest you can get. And as for
imbecile, haven't you read Sapientia adepti stultitia mundi? That is why
your work is so wonderful."

"Oh! " said Jonathan.

"That", the Clerk went on, turning his head again, "is what I am to
these creatures, and Lady Wallingford (as you call her) is one of them.
She thinks herself someone, but presently she'll find out. It's quite
good for them to be hypnotized; they're much happier. But you-you are
different; you are a genius. You must paint me often. Now you have shown
me as I am to them and to myself, you must paint me often as I am in
myself."

The chill sense of death was receding from Jonathan's heart. He began to
feel that life was still possible, even life with Betty. He also
wondered what his own painting of the face was like. He had first
thought it was an ordinary portrait; then he had been uneasy about the
bewilderment that seemed to show in it. Richard had agreed. Lady
Wallingford had spoken of imbecility. Now Simon seemed to see something
else beyond that, something that was hidden in that and yet contradicted
it. He might perhaps tell Lady Wallingford; he might make everything
clear for him and Betty. In a second of silence Jonathan had married
Betty, set up a house, painted Father Simon a stupendous portrait of
himself without the beetles, painted several other shattering successes
at the Peace Conferences and after, made a lot of money, become a father
and an immortal at once, and was back again in the studio with the
immediate necessity of explaining to Simon how all this was to be
brought about. Better not go into farther details of the painting;
better get on with the main job.

He began: "Then you'll speak to-" but the other was already speaking. He
was saying: "You must come with me, Mr. Drayton. I must have one or two
people with me who are something more than these other creatures. The
Doctrine is good for them; one gets nowhere by fighting it. All your
books have it-the Koran, the New Testament, the Law. Hitler fought it;
where is Hitler? There is nothing better, for those who need it. But you
are an exception. You belong to yourself -and to me. Great art is
apostolic. You must not lessen yourself. You are to be a master. I can
do something to help you, but then you must have courage to paint the
right things."

Jonathan listened to this with a certain warmth. He was a little shaken
by great art being apostolic, but there was no doubt a sense in which it
was true, though Sir Joshua's "common observation and plain
understanding" pleased him better. He did think he was a remarkable
painter, and he did not care how often he was told so. But he did not
lose sight of his main point. As soon as Simon paused, he said: "Then
you'll speak to Lady Wallingford?"

Simon's voice had seemed to be closer and clearer. It receded again and
grew huskier as he said: "What do you so want with Lady Wallingford?"

"I want to marry her daughter," Jonathan said.

The Clerk dropped his eyes to the ground. He said, after a moment: "I am
not sure that you're wise. But it shall be as you like. I will talk to
her-yes, in a few days, if you still wish. You shall have the girl, if
you want her. Show me something else."

"I haven't much here," Jonathan said. "The war-paintings--"

"Oh the war!" the Clerk said. "The war, like Hitler, was a
foolery. I am the one who is to come, not Hitler! Not the war; something
else."

"Well, there's this thing of London," Jonathan said. "Wait; I'll turn it
for you." He went round to the other easel, to the canvas on which he
had not looked since the early afternoon, because of all that had since
happened, but now he did, and saw it as he had seen it with Richard. He
knew the validity of his own work-yet he knew also that he might so
easily be wrong, as innumerable unfortunate bad painters had been. There
was no way of being certain. But at least he believed that painting
could be valid, could hold an experience related to the actuality of the
world, and in itself valuable to mind and heart. He hoped this painting
might be that; more he could not say. He saw beyond it the figure of the
Clerk looming, and the window behind him, and it seemed almost as if he
were now looking at the other painting made actual and released from
canvas. The figure was there; the blank window behind; he could not at
this distance and in this light see through it; it was but an opening
into bleakness. And he himself the only other being there. He looked at
the Clerk's face, and it too hung blank as the window, empty of meaning.
"I am being a fool," he thought, and looked, as he stepped back after
turning the easel again, at the light on the canvas. He said, with the
least flash of arrogance in his voice: "There! What do you think of
that?"

The Clerk looked, and flinched. Jonathan saw a quiver go through him; he
shut his eyes and opened them. He said: "No, no; it's too bright. I
can't see it properly. Move it."

Jonathan said coldly: "I'm sorry you don't like it. Myself, I think it's
better than the other."

The Clerk said: "That is because you do not quite understand the meaning
of your own work. This is a dream; that other is a fact. It is simply I
who have come. I shall give all these little people peace because they
believe in me. But these fancies of light would distract them. There is
only one art, and that is to show them their master. You had better-
well, I know how you painters love even your mistakes and I will not say
you should destroy it. But hide it for a year, and come with me, and
then look at it again, and you will see it as I do."

Jonathan said cautiously: "Well, I'll see what Betty says. Anyhow I
shan't have much time for views of the City during the next year or so."
The words, and the tone, of mastery did not seem altogether unsuitable
to the towering form; he himself was on the defensive. The very hint
that there was much more in the other picture than he had supposed, that
he painted more greatly than he knew, subtly soothed him. He was the
more ready to owe Betty to a man who saw so deeply. He added: "You won't
forget to speak to Lady Wallingford?"

"Presently," the Clerk said. "But you must remember that you have a
great work to do. When I am in union again, you shall paint me as I
shall be. Soon."

Jonathan murmured something. The conversation was getting beyond him. He
wished his visitor would go away, before he said the wrong thing. The
Clerk, almost as if he too felt that all had been said, turned. He said:
"I'll come to you again, or else I'll send for you."

"I may be moved about," Jonathan said. "We of the Services, you know-"

"Your service is with me," the other answered. "I or-or Betty will let
you know." His eyes stared out through the blank window. "What you shall
paint! Trust me. I will make you . . . never mind. But put the other
thing away. The colour is wrong."

He gave Jonathan no opportunity for a reply. He went towards the door,
and Jonathan followed. At parting he raised his hand a little. He came
out into the street and the moonlight, and began to walk.

He went towards Highgate, and he went easily though at great speed, and
as he went the City seemed to dwindle around him. His mind was very
earnestly set on himself. As he went the Jewish quality in his face
seemed to deepen; the occasional policemen whom he passed thought they
saw a Jew walking by night. Indeed that august race had reached in this
being its second climax. Two thousand years of its history were drawing
to a close; until this thing had happened it could not be free. its
priesthood-the priesthood of a nation-had been since Abraham determined
to one End. But when, after other terrible wars had shaken the Roman
peace, and armies- had moved over Europe, and Caesar (being all that
Caesar could be) had been stabbed in his own central place, when then
that End had.been born,'they were not aware of that End. It had been
proposed that their lofty tradition should be made almost unbearably
august; that they should be made the bloodcompanions of their Maker, the
own peculiar house and family of its Incarnacy-no more than the Gentiles
in the free equality of souls, but much more in the single hierarchy of
kindred flesh. But deception had taken them; they had, bidding a
scaffold for the blasphemer, destroyed their predestined conclusion, and
the race which had been set for the salvation of the world became a
judgment and even a curse to the world and to themselves. Yet the oaths
sworn in heaven remained. It had been a Jewish girl who, at the command
of the Voice which sounded in her ears, in her heart, along her blood,
and through the central cells of her body, had uttered everywhere in
herself the perfect Tetragrammaton. What the high priest vicariously
spoke among the secluded mysteries of the Temple, she substantially
pronounced to God. Redeemed from all division in herself, whole and
identical in body and soul and spirit, she uttered the Word and the Word
became flesh in her. Could It have been received by her own people, the
grand Judean gate would have been opened for all peoples. It could not.
They remained alien-to It and to all, and all to them and- too much!-to
It. The Gentiles, summoned by that other Jew of Tarsus, could not bear
their vicarious office. Bragging themselves to be the new Israel, they
slandered and slew the old, and the old despised and hated the bragging
new. Till at last there rose in Europe something which was neither, and
set itself to destroy both.

And when that had been thwarted, this also which was to happen had at
last happened. Jew and Christian alike had waited for the man who now
walked through the empty London streets. He had been born in Paris, in
one of those hiding-places of necromancy which all the energy of the
Fourteenth Louis had not quite stamped out. He was a child of the
nobility, but he was hardly yet a boy when the Revolution had broken
out. His family had moved safely through it, protected by wealth and
cunning and in extremes by another kind of cunning learned in very
ancient schools. His father had been to the world a scholar as well as a
nobleman, one of the early philologists, but to a different circle and
to his son his philology had been quite other. He knew sounds and the
roots of sounds, almost the beginnings of sounds; the vibrations that
overthrew and the vibrations that built up. The son followed his father.

He remembered now, as he walked, how he had come to know himself. It was
not often he permitted himself the indulgence of memory, but that
painted face which Jonathan had supposed to be blank of meaning yet in
which he had read all he wished to read, seeing it full of power and
portent-that artificiality had opened up recollection within him. He
remembered how he had seen the crowds in Paris, their poverty, their
need, their rage, and (so small as he was) understood how men need both
comfort and control. And he had seen Napoleon rise and fall, but before
that mastery was done his childish dreams of being king or emperor had
been better instructed. He had learnt three things from that small
college of which his father was president-that there was another power
to use, that there were ways of directing it, that many men would pay
much to learn them. Could they be sold! but they could not be. They were
private to those who had the right by nature, as all art is, but these
especially to the high-priestly race. Only a Jew could utter the Jewish,
which was the final, word of power.

There were not in the circles where he grew up any of the mere
obscenities of magic-no spectacular outrages of the Black Mass or
profane sensualities of the Sabbath. There were certain bloody
disciplines to test the postulant-it was all. The mass of men were at
once despised and pitied by the chaste sorcerers. He learnt to shelter,
to feed, to console them, but at the same time that he was separate from
them. He had watched a man starve, but he was not cruel; it was in his
training. He was not lustful; only once in all his life had he lain with
a woman, and that for a rational purpose. He had not been kept from talk
with holy Rabbis and charitable priests; if he had chosen their way no-
one would have interfered with him unless he had become inconvenient to
the great work. He did not so choose; he preferred his own.

He was not, in fact, much different from any man, but the possibilities
slowly opened to him were more rare. There shaped itself gradually in
his mind a fame beyond any poet's and a domination beyond any king's.
But it was fame and domination that he desired, as they did. That his
magical art extended where theirs could never reach was his luck. The
understanding of his reach had come when he first assisted at a
necromantic operation. As the dead body stood and spoke he felt the
lordship of that other half of the world. Once, as he had learnt the
tale, the attempt at domination had been made and failed. The sorcerer
who had attempted it had also been a Jew, a descendant of the house of
David, who clothed in angelic brilliance had compelled a woman of the
same house to utter the Name, and something more than mortal had been
born. But in the end the operation had failed. Of the end of the
sorcerer himself there were no records; Joseph ben David had vanished!
The living thing that had been born of his feminine counterpart had
perished miserably. It had been two thousand years before anyone had
dared to risk the attempt again.

He came up towards Highgate, and as he came he let his memories fade. He
put away the recollection of the painting; the time for his spiritual
enthronement was not quite come. But he felt the City lessen-not only
London, but all bodies and souls of men. He lifted his head; his face
was lean and hungry under the moon. He felt himself walking alone among
tiny houses among which men and women ran about under his protection and
by his will. There waited him, in the house to which he was going, the
means of another operation than his coming empery in this world; of
which his child was the instrument. For a moment he thought of Jonathan
and Jonathan's love. He smiled-or rather a sudden convulsion passed
across his face, a kind of muscular spasm rather than a smile. It was
not meant to be unkind; he did not dislike Jonathan, and he wished his
genius to thrive and paint the grand master even more intensely. But
Betty was for another purpose. Nor was he even aware that what had once
been a smile was now a mere constriction. One cannot smile at no-one,
and there was no-one at whom he could smile. He was alone. He went on,
ignorantly grimacing.




                            Chapter Four

                              THE DREAM

In the house at Highgate Betty Wallingford was lying awake. She was
wholly wretched. Her mother, after they had returned from that secret
conversation in Holborn, in which she had not been allowed to take part,
had sent her to bed. She had wished to protest; she had wished to ring
up Jonathan. But it would have been quite useless. She could not
remember a time when it would not have been useless. If she had been
Lady Wallingford's real daughter, she might have had a better chance, or
so sometimes she thought. But since, years ago, Lady Wallingford had
spoken of her adoption, she had always felt at a disadvantage. No
allusion was ever made to it now. She had tried, once or twice, to ask
Lady Wallingford about her real parents, but her adopted mother had only
said: "We will not talk of that, Betty," and so of course they did not.
As for Sir Bartholomew, she had been forbidden to mention it to him, and
anyhow he was hardly ever at home, and was only interested in air
matters. So she only knew she was not what everyone thought she was.

Everyone in London, that is. There was in the north, in Yorkshire, a
small house where she and Lady Wallingford sometimes went. They always
went by themselves, and when they got there she was not even treated as
a daughter. She was, purely and simply, the servant. It was supposed to
be training for her, in case (as might happen, Lady Wallingford said)
she ever had to earn her own living. She did the work; she showed in the
Vicar or any other local visitor, and then she went back to her nice
bright kitchen, where she had that morning's Daily Sketch (which Lady
Wallingford took in for her) and her radio on which she was only allowed
to listen to the most popular music (because, Lady Wallingford said,
that was what girls of that class liked). She was called Bettina there.
"Ridiculous  names these girls have nowadays!" Lady Wallingford had once
said to the Vicar as he was leaving; and the Vicar had said: "Not at all
ridiculous! a very good name." But he had not looked very attentive, and
Lady Wallingford never let her go out alone; so there was no help there.
And anyhow there was no need for help; what was there to help?

It had been going on for a long time, even before she had left school.
She had always been in terror lest any of the other girls should pass
and see her from a car. Or even, quite impossibly, call. She had tried
to think what she would say, and to practise saying it. There would be
nothing unusual in her mother and herself being there, but to be treated
as a housemaid.... She knew they would never believe anything she could
say, and still more certainly that she could never say it. She used to
lie awake by night thinking of it, and wondering if the next day would
bring them, but it never did; and presently the two of them always went
back to London, and then she was Betty Wallingford again-only of course
she was no more Betty Wallingford than she was a housemaid. She was
nothing and no-one. Her mistress-mother, her mother-mistress, told her
what to do; she and the man who sometimes came to see her, this Father
Simon.

Of all the girls at school, two only now remained in her mind; indeed,
she knew them a little still. She would have liked to be friends with
Lester Grantham, who was now Lester Furnival, but it had never come
about. At school Lester had never wanted to be bothered with her, though
she had been in a vague way half-scornfully kind, and when she and Lady
Wallingford met they had never got on very well. Lester had once or
twice called with Evelyn Mercer, who was the other girl, but Betty did
not like Evelyn. She might have borne Lester knowing about her being
Bettina, but she would have been anguished by Evelyn's finding out, and
Evelyn was the sort of person who did find things out. When Evelyn came
to see her, she used to sit and talk to her; she had hunted her down at
school sometimes just to talk to her. But it used to be horrible, and
she would cry, and even now Evelyn would ask so many questions and tell
so many horrid stories that Betty felt she could not bear it. Of course,
she had to, because Evelyn sat, eyeing her and talking. So that
presently she became the very image of Betty's fear, more even than Lady
Wallingford; and one of her worse nightmares was of running away from
Evelyn who was racing after her, calling "Bettina! Bettina!" And other
acquaintances she had none.

During the war she had thought she would have to do a job and perhaps go
away from home. She had registered, and she had been interviewed, by a
nice oldish -woman. But nothing else had happened. She had been a little
surprised, and she had even spoken of it to Lady Wallingford, who had
only said: "You're not strong enough-mentally strong enough, I mean." So
she supposed-and she was right-that Lady Wallingford had taken steps.
After that, she had begun to worry over her mind; after that rather nice
refugee had disappeared. During the little time she had known him, he
had been rather comforting, but presently he had ceased to be about. And
there was no-one again.

Until there had been Jonathan Drayton. She could not remember how they
had first met, and they had certainly not met often. If her mother had
not wished to have a painting of Father Simon, they would have met less
often. But even Lady Wallingford was sometimes compelled to allow one
obstinacy to get in the way of another. She had been startled-though not
much more startled than Betty-when Jonathan began to talk of an
engagement. Betty remembered how she had clung to him the first time he
had kissed her, and what he had said of her, but she tried not to
remember that, for she had always known it would be no good, and now
Lady Wallingford had chosen to be offended at his painting, and it was
all ended. Very soon they would be in the country again. Lady
Wallingford was always saying that, now the war was over, they would go
there permanently-"and then you shall settle down. I shall have to go up
sometimes, but you need never leave it again," Betty was beginning to
look on it as a refuge; once there, she would be Bettina altogether, and
perhaps that would be peace.

But to-night it was no refuge. Jonathan was too near. He had sometimes
talked to her about painting, and she had tried to understand, and even
ask questions, though her mistress-no her adopted mother-had said
"Betty's rather backward" and repeated that she was mentally weak. But
Jonathan had only said: "Thank God she's not cultured! and anyhow I'm
not much more than adolescent myself," and gone on talking, and she had
wanted to cry on his shoulder, as once or twice inexplicably she had.
She never would again. She would be taken to hear Father Simon speak on
Love. In a way that was a relief. While he talked she sat in a kind of
trance and forgot everything. That was in Holborn; when he came to
Highgate it was different and not so peaceful. She had to do something.
He was always saying to her: "Do not trouble yourself; only do as I
say." She would; in that and the maid's kitchen were her only hope.

She lay, waking and waiting-waiting for her mind to grow weaker, waiting
for her memory of Jonathan to cease, waiting for an end. She was afraid
of Lady Wallingford and desperately afraid of Evelyn. Evelyn would get
everything about Jonathan out of her, and would tell people-no, she
would not, for Evelyn was dead. In her sheer rush of gratitude Betty sat
up in bed. It was almost her only individual movement for years. She
drew a deep breath. Something of horror had stopped for ever. Evelyn,
Evelyn was dead. Of course. Lester was dead too; she was a little sorry
about Lester, but Lester had never wanted her. That had been Lester's
husband this afternoon; he looked nice. At the time of the wedding she
had been in Yorkshire; not that she would have been asked anyhow.
Yorkshire -Oh, well, Yorkshire; but Evelyn could never, never come to
Yorkshire now. "Evelyn," she said to herself, clasping her knees,
"Evelyn's dead." In her entire joy, she even forgot Jonathan-in her
sudden sense of a freedom she had not known. She had at least no
consciousness of impropriety; she was mentally strong enough for joy.
She said it again, drawing breath, hugging herself, savouring it:
"Evelyn's dead. "

The door opened. Lady Wallingford came in. She switched on the light and
saw Betty. Betty saw her, and before a word could be spoken or a glance
exchanged, she thought: "People die." Lady Wallingford said: "Why are
you sitting up like that?" and Betty answered, because it was so
important: "Evelyn's dead."

For once Lady Wallingford was taken aback. She had never had much
interest in Evelyn, though she was not as hostile to her as she had been
to Lester, for she knew Betty was afraid of Evelyn. She did not
altogether wish Betty to lose this, and she answered, almost
immediately-but there had been a second's pause, a moment in which Betty
all but triumphed: "Yes. But remember that that means she is still
alive." She did not give this time to settle; she was well assured that
the thought would return. She went on: "But we can't think of it now.
Our Father needs you."

"Oh not now-" Betty exclaimed. "I'm so tired. I can't-after this
afternoon-Mother, I can't." She spoke with more boldness than usual. The
sense of freedom that Evelyn's death had given her was still strong, and
an even larger sense that changes could happen which had risen in her
mind when Lady Wallingford entered. People died. She looked at her
mother almost as an equal; her mother would die. But she could not
maintain her gaze. Lady Wallingford stared her down. As the girl's eyes
fell, she said: "We are waiting. Dress and come down." She stayed for a
moment, still staring; then she turned and went out.

Discouraged and miserably helpless, Betty got up and put on her clothes.
She knew what would happen; it had happened before. She knew she went
out, but where and with what result she did not know-only that
afterwards she was again back in the house, and exhausted. Lady
Wallingford always kept her in bed the next day. These occasions were
known to the servants as "Miss Betty's turns". It was vaguely understood
that Miss Betty was subject to something not quite nice. Something
mental. Nor indeed were they far wrong, for the mind as well as the body
suffered from those lonely excursions, and it was a question for her
directors how long she would be able to bear them.

Her hands were trembling as she finished dressing. She had put on, and
with difficulty fastened, a pair of outdoor shoes. If only, she thought,
she did not have to leave the house! Or if she could know where she went
and what she did! She might be braver then. It was this getting ready to
go that frightened her, and the not knowing. Her tyrants never by any
chance referred to her compulsory expeditions, except on the nights
themselves. They would be waiting for her. She had forgotten Evelyn's
death, and Lady Wallingford was perpetual. She looked at the clock; it
was half-past one. There was no use in delay. She went down.

They were waiting, as she had known, in the drawing-room. Lady
Wallingford was sitting by a table. Simon was walking softly up and
down. When she came in he stopped and scanned her. Then he pointed to a
chair. He said, in that husky voice she dreaded, though it was never
unkind: "I want you to go out. "

She was without initiative. She went to the chair and sat down. She
said: "Yes, Father."

He said: "You shall be at peace soon. You could be at peace now if you
did not fight. In a moment you will not fight; then you will be in
peace. Presently you will always be at peace. Let yourself be in my
will. I can send you; I can bring you back; only take the peace. Be in
peace and you will be in joy. Why do you-no, you will not fight; you are
not fighting; you are dying into peace; why should you not die in peace?
Peace     ......

The quiet husky soothing voice ran on, recapitulating the great words,
bidding the sufficient maxims. She knew she would lose herself, now it
did not seem so horrid; now she wondered she was not quicker to let go.
She usually was. But to-night something interfered with the words. Her
hands, quiet though they lay, were strangely warm, and the blood in them
seemed to beat. Her body (though she did not then realize it) held a
memory that her mind had forgotten. The strength of Jonathan's hands was
still in her own, and rose up her arms, and stirred in her flesh. His
voice, still subconditionally remembered in her ears, stirred in her
corridors. She did not think of it but all her living body answered
"Jonathan!" and on that cry rose against the incantation that all but
appeased her. The word love, when the Clerk uttered it, was only a dim
sound of distant wind, but it said "Jonathan!"; the word peace was great
waters on a gentle shore, but it murmured "Jonathan!"; the wordjoy was
an echo and no more, but it echoed: "Jonathan!" Even the afternoon, even
the painting and all, had but made him more intense; as a man in sleep
utters his love's name, so now, as she all but slept, her body sighed
for its friend. She did not speak, but as she yielded to the spell, she
moaned a little; she slept though with waking eyes, and she did not
sleep peaceably. The Clerk knew it. He came near her; he spoke over her-
he had a very great courage-those august words:
"peace, joy, love". He used them for what he needed, and they meant to
him-and to her-what he chose.

Lady Wallingford covered her eyes. She could not quite bear to see the
nullification of life in the intellectual centre of life. She detested
her daughter, and she wished to distress and pain her. But then she
wished her, while she lived, to be still herself so that she should be
distressed and pained. That other, who stood over the girl who was his
daughter also, did not wish her to be herself, or even that only for a
purpose. He wished her to be an instrument only; peace, joy, love, were
but names for the passivity of the instrument. He was unique; yet he was
no more than any man-only raised to a high power and loosed in himself.

Presently Lady Wallingford heard his voice near her. It said: "You
didn't tell me she was so enamoured. It doesn't matter. I've found her
in time." She moved her hand. He was standing by her, looking over to
Betty where now she sat quietly in her chair, her eyes open, her body
composed. He drew deep breaths; he said, so quietly that Lady
Wallingford hardly heard, so strongly that the entranced girl rose at
once to obey: "Go now and bring me the news."

She rose. Her eyes looked at him, simply, almost lingeringly. She gave
him her attention, with a kind of delight. The last revolt had been
abolished; a docile sweetness possessed her. Docility and sweetness were
natural to her. In a quiet that might have been peace, in an attraction
that might have been love, in a content that might have been joy, she
turned from her director towards the door. Her exhaustion on the next
day would come not only from what she was about to do, but from this
surrender which would then have ceased. Yet every time her restoration
was a little less; a day might come when this hypnotic quiescence would
occupy her whole life. That day (the Clerk thought) would be soon. Then
he would be able to send her for ever into the world she could now only
visit.

Betty went out of the room. The Clerk followed her, and Lady
Wallingford, drawn by a desire she half-dreaded, joined him and went
with him. The house was warm and quiet. Sir Bartholomew was in Moscow;
the servants were asleep in their rooms. Betty went to a lobby, took out
a raincoat and a rough hat, and put them on. The two stood motionless,
the tall man and the shorter woman, their arms hanging by their sides,
their feet precisely together, their eyes fixed on the girl. They
watched her go to the front door and open it wide. Beyond her lay the
empty street, lit by the moon to a bluish pallor. The silence of it
rushed in on them, a silence in which the quiet hall sounded as if, but
a moment before, it had been noisy. Betty went out. The Clerk went
quickly down the hall and almost closed the door, leaving it open but a
chink. He stood by it, his head bent, intently listening. Lady
Wallingford remained where she was, trembling a little. Hardly five
minutes had passed when, in that perfect silence, deeper than any lull
in any town, any stillness in any countryside, the faint sound of slow
dragging feet was heard. They were literally dragging, each was pulled
along the path. The Clerk let go the door and stood back. It was pushed
open a little farther, and through the crack Betty squeezed herself in.
She was very pale, her eyes were almost shut, she drooped with the
heaviness of her fatigue. She came in; she made a motion to push the
door to; she stumbled forward and fell. The Clerk caught her; she lay
against him. The clerk looked over his shoulder at Lady Wallingford, who
as at a sudden call ran forward. She bent down and picked up her
daughter's feet. Between them the two creatures carried the girl
upstairs; their monstrous shadows rising against the walls. They took
her to her room and laid her on her bed. They undressed her and got her
into the bed, all in silence and with the softest and quickest
movements. Then they drew up chairs and sat down, one on each side. Lady
Wallingford took up a notebook and a pen. The Clerk leaned his head
close to Betty's and said something in her ear. He moved his head so
that his ear was close to Betty's mouth, and in a voice hardly to be
heard, with broken phrases and long intervals, she began to speak. He
repeated, in a voice harder than was usual with him, what she said. Lady
Wallingford wrote down the words. It was almost morning before the
triple labour was done. The Clerk stood up frowning. Lady Wallingford
looked at him. He shook his head slowly, and presently they both left
the room, she to her own, he to the staircase and the hall.

Betty had gone out from the house into the street. She did not
consciously remember what she had to do, and as she stood in the shadow
of the porch she drew a deep breath or two. Something-if in the porch
she had had a shadow, it would have been like her shadow, but it was
not, and it was more solid-lay in the porch, against the door behind
her. She did not notice it. She began to walk down the street, towards
Highgate Hill and the City that lay below. She went lightly and gaily;
these times were always happy and fortunate; she could not compare them
with others, for she knew no others. All but these joyous hours were
secluded from her. Ignorant of what she obeyed, but in a perfect
volition of obedience, she went along. She did not know through what
spectral streets she moved; she knew roads and turnings and recognized
her way, but she did not name them. She was not thinking of them, for
now she did not think. All that was, for the time, done. She only knew.
But she did not know that the silence was any but an earthly silence,
nor that the sky above her was the sky under which Lester and Evelyn
walked. Nor did she think of any insolidity; if for a moment the fronts
of the houses looked unearthly, she unconsciously attributed this to the
effects of the moon. The world was as familiar as this world, and to her
less terrifying.

It lay there, as it always does-itself offering no barriers, open to be
trodden, ghostly to this world and to heaven, and in its upper reaches
ghostly also to those in its lower reaches where (if at all) hell lies.
It is ours and not ours, for men and women were never meant to dwell
there long; though it is held by some that certain unaccountable
disappearances have been into that world, and that a few (even living)
may linger there awhile. But mostly those streets are only for the
passing through of the newly dead. It is not for human bodies, though it
has known a few-"Enoch, Elijah, and the Lady" though they not in London,
but in the places where they died. It has certainly been thought, but
the speculation is that of dreamers, that in the year of our great
danger the grand attack of our enemies succeeded; that London and
England perished; and that all we who then died entered it together and
live there till we have wrought out our salvation-to enjoy
(purgatorially) a freedom unpermitted on earth; and that our conquerors
live on that earth, troubled and frenzy-driven by a mystical awareness
of our presence. More justly, it is held by learned doctors that in
times of much bloodshed that world draws closer (so to call a
neighbourhood we cannot define) to this, that chance entry for the
living is easier, and that any who wish to drive others there for their
own purposes find the deathly work lighter. One day perhaps it will
indeed break through; it will undo our solidity, which belongs to earth
and heaven, and all of us who are then alive will find ourselves in it
and alone till we win through it to our own place. It is full enough of
passengers, but mostly alone, though those who died together may have
each other's companionship there, as Lester and Evelyn had, and a few
more fortunate friendships and intimate loves.

Betty Wallingford knew nothing of this. She walked in peace and gay, in
her seeming body. She had been compelled in her body, and in her body
she had left the house. That actual body lay now crouched in the porch
of the house, unconscious, waiting her return. Lester's and Evelyn's
flesh no longer waited them so; they had to find another way to the
reintegration of the great identity of flesh and soul. But the day,3
that had passed since their death had not held more for them than the
few minutes since she had left the house had for her. In that state
there might be ignorance, but even ignorance and fear meant only
definite pause or definite action. The vagueness, the dreaming, the
doubtful hanging-about are permitted only on the borders of intellectual
life, and in this world they were rare. Neither angels nor insects know
them, but only bewildered man. Far below Betty, as she came down the
Hill, Lester and Evelyn walked. The City about them had not changed nor
they. They were still troubled in their hearts by what did not at all
trouble her.

She walked on. It was already morning; the day had rushed, in brightness
and freshness, to meet her. It was a clear October morning--a little
cold, with a few clouds, but agreeable to all her senses. She almost
smelt it-a new pleasant smell mingling with the old London smell, but
that itself (though heavier than the other) no longer unpleasant, if
indeed it ever had been; the ground-bass of the whole absorbed music
with which the lighter sun and sky mingled. Indeed the same effect
struck her in sound, for she heard, as on similar journeys she had done,
the distant noise of the waking City. It always seemed to her at first
strange and then not strange. In general its citizens hardly notice it;
they are a part of it, and their ears are deafened by it. But her
hearing was now cleared and fresh, and she knew that it was happy and
that she was happily going to it. She had to find it, or rather
something in it, something which helped to compose it. All the sounds
and times which went to make it were not equally important to her now.
It was a question of time; she would come to the right time, for she had
been directed to it, but there was a way to it, a part to be gone
through first, a part of the City, not exactly disagreeable but strange.
It was as if she were going through a part of her own past, though it
was not always the same part, nor the same past. She knew that she only
remembered certain parts of it. Someone had once told her that her mind
wasn't very strong, "and indeed it isn't", she thought gaily, "but it's
quite strong enough to do what it's got to do, and what it hasn't got to
do it needn't worry about not doing." Who was it who had so joyously
teased her so? to whom she had so joyously replied?

She began, as she came to the bottom of the Hill, to remember more
clearly what did happen at these times. She had -they were hardly waking
dreams, but she could not think of another word. Sometimes she seemed to
be in a shadowy house, with the street faintly visible through the wall;
sometimes she saw herself going by in a car with her mother. One way or
another she was always in the dreams, and of some of them she was a
little ashamed because she seemed to be making a frightful fuss. In
ordinary dreams, as far as she knew, you did not criticize yourself. You
were doing something or other and you were just doing it, but you rarely
thought you might have done it very much better. Her shame however did
not do away with her enjoyment; there was an agreeable exhilaration in
her severe comments on herself She began to try and recollect one or
other of her dreams, but it was difficult, for she was now coming into
the busy streets, and there was colour and sound and many people, and
the sky was sparkling, and her heart swelled with mere delight. And in
the midst of it all she was at King's Cross Station.

It was crowded but not unpleasantly. She knew at once what she had to
do, or the first thing. She had to go and find that other self and say a
kind encouraging word to it; she had to help herself. Cleverer people,
no doubt, would help others, but she did not envy them, though she did
admire. Helping herself was almost like helping another, and helping
another was much like helping yourself. She made for the platform where
the York train stood. The happy exhilaration of action was upon her. She
remembered that you had to change at York for Palchester, and at
Palchester for Laughton; and she remembered how that other she grew more
and more distressed at each change and less and less capable of showing
it. The reason, for the moment, evaded her, but it ought not to be so.
"Be yourself, Betty," she said admonishingly, and saw herself on the
platform outside a compartment. This, she knew at once, was her most
recent journey. She and her mother had gone down in July, and this was
July, and there was she and there was her mother. Her mother-she was in
these dreams always surprised at her mother, for she definitely
remembered her as domineering and powerful, but whenever she saw her in
this world there seemed to be something lacking; she looked so blank and
purposeless and even miserable. And there by her mother was the other
Betty, quiet, wan, unhappy. The porters were calling out "Grantham,
Doncaster, York"; the passengers were getting in. Betty came to the
compartment. The dream was very strong. There was herself, her sister,
her twin. She laughed at her; she said, gaily and yet impatiently: "Oh
don't worry! Isn't it all a game? Why can't you play it?"

She did not know why she was so sure of the game, nor how she knew that
it was her mother's game, and only a courtesy, if she could, to play it
well. She added: "It won't hurt you." The other Betty said: "It does
hurt me." She answered: "Well, if you can't stand a pinch-Oh darling,
laugh!" The other Betty stood wretched and mute. Lady Wallingford said:
"Get in, Betty. You travel first class as far as Laughton, you know."
She added to a porter: "This part is for York?" The porter having just
called out "Grantham, Doncaster, York", exercised a glorious self-
restraint, and said: "Yes, lady." He spoke perhaps from habit, but here
habit was full of all its past and all. its patience, and its patience
was the thunder of the passage of a god dominant, miraculous and yet
recurrent. Golden-thighed Endurance, sun-shrouded justice, were in him,
and his face was the deep confluence of the City. He said again: "Yes,
lady," and his voice was echoed in the recesses of the station, and
thrown out beyond it It was held in the air, and dropped, and some other
phrase in turn caught up and held. There was no smallest point in all
the place that was not redeemed into beauty and good-except Lady
Wallingford's eyes and her young companion's white face. But the joyous
face of that Betty who stood on the platform, whom her mother did not
see, leaned towards her, and as the train began to move, cried out to
her twin: "A game! only a game!" The girl in the train momentarily
brightened and almost tried to smile.

Betty stood and watched it go. When it had disappeared into a part, into
a past, of this world-she turned. She paused, not quite knowing what she
should do. Her exhilarated heart saddened a little: a touch of new
gravity showed in her face. She felt as if she had delayed on an errand,
yet she had been right to delay, for she had been directed by the City
itself to this meeting. It had been given to her and enjoined on her but
it had been somehow for her personal sake; now she must do her business
for some other. She tried to remember what she had been bidden, but she
could not. That did not matter; in this blessed place it would be shown
to her. She walked slowly up the platform, and as she went the whole air
and appearance of the station changed. With every step she took a
vibration passed through the light; the people about her became shadowy;
her own consciousness of them was withdrawn. She moved in something of a
trance, unaware of the quickening of the process of time, or rather of
her passage through time. The perfect composure of the City in which all
the times of London existed took this wanderer into itself, and provided
the means to fulfil her errand. When she had left her house, it had been
late October; she had stood on the platform in the fullness of the
preceding July; she walked now through the altering months, to every
step a day, till when she came to the bookstall, some six months had
gone by, and she stood by it on a dark morning in January, the January
her mortal body in the porch of the house had not yet known, nor Simon
the Clerk, nor any on earth. She had moved on into the thing happening,
for here all things were happening at once. These were the precincts of
felicity. The felicity of the City knew its own precincts, but as yet,
while she was but a vagrant here, she could not know them as such. She
was happy, yet as she came to the book-stall a vague contradiction of
felicity rose in her heart and faded. It was right that she should do
whatever it was she was about to do, yet she did not quite like it. She
felt as if she were being a little vulgar, though she could not guess
how. She was holding-how she could not guess; and the question hardly
occurred to her-a few coins. Before her on the bookstall were the
morning and weekly papers. Apologetically-she could not help feeling
apologetic-she bought a number. She went into the waiting-room and sat
down to read.

The reading had absolutely no meaning to her. Her eyes ran over, her
memory took in, the printed lines. But for herself she neither
understood nor remembered them. She was not doing it for herself but
because she had been commanded She read one paper, finished it, folded
it, laid it down, took up another, and so through all. She read the
future, but the future was not known to her; it was saved, by the
redemption that worked in that place, for the master who had sent her
there. Let him make his profit of it; her salvation was his peril. The
activities and judgments of the world in that new January were recorded
in her, but she, being magically commanded, was yet free. She lightly
rose at last and left the papers lying. She went out of the waiting-room
and of the station; she took her way again towards Highgate. By the time
she had come into the street, she had moved again through receding time.
It was again October, and a fresh wind was blowing.

Her mind now was a little subdued from her earlier joy. She caught
herself looking forward to a tiresomeness, some kind of dull
conversation. There were people waiting for her who would want things
repeated or explained. "And I'm not", Betty protested, "very good at
explaining. I've been trying to explain something to my mother for a
long time, but I've never got it over." She spoke aloud, but not to
anyone present; indeed there were few people present; the streets were
emptier, and there was no-one by or in front of her. She spoke almost to
the City itself, not in defence or excuse, but as a fact. She heard no
answer, except that the air seemed to heighten, and the light in it to
grow, as if it proposed to her something of encouragement and hope. If
she had seen Jonathan's other picture she might have recognised the
vibration of that light, though neither she nor anyone could have
guessed why or how he had been permitted that understanding of a thing
he had never known in itself. "And", she went on, "I shan't feel as good
as this presently. I-I shall very likely have a headache too, which'll
make it worse." The remark died into the air; she walked on, trying not
to be peevish. She came-so quickly -to the bottom of the Hill, and as
she saw it waiting to be climbed (so conscious did all the streets seem)
she said, with the first touch of real distress: "It does seem a shame."
It did -to leave this goodness for the stupid business before her; she
knew it would be stupid, and she could feel the first symptoms of the
headache. However, it could not be helped; someone had to do the job,
and if it were she- She became conscious that she was making something
of a difficulty out of climbing the Hill, and quickened her steps. The
dullness she expected would be but a game, and she would play it well.
But as she mounted, the sense that she was near to leaving the City grew
on her. She turned once or twice and looked back. It lay, lovely and
light before her, but away to the East it was already a little shadowed,
and the West was already rose and crimson as the sun sank. She would
not, she knew, be here when it did sink; the night in this City was not
for her. Another night waited her. It seemed to her that never when she
had walked here before, had she felt it so hard to return. Then the
sadness and the pain had taken her suddenly at the end. Now there was
preparation; they approached, and she had become protestant, almost
rebellious at their approach. Why leave? why leave? She was already on
the edge of the shadow over the Hill's height, and all before her the
sunset, over the City-another sunset, another sun-glowed not as if the
light were going but as if the night were coming, a holier beauty, a
richer mystery. She closed her hand at her side, and it was warm as if
she held another hand in hers, and that hand-holding surely belonged
here. On the very junction of the two worlds-rather, in the very
junction of them within her-the single goodness of the one precipitated
itself into the other. She knew its name; she knew who it was who, in
that, belonged to this. There someone was denying it; here it was
native. She called aloud: 'Jonathan!" On the edge of shadow, so near and
so near the dark house that waited her, so near some power in which this
bright self and joyous life would be again lost, she cried out on her
lover. She stamped one small foot on the pavement. The demands of the
other Betty were rising in her, but the energy of this was still with
her. She just stopped herself saying: "I won't go!"; that would be
silly, but she called, her very mildness mutinying, on the name of her
only happiness, wishing to claim and clutch that happiness-she called
again: "Jonathan! Jonathan!" Freely and fully her voice rang out, as
never in all her young tormented life had her mortal mouth called.
Immortal, she cried to immortality; and the immortal City let the word
sound through it and gave it echo and greater meaning in the echo:
"Jonathan! Jonathan!" Alone in the growing shadow, she looked down the
Hill, and listened and waited. If he were there, perhaps she could be
there; if not- The night about her grew; she lingered still.

Far away, in London's mortal measurement, but brief time enough
immortally, the two dead girls walked. It was not, to them, so very long
since they had left the Parka few days or even less. But Evelyn had
reached what would have been on earth the point of exhaustion from
tears; there was here no such exhaustion, but as if by a kind of
reflexive action she stopped. She might begin again when she would have
been capable of beginning again; at present she could not. She did not
dare leave Lester, though she did not like Lester any the better for
that. Lester still interfered with her chatter, and without her chatter
this world was almost unbearable to her. She was afraid of losing that
escape from its pressure, nor did she know how Lester could bear that
pressure. And if Lester would not listen, there was no-one else to do
so. Her fright required of her that relief, and she hated Lester for
depriving her of it. Yet Lester still held her arm, and in default of
better she dare not lose that pressure. And sometimes Lester did say
something and encourage her to answer-only generally about silly
uninteresting things.

Once, as they had been coming along Holborn, Lester had stopped and
looked in one of those curious windows which were no windows. She had
said hesitantly to her companion: "Evelyn, look, can you see any
difference?" Evelyn had looked, but she had not seen anything
particular. It seemed to be a shop with electric lamps and fires
displayed-all vague and unreal enough. But Lester was looking at them
seriously. She said: "That's the kind I've always meant to get. Do you -
see, the one in the back row?" Evelyn did not even want to look. She
said in a high strained voice: "Don't be silly, Lester. What's the
good?" It gave her some pleasure to retaliate; besides, she never had
been interested in such convenient details. She would complain if things
went wrong, but she would take no care to have them go right. Lester
almost smiled; it was a sad little smile, but it was her first
unpremeditated smile. She said: "No. But they do somehow look more real.
And we both meant to get one. Richard was going to try and get me one
for my birthday. Do be interested, Evelyn." Evelyn said sullenly: "You
wouldn't be interested in what I was saying," and pulled away.

Lester with a small sigh had turned with her. That shop had for a moment
seemed less like a facade and more like a shop. It had held the sort of
thing that had once concerned her-not only for her own convenience, or
to improve on her neighbours, but for a pleasure in its own neatness and
effectiveness. As she turned away, at a corner, Evelyn felt her stop so
suddenly that she herself gave a little squeal of fright. The grip on
her arm relaxed, and then was so tightened that she squealed again in
protest. But Lester had been rough and unkind. She had said: "Keep
quiet-" and had choked and drawn a deep breath or two. Evelyn felt how
unfair it was; first she was to talk, and then not to talk, and how
could anyone know? She felt herself beginning to cry, and then they had
gone on again in silence, up northward, till they had come out of all
the parts of London she knew, and were in some long sordid street. There
was still no-one else.

But suddenly there was another sound. High beyond and above them a voice
called, piercing the air and shaking their hearts. Both girls abruptly
stood still. It was a human voice, a girl's voice, crying high in the
silence, with assurance and belief. Lester threw up her head; she did
not recognize the voice but the note of it lifted her. It was a woman's
call; and that was the way a woman should call in this City, the way she
should call if she-if she too could dare. She thought of Richard as she
had just now seen him in Holborn, and she opened her mouth to send his
name also ringing over the streets, as this other name which she could
not yet catch was ringing. She heard her voice, "as if hoarse with long
disuse", say dully: "Richard!" The sound horrified her. Was this all she
could do? She tried again. It was.

She made a third effort, and again she heard from her own mouth only the
flat voice of the dead. She was possessed by it. Death, it seemed, was
not over; it had only just begun. She was dying further. She could not
call; presently she would not be able to speak; then not to see-neither
the high stars nor the meaningless lights-yet still, though meaningless,
faintly metropolitan. But she would find even this pale light too much,
and presently would creep away from it towards one of those great open
entrances that loomed here and there, for inside one of them she could
hide from the light. Then she would go farther in, so as not to see even
the entrance, in spite of the brick wall that stood before it; farther
in, and a little way down the coiling stairs. If Richard came along the
street then . . . no; perhaps she would wait at the entrance till he
did, and then call him in this faint croak. She had pushed him away
once, but now she would not push him away; she would call him and keep
him; let him too find it -all the stairs, all the living dead. It was
not the dead, as she had thought, it was the living who dwelled in those
tunnels of earth-deep and O deep beyond any railways, in the tubes they
themselves, thrusting and pushing, hollowed out for their shelter.
Richard should no longer be pushed away; he should be there with her,
prisoner with her, prisoner to her. If only he too would die, and come!

She saw all this in her mind for as long as it took that other voice to
call once more. She saw it clearly-for an aeon; this was what she
wanted; this was what she was. This was she, damned; yes, and she was
damned; she, being that, was damned. There was no help, unless she could
be something other, and there was no power in her to be anything other.
As she stood, in a trance of horror at herself or at hell, or at both,
being one, a word pierced her brain. The word was "Jonathan!" The far
voice was calling: "Jonathan!" She knew the word; it was the name of
Richard's friend. She had not herself much interest in Jonathan, but she
had asked him to dinner because Richard liked him, she had studied his
paintings with goodwill because Richard liked him. She recognized the
name, and the name struck through her vision of the Pit. She was not yet
so; no, she was not yet there; she was in the streets, and breathed
still the open air, and knew the calls of love. Something, in or out of
her mind, said to her: "Would it be unfair?" She answered, with the
courage and good sense native to her, but with a new and holy shyness:
"It would be perhaps extreme." "It would be your own extreme," the
voice, if it were a voice, continued. She said: "Yes."

The unspoken dialogue ceased. The call from above had ceased. She seemed
to have shut her eyes; she opened them. She saw Evelyn in front of her,
running hard. She called, and even as she did so she realized that she
could call Evelyn easily enough, and that that was not surprising-she
called: "Evelyn!" The silent running figure looked back over its
shoulder, and Evelyn's thin voice came to her clearly. It said: "That
was Betty." It turned its head again and ran on. Lester also began to
run. The face that had looked back had startled her; it had been excited
and pleased. She remembered Betty, and she remembered that Evelyn had
not been very nice to Betty. They had once all three run in this way
through the grounds of their school by the sea; indeed, as she ran, the
bushes of those grounds showed through the houses and shops. Betty had
run away, and Evelyn had run after Betty, and suddenly she herself had
run after Evelyn. It had not been often she took the trouble, for Betty
bored her, and anyhow Evelyn never did anything to Betty; even then she
had been calling: "I only want to talk to you." But something in the
talk made Betty cry, and for once Lester had interfered; and now, as
then, they ran down the path; no, not down the, path but up the street,
towards Highgate, out to the bottom of the Hill. High above them a
single figure watched them come.

Betty watched them; they were at first far away, and she did not know
them. While she had gone out on her appointed way, she had been free
from pain. But the terrible laws of that place gave her what she wanted
when she insisted on it. Her distress, and now the nearness of her
distress, might excuse a rebellion; it could not modify its results. She
had stamped on the pavement, and (as in the old tales) the inhabitants
of that place sprang at once into being. She had called on something she
knew. But that something was more deeply engaged on its work in the
world of the shadow behind her, and this world would not give her that.
She saw at a distance the two running women, strange and remote as in a
painting or a poem. She watched them curiously, and the time went by, as
long to her as to Evelyn racing up the slope or to Lester outdistanced
behind. Lester lost ground; she did not know clearly why she went, but
Evelyn did; therefore the one ran faster and the other slower, for still
in the outer circles of that world a cruel purpose could      outspeed a
vague pity. But the cruelty could not reach its      end. Betty waited
till, halfway up the Hill, the first running figure lifted its head
slightly, so that she saw the face and knew it for Evelyn's. She took a
step or two back, and the night of this world into which she had
hesitated to advance took her as she retreated. Her nightmare possessed
her; now it was happening. She screamed and turned and fled.

Evelyn called: "Betty! Betty! stop!" but to Betty's cars the name rang
confused. It had been "Bettina!" in her dreams; it was "Bettina!" now.
She ran. There was but a short street or two between her and the house;
they were to her the natural streets, the sad unhappy streets of
Highgate. She forgot her fear of the house in her fear of Evelyn.
"Bettina! Bettina!"
O lost, lost! but now nearer the house, and the cold quiet thing that
waited her in the porch. "Bettina! Bettina!" Noshe was there, and she
and the shape by the door were no longer separate. A great exhaustion
fell on her; her eyes closed; her body failed; she pushed weakly at the
door and stumbled through. She fell; someone caught her; she knew
nothing more.

Outside the house Evelyn stopped. For her that other world had not
changed. It was as quiet and empty, as earthly and unearthly as ever. It
was not quite dark; it never yet had been quite dark. The soft, intense,
and holy darkness of that City was not known to her. She stood, gently
panting, as a girl might who has wholeheartedly run from and been
pursued by a welcome lover: so, and yet not so, for that swift and
generous animality was not hers. The kind of rage that was in her was
the eager stirring 'of the second death. She had wanted Betty, and now
she did not know what she wanted. The house was before her, but she was
afraid to try to enter it.

At that moment Lester caught her up. She said, with an imperious demand:
"What are you doing, Evelyn? Can't you let her be?" and as she spoke she
seemed to herself again to be saying something she had said before-away
in those gardens by the sea, a great sea the sound of which, beyond her
own voice, she could dimly hear as she had so often heard it in her bed
at school. It was almost as if, behind her, the whole City moved. She
half-lifted her hand to catch Evelyn by the shoulder, and that too she
had once done; but she let it fall, for now the revolt in her flesh was
too strong. Yet, as if she had been swung round by that once-impetuous
hand, Evelyn turned. She said, as she had said before, in that foolish
slurred voice whose protestations provoked disbelief: "What do you mean?
I wasn't doing anything."

The answer shocked Lester back into fuller consciousness. They were no
longer schoolgirls; they were-what were they? Women; dead women; living
women; women on whose lips such words could have      no meaning. The
excuse of a child in a garden by the sea     might have been accepted,
if it had not been repeated here.    But here it became dreadful. In the
Park Lester could have     half-smiled at it; she could not smile now.
She spoke with a      fuller and clearer voice than ever it had been in
this world;    she spoke as a woman, as Richard's wife, as something
more than a vagrant, even if not yet a citizen; and she said: "Don't, my
dear. It isn't worth it-" and as if by compulsion she added: "here."

Evelyn stopped, almost as if detaching herself from the other's hand,
and took a step away. Lester looked up at the house. It seemed to her
strange and awful. Betty had taken refuge in it, as once on a garden-
seat among the bushes. Over it, close to it, a lone star hung. The other
houses were shadowy and uncertain; this alone was solid and real. It
stood out, and within its porch the entrance was as black as one of
those other dark entrances which she feared. As she gazed, there came
from the house a small human sound. It was someone crying. The half-
suppressed unhappy sobs were the only noise that broke the silence.
Evelyn's sobs and chattering teeth had broken it in the Park, but Evelyn
was not crying now. It was Betty who was crying-among the bushes, in the
house, without strength, without hope. Lester, with her own yearning in
her bones, stirred restlessly, in an impatient refusal of her impatient
impulse to go and tell her to stop. In those earlier days, she had not
gone; she had hesitated a moment just so, and then turned away. Betty
must really learn to stand up for herself. "Must she indeed?" Lester's
own voice said to her. She exclaimed, with the fervent habit of her
mortality: "Hell!"

The word ran from her in all directions, as if a dozen small animals had
been released and gone racing away. They fled up and down the street,
beating out the echo of the word with their quick pattering feet, but
the larger went for the house in front of them and disappeared into the
porch, She saw them, and was appalled; what new injury had she loosed?
There was then no help. She too must go there. And Richard? She had
thought that in this terrible London she had lost Richard, but now it
seemed to her that this was the only place where she might meet Richard.
She had seen him twice, and the second time with some undeclared renewal
of love. What might not be granted a third time? voice? a word? Ghosts
had spoken; ghost as he was to her in those first appearances, he too
might speak. To go into the house might be to lose him. The quiet
crying, still shockingly suppressed, continued. Lester hung irresolute.

Behind her, Evelyn's voice said: "Oh come away!" At the words Lester,
for the first time in her life saw a temptation precisely as it is when
it has ceased to tempt-repugnant, implausible, mean. She said nothing.
She went forward and up the steps. She went on into Lady Wallingford's
house.




                            Chapter Five

                         THE HALL BY HOLBORN

Richard Furnival was as wakeful that night in his manner as Betty in
hers. Once he had again reached his flatit was taking him a long time to
get used to saying "my flat" instead of "our flat"-and as the night drew
on, he found himself chilled and troubled. He knew of a score of easy
phrases to explain his vision; none convinced him. Nor had he any
conviction of metaphysics into which, retaining its own nature, it might
easily pass. He thought of tales of ghosts; he even tried to pronounce
the words; but the word was silly. A ghost was a wraith, a shadow; his
vision had been of an actual Lester. The rooms were cold and empty-as
empty as any boarding-house rooms where the beloved has been and from
which (never to return) she has gone. The afternoon with Jonathan had,
when he left, renewed in him the tide of masculine friendship. But that
tide had always swelled against the high cliff of another element, on
which a burning beacon had once stood-and now suddenly had again stood.
The sound of deep waves was in his ears, and even then his eyes had
again been filled with the ancient fiery light. He had not, since he had
first met Lester, lost at all the sense of great Leviathans, disputes
and laughter, things native and natural to the male, but beyond them,
and shining towards them had been that other less natural, and as it
were more archangelic figure-remote however close, terrifying however
sustaining, that which was his and not his, more intimate than all that
was his, the shape of the woman and his wife. He had yet, for all his
goodwill, so neglected her that he had been content to look at her so
from his sea; he had never gone in and lived in that strange turret. He
had admired, visited, used it. But not till this afternoon had he seen
her as simply living. The noise of ocean faded; rhetoric ceased. This
that he had seen had been in his actual house, and now it was not, and
the house was cold and dark. He lit a fire to warm himself; he ate and
drank; he went from room to room; he tried to read. But every book he
opened thrust one message at him-from modern novels ("Aunt Rachel can't
live much longer--") to old forgotten volumes ("The long habit of living
indisposeth us for dying"; "But she is dead, she's dead . . . "). His
teeth chattered; his body shook. He went to bed and dozed and woke and
walked and again lay down, and so on. Till that night he had not known
how very nearly he had loved her.

In the morning he made haste to leave. He was indeed on the point of
doing so when Jonathan rang him up. Jonathan wanted to tell him about
the Clerk's visit, and the Clerk's approval of the painting. Richard did
his best to pay attention, and was a little arrested by the mere
unexpectedness of the tale. He said, with a serious sympathy: "But that
makes everything much simpler, doesn't it? He'll deal with Lady
Wallingford, I suppose?"

"Yes," said Jonathan's voice, "yes. If I want him to. I don't believe I
do want him to."

"But why not?" asked Richard.

"Because. . . . The fact is, I don't like him. I don't like the way he
talks about Betty or the way he looks at paintings. You go and see him
or hear him or whatever you can, and come on here and tell me. God knows
I . . . well, never mind. I shall be here all day, unless Betty sends
for Me."

After this conversation, Richard was about to leave the flat, when he
paused and went back. He would not seem to run away; if, by any chance,
that presence of his wife should again appear, he would not be without
all he could accumulate from her environs with which to greet her. Nor
would he now seem to fly. He walked through the rooms. He submitted to
memory, and in some poignant sense to a primitive remorse, for he was
not yet spiritually old enough to repent. Then, quietly, he went out,
and (unable quite to control his uselessly expectant eyes) walked
through the streets till he reached Holborn.

It did not take him long to find the place of which he was in search.
Behind Holborn, close to Great James Street, in a short street undamaged
by the raids, were three buildings, one the largest, of a round shape,
in the middle with a house on each side. They were not marked by any
board, but as Richard came to the farther house, he saw that the door
was open. A small exquisite carving of a hand, so delicate as to be
almost a woman's or a child's hand, was fastened to the door-post, its
fingers pointing into the house. Richard had never seen any carving that
so nearly achieved the colour of flesh; he thought at the first glance
that it was flesh, and that a real dismembered hand pointed him to the
Clerk's lodging. He touched it cautiously with a finger as he went by
and was a little ashamed of his relief when he found it was hard and
artificial.

He walked on as far as the end of the street; then he walked back. It
was a warm sunny morning for October, and as he paced it seemed to him
that the air was full of the scent of flowers. The noise of the streets
had died away; it was very quiet. He thought, as he paused before
turning, how pleasant it was here. It was even pleasant in a way not to
have anyone in his mind, or on his mind. People who were in your mind
were so often on your mind, and that was a slight weariness. One would,
of course, rather have it so than not. He had never grudged Lester
anything, but here, where the air was so fresh and yet so full of a
scent he just did not recognize, and London was as silent as the wood in
Berkshire where he and Lester had been for a few days after their
marriage, it was almost pleasant to be for a moment without Lester. His
eyes averted themselves from where she was not lest she should
unexpectedly be there. It was sufficient now to remember her in that
wood-and even so, eclectically, for she had one day been rather
difficult even in that wood, when she had wanted to go into the nearest
town to get a particular magazine, in case by the time they did go on
their return, it should be sold out, and he had not, for (as he had
rightly and rationally pointed out) she could at a pinch wait for it
till they got to London. But she had insisted, and because he always
wished to consider her and be as unselfish as possible, they had gone.
He was surprised, as he stood there, to remember how much he had
considered Lester. A score of examples rushed vividly through his mind,
and each of those he remembered was actual and true. He really had
considered her; he had been, in that sense, a very good husband. He
almost wondered if he had been too indulgent, too kind. No; if it were
to do again, he would do it. Now she was gone, he was content to
remember it. But also now she was gone, he could attend to himself.
Luxuriating-more than he knew in the thought, he turned. Luxury stole
gently out within him, and in that warm air flowed about him; luxury,
luxuria, the quiet distilled luxuria of his wishes and habits, the
delicate sweet lechery of idleness, the tasting of unhallowed peace.

He remembered with equal distaste that he was on an errand, and felt
sorry that Jonathan was not doing his own errand. Jonathan could, just
as well as not; after all, it was Jonathan who wanted to marry Betty.
However, as he had promised, as he was committed . . . it would be more
of a nuisance to explain to Jonathan-and to himself, but he did not add
that-than to go in. He contemplated the carved hand with admiration,
almost with affection; it really was the Most exquisite thing. There was
nothing of Jonathan's shouting colours about it. Jonathan- was so
violent. Art, he thought, should be persuasive. This, however, was too
much even for his present state of dreaming luxury. He came to, or
almost came to, and found himself in the hall.

It was a rather larger hall than he had expected. On his left hand were
the stairs; before him, the passage ran, with another ascending
staircase farther on, to a kind of garden door. There was apparently
another passage at the end turning off to the left. On his right was the
door into the front room, which was open, and beyond it another door,
which was shut. Richard hesitated, and began to approach the open door.
As he did so, a short rather fat man came out of it, and said in a tone
of much good humour: "Yes, sir?"

Richard said: "Oh good morning. Is this Father Simon's place?"

The short man answered: "That's right, sir. Can I do anything for you?"

"I just wanted to get some particulars for a friend," Richard said. "Is
there anyone I could see?"

"Come in here, sir," said the other, retreating into the room. "I'm here
to answer, as you may say, the first questions. My name's Plankin; I'm a
kind of doorkeeper. Come in, sir, and sit down. They all come to me
first, sir, and no-one knows better than I do what the Father's done. A
tumour on the brain, sir; that's what he cured me of, a year ago. And
many another poor creature since."

"Did he?" said Richard, a little sceptically. He was in the front room
by now. He had vaguely expected something like an 6ffice, but it was
hardly that; a waiting-room perhaps. There was a table with a telephone,
a few chairs, and that was all. Richard was maneeuvred to a chair; the
short man sat down on another by the table, put his hands on his knees,
and looked benevolently at the visitor. Richard saw that, beside the
telephone, there was also on the table a large-sized album and a pot of
paste. He thought, but he knew one could not judge, that it looked as
if- Plankin had an easy job. But after a tumour on the brain-! He said:
"I wanted to ask about Father Simon's work. Does he-"

The short man, sitting quite still, began to speak. He said: "yes, sir,
a tumour. He put his blessed hands on my head, and cured it. There isn't
a man or woman in this house that he hasn't cured. I've never had a pain
since, not of any kind. Nor they neither. We all carry his mark in our
bodies, sir, and we're proud of it."

"Really?" said Richard; "yes; you must be. Does he run some kind of
clinic, then?"

"Oh no, sir," Plankin said. "He puts everything right straight away. He
took the paralysis away from Elsie Bookin who does the typing, and old
Mrs. Morris who's the head cook-he cured her cancer. He does it all. I
keep an album here, sir, and I stick in it everything the papers say
about him. But it's not like knowing him, as we do."

"No," said Richard, "I suppose not. Do you have many inquirers?"

"Not so very many, for the Father wants to be quiet here," said-Plankin.
"He sends most of them away after he's seen them, to wait. But they
come; oh yes, they come. And some go away and some even come to the
Relaxations."

"The Relaxations?" Richard asked.

"Oh well, sir," said Plankin, "you'll hear about them, if you stay. The
Father gives us peace. He'll tell you about it." He nodded his head,
swaymg a little, and saying, "Peace, peace".

"Can I see the Father then?" said Richard. Inside the room the warm air
seemed again to be full of that attractive smell. He might have been in
the very middle of the Berkshire wood, again, without Lester, but with
an agreeable memory of Lester. The green distemper on the walls of the
room was gently moving as if the walls were walls of leaves, and glints
of sunlight among them; and the short man opposite him no more than a
tree-stump. He could be content to sit here in the wood, where the dead
did not matter and never returned -no more than if they had not been
known, except for this extra exquisiteness of a happy dream. But
presently some sort of surge went through the wood, and the tree-stump
stood up and said: "Ah now that'll be one of the ladies. She'll tell you
better than I can." Richard came to himself and heard a step in the
hall. He rose to his feet, and as he did so Lady Wallingford appeared in
the doorway.

She did not, when she saw him, seem pleased. She stood still and
surveyed him. Except for the moment or two of introduction, he had not
on the previous afternoon been face to face with her, and now he was
struck by the force of her face. She looked at him, and she said coldly:
"What do you want here?"

The challenge completely restored Richard. He said: "Good morning, Lady
Wallingford. I came to ask a few questions about Father Simon. After
yesterday, I was naturally interested."

Lady Wallingford said: "Are you sure this is a place for you?"

"Well," Richard answered, "I hope I'm not pig-headed, and I can quite
believe that Jonathan may have been wrong." He remembered that morning's
telephone conversation and added: "If his painting was what you thought
it. I was wondering if I could meet-I don't want to intrude-meet Father
Simon. He must be a very remarkable man. And if he had any public
meetings-Knowledge is always useful."

"You run a certain risk," Lady Wallingford said. "But I've changed my
mind a little about your friend's painting. Of course, there can be no
nonsense about an engagement, I have quite other views for her. But if
you really wish to learn-"

"Why not?" said Richard. "As for the engagement-that perhaps is hardly
my business. I am only thinking of my own instruction." He began to feel
that he was making progress. Jonathan was always apt to rush things. He
took a step forward and went on engagingly: "I assure you-" He stopped,
Another figure had appeared behind Lady Wallingford. She seemed to know
it was there, for without looking round she moved out of the doorway, so
as to leave room for it to enter. Richard knew at once who it was. He
recognized the shape of the face from Jonathan's painting, yet his first
thought was that, in this case, Jonathan's painting was quite
ridiculously wrong. There was no bewilderment or imbecility about the
face that looked at him; rather there was a highness, almost an
arrogance, in it which abashed him. He knew that on his right Plankin
had dropped on his knees; he had seen Lady Wallingford move. That the
movements did not surprise him was the measure of his sense of
sovereignty. He resisted an impulse to retreat; he himself became
bewildered; he felt with a shock that Simon was between him and the
door. He knew the door was there, but he could not focus it properly.
The door was not behind Simon; it was Simon: all the ways from this room
and in this wood went through Simon. Lady Wallingford was only a stupid
old witch in a wood, but this was the god in the wood. Between the tree-
stump and the watching witch, he stood alone in the Berkshire wood; and
Lester had gone away into the nearest town. He had not gone with her-
because he had not gone with her. He had gone to please her, to consider
her, which was not at all the same thing. So she had gone alone, and he
was alone with the god in the wood, and the witch, and the tree-stump.
The god was the witch's husband and father, his father, everyone's
father; he loomed in front of him and over him. Yet he was also a way of
escape from the wood and from himself. The high emaciated face was at
once a wall and a gate in the wall, but the gate was a very old gate,
and no-one had gone through it, except perhaps the witch, for many years

Plankin stood up. Richard's head jerked. Simon was speaking. He said:
"Mr. Furnival?" Richard answered: "Father Simon? How do you do?"

The Clerk came a pace into the room. He was wearing a black cassock,
caught round the waist by a heavy gold chain. He did not offer his hand,
but he said in a pleasant enough voice: "You've come to see us? That is
kind." The faint huskiness of the voice reminded Richard of Lester's,
which, clear enough at hand, always sounded slightly husky on the
telephone. It had been, to him, one of her most agreeable
characteristics. He had sometimes rung it up in order to hear that
huskiness, carefully explaining the eroticism to himself, but
undoubtedly enjoying it almost as happily as if he had not known it was
eroticism. It had been in that voice that she had uttered the last thing
he had ever heard her say-on the telephone, that too-fatal afternoon:
"See you presently, darling." It leapt in his mind. He said: "Yes.
Jonathan Drayton's painting made me interested. I hope it's permitted to
call like this?"

A constriction passed across the Clerk's face. He answered: "It's free
to everyone who cares. And any friend of Mr. Drayton's is especially
welcome. He is a great man-only he must not paint foolish pictures of
the City. London light is nothing like that. You must tell him so. What
can we show you? We've no buildings, no relics, no curios. Only
ourselves." He came farther into the room, and Richard saw that there
were others behind him. There was a man who looked like a lorry driver,
another like a clerk, another who might have been just down from the
University. With them there were several women whom he did not
immediately take in. These perhaps were those Whom Simon had helped.
Their eyes were all on the Clerk; no wonder, and again no wonder. Here,
in this warm place, there was no illness, no pain, no distress. Simon
would have seen to that. Perhaps no death, no ruined body, no horrible
memory to mingle with amusing memories.

Simon said again: "Ourselves", and Richard, almost as if he pushed open
the gate of the god, said suddenly: "I wish you'd known my wife," and
the god answered in that husky voice, as if it came from deeper in the
wood: "Is she dead?"

The harsh word did not break the calm. Richard said: "Yes." The god's
voice continued: "Well, we shall see. Most things are possible. If I
send for her, she may come." He lifted a hand. "Come, all of you," he
said. "Come into the Relaxation. Come, Mr. Furnival." As he used the
commonplace phrase, he became again Simon the Clerk, a man to whom
Richard was talking. He turned, and everyone turned with him and made
way for him. He went into the hall, and in the general movement Richard
found himself surrounded and carried along in the small crush. He went
necessarily but also voluntarily. Simon's words rang in his ears: "May
come ... may come.... If I send for her, she may come." Dead? may come?
what was this hint of threat or promise? dead, and return? But she had
come; he had seen her; not far from here he had seen her. The sudden
recollection shocked him almost to a pause. Something touched his
shoulder, lightly; fingers or antennae. He stepped forward again. They
were going down the hall and turning into a narrow corridor, as if into
a crack in the wall, insects passing into a crack; they were all passing
through. They had come to another door, narrower than the passage, and
here they went through one at a time, and the witchwoman who had been
walking beside him stepped aside for him to pass through. It was Lady
Wallingford, and she smiled -friendlily at him, and now he smiled back
and went on. Something just brushed his cheek as he did so; a cobweb in
the wood or something else. He came into a clearing, an old wooden
building, a hole; he did not precisely know which it was, but there were
chairs in it, so it must be a room of some kind-rather like an old round
church, but not a church. There was one tall armed chair. Simon was
going across to it. Opposite to it was the only window the room
possessed -a low round window, that seemed to be set in a very deep wall
indeed, and yet it could not be, for he could see through it now, and
into nothing but a kind of     'empty yard. He hesitated; he did not
quite know where to go,. but a light small hand, as if it were the
carved hand he had seen on the doorpost of that house, crept into his
arm, and guided him to a chair at one end of a rough half-circle, so
that he could see at once the Clerk in his chair, and the tunnel-like
window opposite. He sat down. It was Lady Wallingford who had led him.
She withdrew her hand, and he almost thought that as she did so her
fingers softly touched his cheek, light as cobweb or antennae. But she
had gone right away now, to the other end of that half-moon of chairs,
and was sitting down opposite him. Simon, he, Lady Wallingford, the
windowfour points in a circle; a circle-return and return; may come and
may come. They were all sitting now, and Simon began to speak.

Richard looked at him. He knew the derivation of the word "Clerk", and
that the original Greek meant "inheritance". The clerks were the
inheritors; that was the old wise meaning -men who gathered their
inheritance, as now, in that strange husky voice of his, the being on
the throned seat was gathering his own. He was pronouncing great words
in a foreign tongue; he seemed to exhort and explain, but then also he
seemed to collect and receive. Was it a foreign tongue? it was almost
English, but not quite English, and sometimes not at all English.
Richard was rather good at languages, but this evaded him. It did not
seem to evade the others; they were all sitting, listening and gazing.
The voice itself indeed sounded more like a chorus of two or three than
a single voice. They all died for a moment on a single English word; the
word was Love.

The Clerk sat and spoke. His hands rested on the arms of his chair; his
body was quite still; except that his head turned slightly as he
surveyed the half-moon of his audience. The Jewish traits in his face
were more marked. The language in which he spoke was ancient Hebrew, but
he was pronouncing it in a way not common among men. He paused now and
then to translate into English-or so it seemed, though only he knew if
it was indeed so, and the English itself was strange and dull. A curious
flatness was in his voice. He was practising and increasing this,
denying accents and stresses to his speech. Wise readers of verse do
their best to submit their voices to the verse, letting the words have
their own proper value, and endeavour to leave them to their precise
proportion and rhythm. The Clerk was going farther yet. He was removing
meaning itself from the words. They fought against him; man's vocabulary
fought against him. Man's art is perhaps worth little in the end, but it
is at least worth its own present communication. All the poems and
paintings may, like faith and hope, at last dissolve; but while faith
and hope-and desperation-live, they live; while human communication
remains, they remain. It was this that the Clerk was removing; he
turned, or sought to turn, words into mere vibrations. The secret school
in which he had grown up had studied to extend their power over vocal
sounds beyond the normal capacities of man. Generations had put
themselves to the work. The healing arts done in that house had depended
on this power; the healer had by sympathy of sound breathed restoring
relationship into the sub-rational components of flesh.

But there were sounds that had a much greater spell, sounds that could
control not only the living but the dead-say, those other living who in
another world still retained a kinship and in some sense an identity
with this. Great pronouncements had established creation in its order;
the reversal of those pronouncements could reverse the order. The Jew
sat in his chair and spoke. Through the lesser spells, those that held
the spirits of those that already carried his pronunciation in their
bodies, that held them fascinated and adoring, he was drawing to the
greater. He would come presently to the greatest-to the reversal of the
final Jewish word of power, to the reversed Tetragrammaton itself. The
energy of that most secret house of God, according to the degree in
which it was spoken, meant an all but absolute control; he thought, an
absolute. He did not mean it for the creatures before him. To loose it
on them would be to destroy them at once; he must precipitate it beyond.
The time was very near, if his studies were true, at which a certain
great exchange should be achieved. He would draw one from that world,
but there must be no impropriety of numbers, either there or here; he
would send one to that world. He would have thus a double magical link
with infinity. He would begin to be worshipped there. That was why he
had brought Richard in. Unknowingly, Richard's mind might hold precisely
that still vital junction and communion with the dead which might offer
a mode of passage. The Clerk did not doubt his own capacity, sooner or
later, to do all by himself, but he would not neglect any convenience.
He stirred, by interspersed murmurs, Richard's slumbering mind to a
recollection of sensuous love, love which had known that extra physical
union, that extra intention of marriage, which is still called marriage.

His eyes ceased to wander and remained fixed on the round window
opposite. It looked on a yard, but it looked also on that yard in its
infinite relations. There the entry of spirit might be. He drew nearer
to the pronunciation; and that strange double echo in his voice, of
which Richard had been partly aware, now ceased, and his voice was
single. He knew very well that, at that moment, those other appearances
of himself in Russia and China had fallen into trance. The deathly
formula could only be pronounced by the actual human voice of the single
being. There was in that round building one other who knew something of
this most secret thing; she sat there, away on his right, and (with all
her will) believed. She too knew that the moment was near, and that she
too was engaged to it. But also she knew that her usefulness to him,
save as one of these indistinguishable creatures who were his living
spiritual food, was past.

In the early days of her knowledge of him, Sara Wallingford knew he had
found her useful. It was different now. He did not need her, except for
convenience of guarding their daughter; when he sent their daughter
fully away, she would be-what would she be? A desertion greater than
most human desertions would fall on her. The time was near. He had told
her of it long since; she could not complain. The time was very near.
When it came, and his triplicity was ended, she would be-what that
painting had revealed; one of those adoring imbecilities. He had not
troubled to deny it.

She remembered the awful beginning of the triplicity. It had been in
that house in the North, and he, had come to her, as he sometimes did,
along garden ways at night. It had been the night after the conception
of Betty, and she had known already that she had carried his child. It
had not been she who desired it, nor (physically) he. But the child was
to be to him an instrument she could not be. She hated it, before its
conception, for that; and when she felt within her all the next day the
first point of cold which grew and enlarged till after Betty's birth-"as
cold as spring-water"- she hated it the more. And her hate did not grow
less for what had happened on that second night.

She had known, as soon as she saw him     that he was bent on a magical
operation. He did not now need, for the greater of his works, any of the
lesser instruments-the wand, the sword, the lamps, the herbs, the robe.
She had been in bed when he came. She was twenty-nine then, and she had
known him for eight years. He did not need now to tell her to believe in
him or to help him; she had been committed to that all those eight
years. But in some sense the night of the conception had brought a
change. Ever since then, though her subordination. to him had grown, his
need of her had grown less. On that night, however she had not yet
understood. She lay in her bed and watched him. He drew the curtains and
put out the light. There Were candles on the dressing-table, and her
dressing-gown, with matches in its pocket, lay on a chair by the bed.
She put out a hand to see that it was convenient. He was standing
between her bed and the great mirror.

They had had that mirror put there for exactly such operations, and
however dark the room there always seemed to be a faint grey light
within the mirror, so that when she saw him in it, it was as if he
himself and no mere image lived and moved there. He had put off his
clothes, and he stood looking into the mirror, and suddenly the light in
it disappeared, and she could see nothing. But she could hear a heavy
breathing, almost a panting, and almost animal, had it not been so
measured and at times changed in measure. It grew and deepened, and
presently it became so low a moan that the sweat broke out on her
forehead, and she bit her hand as she lay. But even that moan was not so
much of pain as of compulsion. The temperature of the room grew hotter;
a uterine warmth oppressed her. She sighed and threw the blankets back.
And she prayed-to God? not to God; to him? certainly to him. She had
given herself to his will to be the mother of the instrument of his
dominion; she prayed to him now to be successful in this other act.

In the mirror a shape of grey light grew slowly visible; it was he, but
it was he dimmed, There seemed to be two images of him in one, and they
slid into and out of each other, so that she could not be certain which
she saw. Both were faint, and there were no boundaries; the greyness
itself faded into the darkness. The moaning had ceased; the room was
full of a great tension; the heat grew; she lay sweating and willing
what he willed. The light in the mirror went out. His voice cried aloud:
"The candles!" She sprang from her bed and caught at her dressing-gown.
She had it on in a moment and had hold of the matches; then she went
very quickly, even in the dark, to the dressing-table, and was
immediately striking a match and setting it to the candles. She did not
quite take in, as she moved her hand from one to the other what she saw
in the oval glass between, and as they caught she blew out the match and
whirled swiftly round. She almost fell at what she saw. Between her and
the mirror, and all reflected in the mirror, were three men. One was
nearer her; the other two, one on each side of him, were closer to the
mirror. From the mirror three identical faces looked out, staring. She
felt madly that that nearest form was he, her master, whose child she
bore; but then the otherthings? men? lovers? The sexpuple horror, back
and front, stood absolutely still. These others were no shadows or
ghostly emanations; they had solidity and shape. She stared; her hand
clutched at the table; she swayed, crumpled, and fell.

When she came to herself again he and she were alone. He had said a
sentence, or two to reassure her. It was (he said) indeed he who
remained; the others were images and actual copies of him, magically
multiplied, flesh out of flesh, and sent upon his business. The curtains
were pulled back; the world was grey with dawn; and as she looked out
over the moors she knew that somewhere there, through that dawn, those
other beings went. The world was ready for them and they went to the
world. He had left her then; and since that night there had been no
physical intercourse between them. She-even she-could not have endured
it. She believed that the he she knew was he, yet sometimes she
wondered. At moments, during the next one-and-twenty years, while she
worked for him and did his will, she wondered if it was the original
whom she obeyed, or only one of those shapes sustained at a distance by
the real man. She put the thought away. She read sometimes during those
years of the appearance of a great religious philosopher in China, a
great patriot preacher in Russia, and she guessed-not who; there was in
them no who; but what they were. The war had for a while hidden them,
but now that the war was over they had reappeared, proclaiming
everywhere peace and love, and the enthusiasm for them broke all bounds,
and became national and more than national; so that the whole world
seemed to be at the disposal of that triplicity. A triple energy of
clamour and adoration answered it. There were demands that these three
teachers should meet, should draft a gospel and a policy, should fully
rule the worship they provoked. It had been so with him in America, and
would have been in England, had he not deliberately remained in
seclusion. And she knew that in all the world only she, besides the
Clerk who now sat before her in the throned seat, knew that these others
were not true men at all, but derivations and automata, flesh of his
flesh and bone of his bone, but without will and without soul.

She knew why he had kept himself in seclusion. He knew that, when he
chose, that world was his for the taking. Rhetoric and hypnotic spells
and healing powers would loose idolatry, but beyond all these was the
secret and crafty appeal to every individual who came to him separately-
the whisper, one way or another: "You are different; you are not under
the law; you are particular." He played on both nerves; he moved crowds,
but also he moved souls. The susurration of those whispers moved even
many who would not otherwise easily have adored. She knew it bitterly,
for     it was so that she herself had been caught; and indeed she
had been fortunate, for she had been useful, and she was      the mother
of his child. Would that ease abandonment? She knew it would not. Even
when the deed was done for which Betty had been brought into the world,
and their daughter dismissed into the spiritual places, she herself
would be no nearer him. He was already almost spirit, except that he was
not spirit. But soon he would have spirits for companions, and-

But before then, though he delayed his full public manifestation till
that other work was done, it would have happened. When the communion
with that other world was, through Betty, established, he would go (she
thought) into middle Europe, or perhaps farther-to Persia or India; and
there those other shapes would come, each known to adoring multitudes,
and there would be in secret a mystery of re-union, and then all would
be in his hand.

She turned her eyes from him, she alone conscious of herself and him in
all that group, and saw the rest losing their knowledge before him. They
were beginning to sway gently to and fro; their faces were losing
meaning; their arms and hands were rising slowly towards him. They were
much like the insects in that painting, but their faces were more like
his own; she knew when she looked at the painting that Jonathan had
given him the face she had so often seen in this house, the blank
helpless imbecile gaze. It was why she had been so angry. But he had not
seen it. She looked at Richard, Jonathan's friend, and wondered if he
too were beginning to sway and change.

In fact, if he were not, he was at least already in some danger of it.
He had been thinking of love, and what love would mean if he had known
someone who would love him perfectly. Lester was not always completely
understanding. Something rhythmical in her did not always entirely
correspond to him. He moved a little, -as if expressing his own rhythm,
forward -backward, backward-forward. His eyes opened a little wider, and
as he did so they fell on the woman who sat opposite him. He saw her as
he had seen her the previous afternoon, and suddenly he recollected
Jonathan's paintings. He saw the insects, and he saw them here. Ile knew
he was being caught in something; he made an effort to sit back, to sit
still, to recover. The edge of things was before him; he thrust back. He
thought of Lester, but not of her glory or her passion, he thought of
her in a moment of irritation. He heard, in those precincts of infinity,
the voice he had heard in other precincts, on Westminster Bridge. Vivid
in his ears, she exclaimed to him: "Why have you kept me waiting?" His
mind sprang alert; if she were waiting, what was he doing here?

He was again himself-"a poor thing but his own", or at least not in the
sway of the creature on the throne. His native intelligence returned. He
looked round; his eyes fell on the window. He heard the Clerk's voice,
which was still speaking but now with such a small strange sound that
Richard hardly knew it to be a voice at all. It was more like the echo
of a voice thrown down a corridor, but not magnified, only diminished,
as if it were passing out through the deep round window in the thick
wall. But it was not so deep after all, though it was round; it was a
window on a yard; an empty yard? no; for someone was in it, someone was
looking in. A woman, but not Lester. He was profoundly relieved to find
it was not Lester, yet he felt she was connected with Lester. She was
coming in; she was coming through the wall. She was smiling, and as he
saw the smile he recognized her. It was his wife's friend Evelyn, who
had died with her. She was smiling at the Clerk, and as he looked back
at the man on the throne he saw that constriction which was the Clerk's
smile pass across his face. He heard, mingling with that echo of a human
voice, another sound-a high piping sound, coming over distances, or
falling as a bird's call from the sky, but this was no bird's call.
Richard shut his eyes; still, through those shut eyes, he seemed to see
the two smiling at each other. The exchanged smile, the mingled sound,
was an outrage. He felt himself to be a witness of an unearthly meeting,
of which the seeming friendliness was the most appalling thing. If he
had known the word except as an oath, he would have felt that this was
damnation. Yet there was only a smile -no pain, no outcry, no obscenity,
except that something truly obscene was there. He saw, visibly before
him, the breach of spiritual law. He saw a man sitting still and a woman
standing just within the wall, a slight thing, and so full of vileness
that he almost fainted.

He did not know how long it lasted; for presently they were all on their
feet, and he too was able to stand up and then they were all going away.





                             Chapter Six

                           THE WISE WATER

It had been, earthly, about five that morning when Lester entered the
house at Highgate. It had seemed only evening in the City she had left,
for that other City was not bound either to correspondence or to
sequence. Its inhabitants were where it chose they should be, as it
engaged in its work of accommodating them to itself. They could not yet,
or only occasionally, know contemporaneously. Lester still, in general,
knew only one thing at a time, and knew them in a temporal order. There
was indeed, nearer the centre of its life, another way of knowing, open
to its full freemen and officers, but it was beyond these souls, and
human language could not express what only sovereign and redeemed human
nature could bear. Lester was finding out but slowly the capacities of
her present existence, and even those she understood after her old
manner. She was young in death, and the earth and its habits were, for
this brief time, even more precious to her than they had been.

She paused, or so it seemed to her, inside the hall. It shook her with a
new astonishment, and yet indeed it was but ordinary, to think that, so
to enter, she had simply passed through the door. It was behind her, and
she had not opened it. She had not the kind of mind that easily
considered the nature of her own appearance to herself; on earth she had
not, nor did she now. The sense of her passage encouraged her. She had
no very clear idea that anyone would want to prevent her getting to
Betty, but if she could go where she would she was strengthened in her
purpose. She could, now, hear no sobs, though they were fresh in her
ears. She saw the hall was dark, with a natural healthy darkness in
which at first she felt some pleasure. She was free from the pale
illumination of the dead. But presently it became clear to her that,
dark though it might be, she could see in the dark. The whole hall, with
its furniture, became distinct; shapes, though not colours, were visible
to her. She felt again a sharp pang of longing for her own familiar
things; it was indeed that pang that taught her that she could see, as a
waking man finds himself in a strange room and knows by his immediate
longing how strange it is. She did not wish to look at Lady
Wallingford's properties. But she could not help it. She was there; it
was dark; she could see in the dark. She stood and listened and heard no
sound.

In fact, above her, Betty was not then crying. Her directors had left
her, and she was lying exhausted-perhaps unconscious. Her mother had
gone to her own room; there to copy out her notes of Betty's automatic
speech. She had begun to do it years before, when the Clerk and she had
begun their combined work, and now she could not bear to cease. She knew
it was superfluous; he could keep the whole in his mind. At first he had
sometimes forgotten a detail, but now never. He never even wished to
read what she did; except as a kind of menial, he never used her.    But
she continued to work.

The Clerk had left Betty's room. He walked slowly to the head of the
stairs. He was, for him, a little perplexed in his mind. For the first
time now through several years, she had not, in her repetition of the
world's rumours, mentioned his name. It was strange. It might be that
some odd chance had kept him from the shouting columns of the daily
records. It might be that she was growing too weak to report all. It
might be that he himself-but that he could not visualize even to
himself. Only he felt that the time for his precursor to be dispatched
into the other world was very near. There she could see more clearly and
universally; she could speak from her own knowledge and not from
borrowed information and that information so limited. He had never been
able yet to force her through more than a certain period-a few weeks
only; if he attempted more she could only when she returned, moan "The
rain! The rain!" Floods of water fell on her, it seemed, as if time
itself changed to rain and drowned everything, or even swept everything
away. When she was habituated to that world, it would be different. Then
she would have no consciousness of return; then she could, slowly, grow
into and through this rain, and learn what it hid. At present it seemed
to threaten that in her which was still necessary to him. His face -
cleared; he came to the stairs and began to descend. The moon through
the windows gave him light, though the hall was dark below. Half-way
down he suddenly stopped. There was some living being below him.

He could not see in the dark as Lester could. No magic could give to him
in himself the characteristics of the dead. Nothing but a direct shock
of destruction, so sudden and immediate that even he could have no time
to check it, could kill him, and he did not believe that that was at all
possible. He had practised very steadily the restoration of himself
against the quickest harm; his servants had, at his will, attempted his
death and he had foiled them. But so doing, he had refused all
possibilities in death. He would not go to it, as that other child of a
Jewish girl had done. That other had refused safeguard and miracle; he
had refused the achievement of security. He had gone into death-and the
Clerk supposed it his failure -as the rest of mankind go-ignorant and in
pain. The Clerk had set himself to decline pain and ignorance. So that
now he had not any capacities but those he could himself gain.

He saw two eyes shining. He should have known what it was; he did not.
He could not even see that it was a woman, or the ghost of a woman. He
had not called it, and he did not expect it. But he did think that it
was one of the lesser creatures of that other world. He had seen them
sometimes in earlier rites, and once or twice something had followed
Betty in, without her knowledge, as if drawn after her, and had lingered
for a while in the hall. Such things had not come in human form, and he
did not now expect human form. They came usually in the shapes of small
monstrosities-things like rats or rabbits or monkeys or snakes, or even
dwarfed vultures or large spiders and beetles. They were indeed none of
these; they did not belong to animal nature. Had animal nature been
capable of enduring the magical link, he would have used it for his
purpose, but it was not. Once, long ago, he had tried it with a monkey,
but the link had died with its own death; it had no rational soul, and
if (after death) it lived at all, it was only its own happy past that
lived; it could not grow into other communion. He supposed this to be a
dim monstrosity of that ghostly kind. It awaited his will. It was
useless to ask its name or kind; such beings were only confused and
troubled by such questions and could not answer. They did not know what
they were; they did sometimes-not always-know what they were about. He
stood high above it, looking scornfully down, and he said: "Why are you
here?"

Lester had seen him as he began to descend the stair. She had no idea
who he was. Her first thought, as she looked up at that great cloaked
figure, was that here at last was one of the native inhabitants of the
new City; and that she had perhaps been encouraged into this house to
meet him. Her second was that this was someone for whom she had been
waiting. A childish memory of a picture or a tale of angels mingled with
something later-an adolescent dream of a man of power, a genius, a
conqueror, a master. Lester, like certain other women of high vitality
and discontented heart, had occasionally felt that what she really
needed was someone great enough to govern her-but to do that, she
innocently felt, he (or she-there was no sex differentiation) would have
to be very great. The vague dream had disappeared when she had fallen in
love. Obedience to a fabulous ruler of shadows was one thing; obedience
to Richard was quite another. He certainly rarely seemed to suggest it;
when he did, she was rarely in agreement with him. Suddenly now the old
adolescent dream recurred. She looked up at the high emaciated face,
gazing down, and felt as if it were more than that of a man.

When however he spoke, she hardly heard the question. The voice which
was husky to Jonathan was thick to her. She was not surprised; so
perhaps these godlike beings spoke; or so perhaps she, uneducated in
this sound, heard them. But she did just catch the words, and she
answered, as meekly as she had ever thought she would: "I'm Lester. I've
come to see Betty."

The Clerk heard below him what sounded like the single word "Betty". He
did not hear more. He came down a step or two, peering. There was, he
thought, a certain thickening of the darkness, a kind of moulded shape.
He was sure now that something had followed Betty, but he was a little
perplexed that it should-unless indeed it was something useless to him,
being hungry and spiritually carnivorous. It was not in the shape of rat
or monkey; it was roughly human, like a low tree rudely cut into human
form. He lifted his hand and made over it a twisted magical sign, meant
to reduce the intruder to the will that was expressed in it. He said:
"Why?"

The sign, so loaded, was not without its effect, but its effect was
consistent with Lester's nature and her present intention. It would have
dissolved or subdued such momentary vitalities as, for instance, had
sprung from her oath outside the house, but what had brought her into
the house was a true purpose of goodwill; of help? she might have put it
so: indeed she now began to answer so. She said: "To help-" and stopped.
The word sounded pompous, not only before this god, but even to describe
her intention. She almost felt herself blushing, as she thought of Betty
and the times when she had not helped Betty. It was upon those vague and
unexplored memories that the magical sign had power. The hall became to
her suddenly full of shadows. Betty was on all sides of her, and so was
she. She had no idea she had even seen Betty as many times as now she
saw herself abandoning Betty. There were a mass of forms, moving,
interpenetrating, and wherever her eyes saw a particular one it seemed
to detach itself and harden and become actual. She saw herself ignoring
Betty, snubbing Betty, despising Betty-in the gardens, in the dormitory,
in the street, even in this hall. They were so vivid to her that she
forgot the god on the stair; she was secluded from him in all this
ghostly vehemence of her past, and the ghostliness of any apt to be
truly more than ghost. She lost the images of herself; she saw only
images of Betty-beginning to speak, putting out a timid hand, or only
looking at her. She threw up her hand, in her old gesture, to keep them
off. Her head span; she seemed swirled among them on a kind of infernal
merry-go-round. If only any of them were the real Betty, the present
Betty, the Betty she was coming to, the Betty she-fool!-had been coming
to help. Where she had once refused to help, she was now left to need
help. But that refusal had been laziness and indifference rather than
deliberate malice -original rather than actual sin. It was permitted to
her to recognize it with tears. The spiritual ecstasy ravaged her, she
thought no more of help either given or taken; she was only in great
need of it. She threw out her hand, in an effort to grasp, here or
there, Betty's half-outstretched hand, but (actual as the figure seemed)
hers never reached it; as the fingers almost touched, hers found
emptiness, and there was Betty running away from her, down a garden-
path, down a street, down the hall, infinitely down the hall. But the
vague and impractical yet real sympathy she had once felt for Betty, the
occasional interference she had bestowed, allowed her now a word of
appeal, She cried out, pleading as she had never supposed she could or
would plead: "Betty! please! Betty! "

As she spoke, she found herself alone. But she knew exactly where Betty
was, and she knew she had no hope but there. Her dreams of a god had
vanished among those too certain visions of a girl; she wholly forgot
the appearance on the stairs in her desperate sense of Betty. She moved
up the stairs, towards the help she needed, and in her movement she
disappeared from the Clerk's own gaze. He was not aware that she passed
him; to him it seemed that the roughly-moulded human form had dwindled
and quivered and vanished, and the eyes had faded. It could not, he
thought, this poor vagrant from the other world, this less than human or
angelic monstrosity, bear the question which he had put to it, and it
had fallen into nothingness below him. He was right enough in what,
after his own manner, he had seen-the supernatural shaking of Lester's
centre; but the processes of redemption were hidden from him. At the
moment when she drew nearer to the true life of that City, he thought
her to be dissolved. He went on calmly down the stairs, and opening the
door passed into the earthly night.

But Lester, mounting, came to Betty's room, and opening no door passed
on into it. This time indeed she knew she went through the door, but
then the door, when she came to it was no longer a serious barrier. It
was still a door; it did not become thin or shadowy. But being'a door,
it was also in itself her quickest way. To open it would have been to go
round by a longer path. She was growing capable of the movement proper
to her state. She could not so have passed through the empty rooms or
dim facades of her earlier experience; those shadowy images retained for
her the properties of the world they imaged. But in this real world she
could act according to her own reality. She went through the door.
There, before her, stretched motionless in her bed, was Betty. Lester
saw her clearly in the dark. She went on till she came to the foot of
the bed; then she stood still.

She had never seen anyone look so exhausted and wan. The living girl's
eyes were shut; she hardly drew breath; she too might have been dead,
except that now and then she was shaken by a sudden convulsion. The dead
Lester gazed at the seemingly dead Betty. Her heart sank; what help for
her was here? what power in that shaken corpse to hold its own images at
bay? If it were a corpse, then she and Betty were parted perhaps for
ever. She might have left this reconciliation also too late, as she had
left Richard. She had pushed Richard away; she had not gathered Betty
in. She was to be left with her choice. She thought: "It isn't fair. I
didn't know", and immediately regretted it. She had known-not perhaps
clearly about Richard, for those unions and conflicts were of a
particular kind, and the justice which must solve them was more intimate
than she could yet understand, but she had clearly known about Betty.
She had been very young then. But her refusal had been as definite and
cold as the body at which she looked was definite and cold. Death for
death, death to death, death in death.

The curtains at the windows were drawn back. The sun was rising; the
room grew slowly bright with day. Lester stood there because she had
nothing else to do. No impulse was upon her and no wish. She had nowhere
to go. Evelyn was not in her mind. She knew she could do nothing unless
she had help, and her only help lay useless before her. Presently she
was aware of a step outside the room. There was a tap on the door;
another. The door was gently opened, and a maid came in and paused. She
looked at Betty; she looked round the room; she looked at Lester without
seeing her. Lester looked back at her without interest; she was remote
and irrelevant. It was not odd to be unseen; that, of course. Only Betty
mattered, and Betty lay without sign. The maid went away. The morning
light increased.

Suddenly Betty's eyes had opened. They were looking at Lester. A small
voice, hardly audible even to Lester, inaudible to mortal ears, said:
"Lester!" Lester said: "Yes," and saw that the other had not heard. The
eyes widened; the voice said: "Lester! ... but you're dead. Evelyn and
you are dead." it added, dying on the sentence: "I'm so glad Evelyn's
dead." The eyes closed. Exhaustion swallowed her.

Lester heard the relief in the dying words. She had forgotten Evelyn,
but, fresh from that ghostly world where Evelyn and she had wandered,
she retained some sense of companionship, and the relief-which was
hostility-filled her with fear. She felt-though indirectly-the terror
and the despair of those of the dead who, passing from this world, leave
only that just relief behind. That which should go with them-the
goodwill of those they have known-does not. There are those who have
been unjustly persecuted or slain; perhaps a greater joy waits them. But
for the ordinary man or woman to go with no viaticum but this relief is
a very terrible thing. Almost, for a moment, Lester felt the whole City-
ghostly or earthly or both in its proper unity-draw that gentle sigh.
Disburdened, it rejoiced: at Evelyn's death? at hers? Was this to be all
Betty and earth could give? a sigh of joy that she was gone? The form on
the bed held all the keys. If she could speak so of one, that other
waiting spirit felt no surety that she too might not be excluded, by
failing voice and closing eyes, from the consciousness on which so much
depended It was awful to think how much did depend-how much power for
everlasting decision lay there. Verdict, judgement, execution of
judgement, hid behind those closed eyelids. Lester's impetuosity swelled
in her. She wished to wake Betty, to bully her, to compel her to speak,
to force help out of her. But she knew all such impetuosity was vain;
and however, in her past, she had wrangled in private with Richard-and
that was different; yes, it was different, for it was within the nearest
image to love that she had known; it might be better or worse, but it
was different; it was less permissible and more excusable-however that
might be, she did not brawl in public. And she was in public now, in the
full publicity of the spiritual City, though no inhabitants of the City
except Betty were there. She had waited; she must wait. It was pain and
grief to her sudden rage. She waited. The house, earthly, warm,
lightened by the great luminary planet, was still to her a part of the
City while Betty was there. Everything depended on Betty, and Betty on-
on nothing that Lester yet knew.

The door of the room again opened. Lady Wallingford came in. She went to
the bed and bent over Betty. She peered into her eyes, felt temples and
wrists, and rearranged the bedclothes. Then she crossed to the window
and drew one of the curtains a little, so that the sunlight no longer
fell on her daughter's face. In so moving, she had passed round the foot
of the bed. Lester began to step back; then she checked herself. She
knew it did not matter; she was becoming different -how or why she did
not know; but coincidence no longer meant contact. She had a faint
sense, as she had done when she passed through the door, of something
brushing against her. Her eyes blinked and were clear. Lady Wallingford
went through the space which Lester seemed to herself to occupy, and so
returned; it was all that could be said. The same space was diversely
occupied, but the two presences were separate still. Lady Wallingford,
exactly like a competent nurse, looked round the room and went out. Body
and visionary body were again alone together. Outside the house a car
was heard to start up and move off. Lady Wallingford was on her way to
Holborn. Thither Richard was now walking along Millbank, while Jonathan
in his room waited, with a fantastic but failing hope, for some word of
Betty. And beyond them all, three continents murmured of their 'great
leaders, and the two vegetable images of the Clerk swayed by his single
will such crowds as he could sway, and he himself prepared for the
operation which is called "the sending out", its other name being
murder.

As the car's sound died away, Betty sat up. Bright in the shadow her
eyes opened on Lester, tender and full of laughter. She pushed the
bedclothes back, swung out her legs, and sat on the side of the bed. She
said: "Hallo, Lester! What are you doing here?" The voice was full of a
warm welcome; Lester heard it incredulously. Betty went on: "It's nice
to see you anyway. How are you?"

Lester had waited for something, but hardly for this. She had not begun
to expect it. But then she had never seen, face to face, the other Betty
who had gone almost dancing through the City, nor guessed the pure
freshness of joy natural to that place. She had heard only the high
hill-call, and now (subdued as it might be to gay and friendly talk) she
recognized the voice. She knew at once that a greater than she was here;
it was no wonder she had been sent here for help. She looked at the girl
sitting on the bed, whose voice was the only sound but Evelyn's that had
pierced her nothing since she died, and she said, hoping that the other
might also perhaps hear: "Not too frightfully well."

Betty had risen to her feet as Lester spoke. She showed signs of going
across to the window, but on the other's words she paused. She said:
"What's the matter? Can I do anything?"

Lester looked at her. There was no doubt that this was Betty-Betty gay,
Betty joyous, Betty revitalized, but still Betty. This was no sorrowing
impotence of misery, but an ardour of willingness. to help. Yet to ask
for help was not easy. The sense of fatal judgement was still present;
the change in Betty had not altered that, and her glowing shape was
vivid with it. The slightest movement of that hand, the slightest
aversion of those eyes, would be still like any similar movement of
those dead hands or that white face would have been, frightful with
finality. To ask that this should be set aside, even to plead, was not
natural to Lester. But her need was too great for her to delay. She said
at once: "Yes     you can."

Betty smiled brilliantly at her. She answered: "Well, that's all right.
Tell me about it."

Lester said, rather helplessly: "It's all those times ... those times at
school, and afterwards. I can't manage them without YOU."

Betty wrinkled her forehead. She said in some surprise: "Those times at
school? But, Lester, I always liked you at school."

"Perhaps you did," said Lester. "But you may remember that I didn't
behave as if I particularly liked you."

"Oh didn't you?" Betty answered. "I know you didn't particularly want
me, but why should you? I was so much younger than you, and I expect I
was something of a nuisance. As far as I can remember, you put up with
me nobly. But I don't remember much about it. Need we? It's so lovely of
you to come and see me now."

Lester realized that this was going to be worse than she had supposed.
She had prepared herself to ask for forgiveness, but that, it seemed,
was not enough. She must herself bring the truth to Betty's reluctant
mind; nothing else than the truth would be any good. She would not be
able entirely to escape from those swirling images of the past, if they
were indeed images, and not the very past itself, by any other means
than by Betty's dismissal of them. They were not here, in this room, but
they were there, outside the door, and if she left the room she would be
caught again among them. She did not understand how this different Betty
had come to be, but the City in which she moved did not allow her to
waste time in common earthly bewilderment. The voice was the voice she
had wanted to imitate, the voice of the hill in the City. If the Betty
of that moment and of this moment were the same, then perhaps Betty
would understand, though there was in fact nothing to understand except
her own perverse indolence. She said it was the most bitter thing she
had ever done; she seemed to taste on her tongue the hard and bitter
substance of that moment; she said: "Try and remember."

Betty's eyes had been again wandering towards the sunlight at the
window. She brought them back to look attentively at Lester, and she
said quickly and affectionately: "Lester, you've been crying!"

Lester answered, in a voice from which, for all her growing vision and
springing charity, she could not keep a rigidity of exasperation: "I
know I've been crying. I-"

Betty interrupted: "But of course I'll remember," she said. ,,It was
only that I didn't understand. What is it exactly you want me to
remember?" She smiled as she spoke, and all the tenderness her mortal
life had desired and lacked was visible in her. Lester felt an impulse
to run away, to hide, even at least to shut her eyes. She held herself
still; it had to be done. She said: "You might remember how I did behave
to you, at school. And afterwards."

There was a long silence, and in it Lester's new life felt the first dim
beginnings of exalted peace. She was not less troubled nor less in fear
of what might come. She was, and must be now, the victim of her victim.
But also she was now, in that world, with someone she knew, with someone
friendly and royally disposed to good, with someone native to her and to
that world, easy and happy: The air she breathed was fresh with joy; the
room was loaded with it. She knew it as a sick woman knows the summer.
She herself was not yet happy, but this kind of happiness was new to
her; only, even while she waited, she recollected that once or twice she
had known something like it with Richard-one night when they had parted
under a street-lamp, one day when they had met at Waterloo. They
belonged here, those times; yet those times were as true as those other
sinful times that danced without. Her heart was tranquil. If she must
go, she must go; perhaps this hovering flicker of known joy might be
permitted to go with her. All that was noble in her lifted itself in
that moment. The small young figure before her was her judge; but it was
too the centre and source of the peace. She exclaimed, as if for Betty
to know all was necessary to the fullness of the moment and to her own
joy: "Oh remember! do remember!"

Betty stood attentive. The times of her happiness had been hitherto on
the whole unclouded by her mortal life, except as she might sometimes
vaguely remember an unpleasant dream, She set herself now to remember,
since that, it seemed, was what was wanted, something she could lately
have been contented to leave forgotten. It seemed to her also something
of a waste on this glorious morning, with time happily before them, to
spend it-however, she knew she wanted to remember. As soon as she knew
that Lester wanted it, she too wanted it; so simple is love-in-paradise.
She stood and thought, She was still smiling, and she continued to
smile, though presently her smile became a little grave. She said- "Oh
well, how could you know?"

Lester said: "I knew quite enough."

Betty went on smiling, but presently the smile vanished. She said, more
seriously: "I do think Evelyn was rather unkind. But I suppose if she
liked that sort of thing-anyhow we're not thinking of her. Well, now,
that's done."

Lester'exclaimed: "You've remembered?" and Betty, now actually breaking
into a gay laugh, answered: "Darling, how serious you are! Yes, I've
remembered."

"Everything?" Lester persisted; and Betty, looking her full in the eyes,
so that suddenly Lester dropped her own, answered: "Everything." She
added: "It was lovely of you to ask me. I think perhaps I never quite
wanted to rememberOh all sorts of things, until you asked me, and then I
just did, and now I shan't mind whatever else there is. Oh Lester, how
good you are to me!"

The tears came into Lester's eyes, but this time they did not fall.
Betty's figure swam indistinctly before her, and then she blinked the
tears away. They looked at each other, and Betty laughed, and Lester
found herself beginning to laugh, but as she did so she exclaimed: "All
the same-!" Betty put out her hand towards the other's lips, as if to
hush her, but it did not reach them. Clear though they saw and heard
each other, intimate as their hearts had become, and freely though they
shared in that opening City a common good, still its proper definitions
lay between them. The one was dead; the other not. The Noli-me-tangere
of the City's own Lord Mayor was, in their small degree, imposed on
them. Betty's hand dropped gently to her side. They half recognized the
law and courteously yielded to it. Betty thought: "Of course, Lester was
killed." She also thought, and she said aloud: "Oh but I was glad Evelyn
was killed." Her voice was shocked; stricken, she looked at the other.
She said: "How could I be?"

Lester had again forgotten Evelyn. She remembered. She became aware of
Evelyn running, not now from her but towards her, towards them both. She
herself now was at the other end of Evelyn's infinite haste; she shared
with Betty the nature of the goal, and she felt at a distance Evelyn
hurrying and almost there. She threw up her head, as she had thrown it
up at the first call from the hill. She said-and now nothing deadened
her speech; she said-in the voice that was to Richard her loveliest and
lordliest: "I'll deal with Evelyn."

Betty answered, half-laughing and half-embarrassed: "I can't think why
she scares me a little still. But I didn't mean to want her to be dead.
Only she's all mixed up with there. I usen't to think of that much when
I was here." There was no need to explain what she meant by "there" and
"here". Their hearts, now in union, knew. "But lately I seem to have to
sometimes. Now you've made me remember, I don't so much mind. Stay with
me a little while, if you can; will you, Lester? I know you can't settle
that; things happen. But while you can ... I've a feeling that I've got
to get through something disagreeable, and I don't want to make a fuss
again."

"Of course I'll stay-if I may," said Lester. "But make a fuss-you!"

Betty sat down on the bed. She smiled again at Lester; then she began to
talk, almost as if to herself, or as if she were telling a child a story
to soothe it to sleep. She said: "I know I needn't-when I think of the
lake; at least, I suppose it was a lake. If it was a river, it was very
broad. I must have been very small indeed, because, you know, it always
seems as if I'd only just floated up through the lake, which is
nonsense. But sometimes I almost think I did, because deep down I can
remember the fishes, though not so as to describe them, and none of them
took any notice of me, except one with a kind of great horned head which
was swimming round me and diving under me. It was quite clear there
under the water, and I didn't even know I was there. I mean I wasn't
thinking of myself. And then presently the fish dived again and went
below me, and I felt him lifting me up with his back, and then the water
plunged under me and lifted me, and I came out on the surface. And there
I lay; it was sunny and bright, and I drifted in the sun-it was almost
as if I was lying on the sunlight itself-and presently I saw the shore -
a few steps in a low cliff, and a woman standing there. I didn't know
who she was, but I know now, since you made me remember-Lester, I do owe
you such a lot-it was a nurse I once had, but not for very long. She
bent down and lifted me out of the water. I didn't want to leave it. But
I liked her; it was almost as if she was my real mother, and she said:
'There, dearie, no-one can undo that; bless God for it.' And then I went
to sleep, and that's the earliest thing I can remember, and after that
only some things that belonged to it: some of the times I've been
through London, and the Thames, and the white gulls. They were all in
that part and in the other part too, the part I'm only just beginning to
remember. And so were you, Lester, a little."

"I!" said Lester bitterly. It did not seem to her likely that she could
have belonged to that world of light and beauty. Yet even as she spoke
she irrelevantly thought of Richard's eyes at the corner in Holborn and
before that-before that ,yes-before she was dead; and she remembered how
Richard had come to meet her once and again, and how her heart had
swelled for the glory and vigour of his coming. But Betty was speaking
again.

"I see now that you were, and now it seems all right. That was why I ran
after you-Ob how tiresome I must have been! but it doesn't matter. I'm
afraid I did make a fuss; I know I did over the headaches-there were
some places where I knew I was going to have headaches-and over Evelyn.
It really was rather silly of Evelyn. And then there was this house-"

She stopped and yawned. She threw herself back on the pillow and swung
up her legs. She went on: "But I'm too sleepy now to remember all that I
ought to about this house. ... And then there was Jonathan. Do you know
Jonathan? he was very good to me. We might go and look at the Thames
some time, you and I and Jonathan.            Her eyes closed; her hands
felt vaguely about the bed. She said, in tones Lester -COuld only just
hear: "I'm so sorry. I just can't keep awake. Don't go. Jonathan will be
coming   ....  Don't go unless you must. It's lovely having you here  .
. . .It was sweet of you to come ... Jonathan will ... dear Lester. . .
." She made an uncertain movement to pull the bedclothes up over her;
before the movement ended she was asleep.

Lester did not understand what she had been saying. In what strange way
she had been known to Betty, more happily than ever she herself could
have supposed, she did not know. Betty had been talking almost as if
there had been two lives, each a kind of dream to the other. It would
once have been easy to call the one life a fantasy, easy if this new,
gay, and vivid Betty had not precisely belonged to the fantasy. She felt
both lives within her too sharply now to call either so. There had been
something like two lives in her own single life ,-the gracious
passionate life of beauty and delight, and the hard angry life of
bitterness and hate. It was the recollection of that cold folly which
perhaps now made Betty seem to her-no; it was not. Betty was changing;
she was dying back; she was becoming what she had been. Colour passed
from her cheeks; the sweet innocence of sleep faded, and the pallor of
exhaustion and the worn semblance of victimization spread. The hands
twitched. She looked already, as men say, "near dead". Lester exclaimed:
"Betty!" It had no effect. The change affected the room itself; the
sunlight weakened; power everywhere departed. The girl who lay before
Lester was the girl she had turned away from. The hands and head could
no longer threaten judgement; they were too helpless. Yes, but also they
had Judged. What had been, in that other state, decided, remained fixed;
once known, always known. She knew quite clearly that Betty had-forgiven
her. The smile, the warmth, the loveliness, were forgiveness. It was
strange not to mind, but she did not mind. If she did not mind Betty,
perhaps she would not mind Richard. She smiled. Mind Richard? mind being
forgiven-forgiven so-by that difficult obnoxious adorable creature? Let
him come to her in turn and she would show him what forgiveness was.
Till now she had not really understood it; occasionally in the past each
of them had "forgiven" the other, but the victim had not much liked it.
But now-by high permission, yes. And if Richard and Betty, then others;
if this permission which now directed her life allowed, others. "Thus"-
how did it go?-"through all eternity I forgive you, you forgive me."
Wine and bread, the poem had called it; wine and bread let it be.
Meanwhile there was nothing to do but to wait till that happened which
must happen. In some way she had now been left in charge of Betty. She
must keep her charge. She must wait.

All this time, since first Lester had entered the house, the unhappy
soul of Evelyn had also waited. At first it had almost followed Lester
in, but it did not dare. Frightful as the empty appearance of the City
was to it, to be enclosed in the house would be worse. She would be
afraid of being shut up with Lester and Betty, certainly with Lester,
almost with Betty. She hated the victim of her torment, but to be alone
with her in that dark solid house-the thought ought to have been
agreeable, but it was not at all agreeable. As for Lester, she hated
Lester too. Lester had patronized her, but then Lester could. She had
the power to be like that, and she was. She hated being alone in this
place with Lester, though since she had run after Betty, even though she
had missed her, she felt better. The street down which she had run after
she had turned off from the hill, this street in which she now stood,
had seemed more close, more helpful. The air held some sense of gain.
This was more like the London she had known. The house should have been
the climax; could she go in, she thought, it would be. Only she dared
not go in. Lester was not to be trusted; Lester and Betty might be
plotting.

After all, she was rather glad she had not caught up with Betty. Lester
might have come up behind her, and then the two of them might have done
things to her. Or they might have thought she would have run into the
house, but she had not; she had been too clever for that-and for them.
She walked a few steps away. It was no good standing too near; they
would not come out-no, but if they should. . . . She could almost see
them talking in the house, smiling at each other. She walked a little
farther away, and turned her head over her shoulder as she went. On her
face was the look which had shocked Lester when she had earlier seen
that turned head. It was hate relieved from mortality, malice incapable
of death. Within the house, Lester's own face had taken on a similar
change; some element of alteration had disappeared. She herself did not,
of course, know it; her attention had been taken up by the growing glory
that was Betty. But even Betty's face had not that other lucidity. What
had looked at Lester from Evelyn's eyes, what now showed in her own, was
pure immortality. This was the seal of the City, its first gift to the
dead who entered it. They had what they were, and they had it (as it
seemed) for ever. With that in her eyes, Evelyn turned her head again
and wandered slowly on.

She came on to the hill, and drifted down it, for having no choice of
ways, and yet being oddly compelled to go on-if not into the house, then
away from the house-she only retraced her steps, slowly going back,
slowly going down. She was about a third of the way down when from far
off the sound of the Name caught her. She could hardly there be said to
have heard it; it was not so much a name or even a sound as an impulse.
It had gone, that indrawing cry, where only it could go, for the eternal
City into which it was inevitably loosed absorbed it into its proper
place. It could not affect the solid houses of earth nor the millions of
men and women toilfully attempting goodness; nor could it reach the
paradisal places and their inhabitants. It sounded only through the void
streets, the apparent facades, the shadowy rooms of the world of the
newly dead. There it found its way. Other wanderers as invisible to
Evelyn as she to them, but of her kind, felt it -old men seeking
lechery, young men seeking drunkenness, women making and believing
malice, all harbourers in a lie. The debased Tetragrammaton drew them
with its spiritual suction; the syllables passed out, and swirled, and
drawing their captives returned to their speaker. Some went a little way
and fell; some farther, and failed; of them all only she, at once the
latest, the weakest, the nearest, the worst, was wholly caught. She did
not recognize captivity; she thought herself free. She began to walk
more quickly, to run, to run fast. As she ran, she began to hear the
sound. It was not friendly; it was not likeable; but it was allied. She
felt towards it as Lester had felt towards the cry on the hill. The
souls in that place know their own proper sounds and hurry to them.

Something perhaps of fear entered her, to find herself running so fast.
It was a steep road, and it seemed much longer than when she had run up
it of her own volition. She ran, and she ran. She was running almost
along the very cry itself, not touching the apparent pavement; it wailed
louder below her. Her immortality was in her face; her spirituality in
her feet; she was lifted and she ran.

She did not recognize the streets; she came at last round by King's
Cross, on into the congeries of streets on the other side of the Euston
Road, on towards Holborn. The cry grew quieter as she neared its source.
What had been a wail in the more distant streets was a voice in the
nearer. She still ran along it. At last, so running, she came through a
small gate into a yard, and across it to a small low window. There she
stopped and looked in. She saw a kind of hall, with people sitting on
chairs, and away at the other end in a high chair, a man who was looking
back at her. Or perhaps he was not actually looking back at her, but she
knew he saw her. A dizziness of relief took her; here at last was
someone else. She was so aware of him, and of his sidelong knowledge of
her, that she hardly noticed she was moving forward and through the
wall. A film of spiders' webs brushed against her; she broke through it.
She had come back; at the very sight of him she had been able to return
into the world of men. She had escaped from the horrible vague City, and
here was he to welcome her.

He was smiling. She thought-as neither Jonathan nor Richard had done,
that it was properly a smile, though again the smile was sidelong. He
had reason, for when he saw her he knew that at last his writ ran in the
spiritual City. He had known that it must be so, he being what he was.
But that silence of Betty's about his future had almost troubled him. A
deathly silence had seemed to hover round him, as if he had made an
error in magic and      could not recover himself. It was certainly time
he sent out   his messenger before him. But he knew now it was no error,
for the silence had spoken. This was its first word-solitary,   soon to
be companioned. He would ride there presently upon their cries. He was
overComing that world.

The exchange of smiles-if that which had no thought of fair courtesy
could be called exchange; at least some imitation of smiles-passed
between them. Separately, each of them declined the nature of the City;
which nevertheless held them. Each desired to breach the City; and
either breach opened -directly and only-upon the other. Love to love,
death to death, breach to breach; that was the ordering of the City, and
its nature. It throve between Lester and Betty, between Richard and
Jonathan, between Simon and Evelyn; that was its choice. How it throve
was theirs. The noise of London, which was a part of it, rose at a
distance outside the house -all its talk and traffic and turmoil. In the
quiet of the hall the man said to the woman: "I shall want you soon."
She said: "Take me out of it." And he: "Soon." He stood up; that was
when Richard found himself going out of the hall.





                           Chapter Seven

                        THE MAGICAL SACRIFICE

An hour  or so later Jonathan opened his door to Richard. He   said: "I
say, what's been happening? You look ghastly. Sit down; have a drink."

Richard was very white and unsteady. He dropped into a chair. Even the
warm studio and Jonathan could not overcome the sense of that other
thing which, ever since he had left the house in Holborn, had run cold
in his blood. As Jonathan brought him the drink, he shuddered and looked
rather wildly round. Jonathan said anxiously: "Here, drink this. Are you
all right?"

Richard drank and sat for a little silent. Then he said: "I'd better
tell you. Either I'm mad- or. . . . But I'm not just wrong. I'm either
right or I'm mad. It's no good telling me I was taken in by seeing a
barmaid in a yard-"

"No; all right," said Jonathan. "I won't. I shouldn't be very likely to
anyhow. Tell me what you like and I'll believe it. Why not?"

Richard began. He spoke slowly. He took care to be exact. He modified
his description of his own sensations and emotions; he was as impartial
as he could be. Once or twice he made an effort to be defensively witty;
it was unsuccessful and he dropped it. As he came to the end, he grew
even more careful. Jonathan sat on his table and watched him.

"I saw her come in. They looked towards each other and they smiled. And
all I can tell you is that I know now what blasphemy is. It's not
attractive and it isn't thrilling. It's just bloodcurdling-literally.
It's something peculiarly different, and it's something which happens.
It isn't talk; it happens. My eyes began to go dark with it, because I
simply couldn't bear it. And then, before I went quite under, we were
all standing up and going out-down that corridor. I don't know what
would have happened if one of them had touched me then. We got into the
hall, and there was a lot of shuffling and whispering, and then an
ordinary voice or two, and then everyone had disappeared except the
caretaker. I saw the front door and I went straight to it. I wasjust at
it when he called me. I couldn't go back or turn round. I stood still-I
don't know why; I suppose I was still in a nightmare. And outside I saw
that filthy little hand pointing in behind me. He spoke over my shoulder
in that damn husky voice of his, and he said-"

"Yes; all right," said Jonathan as Richard's voice went up a note or
two. "Steady."

"Sorry!" said Richard, recovering. "He said: 'I won't keep you, Mr.
Furnival. Come back presently. When you want me, I shall be ready. If
you want your wife, I can bring her to you; if you don't want her, I can
keep her away from you. Tell your friend I shall send for him soon.
Good-bye.' So then I walked out."

He lifted his eyes and looked at Jonathan, who couldn't think of
anything to say. Presently Richard went on, still more quietly: "And
suppose he can?"

"Can what?" asked Jonathan gloomily.

"Can," said Richard carefully and explicitly, "do something to Lester.
Leave off thinking of Betty for a moment; Betty's alive. Lester's dead,
and suppose this man can do something to dead people? Don't forget I've
seen one. I've seen that woman Mercer walk straight into his hall. I
know she's dead; she looked dead. That's how I knew I saw her. No; not
like a corpse. She was-fixed; as solid as you or me, but a deal more
herself than either of us. If he made her come, can he make Lester come?
If be can, I shall kill him."

Jonathan said, staring at the floor: "No, I wouldn't do that. if... if
he can do anything of that kind, don't you see it mightn't make much
difference if he were dead? I wouldn't kill him."

Richard got up. He said: "I see. No." He began to wander about the room.
Presently he said: "I won't have him touch Lester." He added: "If I were
to kill myself?"

Jonathan shook his head. "We don't know anything about it," he said.
"You couldn't be sure of being with her. And anyhow it's a sin."

"Oh a sin!" said Richard peevishly, and was silent. His friend was on
the point of saying: "Well, if souls exist, sins may," but he thought it
would be tiresome, and desisted. Presently his eyes fell on the painting
of those sub-human souls, and after staring at it he said abruptly:
"Richard, I don't believe it. He may be able to hypnotize these
creatures, but Lester wasn't much like them, was she? I don't believe he
could control her unless she let him, and I shouldn't think she was much
likely to let him. She wasn't, as I remember her, the kind of woman who
likes being controlled, was she?"

Richard stopped. The faintest of smiles came to his lips. He said: "No.
God help Father Simon if he tries to control Lester. Still"-and his face
darkened again-"the plane was too much for her, and he might be."

They stood side by side and looked at the cloud of rising backs. Evelyn
Mercer was one of them; would Lester be? was Betty meant to be? Their
ladies called to them from separate prisons, demanding help and
salvation. The corridor of iron rock opened-surely not for those sacred
heads? surely those royal backs could never incline below the imbecile
face. But what to do? Richard's habitual agnosticism had so entirely
disappeared with the first sight of Evelyn that he had already forgotten
it. Jonathan was beginning to think of seeking out a priest. But their
tale was a wild thing, and he did not know what a priest could do. No
priest could command Simon; nor exorcise Lester; nor enliven Betty. No;
it was left to them.

He said: "Well, damn it, this isn't the only painting I've done. Let's
look at the one Simon didn't like."

"I don't see what good that'll do," Richard said miserably, but he went
round with his friend. He seemed to himself within himself to be
standing alone among the insects, and he could not avoid the thought
that perhaps now, somewhere, somehow, Lester was one of the insects-an
irrational scuttling insect that would keep closer to him than any of
the others would. That, if she were so, might still be left of their
love, and that would be all. Their past would end in this, and this for
ever. Only he knew she would not-unless 'Simon had utterly and wholly
changed her very nature. She would, insect or woman or some dreadful
insect-woman, keep away from him; and as he knew it, he knew he did not
want her to. If she were that, he wanted her-in spite of the horror; if
he could bear the horror!-to be by him still. Or perhaps he might come
to some agreement with Father Simon-perhaps he instead of her-she would
be very angry indeed if he did; he knew very well it would be a contest
between them, if such a chance could be; pride clashing with pride, but
also love with love. It would be unfair to do it without her knowledge,
yet with her knowledge it could never be done. The thought flickered
through his mind before he realized of what he was really thinking. When
he did, he could hardly think of it; the terrible metapsychosis gnawed
at him and would not be seen. He stared in front of him, and realized
slowly that he was looking deeply into the light.

The massive radiance of that other painting flowed out towards him from
the canvas; it had not surely, when he had seen it before, been as
weighty as this? it had not so projected energy? He forgot Simon and the
cluster of spiritual vermin; he forgot Lester, except that some changing
detail of her hovered still in his mind-her hand, her forehead, her
mouth, her eyes. The inscape of the painting became central. There, in
the middle of this room, lay the City, ruined and renewed, submerged and
gloriously re-emerging. It was not the sense of beauty but the sense of
exploration that was greatest in him. He had but to take one step to be
walking in that open space, with houses  and streets around him. The
very rubble in the foreground   was organic and rising; not rising as
the beetles were to some exterior compulsion but in proportion and to an
interior plan. The whole subject-that is, the whole unity; shape and
hue; rubble, houses, cathedral, sky, and hidden sun, all and the light
that was all and held all-advanced on him. It moved forward as that
other painting retired. The imbecile master and his companions were
being swallowed up in distance, but this was swallowing up distance.
There was distance in it, and yet it was all one. As a painting is.

He drew a deep breath. As he did so, a phrase from the previous day came
back to him. He turned on Jonathan; he said, but his eyes were still on
the canvas: "With plain observation and common understanding?"

"Yes," said Jonathan. "I'll swear it was. I don't wonder Simon didn't
like it."

Richard could not bear the glow. It bore in upon him even more than it
did on Jonathan-partly because it was not his painting, partly because
he was already, despite himself, by his sight of Lester, some way
initiated into that spiritual world. He walked to the window and stood
looking out. The grey October weather held nothing of the painting's
glory, yet his eyes were so bedazzled with the glory that for a moment,
however unillumined the houses were, their very mass was a kind of
illumination. They were illustrious with being. The sun in the painting
had not risen, but it had been on the point of rising, and the
expectation that unrisen sun had aroused in him was so great that the
actual sun, or some other and greater sun, seemed to be about to burst
through the cloud that filled the natural sky. The world he could see
from the window gaily mocked him with a promise of being an image of the
painting, or of being the original of which the painting was but a
painting.

As he looked, he heard in the silence behind him a small tinkle.
Something had fallen. Before his brain had properly registered the
sound, he felt the floor beneath him quiver, and the tinkle was followed
by a faint echo in different parts of the room. Things shook and touched
and settled. The earth had felt the slightest tremor, and all its
inhabitants felt it. It was for less than a moment, as if an
infinitesimal alteration had taken place. Richard saw in the sky upon
which his eyes were fixed a kind of eyelid-lifting, an opening and
shutting of cloud. He caught no direct light, but the roofs and chimneys
of the houses gleamed, whether from above or in themselves he could not
tell. It passed and his heart lifted. He was suddenly certain of Lester-
not for himself, but in herself; she lived newly in the light. She
lived-that was all; and so, by God's mercy, he.

He thought the phrase, and though it was strange to him it was very
familiar. But he did not, in that second, feel he had abandoned his
agnosticism for what he knew to be Jonathan's belief. Rather his very
agnosticism rose more sharply and healthily within him; he swung to a
dance, and he actually did swing round, so that he saw Jonathan planted
before his canvas and frowning at it, and on the floor a silver pencil
which had rolled from the table. He walked across and picked it up,
playing lightly with it, and as he began to speak Jonathan forestalled
him. He said: "Richard, it is different."

"Different?" Asked Richard. "How different?"

"I'm very good," Jonathan went on, but so simply that there was no
egotism in the remark, "but I'm nothing like as good as this. I simply
am not. I could never, never paint this."

Richard looked at the painting. But his amateur's eye could not observe
with certainty the difference of which Jonathan seemed to be speaking.
He thought he could have been easily persuaded that the shapes were more
definite, that the mass of colour which had overwhelmed him before now
organized itself more exactly, that the single unity was now also a
multitudinous union-but he would not by himself have been certain. He
said: "You're the master. How?"

Jonathan did not answer the question directly. He said, in a lower
voice, almost as if he were shy of something in his own work: "I
suppose, if things-if everything is like that, I suppose colours and
paints might be. They must be what everything is, because everything is.
Mightn't they become more themselves? mightn't they? It was what I
wanted to do, because it was like that. And if the world is like that,
then a painting of the world must be. But if it is ......

Richard went across to him. "If it is," he said, "we weren't done and
can't be done. If it is, we aren't beetles and can't be beetles, however
they grin at each other in their holes. By all possible plain
observation and common understanding, we aren't. And as my own common
understanding has told me on a number of occasions that Lester doesn't
like being kept waiting, I'd better try not to keep her waiting."

"Is she waiting?" said Jonathan with a slow answering smile.

"I can't possibly tell you yet," said Richard. "But I shall try somehow
to find out. Let's do something. Let's plainly observe. Let's go to
Highgate and observe Betty. Let's persecute Lady Wallingford. Let's love
Simon; he likes love. Come on, man." He stepped back and waved his hand
towards Highgate. "Ecrasez l'infame. Give them the point, gentlemen. And
no heeltaps. Come. Have you ever seen Lester in a rage? 'Oh what a deal
of scorn looks beautiful . . .' but I don't want it to get too
beautiful."

He caught up his hat. Jonathan said: "I feel like a bit of my own
painting. All right; come on. Let's get a taxi and go to Highgate and
tell them where they stop. I don't quite know how."

"No," said Richard, "but the sky will or the earth or something. Simon
control Lester? Simon couldn't control a real beetle. Nor could I, if it
comes to that, but I don't pretend to. Come."

When they ran together out of the house, it was already something more
than an hour since the Clerk had re-entered Betty's room. He knew that
the crisis was on him; he had come to direct it. Up to now he had been
content to send his daughter on her ghostly journeys as his messenger
and in some sense his substitute. He had begotten her for this and for
more than this; since she had grown out of early childhood he had
trained her in this. Now the time of more had come, and the mystical
rain which had defeated her should mock him no longer. The tale of the
enchanters held a few masters-not many-who had done this. One of the
earlier, another Simon, called the Magus, had slain a boy by magic and
sent his soul into the spiritual places, there to be his servant. This
Simon would make a stronger link, for he would send his child. But to
establish that link properly, the physical body must be retained in its
own proper shape, that in future all commands might be sent through it
to its twin in the other air. The earlier Simon had kept the body of the
boy in a casing of gold in his bedchamber, and (as it was said) angels
and other powers of that air had visibly adored it, at the will of the
magician laid upon them through the single living soul, and exposed all
the future without the slow tricks that had otherwise to be used, and
shown treasures and secrets of the past, until their lord became a
pillar of the universe and about him the planetary heavens revolved. But
in those days magicians had public honour; now for a little while a
secret way was better. It was to be to-day no bloody sacrifice; only a
compulsory dissolution of bonds between soul and body-a making for ever
all but two of what must be at bottom for ever one; the last fact of
known identity alone remaining. When the uncorrupting death was
achieved, the body should be coffined for burial. After the burial it
would be no less than natural that the distressed mother should go to
her own house in the North to be quiet and recover; and no less than
likely that she might take with her a not too great case-Betty was not
large-of private effects. She could go, nowadays, by car. It would be
easy, on the night before the funeral, to make from dust and air and
impure water and a little pale fire a shape to be substituted for the
true body. That should lay itself down in the coffin, clasping a corded
brick or two to give it weight, for though magic could increase or
decrease the weight of what already had weight, yet these magical bodies
always lacked the mysterious burden of actual flesh. But it would serve
for the short necessary time, and afterwards let earth go indeed to
earth and dust to dust. The substitution made, and the true body laid in
the chest, it could be conveyed away. It should lie in the lumber-room
of the Northern cottage, and there serve him when he wished, until when
he and his Types were united, and the world under him made one, he could
house it becomingly to himself in his proper home.

The time had come. He could utterly pronounce the reversed Name-not that
it was to him a Name, for his whole .effort had been to deprive it of
any real meaning, and he had necessarily succeeded in this for himself,
so that it was to him no Name but vibrations only, which, directed as he
chose, should fulfil what he chose. He had quite forgotten the original
blasphemy of the reversal; the sin was lost, like so many common sins of
common men, somewhere in his past. He did not now even think of there
being any fact to which the Name was correspondent. He had, that very
morning, aimed the vibrating and recessional power on the latest and the
nearest of the dead-the wife of the man who had come foolishly
inquiring. And though she had not come, yet her companion in death had
come-one who was, it must have chanced, more responsive than she. He had
his own intentions for her. But first a balance must be preserved; where
one was drawn in one must go out. He had drawn back the other woman's
soul to wait now outside the house; there she crouched till the act was
finished. So prepared, he came into his daughter's room.

His mistress entered With him. In the eyes of the servants he was a
foreign consulting doctor who had sometimes done Miss Betty good, and
was a friend of the family. For the law, there was an ordinary
practitioner who was well acquainted with her sad case and could do all
that was necessary. Both of them would find now that for Betty they
could do nothing. The pretence was to last just this hour; therefore his
mistress came. Yet bringing the living woman it was unfortunate for him
that he had not brought in with him the dead woman also whom he had left
to her own ghostly place. So wise and mighty as he was, his wisdom had
failed there. Had he done so, that poor subservient soul might have
conveyed to him some hint of what else was in that room. He could see
those he called; not, those he did not. He did not see the form that
waited by the bed; he did not see Lester. He knew, of course, nothing of
the exchange of redeeming love that had taken place between those two-no
more than of that gallant Betty who had risen once from the lake of wise
water. And if he had known anything, of what conceivable importance
could the memories of two schoolgirls be to him? even though the
memories of those girls should be the acts of souls? Because it would
have been, and was, so unimportant, he did not see in the pale and
exhausted girl in the bed any of the sudden runnels of roseal light
which Lester now saw, as if the blood itself were changed and richly
glowing through the weary flesh. Lester saw them-the blood hiding
something within itself, which yet it did not quite succeed in hiding
from any who, in whatever shy efforts of new life, had sought and been
granted love. Lester might not have believed it, but then she did not
have to try. She looked and saw; in that state what was, was certain.
There was no need for belief.

The Clerk and she were very close. Lester did not recognize the identity
of the shape she had seen on the stairs, and otherwise she did not know
him. But as his great form came slowly into the room, she felt him to be
of the same nature as that other shape. He now, and that he on the
stairs, were inhabitants of this world in which she was. Their
appearance, first in night and then in day, was overwhelming to her. The
great cloak was a wrapping up of power in itself; the ascetic face a
declaration of power. Those appearances, and that of the laughing Betty,
belonged to the same world, but these were its guardians and masters.
Lester felt unusually shy and awkward as she stood there; had he
commanded then, she would have obeyed. She knew that she went unseen by
men and women, but as his eyes passed over her she felt rather that she
had been seen and neglected than that she had not been seen.

The giant, for so he seemed to her to be, paused by the bed Lester
waited on his will. So, behind him, did Lady Wallingford. Betty switched
a little, shifted restlessly, and finally turned on her back, so that
she lay facing the gaze of her master and father. He said to her mother:
"Lock the door." Lady Wallingford went back to the door, locked it,
turned, and stood with her hand on the handle. The Clerk said to her
again: "Draw the curtains." She obeyed; she returned. The room lay in
comparative darkness, shut off and shut in. The Clerk said, in a gentle
voice, almost as if he were waking a child: "Betty, Betty, it's time to
go." But he was not trying to wake her.

Lester listened with attention. She believed that the giant was laying
some proper duty on Betty, some business which she did not understand,
but the inflexibility of the voice troubled her. The friendship which
had sprung in the time of their talk made her wish to spare the present
Betty this austere task. Besides she herself wished, as soon as was
possible, to have a place in this world, to be directed, to have
something to do. She made-she so rash, so real, so unseen-a sudden
movement. She began: "Let me-" and stopped, for Betty's eyes had opened
and in fear and distress were looking up at the Clerk, and her fingers
were picking at the bedclothes, as the fingers of the dying do. Lester
years before had seen her father die; she knew the sign. Betty said, in
a voice only just heard through the immense stillness of the room: "No;
no."

The Clerk thrust his head forward and downward. Its leanness, and the
cloak round him, turned him for Lester to some great bird of the eagle
kind, hovering, waiting, about to thrust. He said: "To go," and the
words sprang from him as if a beak  had stabbed, and the body of Betty
seemed to yield under the blow. Only the fact that no blood gushed
between her breasts convinced Lester that it was not so. But again and
once again, as if the wounding beak drove home, the Clerk said: "To go
... to go." A faint sound came from the door; Lady Wallingford had drawn
a sharp breath. Her eyes were bright; her hands were clenched; she was
drawn upright as if she were treading something down; she said-the light
word hung in the room like an echo: "Go."              S

Lester saw, though she was not directly looking. Her manner of awareness
was altering. Touch was forbidden her; hers and Betty's hands had never
met. Taste and smell she had no opportunity to exercise. But sight and
hearing were enlarged. She could somehow see at once all that she had
formerly been able to see only by turning her head; she could distinctly
hear at once all sorts of sounds of which formerly one would deaden
another. She was hardly aware of the change; it was so natural. She was
less aware of herself except as a part of the world, and more aware of
her friend. There was as yet no distrust of the grand shape opposite
her, but the tiny vibrations of that single syllable span within her.
She saw Betty receding and she saw Betty struggling. She spoke with
passion; and her voice, inaudible to those others, in the room, was
audible enough to any of the myriad freemen of the City, to the alien
but allied powers of heaven which traverse the City, to the past,
present, and future of the City, to its eternity, and to That which
everywhere holds and transfixes its eternity; audible to all these,
clear among the innumerable mightier sounds of the creation, she
exclaimed: "Betty!"

Her friend's eyes turned to her. They entreated silently, as years
before they had entreated; they were dimming, but what consciousness
they had still looked out-a girl's longing, a child's call, a baby's
cry. A voice lower than Lady Wallingford's, so low that even the Clerk
could not hear it, though he knew she had spoken, but perfectly audible
to Lester and to any of that other company whose business it might be to
hear, said: "Lester!" It was the same timid proffer of and appeal to
friendship which Lester had once ignored. She answered at once: "All
right, my dear. I'm here."

Betty's head lay towards her, The Clerk put out his hand to turn it
again, so that his eyes might look into his daughter's eyes. Before it
could touch her, the spiritual colloquy had gone on. Betty said: "I
don't at all mind going, but I don't want him to send me." The voice was
ever so slightly stronger; it had even a ripple of laughter in it, as if
it were a little absurd to be so particular about a mere means. Lester
said: "No, darling: why should he? Stay with me a little longer." Betty
answered: "May I? Dear Lester!" and shut her eyes. The Clerk turned her
head.

Lester had spoken on her spirit's instincts. But she did not at all know
what she ought to do. She realized more than ever that she was parted
from living men and women by a difference of existence, and realizing it
she knew that the grand figure by the bed was not of her world but of
that, and being of that, and being so feared, might be hostile, and
might even be evil. She did not any longer squander power by trying to
speak to him. She was not exactly content to wait, but she knew she must
wait. She became conscious all at once of the delight of waiting-of the
wide streets of London in which one could wait, of Westminster Bridge,
of herself waiting for Richard on Westminster Bridge, as she had done-
when? The day she was killed; the day before she was killed. Yes; on
that previous day they had agreed to meet there, and he had been late,
and she had been impatient; no wonder that, after death, she had been
caught again to the scene of her impatience and played out again the
sorry drama. Oh now she would wait, and he would come. She seemed,
bodiless though in truth she was and knew it more and more, to feel her
body tingling with expectation of him, with expected delight. She had
once walked (he would have told her) in a kind of militant glory; she
stood so now, unknowing. Her militancy was not now to be wasted on
absurdities; as indeed it never need have been; there had been enough in
herself to use it on. Her eyes, or what were once her eyes, were
brighter than Lady Wallingford's; her head was up; her strong and
flexible hands moved at her sides, her foot tapped once and ceased. The
seeming body which the energy of her spirit flung out in that air was
more royal and real than the entire body of Lady Wallingford. She gave
her attention to the Clerk.

He was speaking slowly, in a language she did not understand, and
sternly, almost as if he were giving final instructions to a careless or
lazy servant. He had laid his left hand on Betty's forehead, and Lester
saw a kind of small pale light ooze out everywhere between his hand and
Betty and flow over the forehead. Betty's eyes were open again, and they
looked up, but now without sight, for Lester's own quickened sight saw
that a film had been drawn over them. Betty was again receding. Lester
said: "Betty, if you want me I'm here," and meant it with all her heart.
The Clerk ceased to give instructions, paused, drew himself, and began
to intone.

All three women heard him, yet there was not a sound in the room. His
lips moved, but they did not make the sound. The intonation was within
him, and the intonation moved his lips; his mouth obeyed the formula.
Presently, however, something syllabic did emerge. Lady Wallingford
abruptly turned her back and leant her forehead against the door. The
light on Betty's forehead expanded upward; in the dimness of the room it
rose like a small pillar. Lester saw it. She was now incapable of any
action except an unformulated putting of herself at Betty's disposal;
she existed in that single act. It was then she became aware that the
Clerk was speaking to her.

He did not think so. His intention and utterance were still limited to
the woman on the bed. He was looking there and speaking there. He saw
the almost dead face and the filmed eyes. But Lester saw a change. The
eyes closed; the face relaxed. Betty slept, and slept almost happily.
Lester felt the strange intoning call not to Betty but to her; it was
she that Was meant. just as she realized it, she lost it. Her heart was
so suddenly and violently racked that she thought she cried out. The
intensity of the pain passed, but she was almost in a swoon from it, and
all the sense of her physical body was in that swoon restored to her.
She was not yet capable of the complex states of pain or delight which
belong to the unbodied state, and indeed (though she must pass through
those others) yet the final state was more like this world's in the
renewal of the full identity of body and soul. She was unconscious for
that time of the Clerk, of Betty, of the room, but she heard dimly
sounds gathering at her feet; the intoning rose up her from below and
touched her breasts and fell away. As she recovered, she looked down.
She saw the bluish-green tinge of the deathlight crawling round her
ankles. She knew at once that that was what it was. She had not at all
died till now; not when she tried to answer the voice from the hill and
failed. Even that was but a preliminary to death, but this was
dissolution. Better the vague unliving City than this, but she had come
out of that City and this was what lay outside; this lapping pool which,
as it rose into her, mingled itself with her, so that she saw her limbs
changing with it. She thought, in a paroxysm of longing, of the empty
streets, and she made an effort to keep that longing present to her. She
fought against dissolution.

But the backward-intoned Tetragrammaton continued to rise. It flowed up
not equally, but in waves or sudden tongues. It reached up to her knees.
The appearance of her clothes which had so long accompanied her had
disappeared; looking down, she saw in that swimming bluish-green nothing
but herself. She could see nothing but that, and she heard on all sides
the intoning flow in on her.

Of one other thing she was conscious. She had been standing, and now she
was no longer standing. She was leaning back on something, some frame
which from her buttocks to her head supported her; indeed she could have
believed, but she was not sure, that her arms, flung out on each side
held on to a part of the frame, as along a beam of wood. In herfighting
and sinking consciousness, she seemed to be almost lying along it, as
she might be on a bed, only it was slanting. Between standing and lying,
she held and was held. If it gave, as at any moment it might give, she
would fall into the small steady chant which, heard in her ears and seen
along her thighs, was undoing her. Then she would be undone. She pressed
herself against that sole support. So those greater than she had come-
saints, martyrs, confessors-but they joyously, knowing that this was the
first movement of their re-edification in the City, and that thus in
that earliest world fashioned of their earthly fantasies began the
raising of the true houses and streets. Neither her mind nor her morals
had prepared her for this discovery, nor did she in the least guess what
was happening. But what of integrity she possessed clung to that other
integrity; her back pressed to it. It sustained her. The pale dissolving
nothingness was moving more slowly, but it was still moving. It had not
quite reached her thighs. Below them she felt nothing; above she rested
on that invisible frame. She could not guess whether that frame could
resist the nothingness, or whether she on it. If it did not, she would
be absorbed, living, into all that was not. She shut her eyes; say
rather, she ceased to see.

At the moment when the anti-Tetragrammaton was approaching that in her
which her fastidious pride had kept secluded from all but Richard, Betty
suddenly turned on her bed. She did so with a quick heaving movement,
and she spoke in her sleep. The Clerk had sunk on one knee, to bring his
face and slow-moving lips nearer to hers. She had seemed to him already
yielding to the spell, and at the unexpected energy of her turning, he
started and threw back his head. He had been prepared, he thought, for
any alteration in Betty, though he expected one particular alteration,
but he was quite unprepared for this ordinary human outbreak of life. He
threw back his head, as any close watcher might. But then, in his own
mind, he was not supposed to be simply anyone. He missed, in the
suddenness, the word which broke from the sleeping girl, as anyone
might. But then he was certainly not simply anyone. The intoned
vibrations, for less than a second, faltered; for a flicker of time the
eyes of the master of magic were confused. He recovered at once, in
poise and in speech and in sight. But what he saw there almost startled
him again.

His books and divinations had told him, and the lesser necromantic
spells he had before now practised on the dead had half-shown him, what
he might expect to see. As he approached after the graded repetitions,
the greatest and most effective repetition-and the very centre of that
complex single sound -he expected, visibly before him, the double shape;
the all but dead body, the all but free soul. They would be lying in the
same space, yet clearly distinct, and with the final repetitions of the
reversed Name they would become still more distinct, but both at his
disposal and subject to his will. He would divide without dis-uniting,
one to go and one to stay, the spiritual link between them only just not
broken, but therefore permanent. In his other necromancies on dead
bodies he could only do it spasmodically, and only on those lately dead,
and only for a little. But this was to be different. He had expected a
double vision, and he had a double vision. He saw two shapes, Betty and
another. But he had never seen the other before.

Had it been one of those odd creatures, such as that which he had almost
seen in the hall, he would not have been taken by surprise, nor had it
been any stranger inhabitant of the bodiless world. He knew that
surprise does not become the magician, and is indeed apt to be fatal,
for in that momentary loss of guard any attack upon the adept may
succeed. His courage was very high; he would not have been startled at
any tracery of low or high, at cherub or cacodemon. Or so he believed,
and probably with truth. But he did not see cherub or cacodemon. He saw
two sleeping girls-now one, and now the other, and each glancing through
the other; and they were totally unlike. Not only so, but as he sought
to distinguish them, to hold that bewildering conjunction steady to the
analysis and disposal of his will, he saw also that it was the strange
sleeper who lay wanly still with closed eyes, and Betty who slept more
healthily than ever he had seen her sleep-fresh, peaceful, almost
smiling. She had spoken, but he had not heard what she said. Only now,
as he renewed, with all his will, the pronunciation of the reversed
Name, he heard, in the very centre of the syllables, another single
note.

Betty had indeed spoken a word, as a sleeper does, murmuring it. She had
said, in a sleepy repetition of her last waking and loving thought:
"Lester!" As the word left her lips, it was changed. It became-hardly
the Name, but at least a tender mortal approximation to the Name. And
when it had left her lips, it hung in the air, singing itself,
prolonging and repeating itself. It was no louder than Betty's voice,
and it had still some likeness to hers, as if it did not wish to lose
too quickly the sense of the mortal voice by which it had come, and it
retained still within it some likeness to the word "Lester!", as if it
would not too quickly abandon the mortal meaning by which it had come.
But presently it let both likenesses pass, and became itself only, and
at that rather a single note than sequent syllables, which joyously
struck itself out again and again, precisely in the exact middle of
every magical repetition, perfect and full and soft and. low, as if
(almost provocatively) it held just an equal balance, and made that
exact balance a spectacular delight for any whose celestial concerns
permitted them to behold the easy dancing grapple. The air around it
quivered, and the room and all within it were lightly shaken; and beyond
the room and the house, in all directions, through all the world, the
light vibration passed. It touched, at a distance, London itself, and in
Jonathan's flat Richard saw the eye-flicker of light in the roofs and
heard the tinkle of his friend's pencil as it fell.

Lester, lying with closed eyes, felt the change. She felt herself
resting more quietly and more securely on her support; it might be said
she trusted it more. Close beside her, she heard a quiet breathing, as
if on some other bed near at hand a companion gently slumbered, friendly
even in sleep. She did not see the tongue-thrusting Death lie still, or
even here and there recoil, but she stretched out her legs, and felt
them also to be resting on some support, and yawned as if she had just
got into bed. She thought, in a drowsy happiness: "Well, that's saved
her getting up," but she remembered no action of her own, only how once
or twice, when she had been thirsty in the night, Richard had brought
her a glass of water and saved her getting up; and in her drowsiness a
kind of vista of innumerable someones doing such things for innumerable
someones stretched before her, but it was not as if they were being
kind, for it was not water that they were bringing but their own joy, or
perhaps it was water and joy at once; and everything was altered, for
no-one had to be unselfish any more, so free they all were now from the
receding death-light of earth. She thought, all the same, "Darling,
darling Richard! "-because the fact that he was bringing her his own joy
to drink before she sank again to the sleep that was her present joy
(but then waking had been that too) was a deed of such excelling merit
on his part that all the choirs of heaven and birds of earth could never
properly sing its praise; though there was a word in her mind which
would do it rightly, could her sleepiness remember it-a not very long
word, and very easy to say if someone would only tell her how. It was
rather like a glass of water itself, for when all was said she did in
her heart prefer water to wine, though it was blessed sometimes to drink
wine with Richard especially one kind of wine whose name she could never
remember, but Richard could, Richard knew everything better than she,
except the things about which he knew nothing at all, for the word which
was both water and wine-and yet not in the least mixed-had cleared her
mind, and she could be gay with Richard now among all those things that
either knew and the other not; and both of them could drink that word in
a great peace. Now she came to think of it, the word was like a name,
and the name was something like Richard, and something like Betty and
even not unlike her own, though that was certainly very astonishing, and
she knew she did not deserve it; still there it was-and anyhow it was
not in the least like any of them, though it had in it also the name of
the child Richard and she would one day have for they never meant to
wait too long, and it would be born in a bed like this, on which she
could now from head to foot luxuriously stretch herself; nor could she
think why she had once supposed it to be hard and like wood, for it was
marvellously spring-livened; spring of the world, spring of the heart;
joy of spring-water, joy.

Oblivion took her. The task was done, and repose is in the rhythm of
that world, and some kind of knowledge of sleep, since as a baby the
Divine Hero closed his astonishing eyes, and his mother by him, and the
princely Joseph, their young protector. Lester had taken the shock of
the curse-no less willingly or truly that she had not known what she was
doing. She had suffered instead of Betty, as Betty had once suffered
through her; but the endurance had been short and the restoration soon,
so quickly had the Name which is the City sprung to the rescue of its
own. When recollection came to her again, she was standing by the side
of the bed, but all the pale light had faded, and on the bed Betty lay
asleep, flushed with her proper beauty and breathing in her proper
content.

On the other side the Clerk still knelt. As soon as he heard that
interrupting note, he had put out still more energy; he thought he had
used it already, but for him there was always more, until his end should
come indeed. He managed to complete the repetition into which the note
broke, but the effort was very great. The sweat was on his forehead as
he continued with the spell. He could just utter his own word as he
willed, but he could not banish from it the other song. He put out his
hand towards his mistress and beckoned, that she might lay her will with
his. It was his folly. There is no rule more wise in magic than that
which bids the adept, if the operation go awry) break it off at once. In
the circles of hell there is no room for any error; the only maxim is to
break off and begin again. When the Clerk saw before him the two shapes,
he should have made an end. There had been an intrusion of an alien
kind. He would not; say rather, he could not; he could not consent to
leave it undominated. He was compelled therefore to summon his minion.
The false slippery descent was opening, the descent so many of his sort
have followed, according to which the lordly enchanters drop to lesser
and lesser helps-from themselves to their disciples, to servants, to
hired help, to potions and knives, to wax images and muttered murderous
spells. Simon was not yet there, but he was going, and quickly.

Sara Wallingford was still leaning with her forehead against the door,
and pressing, it more closely. She knew, as far as she could, what the
operation meant. But as the intoning had proceeded, her merely mortal
hate got the better of her knowledge; she murmured: "Kill! kill!" She
did not care what became of Betty, so long as Betty was dead. When,
dimly, she  heard the ringing opposition of the Name, she felt only a
fear that Betty might live. And while with all her force she rejected
that fear lest it should weaken the effort, she felt her master beckon.
If indeed they had been, with whatever subordination, allies, there
would have been between them an image of a truth, however debased, which
might have helped. There was not. They had never exchanged that joyous
smile of equality which marks all happy human or celestial government,
the lack of which had frightened Richard in Simon's own smile; that
which has existed because first the Omnipotence withdrew its
omnipotence, and decreed that submission should be by living will, or
perhaps because in the Omnipotence itself there is an equality which
subordinates itself. The hierarchy of the abyss does not know anything
of equality, nor of any lovely balance within itself, nor (if he indeed
be) does the lord of that hierarchy ever look up, subordinate to his
subordinates, and see above him and transcending him the glory of his
household. So that never in all the myths of Satan or Samael or Iblis or
Ahriman, has there been any serious tale of that lord becoming flesh by
human derivation; how could he be so supposed to submit, in bed or
cradle? Simon himself, in the mystery of generation, had reserved
something; he, like all his fellows, intended to dominate what he begot;
therefore he and they always denied their purposes at the moment of
achievement. "How shall Satan's kingdom stand, if it be divided against
itself?" Messias asked, and the gloomy pedants to whom he spoke could
not give the answer his shining eyes awaited: "Sir, it does not."

The man beckoned; the woman stood upright. She had no choice; she was
his instrument only; she must go and be used. But (more than she
guessed) she was also the instrument of her own past. As she took a step
away, there came a tap on the door. It was very gentle, but to those two
it was shattering in the silence-a blasting summons from the ordinary
world. All three of them heard it. Lester heard it; to her it sounded
precisely what it was, clear and distinct. To say she might have been
alive again is too little; it was more happily itself, more sweetly
promising, than if she had been alive. It was a pure and perfect
enjoyment. She knew she could, if she chose, exert herself now to see
who waited on the other side of the door, but she did not choose. It was
not worth while; let the exquisite disclosure come in its own way. The
Clerk's face convulsed; he made a gesture of prohibition. He was too
late. Lady Wallingford's past was in her and ruled her; all the times
when she had thought about the servants now compelled her. She was the
servant of her servants. The glorious maxim (sealed for ever in the
title of the Roman pontiff-servus servorum Dei) ruled her ingloriously.
She was, for that second, oblivious of the Clerk. She put out her hand
and switched on the light-there was no time to draw back the curtains;
she unlocked and opened the door. She faced the parlour-maid.

The maid said: "If you please, my lady, there are two gentlemen
downstairs who say they must see you. The gentleman who spoke said he
didn't think you'd know his name but the other is Mr. Drayton. They say
it's very urgent and to do with Miss Betty." She was young, pleasant,
and inexperienced; her mildly surprised eyes surveyed the room, and
rested on Betty. She broke out: "Oh she is looking better, isn't she, my
lady?"

The news ofJonathan's arrival might, in her state of passion, have
enraged Lady Wallingford; the impertinence of a servant outraged her
past. It pulled her past and her together; unfortunately it pulled her
together in the opposite direction from what was then going on. All the
rebukes she had ever delivered rose in her; she did not see them, as
Lester had seen her own actions, but her voice shook with them. She
said: "You forget yourself, Nina." She went on: "Tell Mr. Drayton's
friend I can't see them. Send them away and see I'm not interrupted
again."

The maid shrank. Lady Wallingford stared angrily at her. As she did so,
a curious sensation passed through her. She felt rooted and all but
fixed, clamped in some invisible machine. A board was pressed against
her spine; wooden arms shut down on her arms; her feet were iron-fixed.
She could do nothing but stare. She heard her last dictatorial word:
"see I'm not interrupted again". Was she not to be? The maid took a step
back, saying hastily: "Yes, my lady." Lady Wallingford, immovable to
herself, stared after her. She could not pursue.

She was not, however, then left to that doom. As the maid turned, she
exclaimed: "Oh! " and stepped back, almost into her mistress. There was
a sudden swiftness of feet; two forms loomed in the corridor. The maid
slipped to the other side of the doorway and as Lady Wallingford broke-
or was allowed to break from the wooden beams which had appeared to
close on her, Richard andjonathan had passed her and come into the room.

Richard was speaking as he came. He said: "You must forgive this
intrusion, Lady Wallingford. We know-Jonathan and I-that we're behaving
very badly. But it's absolutely-I do mean absolutely-necessary for us to
see Betty. If you believe in the Absolute. So we had to come." He added,
across the room to Lester, without surprise, but with a rush of apology,
and only he knew to whom he spoke: "Darling, have I kept you waiting?
I'm so sorry."

Lester saw him. She felt, as he came, all her old self lifting in her;
bodiless, she seemed to recall her body in the joy they exchanged. He
saw her smile, and in the smile heaven was frank and she was shy. She
said-and he only heard, and he rather knew than heard, but some sound of
speech rang in the room, and the Clerk, now on his feet, looked round
and up, wildly, as if to catch sight of the sound: she said: "I'll wait
for you a million years." She felt a stir within her, as if life
quickened; and she remembered with new joy that the deathly tide had
never reached, even in appearance, to the physical house of life. If
Richard or she went now, itwould not much matter; their fulfilment was
irrevocably promised them, in what manner so-ever they knew or were to
know it.

Betty opened her eyes. She too saw Lester. She said: "Lester, you did
stop! How sweet of you!" She looked round the room. Her eyes widened a
little as she saw Richard; they passed unconcernedly over the Clerk and
Lady Wallingford; they saw Jonathan. She cried out and sat up; she threw
out her hands. He came to her and took them. He said, controlling the
words: "You're looking better." He could not say more. Betty did not
speak; she blushed a little and clung.

The Clerk looked down on her. The operation had failed: he did not doubt
that he would yet succeed, but he must begin again. He did not permit
himself any emotion towards whatever had interfered. It would waste his
energy. These men were nothing. It had been in the other world that
frustration had lain, and it should be seen to. Composing heart and
features, he turned his head slowly towards Lady Wallingford. She took
his will, and obeyed. She said: "We had better go downstairs. You can
see, Mr. Drayton, that Betty is better: aren't you, Betty?"

"Much better," said Betty gaily. 'Jonathan dear                she
paused; she went on: "I'll get up and dress. Go away for a few minutes,
and I'll be down."

Jonathan said: "I'd much rather not leave you."

"Nonsense," said Betty. "I'm completely all right. Look, I'll be very
quick. Mother, do you mind?"

It was the one thing that Lady Wallingford now minded more than anything
else. But even hell cannot prevent that law of the loss of the one
thing. She was full of rage-much of her own; something of the Clerk's
which he had dismissed for her to bear. She was the vessel of such human
passion as remained to him. She said: "If you will come down-?" The
Clerk made a gesture with his hand as if to direct the two young men to
pass in front of him, and his sudden constriction passed across his
face. He looked particularly at Richard. But Richard was no longer the
Richard of the house behind Holborn. He had tasted the new life in
Jonathan's flat; he had drunk of it in his wife's eyes. As, while
Jonathan spoke to Betty, he gazed at her, she began to withdraw, or
rather it was not so much that she withdrew as that something-perhaps
only the air of earth-came between them. But in that second of her
immortal greeting, her passion and her promise, he had been freed from
any merely accidental domination by the Clerk. She vanished; and, still
at ease, he turned to meet Simon's look, and grinned back at him. He
said: "You see, my dear Father, we had to make our own arrangements. But
it was very kind of you to offer. No, no; after you. Lady Wallingford's
waiting."

The unfortunate young maid had not known whether to go or stay. She had
thought that Lady Wallingford might want the gentlemen shown out. She
gathered, from the look Lady Wallingford gave her as she came through
the door, that she had been wrong. The strange doctor followed; after
him the two other visitors. Mr. Drayton paused to look back at Miss
Betty; then he softly closed the door. The maid, even in her gloom,
remembered that she had always said there was something between him and
Miss Betty.





                           Chapter Eight

                        THE MAGICAL CREATION

All this while, Evelyn Mercer sat on the doorstep. It would once have
seemed strange to her to think of herself sitting and hugging herself,
as any old beggarwoman might, and she not old, though too much a beggar.
She was acutely conscious of her beggary, ever since she had seen the
man sitting in the chair. He had smiled and nodded at her, and she had
expected and hoped he would speak. If he had only asked her a question,
she could have told him everything -about her tiresome mother, and silly
Betty, and cruel Lester. She did not expect him to talk, and all she
wanted was for him to listen to her. She did not ask anything more; she
was not the kind of girl that would. Lester was more like that, and even
Betty.

In looking at him, she had become aware of her pain, which she had not
been till then. It was not much more than a discomfort, a sense of
pressure on her lungs. If she could talk, she would be able to appease
it. He had sat nodding at her, as if he were telling her how right she
was to come, and then he had stood up, and his nod as he did so had
suddenly seemed to change. Instead of being a nod of welcome, it was now
a nod of dismissal. She was to go; as she realized it, she yelped. She
had not been able to help it. She had yelped rather like a lost cat, for
she was frightened of being sent away, and the discomfort in her lungs
had become immediately worse. But his head had still nodded dismissal.
He was still smiling, and the smile had a kind of promise. Her own
smile, which was the smile with which she had run after Betty, had
become oddly fixed; she felt her face harden. As, still looking over his
shoulder, in that mingling of promise and dismissal, he began to move
away towards the door of the hall, she found that she herself was no
longer in the hall but in the yard without. She had receded as he
receded. She was up against the window, staring through it, but outside
it, and sniffing at something in the air. It vaguely reminded her of
fish, but it was not fish. She remained sniffing for some time, hoping
that the man would come back, The smell had something to do with him,
and he with the pain in her lungs. Presently she slipped away from the
window-sill which she had been clutching; for the smell caused her to
follow it. It was the kind of smell Betty had when Betty had to listen
to her, though she had never understood that before. She began to run,
out of the yard and along the street. Her head was stretched out; her
eyes were bright, though they saw nothing except the pavement before
them. She ran a long while, or not so long. When at last she stopped, it
was outside a door-the door of the house from which she had hurried. Now
she had hurried back.

As the semi-bestiality of her movement ceased, her muddled and obsessed
brain managed to point that out to her. It even managed to suggest that
to run for ever between those two points would be unsatisfactory. She
had now made almost the same passage three times; and perhaps while she
was in the streets that was all she could do. But how could she get out
of the streets? She was not let go in there, and she did not dare go in
here. She went right up to the door-the smell was strongest there; it
was fish, surely-and stood by it listening. Betty was inside; for all
she knew, he also might be inside. She even put her hand on the door. It
sank through; she began to pull it back and found it caught as if in a
tangle of thorn. She felt a long sharp scratch before she got it loose.
Tears came into her eyes. She was lonely and hurt. She looked at her
hand through her tears, but it was a long time before she could see the
scratch, almost as if neither scratch nor hand was there until she had
found them. The hand itself was dim, because she had been crying; and
dirty, because she had been leaning against the sill; and bleeding-at
least, if she looked long enough it was bleeding. If the door was such a
tangle of thorns, it was no use trying to go in. She went out of the
porch and down the few steps. Her lungs were hurting her. She said
aloud: "It isn't fair."

Lester had said the same thing, but as a rational judgement. This was
not so much a rational judgement as a squeal. The squeal eased her
lungs, and as she recognized this, she spoke again, saying: "Why won't
anyone help me?" and found that her ease increased. She added: "I do
think they might," and then the pain was no more than a slight
discomfort. It seemed to her that the London air never had suited her,
but she had never been able to agree with her mother where else they
should live, so that somehow or other, because her mother had been
inconsiderate, they had had to go on living in London. She was, at
bottom, a little afraid that her mother too was in that dark house. Her
mother didn't like fish; not that what she was waiting for was fish. It
was the tall man who nodded his head.

She sat down on the bottom step, sideways, with her eyes on the door and
her legs drawn up. She forgot about the scratch, except occasionally and
resentfully because the door was a tangle of thorns. Whenever her lungs
began to hurt her, she talked to herself aloud. Soon, though she did not
realize it, she was keeping up a small continuous monologue. She did not
talk of herself, but of others. The monologue was not (primarily) self-
centred but mean. Men and women-all whom she had known-dwindled in it as
she chattered. No-one was courteous; no-one was chaste; no-one was
tender. The morning-for it was morning with her too-grew darker and the
street more sordid as she went on.

In the middle of some sentence of attribution of foulness she stopped
abruptly. The door had opened; there he was. He looked at her and she
scrambled to her feet. He had come away from the conflict within the
house, for purposes of his own. He had said to Lady Wallingford: "Keep
her here." But he would not wait, for he knew that he had now a spy in
the spiritual places, who could, when he could talk to her, tell him of
Betty and what had interfered with the great operation. He had left her
where she was, holding her by that sympathy between them, by her
instinctive obedience to the reversed Name, which had made itself known
to her in the curious smell. She had lingered in it, as he knew she
would. Now, as she rose, he lifted a finger. He was still in his own
world, and she in hers, but they were already visible to each other. He
went so quickly ithat men did not see him, but behind him she was more
truly invisible, as the actual streets of London were to her.

He came to the house behind Holborn, and he passed down the corridor
into the secret hall. He went to his chair and sat down. Evelyn did not
quite like to follow him there; she waited just inside the door. Her
lungs were beginning to hurt her again, but she did not dare to speak
without his permission. But she hoped he would soon be kind and not as
cruel as Lester. The fish-smell was strong, and the hall dim. It might
have been in the depth of waters; waters of which the pressure lay on
her lungs, and the distance was dark around her. As she stood there, she
felt both light and lightheaded, except for that increased pressure. She
was floating there, and beyond her he sat like the master of all water-
monsters, gazing away through the waters, and she must float and wait.

At the moment when the pain, was becoming really troublesome, he turned
his head. His eyes drew her; she ran forward and when she came to his
seat, she sank on its steps as on the steps of the house. She had either
to float or crouch; she could not easily stand. This did not astoniih
her; once she had been able to do something which now she could not do.
The Clerk let her sit there; his eyes reverted to the distance. He said:
"What do you know of that house?"

She began at once to chatter. After two sentences she found herself
opening and shutting her mouth, but her voice had ceased. The pain was
now really bad. She must speak, but she could only tell him what he
wished to know. The tears again came into her eyes and ran down her
face. That did not help. She choked and said-and immediately felt
relief-"Betty was there, and Lester had gone to her."

The name of the obstacle, of that first interference, of the other girl
on the bed, was Lester. The Clerk frowned; he had thought Betty was,
through all the worlds, secluded from any companionship. He knew that
there must always be some chance that a strange life, in those depths,
should loom up, but he had supposed he had certainly cut his daughter
off from any human friendship, and this sounded human. He had now to
deal with it. He said: "Who is-Lester?"

Evelyn answered: "She was at school with Betty and me, and whatever she
pretends now she didn't have any use for Betty then. She never liked
her. She was killed-when I was." The last three words had to be spoken,
but she shook all over as she spoke. When the Clerk said: "Was she a
friend of yours?" she answered: "Yes, she was, though she was always
hateful and superior. We used to go about together. She ought to be with
me now."

The Clerk considered. He knew of the fierce hunger for flesh, for their
physical habitations, which sometimes assails the newly dead, even the
greatest. He knew how that other sorcerer of his race, the son of
Joseph, had by sheer power once for awhile reanimated his body and held
it again for some forty days, until at last on a mountainside it had
dissolved into a bright cloud. What Jesus Bar-Joseph had not been able
to resist, what he himself (if and when it was necessary) was prepared
to do, he did not think it likely that this other creature, this Lester,
would be able to resist. Especially if this other woman by him, her
friend, drew her. He stretched out his hand over Evelyn's head, and she
felt its weight where she crouched, though it was above her and did not
touch her. He said: "What do you most want now?"

Evelyn answered: "To get back-or else to have someone to talk to. No-one
will listen to me."

The constriction which was his smile showed on the Clerk's face, in
sudden contempt for this wretched being, and for all those like her-how
many millions!-who were willing to waste their powers so: talk of
friends, talk of art, talk of religion, talk of love; all formulae and
all facts dissolved in talk. No wonder they were hypnotically swayed by
his deliberate talk. They swam and floated in vain talk, or sometimes
they crouched in cruel talk. They fled and escaped from actuality.
Unknowing, they spoke as he did, knowing; therefore they were his
servants-until they dissolved and were lost. That might happen to this
one. Let it, but before then perhaps she could be his auxiliary and draw
that other shape from his daughter's bed.

It did not occur to him that he too was moving in the same direction.
Sara Wallingford, Betty, Evelyn. Evelyn was a feebler instrument than
Betty; even had there been no translucent Betty-and indeed for him there
was none. But the helpless obedience of Betty was more exactly directed,
more even of an accurate machine than this phantom in the worlds. There
was indeed, even for her, a chance, could she have taken it, It lay
precisely in her consenting not to talk, whether she succeeded or no.
The time might be coming when she would have thrown that chance away,
but for now she had it. She was looking up stealthily under his hand,
that lay over her like a shadow on water; he was still gazing right
away. But he said: "That might be done. I could give you a body-and as
for talking, who would you most like to talk to?"

She knew that at once. In a voice stronger than she had hitherto been
able to use in that world, she exclaimed: "Betty!" He understood that.
It seemed to him a poor and feeble wish, to be content to possess one
other soul-to him who thought that numbers made a difference and even
that quantity altered the very quality of an act, but he understood it.
"The last infirmity of noble mind" can in fact make the mind so infirm
that it becomes ignoble, as the divine Milton very well knew, or he
would not have called it infirmity, nor caused Messias to reject it with
such a high air; for paradise is regained not only by the refusal of sin
but by the healing of infirmity. He looked down on her; she was touching
her lips with her tongue. He said: "I could give you Betty."

She only looked up. He went on: "But first you must find her and this
Lester. Then I will give her to you."

She said: "Always? Can I have her always?"

"Always," he said. As he spoke a hint of what he said was visible to
them, a momentary sense of the infinite he named. The hall for each of
them changed. It opened out for him; it closed in for her. He saw
opening beyond it the leagues of the temporal world; he saw one of his
Types exhorting crowds in a city of the Urals and another sitting in a
chamber of Pekin and softly murmuring spells to learned men of China,
and beyond them vague adoring shadows, the skies coalescing into shapes,
and bowing themselves towards him. But for her the hall became a quite
small room, which still seemed to grow smaller, where she and Betty sat,
she talking and Betty trembling. Infinity of far and near lived
together, for he had uttered one of the names of the City, and at once
(in the way they wished) the City was there.

He dropped his hand nearer, and with a mortal it would have touched, but
an infinity of division was between them (as between Betty and Lester),
and it did not touch. He said: "You must get Lester away from her and
bring her here. Then you shall have Betty. Go and look for them; look
for them and tell me. Look and tell me; then you shall talk to Betty.
Look and tell me. Go and find her; look and tell me. . . ."

She was willing to yield to his command; she did yield. But she had not
yet been dead long enough to know and use the capacities of spirit; she
could not instantaneously pass through space, or be here and there at
once. But that was what he wished, and his power was on her. She was to
be at once with Betty and with him, to see and to speak. She was still
aware of herself as having the semblance of a body, though it was dimmer
now, and she still, as with the pain in her lungs or the words she heard
or uttered, understood her spiritual knowledge in the sensations of the
body. She was compelled now to understand, in that method, the
coincidence of two places. She felt, by intolerable compulsion, her body
and her head slowly twisted round. She opened her mouth to scream and a
wind rushed into it and choked her. The pain in her lungs was terrible.
In her agony she floated right up from the place where she sat; still
sitting, she rose in the air. This -apparent floating was the nearest
she could get to the immaterial existence of spirit. She thought she
heard herself scream, and yet she knew she did not; her torment was not
to be so relieved. Presently she sank slowly down again on the steps of
the pseudo-throne, but now rigid-contorted, and sealed in her
contortion, staring The Clerk had again lifted his eyes from her;
inattentive to her pain, he waited only for tidings of that obstacle on
whose removal he was set.

It was at this moment that Lester saw her. She had known that she had
been withdrawn from Richard. The moment that had been given them was at
once longer and more intense than the previous moments had been, and she
was more content to let it go. Dimly there moved in her, since her
reconciliation with Betty, a sense that love was a union of having and
nothaving, or else something different and beyond both. It was a kind of
way of knowledge, and that knowledge perfect in its satisfaction. She
was beginning to live differently. She saw Richard look where she had
been, and saw him also content. The men went out of the room with Lady
Wallingford. The room, but for the dead girl and the living girl, was
empty. They spoke to each other freely now across the division. Betty
said: "Darling, what happened?"

"Nothing," Lester answered. "At least, very little. I think he tried to
push you somewhere, and then ... well, then he tried to push me."

"You're not hurt?" Betty asked, and Lester, with a rush of laughter,
answered only: "Here?"

Betty did no more than smile; her gratitude possessed her. She stood and
looked at her friend, and the charity between them doubled and
redoubled, so that they became almost unbearable to each other, so shy
and humble was each and each so mighty and glorious. Betty said: "I
wouldn't have lost a moment, not a moment, of all that horrid time if it
meant this."

Lester shook her head. She said, almost sadly: "But mightn't you have
had this without the other? I wish you'd been happy then." She added: "I
don't see why you couldn't have been. Need I have been so stupid? I
don't mean only with you."

Betty said: "Perhaps we could go there some time and see." But Lester
was not immediately listening; she was labouring With the unaccustomed
difficulties of thought, especially of this kind of thought. Her face
was youthfully sombre, so that it seemed to put on a kind of early
majesty, as she went on: "Must we always wait centuries, and always know
we waited, and needn't have waited, and that it all took so long and was
so dreadful? "

Betty said: "I don't think I mind. I don't think, you know, we really
did have to wait-in a way this was there all the time. I feel as if we
might understand it was really all quite happy-if we lived it again."

Lester said, all but disdainfully: "Oh if we lived it again-" Betty
smiled. She said: "Lester, you look just like you used to sometimes"-and
as Lester coloured a little and smiled back, she went on quickly:
"There, that's what I mean. If we were living the other times now-like
this-Oh I don't know. I'm not clever at this sort of thing. But the lake
or whatever it was -and then Jonathan-and now you.... I feel as if all
of you. had been there even when you weren't, and now perhaps we might
find out how you were even when you weren't. Oh well," she added, with a
sudden shake of her fair head that seemed to loose sparkles of gold
about all the room. "it doesn't much matter. But I'd like to see my
nurse again. I wonder if I could."

 "I should think," said Lester, "you could almost do anything you
wanted." She thought, as she spoke, of the City through which she had
come. Were the other houses in it-the houses that had seemed to her so
empty then-as full of joy as this? but then perhaps also of the danger
of that other death? if now she returned to them, would she see them so?
if she went out of this house and- She broke in on Betty who had now
begun to dress with an exclamation: "Betty, I'd forgotten Evelyn.

Betty paused and blinked. She said, with a faint touch of reserve in her
voice: "Oh Evelyn!"

Lester smiled again. "Yes," she said, "that may be all very well for
you, my dear, and I shouldn't wonder if it was, but it's not at all the
same thing for me. I made use of Evelyn."

Betty made a small face at herself and Lester in the mirror of her
dressing-table. She said: "Think of the use she was trying to make of
me!" and looked with a kind of celestial mischief over her shoulder at
her friend.

"So I do," said Lester, "but it isn't the same thing at all, you must
see. Betty, you do see! You're just being provoking."

"It's nice to provoke you a little," Betty murmured. "You're so much
more everything than me that you oughtn't to mind. I might tempt you a
little, on and off." Neither of them took the word seriously enough, nor
needed to, to feel that this was what all temptations were-matter for
dancing mockery and high exchange of laughter, things so impossible that
they could be enjoyed as an added delight of love. But Betty swung round
and went on seriously. "We had forgotten Evelyn. What shall we do?"

"I suppose I could go and look for her," Lester answered. "If she's
still in those streets she'll be frightfully miserable... She will be
frightfully miserable. I must go." There rose in her the vague idea of
giving Evelyn a drink, a cup of tea or a sherry or a glass of water-
something of that material and liquid joy. And perhaps she ought to let
Evelyn talk a little, and perhaps she herself ought to pay more serious
attention to Evelyn's talk. Talk would not have checked the death-light,
but if she could be a kind of frame for Evelyn, like the frame to which
she had held or by which she had been held-perhaps Evelyn could rest
there a little. Or perhaps-but Evelyn had first to be found. The finding
of Betty had been like nothing she could ever have dreamed; might not
the finding of Evelyn be too? There was a word, if she could only
remember it for what she wanted-what she was thinking-now. Richard would
know; she would ask Richard-after the million years. Compensation? no;
recovery? no; salvation-something of all that sort of thing, for her and
Betty and Evelyn, and all. She had better get on with it first and think
about it afterwards.

They were silent-so to call it-while Betty finished dressing. Then Betty
said: "Well now, shall I come with you?"

"Certainly not," said Lester. "You go down to your Jonathan. And if, by
any chance, you should see Richard, give him my love." The commonplace
phrase was weighted with meaning as it left her lips; in that air, it
signified no mere message but an actual deed-a rich gift of another's
love to another, a third party transaction in which all parties were
blessed even now in the foretaste.

Betty said: "I wish you could come. Are you sure you wouldn't like me
to? I shouldn't mind Evelyn a bit now, if she wanted to talk to me."

"No," said Lester, "I don't suppose you would. But I don't think it
would be a terrifically good idea for Evelyn-yet, anyhow. No; you go on.
And don't forget me, if you can help it."

Betty opened her eyes. She said, as Lester had said earlier, the sweet
reminders interchanging joy: "Here?"

"No," Lester said. "I know, but it's all a little new still. And ...
Oh!"

The cry was startled out of her. Before Betty had begun dressing, she
had pulled the curtains and put out the light. Lester had so turned that
she was now facing the window, and there, within or without, looking at
her, was Evelyn-an Evelyn whom Lester hardly recognized. She knew rather
than saw that it was the girl she had once called her friend. The
staring eyes that met hers communicated that, but in those eyes was the
same death-light that had crept about her own feet. It was indeed so;
the torment of twisted space was but the sign and result of a soul that
was driven to obey because it had no energy within itself, nor any
choice of obedience. Lester was by her at once; the speed of her
movement depended now chiefly on her will. She disappeared in that
second from Betty's sight. She threw out her hands and caught Evelyn's
arms; the dead and living could not'touch, but the dead could still seem
to touch the dead. She cried out: "Oh Evelyn, my dear! "

Evelyn was mouthing something, but Lester could not hear what she was
saying. That however was because Evelyn was not talking to her at all,
but to the Clerk. She was saying: "I can see Lester; she's got hold of
me. I can't see Betty."

The Clerk said: "Speak to her. Ask her what she's doing. Ask her to come
away with you."

"Evelyn!" Lester exclaimed. "Evelyn! What's happening? Come with me."
She spoke without any clear intention; she had no idea what she could
do, but*the sense of belonging to some great whole was upon her, and she
trusted to its direction. It could save this tortured form as it had
saved her.

Evelyn answered, as she had been told: "Lester, what have you been
doing?" But these words, instead of gaining significance, had lost it;
they emerged almost imbecilely.

"I," said Lester, astonished. "I've been-" She stopped. She could not
possibly explain, if indeed she knew., She went on "-putting things
straight with Betty. But I was coming to you, indeed I was. Come and
speak to Betty." She was aware. by her sharpened sight, that Betty was
no longer in the room, and added: "She'll be back soon."

Evelyn, her eyes wandering round the room, said gasping: "I don't want
to stop. Come with me."

Lester hesitated. She was willing to do anything she could, but she
never had trusted Evelyn's judgement on earth, and she did not feel any
more inclined to trust it now. Nor, especially since she had seen
Evelyn's face turned on her at the bottom of the hill, and heard
Evelyn's voice outside the house, did she altogether care to think into
what holes and corners of the City Evelyn's taste might lead them. There
was, she knew, in those streets someone who looked like a god and yet
had loosed that death-light which had crept round her feet and now shone
in Evelyn's eyes. She was not afraid, but she did not wish, unless she
must, to be mixed up with obscenity. Her natural pride had lost itself,
but a certain heavenly fastidiousness still characterized her. Even in
paradise she preserved one note of goodness rather than another. Yet
when she looked at that distressed face, her fastidiousness vanished. If
she could be to Evelyn something of what Betty had been to her-? She
said: "Do you want me?"

"Oh yes, yes!" the gasping voice said. "Only you. Do come."

Lester released her hold, but as she did so, two grasping hands went up
and fastened on hers. They gave a feeble jerk, which Lester easily
resisted, or indeed hardly had to resist. She had once disliked coming
into this house; now, at the moment of new choice, she disliked leaving
it. Her only friend in the new life was in it. But she could not refuse
the courtesies of this London to her acquaintance in an earlier London.
She gave a small sigh and relaxed her will. She moved.

Her relaxed will took her where Evelyn would, but at her own speed and
in her own manner. She was aware of the space she covered but not of the
time, for she took no more time than  Evelyn did to turn herself back on
the steps of the Clerk's chair. Not only space but time spread out
around her as she went, She saw a glowing and glimmering City, of which
the life was visible as a roseal wonder within. The streets of it were
first the streets of to-day, full of the business of to-dayshops,
transport, men and women, for she was now confirmed that not alone in
the house she had left did that rich human life go on, It was truly
there, even if (except through that house) she had no present concern
with it. The dreadful silence she had known after death was no longer
there; the faint sound of traffic, so common but oh so uncommon, came to
her. It was London known again and anew. Then, gently opening, she saw
among those streets other streets.. She had seen them in pictures, but
now she did not think of pictures, for these were certainly the streets
themselves-another London, say-other Londons, into which her own London
opened or with which it was intermingled. No thought of confusion
crossed her mind; it was all very greatly ordered, and when down a' long
street she saw, beyond the affairs of to-day, the movement of sedan
chairs and ancient dresses, and beyond them again, right in the distance
and yet very close to her, the sun shining on armour, and sometimes a
high battlemented gate, it was no phantasmagoria of a dream but precise
actuality. She was (though she did not find the phrase) looking along
time. Once or twice she thought she saw other streets, unrecognizable,
with odd buildings and men and women in strange clothes. But these were
rare glimpses and less clear, as if the future of that City only
occasionally showed. Beyond all these streets, or sometimes for a moment
seen in their midst, was forest and the gleam of marshland, and here and
there a river, and once across one such river a rude bridge, and once
again a village of huts and men in skins. As she came down towards what
was to her day the centre of the City, there was indeed a moment when
all houses and streets vanished and the forests rose all round her, and
she was going down a rough causeway among the trees, for this was the
place of London before London had begun to be, or perhaps after its long
and noble history had ceased to be, and the trees grew over it, and a
few late tribes still trod what remained of the old roads. That great
town in this spiritual exposition of its glory, did not omit any
circumstances of its building in time and space-not even the very site
upon which its blessed tale was sufficiently reared.

It was not for her yet to know the greater mystery. That waited her
growth in grace, and the enlargement of her proper faculties in due
time. Yet all she saw, and did not quite wonder at seeing, was but a
small part of the whole. There around her lay not only London, but all
cities-coincident yet each distinct; or else, in another mode, lying by
each other as the districts of one city lie. She could, had the time and
her occasions permitted, have gone to any she chose-any time and place
that men had occupied or would occupy. There was no huge metropolis in
which she would have been lost, and no single village which would itself
have been lost in all that contemporaneous mass. In this City lay all-
London and New York, Athens and Chicago, Paris and Rome and Jerusalem;
it was that to which they led in the lives of their citizens. When her
time came, she would know what lay behind the high empty faqades of her
early experience of death; it was necessary that she should first have
been compelled to linger among those faqades, for till she had waited
there and till she had known the first grace of a past redeemed into
love, she could not bear even a passing glimpse of that civil vitality.
For here citizenship meant relationship and knew it; its citizens lived
new acts or lived the old at will. What on earth is only in the happiest
moments of friendship or love was now normal. Lester's new friendship
with Betty was but the merest flicker, but it was that flicker which now
carried her soul.

The passage ended. Lester, exhilarated by the swiftness and the
spectacle of the journey, stood in the yard, outside the hall.

And Evelyn, on the steps of the chair, had been able to turn and felt
the agonized rigour relax. The cramps of her spirit were eased. She
stood up; she ran very fast, under the eyes of her master and under the
shadow of his lifted hand, and came to Lester who, coming by an easier
and longer way, became again aware of her, as she had not been on the
way. Evelyn's face was still a little set, but the hard glaring misery
was gone. Evelyn smiled at her; at least her face jerked; she, like the
other inhabitants of that house, bore Simon's mark in her body. Lester
looked away; it seemed to her more courteous not to meet what she
privately regarded as an unspeakable grimace. But then Lester's standard
for smiles had been, that day, considerably raised.

She said, looking round her at the yard and then through the window, and
speaking more pleasantly than ever in this world she had spoken to
Evelyn, but firmly: "What do you want me to do here? If", she added,
still pleasantly, "you do want me to do anything."

Evelyn said: "He does. Come in. " Her voice was stronger and more
urgent; she tried again to pull Lester on. She had no power on the
other; her pull was no more than a poor indication of what she wanted.
Lester, having come so far, consented. She moved forward with Evelyn
through the wall. She saw Simon and recognized him at once. He was no
more a portent to her; the falling away of the death-light had taken
from him something of his apparent majesty, and a kind of need and even
peevishness showed in his face. He himself did not see her now-not even
her eyes as he had done in the hall of the house. But Evelyn's manner
told him that she was there. The link between them was Evelyn; on her
depended the abolition of that obstacle.

But there was only one way of action. Had the Clerk himself been able to
enter that other world of pattern and equipoise, of swift principles as
of tender means, he might conceivably have been able to use better
means. But he never had done, and there remained now the necessity of
setting up a permanent earthly and magical link which he could control.
He supposed, since he thought in those terms, that the coming of this
Lester with Evelyn meant that Evelyn had some sort of hold on Lester,
and not at all that Lester had merely come. He who babbled of love knew
nothing of love. It was why he had never known anything of the Betty who
had sprung from the lake, if lake it was, that lay in the midst of that
great City, as if in the picture which Jonathan had painted the shadow
of the cathedral had looked rather like water than mass, and yet (as
always) light rather than water. It lay there, mysterious and hidden;
only, as if from sources in that world as in this, the Thames and all
rivers rose and flowed and fell to the sea, and the sea itself spread
and on it vessels passed, and the traffic of continents carried news of
mightier hidden continents; no ship laden in foreign ports or carrying
merchandise to foreign ports but exhibited passage and the principle of
passage, since passage was first decreed to the creation. Simon to turn
that passage back upon itself? to turn back speech which was another
form of that passage? let him first master the words of three girls, and
drive them as he would.

He heard Evelyn say, as she came into the hall: "Here she is." He knew
what had to be done and set himself to do it-to erect the material trap
and magical link between himself and one dead girl that she might drag
the other in. Let both be caught! The destroying anti-Tetragrammaton was
not to be used for that, but there were lesser spells which deflected
primeval currents. He stood upright; he set his deep fierce eyes on
Evelyn; he began almost inaudibly to hum. The unseen motes in the air-
and lesser points of matter than they -responded. After he had hummed
awhile, he ceased and spat. The spittle lay on the floor at Evelyn's
apparent feet, and was immediately covered by a film of almost invisible
dust. The motes were drawn to it. Faint but real, a small cloud gathered
against the floor.

He sighed. He drew in air, and bending towards the cloud which now stood
up like a tiny pyramid he exhaled the air towards it. He reached his
hands down towards the dust, and in the midst of his sighs he spat
again. As his spittle fell on the dust, the pyramid thickened and became
more solid. With a curious small whistling sound, as of air rushing
through a narrow channel, the heap of dust enlarged and grew. There hung
above it in that hall another sound as small as the whistfing-the echo
of a longing voice. It said: "Oh! Oh! a place for me?" and the Clerk's
voice-was it a voice? to Lester, as now she heard the faint exchange it
seemed no more than a nere lifting wave of the moon when the thinnest
cloud obscures and reveals it-answered: "For you; for you." She herself
was not permitted, or did not desire, then to speak; she was troubled
faintly in her heart as that lifting wave came to her. Her own sins had
not been of that kind; disordered in love, she had still always known
that love was only love. She did not understand what was going on; only
there was something disagreeable in that sign and countersign of
agreement-"For me?" "For you." The Clerk stretched down his hands again,
but now as if he sheltered the early flicker of a fire, and immediately
the fire was there.

It came from his palms. It was not fire but an imitation of fire. The
palms themselves gave no sign of it, and even through the seeming flames
showed no reddening from the heat. The fire itself was pallid; it had no
strength, but the flames darted down and hovered round the dust. They
ran over it and clung to it, and as he encouraged them with mimetic
movements of his hands, they sank deeper and were absorbed. As if their
movement was communicated, the dust itself rose in sudden gushes and
fell again, but each time the heap was larger than before. It was now
about six inches high, and had grown more like a column than a pyramid.
It was waving to and fro, as a single unbranched plant might, and the
whistling came from it, as if a dying man were trying to breathe. The
whistling was thin, but so was the plant, if it were a plant, which it
was not, for it was still dust, even if organic dust. It was vaguely
swaying and waving itself about, as if in search of something it had no
means of finding, and the pallid fire played about it as it sought.
Simon's heavy sighs exhaled above it and his hands shielded it, though
(to Lester's apprehension) there was a great, almost an infinite,
distance between those palms and it, as if she saw something of a
different kind that was without relation to the place in which it stood.
Suddenly for the third time the Clerk spat on it and this time it grew
at once higher by almost another six inches, and its movement became
more defined though no more successful. It was now certainly feeling out
with its summit-with what would have been its head, but it had no head.
The fire was absorbed into it, and disappeared; and as it did so the
whole small column from being dust became a kind of sponge-like
substance, an underwater growth. It began to try and keep a difficult
balance, for it seemed to be slipping and sliding on the floor and by
throwing itself one way and another just not falling. The thin whistling
grew spasmodic, as if it had got some of its channels free, and was only
here and there obstructed; and as the whistling ceased, so did the heavy
breathing of the Clerk. He began to rise slowly from the position in
which, like a witch-doctor, he had been half-crouching; but he did so in
sudden jerks, and as he did so the spongy growth in sudden jerks
followed him and grew.

With its first jerk there came another change. For the jerk was not only
an upward movement, adding perhaps another three inches to its height,
but also interior, as if the sponge shook itself and settled. It now
stood more firmly, and with the next one or two similar movements it
took on the appearance of a rudimentary human body. It was developing
from its centre, for its feet and head were not visible, but only a
something against its sides that might have been arms, and a division
that might have been between its upper legs, and two faint swellings
that might have been breasts. Soon, however, the arms did move outward,
though they immediately fell, and below the centre the thing split into
two stumps, on which, each in turn, it soundlessly stamped. It was now
throwing its upper end violently about, as if to free itself from its
own heaviness) but it failed and subsided into a continual tremor. With
this tremor, its sponginess began in patches to disappear, and give
place to some sort of smooth pale-yellowish substance, which presently
had spread so far that it was the sponginess which grew on it in
patches. Thus there stood now on the floor the rough form of a woman, a
little under two feet high, and with the head gradually forming. The
face, as far as it emerged, had no character; the whole thing was more
like a living india-rubber doll than anything else, but then it did
live. It was breathing and moving, and it had hair of a sort, though at
present (as with such a doll) rather part of the formation of its head.
It lifted its hands, as if to look at them, but its eyes were not yet
formed, and it dropped them again; and then it seemed to listen, but
though its ears were almost there, it could not hear-and indeed the only
sound it could have heard was Simon's breathing, and that would only
just have been audible even to a human ear.

Lester, as she watched, was a little surprised to find that the living
doll was not more disgusting to her. It was faintly repellent, as an
actual doll might be if it were peculiarly deformed or ugly. She
disliked the spongy patches and the deadness of the apparent skin, but
she could not feel strongly about it; not so strongly as Jonathan would
have felt about a bad painting. She had a mild impulse to pick it up and
put it right-pull and pat and order it, but she did not wish to touch
it; and anyhow she did not know why it was there, nor why beside her she
was aware that Evelyn was looking at it with such intensity, and even
giving what seemed little squeals of pleasure as it grew. Indeed, Evelyn
presently gave a quick forward movement, as if she were about to rush to
the doll. She was checked by the Clerk's voice.

He said: "Wait. It's too cold." The fire was still pallid in the
interior of his hands, and now he breathed on them as if to blow it into
life, and it grew round each hand as if he had put on gloves of pale
light, a light more like that of the false Tetragrammaton but not so
deathly. With his hands thus encased, he took up the manikin between
them and handled and dandled and warmed and seemed to encourage it,
whispering to it, and once or twice holding it up above his head, as a
father might his child, and as it turned its head, now grown, and looked
over its shoulder, the girls saw that its eyes were open and bright,
though meaningless. They saw also that it was longer and now nearly
three feet in height, but it seemed to have no more weight, for still he
cherished and caressed it, and held it out standing on one hand, as if
it were no more than a shell. But that ended his play with it. He set it
again on the floor, struck his hands together-as if to break the fire
from them, and indeed the pale fire flew in sparks around him and about
the hall, and his hands were clear of it. He looked at Evelyn, and said:
"That is for you and your friend."

Evelyn's answer was heard both by him and Lester. She said: "Both of
us?"

Simon answered: "You'll find the sharing of it better than most things.
It's something for you to get into. It'll grow when you do, and you can
go about in it. It will shelter you, and you will find presently you'll
be able to talk to it, and it will understand better than anyone else,
and answer you as you want. It won't need food or drink or sleep unless
you choose. If I call you out of it sometimes, I'll always send you
back, and if I call you it will be to get the woman you want,"

Evelyn said: "Can't I have it for myself?" The Clerk slowly shook his
head. He looked sideways at the motionless Lester. In what now seemed a
dim air, Lester was not easily seen; unless the truth was that, even
then, even in her attention, she was already farther away. Emboldened by
that remoteness, Evelyn said, in what was meant to be a whisper and came
out as a croak, almost as if the dwarf-woman (could she yet speak) might
have spoken, in a sub-human voice: " Must she come?" The Clerk said: "If
you are to go, she must." But the hall grew colder as he spoke, so that
Evelyn felt it and shivered, and turned to Lester with a desperate and
yet feeble ferocity. The dwarf-woman seemed to her now her only hope, a
refuge from the emptiness and the threats, a shelter from enmity and
cold, and if presently she could get Betty into it to be victimized, she
would be, she thought, content. So she tried to catch at Lester's hand
and succeeded, for Lester left it to her. She had, half-unconsciously,
withdrawn herself from that short dialogue with a pure and grave
disdain; whatever these others were talking of she refused to overhear.
Had the hand that now clutched at her held any friendship or love, she
would have felt it in her spirit and responded, or to any need. But this
was rather greed than need, and yet its touch was now not even
inconvenient to her. The beginnings of heaven are not so troubled. Only
with the touch, she knew at once what Evelyn wanted, and she said
gently: "I wouldn't go, Evelyn."

Evelyn said: "Oh I must. Do come, Lester. It can't hurt you." Lester
unexpectedly laughed. It was years since anyone had laughed in that
hall, and now the sound, though low, was so rich and free, it so ran and
filled the hall, that Evelyn gave a small scream, and the Clerk turned
his head sharply this way and that, and even the dwarf-woman seemed to
gaze more intently before her, with unseeing eyes. "No," Lester said, "I
don't think it can. But it mayn't be too good for you."

Evelyn answered peevishly: "I wish you wouldn't laugh like that! And I
want it. Do come. I've done enough things because you wanted them; you
might just do this. Lester, please! I -won't ask you for anything else.
I swear I won't."

The echo of the laughter, which still seemed to sound, was cut off
suddenly, as if in a sudden silence all there and all beyond heard her
oath. The Clerk's constriction showed in his face, and Lester, though
she did not altogether realize that the silly human phrase was now taken
at its precise meaning, shuddered. If it had been but silliness, it
might not have passed beyond the visionary facades of the City, but it
was not. It was greed and clamorous demand, and it swept into the City's
courts and high places and was sealed with its own desire. Lester said,
almost as if, unknowing, she tried to forestall that sealing: 'Come back
with me. Come to Betty or your mother. Let's--" She saw the fixed
immortality in Evelyn's eyes and ceased.
Evelyn pulled at her, and looked back at Simon, as if she were asking
him to help. He did what he could. He knew he had no direct power on
this alien spiritual thing until he could get into contact with it; and
that, since he had been checked in the previous clash, he could only do
now by a plausibility. He said, as if uttering some maxim of great
wisdom: "Love is the fulfilling of the law." Lester heard him. At that
moment, doubtful of her duty, the maxim was greater than the speaker.
She was not particularly aware of loving Evelyn, but she acknowledged
her duty. The inconvenience of plunging with Evelyn wherever Evelyn
wished to plunge was a little tiresome -no more. She felt as Betty had
done when Lester insisted on recalling the past-that it was a pity to
waste so much time. The lifting lightness of her new life looked
ruefully at the magical shape of the dwarf-woman; her fledgeling energy
desired a freer scope. But there seemed to be no other way. She thought
of Richard; she thought of Betty; she sighed-a small sigh, but a sigh.
She thought of Evelyn's tormented face, and the sigh ceased. She said
suddenly, with one of those bursts of inspiration which are apt to
possess noble and passionate hearts: "You'd be wiser to say that the
fulfilling of the law is love." She had spoken, as it were, inta the
void, but then she went on to Evelyn: "Very well, if you want me to. But
you'd be wiser-I'm sure you'd be wiser-to come away."

Evelyn did not answer. There was a pause of suspension in the whole
hall. Then the dwarf-woman took a step forward. Under the Clerk's eyes,
she began again to grow. She shook herself into shape as she did so,
putting up her hands and settling her neck and head. There grew out of
her smooth dead skin, into which the sponginess had now been wholly
absorbed, fresh streaks and patches, ash-coloured, which spread and came
together, and presently covered her, and grew loose, and wrapped itself
round her like a dull dress. The dwarf pulled it into shape. There stood
facing the Clerk, a short rather heavy-looking middle-aged woman,
slightly deformed, with one shoulder a little higher than the other and
one foot dragging a little, but undoubtedly, to all human eyes, a woman.
Her eyes were brighter now, and she seemed both to see and hear.

The Clerk lifted a finger and she stood still. He bent his knee slowly,
lowering himself till his face was on a level with hers. He was
muttering something as he did so. He put his hands on her thighs, and
from her thighs he passed them all over her. When he had finished, he
leaned forward and very deliberately kissed her on the mouth. He sealed,
so far as he could, a prison for those spirits, who had entered it by
their own choice; and he judged he could do it well, for he knew the
power that flesh-even impure and magical flesh-has on human souls,
especially while they are still unused to that great schism in identity
which is death. At first strangers in that other world, they may forget
their bodies, but their bodies are their past and part of them and will
not be forgotten. So that, sooner or later, these spiritual beings again
strongly desire to be healed of their loss and whole. But this they
cannot be until the whole of time is known to be redeemed, and when the
hunger comes on them the blessed ones endure it smiling and easily,
having such good manners that the time is no more to them than an
unexpected delay before dinner at a friend's house.

He believed therefore that as, by proper magical means, a soul could
within certain limits of time, be recalled to its body, so this false
body might for a time ensnare and hold that other soul which was his
enemy. He would have much preferred to  operate necromantically on
Lester's own proper body, and if Richard had remained under his
influence he would have obtained through him some possession of hers
which would have served for the first faint magical link with that body,
and so set up a relation between them which might have brought her now
corrupting flesh-or perhaps the scattered ashes of her cremated body-
into this very hall. But Richard had failed him, and he had no time to
take more subtle ways; the danger to his domination of Betty now arising
from Jonathan and from Lester was too great. He knew that the government
of this world would be driven by popular pressure to make some approach
to him, and that in no very long period the fatal meeting with his Types
would be forced on him-fatal because though at a distance they might be
energized and driven by his will, yet when the three met they must
dwindle and fade beside him. And first he must have sent his daughter
into the spiritual world. He must be for ever before he could be now. So
that altogether time was against him; the first condition of the
universe was against him. He was hurried; he had to make haste.
Therefore the magical trap; therefore its tossing, as he now proposed,
into the ordinariness of earth.

He whispered into the ear of the dwarf-woman, still pressing his hands
on it. He and it were now alone in the hall. It could not be said to
hear him, but it received his breath. He was now separated from those
two other children of earth, and they from him, unless he deliberately
called them. He knew that their awareness must be now of and through the
body they in some sense inhabited; not that they lived in it as in a
place, but that they only knew through it. There was no limit to the
number of spiritual beings who could know in that way through one body,
for there was not between any of them and it any organic relation. The
singleness of true incarnation must always be a mystery to the masters
of magic; of that it may be said that the more advanced the magic, the
deeper the mystery, for the very nature of magic is opposed to it.
Powerful as the lie may be, it is still a lie. Birth and death are alike
unknown to it; there is only conjunction and division. But the lie has
its own laws. Once even Lester had assented to that manner of knowledge,
she must enter the City so. It remained to discover what she could do
there.

In the front office of the house, the caretaker Plankin was standing by
the door. He saw coming along from the sidepassage a middle-aged woman.
She was short and slightly deformed. Her eyes were fixed in front of
her, and in spite of a dragging foot she was walking at a fair speed.
She went by Plankin without noticing him and on into the street. He
though as he watched her: "Ah, the Father hasn't healed her yet. But he
will; he will. He'll put his mark in her body."





                            Chapter Nine

                       TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS

Lady Wallingford sat in her drawing-room. Jonathan and Richard were with
her, but she did not ask them to sit down,

Jonathan leant on the back of a chair, watching the door. Richard paced
up and down. Had Jonathan painted the scene, he might have shown a
wilderness, with a small lump of that iron-grey rock in the centre, and
near it a couched lion and a pacing leopard. It would have been a vision
of principles, and so (even then) Jonathan, at least as the others
appeared, took it in. He wondered, as he looked at Lady Wallingford, if
she would ever move again; he wondered with what expectation Richard
stepped and turned.

Yet it was the memory of something hardly more than an accident which
chiefly held the woman rock-rigid in her chair. She knew what Simon
proposed, though she did not know how he meant to fulfil his purpose. He
had in mind a simpler and cruder thing than any magical dissolution.
That had failed; there remained simple murder. She knew that that was
what the night was to bring. But she was now only remotely aware of it,
for though she no longer felt her body clamped in that frame which had
shut on her in the bedroom, yet her anger was almost equally strong and
imprisoned her from within. The maid's words: "Oh she is looking better,
isn't she, my lady?" held her. She was furious that Betty should look
better; she was almost more furious that the maid, even deferentially,
should comment on it. The obnoxious fact was emphasized in the most
obnoxious manner. It is the nature of things intensely felt as obnoxious
so to emphasize themselves. She sat raging -immobile in her wilderness.

The maid herself was hovering in the hall. She did not like to stay, in
case Lady Wallingford came out and saw her, or to go,- in case Lady
Wallingford rang for her, in which case the sooner she was there the
better for her. She drifted uneasily about the foot of the stairs.
Presently she heard above her a door shut. She looked up, Miss Betty was
coming down the stairs.

Miss Betty was looking very much better. The maid lingered in
admiration. Betty smiled gaily down at her, and the girl smiled shyly
back. She ventured to say, with a sense of obscure justification: "You
are better, aren't you, Miss Betty?"

"Much, thank you," said Betty, and added remorsefully: "I expect I've
given you a lot of extra work, Nina."

"Oh no, Miss Betty," Nina said. "Besides, I'd have liked it. My
grandmother used to be with Sir Bartholomew's mother,
so in a way we're in the family. She was your nurse, Miss Betty."

Betty stopped on the third stair; then in a leap she was down them, and
had caught hold of the girl's arm. Her face was alight; she exclaimed:
"Your grandmother my nurse! Is she alive? where's she living? Do tell
me, Nina."

Nina, surprised but pleased by this interest, said: "Why, she's living
in London, over in Tooting. I go and see her most weeks."

Betty drew a deep breath. She said: "Isn't that marvellous? I want to
see her. Can I? can I now?"

"She'd be very pleased if you did, Miss Betty," Nina said. "Only", she
added more doubtfully, "I don't know if my lady would like it. I think
there was some trouble between grandmother and my lady. She was sent
away, I know, but Sir Bartholomew helped her. It's all a long time ago."

"Yes," said Betty-"when I was born and before you were. That'll be all
right. Tell me the address; I'll explain to my mother. "

"It's 59 Upper Clapham Lane," Nina answered. "It was once her own
boarding-house, and then my brother and his wife took it over, only he's
in Austria now. But my grandmother still lives there."

Betty said: "I shall go to-day. Thank you, Nina. I'll see you when I
come back." She released the girl and went on into the drawing-room. She
entered it, Jonathan thought, like water with the sun on it; the desert
blossomed with the rose. The wild beasts in it were no less dangerous,
but she was among them in the friendship and joy of a child. She slipped
her hand in Jonathan's arm, and she said, smiling at them all: "Mother,
I've just found out where my old nurse lives, and I'm going to see her.
Isn't it marvellous? I've so often wanted to."

"You had better", said Lady Wallingfbrd's dead voice, "have lunch here
first."

"Oh need we?" Betty said. "Jonathan, won't you take me to lunch
somewhere, and we could go on?"

"You were going to lunch with me anyhow," Jonathan said. "We can go
anywhere you like afterwards."

"Do you mind, Mother?" Betty asked. "You see I really am absolutely all
right."

As if the rock itself shifted, Lady Wallingford got to her feet, She
would, under her paramour's instruction and for his sake, have put
friendliness into her voice, had it been possible. It was not. She could
neither command nor beguile. She said: "When will you be back?"

"Oh to dinner," said Betty. "May I bring Jonathan back?" "No, thank you
very much," Jonathan said hastily. "I couldn't to-night. Besides, you're
dining with me, and after that we'll see. Let's go."

"All right," said Betty. "I'll ring you up, Mother, and tell you what we
decide."

Jonathan looked at Richard. "What are you doing?" he asked.

Richard came lightly forward. He said to Lady Wallingford: "I've
intruded quite long enough. It's been quite unforgivable, and I don't
suppose you mean to forgive me, which would save us both trouble. Good-
bye, and thank you so much. I'm glad that Betty is better, and that Sir
Bartholomew will soon be back."

Betty exclaimed, and Lady Wallingford, still in that dead voice, said:
"How do you know?"

"Oh the Foreign Office!" Richard said vaguely. "One can pick things up.
Good-bye, Lady Wallingford, and thank you again. Come, children, or we
shall get no lunch."

But once outside the house, he disengaged himself He sent off the two
lovers and himself went on his way to his own flat. They, after the
parting, went to lunch and the exchange of histories. Time was before
them, and they had no need to hurry their understanding. After lunch
they set out on their way to discover 59 Upper Clapham Lane. It was a
largish respectable house, in reasonably good condition. Jonathan, as
they looked at it, said: "Is everything brighter? or is it only being
with you that makes me think so?-even than it was this morning?"

Betty pressed his arm. She said: "Everything's always as bright as it
can be, and yet everything's getting brighter. Unless, of course, it's
dark."

Jonathan shook his head. "Why," he said, "you should be able to see
better than I-why you should have more plain observation and common
understanding than I-well, never mind! Let's ring."

Presently they found themselves in Mrs. Plumstead's suite; she made it
seem that by the way she welcomed them. She was a charming old lady, who
was extremely touched and pleased by the unexpected appearance of Betty.
She managed to treat it as at once an honour conferred and a matter of
course, and made no allusion to the long separation. She did however
with an awful aloofness once or twice allude to the parting between
herself and Lady Wallingford, saying with an iciness equal to Lady
Wallingford's: "I didn't suit my lady." Jonathan said, in answer: "You
seem to have suited Betty very well, Mrs. Plumstead," and added
ambiguously: "Without you she couldn't have been what she is."

Mrs. Plumstead, sitting upright, said: "No,; my lady and me -we did not
suit. But there's a thing that's been on my mind, my dear, all these
years, and I think I ought to tell you. I'm free to say that I was
younger then and apt to take things on myself, which I wouldn't do now,
for I don't think it was quite proper. Her ladyship and I did not see
eye to eye, but after all she was your mother, my dear, and no doubt
meant you well. And if it was to be done again, perhaps I would not do
it."

Jonathan thought that Mrs. Plumstead at that moment might have passed
for Queen Elizabeth pronouncing upon the execution of Mary Queen of
Scots. And then he forgot such literary fancies in the recollection of
Betty's other life, and of the lake of which at lunch she had told him,
and the high sky and the wise water and all the lordly dream, if it were
a dream. Betty was leaning forward now, and gazing intently at the old
lady. She said: "Yes, nurse?"

"Well, my dear," the old nurse went on, and ever so faintly blushed, "as
I say, I was younger then, and in a way I was in charge of you, and I
was a little too fond of my own way, and very obstinate in some things.
And now I do not think it right. But you were such a dear little thing,
and I did once mention it to my lady, but she was very putting-off, and
only said: 'Pray, nurse, do not interfere'-her ladyship and I never
suited -and I ought to have left it at that, I do think now, but I was
obstinate, and then you were such a dear little thing, and it did seem
such a shame, and so-" the old nurse said, unaware of the intensity of
the silence in the room-"well, I christened you myself."

Betty's voice, like the rush of some waterfall in a river, answered: "It
was sweet of you, nurse."

"No; it wasn't right," Mrs. Plumstead said. "But there it is. For I
thought then that harm it couldn't do you, and good it might-besides
getting back on her ladyship: Oh I was a wicked woman-and one afternoon
in the nursery I got the water and I prayed God to bless it, though I
don't know now how I dared, and I marked you with it, and said the Holy
Name, and I thought: 'Well, I can't get the poor dear godfathers and
godmothers, but the Holy Ghost'll be her godfather and I'll do what I
can.' And so I would have done, only soon after her ladyship and I
didn't suit. But that's what happened, and you ought to know now you're
a grown woman and likely to be married and have babies of your own."

Betty said: "So it was you who lifted me out of the lake!" Jonathan
thought that Lady Wallingford's behaviour to her servants had been, on
the whole, unfortunate. She had never credited the nurse she employed
with such piety, decision, and courage (or obstinacy, if you preferred
the word). And now as in some tales Merlin had by the same Rite issued
from the womb in which he hadbeen mysteriously conceived, so this child
of magic had been after birth saved from magic by a mystery beyond
magic. The natural affection of this woman and her grand-daughter had in
fact dispelled the shadows of giant schemes. And this then was what that
strange Rite called baptism was-a state of being of which water was the
material identity, a life rippling and translucent with joy.

Betty had stood up, and was kissing her nurse. She said: "Good-bye,
nurse. We'll come again soon, Jon and I. And never be sorry; some day
I'll tell you how fortunate it was." She added, quite naturally: "Bless
me, now."

"God bless you, my dear," the old woman said. "And Mr. Drayton too, if I
may take the liberty. And make you both very happy. And thank you for
saying it was all right."

When they were outside the house, Betty said: "So that's how it was! But
... Jon, you must tell me about it-what it's supposed to be."

Jonathan said grimly: "I don't know that you'll be much better off for
my explaining. After all, it's you that are happening. I'm not sure that
I'm not a little scared of you, darling."

"I'm not sure that I'm not a little scared myself," said Betty
seriously. "Not badly, but a little. It's mixed up with discovering that
you're really you-wonderful, darling, but rather terrifying. Let's go
and look at your pictures, shall we? I've never yet looked at any of
them properly, and yesterday I was shaking with fear of my mother. I
don't mind her now at all."

"Anything," said Jonathan, "that pleases you pleases me. And God send
that that shall be true until we die-and perhaps he will. Let's take a
taxi. That's one great advantage of being engaged-one always has a
perfectly good reason for taking taxis. All these things are added to
one."

They spent some time in his room looking at various paintings, before
Betty allowed herself to look at those two which still stood on their
respective easels. She lingered for a long time before that of the City-
in-light, and Jonathan saw her eyes fill with tears. He caught her hand
and kissed it. She went close to him. She said: "I am a little scared,
dearest. I'm not ready for it yet."

Jonathan said, holding her: "You're ready for much more than a painting
. . . even if the colours have really become colours."

"It's terribly like a fact," Betty said. "I love it. I love you. But I'm
not very intelligent, and I've got a lot to learn. Jon, you must help
me."

Jonathan said only: "I'll paint you next. By the lake. Or no-I'll paint
you, and all the lake living in you. It shall be quite fathomless, and
these"-he kissed her hands again-"are its shores. Everything I've done
is only prentice work-even these things. I don't much want to keep them
any more."

"I'd just as soon you didn't keep the other one," Betty said. "Could you
bear not to? I don't really mind, but it's rather horrid to have about-
now."

"I could quite easily bear to get rid of it," Jonathan answered. "What
shall we do with it? Give it to the nation? as from Mr. and Mrs.
Jonathan Drayton on their wedding. publicity, and all that."

"Ye-es," said Betty doubtfully. "I don't think I want the nation to have
it. It seems rather rude to give the nation what we don't want."

"What you don't want," Jonathan corrected. "Myself, I think it's one of
the better examples of my Early Middle Period. You must learn to think
in terms of your husband's biography, darling. But if we're not to keep
it and not to give it to the nation, what shall we do with it? Give it
to Simon?"

Betty looked at him, a little startled: then, as they gazed, they each
began to smile, and Jonathan went on: "Well, why not? He's the only one
who's really liked it. Your mother certainly doesn't, and you don't, and
I don't, and Richard doesn't. That's what we'll do. We'll take it down
to Holborn and leave it for him. Betty, you won't go back to Highgate
to-night?"

"Not if you don't want me to," said Betty. "Only I've got nothing with
me, so I don't see how I can go to a hotel, even if we could find a
room. And I don't at all mind going back."

"No, but I mind," Jonathan said, seriously. "To be honest, I don't think
Simon's going to leave it at this. I'm not particularly bothered at the
moment, because after what's happened I don't believe he's a chance. I
think Almighty God has him in hand. But I'd like, as a personal
concession, to have you under my eye. There's my aunt at Godalming. Or
there's here. Or, of course, there's Richard's place. That's an idea, if
he didn't mind; it's more fitted out for a woman."

Betty said: "It would be very nice of Lester." She did not know what
Lester was now doing, but in that young and heavenly hero-worship which
in heaven is always prejustified by fact and is one mode of the
communion of saints, she was convinced that Lester was engaged on some
great and good work. She was even willing in a modest candour to presume
on Lester's goodwill. But instinctively she put forward her own. She
said: "And anyhow, Jon, I was going to ask if we mightn't get Richard to
come with us to dinner somewhere."

"I'd thought of that myself," said Jonathan. "We might; we most
certainly might. I'd hardly met his wife, but she seemed a good sort-
even before all that you told me."

"Oh she's a marvel," Betty exclaimed. "She's ... she's like the light in
that picture-and very nearly like you." Jonathan looked at the City on
the canvas. He said: "If I'm going to start serious work, and if we're
giving Simon his picture, and if you feel like that about her-and if
Richard would care for it, do you think we might offer him this? Unless
you'd prefer to keep it?-as, of course, I should."

Betty opened her eyes. She said: "I think it's a marvellous idea. Jon,
would you? I'd always wanted to give Lester something, but I never
could, and if you'd give them this, it'd be perfect. If they'd take it."

"If they-!" said Jonathan. "My girl, do you happen to realize that this
is, to date, my best work? Are you suggesting that any decent
celestialness wouldn't be respectful?"

Betty, and all the air about her, laughed. She said demurely: "She
mightn't know much about paintings, and she mightn't think them
important-even yours."

"I'm not so sure that you do yourself," Jonathan said. But his lady
protested anxiously: "Oh I do, Jon: well, in a way I do. Of course, I
shall understand better presently."

Jonathan abruptly interrupted. "You're entirely right," he said. "But as
and while I'm here, it's my job. We will ask Richard if he'd like it,
and we'll ask him to dinner so as to ask him, and then we'll ask him if
we can all sleep at his place-and on the way there we'll drop the other
thing in on Simon. Come and help me telephone."

When he left the others Richard had returned to his flat. There he just
managed to get to bed before he went to sleep. It was well into the
afternoon before he woke, and woke more refreshed and serene than, as he
lay there pleasantly aware of it, he could ever remember having felt in
his life before, or at least not since he had been a very small child.
This freshness and energy reminded him of that. He had no sense of
nostalgia; he did not in the least wish to be small again and a child,
but he could almost have believed he was now as happy as he remembered
he had sometimes been then. An arch of happiness joined the then and the
now, an arch he ought to have known all the time, under which or even in
which he ought to have lived. It was somehow his fault that he had not,
and yet it had never been there or but rarely. If this was life, he had
somehow missed life, in spite of the fact that he had on the whole had a
very pleasant and agreeable life. There was a great difference between
what he had known and what he ought to have known. And yet he did not
see how he could have known it.

When he got up, he found himself amused and touched by his own physical
resilience. As he moved about the room, he misquoted to himself. "And I
might almost say my body thought"; and then his mind turned to that
other body which had meant so much to him, and he drifted aloud into
other lines:

Whose speech Truth knows not from her thought
Nor Love her body from her soul.

He had never before so clearly understood that sense of Lester as now
when that second line must be rationally untrue. But his sleep had
restored to him something he had once had and had lost-something deeper
even than Lester, something that lay at the root of all magic, that the
body was itself integral to spirit. He had in his time talked a good
deal about anthropomorphism, and now he realized that anthropomorphism
was but one dialect of divine truth. The high thing which was now in his
mind, the body that had walked and lain by his, was itself celestial and
divine. Body? it was no more merely body than soul was merely soul; it
was only visible Lester.

His mind turned again to that house by Holborn. He thought of it, after
his sleep, as a nightmare to which he need not return unless, for any
reason, he chose. In the sleep from which he had come there could be no
nightmares. They were possible only to his waking life, and sometimes
from that cast back into the joy of sleep. He drew a deep breath. Simon
was only an accident of a life that had not learned to live under that
arch of happiness. It was astonishing how, this way, Simon dwindled.
That last moment when something disagreeable had floated in at the
window of the hall, some remote frigid exchange between imbeciles, was
still repugnant to him. But now it was at a distance; it did not even
distress him. What did distress him, as it crept back into his mind, was
a memory of himself in the street outside the house, of his indulgent
self. This unfortunately was no nightmare. He had, in that distant
Berkshire wood, been just so; he had been kind to his wife. She
(whatever her faults) had never been like that to him; she had never
been dispassionately considerate. But he-he undoubtedly had. His new
serenity all but vanished, and he all but threw his hairbrush at his
face in the mirror, as he thought of it. But his new energy compelled
him to refrain and to confront the face, which, as he looked at it,
seemed to bear the impress of love behaving itself very unseemly. Her
love had never borne that mark. Rash, violent, angry, as she might have
been, egotistic in her nature as he, yet her love had been sealed always
to another and not to herself. She was never the slave of the false
luxuria. When she had served him-how often! -she had not done it from
kindness or unselfishness; it had been because she wished what he wished
and was his servant to what he desired. Kindness, patience, forbearance,
were not enough; he had had them, but she had had love. He must find
what she had-another kind of life. All these years, since he had been
that eager child, he had grown the wrong way, in the wrong kind of life.
Yet how to have done other? how to have learnt, as she had learnt the
language without which he could not, except for a conceded moment, speak
to the imperial otherness of her glory? He must, it seemed, be born all
over again.

A vague impression that he had heard some such phrase somewhere before
passed through him. But it was lost, for as he dwelled on the strange
notion of this necessary fact, it was swamped by the recollection of
Simon. Not that he was now afraid of Simon's having any power over
Lester. But if there was that newly visioned life, there was also-he had
seen it-a creeping death that was abroad in the world. There was
something that was not Lester, nor at all like her, issuing from that
hideous little hall. Those who lay in that house, once sick, had been
healed. Had they? He did not like to think of that healing. He would
almost rather have remained unhealed; yes, but then he did not need
healing. He thought uneasily of those who, themselves reasonably secure,
urge the poor to prefer freedom rather than security. How could he have
done it himself-have lived in pain? have perished miserably? Yet the
cost of avoiding that was to be lost in the hypnotic mystery of the
creeping death: an intolerable, an unforgivable choice! And perhaps,
unless someone interfered, Simon would spread his miasma over the world:
the nations swaying as he had seen men swaying. If even now-

The telephone interrupted him. Answering, he found at the other end a
colleague of his at the Foreign Office, who began by asking whether
Richard were (as he had said) coming back the next day. Richard said
that he was. His colleague intimated that there was a particular reason,
and (pressed to say more) asked whether Richard were not acquainted with
the activities of a certain Simon the Clerk. Richard began to take an
interest.

"Well-no and yes," he said. "I knew of him, and as it happens since this
morning I may be said to know him. Why?"

"Since you've been away," his friend said, "it's become rather urgent to
get into touch with him-unofficially, of course. It's more and more felt
here that if the allied discussions could-could infiltrate through him
and the other Popular leaders there might be a better chance of ... of-"

"Of peace," said Richard.

"Well, yes," his colleague agreed. "They must, all three of them, be
remarkable men to have such followings, and there don't seem, where they
go, to be any minorities.... What did you say?"

"Nothing, nothing," said Richard. "No minorities?"

"No-or practically none. And it'll be in the best interests of the new
World Plan that there should be no minorities. So that it's been hinted
that if a kind of-well, not a conference exactly but a sort of meeting
could be adumbrated. Someone here thought you knew Simon."

"I do," said Richard. "And you want me to-"

"Well, since you know him," his colleague answered, "it'd be easy for
you to ask him indefinitely, as it were. Could you manage it, d'you
think? You can see the kind of thing we want. The fact is that there's a
sort of pressure. Even the Russians are feeling it-and we hear a couple
of Chinese armies have gone over complete to their own prophet. So the
Government thinks it would rather deal with the three of them together
than separately. If we could sound them-"

Richard was silent. This language was one he very well knew, but now it
had a deeper sound than his colleague's voice could give it. The Foreign
Office did not mean badly; it was no more full of "darkness and cruel
habitations" than the rest of the world; and when Oxenstierna had
complained of the little wisdom with which the world was governed, he
had not clearly suggested how anyone was to get more. But if the
official governments were beginning to yield to pressure, to take
unofficial notice of these world leaders, then those healed bodies
behind Holborn must be only a few of a very great number, and those
swaying shoulders the heralds of great multitudes of devotion: devotion
to what? to the man who had smiled at the dead woman, and claimed to
hold Lester at disposal, and knelt in some obscure effort by Betty's
bed, the man to whom the wicked little carved hand pointed. He himself
might have been among the worshippers; he owed his salvation to his
wife, for it was precisely the irreconcilability of his wife with Simon
which had preserved him-and he most unworthy, given up to the social
virtues, needing rebirth.

He did not know how great the multitudes were who followed those unreal
Two; nor how unreal the Two were. He knew only the reports in the
papers, and Simon. He seemed to feel again the light antennae-like touch
on his cheek: he saw again the strange painting of the prophet preaching
to insects: what insects? His colleague's voice went on: "Furnival, are
you still there? You'd better know that Bodge"-Bodge was the Foreign
Secretary-"is giving it his personal attention. He isn't here to-day,
but he will be to-morrow. Couldn't you just sound this Father Simon by
then?"

Bodge-the Cabinet room-the swaying shoulders and the lifted faces, the
backs of the English ministers rising in the air, the corridor down
which the nations could go, the window through which the dead had come.
He said abruptly: "I don't know; I can't say. I'll be in to-morrow to
report.... Yes; all right, I'll see.... Oh yes, I understand how urgent
it is.... No; I don't promise anything. I'll come to-morrow. Unless," he
added with a sudden absurd lightening of heart, "unless my wife
interferes."

The magical shape walked slowly along the Embankment. Hours had passed
since it had emerged from the hidden place of its making into the
streets of London; it had come out not by its own wish, for it could
have no wish of its own, but under the compulsion of its lord in his
last word, merely going, and anywhere. A poorly dressed, somewhat
deformed woman went along the pavement. At first, following its Maker's
preoccupation, it had gone northward, towards the Highgate house. But as
that preoccupation grew distant and was slowly lost, since he gave it no
further guidance, it presently faltered and stood still, and then began
to turn westward. It could not return, for that would be to disobey him;
it could not go directly on, for that would be to stress his influence
too far. It swung therefore in a wide arc, going always against the sun,
and passing so down street after street and alley after alley.
Sometimes, but not often, it faulted by taking a blind turning, and had
to retrace its steps, but in general, as if it sniffed its way through
the lower air, it was wonderfully accurate. But when, in its southward
course, it came to the river, it hesitated and did not cross and
abruptly turned off towards the east along its own side, and so on,
until somewhere by Blackftiars it could see (could it indeed have seen
anything at all) the still-lifted cross of St. Paul's. And there, a
little way along Victoria Street, it ceased again and stood still.

It could not, for it was sensitive enough to some things, easily enter
within the weight of those charged precincts. It avoided them precisely
at the point where, had it been living woman, it might by sight or any
other sense, have become conscious of them. So also those departed
spirits who were now sealed to it were aware of its surroundings through
what would have been its or their senses, had it or they lived. One of
them had settled almost happily, to such an existence. Evelyn (to give
that spirit still the old name) was content merely to be again generally
aware of earth; she did not care about the details. She was listening
for its voice, even though at first that voice could only echo her own
inaudible soliloquy. Perhaps afterwards it might even answer, and she
and it would become an everlasting colloquy, but at the moment it did
not. Those who passed it heard a kind of low croak coming from it, but
not what it said. What it croaked to itself was a mass of comments and
complaints: "But you would think, wouldn't you?" or "It's not as if I
were asking much" or "I did think you'd understand" or "After all, fair
is fair" or "She might" or "He needn't" or "They could at least" - . .
and so on and on through all the sinful and silly imbecilities by which
the miserable soul protects itself against fact. If this was Evelyn's
pleasure, this was the pleasure she could have.

But Lester also, for the first time since her death, was aware of what
we call the normal world. At first she was conscious of this body as a
man is of his own; it was not hers, but it was in that way she knew the
dragging foot, the dank palms, the purblind eyes. She knew the spasmodic
croakings, as a man may hear his own exclamations. She disliked its
neighbourhood, but there was no help for that, and by it alone she was
aware of the material universe. So understood, that universe was
agreeable to her. She knew and liked the feel of the pavement under the
feet; she enjoyed through dim eyes the dull October day, and the heavy
sky, and the people, and all the traffic. She seemed to be almost living
again, for a little, and by no insistence of her own, in the world she
had left.

At first she had not seemed, and had hardly desired, to control this
body as it went on its way. She was passive to its haste. But as that
haste dwindled, and as it began to circle round its centre, she felt a
sense of power. She saw still, as from above, the false body swinging
round, and it seemed improper that she herself should be so swung. The
full sense of this came to her at almost the moment when that body
hesitated by the river under the golden cross of the cathedral. As if
from the height of the cross, Lester saw its circling path. There
seemed-she almost thought it in human words-no sense in circling round
and round Simon; he was no such attractive centre. Indeed, from the
height at which she looked down he was no centre at all, except indeed
that here and there in the streets she discerned a few forms engaged on
precisely that wheeling worship. She knew them by their odd likeness to
large beetles walking on their back legs. By an almost unconscious
decision she checked the dwarf-woman just as it was about to 'Move
forward again. She said-and she just had to say, or at least to think:
"No, no; the other way!" The shape tottered, twisted, and was
reluctantly forced round. It began, jerkingly and slowly, but certainly,
to retrace its steps along the Embankment. It went as if against a high
wind, for it was going with the sun and against all the customs of
Goetia. Had it been a living witch of that low kind, it would have
resisted more strongly; being what it was, it did but find difficulty in
going. But it went on, plodding, croaking, jerking, back towards
Westminster.

Of Evelyn, Lester was no longer immediately conscious. The magical form
which united them also separated; through it they co-hered to each other
but could not co-inhere. Lester had joined herself to this form for the
sake of Evelyn, and Evelyn (so far as she could know) had been promptly
removed. In fact, Evelyn no longer wanted her, for Evelyn was concerned
only with her own refuge in this false shape, and with her own comfort
in it. She did not much care whether it stayed or went, or how or where
it went; she cared only that there should be, somewhere in the universe,
a voice which, at first repeating, might presently come to respond to,
her own. Lester was not unaware of the croaking voice, and justly
attributed it to Evelyn, but she saw no reason to stop it. Sounds now
came to her through a new kind of silence, a sweet stillness which they
did not seem to break; of all the London noises none came so near to
breaking it as that croak, but the silence, or perhaps she herself,
withdrew a little, and the noise went about below it, as the dwarf-woman
plodded below the clouds.

The clouds indeed were heavy in the sky. The river ran equally heavily
with the weight of its mirk. A few boats rode on it; the Thames traffic,
at this height of its course, had not renewed itself. Lester's attention
turned to it, and the dwarf, folding her arms, paused conformably and
leaned on the parapet. The Thames was dirty and messy. Twigs, bits of
paper and wood, cords, old boxes drifted on it. Yet to the new-eyed
Lester it was not a depressing sight. The dirtiness of the water was, at
that particular point, what it should be, and therefore ,pleasant
enough. The evacuations of the City had their place in the City; how
else could the City be the City? Corruption (so to call it) was
tolerable, even adequate and proper, even glorious. These things also
were facts. They could not be forgotten or lost in fantasy; all that had
been, was; all that was, was. A sodden mass of cardboard and paper
drifted by, but the soddenness was itself a joy, for this was what
happened, and all that happened, in this great material world, was good.
The very heaviness of the heavy sky was a wonder, and the unutilitarian
expectation of rain a delight.

The river flowed steadily on. Lester saw it, as if through the dwarf's
eyes, and rejoiced. But she was aware that she was at the same time
seeing some other movement, within or below it. She was looking down at
it also. A single gull, flying wildly up beyond Blackfriars, swooped,
wheeled, rose, and was off again down stream. London was great, but that
gull's flight meant the sea. The sea was something other than London or
than the Thames. Under the rush of the bird's flight-seen as once by
another river other watchers had seen a dove's motion skirr and vanish-
Lester, looking down, saw in the river the sub-surface currents and
streams. Below the exquisitely coloured and moving and busy surface, the
river by infinitesimal variations became lucid. On earth men see through
lucidity to density, but to her it was as easy to see through density to
lucidity. To her now all states of being were beginning to be of their
own proper kind, each in itself and in its relationships, and not
hampering the vision of others. So the Thames was still the Thames, but
within it the infinite gradations of clarity deepened to something else.
That other flow sustained and carried the layers of water above it; and
as Lester saw it she felt a great desire to discover its source, and
even that was mingled with the sudden human recollection that she and
Richard had intended one day to set out to find for themselves the first
springs of the Thames. So that even here she felt a high, new, strange,
and almost bitter longing mingle still with the definite purposes of her
past.

She looked-but now no longer from a height above the seagull, but only
from her instrument's eyes on the Embankment -she looked up the river.
But now she could not see past the great buildings of the Houses and the
Abbey; and even those instituted masses seemed to her to float on that
current of liquid beauty. As she looked at them the premonition of a
pang took her; a sense of division, as if it was at that point that the
lucid river flowed into the earthly river, so that beyond that point the
way divided, and the source of the-Thames was one thing and the springs
of the sustaining tributary another. At that point or indeed at any; but
always the same division at each. She was suddenly afraid. The strong
current below the surface scared her. It flowed from under the bridge,
cold and frightening, worse than death. The bridge above it where she
and Richard had met this time and that was so frail. They had met above
the surface Thames, but they had not guessed what truly flowed below-
this which was different from and refused all earthly meetings, and all
meetings coloured or overlooked by earth. Oh vain, all the meetings
vain! "A million years?" not one moment; it had been the cry of a child.
Her spiritual consciousness knew and shuddered. She could never exclaim
so again; however long she waited, she only waited to be separated, to
lose, in the end. The under-river sang as it flowed; all the streets of
London were full of that sweet inflexible note-the single note she had
heard in Betty's room, the bed on which she had safely lain. This was
it-bed and note and river, the small cold piercing pain of immortal
separation.

It passed. The time was not yet, though it was quite certain. The cruel
clarity flowed by. She was left with a sense that she had better make
the most of the present moment. She had thought she might be of use to
Evelyn, but clearly she was not being; all she knew of Evelyn were these
spasmodic croaks. What then? something she must do. Betty? Richard?
Richard -with this body? She made herself aware of it. It would be
revolting to him; it was almost revolting to her, even now, to think of
going to her lover in this disguise. Yet if she could-? if they could
speak? The shape was not so revolting, for what was it, after all?
nothing. Before that great separation came, to take and give pardon and
courage ... if...

She was not clear how far she was responsible for what followed.
Certainly she acted, but there was a pure precision about the process
which surprised and delighted her, so that, had Betty or Richard been
there, she could have laughed. She turned in herself again to the
contemporary City, and the dwarf-woman, starting up, began again to
walk. It came presently opposite Charing Cross Tube Station. There it
stopped and turned and looked. Lester knew herself anxious to forewarn,
to prepare, her husband; and she thought, not unnaturally, of the
telephone, Matter to matter; might not this earthly shape use the things
of earth? She did not dichotomize; mechanics were not separate from
spirit, nor invention from imagination, nor that from passion. Only not
even passion of spirit could create the necessary two pennies. She might
be (she thought in a flash) immortally on her way to glory, but she had
not got two pennies. She recollected the Good Samaritan who had, and
with laughter in her heart she tossed a hand 'towards that sudden vivid
image. She was not like Simon; she could not make two pennies. If she
were to have them, someone would have to give them to her. She
remembered, but not as a claim, that she too had given pennies in her
time.

The dwarf in that pause had leaned again against the parapet. The
ordinary traffic of London was going on, but as if Lester's pause had
affected it, there came at the moment a lull and a silence. Through it
there toddled slowly along an elderly gentleman, peering through his
glasses at an evening paper. Lester, shyly and daringly, moved towards
him. She meant to Say: "I beg your pardon, but could you possibly spare
me two pennies for the telephone?" But she had not yet control of that
false voice, and the croak in which she spoke sounded more like
"twopence as a loan". The elderly gentleman looked up, saw a poor shabby
deformed creature staring glassily at him, heard the mumble, and hastily
felt in his pocket. He said-and it was mercifully permitted him by the
Omnipotence to be on this occasion entirely truthful: "It's all the
change I've got.- He raised his hat, in some faint tradition of "brave
and ancient things", and toddled on. The magical body stood holding the
pennies in its pseudo-hand, and Lester felt in her that something of a
stir in glory which she had felt in seeing Richard's movements or
Betty's smile. She was made free of adoration.

The dwarf, under her impulse, crossed the road and went into a telephone
box. She put the two pennies in the slot and dialled a number. Lester
was aware that there was no reply; Richard apparently was not at home.
She felt a small pang at the thought of their empty flat; the desolation
seemed to be approaching. It was most likely that he was at Jonathan's.
She compelled her instrument to try again. A voice said: 'Jonathan
Drayton speaking." She caused her instrument to press the button. She
said-and now her power was moving so easily in these conditions that
something of her own voice dominated the croaking spasms and rang down
the telephone: "Mr. Drayton, is Richard there?"

"Hold on," said Jonathan. "Richard!" For soon after Richard's
conversation with the Foreign Office he had been rung up by Jonathan,
and so warmly invited by both the lovers to join them that he had
yielded and gone. Presently they were all to go and dine, but until then
they had sat together talking and gradually, as far as possible, making
clear to each other the mystery in which they moved. Betty showed an
ever-quickened desire to get rid of the painting of the Clerk and his
congregation; and both she and Jonathan had so pressed the other canvas
on Richard that at last he had accepted it. He did so gratefully, for
now, after all that he had seen, he found himself even more moved by it,
so that at any moment he half-expected to find that he had missed the
figure of Lester walking in the midst of it-if that swift and planetary
carriage of hers could be called a walk-and even that he himself might
find himself not without but within it and meeting her there. And the
three of them in the room had begun, uncertainly and with difficulty-
even Betty-to speak of the true nature of the streets there represented,
when the telephone had rung.

At Jonathan's call Richard went across and took the receiver. He said:
"Richard Furnival", and then, to his amazement, but not much to his
amazement, he heard Lester's voice. It was interrupted by some kind of
croak which he took to be a fault in the instrument, but he heard it
say: "Richard!" and at the noble fascination of that familiar sound he
answered, not as unsteadily as he feared: "Is it you, darling?" At the
other end the dwarf leaned against the side of the box; nothing at
either end, to any who saw, seemed in the least unusual. Along the wires
the unearthly and earthly voice continued: "Listen, dearest. Presently
someone is coming to see you; it's a short and rather unpleasant woman-
at least, that's what it looks like. But I shall be with her, I hope-I
do so hope. Will you be as sweet to me as you can, even if you don't
like it?"

Richard said: "I've been all kinds of a fool, I know. But I'll do
anything with you, if I possibly can. Jonathan and Betty are here."

"That's all right," the voice said. It added: "Once more. Before I go,
before I give you up. Oh my sweet!"

The voice was so full of serene grief that Richard went cold. He said:
"Nothing shall make me give you up. I've only just begun to find you."

"But you will, even if nothing makes you," the voice said. "It'll have
to be like that. But I'll come first. Don't be too distressed about
anything. And ask Jonathan to let me in: I'll speak to you inside. Good-
bye. I do love you, Richard."

A kind of hubbub broke out on the telephone-another voice and the
mechanic croaking-and then Lester's voice, dominating all: "Wait for us.
Good-bye," and he heard the click of the receiver. He held his own a
full minute before he slowly put it down. His two friends watched him
coming back to them across the room. He said: "Something is coming here
-a kind of woman. And Lester. I don't know anything more. She says
she'll be with it."

"But-Lester . . ." Jonathan began.

"If that wasn't Lester," Richard said, "you're not looking at Betty
now."

They both looked at her. She was standing by the window, and beyond her
the October darkness was closing in. She said seriously: "Did she sound-
disturbed?"

"Not about that," said Richard. He was silent; then he broke out: "Why
isn't one taught how to be loved? Why isn't one taught anything?"

Betty said: "Don't worry, Richard; we can't be taught till we can learn.
I wish Jonathan was going to get as good a wife as yours is. She wasn't
like us; she hardly had to find out how to learn. Jon, take that thing
off the easel, won't you? We'll get rid of it to-night. To-night."

She sounded almost impatient, but only because they had not already
acted and the preaching horror was still in the room where they were and
Lester was to come. Jonathan went and lifted the canvas. As he laid it
face downwards on the table, he said: "Do you know what to-night is? All
Hallows' Eve."

"A good night", said Richard, "for anything that has to be done."

"And a good night", Betty added, "for Lester to come to us here."

They fell into silence, and for the time that followed they remained
mostly silent. Once Jonathan, muttering something about food, moved, and
he and Betty spread a rough meal of bread and cheese    and cold scraps
and wine. There was not much, but there was enough, and they ate and
drank standing, as Israel did while the angels of the Omnipotence were
at their work in Egypt. The night was heavy without and the sound of
rain. The sense of the crisis was sharp in them, and the expectation of
that which came.

Presently the bell rang. They looked at each other. Richard said: "You
go, Jonathan; she asked you to." Jonathan went to the street door and
opened it. He saw in the night a short pale-faced woman and stood aside
for her to come in. As it did Sol he saw how blank its eyes were, how
dead-dull its flesh. Yet he could have believed that, like a paralytic,
it tried to recognize him and almost to smile. Neither of them spoke; it
knew its way and went before him into the room where the others were.

They watched it come right in; they hardly watched but they heard
Jonathan close the room-door. Then Betty said, in a low voice of
welcome: "Lester!" She saw, as the others did not, the form of her
friend beside this other thing; and yet what she saw, she saw less
clearly than before. They were growing away from each other. Lester was
bound to pass more wholly into that other world which cannot catch its
true and perfect union with this until the resurrection of all the past;
the occasional resurrection which then obtained for her was rather
purgatorial than paradisal, though sometimes the two were simply one.
But Betty also was changing. That free, and (as it were) immaculate,
self which had been by high disposition granted her was bound now to
take on the conditions of its earthly place and natural heredity. The
miracle that had preserved her was over, and she too must be subjected
to the tribulations and temptations of common life. As she so drew apart
her Vision faded. One evening yet remained, and even now the
1-other form and face were full of cloud.

But she saw her. Richard and Jonathan did not. They
looked at that uncouth visitor, its blank struggling gaze, its lank
hair, its dropped shoulder, its heavy hanging hands, its dragging foot,
its dead flesh, its flopping dress, and could not speak. What had this
to do with Lester? Lester herself, could she have felt regret, would in
that moment have regretted that she had come. She did not. The Acts that
were about to take place saw to that. They would, when the time came,
see that she spoke what she had to speak, for she was already assenting
to their will. It was why they had, since she had driven her present
vehicle away from Charing Cross on the long walk to Jonathan's flat,
quickened their purging. Up Villiers Street, along the Strand and Fleet
Street, up Ludgate Hill, along the Old Bailey, they had worked on her.
As the magical shape plodded on, its steps growing slower and heavier,
through the rain and the dark, they troubled her with a sense of the
physical body she had left. At first indeed, as the walk began, she had
endured only a great wish that she had again the body as well as the
soul of Lester, the body that Richard had loved and for which she had
herself felt a small admiration. She wished, if she were to be thus
materially before her husband, to give again the hand she had given, to
speak to him with the mouth he had kissed. She had no physical desires
except to be in his eyes her own physical self. But as she thought of
it, she grew disturbed. Her faults, on the whole, had not been physical.
Her body had carried no past of fornication or adultery, nor had she
therefore mystically to free it from those avenging unions. She had not
to disengage her flesh from those other bodies, or to re-engage her
flesh so that its unions should be redeemed, approved, and holy. Nor had
she been given to the other luxurious commitments of the flesh. She had
not been particularly lazy or greedy; as bodies go, hers was reasonably
pure. As bodies go-but even then? More and more disliking this body to
which she was transitorily bound, she more and more came to consider her
dealings with her own. All through that long walk, she re-lived them,
and always she ended with this other false disrelish. She again and
again began by being conscious of her looks, her energy, her swiftness;
again and again she would (except for mere fastidiousness, which was of
no account) have tempted others with it, though. not to commit herself;
again and again she melted to delicate pleasures and grew dependent on
them, and as she did so, she woke to find herself in the end one with
this other. It was this false deformed death of which she was proud,
with which she tempted, in which she took her delight. Hers was this, or
at least no more than this; unless, for again and again in the end the
sudden impulse sprang-unless she could still let it be what it had been
ordained to be, worthy in its whole physical glory of Betty, of Richard,
of the City she felt about her, of all that was unfamiliar to her in the
name of God. Her past went with her all that walk; and by the end of the
walk her past had taught her this.

Yet, having so thought of herself in humility and serious repentance all
the way, it was, when at last she came into Jonathan's room, of Richard
that she thought. She was agonized for what she felt must be his horror
if, seeming to be in this shape, she spoke. Betty's cry of welcome went
unnoticed; she was here to speak, and now how could she-how could she -
speak? He was staring at-her? no; but at this; and he was her husband;
how could she treat her husband so? All the coldnesses and all the
angers were but delirium and bitterness of love; she could have helped
them perhaps, but now this she could not help, and this was worst of
all. She had for a moment a terrible fear that this was they; even that
this was she, and that he-Oh he by whom alone in that world she lived-
would know that this was she. The silence became a fearful burden to
them all. It was Betty who saved them. She broke into action she dashed
across the room; she caught Jonathan's and Richard's hands. She cried
out: "Come over here!"

The relief of her action released them; uncertainly, they obeyed. She
pulled them across to the window; she said: "Turn round, both of you;
look out there." She nodded her golden head at the darkness, and to
Jonathan it seemed as if a rain of gold drove through the night and
vanished. They obeyed her still; one hand on the nearer shoulder of each
she held them there. She turned her head over her shoulder; she
exclaimed: "Lester, say something to us." Lester, in a rush of
gratitude, did so. She said, it is true, no more than "Hullo!,, but the
voice was undoubtedly her voice, and (though no louder than on earth) it
filled the room. Jonathan, hearing it, jumped a little. Richard did not;
there was, in all the universe, no place in which that voice was not
recognizable and good. He answered, with the immediate instinct of
something that might yet be love: "Hullo, darling!"

Lester, dallying with peace and half-forgetful of the others, said:
"Have I been very long? I'm so sorry." "Sorry" is a word that means many
things; there is in general a friendliness about it, and now it meant
all friendliness. "We took such a time." Her laugh sounded in their
ears. "Have you been waiting?"

Betty took her hand off Richard's shoulder. In the intimacy of those
two, her hand was a solecism. Lester's voice went on: "But I've been
tiresome so often, darling. I've been beastly to you. I-"

He said: "You've never been tiresome," and she: "No;
speak true now, my own. I-"

He said: "Very well; you have. And what in all the heavens and hells,
and here too, does it matter? Do we keep accounts about each other? If
it's the last word I speak I shall still say you were too good for me."

"And-?" she said, and her laughter was more than laughter; it was the
speech of pure joy. "Go on, blessing-if it's our last word."

"And I'm too good for you," Richard said. "Let me turn round now. It's
all right; I promise you it's all right."

"Do, darling," she said.

He turned, and the others with him. They saw the long room, and at the
other end the painting of the City that  dominated the room as if it and
not the wall behind it were the true end of the room, as if the room
precisely opened there on that space and those streets; and as if some
unseen nature present there united both room and painting, the light in
it was within the room also and vibrated there. The table with the
remnants of the meal, the wine still in the glasses, the back of the
other canvas lying on the table-all these were massive with the light.
Between them and the table stood the dwarf-woman, but somehow it did not
matter to any of them. The full and lovely voice said, almost as if a
rich darkness spoke within the light: "It's nice to see you all again."

Betty said: "It's blessed to see you. But what is this, my dear?" She
nodded at the dwarf

Lester said: "It was made by-I don't even know who he is, but by the man
in your room."

Richard said: "He's called Simon, and sometimes the Clerk, and he thinks
himself no end of a fellow. Has he hurt you?"

"Not a bit," said Lester. "I've been with it of my own choice. But now
I've seen you, I know what to do-before I go away. It must be taken back
to him."

So much was suddenly clear to her. She was here-and Richard and Betty,
and Jonathan too, were here for this purpose. It was time the magical
dwarf was driven back to Simon. It had come from him; it must go to him.
The Acts of the City were in operation; she felt their direction. She
only could compel this movement; she only return to the false maker the
thing he had falsely made. It was full time.

Betty said: "We were going to take him that other thing-the painting Jon
did of him. You haven't seen it; but that doesn't matter. It's very
good, but it'd be much better if he had it altogether. So Jon's being a
saint and giving it to him. Lester, there's someone else with you!"

It was fortunate that the Acts of the City had allowed the three those
minutes to become accustomed to the voice and to the shape. For now the
shape took a quick step forward, and there broke from it a sudden
confused noise. Neither Richard nor Jonathan at all recognized the human
voice that was mixed with that croaking and cackling, but Betty
recognized it. She had feared it too much and too often not to know. She
did not step backwards, but she flinched, as if the noise had struck
her. She exclaimed: "Evelyn!"

The noise ceased abruptly. Jonathan took a step forward, but Betty
caught his arm. She said: "No, really, Jon; it's too silly. I'm not
afraid; I know perfectly well I'm not afraid. I was only surprised.
Lester, you needn't stop her. Were you talking to me, Evelyn?"

"No-one," said the dwarf with a slow effort and in a harsh imitation of
Evelyn's voice, "cares about me. I don't expect much. I don't ask for
much. I only want you, Betty. Lester's so cruel to me. She won't cry. I
only want to see you cry." It tried to lift its hands, but they only
waggled. The body drooped, and the head fell on one side. So askew, it
continued to emit sounds mostly indistinguishable. Now and then a
sentence stood out. It said at last, clearly and with a slight giggle:
"Betty looked so funny when she cried. I want to see Betty cry."

Jonathan said under his breath: "God be merciful to us all!" Betty said:
"Evelyn, if you want to talk, come and talk. I can't promise to cry, but
I'll listen." Richard said: "Must we waste time? "

The dwarf's head jerked, and turned as far as it could from one to the
other. It gave back a little. Before those three, as if the
consciousness of their eyes oppressed it, it fell together a little
more. It said, with a final great effort: "You hurt me when you look at
me. I don't want you to look at me. I want to look at you. Betty, you
used to be frightened of me. I want you to be frightened of me."

Jonathan said with a sudden decision. "We can't do anything. Let's do
what we can do. If we're to do it, let's go now-" He went to the table
and took up the canvas.

Betty said: "Shall we, Lester?" and the other voice, again filling the
room, answered: "We'd better. Evelyn can't manage this, and I've only
one thing to do with it-to take it back. Let Is go."

Richard went quickly past Jonathan to the table. He picked up his glass;
he waved to the others and they came to him. He tried to speak and could
not. But Betty did. She too took her glass; she held it up; she said:
"Good luck, Lester!" and they all drank. Richard flung his glass to the
floor. As it smashed, the dwarf with a little squeal turned round and
began stumbling towards the door. The three friends went after it.

It was very late when they came into the street, but in the light of a
near standard they saw a single taxi moving slowly .along. The driver
was a big man; he saw Jonathan's lifted hand, slowed, and leaning back
opened the door. They stood round the dwarf while, slowly and in utter
silence, it scrambled clumsily in. Before either of the young men could
speak, Betty had followed it and sat down by it. They sat opposite.
Jonathan could not quite remember giving the address, but he supposed he
must have done, for the door was closed on them and the carriage moved
off in the night. In spite of Betty's face opposite him a macabre horror
fell on Jonathan; all he had ever read, in fiction or history, of fatal
midnight drives recurred to him: discrowned kings fleeing, madmen
carried off to Bedlam, or perhaps sane men by careful plottings
certified as mad, gagged men borne to private assassinations, ,gangsters
taken for rides by gangsters, and through all a ghastly element of
another kind-arrest of heretics, seizure of martyrs, witches clutched or
witches clutching-in all the cities of all the world midnight and dark
coaches rolling and -things unnameable for good or evil about to be
done. Something still deeper-there and then, or had been, one plain
Simple act which could only be done in such a night. Unless this night
were now about to give place to a more frightening day-a dawn on some
town where such creatures lived as this opposite him or his own imagined
insects. and had their own occupation, grisly, unseen in this sun, but
visible to sickness in another light so much like this but not this.

Beside him Richard leaned back free from such distress, for he had
already known that distress. He had been used to think that nothing
could shock him; he had been wrong. The universe is always capable of a
worse trick than we suppose, but at least when we have known it we are
no longer surprised by anything less. Jonathan's horrid nightmares,
oppressive as they were to him, were less distressing than the pain of a
mother listening to her child choking with bronchitis in the night.
Richard's endurance now, like hers, was of present and direct facts. He
had seen something which, in the full sense of the words, ought not to
be, and never before had he felt the full sense of the words. This was
what everything that ought not to be was-this quiet agreement that it
should be. It was a breach in nature, and therefore in his own nature.
His own self-indulgence was of this kind; his dispassionate
consideration might be and might not-that depended on him. And now in
this happier world he had thought to enter, a thing as extreme struck
him. He could not disbelieve Lester when she spoke of going; he could
not even doubt that it ought to be. But except for that "ought to be"
the coldness in his heart was indistinguishable from the earlier chill.
The new birth refused him. He was as yet ignorant of the fact that this
was one method of its becoming actual. He despaired.

But Lester, when she had walked in the dead City, piercingly aware of
her own rejection, had known that despair, and its inflexibility had
entered her and grown in her. She no longer drove her one-time friend
with her old impatience; her strength was now the other side of her
willingness to wait "a million years" or to know she was not even to be
allowed that. In their swift passage to the dark coach she had felt the
rain on the false flesh; she had felt it as the premonition of that
lucid flowing water of separation. A double charge was laid on her, to
expel this thing from the streets of London, and then herself to go- The
falsity must go to its place of origin to be destroyed; to go, so
literally, dust to dust. The City must have what belonged to it in the
mode in which it belonged. She thought no more of tubes and tunnels
filled with horrors. Watter was purified and earth was free, or to
become so. But instead of the tunnels flowed the inexorable river. She
too must go.

She saw the taxi roll through the streets; she saw the four sitting in
it. She knew that, if her new sight strengthened, she would see even
more clearly the whole construction, not only of the vehicle, but of
false mortality and true mortality. She almost did see Richard so, in
his whole miraculous pattern, all the particles of him, of the strange
creature who was in every particle both flesh and spirit, was something
that was both, was (the only word that meant the thing he was) a man.
She loved him the more passionately for the seeing. And then she saw
Betty move. She saw her turn to that contorted thing in the corner
which, under those vivid and suffering intelligences, was now beginning
to lose even the semblance of a woman, and she saw her put her living
hand on its dead paw. She heard Betty say: "Evelyn!" and then again:
"Evelyn, let's talk!" and through a dim mumble she heard Evelyn say: ,"I
don't want you now." She saw-and could not see farther -a fixed pallid
mask of a face moulded in and looking out of the false flesh with a
scared malice, and she too cried out:
"Evelyn, don't leave us!" She even made an effort to dominate it, but
that failed at once; the false flesh she could command not now the thing
within the flesh. Evelyn said: "I hate you." The dead paw-now hardly
five-fingered-made an effort to shake off Betty's hand, and when that
tightened on it, jerked and pulled in order to get away. As it
succeeded, the taxi came to a stop.





                            Chapter Ten

                        THE ACTS OF THE CITY

On the vigil of the hallows, it was gloomily and steadily raining. Few
people were out in the streets of London and the curtains at most
windows were again drawn together. Even delight in the peace could
hardly find satisfaction in keeping them wide on such a night.
Unpropitiously, the feast approached.

The Clerk was sitting in his hall. He had remained secluded there since
he had dismissed the false woman into the outer world, and with that (as
he believed) the spirit that had interrupted his work. He was a little
more troubled than he wished to admit to himself, and that for two
reasons. He had been more pricked than he had allowed by Betty's silence
about him when she repeated to him the tumultuous records of the world's
future. There was, to his mind, but one explanation-that some new
weakness had taken her, and when he had been defeated in his operation
he had even been able to use that as an explanation. This other being-
now imprisoned and banished from him-had affected her and silenced her.
The future was not therefore as she had said. The alternative
possibility-that the future was as she had said, and that he would so
soon have utterly vanished from the world-was too dreadful for him. He
encouraged his mind into illusion. Illusion, to the magician as to the
saint, is a great danger. But the master in Goetia has always at the
centre of his heart a single tiny everlasting illusion; it may be long
before that point infects him wholly, but sooner or later it is bound to
do so. It was infecting Simon now. It was hurrying him.

He was reluctant to do what he was being driven, by that scurry in his
mind, to intend. He knew well that for the greater initiate to fall back
on the methods of the lesser initiate was unwise. In sorcery as in
sanctity there is no return. The master in any art who abandons the
methods of his mastery and falls back on prentice habits runs a fearful
risk. No lover, of any kind, not even the lover of himself, can safely
turn from maturity to adolescence. His adolescence is in his maturity.
The past may be recalled and redeemed in the present, but the present
cannot be forsaken for the past. Lester was exposed to the true method;
Evelyn was seeking the false. But the magician runs a greater risk even
than Evelyn's, for if he begins to return, his works begin to return to
him. All this Simon had learned many years before, but till now it had
never been a temptation to him; now it was. He had begun to fall back on
crude early methods of magic. He had already conceded to his need the
making of the false body; now he was about to concede more. To recover
Betty by spiritual means would mean much careful planning and working.
He sat with his eyes fixed on that window through which he desired to
see her spirit come, and he knew he must first suspend and separate her
physical life, Her body, especially with this new knowledge, this love-
relation to another, was her safeguard. He must at once, by easy and
quick methods, over-throw her body.The great face that gazed towards the
window was more like the face of Jonathan's painting than anyone,
evenjonathan, had ever seen it before.

He turned his mind to his paramour. She was then sitting at her solitary
dinner, in her house at Highgate, and presently she felt herself
beginning to breathe heavily, and her left hand began to shake. She knew
the signs, and she set herself to making her mind empty. Such
communications demand a technique not dissimilar to that of prayer.
First she thought of nothing but him; when she had nothing but his image
in her mind, she set herself to exclude that too. Her coffee was before
her; no-one would come till she rang. She sat-that woman only just past
fifty, though since that very morning she had aged and looked full ten
years older-gazing out over the coffee, a statue of quiet meditation;
and the image of him faded from her mind, and she sank into an inner
stillness. it was in that stillness, the stillness of the threshold of a
ghostly temple, that she heard her own voice saying aloud: "Hair. Bring
me her hair." She heard it clearly the first time she said it, but she
heard herself repeat it several times before she acted; where once she
would have moved at       once. But she was stiff to-night and tired,
and in great wanhope, and it was only slowly that at last she raised
herself, pressing on the arms of her chair, and went clumsily upstairs
to Betty's room. There, peering among the bristles of the brushes, she
found two or three short golden hairs. She picked them carefully out,
put them in an envelope, and going downstairs got out her car and drove
down to Holborn. It was an hour afterwards that the maid found that, for
the first time in her experience, her mistress had left the dining-room
without ringing.

When she reached the house she found Plankin just about to lock the
door. As she reached it, and he waited for her, she almost thought that
the small carved hand showed through the darkness palely lit and in
motion, waving her to go on. Plankin said: "Good evening, my lady. It's
a nasty night." She nodded to him and he nodded back. He said: "It's
good to belong to the Father and to be inside. We'll be in our beds
soon, most of us. The Father's got good beds for those he takes care
of," and as she went down the hall she heard him behind her still
saying: "Good beds; good beds."

Round the corner,      through the small door. The hall was dark. She
switched on one light-the single light that was just over the door. It
did not penetrate far-just enough to let her dimly see the Clerk sitting
in the throned chair and something shining upon his knees. He was
waiting for her. She went straight across to him, took the hairs out of
the envelope, and gave them to him. He was sitting quite still and
holding on his knees a little lump   of what seemed paste. It was that
which shone. He took the hairs from her and laid them on the paste; then
he began to mould it. It was very small, not more than two inches long,
and as he pressed and moulded it he made it less; presently it was not
much more than an inch. Then, as if he needed more, he put his hand
inside his cassock and took it out again full of all kind of soft
amorphous stuff, also shining. He added that to what he already held and
worked at it. There -was in the hall now only the light over the door
and the phosphorescent glow of the image.

When it was finished, it was a rough shape of a woman, nothing like so
finished as that other larger shape he had made that morning. He stood
up and put it on the seat of his chair. He said to the woman by him: "I
will make the enclosure now. You shall hold it when we are ready," and
she nodded. He took three paces to the front of the throne, and bending
his great height he began to walk backward round it in a circle, drawing
after him the point of his left thumb upon the floor. It left behind it
a softly shining trail as if it were the streak of a snail's path. When
he had finished the circle, he took a pace nearer the chair, and began
another circle, and when that in turn was finished, he went in turn to
the four points of the compass and joined the two circles by four
straight lines. As he did so the air :within the circles grew heavy and
stifling, as if they formed a kind of round thick wall which shut out
health and easy breath. He stood up and paused for a few moments as if
to recover, then he lifted the fixed endoplasmic shape in his hands, and
took his seat again upon the now secluded throne. He nodded heavily at
the woman, and she came and knelt in front of him with her face towards
him, She seemed much older now than she had been when she entered the
hall; it was the fallen face of a woman of ninety that stared at him,
and was still ageing, and the hands she put out were older too, thin
and faintly tremulous. He gave the image, built round those golden hairs
into them, and she held it at about the height of her shoulders, a
little above his knees. The only sound now was that of the rain upon the
roof.

The Clerk said: "Call her; call her often!" She obediently began; she
could not make her voice anything but flat and lifeless, but she began
automatically: "Betty! ... Betty! ... Betty!" and presently the
repetition seemed to strengthen her. While she called, the Clerk put his
hand again inside his cassock, but this time near his breast, and drew
out what seemed a long needle. It too was bright, but with the
brightness of actual steel; it was not like the doll, and it glinted in
the efflorescence of the doll. There was about it almost a natural
beauty, but the presence of that slip of loveliness accentuated the
strange horror of the rest. The Clerk took it in his left hand. It had
at its head a tiny gold knob, and on this he settled his forefinger,
holding it about half-way down, between his thumb and his second and
third fingers; the fourth came round to the ball of his thumb. He said:
"Louder!" In that oppressive air, Sara Wallingford could not easily
obey, but she made an effort and her body unexpectedly responded. Her
voice came out with a summons that was like a thin shriek: "Betty! ...
Betty! " And all the time she held up the doll to her master. The Clerk
leant forward and raised the needle.

For almost a minute her voice shrieked alone, and then it was no longer
alone. Other shrieks from the house beyond answered it and joined with
it. The sudden multiplication of sound sang in her ears; she jerked and
almost dropped the endoplasmic doll. She recovered herself immediately,
but in that half-second's loss of control the Clerk had stabbed at the
doll. The needle struck the tip of her middle right-hand finger, and as
he pulled back his weapon a drop of blood stood out and oozed on to the
fixed jelly, The Clerk looked at her; his eyes drew her yet more upright
on her knees. Her finger continued to bleed; the shoulder of the doll
showed crimson from the drops.

She went very white, and had stopped her high old woman's scream. It was
he and not the secrets for which she had cared, and she did not know
much of them, but something she could not help knowing, and what she
knew made her afraid. His great face loomed over her and would not let
her go. The face was the face of the Exile of Israel, of the old Israel
and the new, and all Israel else was free to the Return. She saw,
unknowing, as she looked up, the face of all exile, the face of the
refusal of the Return, and it seemed to her as imbecile as it had been
in the painting, though now indeed she had forgotten the painting. She
tried to let go the doll, and failed. Her left hand could loosen it, but
it remained fixed to her right, sealed to it by the blood. She held it
in her left, and tried to pull her right free, but she could not. She
felt indeed all the pain of the rending flesh, but the flesh was not
rent. As her blood ran into the doll, so her heart's indifference passed
into her flesh; her brain knew what ought to be, but her body refused
her brain. The organic nature of her blood made her one with the doll,
and more intimately much than the golden hairs could unite Betty to it.
She realized the substitution that was taking place; she was likely to
die in Betty's stead.

She knew she was about to die. She knew that the Clerk would not spare
her and that even the thought of sparing would not occur to him. She had
hated all things for his sake, and so did he, but now his hate was
against her too. But she was allowed justice; she was allowed to hate
even herself for his sake. After that instinctive effort to escape, she
accepted that; she even gloried in it. Her heart flung itself up into
that great alien sky of his face, and was absorbed in it. She had but
one thing to ask, and that unvocally; that he should strike to kill
before the doll had become even more she than Betty. She had a vague and
terrible fear that the substitution might be so complete that Betty
would not die. Let him stab before that happened! let him strike both of
them into whatever waited! let her have but the chance to meet her
daughter there, and see which of them could rule!

She was conscious of one other thing, though she did not properly know
what it was. There passed through the face above her a series of
vibrations, waves passing down it from forehead to chin. They
reverberated in her as a kind of perpetual drumming, increasing as the
face changed sea-like down from brow to point, and dying as the pause
came, and again beginning as from beneath the hair the wave issued and
swelled and sank and swelled, change after change of heavy cloud in that
now to her almost shapeless sky. These waves, could she have realized
it, came from the drumming rain-heavy, rapid, continuous; October
closing in a deluge. The vigil of the saints was innumerably active in
the City, and all London lay awake under it.

As if her prayer had moved the opaque cloud to yield to it, the slender
steel flashed and struck again. She saw it; and, whether through his
error or her shrinking, she felt the sudden sting in her forefinger-as
if she were to be united to the image, member by member, blow by blow.
But, for all the sudden pain and fear, it was not her mouth from which
even now those screams were issuing; she after her first wound had
become dumb. They came from two sources. The first was within the double
barrier; it was held between her hands. In the head of the rough
endoplasmic shape a hole opened, and out of the hole came screams much
like her own had been. It was the most startling and the most dangerous.
It had been the first sound of this which caused her to quiver and
deflected Simon's aim, for it meant that a weakness and a peril were
already within the circle. The wall had not yet been broken by any
pressure from without-as the operation in Betty's bedroom had been. The
magic here was mechanically shrilling under some turn within it; it was
beginning to twist upon itself. The thing done was in active and
antagonistic return.

But the noise was multiple; that scream was not solitary. Rising through
the drumming of the rain-of which all this time the Clerk had never been
entirely unaware, as it is said that those in deep prayer can hear and
even consider sounds without distraction-came the screams from beyond
the threshold, but now from only just beyond. Those who screamed were
already at the door. The house had thrown them from its upper rooms, or
rather that which had entered the house. All in the bedrooms and in the
offices and the rest had been locked and silent and asleep when through
the night and the rain that single taxi had rolled to the outer door. It
stopped; the driver leaned back, put out his hand, and threw it open.
Richard had been the first to descend; then Jonathan and Betty; lastly,
the reluctant thing that had first got in. Jonathan gave some silver to
the driver, and the vehicle disappeared into the darkness. They turned
to the house; the carved hand glowed; and then, as they passed it, Betty
put out a hand with a movement as if she brushed a twig away, and the
thing went out suddenly. The dwarf, driven first of all the company,
flinched as if it had itself been struck. It reached the door, and was
halted, for though alone of all in London, it might of its nature have
passed through that door yet the high and now dominating spirit who
controlled it knew that neither her husband nor her friend's lover
could. Jonathan began to use the knocker. Richard looked for a bell and
could find none, until a thought struck him, and taking a step or two
back he peered by the light of a sheltered match at the centre of the
carved hand. He saw there a discoloured spot in the palm, something
which might have been a bell, the nerve of the physical machinery of
that house, whose brain (now secluding itself into imbecility) lay in
the round hall within. They could not hear the sound of the bell, nor
was Jonathan's hammering and occasional kicking at the door much more
than a relief to his own feelings. The noise seemed deadened and only an
echo of itself. Presently however a window went up above them, and a
Voice which Richard recognized as, the doorkeeper's said: "'What's all
this? You can't see the Father now. It's too late."

"We've something for him," Jonathan called; "something of his own."

"You can't do anything for him, and you can't give him anything," the
voice of Plankin said. "It's late; it's to late."

Another voice interrupted him. It came from the dwarf, but they knew it
for Evelyn's and as it sounded the dwarf in a paroxysm of strength beat
on the door with its hands. It cried: "Let me in! Let me in!"

Plankin, unseen above them, said: "I don't know, I'm sure. It isi-i't
right to open the door after dark. The Father doesn't wish it. There's
things in the dark that might frighten us."

Evelyn screamed: "Let me in! It's raining; you can't leave me in the
rain." She added, more quietly and snivelling: "I shall catch a dreadful
cold." The dwarf struck again at the door, and this time there broke out
under the false hands a deep booming sound, as if the previous faint
echo had now passed into a cavern of great depth. Jonathan had ceased to
knock and Richard took his hand from the discoloured palm. This, at
last, was the proper summons to that gatehouse; that which they had
brought must itself demand entrance. At its call-dead woman and
inorganic shape-the gatekeeper, if at all, would come down and open.
They could not now hear Plankin for the noise, any more than they could
see him for the night. They waited.

The door began to open-less than a crack; they could hardly have known
it had not the dwarf, tearing and scrabbling, flung itself at the crack.
Both its possessing spirits urged it there; there, with a yelp of
delight, it pressed. The threshold shook; Betty and her friends felt it
move, and the door, as if of its own accord, swung more widely back,
revealing Plankin half-dressed, and carrying him with it. He stared at
the intruder, as he staggered back. The dwarf sprang jerkily into the
lit hall. Betty and the others followed, and as they did so the eyes of
the gatekeeper changed. Dismay came into them; he gasped; he threw his
hands to his head; he cried:
"Oh! Oh!" Richard, as he saw and heard, remembered a         phrase from
their interview of that morning-"a tumour in the head". As he
recollected it, and saw the dreadful consciousness of returning pain, he
heard a clamour break out on the floor above. The dwarf had thrust past
Plankin, and was scuttling away down the hall. As it pierced into the
house the clamour grew-a hubbub of cries and thuds and shouts and
hurrying feet and crashing doors. This was the Return, and this the
operation of inflexible law.

They appeared; they came, stumbling and roaring, down the stairs-all
those who carried the Clerk's mark in their bodies. First, an old woman,
in a nightgown, eyes running tears and hand clutching her side where the
cancer had begun again to gnaw, and she had been waked by it, with only
one thought, and that all confused-to be healed, to get to her
Comforter. A few steps behind came a young man partly dressed, coughing
and spitting blood on to the stairs, and feeling vainly for the
handkerchief he had in his first waking spasm forgotten. And after him a
still younger man, who as he came was being twisted slowly back into
deformity, his leg withering and drawing up, so that he was presently
clinging to the banisters and hopping down sideways. Others followed,
some with unseen ailments and some with-open wounds, but all hurrying
with one instinctive desire-to get to Simon, to find their Father, to be
healed and at rest. Only one of all that :household was not there-one,
the paralytic, who had waked to find her flesh turning again a prison,
she already half-immobile, and was now lying part in and part out of bed
anguished and alone in her room. The rest were down the stairs and in
the hall and hurrying as best they could round the corner into that
corridor in the wall to the hole that gave on the centre of all. In
front of them, and quicker than any, went the dwarf, and as if in a
miserable retinue they followed, Plankin the first. The hunt for the
miracle-monger was up;  they rushed to be again sealed his own, but
there was something dangerous in the way they went.

Betty had paused in the open door till the scurry had gone by. Her hand
was in Jonathan's, who still carried the canvas of the painting under
his other arm. Richard was on Betty's other side. At last, she too began
to move; she went quietly, and her face was very serious and calm. As
they went down the hall, they saw that the walls there, and still more
those of the narrow corridor when they entered it were running with
drops and thin streams of water. Richard looked up. He saw that, here
and there, the rain was beginning to come through the roof; he felt a
few drops on his head, on his face, on his eyelids. But for the most
part the rain was not yet upon the walls; it was the condensation of
something in the air, some freshness of water that lay on them, but left
the air dry and sterile for want of it. The walls absorbed it; under it
they changed to a kind of slime.

When they came to the hall it was not so. There the roof was still
sound, and the walls, as far as they could see, still dry. Before them
the diseased throng were hurrying across the floor, and the three
friends could not clearly see the dwarf beyond them or the two encircled
figures beyond it. The woman, as all this crowd burst in, did not move
but the Clerk turned his eyes. Plankin was coming so fast that he
outwent even the dwarf, who indeed seemed to pause and totter as it took
there the first step, so that the others all broke out around it, and
came first to the invisible barrier. That perhaps would not have held
against any indifferent human being; it was not primarily meant for such
protection-much less against divine scepticism or heavenly joy.
Brutality might have trampled it, scattered about the outer circle,
tottering and crawling round it, surrounding it, beating with their
hands on an invisible wall, wailing and moaning, and one howling dog-
like. The Clerk took no slightest notice; he was looking, and his eyes
were very wary, at the other thing that now began to advance.

it walked more steadily now, as if it had found some centre
determination in   itself. When Lester's influence had been in it, there
had been in its movements an irrepressible jerkiness. But now that
jerkiness had passed; it moved inflexibly, as if it neither could nor
wished to stop. When it had almost reached the barrier, Betty pulled her
hand from Jonathan's and ran after it. She caught up with it; in a swift
and strong notion she caught its hand; she exclaimed: "Evelyn, do stop!"

The Clerk had been watching it come. Now he stood up. As he did so, he
released from the intensity of his concentration the endoplasmic image
in the hands of his paramour; it fell; and she, unable to let it go,
fell forward also at that sudden unbalancing release. The Clerk had, at
the same time, taken a step towards the barrier, so that she fell
against the chair, and the doll, to which her hands were still fastened
by her own blood, lay on the seat. She lay propped there, and she turned
her head, so that she saw, at a little distance, not only the dwarf, of
which she knew nothing, but handlinked with it her daughter, her rival
and enemy. That Betty was wholly free from her. She saw her almost as
Jonathan saw her, beautiful and good, very much Betty. That Betty was
quite unlike the doll she helplessly held. The doll was all she had of
Betty, and even the doll was becoming, as her blood soaked into it, less
and less like Betty and more and more like herself She was being, by an
operation which her own will had in the beginning encouraged, slowly
substituted for Betty. She lay, rigid and fixed, propped by the edge of
the chair, and into the insatiable image through those two small pricks
her blood continued to drain.

The Clerk made a quick savage motion, and the clamour of the diseased
creatures ceased. He looked round the circle, collecting their pitiable
eyes; then he raised his hand, pointing it at the dwarf, and he said:
"Drag it away!"

Most of them ignored him. A few, of those least diseased, did look round
at the dwarf, but they looked back at once. It was not disobedience but
impotence that held them there. Someone-it was difficult to know who, in
that throng-said feebly: "Make us well, Father!" The dwarf, dragging at
Betty's hand, and pulling her after it, advanced another few steps. Now
it was right up against the barrier, and had, with a definite and
powerful thrust, got one foot just over the circle by some half an inch.
There it seemed to halt, as if it could press no farther. Betty still
clung to its hand; it was all she could do. She called out: "Lester, do
help me! I can't hold her."

Indeed nothing-neither the Clerk's frown nor Betty's clasp -could now
affect the mad determination of the lost spirit. Evelyn was over-ridden
by the fear that even this refuge in which she somehow was might be
snatched from her. She saw the barrier almost as a material wall; if she
could get this body within it, she would be safe, or as safe as she
could be. The attraction which that point exercised on the mere material
image was strengthened by her own will; a false union held her and it.
Since the house had been entered, there had been no need for Lester to
drive the shape; it had been only too urgent to hurry on. Only Betty
still clung to it. She flung out her other hand behind her, as if to
Jonathan; and Jonathan sprang forward and caught it. As if aware of them
for the first time, the Clerk lifted his eyes and saw the three friends.

Jonathan and Betty were too occupied to meet his eyes, but Richard did.
And as he did, the sudden recollection of what this man had offered him
rose bitterly in his heart. This fellow had offered to rule Lester for
him, to give him back his wife or not as he might choose-he! He had been
still lingering by the door, but now suddenly he too moved. If Lester
was to go from him, she should go with all honours. He walked forward to
join the others, and when he had reached them he took the canvas from
under Jonathan's arm. He said: "Father Simon, my wife wishes us to
return your property. Take it."

He lightly tossed the canvas towards the Clerk; it flew over the circles
and struck Simon on the shoulder. The Clerk gave a sudden squeal.
Richard went on, holding himself very upright and imperious: "If I had
not been a fool in the past, you would not have been able to-"

"Darling, must you be quite so savage?" Lester's voice halflaughing
interrupted. "Tell him what you ought to tell him-that will be enough."

Richard had forgotten his commission. Now he remembered. He said: "Yes
... well ... but I think it's too late. Lester is free of you, and Betty
is free, and the world will soon be free. But just before it is-I was
sent to offer you everything-all the kingdoms in it and their glory. You
were to be asked to meet those others who are like you; you were, all
three of you, to be . . . how do I know what? masters, for all I do
know. But I think we've come in time. Let's see if your friends will."

A sudden silence fell. Richard listened-all of them, even the Clerk, all
except Evelyn, listened-for that other voice. It did not then come.
Lester was still clearly aware of what was happening. But she was also
aware of a certain difference in her surroundings. She had seemed to
enter the house with the others, even to come as far as the hall, but
when the others had gone right in, when Richard had gone and had begun
to speak, when she had broken in on him with that gay but serious
protest, she had become aware that she was no longer related to that
deformed image. It had itself released her, merely by entering the hall.
For as it did so, and she for the first second with it, she had found
herself once more in the rain. It was driving down over and past her on
to-the Thames? some wide river, flowing, flowing on beneath her; and the
pale ghastly light in the hall had changed. Within the rain a fresher
light was opening. It shone on the rain and on the river; and the room
with its companies was still there, but it stood on the river, which
flowed through it, and in the rain, which fell through it. The light was
like dawn, except that it had in it a tinge redder than dawn, and the
same tinge was in the river and the rain, exquisite and blood-roseal,
delicate and enriching. Only she felt again the awful sense of
separation. It was like a sharp pain in a great joy. She gave herself to
it; she could no other; she had consented long before-when she married
Richard perhaps-or was consenting now-when she was leaving him. Her
heart sank; without him, what was immortality or glory worth? and yet
only without him could she even be that which she now was. All, all was
ending; this, after so many preludes, was certainly death. This was the
most exquisite and pure joy of death, in a bearing of bitterness too
great to be borne. Above her the sky every moment grew more high and
empty; the rain fell from a source far beyond all clouds. Below her the
myriad drops, falling in slanting lines, struck the great river in
innumerable little explosions, covering the whole surface. She saw each
of them with an admirable exactitude-each at the same time as she saw
all, and the flowing river and the empty sky, and herself no longer
bodily understood, but a point, a point reflected from many drops and
pierced by many drops, a spark of the light floating in the air. But she
was not very conscious of herself as herself; she no longer thought of
herself as bearing or enjoying; the bitterness, the joy and the inscape
of those great waters were all she knew, and among them the round hall,
with those mortal figures within it, and its window open, as she now saw
it, on the waters. Even Richard's figure there had lost its immediate
urgency; something once necessary and still infinitely precious, which
had belonged to it, now lay deep, beyond all fathoming deep, in the
current below, and could be found again only within the current or
within the flashing rain. Of any future union, if any were to be, she
could not begin even to think; had she, the sense of separation would
have been incomplete, and the deadly keenness of the rain unenjoyed.

The rain did not seem to her to be driving into the round hall; if it
did, it was there invisible to her. The window was open, and she became
aware that towards the window, from a great distance, two forms were
moving. They came walking upon the waters, great-headed, great-cloaked
forms, forms like Simon, two Simons far beyond the hall, coming towards
the hall and Simon. She thought at first there were more-a whole
procession of Simons, but it was not so; there were but the two. They
were going directly towards the window, one behind the other, and as she
saw them she had a sudden sense that never, never, would she have asked
either of them to bring her a drink of water in the night. She would
have been terrified of what they brought; there would have been
something in the glass-as if the Richard of past days had put secret
poison in the drink; and much worse than that, for human malice was but
human malice, and comprehensible and pardonable enough to any human; but
this would have been a cool and immaterial-and the worse for being
immaterial-antipathy to-to? to all, a drink the taste of which would
have been a separation without joy. They came on, as it were below her-
not that she had at all a place to see them from-and as they passed or
seemed to pass, she had a moment's terror that it was not they but she.
The great-headed, great-cloaked, steadily walking forms were wholly
unlike her, but yet they were she-double, immense, concealed, walking
through the unfelt rain on the unyielding water, antipathetic, relegated
to antipathy; as if in the shadowy City of her early death she had gone
another way, and through the deep tunnels and tribes had come out on
this water, and (grown in them to this size and covered in them with
this wrapping to hide herself) were walking on to some quiet and awful
consummation. This had been the other way, the way she had just not
gone. Behind them, as they went, the faint roseal glow in the waters and
the rain gathered thicker and followed, and deepened as it followed. The
colour of it-rose or blood or fire-struck up the descending lines of
rain and was lost somewhere in that empty upper sky above her; but below
it was by now almost a wall which moved after those forms; and absorbed
and changed the antipathy they diffused; and all behind them the
freshness of the waters and the light was free and lovely.

On earth-that is, among those earthly-the turn of the night had come.
The morning of the feast imperceptibly began, though none of them knew
it-none? the Clerk knew. As a man feels the peculiar chill that comes,
especially in early spring or late autumn, with the rising sun, so he,
long before any sun had risen, felt a new coldness in the hall. The air
within the charmed circle was heavy, but as the Acts of the City took
charge and the nearness of all the hallows grew everywhere within the
outer air, it became dank and even more oppressive with a graveyard
chill. More than humanity was holy and more than humanity was strange.
The round hall itselfi and its spare furnishings, and the air in it were
of earth, and nothing could alter that nature. The blessedness of earth
was in them and now began to spread out of them. There too were the
hallows, and their life began to awake, though the City itself seemed
not yet awake. Invisible motions stirred, and crept or stepped or flew,
as if a whole creation existed there unseen. The Acts of the City were
at hand. Simon's eyes were still on the dwarf, which by now had pressed
still farther into the barrier, as if it was working its way through
some thick moulded -stuff which could not quite halt it. It was delayed
also by its paw, being still caught in Betty's; for all its spasmodic
tugging it could not quite free itself from that young passionate clasp.
But it had dragged Betty herself very near the barrier. Her other hand
was in Jonathan's, and his arm was round her. As her foot touched the
outer circle, she looked round at him and said: "Don't hold me now, Jon.
I must go with her."

Jonathan said: "You'll do nothing of the sort. What's the good? Let her
go where she wants. It's I who need you, more than ever she can."

Betty answered breathlessly: "No, really, Jon. I must go; after all, we
did know each other. And you're different; you can manage. Besides, I
shouldn't be the least good to you, if-. Let me go, darling.
I was glad she was dead the first time, I can't leave her to die again.
so I must be with her now."

Jonathan tried to resist, but all his energy, and all the energy of his
art, was in vain. He set his feet; they slipped. He dragged at Betty's
slim form; it advanced. He said: "Don't; it's hell. What shall I do?"

Betty, faintly, panted: "Hell? it won't hurt me; of course it won't. I
must go; darling, let me."

Their voices, quiet enough, were dreadfully loud in the hall where there
was no other sound, except always of the rain. Jonathan called:
"Richard) come and help me!"

Richard said-and if there was an impurity in his answer, it was hardly
avoidable; a deadly touch was in his heart and more than Jonathan he
knew that certain departures must be; if he spoke with the least
possible impatience, it was but mortal-Richard said: "I shouldn't worry.
You won't have her if you keep her; when she wants to go she ought to
go."

His eyes were still on the Clerk, and the Clerk's on Betty. At this
moment, suppose as he might that he still had his whole ancient purpose
in mind, it was a dream and an illusion. The sightof his daughter and
slave, whole, well, and free, distracted him. He forgot the theory of
magic, the principle of the physical and spiritual categories of
identity, the philosophy and metaphysic of Goetia. Spells had failed and
images had failed. He was more a common man than ever before, and he
forgot all but the immediate act. That remained: killing remained. He
saw the body of Betty, and the hand that held the needle crept slowly up
his side. Inch by inch she drew nearer; inch by inch he raised the
weapon. He fixed his eyes on her throat.

They were all now in a world of simple act. The time for thought,
dispute, preparation was done. They were in the City. They were potent
to act or impotent to act, but that was the only difference between any
of them. The eyes of the woman who lay, incapable of act, against the
abandoned chair, were also on Betty and greedy with the same murderous
desire. The diseased creatures, also incapable, who lay around the
circle, trembled and moaned a little with their helpless longing for the
act of healing. She and they alike yearned towards act, and could not
reach it. The dwarf-form was still in motion, and its motions as it
forced its way on were both its own and Evelyn's-it magically drawn to
its origin, she spiritually driving to her refuge. Betty felt that
invisible soft mass press against her everywhere-against head and
breasts, hands and thighs and legs. She gasped out to Jonathan: "Let go-
you must. I may; not you. Only one of us, and I knew her." She wrenched
her own hand free from his and struck it backward against him, as Lester
had struck at Richard, one gesture whether accurst or blest. In the
fierceness of her knowledgeable love, she struck so hard-all heaven in
the blow-that he loosed his arm from her and fell back a pace. Richard
caught and steadied him. At that moment, as Betty entered the circle,
the rain broke in.

It came with a furious rush, as if it had beaten the roof down under it.
But in fact the roof had not fallen. The rain drove through it, and down
over all of them, torrential, but torrential most over the centre of the
circle as if the centre of a storm was settled there. Under the deluge
the doll on the chair at once melted; it ran over the woman's hand and
wholly disappeared, except for a thin film of liquid putrescence which
covered them, pullulating as if with unspermed life. She saw it, and
under it her hands still bloody; she shook them wildly and tried to tear
at them, but the thin pulsing jelly was everywhere over them, and her
fingers could not get through it. For the first time in her life she
began to sob, with a hideous harsh sound; and as her obstinacy melted
like the doll under the rain she scrambled to her feet and made for
Simon, the tears on her aged cheeks, clutching at him, with those
useless and helpless hands. He did not notice her; it was his
misfortune.

As if the barrier itself had also disappeared under the rain, the dwarf-
figure began suddenly to move loosely. It slipped and almost fell over;
then it righted itself and tottered on. But at the same time it began to
lose even the rough shape it had. The rain poured down on it; its head
ran thickly into its shoulders; then it had no head nor shoulders, but
still it staggered forward. The paw that Betty held became damp mud in
her grasp and oozed through her fingers; its legs, such as they were,
bent and came together, and then it had no legs, and was only a lump
which was madly bumping on, and then at the edge of the second circle it
lost power altogether and toppled down, dropping just within that
circle, and falling in great splashes of mud over Simon's feet. He had,
so far, the adoration he desired.

Betty had stood still where she had lost hold. Simon looked once at the
splashes; then, as quick as the holy rain itself, he flung himself
forward and struck with his steel at his daughter's throat. The weapon
touched her, swerved, scratched, and was gone. The two young men had
moved, but something had been before them. The bloody and filthy hands
of the old woman, blind with her tears, had caught Simon's upper arm as
he launched himself, and the thrust was deflected. The hand that held
the steel was pulled away, and, opening as it fell, dropped the weapon.
Betty put out her hand and lightly caught it. She glanced at it
curiously, and as she stepped back to Jonathan gave it to him with a
smile. The Clerk furiously and with a strange cry flung himself round
after his mistress, and as they swung in a clutching frenzy and she
falling backward before him, he saw across and beyond her the window of
the hall, and there he saw and knew his end.

There stood in the window two shapes which he at once recognized. They
were exactly alike; their huge all-but-skeleton heads were thrust a
little forward; their cloaks of darkness were wrapped round them; their
blank eyes were turned to him. They had, in the beginning, been exactly
like him, but his human flesh, even his, carried a little the sense of
its own experiences, and theirs only indirectly and at one remove. They
had therefore the effect now of slightly sinister caricatures of him-as
the doll, though more horribly, of Betty and the dwarf of any woman. It
was the nature of that world to produce not so much evil art as bad art,
and evenjonathan's painting was more truthful to its reality than any
reproduction of its own. But each reproduction had its own proper
quality. The heavenly rain drove on these shapes without visible effect;
they were, however perversely, of human flesh, and indeed, in so far as
they were anything, were Simon himself. The grace drove against them
from behind, as if it were driving them back to him; or perhaps it had
been their coming which stirred and shook the unseen clouds, and left a
void the living waters rushed in to fill. The roseal glow behind them in
the waters was now very deep and filled the window with what was
becoming not so much a glow as a fume of colour. An opaque cloud
gathered. It had been so when that other Jew ascended; such a cloud had
risen from the opening of the new dimensions into which he physically
passed, and the eyes of the disciples had not pierced it. But that Jew
had gone up into the law and according to the law. Now the law was
filling the breach in the law. The blood of all victims and the fire of
all avengers was in it-from Abel to those of London and Berlin-yet it
was merely itself. It was an act, and as an act it followed, of its own
volition, wave-like, high-arching. The shapes began to advance, and it
also. The Clerk stood rigid, at his feet the body of his mistress;
across the floor those other Clerks came on.

He made, within himself, one last effort. But these were too much he;
all the years, in the most secret corner of his heart, he had sustained
them so. His thoughts had shaped their brains, his words their voices.
He had spoken in himself and in them. What he now said to them, he must
say to himself He began to bid them stop, but as he did so he found
himself stiffen into an even more fixed rigidity. He tried to look them
down, but he could no more catch any meaning in their eyes than he could
see his own. He moved his hand to trace against them in the air a
significant and compelling figure of magic, and he felt the earth shake
under him and the burden of the air weigh on him to crush him as he did
so. To unmake them he must unmake himself. There was only one other
possibility; he might attempt, here, with no preparation, to unite them
again with himself, and make them again he. He must act, and the act
might be successful. He consented.

He crossed the barrier; he went forward. They too, each head slightly
turning towards him, continued to advance, in the steady measure of his
own steps as his of theirs. He began to murmur spells, of which the
beating rhythm mingles with those which sustain flesh but he felt again
a creeping in his own flesh, and desisted.   In the seclusion of the
circles, protected by them, he might have found and practised a
distinction. Here, in the confusion of the rain, he could not. It beat
on him, and he could not think; it drove against him, and he could not
see. He went on against it, but the growing roseal light confused him
still more. It bewildered him, and he lost sight of the shapes until
suddenly they loomed out of it very close to him. He unexpectedly
thought "This is death", and knew himself weaken at the thought.

He managed to pronounce a word of command., They stopped, but then also
he too stopped. He obeyed himself. He knew he needed time-time and
shelter from the rain and the rose-light, and the rose-smell; which was
not only a rose-smell but a smell of blood and of burning, of all those
great crimson things. He smelt crimson between him and them, and saw it
too, for that rich colour had ceased to over-arch them, and was sweeping
down and round them, gathering and thickening, as if from light it were
becoming liquidity, and yet he could not feel it. It grew and shut them
in, all three, two not able to speak, and one not daring to speak. Only
through it there went out from all three a blast of antipathy. He hated
them,
and since they held his hate they hated him. The hate seemed to swell in
a nightmare bubble within the rose which was forming round them, cloud
in cloud, overlying like petals. Simon made a quick half-spring as if to
overleap it, and so did they; but he failed and fell back, and so did
they. The smell of the rose was changing to the smell of his last act,
to the smell of blood. He looked down; he saw below him the depth of the
rose. A sudden fresh blast of rain fell on him and drove him deeper, and
so those others. It flashed past him in an infinity of drops, as of
points falling-at first crystal, then of all colours, from those almost
too dark to be seen through to those almost too bright to be seen. They
fell continuously between him and those other faces, in which he could
now see those waves passing which his devotee had seen in his own face.
The bright showers of the hallows flashed, and beyond him he could see
only his multiplied self; and all he could do against them was only done
to himself.

The rose began to withdraw. He felt himself carried with it, and
slipping more deeply into it. The smell of blood was in his nostrils;
the touch of burning on his flesh; this was what the crimson must be to
him. He stared, as he sank and as that in which he was held moved in its
own fashion, at the rain of swift-darting points between him and
himself. The City, so, was visible to him. "If I go down into hell, thou
art there"; but if I go down into thee-? If even yet he could attend to
those points, he would escape hell; he would never have been in hell. If
he could not, he had his changing and unchanging faces to study. He
stared at them, imbecile; imbecile, they stared back-farther and
farther, deeper and deeper, through the rose and the burning and the
blood.

At the moment when the Clerk met the other Clerks, when the rose-light
began to thicken and swim and gather round them, the three friends also
felt that final blast of rain, falling on and even through them.
Jonathan and Richard shrank under it, as under a burst of ordinary rain.
Betty, still fresh from the lake of power, the wise waters of creation,
lifted her face to it and felt it nourishing her. It was she who saw, as
the driving torrent dwindled and passed, a fume of crimson rising, as if
the rain had so fallen on the shaping rose that it sent up a cloud as of
the smell of rose-gardens after rain. The smell lingered, but the cloud
sank, As if she looked down a great distance she saw a small pool
crimson in the light, and that too vanishing, till it was no more than
the level of dark wine in a wine cup, and within it, before it vanished,
she saw the whole City through which she had so often passed, vivid and
real in that glowing richness. But she lost that sight as she realized
that the City opened all ways about her and the hall in which she stood,
in which also the daylight now visibly expanded. She heard the early
noises of London outside the hall. She sighed with delight, and turned
to the morning joy; smiling, she turned to her lover. He looked back at
her, he still young and already a master in a certain knowledge of that
City. Yet it was not he-it was Richard over whom the Acts of the City
more closely hovered, and he whose face, like Lester's once in Betty's
own room, was touched with the sombre majesty of penitence and grief and
a young death.

But there were others in the hall. The diseased, except for an
occasional sob, were silent now, the clear light showing them more
pitiable. The body of Sara Wallingford lay where she had fallen; she had
not moved. It was neither she nor the sick whom Betty and her friends
first saw. Before them, in what had once been the circle, were the two
dead and living girls. They seemed to be in their earthly shapes, their
earthly clothes. Betty took a Step or two towards them, and there, in an
overpowering ordinariness, they stood, as any three young women might,
deciding occupation, exchanging chat. It was Evelyn who spoke. Her eyes
darting from Betty to Lester and back, she said: "Don't you interfere
with me. I won't let you. I won't. Dont try."

Lester said: "Look, Evelyn, we've often gone out together; let's do it
again. Come with me to-day and we'll think what there is to do."

Betty made a motion to speak, but Lester smiled at her and she ceased.
The voices and the words might have been of any moment in the past.
Lester went on: "Come, you might as well. I'm sorry if I've been ...
stupid. It was wrong. If I ever made use of you, come and make use of
me. I only want you to. I do. I do. Let's go and see what we can find!"

Evelyn said: "I suppose you think that's kind. You think it's clever to
be kind, don't you? I always hated being with you, and I daresay sooner
or later I can find someone else there, thank you."

"Yes," said Lester, "I'm afraid you may."

The words, to all but Evelyn, brought a sinister thought of that other
strange world. But Evelyn was past noting even that. When her shelters
had melted round her, she had not known in her despair what she would
do; and now she only knew that she would not let herself be caught.
Lester and Betty were trying to catch her, to keep her, to pain her;
they had always hated her. But she would beat them. She made a rush; she
ran between them; she dodged the hands that were not flung out; she
cried: "Let me go" to those who had not held her. She ran to the window;
the yard outside was very lonely and spectral. She almost hesitated. But
she looked back over her shoulder and saw Lester move. She cried out:
"You thought you'd got me, didn't you?" They saw the immortal fixity of
her constricted face, gleeful in her supposed triumph, lunatic in her
escape, as it had had once a subdued lunatic glee in its cruel
indulgences; and then she broke through the window again and was gone
into that other City, there to wait and wander and mutter till she found
what companions she could.

Betty looked at Lester, and they were silent. Then Lester said: "We
might have found the waters together, she and I. Well, I must go. Good-
bye, my dear. Thank you for being sweet. "

Betty exclaimed: "But what about-" Out of sheer courtesy to those who
might hear her, she checked herself, but her eyes were on the unhappy
throng, and she made a small gesture with her hand. She did not know who
they were nor how they came to be in that house, but she saw what they
were suffering. Lester shook her head. She said: "They are for you, my
dear. You can do it; you've done harder things. It'll take something out
of you, of course, but you can. Good-bye." She looked across at Richard.
She said: "Dearest, I did love you. Forgive me. And thank you-Oh
Richard, thankyou! Good-bye, my blessing!" She stood, quiet and very
real, before them; almost she shone on them; then the brightness
quivered in the air, a gleam of brighter light than day, and in a flash
traversed all the hall; the approach of all the hallows possessed her,
and she too, into the separations and unions which are indeed its
approach, and into the end to which it is itself an approach, was wholly
gone. The tremor of brightness received her.

Betty was the first to move. She looked at those who remained in the
hall, besides her own friends. She was, since Lester had spoken, clear
what was to be done. But she felt a little as she had done on Highgate
Hill, though now even more at peace. A troublesomeness was approaching,
the result of the act to which she was, by her friend's word, committed.
The act was to be hardly hers, yet without her it could not be. But now
that other companion for whom on the hill she had sighed and called was
with her; the extra grace involved an extra labour; without the labour,
of what value the grace? She said impulsively: 'Jon, I will try not to
be tiresome."

He did not answer directly, but he put his arm about her shoulders, and
said: "What about your mother?"

They went to her. They knelt and looked and touched and spoke. She
showed no sign, lying there living but inert. It would be long before
she came to herself, and then she would not come to herself. When
presently she woke and tried to move, she would wake without knowledge,
without memory, lost to all capacity and to all care. She would not know
who she was or where she was or who those were that were about her or
what they did-not even what they did for her, for the thing, that were
done-the dressing, the feeding, the taking into the air-would be things
to which she could attach no words. She had given herself away, and her
self would be no longer there, or rather (as if it were a new-born
child) would have to be cared for and trained afresh. But since in that
gift she had desired the good of another and not her own, since she had
indeed willed to give her self, the City secluded her passion, and took
her gift to its own divine self. She had, almost in a literal physical
sense, to be born again; at least she had to grow again, and over the
growth her daughter was to preside. That tenderness was to meet her
needs, and (if she could ever speak) to answer her stumbling words. She
was now almost in that state to which her master had willed to reduce
their child; the substitution was one of the Acts of the City. Her
spiritual knowledge lay unconscious, as it were in the depth of the
separating and uniting waters; her body under the common sun.
Resurrection must be from the very beginning, and meanwhile Betty was to
do for her mother, while she lived, all that love could do.

But it would be certainly, for a long while, a thinner and warmer Betty
who would do so. For now, when it was clear that she could do nothing
there for her mother, she and Jon then rose from their knees. She said:
"Well. . . " and she kissed him. Then she saw Richard. They looked at
each other; she smiled and put out her hand, and he came slowly across.
She went to meet him, and gave him also her mild lips. He said: "Thank
you for the picture." She pressed his hand and then she had turned again
and gone across to the nearest of those sick and sorry creatures who
were lying or crouching there. Her immortality was strong in her as she
came to him; it happened to be Plankin. She took his hands in hers; the
joy of the City in her, she kissed him on the mouth; she looked into his
eye. She said, after a minute: "You'll be well." He looked, at first,
bewildered; then, slowly, relieved; then, suddenly, joyous. He half-
scrambled to his feet from where, his head on his knees, he had been
sitting, and uttered some sort of incoherent cry. Betty said clearly:
"That'll be all right," released herself, and went on. She passed, so,
round the whole circle, holding, touching, healing-simply and naturally,
and with all the gaiety that she could. But though her voice did not
falter nor her hands lose their strength, yet as she went on she herself
changed. She grew paler; she had to pause to recover as time after time
she rose and left renewed wholeness behind. Jonathan had followed her
all the while, and presently, as she came near the end, she was leaning
on his arm for the necessary step or two between one and another. As the
high heavenly power in her was poured into those tormented beings, so
the power, and still more quickly the joy of the power, passed from her.
She who had risen from the waters was still that she, and could not be
lost unless she betrayed herself, but these energies were for a purpose,
and were to be spent on that purpose. Have and not-have; not-have and
have-sometimes on the first and sometimes the other; but by both she and
Lester and all came to the City, though the union of both and the life
of the union, the life of that final terrible and triumphant Have! was
yet far beyond them, and even to envisage it would be to refuse the way
to it. Her miraculous life passed into those others, and she herself,
without any apparent gain to herself from her voice and smile and
gesture and free love, was left wholly to her old. At the end she
wavered and nearly fell. Jonathan held her, and they turned and came,
but she hardly, back towards Richard, who took her other arm, and so she
paused, white and worn, supported by her lover and her friend. She
murmured, with a last flashing smile: "That's done! "

All those whom she had healed were on their feet-moving, chattering,
tidying themselves. They did not seem to know what exactly had happened;
at least they showed no awareness of Betty and did not even look at her.
Someone said: "I knew the Father would help us," and someone else: "It
might have been a dream," and someone else: "Goodness! what a fright!"
And then a whole noise of voices broke out and a little laughter, and
Betty looked pleadingly at Jonathan, and the three began to move slowly
towards the door. The morning of the feast was bright in the hall. As
they came near the door and Betty's white frailty was only just holding
up and holding level, Plankin suddenly ran up to them. He said: "Excuse
me miss and gentlemen, but there's one more upstairs-Elsi Bookin who
does the typing. She used to have the paralysis and if she thinks she's
got it again I daresay she couldn't get down with the rest of us. But
she may feel bad, and if so be as you were going upstairs, I'm sure
she'd be thankful."

Jonathan began to say something. Betty pressed his arm. She looked at
Plankin, and the faintest of wry smiles turned her lips. With a final
effort she pulled herself up. She said: "Oh well.... Yes. Jon, do you
mind ..."



THE END




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