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Title:      Vanessa (1933)
Author:     Hugh Walpole
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Vanessa (1933)
Author:     Hugh Walpole




THE HERRIES FAMILY


Judith Paris, daughter of Rogue Herries

Adam Paris, her son

Margaret, his wife

Vanessa, Adam's daughter

Sally, Vanessa's daughter

Sir Walter Herries, son of Sir William Herries

Elizabeth, his daughter, widow of John Herries

Benjamin, her son, m. Marion Halliday

Tom, Benjamin's son

Sir Ellis Herries, son of Sir William Herries, m. Vanessa Herries

Lady Herries (Valerie), his mother

Dorothy Bellairs, Jennifer's daughter

Timothy, her son, m. Violet Greenacre

Timothy; Violet, Timothy's children

Veronica m. Robert Forster; Amabel; Jane, Dorothy's daughters

Captain William Herries, son of Ven Robert Herries

Dorothy, his wife

Dora, his sister, m. Fred Beauchamp

Cynthia, Dora's daughter, m. Hon Peile Worcester

Mary Worcester; Rosalind Worcester, Cynthia's children

Garth Herries, grandson of Pelham Herries

Sylvia, his wife

Amery, his brother, m. Hilda Coates

Alfred, Amery's son, m. Lucy Collison

Maurice; Clara, Alfred's children

Carey Bligh, 5th Lord Rockage

Mary, his wife

Maud; Helen, their daughters

Horace Newmark, son of Phyllis and Stephen Newmark

Sidney, his son, m. Mary Ratcliffe

Gordon; Ada, Sidney's children

Phyllis Newmark, Horace's sister, m. Clarence Rochester

Philip Rochester, her son

Emily Newmark, her sister

Barnabas Newmark, her brother

Ruth Cards; Richard Cards; Adrian Cards, children of Bradley Cards

Vera Trent; Winifred Trent, sister, relations by marriage of the
Cards

Rose Ormerod, a distant cousin

Horace Ormerod, her brother

Phyllis Veasey, a distant cousin

Anstey Veasey, her brother




FOR ERIK PALMSTIERNA IN FRIENDSHIP





A Prefatory Letter


My dear Erik,

I take the greatest pleasure in dedicating this final novel in the
Herries series to yourself because during those last years our
friendship has been one of the best things I possess.

With that pleasure I must contrast a very real sense of loss.  I
am, as I write the last lines of Vanessa, saying goodbye to work
that has been, for the last six years, my constant preoccupation.
It cannot interest my readers that Judith, Benjie, Vanessa and the
others have appeared to me such real and constant friends, but now,
as they vanish down the wind, I feel a true and personal
loneliness.

But I should like to thank those readers who have also found them
friends, and to urge upon one or two critics that long novels are
no new thing, and have been always in the tradition of the English
novel.

Yet more boldly I would say that in this present case these four
Herries novels are intended to be read as one novel, and I hope
that some day there will be a reader who will both live long enough
and be idle enough to read them so?  But one ambition of mine is
realized.  Some of those who love and know Cumberland have found in
these pages a tribute to that country which has pleased them.

Affectionately,

Hugh Walpole




'Therefore, like as May month flowereth and flourisheth in many
gardens, so in like wise let every man of worship flourish his
heart in this world, first unto God, and next unto the joy of them
that he promised his faith unto; for there was never worshipful man
nor worshipful woman, but they loved one better than another: and
worship in arms may never be foiled, but first reserve the honour
to God, and secondly the quarrel must come of thy lady: and such
love I call virtuous love.'

                                              Sir Thomas Malory




Contents


Part One

THE RASCAL


The Hundredth Birthday

Fountain at the Roadside

Herries Drawing-Room

The Seashore

Fall of the House of Uldale

Wild Night in the Hills

Inside the Fortress

The Duchess of Wrexe's Ball


Part Two

THE HUSBAND


Jubilee

The Flitting

Violet Bellairs is Prevented

A Journal and some Letters

Ellis in Prison

The Great Timothy Scandal

Vanessa in Prison

Escape into Danger


Part Three

THE LOVER


Happiness in Ravenglass

The Kopje

Young Tom in Newlands

Storm Coming Up

Perfect Love

Timothy Bellairs Pays some Visits

White with Swans


Part Four

THE GHOST


Kaleidoscope--

I.  The Flame

II.  Triumphal Arch

Sally and Tom

Men at War

Beloved Mountain

Family Dinner

Country Fair

The Eagle




Part One

The Rascal



THE HUNDREDTH BIRTHDAY


At the sight of her son Judith's eyes and mouth broke into the
loveliest smile that any member of the Herries family, there
present, had ever seen.  It was Judith Paris' hundredth birthday.
The Family was making a Presentation.

Adam bent down and kissed her.  Her tiny, trembling hand rested on
the velvet collar of his coat then lay against his cheek.  Her
triumph was complete; her exceeding happiness overflowed so that,
laughing though she was, tears rolled down her cheeks.



Afterwards, at the luncheon downstairs, Adam was to make the
speech, but when the time came, the one that he made was very
feeble.  Everyone (except of course Adam's wife, Margaret, and
Adam's young daughter, Vanessa) agreed that he was no speaker; the
speech of the occasion came, oddly enough, from Amery Herries, of
whom no one had expected very much.  There were more speeches at
the dinner later in the day--Timothy, Barney Newmark, Carey
Rockage, Captain Will Herries, all spoke--but it was Amery who was
afterwards recalled.

'Damned good speech, d'you remember?' years later one Herries would
say to another.  'At old Madame's Hundredth Birthday party up in
Cumberland . . .  Best speech ever I heard in my life.'

Adam was a failure.  He never could say anything in public, even
long ago in his Chartist days.  More than that, he was thinking of
his mother, the old lady upstairs, all the time.  And more than
that again, he couldn't sound the right Herries note.  He was only
QUARTER Herries anyway, and he simply wasn't able to think of them
in the grand historical light that all the family, expectant round
the luncheon table, desired.

But Amery could.  He thought of them all (including himself) in
precisely the grand manner.

All Adam said was:

'I am sure we are all very happy to be here today for my mother's
hundredth birthday.  You'll forgive me, I know, if I don't say very
much.  Not very good at expressing my feelings.  Yes--well--I know
what you're all feeling.  We're all very proud of my mother and we
all ought to be.  She's like the Queen--nothing can beat her.  I
don't need to tell you how good she is.  Of course I know that
better than the rest of you--naturally I would.  There's no one
like her anywhere.  I ask you all to drink her health.'

And so they did--with the greatest enthusiasm.  Nevertheless there
was a feeling of disappointment, for he had said nothing about the
Family--not a word.  It was expected of him.  After all, even
though he WAS illegitimate, his father had been of Herries blood.
They knew, they had always known, that Adam Paris failed at
anything that he tried.  What could you expect of a fellow who had
once been a Chartist and approved of these Trades Unions, was
always on the wrong side, against Disraeli, in favour of tiresome
agitators like Mr Plimsoll?  (They disliked any and every agitator.
They disapproved of agitation.)

But Amery made everything right again with HIS speech.  He didn't
look his sixty-five years, so spare of figure and straight in the
back; he had not run to seed like poor Garth, who led, it was
feared, a most improvident and dissolute life.  Amery's speech was
short but entirely to the point:

'Only a word.  I won't take more than a minute.  But I do want to
say that my friend Adam is quite right--this IS a great occasion
for all of us!  There is not, I venture to say, another family in
England with so remarkable a lady at the head of it as Madame whom
we are gathered together to honour.  It is not only that she has
reached her hundredth year--although that is an achievement in
itself--but that she has reached it with such vigour, such health,
such courage!  It is interesting to remember that nearly a hundred
and fifty years ago her father, as a young man, rode pack-horse
into this district, a stranger and almost you might say homeless.
There were, I suppose, members of our family scattered about
England at that time, but no one, I fear, had ever heard of any of
them.  Now, sitting round this table today we have one of England's
most famous novelists--spare your blushes, Barney Newmark--the
widow of one of England's most prominent financiers--I bow to you,
Lady Herries--whose son is following worthily in his father's
footsteps--I drink to the City, Ellis--the son of one of England's
leading Divines, the gallant Captain here--one of the most active
members, I'm told, of the House of Peers--never been there myself,
but that's what they tell me, Carey, my son--and one of the
loveliest women in the whole of England, Mrs Robert Forster--I bow
towards you, Veronica!

'I promised that I would be short, so I will not point out to you
how unusual a family ours is.  You know it already.'  (Loud and
happily complacent laughter.)  'We ARE a remarkable family.  Why
should we not say so?  We have done, we are doing something for
England.  England, glorious England, Mistress of the World as she
deserves to be.'  (He was going on to say something about
foreigners but remembered just in time that Madame's husband had
been a Frenchman and that Adam had married a German.)  'So here's
to Madame and here's to England and here's to the Herries family!
May they all three live, prosper, and help the world along the way
that it should go!'

What cheers, what enthusiasm, what excitement!  He had said exactly
what they were all longing for someone to say--the one thing needed
to make the day a perfect success!



Judith's granddaughter, Adam's daughter, little Vanessa Paris, aged
fifteen, sat between her mother and father and was so happily
excited that she found it difficult to keep still.  Some of the
ladies thought that it was not quite correct that she should be
there.  In 1874 the golden rule was that children should be seen
(at intervals) and never heard.  She was Madame's granddaughter and
it was proper that she should have been present at the moving
ceremony when the presentation was made to the old lady, but the
right thing then was for her mother to send her back to Cat Bells
where she lived.  Nevertheless Lady Herries agreed with Emily
Newmark that the child was tall for her age, was certainly pretty
in her blue dress, and behaved with decorum.  'It's only to be
hoped,' Lady Herries said with foreboding, 'that indulgence like
this won't spoil her.  But what can you expect?  Her mother's a
German.  Adam Paris can have no idea of how to bring up a child.  I
never allowed,' Lady Herries added, 'Ellis any liberties, and no
mother could wish for a more perfect son.'

Vanessa, of course, neither knew nor cared what anyone was saying.
She trusted the whole world and everything and everyone in it.  She
loved everybody and especially her mother, her father, her
grandmother, Aunt Jane Bellairs, Benjamin, Will Leathwaite (how she
wished that he was here and could see all that was going on!  She
was storing everything up to tell him when she was home again).

From where she sat she could watch everything that Benjamin did and
said.  For the rest she was sharply observant.  She noticed the
large and very hideous yellow brooch that Lady Herries wore on her
meagre bosom, the beautiful colour of Aunt Elizabeth's hair (many
of the ladies were her aunts, although not strictly so in
chronology), the way that fat Garth Herries swallowed his wine and
smacked his lips at intervals, the funny way that Aunt Jane (who
had just come down from upstairs and reported that Madame was doing
SPLENDIDLY--not the LEAST tired by all the fuss) made little
pellets of her bread, Aunt Amabel's suspicious manner of eating as
though she suspected poison in every mouthful, and the shy
frightened air of Ellis.  (She supposed that THAT was because his
mother was watching him!)

Of them all there were two who especially interested her.  One was
Benjamin, whom she loved with all her heart, and the other was a
lady whose name she did not know, whom she had never seen before,
who appeared to her the perfection of grace and beauty.

First Benjamin, whom she knew so well that he was like part of
herself.  She had loved him from the first moment of seeing him
when, himself between six and seven, and she somewhere about two,
he had made her first sticky and afterward sick with toffee that he
had made against orders at the kitchen fire.  Her first memory of
him was connected with disobedience; so she had known him ever
after, always against the law, always doing things of which she
shouldn't approve, but she kept sacred to the death every secret
confided to her.  She would never betray him; she would always love
him for ever and ever.  It was as simple as that.  She knew with
that intuitive quickness given to children that her mother did not
approve of him.  She knew more--that no one approved of him.  He
lived up at the Fortress with his mother, the lovely Elizabeth, and
his grandfather, old broken-down Sir Walter, and it was supposed
that Benjamin looked after the estate.  In a way, as Vanessa knew,
he did.  In his own way.  He would work like a saint and a hero for
a week, really work and with good solid common sense.  Then he
would have a mad spell, disappear for days to the sorrow and grief
of his mama.  He told Vanessa that he simply couldn't help it.
'Must breathe fresh air,' he said.  He never told anyone where he
went.  He was already, as Vanessa knew, 'suspect' by the Family.
He had been a failure at Rugby: there were stories of scandalous
doings in Town.  'He's going to be no good.'  'The makings of a
fine Rascal,' and, as always with the Herries family when speaking
of someone of whom they disapproved, their voices took on a sort of
ceremonial ring, a kind of chanting sound.  'But what can you
expect?  His grandfather shot himself, and his uncle murdered his
father.  What an inheritance!  And look at his other grandfather!--
up at the Fortress--what a life he's led!  Nothing better now than
an idiot!'

No, poor Benjie has no chance at all, they decide with
satisfaction.  Nevertheless they could not help but like him--when
they were with him.  Of course it was different when their backs
were turned.  But in his company it was difficult not to smile.  He
was so merry, so gay, always laughing.  So generous too.  'No one's
enemy but his own,' Barney Newmark, who liked him greatly, said--
and poor old Garth Herries, who had been no one's enemy but his own
to such an extent that he was a complete wreck and ruin, sighed
sadly in reply.

Vanessa was aware of much of this, although no one had ever told
her.  She was always hot in Benjie's defence, no matter what the
charge might be.  When someone accused him it was as though she
herself were accused; she was conscious at such times of a strange
pain in her heart--a feeling of tenderness, sympathy, and
apprehension.  Now, as she looked across the table at him, she knew
that he had no need of her sympathy.  He was at his very gayest.
He was not large--he would be rather a small man--but his shoulders
were broad, his head round, bullet-shaped, his colour red and brown
like a healthy pippin, his nose snub, his blue eyes bright and
sparkling.  If all the Herries were like horses, as someone had
said, then Benjie was like a racy little pony, ready for anything
and especially mischief.  'He's wild and, I'm sure, wicked.  In
fact I KNOW he's wicked,' Lady Herries said.  'And Ellis doesn't
like him at all.  But what can you expect with such a family
history?'  Then dropping her voice and looking into Emily Newmark's
eyes with that intimate confidence felt by one upright woman for
another:  'Women!  Of course--I hear that already . . .'

Nevertheless he was happy, he loved his beautiful mother, he feared
no man, he was generous, almost everything--even the tiniest things--
gave him pleasure.  What if he did find women enchanting, forgot
to pay his debts, possessed no sense of class at all so that a
tramp was exactly the same to him as a Herries, found it difficult
to work at a thing for more than a week at a time, took no thought
for the morrow, saw a joke in everything?--there he was, enjoying
life to the uttermost, which was more than could be said for some
of the other Herries seated round the table.

As to the very beautiful lady whom Vanessa so greatly admired, her
name was Rose Ormerod.



After the luncheon Vanessa flung her arms round her father and
kissed him.

'Happy, my darling?'

'Oh yes.  Oh yes, I've never been so happy--'

'That's right.  I didn't make much of a speech, did I, my pet?'

'Oh yes, Papa!  It was much better than the other one because you
were thinking of Grandmamma.'

'Thank you, darling.  So I was.  But I'm not good at speeches.
That's a fact.'  She laid her cheek against his.  Then,
remembering, straightened up.

'Papa, may I go for a walk with Benjie?  He's asked me to.'

Adam hesitated.  Then, taking her small white hand between his, he
said:

'All right.'

He could trust her with Benjamin.  And yet--

She clapped her hands and ran off, crying:  'Yes, Benjie, I can.
Papa says I can.'  She ran into Ellis Herries and looked up
laughing.  'I beg your pardon.'  She put her hand for a moment on
his sleeve.

His thin anxious face looked down at her.

'My fault, I'm sure.  It's--it's a nice day, isn't it?'

'Yes, it is.'  She stood there, waiting, but longing to get off to
Benjie.  It was good manners, though, if a gentleman wished to talk
to you, to wait while he did so.

Ellis Herries was tall, thin and pale.  She noticed that he had a
little brown mole in the middle of his left cheek.

'A very happy party we're having,' he said in his stiff anxious
voice.  He always spoke as though he were afraid that the words he
used would betray him, laugh at him behind his back, as it were.

'Oh, it IS nice!'  She smiled, felt that she had done her duty, and
ran off.

When they walked out on to the road they saw that they had but an
hour before dark.  Frost was sharpening the air.  They mounted
straight on to the moor and moved swiftly through a moth-grey world
where mountains were gigantic and the turf was crisping under their
feet.  The house stood behind them like a lighted ship.  The
candles were burning in every room.  Vanessa had sometimes to run
to keep up with Benjamin, but in any case she ran because she was
so happy, deeply excited and enchanted to be alone with him.  Soon
they slowed down, stood on a hillock and looked over to Scotland.

'There's Criffel,' he said, pointing.

'I can't see it,' Vanessa said.

'No, but it's there all the same.'  He took her hand.  'I approve
of you in that fine hat.  Where did you find the feather?'

'Mama bought the hat in Keswick.'

He stood close to her.

'You are almost as tall as I am, Vanessa.  You are going to be very
tall.'

'Papa says I am.  Will you never be taller, Benjie?'

'No, I hope not.  You see, it's very useful to be short.'

'Useful?'

'Yes--if there's a row you can crawl under tables or hide behind a
curtain or creep into the clock.  I remember once in London--'  He
stopped.

Vanessa's innocence must be protected.

'Oh, do tell me about London!'

'One day, when you've been there.  It wouldn't mean anything to you
if you don't know the places.'

They walked on.  They were both strong, sturdy, filled with health
and excitement.

Benjamin flung out his arms.

'Don't you love this country?  But of course you do.  We belong to
it.  There'll never be any other country for either of us.  Your
father once told me that when he was a boy he had a tutor called
Rackstraw who knew more about this country than anyone.  He said it
was all stones and clouds.  One stone wall running up a hill, one
sky with the clouds pouring over it, and you're happy.  It's so
old.  There are Romans' bones under your foot.  It's so strong--
Border fights and Picts and Scots.  It's so wide and smells so
good.  Don't you like the smell of dry bracken, of the trees, of
the stream water when you lie flat and drink it?  Which hill do you
like best?'

'Cat Bells,' said Vanessa promptly.

'Oh, I mean a real hill.  Skiddaw has wings, Saddleback's like a
shark, Gable is a helmet . . .'  He stopped suddenly, put his arms
round her and kissed her.  'Oh, Vanessa, I do love you!'

'And I love you,' she said, a little breathless.

'Will you marry me when you grow up?'

'Of course I will,' she said, laughing.

They walked on, more slowly, he keeping his arm around her.

'Well, you'd better not.  Everyone disapproves of me.'

'What does that matter?'

Her trust touched him most deeply.

'Would you marry me if your father and mother forbade it?'

That was an awful question.  She stopped to consider it.

'Yes,' she said.

'Oh, you darling!  But I won't allow you to marry me.  Ask anyone.
No woman ought to marry me.  I couldn't be faithful.'

'You would be,' said Vanessa, 'if we had children.'

'Will you like to have children?' he asked her, wondering what she
would say.

'Of course.  But you can't help it.  God brings you a baby.  You
wake up in the morning and find it lying there beside you.  That
must be wonderful.  Mama says that God knows just when you want
one.'

'So you believe in God?'

Vanessa laughed.  'Why, of course.  What a silly question, Benjie!
Everybody does.'

'Everybody doesn't--'  He pulled up.  He must not disturb her.

'Of course everyone does!' she answered indignantly.  'Why, who
made everything if God didn't?  God's everywhere.  Will Leathwaite
says that when he has been swearing too much God gives him the
rheumatism just to remind him.'

Benjie thought some other topic wiser.

'Well--but if I was in disgrace with everyone, had done something
shameful and no one would speak to me, would you still marry me?'

'Of course I would.'

'But if you yourself thought it shameful?'

'I shouldn't think anything YOU did shameful,' she answered.

'If I killed someone as my uncle killed my father?'

She stood, puzzled, staring into the grey cold landscape.

'Yes,' she said, nodding her head.  'I would know why you did it.
There would be some reason that I should understand.'

He caught her hands in his.

'Will you promise me that whatever happens you will always stand by
me?'

'Yes, I promise.'

'Always and for ever?'

'Yes.'

'Whatever I did?'

'Yes.'

'I'll remind you of that one day.'  He turned round.  'Now we'll go
back to all the cats and monkeys,' he said.

They were both quiet returning.  They had to go arm in arm, very
close together, because it was growing dark.  For a brief while
there was a faint orange glow over Skiddaw like the reflection of a
distant fire; the air grew with every moment more frosty.

Once as they were nearing the house he said:

'Don't you hate Ellis?  I do.  AND his old pig of a mother.'

In the hall, standing for a moment to accustom herself to the
lights and splendour after the half-dark, Vanessa found her father.
He had been standing there, waiting for her, hearing the voices and
laughter all over the house, the distant click of billiard balls,
someone singing to the piano sentimental songs like Drink to me
only and My hero, my Troubadour, Elizabeth coming back from the
Fortress where she had deposited poor old Walter, quite in pieces.
She had put him to bed.  He had fallen almost at once to sleep; all
he had said, she told Adam, just before he went off to sleep, was:
'Wake me when Uhland comes in.' Very touching, but, as she said, a
comfort for him to think that Uhland was still alive.  Sometimes,
Elizabeth confessed, she thought that he was and she could hear the
tap-tap of his lame leg mounting to his tower . . .  Then along the
passage from the kitchen came bursting Barney Newmark and Garth and
Timothy, stout, noisy, and triumphant.  Why triumphant?  Had they
been kissing the maids?  But the Herries men got like that very
easily if things were going well and there were no ghosts about.

In the middle of all this Adam waited anxiously for his little
daughter.  His wife, Margaret, was sitting in the parlour trying to
be on terms with Lady Herries and that fascinating Rose Ormerod
from Harrogate (she wasn't beautiful, Adam decided--not to be
compared with Elizabeth or Veronica--her nose was a little crooked,
she had a faint, a very faint moustache on her upper lip.  It was
her colour, dark, black, crimson, like a gipsy: and then she was
silent--she spoke very rarely, only smiled and used her eyes).
Poor Margaret would not be happy in there; he knew how anxious SHE
was about Vanessa!  When he told her that the child had gone for a
walk with Benjamin she gave a little cry of dismay.

'Oh, Adam!  You should not have allowed her!'

'Pooh, my dear!  Benjamin's safe!'

'No, he isn't!  You know he isn't!  And Vanessa's growing!'

'She is only fifteen.'

He had calmed her a little, but his own fears had increased.  What
was he to do about this?  He knew that Vanessa loved Benjamin with
all the fire, loyalty, ignorance of an adoring child.  Benjamin's
reputation was bad, very bad.  And yet he liked him.  He could not
help it.  He had always had a weakness for sinners . . .  But
Benjamin and his own child!  No, no!

As the darkness strengthened about the house his alarm grew.  He
was about to get his coat and go after them when in they came,
Vanessa glowing with colour, her eyes shining, her body so alive
that it could not keep still.

He told her that she was to come up and say goodnight to her
grandmother.

'We must not stay for more than a moment.  She is in bed and tired,
of course, after such a fatiguing day.  It's something to be a
hundred, you know!'

Vanessa was at once subdued and still.  She lived so entirely, at
present, in her interest in other people that, in a moment, she
became what they wanted her to be.  That is if she loved them.  She
was quite otherwise, it is to be feared, with one or two--Aunt
Amabel, for instance, whom she couldn't abide, and Timothy's
fiance, who had aggravated her by talking to her in baby language.

Judith's bedroom seemed now a mysterious place, quite different
from the bright sunlit room of the morning, crowded with happy
faces, and the old lady sitting so erect in her chair, smiling as
they brought her their presents.

The curtains were drawn now, the room dark save for the fire and
the dim lamplight beside the bed.  That old four-poster with its
dark hangings appeared like a little room in itself.  Aunt Jane was
moving softly about.  When Adam and Vanessa appeared in the doorway
she put her fingers to her lips.

She went over to the bed, leant over.

'Aunt Judith!  Aunt Judith!'

'Yes, my dear,' said a very lively voice.  'What is it?'

'Adam and Vanessa are here to say goodnight.'

'Turn up the lamp.'  Judith sat up, put out her hand for her
spectacles, and, her eyes as sharp behind them as a bird's, said:
'That's right.  Very kind of you, Adam.  Come over here, my dears.'

They crossed the room, and Jane put the crimson armchair for Adam.
Vanessa stood close to him, her hand on his shoulder.

The old lady seemed a little breathless.  She was wearing a cap as
white as snow with the sun on it, and over her shoulders Jane laid
a thick white cashmere shawl.  Her little face was drawn and lined,
waxen in the lamplight.  It was her eyes and hands that were alive,
and her enchanting, humorous, slightly ironical smile.

'So I'm a hundred at last!' she said with a sigh of satisfaction.
'That's something, Adam, isn't it?'

'Indeed it is, Mother.'

'Yes, and a VERY nice day it's been.'

'You're not tired?'

'Well--a little.  Yes, a little tired.  My heart'--she put her hand
to her breast--'jumps.  There's nothing odd about that though.
It's been jumping for a hundred years.  It was never so steady as
it ought to be.'

Vanessa smiled.

'Have you had a happy day, my darling?'  She put her hand out and
took Vanessa's.  How hot and dry it was, Vanessa thought--burning
bones under parchment, and at the touch of it the child had a
moment's realization of what it was to be old, to be a hundred
years old, to be burnt up with life and all the things that you had
seen and done!

'It was nice,' Judith said, 'poor old Walter coming.  Very nice.
He's sadly broken up, I'm afraid.  Sadly aged.'  She spoke with
tenderness, satisfaction, and triumph.  She had beaten Walter at
last.  She was older than he and yet here she was as lively as you
like and he a poor old man who had to be led about, weak in the
head, uncertain where he was!

Yet she herself was suddenly weary.  She lay back on her pillow,
her spectacles falling to the edge of her nose.

'I hope everyone is happy,' she murmured.

'Very happy, Mother dearest,' Adam answered, catching a command
from Jane's watchful eye.  'You must go to sleep now.  You will be
fresh as anything tomorrow.'

'Yes, dear,' Judith murmured.

Vanessa bent forward and kissed her.  Then Adam, moved by the
deepest emotion, tears rising to his eyes, kissed her, felt her
hand lift for a moment and touch his cheek in the old familiar way.

Before they had stolen from the room she was, it seemed, asleep.



The first Ball of Vanessa's life!

Was Ball too grand a word to give to it?  There was for orchestra
Mrs Blader from Troutbeck at the piano; Mr Murdy of Keswick,
violin; old Mr Bayliss of Keswick, 'cello.  There was perhaps in
all thirty couples, and the dining-room, cleared, within the hour
following dinner, miraculously of its table and chairs, had a
perfect floor.  It had often been tested.  The room looked lovely,
Vanessa thought, with the gleaming, glittering candelabra, the
candles in their silver candlesticks, the coloured paper streamers
slung from corner to corner against the ceiling.  It was colours
everywhere, dresses--pink, white, blue, orange--billowing and
surging as the dancers moved, necks and shoulders bare, jewels
sparkling; almost everyone to Vanessa seemed beautiful--even old
Lady Herries, although she was absurdly painted and had a neck like
a writhing chicken, had diamonds in her hair that must, Vanessa
thought, be worth a fortune.

Three of the women were beautiful beyond compare--Elizabeth Herries
who was fifty-nine years of age but had the arms and shoulders of a
girl; and Veronica, now proudly Mrs Forster, 'a queen of a woman,
by Gad,' Will Herries murmured somewhat unwisely to his wife, who
was a good woman but no beauty.  The third was Ruth Cards, who went
shortly after this to live in the wilds of Northumberland and but
seldom left them.

At first Vanessa had felt a devastating shyness.  At dinner she had
been very quiet.  She was wearing her first grand evening dress and
only she and her mother knew what consultations there had been with
Miss Kew of Keswick, how often they had paid visits to Miss Kew's
stuffy little room near St John's, how important it had been that
it should be HALF grown-up--Miss Kew had been alarmed: girls of
fifteen did not go to Balls, but then of course this was a family
affair, a little different . . . nevertheless, as Miss Kew confided
to her brother, Mrs Paris was a German woman--'Such things might be
well in Germany' just as though she had said Shanghai!

So they had planned between them something very original, the neck
and shoulders bare--'Miss Vanessa has such beautiful shoulders'--
the skirt full, but not TOO full.  A pale pink silk and round her
slender neck her only piece of jewellery, a necklace of crystal
beads that her father had brought her from London.

At dinner she was certain that they must ALL be saying:  'And what
is THIS child doing here?'  All day she had been so happy that she
had not given herself a thought, but at dinner Garth Herries had
been on the one side of her and Ellis on the other.

Rose Ormerod was Garth's other companion and very quickly he
surrendered to her as apparently all men did.  He did not speak to
Vanessa once.  And Ellis!  Well, Ellis was very strange.  He stared
at her in the oddest way.  He spoke to her confusedly as though he
were afraid of her.  He said:  'I hope you are enjoying yourself,'
and then later:  'I do hope, most sincerely, that you are enjoying
yourself.'  He made her embarrassed.  It was he perhaps who made
her self-conscious.  He looked at her shoulders and hands, and once
he said, in a strangled fashion as though food were choking him 'I
hope you will give me a dance.'  Very bravely she asked him once
whether he liked to live in London.  'Oh yes, indeed yes.  Very
pleasant.  Lived there all my life, you know.'

She coloured; she felt that it had been a very silly question; she
looked about her to find her father, but he was sitting on the same
side of the table as herself.

Then, at first, no one asked her to dance.  She sat on a little
sofa with her mother, feeling that everyone must be looking at her
bare shoulders, not very far, if the truth must be known, from
tears.  It had been a lovely day, but she had no right to be here.
She thought that, in a little while, she would whisper something to
her mother and slip away to bed . . .

It was Benjie who came to her rescue.  The most beautiful waltz had
just begun and he charged down upon them, had her on her feet
before she knew, and then they were lost in Paradise.

She was a lovely dancer.  She had danced all her life, danced up
and down the parlour at Cat Bells while her father whistled the
tunes, danced by the Lake in Manesty, danced in the kitchen with
Will, had had dancing lessons in Keswick at Mr Kew's (brother to
Miss Kew) dancing class.  She was a dancer by all the light of her
nature.

'That child dances well,' said Lady Herries to Rose Ormerod.  'Very
pretty.'

'That child will be a beautiful woman,' said Miss Ormerod.  The two
were passing them at the moment.  Miss Ormerod's intense gaze
followed them round the room.  In a second of time Vanessa's misery
had been changed to timeless, priceless delight.  They did not
speak.  Benjamin also loved dancing.  He knew at once whether his
partner was worthy of him.  Already many a young woman had found
herself, after a round or two, sitting to her own surprise on the
sofa, and Benjie beside her, charming but static.

'You dance better than anyone else in the room, Vanessa.'

'Oh, do I?' Vanessa whispered.  'Oh, Benjie, do I really?'

He did not tell her that he had said that to many a partner in the
past.  He knew that he would say it to thousands in the future.
But tonight he meant every word of it.  When the dance was over and
they were sitting on the stairs she confided to him how unhappy she
had been at dinner.

'You will often be unhappy again,' he instructed her.  'Everyone is
so.  Dinners are the devil.  You never know whom you will get.
It's a game, you see, Vanessa, and the worse ninny you have beside
you the better the game is.  Flatter them.  That's the way.
Everyone likes to be flattered.  You can't put it on too thick.
And do it as though you meant it.  Then you'll discover you DO mean
it, for the moment anyway.'

'What do you flatter them about?' she asked.

'Oh, you'll soon discover their weak point.  Everyone has them.
Ask them first what they like best--games or travelling or adding
up sums in a stuffy office as Ellis does.  After that, all you've
got to do is listen.  Nobody wants you to do anything but listen,
no men anyway.  Women are different.  They like you to tell them
that they are beautiful or clever.  And why shouldn't they?  We all
get enough of the other thing.  Parties are meant to cheer you up
and make you feel for a moment that all the things the people who
know you best think about you aren't true.'

'Well,' said Vanessa, 'whatever happens now it won't matter.  I've
had one lovely dance.'

But she need not have been afraid.  Soon Amery came to ask her,
then Will Herries, then young Richard Cards, then Carey Rockage
and, at last, Ellis.

She gave them all places on her flowery programme.  She swung round
the room in an ecstasy.  'Isn't this lovely?' she murmured to
Amery.

Amery, who was anxious about his brother Garth, now rather drunk
and quarrelsome in the parlour, answered at first absent-mindedly,
then realized that he was moving with a grace and charm that he
hadn't known for years.  'By Gad,' he thought, 'I'm more of a
dancer than I knew I was,' and wondered whether if he had been more
gay in his past and his brother less gay, it wouldn't have been
better for both of them!  'Poor Sylvia!' he thought, seeing Garth's
wife, painted, raddled, and weary as she bumped round with Rockage,
who was no dancer.  'She's had a rotten life!'  He was suddenly
charitable to everyone.  This charming child, light as a fairy--by
Jove, she was bewitching!  Why had he known nothing like this?  He
had married late, and it hadn't lasted long.  There had been others
of course--Doris, whom he had had to keep so long after he was
tired of her, and Alice Mason, who'd smashed all his china one
night in a fit of temper, and the Frenchwoman, Marguerite Calvin,
whose father's debts he had paid.  Had he had much in return?  No,
not very much.  As he felt Vanessa's hand on his arm he sighed.
What was the use?  He would be just the same tomorrow.

Vanessa, to her own great amusement, began at once to put Benjie's
advice into practice with all these gentlemen.  It worked like a
miracle.  Amery talked to her about money, horses, and the Family.
Will Herries talked to her about the Navy, the sea, the West
Indies, Glebeshire, dogs, Polchester, the sea, the Family.  Young
Richard (whom she liked greatly) talked about books (Middlemarch,
Mrs Browning, Hawley Smart), gardening, riding, and the Family, and
Carey talked about the place in Wiltshire, the weather, the
weather, the weather, the place in Wiltshire, and the Family.  She
found that they soon forgot that they were talking to a child.  She
found that they all wanted comforting, consoling, reassuring, and
so learnt one very useful never-to-be-forgotten lesson about Men.
She discovered, too that all of them, except young Richard, felt
that in one way or another an injustice had been done.  They hadn't
had fair treatment.  Someone was to blame.  Carey Rockage in
especial was like a blinded bewildered animal whom unseen
persecutors were prodding with pitchforks.

'Oh, I  AM so sorry!' she found herself saying over and over again.

And Ellis?  Ellis was another matter.  She had noticed that he
watched her.  Often, feeling that someone's eye was upon her, she
saw that it was his.  When their dance came it was 'Sir Roger', and
he asked her whether she would mind sitting with him instead.  She
DID mind because she loved 'Sir Roger' and something in her was
afraid of a long talk with Ellis, but she followed him meekly out
into the hall and to a top corner of the stairs.

Here the sounds of the music were very dim, the house was still,
and she thought of her darling grandmother, not far away, deep in
sleep.  It was as though for a moment something drew her into that
bedroom.  She stood there, looking at the dim light by the bed.

'Are you asleep, Grandmamma?' she seemed to say.

'Yes, dear.  I'm sleeping beautifully,' the answer came.  She put
her hand on Ellis' thin arm.  'Did you hear anything?  Anyone
call?'

'No,' he said.

There seemed to her a sound of light steps along the passage above
them.  Then she was compelled to give all her attention to Ellis.
He forced her to do so.  She did not know how old he was (he was in
fact close on thirty-two), but he seemed to her both very old and
very young.

He was unhappy, she was sure, and, like her grandmother, she could
not bear that anyone should be unhappy.  So, wanting to console
him, she felt older than he.  He was not exactly plain; he was
distinguished in his thin, pale, quiet way; very serious; he
scarcely ever smiled.  But when he did his smile was rather
beautiful.  It lit up his thin face and his colourless eyes.  It
was as though he were pleading to be liked.  He wants feeding up,
she thought.  His eyes were sometimes a little mad.

For a while he could do nothing but stammer out disconnected
sentences.  Then, following Benjie's advice, she asked him
questions, about London, the City, theatres, and what he did in his
spare time.

'I haven't any spare time,' he assured her.  'You see, my father
had so many affairs in the City, and it all devolves upon me.  I
like it, you know.  The City is a very agreeable place, it is
indeed.  Yes.'  Then he said, staring at her with all his eyes:
'You must come one day, Cousin Vanessa, and stay with my mother and
myself in Hill Street.'

'Thank you,' she said.  'I should love to go to London.  I have
never been to a theatre or a circus, and oh! how I should like to
see the Queen!'

'The Queen is very much in retirement,' he said solemnly, as though
he kept her in his pocket, 'but the Prince of Wales and the
Princess are often to be seen driving.'

Then there was another awkward pause, until he broke out:

'I do hope you will come, Cousin Vanessa.  Our house is not very
gay, but if you came it would be--'  He choked in his throat.
'Will you, please, not forget me?  Will you think of me sometimes?'

'Of course I will think of you, Cousin Ellis,' she answered,
laughing because she felt, for some strange reason, uncomfortable.

'Will you indeed?  That will make me very happy . . .  I have not
many friends,' he added.  'My own fault of course.  I am shy.  You
may not have guessed it, but I am very shy indeed.'

She certainly HAD guessed it--not only was he shy but he made
others who were with him shy too.  Then the music, to her relief,
began again.

'Oh, we must go!' she cried, jumping up.

'You promise to think of me?' he asked again urgently.  'I shall
think of you often--very often indeed.'

When she was with them all again she sat for a while among the
ladies and was aware of something that she had never thought of
before (she was making so many discoveries tonight!), namely, that
this family to which she belonged contained the real benefactors of
the human race.  Dorothy Bellairs, Veronica, Emily Newmark, even
Sylvia Herries--they were all the same!  If it were not for them
the Poor, the Unprotected, almost everyone in fact who wasn't
Herries, would perish.  Vanessa had a strange picture of all the
cottage women of England seeing through their window the arrival in
a carriage and pair of Dorothy, Veronica, Emily, Sylvia.  These
ladies were armed magnificently against the cold, their hands were
in muffs, the high collars of their coats reached to their bonnets.
Majestically they moved down the cottage path, John, James, William
following behind with basket on arm.  Then the cottage woman
hastens, straightens her apron, puts the children in their places,
arranges grandfather by the fire, hurries to the door.

'Good afternoon, my lady.'

'Oh, good afternoon, Mrs Cottage Woman.  How are you this
afternoon?'  The seat of the chair is dusted, even the cottage
clock, the cottage cat, the cottage table are deferential.  Glory
has descended upon the cottage woman!

Vanessa had never thought of this before.  The life that they
enjoyed at Cat Bells was so very different; she had never had on
every side of her so many Herries women.  She had never, never
realized that were it not for the Ladies of England the Poorer
Classes would fade away.  She had never known that there WERE any
Poorer Classes.

Even Veronica!  Beautiful, lovely Aunt Veronica!

'Oh, well, I told her . . . that if she didn't drink the soup . . .
WOULD give it to her worthless old father . . .'

And Rockage's wife:  'They complained about the drains, but Carey
explained to them . . .'

She turned it all over in her mind while she was dancing with young
Richard.

Afterwards, when they were talking, she asked him:

'Are you glad you're partly a Henries?'

'Glad?' he said, turning round and smiling.

'Yes.  Is it better being a Henries than being a Jones or Smith?'

(While she spoke she thought:  What IS happening to me?  I've never
thought of these things before.)

'Well, don'tcherknow,' said Richard slowly, 'there IS something
fine in being one of the oldest families--'

'But ARE we one of the oldest?  I mean, aren't the Jones and the
Smiths just as old really?'

'I suppose they are.  It's being English that counts.'

'Is it better to be English than German or French?'

Richard, who had no notion that Vanessa's mother was a German,
answered with no hesitation at all:

'By Gad, yes--I should jolly well think it is.'  So that settled
it.

As the evening went on she was aware that she had seen but little
of Benjamin.  She went to look for him and found him in the
billiard room dancing solemnly up and down with Barney Newmark,
both of them swaying a little as they moved.

Vanessa--quite suddenly a child again--stood hesitating in the
doorway, and Benjamin, looking up, saw two Vanessas, both lovely,
both darlings, both the beloved of his heart.  But he was never so
much a gentleman as when he had drunk too much, so he disengaged
himself from Barney and gave a courtly bow.

'Sit down, Vanessa, and I will fetch you some lemonade.'

She stood there, bitterly disappointed.  She had often seen
gentlemen who drank too much, but never Benjamin.  She saw that his
hair was ruffled, his eyes shining, and that he swayed on his feet,
but she knew also that she loved him as dearly as ever, that her
impulse was to go to him, smooth his hair, straighten his tie . . .

'No, thank you,' she said.

He came up to her and took her hand.  He saw that she was
frightened.

'Come and we'll dance, Vanessa,' he said.

'I am afraid that this one is engaged,' she answered, looking over
his shoulder at Barney Newmark, who was gently singing to himself.
She hurried away, leaving Benjamin staring after her.

In the dining-room again she danced once more with Amery and soon
she was happy.  How could she help it?  Everyone was so happy
around her.  The musicians played like mad, the candles shone like
stars, the noise filled the room so that it was like a paper bag on
the point of bursting.  The waltz was a lovely tune.  They began to
sing to it.  The 'Blue Danube'.  Oh! the 'Blue Danube'!  How
lovely!  One was not on earth but swinging, swaying in an azure
heaven, limitless, lit with radiance.  The wide, full dresses
eddied and billowed, the naked shoulders and arms were gleaming,
there was that gentle undertone of music rocking, rocking . . .

Wait!  What's the matter?  The music had stopped!  With a surge the
room has reasserted itself, the candles have lost their radiance,
everyone is silent, standing looking . . .

Vanessa, near to the door, saw that Aunt Jane, white-faced,
shaking, Rockage's arm around her, was speaking.  Amery turned to
the child.

'How sad!  How tragic!  Madame! . . . dead!'  Then realizing that
it was Vanessa:  'Your grandmother . . .'

The silence that followed was so strange.  Life had fled from the
house.

'Yes, in her sleep . . .  Jane went up five minutes ago . . .
Quite quietly . . . in her sleep . . .  They have sent for Doctor
Bettany.'

As they stared, conscious, every one of them, of the precariousness
of this moment of existence, of the folly of their pretences of
safety, thinking at the same time of the figure of the morning, so
upright, so grand in her pleasure and happiness, all this only a
moment ago, they themselves, perhaps, before the morning . . .

But she was A Hundred!  She had reached her Hundred!  Nothing could
deprive her of that.  A great age.  Best of all to go quietly in
your sleep . . .  A wonderful woman!

But beyond the windows the snow has begun to fall.  Are there
figures there on the frosty road?  Old Herries, with the scar on
his cheek, upright on his horse as when, so many years ago, he had
ridden up to that same gate to tell his son that his wife had run
away; stout David, young again, riding on the wind to his beloved
hills; Georges, waiting now for Judith who had been in spite of his
many infidelities, his only love; Charlie Watson waiting too, after
so long an uncomplaining patience; poor Warren with that one hour
of happiness to remember--and for those silent motionless watchers
was there a sudden opening of the gates, a running out of a little
figure, happy, daring, triumphant, a moment's stare up and down the
road, and then a cry?

'Georges!  Georges! . . .  Charlie!  Warren! . . .  Father!'



Vanessa felt an arm around her as Adam drew her away with him,
murmuring:

'Don't cry, my darling.  It was the happiest way.  Quietly--without
any fuss--while we were all dancing.'



FOUNTAIN AT THE ROADSIDE


Walter Herries died in April 1880.

For the last five years of his life he was unaware of all that was
happening in the world and perfectly happy.  His daughter Elizabeth
nursed him with infinite kindness and care and he was an infant in
her hands.  The Fortress, during those years, was a very quiet
place.  Benjamin, Elizabeth's son, managed the estate, which was
not now large in extent--two farms and a cottage or two in Lower
Ireby were the full extent of it.

He managed it, that is to say, when he was there.  For much of that
period he was away; he visited the East, was said to have left his
young mark on Shanghai and to have invaded the sanctities of Indian
temples, to have assisted pirates in the South Seas and to have
been knifed within an inch of his life in Sarawak: it was whispered
even that he had five Chinese wives, numberless Asiatic concubines.
He returned, however, looking very much as he went--brown, stubby,
solid, cheerful, and without a conscience.  'I care for nobody, no,
not I, and nobody cares for me' was said, by all his friends and
relations, to be his daily song.

He did, however, care for his mother, and after his third return in
'79 swore that he would settle down and become the Cumberland
squire.  He loved Cumberland with passion and he had a good head on
his shoulders, so that, for a while, he was successful.  Everyone
liked him; for a brief time it seemed that he might be the most
popular man in Cumberland.  But soon stories were everywhere.  He
could not, it appeared, see a woman without kissing her, could not
tell the truth (was it possible that his acquaintances had no
humour?), had no social sense at all, so that he invited farmers'
wives to meet Mrs Osmaston and took a shepherd with him to supper
at Uldale.  He was also, it was said, an atheist and openly
defended Bradlaugh.  He visited London frequently and never
returned thence without a scandal hanging to his tail.  It was said
that the lowest ground in that city was HIS ground, that he drank,
gambled, spent a fortune over horses and cheeked his relations.
How many of these stories came from Hill Street, from old Lady
Herries and her son Ellis, who both hated him, no one could say,
but certain it was that he was himself responsible for many of them
because he never denied anything and never admitted anything,
cherished no grudges, accused no one and told anyone who asked him
that yes, it must be true if everyone said so; he had no morals, he
supposed; he would like to have some; they must be useful things,
but he simply didn't know where they were to be found.

On the other hand everyone was forced to admit that, as he grew
older, he did not look dissipated.  His colour was of the
healthiest, his body of the toughest, his eyes bright and glowing.
When he bathed in the Lake or a mountain stream in the summer with
young Osmaston or Timothy Bellairs or Robert Forster it could be
seen that his limbs were brown and supple as though he lived for
ever in the open air.  He was never drunk now as many of his
neighbours were; smutty stories never appealed to him in the least,
and if girls were the worse for his friendliness nobody knew of it
for a fact.  It was said that he walked vast distances over the
hills and alone.  Nobody ever saw him out of spirits or out of
temper.  He was generous to a fault.  With all this nobody really
knew him and nobody trusted him.  'He's a rascal,' said the Herries
in London, in Bournemouth, in Harrogate, in Manchester, in
Carlisle, 'and he'll come to no good.'  In fact they longed, many
of them, that he SHOULD come to no good as quickly as possible.

His only friends among his relations were Aunt Jane at Uldale, Adam
Paris and his daughter Vanessa, Barney Newmark, and Rose Ormerod at
Harrogate, who always said she'd marry him tomorrow if he asked
her.

His one saving grace, they all said, was that he loved his mother--
loved her, they added, quite selfishly because he left her whenever
he pleased and for months she had not a line from him.  It was not
hard, they added, for him to love his mother, for she was the
sweetest and gentlest of ladies and gave him everything that he
wanted.

It was also added that he possessed that strange and mysterious
quality known as 'charm'--which meant that when you were with him
you could not help but like him and that, as soon as his back was
turned, you wondered whether he had meant a word that he said.

He happened to be at home when his grandfather died.  Walter was
sleeping late on a spring afternoon, and his room was bathed in
sunshine.  Wrapped in a padded crimson dressing-gown, his long
white hair falling over his face as he slept, he seemed a bundle of
clothes topped by a wig.  Then he looked up, blinked at the
sunlight, called for his son Uhland, saw him come slowly tap-
tapping with his stick across the floor to him, grinned joyfully at
the long-expected sight, and died--or, if you prefer it, went from
the room, leaning on his son's arm, happy as he had not been for
many a day.

That night, when the old man had been decently laid out on the four-
poster in the room upstairs, Elizabeth and her son sat in the
little parlour off the hall and talked.  The evening was very warm
and a window was open.  The trees faintly rustled; there came the
occasional late fluting of a bird; the scent of early spring
flowers, dim and cool with the night, hung about the room.

Benjamin sat opposite his mother, his legs stretched wide, and
thought how beautiful she still was, how dearly he loved her, how
selfish and restless he was, how quiet and unselfish was she!
Elizabeth's beauty had always been shy, delicately coloured,
fragile.  She was a Herries only in her strength of will and a
certain opposition to new ideas.  She had never cared for ideas but
always for persons--and then for very few persons.  As she looked
across at her son she thought:  'He is all that I have left.  I
know that he loves me and I know that I have no power over him.'
Then she raised her hand ever so slightly as though she were
touching someone who bent above her chair.  John Herries, her
husband, had been dead for more than twenty years to everyone but
herself.  It was not sentiment nor vague superstition nor longing
that made her aware that he was always alive at her side.  It was
plain fact--and as it was her own concern, her own experience, it
was of no importance that others should say that this was absurd,
or weak, or against facts.  She worried no one else about the
matter, not even her son.

Benjamin loved her so dearly that evening, thought she looked so
lovely in her full black dress, felt so intensely how lonely she
would be, that he was ready to do anything for her--except
sacrifice anything that threatened his liberty.  Everything
threatened his liberty.

'So your long service is over, Mother.  How wonderful you were to
him!  Everyone marvelled at it.  I'm terribly proud of you.'

She looked at him, smiled (and with perhaps a touch of affectionate
irony):

'And now, Benjie, I suppose you'll go away again?'

'Oh no, Mother.  Of course not!  Leave you now!'

'Well, perhaps not just now--but soon.  Jane is coming to stay
later.  And Vanessa.  Vanessa is coming tomorrow for a week.'

He looked up sharply.

'Vanessa!'

'Yes.  You didn't know that she was here this evening?  It was
quite by chance.  She had ridden over to Uldale.  She had stayed
the night with the Grigsbys.  She came up to ask how everyone was.
I told her the news, and like the darling she is she said that she
would come tomorrow.  Adam is away at Kendal, so it suits very
well.'

'Oh, I'm glad!'  He drummed his heels into the carpet.

'You know, of course, that she loves you?'

'And I love her.'

Elizabeth smiled.  'You say that very easily, Benjie.'

'Well, you know how it is.'  He got up and stood in front of the
fireplace.  'We've loved one another all our lives.  Whatever else
happens she always comes first.  There's no one in the world to put
beside her.  But she's too fine for me to marry her.  You know she
is.  No one knows it better than you do.'

He came and sat at her feet, his hand resting on her knee.

'How too fine?'

'You know what everyone says of me; that I'm no good, that I spoil
everything I touch--a rascal, a vagabond, all the rest.  And it's
true, I suppose.  I'm no man to marry anyone.'

She stroked his hair gently.

'Is it true what they say?'

'You know me better than anyone else, Mother--or rather you and
Vanessa do.  I don't think about myself.  I take myself as I am.
But I know that I can't stick--to anyone or anything.  It grows
worse as I'm older.  I want to do a thing--and I do it!'

'Is there any harm in that--if you don't do bad things?'

'But perhaps I do--things that you call bad.  I can't tell.  I
don't think that I know the difference between right and wrong.  Or
rather my ideas of right and wrong are different from other
people's.  I'm too interested in everything to stop and think.  I
think when it's too late.'

He laughed and looked up into her face.

'I'm a bad lot--but I love you and Vanessa with all my heart.'

'Yes--but not enough to do things for us?'

'Anything you like.  Tell me to fetch you something from Peking now
and I'll go and get it.  But I can't be tied, I can't be told what
to do, I can't be preached at by anybody.'

'Perhaps,' Elizabeth said quietly, 'if you married Vanessa that
would steady you.'

He shook his head vehemently.

'Vanessa is so good and so fine.  She isn't strait-laced.  She's
wise and tolerant, but she's high-minded.  She believes in God, you
know, Mother.'

'And don't you?'

'You know that I don't.  Not as she does.  Not as she does.  I may
be wrong.  I dare say I am.  But I MUST be honest.  I don't SEE
things that way.  I'm ignorant.  I don't know any more than the
next fellow and I want the next fellow to believe as he sees, but I
must be allowed to see for myself.  I can't SEE God anywhere.  The
things that people believe are fine for them but nonsense to me.
To me as I am now.  I've got all my life in front of me and
everything to learn.  God may be proved to me yet.  I hope He will
be.'

'Proved!'  Elizabeth laid her cheek for a moment against his, 'God
can't be proved, Benjie.  He must be felt.'

'Yes, I suppose so.  That may come to me one day.  Meanwhile--a
heathen and a vagabond can't marry Vanessa.'

She thought for a little and then said:  'Have you talked of these
things to Vanessa?'

'No.  I don't want to hurt her.'

'I don't think you would hurt her.  She's very wise and very
tolerant She doesn't want everyone's experience to be hers.  Her
father isn't religious in her way, but she understands him
perfectly.  So she may you.'

'Oh, she understands me, as much as she knows of me.  But I know
things about myself that I'd be ashamed for her to know.  I'm not
ashamed of MYSELF, Mother.  I'd like to be different--settled,
noble, unselfish.  Or would I?  I can't tell.  I'm not proud of
myself, but I'm not ASHAMED of myself either.  I'm simply what I
am.  All the same I don't see why I should burden someone else with
the care of me.  That at least I can do.  Save others from
troubling about me.'

'Yes,' said Elizabeth.  'But if someone loves you they want to
trouble.  They can't help but trouble.'

He flung his arms around her and kissed her.

'Funny I should be your son.  The luck's all with me.'



Next day Vanessa came.  She was now nearly twenty-one years of age.
Her beauty had a quality of surprise in it.  She was tall and
slender.  Her face was young for her age, much younger than her
carriage, which was mature and controlled.  She moved with such
grace that you thought, as you watched her, that she was fully
assured.  Then when you saw her eyes and mouth, her perpetual
gaiety, the sudden change of mood, the constant excitement, her
stirred animation, you felt that life had not yet touched her.  She
was like her father in sweetness of expression but unlike him in
her alertness, so that she seemed to miss nothing that went on
around her.  She was immensely kind, but could be sharp and
irritated by slowness and stupidity and most of all by any
pomposity or show of self-conceit.  That is, except in the case of
those whom she loved, when she simply could not criticize.  For
example, she loved Timothy Bellairs at Uldale and he WAS a trifle
pompous.

Her hair was very dark but her colouring rather pale, unless she
were excited by something.  She blushed very easily, which
exasperated her.  When she moved she was like a queen, but often
when she talked or joined with others in a game or a sport she was
childish and impetuous.  She was intensely loyal, obstinate,
forgiving, so warm-hearted that her father often feared for her,
but of late she had been learning many things about human nature.
She was no fool where people were concerned.

Her mother had died in the autumn of '77 and since then she had
lived with her father and Will on Cat Bells.  They had been always
devoted friends, she and her father, but now, after losing both his
mother and his wife, Adam seemed to turn to Vanessa with an urgency
that had something almost desperate about it.  He remained always
humorous, kindly, a little cynical, half in his fairy stories (he
tried his hand at a number of things--books for boys, biographies
of Nelson and Walter Raleigh, even two novels, but they were all
fairy stories), half in the wild, loose, stormy Cumberland life
that was in his blood and bones.  Everyone liked him, nobody knew
him.  Many people laughed at him in an easy generous fashion.
Vanessa alone understood him.  She understood him because she had
(although as yet she did not realize it) very much of her
grandmother's character.  Adam, of course, knew that.  He saw his
mother in his daughter again and again: her kindness, generosity,
sudden flashes of temper and irritation and a constant exasperation
at belonging to the Herries family.

'We don't belong, my dear,' he said one day.

'We belong enough,' she answered in a flash of prophetic
perception, 'to have to fight them for the rest of our lives.'

Another thing.  He knew that Vanessa loved Benjamin.  It made Adam
unhappy whenever he thought of it.  He was himself fond of Benjie,
but oh! he did not want him to marry Vanessa!  Margaret's last
words had been:  'Adam, you mustn't let Vanessa marry Benjamin',
and he had answered:  'She must be free'.

But oh no! oh no! he did not want her to marry Benjamin!  They
never discussed it.  That was their one silence.



Walter was buried in Ireby churchyard and, ironically, not far from
the grave of Jennifer Herries, into which he once so long ago had
terrified her.  At the funeral, besides Elizabeth, Benjie, and
Vanessa, there were Adam, Veronica and her husband, Timothy and his
wife, and dear Aunt Jane.  Also a few neighbours.

It was a cold windy day, one of those days when you realize how
true it is that Cumberland is composed only of cloud and stone:
lovely iridescent stone with green and rosy shadows but rising in
pillars of smoke to meet the cloud, and the cloud coming down, to
settle like blocks and boulders of stone on the soil until, with
the wind in your ears, you do not know which is stone and which is
cloud.  The little church tugged at the wind like a cloud striving
to be free, and the clouds rolled in the sky as though some giant
hurled rocks at his enemy.

They all stood, blown about, in the little churchyard, and poor old
Walter, a capital example of the waste of energy that hatred
involves, was dropped into the ground.



That same evening Vanessa and Elizabeth had a talk.  Elizabeth had
done all she could with the house.  Her taste had never been
aesthetic and she had dressed the cold bare bones of the place with
heavy, very heavy, material.  The big bleak rooms she had filled
with large sofas, heavy carpets, big chairs, all in the manner of
their period, which, if it was not a very beautiful manner, was
comfortable.

She had crowds of things partly because everyone she knew did the
same, partly because she hoped thus to escape the stoniness, the
melancholy, the ghostliness of the place.  She could not escape it.
The rooms that were empty and shut up--the rooms in the two towers
for instance--were heavy with ghosts.  Not only she knew it.
Everyone in the countryside knew it.  Voices and steps were heard.
Pale faces looked from behind windows, dogs barked, and parrots
screeched.  The Fortress, in fact, was not to surrender to a
confusion of cornucopias, steel and brass fire-irons, japanned coal
boxes, tables covered with beadwork, satin walnut chairs, and wax
flowers under glass shades.  Nevertheless in the few rooms that she
herself inhabited her presence warmed and comforted.  There were
fires, Cumberland servants who adored her, flowers and books.

But Vanessa, in spite of the flowers, shivered.  She had her
father's taste, her grandmother's passion for order and
arrangement.  How, thought Vanessa, can Elizabeth, who is so
beautiful, endure this hideous place?  She did not realize that
Elizabeth could endure anywhere so long as John, her husband, was
with her.

Benjamin had gone that evening to see a farmer in Braithwaite.  He
would not be back until the following afternoon, so the two women
had the house to themselves.  They sat close together over a
roaring fire and tried not to listen to the wind, which found the
Fortress the happiest hunting ground it knew.  Although Elizabeth
was sixty-five and Vanessa only twenty-one they understood one
another very well.  They believed very much in the same things and
they both loved the same man.

That evening, in fact, was a crisis for Vanessa, and in the course
of it she set her feet resolutely along the path that was to lead
her so very far.

'What are you going to do, Elizabeth, now?' Vanessa asked.

'Do, my dear?  Why, go on as before.'

'Won't this house be very lonely for you?'

'I am used to it, you know.  I'm an old woman now and like a quiet
life.'

'Benjamin will be with you.  That's one good thing.'

'Oh no, he won't!' Elizabeth smiled.  'He'll come and go as he's
always done.'

'Oh, but he must,' Vanessa answered vigorously.  'He can't leave
you all alone here.  He has plenty to do, loves the country.  He
has wandered enough.'

'You know that he has not,' Elizabeth answered.  'He will never
have wandered enough.  He might settle down if you married him.
Otherwise, never.'

She had spoken quietly but, as both women knew, it was a challenge
of the deepest import.

There was a long silence, then Vanessa said slowly:

'Benjie has not asked me to marry him.'

'No.  That is because he is afraid--afraid of himself.  He loves
you more than anyone in the world and does not want to make you
unhappy.'

'Yes,' Vanessa said at last.  'He might make me unhappy, but I
would not mind, I think.'  After a pause she went on:  'You see,
Elizabeth, I have Benjie in my blood.  I have always had.  I'm
quite shameless about it--to myself, I mean.  What is the use of
being otherwise?  I would rather be miserable with Benjie than
happy with anyone else.  And perhaps I should not be miserable.  I
understand him very well.'

She waited, but Elizabeth said nothing.

'We are very alike in some ways.  I want my liberty quite as much
as he does his.  My great-grandmother was a gipsy, my great-
grandfather a vagabond, my father illegitimate.  And Benjie--'  She
broke off.

'Thinks he is a vagabond too,' Elizabeth went on, 'because of his
father.  You needn't fear, Vanessa darling, to talk about it.  Here
we are in the house that is filled with it.  Sometimes I wake in my
bed and hear the tap of Uhland's stick on the floor.  I was
impetuous, too, once, my dear.  I ran away and married John.  I had
courage for anything in those days; but I know now that every
impetuous step, every blow in anger, can mean tragedy for the next
generation.  There is no end to the consequences.  They are never
done.'

'Perhaps it isn't what we do,' said Vanessa, 'but something in
ourselves.  A strain that won't let us alone.  You know, Elizabeth,
that when I go over and stay with Veronica there's so much Herries
stolidness and convention that I feel, I'm sure, just as Judith did
when she ran away to Paris.  That's where I understand Benjie.  And
sometimes when I'm with Timothy, although I'm very fond of him, I
could whip him.  I could really.  He WON'T see things and is proud
of not seeing them.  He believes in Gladstone but has never heard
of Rossetti.'

'Rossetti, dear?' asked Elizabeth.

'Yes--well, never mind.  He writes poetry and paints.'

'Oh yes,' said Elizabeth.  'I'm sure I've heard the name--'

'I expect you have.  But that doesn't matter.  The point is that I
would understand if Benjie wanted to go away by himself.  I think
it's silly of married people always to be together.'

'And then there's religion,' Elizabeth said.  'Benjie declares that
he doesn't believe in God, foolish boy.'

'Many people say they don't believe in God,' Vanessa answered,
speaking as though she were sixty and Elizabeth twenty.  'I don't
think Father does, not as I do.  But if you love someone those
things settle themselves.  I could never be as Timothy and Violet
are, keeping the children in awe of them, never allowing them an
idea of their own.  Why, they have to come to the dining-room and
bow, poor little things, after every meal!  And Tim's only three,
but I know he's going to be an artist.  He's always drawing things.
And when I spoke of it to his father the other day he was as
shocked as if I'd said Tim was going to be an actor.'

'Well,' said Elizabeth, 'that wouldn't be a nice thing for little
Tim to grow up into.'

'I don't know,' said Vanessa.  'There are the Bancrofts anyway.
They have luncheon with the Prince of Wales.'

'Come here, dear, and give me a kiss,' Elizabeth said.  'I'd rather
have you for a daughter than anyone in the world.'

Then came the last day of April, the day before Vanessa returned to
Cat Bells.  After dinner that night there was a large full moon.
The air was warm and the moonlight filled all the garden with
silver dust so that one seemed to walk on white powdery surf, now
rising on a wave of quicksilver, then passing into an ebb of
luminous grey.  The hills were thin like silver tissue.  Benjie,
governed as ever by his mood, by the food that he had eaten, the
wine that he had drunk, thinking Vanessa perfect in her dark dress
that below the narrow waist broke out into bows and frills and
trimmings, swearing that no neck and arms in all the world were so
lovely as hers, seemed to see her as though this were for the first
time, a new Vanessa to whom he had but just been introduced, so
that under his breath he must murmur:  'This is the loveliest in
all the world.  All my life I have been waiting for this.'

At first she would not go out with him, as though something warned
her.  She stood by the fire, laughing, talking about anything,
nothing.  She had had a letter from Rose Ormerod, who was having a
gay time in London.

'No, but you must listen to this, Benjie.'

'I don't want to listen.  I don't like her.  I can't think why she
is your friend.'

'But she likes YOU!  In this letter she says:  "If you see Benjie
give him my love, my LOVE, mind."  And she means it.'

'Oh, she gives everyone her love--far too many people.'

'She has been having a beautiful visit.  Lady Herries gave a dinner
party.  Very sticky, she says.  And she went to the Haymarket
Theatre and saw Money.  A silly old play, she says, but Marion
Terry was lovely as Clara Douglas, and Mr Bancroft was Sir
Frederick, and Mrs Bancroft, Lady Franklyn, and--'

'What DO I care who they were?  This is the last night of April.
Tomorrow is the first of May.  It is as warm as summer--silly to
have a fire--and the moon is the largest--'

'Oh yes, and she went to Mr Alma-Tadema's studio to see the
pictures he's sending to the Academy, and one is called
"Fredegonda", and it shows an angry Queen looking out of a window
at her husband--'

'Please, Vanessa.'

She looked at him and saw that he was unhappy.  She nodded.

'All right.  I'll come out.'

She went upstairs to fetch a shawl.  Benjie, while he waited,
wondered what he was going to do.  This was the moment that for
years he had determined to avoid.  He must not marry Vanessa.  He
must not marry anyone.  At the thought of marriage something within
him warned him.  But Vanessa--Vanessa . . .  He shivered.  Outside
in the garden it was warmer than in the firelit room.  The house
was always cold, do what you would with it.  Vanessa--Vanessa . . .
Why had he been such a fool as to stay?  He had an impulse to go
round to the stable, fetch his horse, and ride off.  Ride off
anywhere--not seeing her again until she was safely married to
someone else.  But would that end it?  All his life, however far
away he had been, he had been tied to her, tied by her goodness,
her beauty, her love for himself--and by all that was best in him.
His best?  A very poor thing.  He had never thought so humbly of
himself as at that moment when she came towards him, saying:  'I'm
ready.  How lovely the moonlight is!'

They walked into the garden arm in arm.  Originally Walter Herries
had planned a series of garden walks and a succession of little
waterfalls, dropping stage after stage into a lily-covered pond.
Now there were the sad ruins of these things, tangled shrubberies,
little winding and melancholy paths, the doubtful splash of water
and a weedy pool.  Over the ruins the moon rode throwing its silver
in a conceited largesse, penetrating the uttermost tangle of the
trees.

'I have just finished a very amusing book,' said Vanessa, who felt
as though the moon were scornfully wishing her a disastrous
destiny, like the old witches her great-grandfather had known.

'What is it called?' asked Benjamin, wondering for how long he
could resist to kiss Vanessa.

'Travels with a Donkey.'

'What a silly name!'  The muscle on his arm suddenly jumped at the
touch of Vanessa's hand.  'Who wrote it?'

'His name is Stevenson.  I have never heard of him before, have
you?'

'No.  Never.'

'He writes well.'  Vanessa almost whispered as they stepped into a
pool of moonlight.  'Very precious, as though he'd licked every
word on his tongue first before he stuck it down.  Oh, look at the
moon insulting Blencathra.  There!  Stand here!  You can just see
it between the trees.'

Benjie took her in his arms and kissed her with a ferocity that
Ouida--a novel by whom Vanessa had recently been enjoying--
describes somewhere 'as the lovely tiger's grandeur and the
abandoned wildness of the jungle'.  Benjie had never kissed Vanessa
before save almost as a brother.  This was the first time in her
life that Vanessa had ever been passionately kissed.  She found it
entrancing.  They stayed for a long while without moving.  The
shawl fell from Vanessa's shoulders, but she felt no cold.  The
pressure of Benjie's strong hand on her shoulder was surely the
thing that since the day of her birth she had longed for.  Her hand
touched Benjie's hair as though he were her child.  He kissed her
eyes, which was another thing that no one had ever done to her
before.  They separated.  He bent down and picked up her shawl.

'This is something,' he said breathlessly, 'that I have been
longing to do for years.  And now we'll talk if you don't mind.'

They walked hand in hand.

'I am going away tomorrow morning and will not see you again until
someone has married you.'

'I can wait,' she answered confidently.  'I will marry you any
time.'

'You are not like the modern maiden, are you, Vanessa?  If their
young man proposes to them they faint with astonishment although
they have planned nothing else all their lives.'

'No.  Why should I be astonished?  I always knew that we would be
married one day.'

'We are not going to be married,' Benjie answered, taking his hand
from hers and walking by himself.  'I ought not to have kissed you.
After tonight we shall not be alone together again until you are
safe.  I love you as truly as any man ever loved anyone, and that
is why we are not going to be married.'

Vanessa laughed and took his hand again.

'I am not a child, Benjie.  I know that you are afraid of marriage--
and perhaps you would be right if it were anyone else, but we are
different.  We know one another so well.  I shall never marry
anyone else.'

'Now listen.'  He put his arm around her and drew her close to him.
'You must not try to shake me, Vanessa.  Really you must not.  You
say you know me, but it isn't true.  You don't know me.  Everyone
is right about me.  I'm no good by any standards but my own.  I
should make you terribly unhappy, and that I won't do.  No, I will
not.  I will not.  Other women--well, that's their affair.  But you--
you've got to have a wonderful life, be a queen, have everyone
worship you, adore you, have splendid children, a husband whom
everyone looks up to . . .'

She interrupted him, laughing.

'But I don't want that kind of husband!  I don't want to be a
Queen!  I don't want to be admired.  I want to be free quite as
much as you do.  You talk as though it were my ambition to be head
of the Herries family, live in Hill Street and give parties like
old Lady Henries.  Of course I ENJOY parties and it will be fun to
go to London one day, but without you I don't want ANYTHING!'

'Oh Lord!  How can I get you to understand?  Don't you see,
Vanessa, that I'm no good?  Really no good.  One day I'm this,
another day I'm that.  If I see a pretty woman I want to kiss her.
If I want to gamble I gamble.  I'm no sooner in a place than I want
to go somewhere else.  My mother and yourself are the only two
people I love.  I have hurt my mother many times already, but you I
won't hurt--'

'But, Benjie,' she broke in, 'I don't think you COULD hurt me!  I
should understand whatever you did.'

'You don't know.'  He spoke angrily, breaking again away from her.
'You don't know ANYTHING about life, Vanessa.  You don't know the
things I've done, the company I've kept.  If I could say to you,
"Vanessa, I've sown my wild oats and now I'm going to settle down,
go to church on Sunday, read Tennyson with you in the evening--"'

'But, Benjie, how absurd you are!  I don't WANT to read Tennyson,
and if you don't wish to go to church you needn't!  Father never
goes to church.  And as to the rest, what you have done is no
business of mine.  I'm sure I'm no saint myself.  I know that
Timothy and Violet think me often disgraceful and are afraid that I
shall harm the children.  Look at Grandmother!  SHE wasn't a saint
although she was one of the finest women who ever lived AND one of
the bravest.  And her father!  He's a kind of legend for
lawlessness and roguery.  I think we should suit one another very
well.  And as to the relations and all they say about you--what do
they matter?  A stuffy lot!  That's what they are!'

He shook his head.  'That's not the point, Vanessa.  You may say
what you like, but you are good and I'm not--that is by all that
anyone means by good.  You talk of Judith's father.  I expect he
was a fine fellow.  I often think of him and wish I'd known him.  I
like that man.  I could have been his friend, I know.  But the
truth is he made everyone unhappy who trusted him.  And so shall I.
I can't help it.  It's something inside me.  And I won't make you
unhappy.  I love you too much.  It would be the one sin for me.  I
don't care about the rest, but THAT I'll avoid, so help me God!'

They had walked down to the weeded pool which lay now, like a
foolish white face, dirtied and soiled, at their feet.

Vanessa spoke, but more gravely because she was feeling that her
whole future life was to depend on the next ten minutes.  What did
she see?  The man as he was?  Perhaps . . .  But herself in
relation to all that he might be?  She did not yet know life enough
for that.

'Benjie, listen, I am not asking you against your will to marry me.
I don't WAN'T you to marry me.  We have been friends all our lives
and we can go on as we are.  But if you want to marry somebody,
then it had better be me.  I'm sure you will never meet anyone
again who knows you so well.'  She put her hand again in his.  'Do
you remember that time--Grandmother's hundredth birthday--the day
she died?'

'Yes, of course I remember.'

'We went for a walk, and I told you that I would never marry anyone
but you and that I would wait as long as you liked.  I was only a
child then.  I'm a woman now.  But it is the same.  It hasn't
changed.  I don't see how it can.  No one can ever be to either of
us what we are to one another.  As to risks, life's made for them.
I'm not afraid.'

She felt his hand tremble as it clutched hers.

'Listen, Vanessa.  You MUST listen.  If I don't make you understand
now you never will.  You say you are not afraid of life, but that
is because you don't know.  How can you?  You have been sheltered
always.  Your father worships you as he ought to.  Everyone loves
you.  You have never been treated unkindly, never had to put up
with slights, never made an enemy.  You hear people say:  "Oh,
Benjamin Herries, he's a bad lot, he's a rascal!"  But they are
only words.  You've never seen me DO the things, SAY the things
that they mean.  I am at my best--a poor best but still my best--
when I'm with you because I love you and I'm not a bad fellow if
I'm in a good temper, not bored, able to get away when I want to.
We've seen one another at long intervals.  We've loved to be
together and they have been grand times because we were free.  But
to LIVE with me--that's another thing.  I'm no man's good company
for long.  I've got old Rogue Herries' devil in me, I think.
Sometimes I fancy I'm the old Rogue himself come again.  And if
that's nonsense--and I'm sure I don't know what's nonsense and what
isn't in this ridiculous world--at least I'm like him in that I'm
my own worst enemy, can see what's right to do and never do it,
curse my best friend and all the rest.  Oh, mind you, I'm not
pitying myself or even condemning myself.  I'm not bad as men go.
I enjoy every minute of the day unless I've got the toothache or
lose money at cards or some woman won't look at me.  And even those
things are interesting.  But I'm not the man for you.  You're as
far above me as that moon is above this silly-faced pond and, do me
justice, I've always known it.'

He had spoken swiftly, the words pouring out, his face serious,
mature, almost grim, as though he were resolving that this once in
his life at least the honest truth should come from him.

'All that you have said, Benjie, I know,' Vanessa answered.  'I may
be a fool as you say, protected from harm and all the rest.  But
Father has never treated me as a child.  We've been companions for
years and talked freely about everything.  When I stay with
Veronica and Robert Forster's drunk, as he is sometimes, I can see
some of the things marriage can be.  You may be nasty when you're
drunk, but not half as nasty as Robert is.  Of course I know that
marriage isn't all fun.  It isn't for anybody.  Only I think that
you and I would be often happy together if we were married because
we know one another so well.  We'd be unhappy too, but I don't
always want to be happy.  That would be dull.  When we fought we'd
know that we still loved one another.  If you left me I'd know that
you would come back.'

'No, I might not,' he said in a low voice.  'I might never come
back.  Loving you as much as I do now, I might still say:  "No, I
can't stand this."  And I'd be off--and perhaps never return.'

'Oh, Benjie, would you?'

They were standing now by the gate that led into the road.  The
road stretched in front of them, and beyond it the country fell to
the valley like a sheet of shadowed snow.

'Oh, would you?'  She was thinking.  She turned, as though she had
resolved a problem, and looked up at him, smiling.  'Then I'd be a
grass widow.  They say that they have a glorious life.'

Both laughing, they walked out into the road and at once were
encompassed by a field of dazzling stars above them, sparkling and
dancing as though they knew that tomorrow was the first of May and
the beginning of a new summer world.

'You know, Vanessa,' Benjie said, looking over to Skiddaw, 'that I
have an odd fancy.  It isn't really mine.  Some old shepherd told
me some tale once.  There's Skiddaw Forest where--where my father
died.  Of course it's often in my thoughts.  When you stand below
Skiddaw House and look over to Skiddaw you can see sometimes, just
before the hill rises, a dark patch that looks like the opening of
a cave.  It is only a trick of light.  There's no cave there, but
when I was a boy I often walked there and I used to fancy that it
was the opening to a great subterranean hall, a gigantic place, you
know, that ran right under the mountain.  I told myself tales about
it.  I fancied that all the men who had loved this place returned
there, had great feasts there, jolly splendid affairs, with singing
and drinking, everything that was fine.  All of them grand
comrades, whoever they were, farmers and shepherds, huntsmen,
squires and parsons--any man to whom this piece of country is the
best in the world.  Perhaps on a night like this there they all are
singing and laughing, happy as grigs--old Rogue Herries and my
grandfather, my father and my uncle, John Peel and Wordsworth and
Southey, little Hartley, "auld Will" Ritson of Wasdale, James
Jackson of Whitehaven, Ewan Clark, John Rooke, thousands on
thousands more--I used to fancy on a still day that I could hear
them laughing and singing.  A great hall, you know, Vanessa, where
they could wrestle and run, ride their horses, shout their songs,
tell their stories . . .  That's where I'd like to be, Vanessa.  I
could do without women there.  I wouldn't want to roam the world.
I'd need no other company--'  He broke off.  'Yes, I'd want you, I
think.  Wherever I was, whatever I'd be doing.'

They turned up the road and stopped at a little water trough where
from a rudely carved dolphin's head water trickled into a small
basin.  The thin drip of the water was the only sound.

'Why don't you say,' he murmured, '"Benjie, you're a bad lot.
We'll meet no more?"  It would be better for you.'

'I can't say that,' she answered, leaning close to him, 'because I
love you.'

The pause that followed marked both their lives.  It had a
sanctity, an intimacy that went beyond all their experience.  They
kissed again, but quietly now, gently meeting in complete oneness.

At last he said:

'Be kind to me, Vanessa.  I've tried to do the best.  Maybe I'll
change.  Mother said that loving you might do it for me.  Give me a
chance.'

He waited, then went on.

'My darling--let us be engaged, here and now, for two years.  This
is the last day of April 1880.  In April 1882, I'll come to you and
ask you if you are still of the same mind.  If you are--if I can
trust myself--we'll be married.  If, before then, you think
otherwise you shall tell me.  And in the two years we will tell
nobody, not a word to a soul.  I shall be twenty-seven then, and if
I'm no good at that age I shall never be any good.  Give me that
chance.'

Vanessa looked in front of her, then at last turned on him,
smiling.

'Yes, if that's what you'd like, Benjie.'

'Not a word to anyone.'

She waited again.

'I have always told Father everything--'

'No.  Even your father.  I'm on probation.  If he knew he might not
understand.'

'Very well.  Here's my hand on it.'

They held hands, looking one another in the eyes.

'It's a poor bargain for you,' he said.  'Mind, if ever you want to
be free of me you have only to tell me--'

'I shall never want to be free,' Vanessa said proudly.

'All the men under Skiddaw heard you say that,' he answered.  'And
they think me a poor lot for asking you.'

'Ah, they don't know you as I do,' she answered.

As they walked up to the house she held her head high, feeling the
proudest woman in England.

And Benjie, for once in his life, was humble.



HERRIES DRAWING-ROOM


Vanessa paid the first visit of her life to London in the spring of
1882.

Old Lady Herries had, during the last two years, invited her
repeatedly to stay in Hill Street, but the trouble had been that
her father refused to go with her and Vanessa would not leave him.

Adam was obdurate and Vanessa was obdurate.

'No, my dear, I won't go.  I hope never to see London again.  I am
sixty-six and entitled at last to my own way.  London would upset
me.  I know I'm nothing at all, but London would make me feel less
than nothing.  I'm quite contented where I am.  But of course you
must go.  It's time that they saw you and fell down before you.
It's always been the custom that the family in London should see
the Cumberland branch once and again and realize how superior it
is.  Your grandmother took me up when I was a boy and they all fell
flat before her--so they shall before you.'

Vanessa refused.  She did not want to go, she did not wish to see
London, they would all think her an absurd country cousin and mock
at her.  With her father at her side she could mock back at them,
but alone she would not dare to open her mouth.  (None of these
were, of course, real reasons.  She longed to see London and she
was afraid of no one.)  He wished her to go because he was afraid
that they were growing, as he described it, 'inside one another'.

For the last two years Vanessa had been strange.  She was, it
seemed, quite content to be alone with her father and, except for
visits to Elizabeth at the Fortress and to Uldale, saw nobody.  She
seemed happy enough, but there were times when she appeared
abstracted, lost, far away.  Once or twice he wondered whether
Benjie Herries had anything to do with this.  Benjie had been out
of England for most of the two years, deserting, everyone said, his
mother most shamefully.  Could it be that Vanessa still cared for
him.  Adam put the thought violently away from him.  He had an
affection for Benjie, but the fellow was a wanderer, a wastrel,
would come, Adam very much feared, to no kind of good.  And yet
some wildness that there was in Adam attracted him to the man.  He
might have been, had things gone otherwise, just such himself.  And
Vanessa had some wildness in her too.  Was it that that kept the
men of the county away from her?  No one doubted that she was
better looking than any other girl in the North of England.  And
she was gentle with them, gave herself no airs.  But she was alone.
Save for her father, Elizabeth, and little Jane Bellairs at Uldale,
she had no friends.  Oh yes, and the children at Uldale--she adored
THEM, especially young Tim.

But there it was; she had no friends of her own age, had no
gaieties, did not appear to wish for any.  It was not good for her.
She must go to London.

And at last she yielded.  He could not tell the reason.  A letter
came from Lady Herries.  She looked across the table at Adam and
said:  'Very well, Papa; I'll go.'

Then, when it was all arranged, he did not want her to go.  He
realized that he would be most damnably lonely.  He was sure that,
after this visit, she would never be the same again.  She was
still, in spite of her twenty-three years, very much of a child.
She could be surprisingly nave and impetuous.  She seemed at one
moment to judge human nature most wisely and then she would trust
someone for no reason at all.  She reminded him constantly of her
grandmother in her simple directness to everyone, her lack of all
affectation, her complete ignoring of class differences, her
generosity and warmth both of heart and temper.  But she was unlike
Judith in that she had many reserves and no wish to dominate
anybody.  In those things she resembled himself.  Oh, he would be
all right, he supposed.  There was plenty to do--his writing, his
garden, the hills of which he never wearied; he was still, in spite
of his sixty-six years, strong enough to walk over Stye Head into
Eskdale and so to the sea, or over Watendlath to Grasmere.  He had
old Will Leathwaite for company.  But he would miss her--miss her
damnably.  There was no one else he cared for now but Will.  He was
growing old.  He continued to write--he could not help himself--but
it was poor, secondary stuff.  Not at all what he had meant once to
do.  Why, Dickens had told him once that he would be the equal of
them all.  But Dickens was warm-hearted, generous, with his
variegated waistcoats and passion for theatricals.  A great man: no
one like him now.  Him and Wordsworth, that arrogant but child-
hearted little man whose genius seemed now to cover all the country
like a soft sunny cloud, impregnating the air, calling the scent
from the flowers, echoed in the birds' call.  Dickens and
Wordsworth--simple men both of them--while today these Merediths
and Swinburnes and Rossettis . . .  He picked up the Poems and
Ballads from the table, read a line or two, turned away with a
sigh.  Very clever.  You could not call Wordsworth clever, thank
God.

And so she went.  It was arranged very easily, because Mrs Osmaston
was travelling to London at the same time.  Mrs Osmaston was a good
serious woman who would bore Vanessa considerably.  That would
teach her, Adam thought quite fiercely, to leave her old father!

She went: and Adam discovered, not for the first time in his
history, the tactful beauties in Will Leathwaite's character.  Will
had all the Cumbrian gift of showing his affection without
mentioning it.  He scolded and grumbled and protested as he had
always done.  In the evening they played backgammon together, and
Will invariably won.

'You have the most damnable luck,' Adam swore at him.

'Aye,' said Will, 'I have.  And I play nicely too.'

Four days after her departure Adam received a letter, the first
that he had ever had from his dear daughter.

'My dearest Papa,' it began.

'A letter from my daughter,' he said to Will, who was sprawling
against the doorpost, his hands in his pockets.  He was fat now,
red in the face and grizzled in the hair.  It was in his eyes that
you saw his youth, for their blue was as clear, gay, and sparkling
as though they were fresh from their Maker.

'Aye,' he said.  'That's grand.  Hope she's enjoying herself.  Not
too much, you know.  She's better than anything London can give
her.'

Adam, after glancing through, read Will her letter.  Will never
stirred.  His eyes, shining, luminous, and in some fashion rather
sardonic, were fixed on his friend--as though he said:  'Yes.
She's spreading her wings.  You'll find I'm the only stay-by.
We're a pair of leftovers.  And who cares?'

The letter was:


MY DEAREST PAPA--I don't know how to begin I've so much to tell
you.  The journey was very long of course, the carriage smelt of
escaping gas and oh, it was cold the last part!  My feet were
frozen.  We couldn't see to read but it would not have been so bad
had Mrs Osmaston not chattered so!  She is SO contented, SO
fortunate, has so perfect a husband, such LOVELY children (you know
little Mary and James Osmaston--not lovely at all!) but the worst
is that she loves all the world.  Her charity is too general to be
personal.  We are all God's children in a kind of celestial
nursery.  Well, I must get on.

Here I am two days in Hill Street and I MUST say that I am enjoying
it.  I find them very kind.  Do you know that Lady Herries is
seventy-eight?  She is immensely proud of it and all our relations
are proud of it too.  If you live long enough in our family you are
always looked up to whatever you may be or do.  It is when you are
young that you must be careful.  She paints of course prodigiously
and wears the brightest colours.  Bustles have come in again you
know, and she likes a sash and a bow at the waist!  But I must not
mock for she is really kind and wants me to be happy.  So does
Ellis.  He is grave and nervous.  He is dreadfully afraid of doing
the wrong thing.  He is exceedingly wealthy everyone tells me and
ought to be married.  I am very sorry for him because he does not
know how to be careless and happy.  Rose Ormerod says that he is
always his own Governess and that no sooner does he do a thing than
the Governess tells him he should not.  Hill Street is a kind of
Temple for the family.  They come here and worship the god of the
clan--a three-faced god, one face Queen Victoria, one face
Commerce, and one face the Herries features, high cheekbones, noble
foreheads, and a cold eye.  They are very different though.  Barney
Newmark, old Amery and his son Alfred, Rose and her brother Horace,
Emily Newmark.  These are the principal ones who come to the house.
Captain Will Herries and his wife are in town.  Also the Rockages.
I think they like me.  I amuse them and perhaps shock them.  I like
Barney the best.  He laughs at everyone.  The house is very large
and very cold, but of course you know it and I should imagine that
it has not altered at all in thirty years.  Very cold, full of
noise from pipes and cisterns, masses of furniture, statues and
little fires that burn up the chimney.  There is the great Charles,
too.  Charles is the butler and he is so large that it is always
warmer when he is in the room with one.  He is very gracious and
would be perfect if his eyes were not so glassy.

Just imagine!  We have been to the theatre both nights!  The first
night was Romeo and Juliet with Mr Irving and Miss Ellen Terry.
Shall I whisper to you, dear Papa, that I was a little disappointed?
Mr Irving is better when he is not making love.  In the balcony
scene he stood behind such a ridiculous little tree that it was
difficult not to laugh.  When he makes love it is not the REAL
THING.  He has thought it all out beforehand.  Miss Terry is LOVELY.
Oh, how beautiful and charming!  But she, too, acts better when she
is NOT with Mr Irving.  With the NURSE she is perfection.  I liked
Mr Terriss as Mercutio but the best of all is Mrs Stirling as the
Nurse although propriety makes them cut out all her BEST lines.
The scenery is almost too good to be true I think.  You admire the
moonlight when you ought to be LOST with the lovers.  At least that
is what I felt.

Will you be very ashamed of me when I tell you that I enjoyed the
second evening more?  The piece was The Manager at the Court
Theatre.  This was Barney's party and I think Ellis was a little
ashamed at LAUGHING at a Farce.  But he could not help himself.
There is an actress in this piece called Lottie Venne who is
PERFECT and Mr Clayton SPLENDID!  I laughed so much that Rose, who
was with us, said Mr Clayton played twice as well as usual!

Of course I have not seen very much of London yet.  Rose and I are
to have a morning's shopping tomorrow.  There is to be a grand
party in Hill Street next week and Madame Trebelli of the Opera is
to sing.  I have ridden in a hansom-cab and found it very exciting.

And now I must go to bed.  I have been writing this in my room and
I am so cold that there is an icicle on the end of my nose!  Do you
miss me?  I do hope so, but also I hope that you are not lonely.
Give Will my love and the children at Uldale if you see them.  If I
ALLOW myself I shall be homesick, but that will never do.  Last
night I dreamt that you and I walked to Robinson and met five sheep
who turned into the five Miss Clewers from Troutbeck!  Have you
seen Elizabeth?  Is her cold quite gone now?  I am hoping there
will be a letter from you tomorrow--Your very loving daughter,

                                                     VANESSA


'That's grand,' said Will and went off to his work.



No one could guess from Vanessa's letter, nor indeed from anything
that she herself said or thought, that her arrival in London was
the sensation of the year for her relations.  Afterwards, among
them all, 1882 was remembered as the year 'when Vanessa first came
to town'.  And this for two reasons.  One was the natural
astonishment at her beauty, for which they were quite unprepared,
although some of them recollected that 'she had been a damned
pretty child at old Madame's Hundredth Birthday'.

By chance it happened that the fashion of the moment suited
Vanessa: the dresses looped up behind, crossed with fringed
draperies rather in the manner of the heavy window curtains of the
time, the waists very narrow (and Vanessa had, all her life, a
marvellous waist), the top portion of the costume following as
closely as possible the lines of the corset, flaring out below the
hips in frills and bows and trimmings.  The violent colours just
then popular also suited her dark hair and soft skin.  The dress
that she wore at her first Herries party, dark blue with an edging
of scarlet, white lace frills at the throat and wrists, was long
remembered.  She arrived with only a dress or two and they of
Keswick make, but Adam had insisted that she must 'dress like a
peacock in London' and gave her money to do it with.  They were the
first grand costumes of her life, and Rose Ormerod saw to it that
they were fine.  Her beauty staggered them all, the more that she
seemed to be perfectly unaware of it.  And they saw immediately
that here was a family asset.

This raw nave girl from Cumberland might marry anybody.  There was
no limit to the possibilities.  Old Amery said to his son Alfred
(Amery had married late in life a parson's infant fresh from the
schoolroom: she presented him with Alfred in '62 and incontinently
died) after his first sight of Vanessa in the Hill Street drawing-
room:  'That girl will be a Duchess--bet you a "monkey",' These
possibilities gave her at once a great importance in their eyes--
one more factor in the rise of Herries power!

And here that queer old Lady Herries, known familiarly as 'the
witch of Hill Street', comes into the story.  No one in London knew
anything about that old woman save that she was useful as an
entertainer and adored her son.  When Will Herries had married her
she had been a buxom, silly, empty-headed woman of no character and
less common sense.  She had given Will a son, and that was the only
sensible thing she'd ever been known to do.  But as Ellis grew to
manhood her love for him created in her a kind of personality.
People must always admire in this world any strong, undeviating,
unfaltering devotion: for one thing it is rare, for another it
appears unselfish although it may have all its roots in
selfishness.  This example was the more admired because Ellis was,
most certainly, not everybody's money.  Only was anybody's money,
in fact, because he had himself such a profusion of that admirable
commodity.  They led, those two, in the Hill Street house, a life
of extraordinary loneliness.  In spite of the dinners, receptions,
conversaziones, balls and theatre parties, they had no friends, nor
did they communicate, so far as anyone could see, with one another.
Old Lady Herries broke into frequent rages with her son and to
these he listened with a grave and unaccommodating silence.  Abroad
she talked of him incessantly, his brilliance in the City, his
nobility, his love for his fellow-men.  At home she often told him
he was stupid, ungrateful, and cold.  Her extravagances grew with
her age, her paint, gay colours, fantastic screams of laughter.
She was a sight with her trimmings, fichus, shawls, her little hats
perched high on her old head, her fingers covered with rings, bands
and twists of hair, dyed, and interwoven with strands of ribbon and
sprays of foliage.  It remained, however, that she won respect
because it was known that, selfish in everything else, clinging to
life like a tigress, she would die for her son at any moment if the
call came.

On the night of Vanessa's arrival, when the house was as silent as
the moon, Ellis visited his mother in her bedroom.  Sitting up in
bed she looked the old, shrivelled, lonely, exhausted monkey that
she really was.  Ellis stood gravely beside her bed and said:

'Well, Mama, it is as I thought.  Vanessa is the only woman whom I
will ever marry.'

Lady Herries blinked her eyes.  For eight years now, ever since the
Hundredth Birthday in Cumberland, he had told her this.  She did
not care for Vanessa; she had thought Adam a country yokel, old
Judith a mountebank.  Moreover the girl's mother was a German.  But
if Ellis wanted anything he was to have it.  God, she thought--she
believed in a God made exactly in the image of herself--must be of
the same opinion.

She could not deny that she had been struck by the girl's beauty.
She had both the scorn and jealousy of beauty felt by many women
who have fought life's battle without that great advantage.  But
this girl was exceptional.  Raw, untrained, straight from the
country: nevertheless with care and attention the girl could
undoubtedly be turned into something.  She had long made it a
practice to refuse, at first, any request that Ellis might make of
her, because she never lost hope that he might one day become more
urgent in his prayers.  She knew, in her heart, that this was one
of the many hopes that would never be fulfilled.

So now she said:  'Nonsense.  The girl's straight from a farm or a
dairy or whatever it is.  She's got no breeding.'

'She has perfect breeding,' Ellis said, and left her.

Next morning, considering the matter, she determined to make the
girl devoted to her.  Assuming, as do many old people, that she
would live for ever, it was important that when Ellis married his
wife they should continue to live in Hill Street.  To lose Ellis
was, of course, not to be thought of, but Vanessa might influence
him.  In her grinning, chattering way she did her best to be
charming.  It was not difficult to win Vanessa's affections if
sincerity was there, and Lady Herries was, in this, sincere.
Before three days were out the old woman felt that for the first
time in her life someone cared for her.  For the first time in her
life she herself cared for someone other than her son.  But truly
everything was enchantment to Vanessa.  She never saw London again
as she saw it in those early days.

Everything about London was a miracle.  The first morning she
walked out she saw an old crossing-sweeper who stood at the corner
of Berkleley Square and Charles Street dressed in an old faded
scarlet hunting coat, given him, Barney told her, by Lord Cork,
Master of the Buckhounds.  That old man, with his broom, in his
scarlet coat, seemed to her delighted eyes the very symbol of
London, its incongruity, unexpected romance, humanity and pathos.
There was an Indian crossing-sweeper, too, who stood with his broom
outside the Naval and Military Club.  There were the many Punch and
Judy shows, the poor, dark, melancholy Italian sellers of cheap
statuettes, and the old hurdy-gurdy man with his monkey.

Hyde Park was her chief delight.  Lady Herries liked to drive in
the afternoon, and so they paraded in a grand victoria, the old
woman sitting with a back like a poker, gay as the rainbow, while
Simon the coachman, in a multi-coloured livery, in figure like a
sealion, drove, as though he were acting in a pageant, his
magnificent horses.

But it was all like a pageant, the small phaetons with their high-
stepping horses, the pony chaises conveying ladies of fashion, the
victorias, the smart buggies driven by men about town, and the
quiet-looking little broughams containing, it was supposed, all
sorts of mysterious occupants!

This was a fine and warm April, and in the evening, between five
and seven, everyone took the air in the Park.  It was, it seemed, a
world of infinite leisure where no one had anything to do but to
see and be seen.  On the other hand, there was nothing extravagant
or forced in the display.  No one, it appeared, wished to stagger
anyone else.  Everyone's position was too sure and certain.  Rotten
Row was, in fact, for more sophisticated eyes than Vanessa's, a
superb affair.

In every way London was a magnificent show.  The omnibuses alone
gave it an air, for painted red, or royal blue, or green, they were
always handsome and individual, with their strong horses and their
swaggering, accomplished drivers who had, with the flick of their
whips, the air of conjurers about to produce rabbits out of their
greatcoats.

The horses indeed were wonderful, Vanessa thought, never needing
the whip, the drivers' cheerful hiss all the encouragement they
wanted.  They were, she thought, both fiery and gentle, a glorious
combination.  The doors, the straw on the floor, these things were
gone.  The omnibuses were now the final word in the modern science
of travel.  But best of all were the hansom-cabs, the splendid
horses driven by the most elegant cabmen who wore glossy hats and
had flowers in their buttonholes.  On the first day that Barney
took Vanessa down Piccadilly and Westminster in a hansom-cab, she
sat, her hands clasped, her eyes shining, her smart little hat
perched on her dark hair, Queen, it seemed to her, of all
Fairyland.

Finally London then was a town of constant surprises.  You never
knew what at any moment would turn up.  Every building had life and
character of its own, little crooked houses next to big straight
ones, sudden little streets--dark, twisted, and eccentric--leading
to calm dignified squares, fantastic statues, glittering fountains,
shops blazing with splendour, hostelries that had not altered for
hundreds of years.  Everywhere colour, leisure, and, in this first
superficial view, light-hearted happiness.

In that first week she spent her days with Lady Herries (Ellis was
in the City all day), Rose Ormerod, and her brother Horace.  The
power that Rose had over Vanessa from the beginning came from her
jollity, her kindness, her humour, her warm-heartedness.  Rose had
also other qualities which appeared later in their friendship.
Horace, her brother, had a job as secretary to some big benevolent
society.  He was rosy-cheeked, square-shouldered, spoke well of
everyone, was the friend of all the world.  He was a little nave.
He talked frankly about himself.  He was modest.

'I'm nothing exceptional, you know, Vanessa.  I don't suppose you
think I am.  What I say is--why not see the best in everyone?  It's
easy enough if you try.  People have a hard enough time.  Why
shouldn't we all make it pleasant for one another?  I must confess
that I find life a good thing.'

He was very jolly, had a hearty laugh, seemed generous and genial
to everyone.  There was something faintly episcopal about him as
though he were in training to be a bishop.  Rose was sometimes a
little sarcastic about her brother, but then she was sarcastic
about everyone.

Vanessa was happy, but underneath this exciting London adventure
one consuming thought possessed her.  Where was Benjie?

This was April 1882.  The time had come when Benjie would demand
the conclusion to the vow that they had made by the water dolphin
of Ireby.  Perhaps because she had seen him so seldom in these two
years the thought of him by now completely possessed her.  If she
had loved him two years ago it was by this time as though he were
part of her very flesh.  She was neither romantic nor sentimental
in her idea of him.  She saw him as he was just as she saw herself
as she was.  Would he come?  Where was he?  He had written to her,
on some dozen occasions, little letters, from Burma, China, India,
North America.  In these he had not said much, and yet she knew
that he needed her, that he was thinking of her as she of him.
Would he come?  London brought him nearer.  When the first sharp
excitement of her visit paled a little she began to look for him,
in the Park, the streets, the theatre.  Often she thought that she
saw his small stocky figure, dark face, often fancied that she
recognized the quick determined step with which he walked.  Would
he come, and, if April passed without him, what would she do?  Was
he faithless, volatile, careless, as they all said of him?  Could
she trust that he was faithful at least to her?  Would he, oh,
would he come?  She spoke of him, of course, to no one, not even to
Rose.

And then, in the second week of her visit, she began to be
embarrassed by Ellis.  She liked Ellis.  She understood him better
than others did.  Most of all she was sorry for him.  She wanted,
as she so often wanted with people, to make him happy.  There was
something about his spare, grave figure that touched her heart.  He
was so ALONE.  He wanted, she was sure, to be jolly with everyone
but did not know how to set about it.  She saw in him sometimes an
eagerness as though he said:  'Now this time I shall be lucky and
find touch.'  But always his shyness, his fear of a rebuff, checked
him.  As Lady Herries became more confidential the old lady poured
out to Vanessa the truth about Ellis as she saw it, his goodness,
kindliness of heart, diffidence.  'He can't chatter away,' Lady
Herries said indignantly, 'like Barney Newmark or Horace Ormerod;
but he has ten times their brains.'

Vanessa supposed that he had.  He must be very clever to remain so
silent for so long.

As the days passed she had an odd impression that he was
approaching her ever nearer and nearer.  He was not in reality; he
always sat at a distance from her and when he walked with her
seemed deliberately to take care that he should not by accident
touch her.  And yet she was ever more and more conscious of his
body, his high cheekbones, the pale skin pulled tightly over them,
his sharp-pointed nose, very Herries, with nostrils open, slightly
raw, sensitive; his thin mouth, his high shoulder blades, his spare
slim hands, his long legs that seemed always so lonely and desolate
inside his over-official London clothes.  He was very tall and
walked as though he had a poker down his back.  He was distinguished
certainly with his top hat, his shining black tie, collar and cuffs
almost too starched and gleaming, his pale gloves, his neatly rolled
umbrella with its gold top.  People looked after him and wondered
who he might be, just as once they had wondered about his father.
His pale thin face peered out anxiously at the world over his high
collar.  When he spoke you felt that his words were important
although they seldom were so.  He had a nervous little cough and
often he blinked with his eyes.

One fine spring day he took a holiday from the City and in the
company of Horace and Rose and Vanessa walked in the Park.  Very
soon Vanessa found herself sitting alone with him while Rose and
Horace talked to friends.  She was wearing her most beautiful
frock, rose and white, the pleated and flounced skirt with tucked
panniers over the hips, the bodice cut high in the neck, long and
pointed at the waistline.  The wide skirt, the modified bustle, the
little hat with roses, the different shades of rose in the dress
itself, all these things were remembered by her when many times
afterwards she recalled that costume as one of the loveliest of her
life and the one that she was wearing when Ellis first proposed
marriage.

He plunged at once like a man flinging himself with the courage of
despair into icy water.

'Vanessa, I must tell you.  I can avoid it no longer.  I love you
with all my soul.  Please--please--will you marry me?'

It was then, although his seat was apart from hers, that she felt
as if the moment, which for days had been approaching, had arrived.
He seemed to have flung his body on to hers; she felt his thin
hands at her neck, his bony cheek against hers, she could feel his
heart wildly, furiously beating.  She looked and saw that he had
not moved.  He was sitting, staring in front of him at the
carriages, the riders, the colours, the sun; his gloved hands were
folded on the gold knob of his umbrella.

She wanted then, as never before in her life, to be kind.

'Ellis!  Marry you!  But I don't want to marry anybody!'

(That was untrue.  She wanted, oh, how she wanted, to marry
Benjie!)

He had recovered himself a little.

'I know that it must be a shock to you, dear Vanessa.  I recognize
that.  I must give you time.  But you must not think that it is any
sudden idea of mine.  I have had no other thought since I first saw
you, years ago, in Cumberland.  That time--we were downstairs at
Uldale.  From that moment I knew that only you of everyone in the
world could be my wife.'

She laid her hand for a moment on his knee.

'I am proud that you should think of me like that,' she said
slowly, 'but I'm afraid I can't.  Ellis, I like you very much, but
I don't want to be married--really I don't.  I couldn't leave my
father.  It wouldn't be kind to him now he is all alone.'

(How stupid and stiff her words were!  She wanted to be good to
him, to say something that would take that wistful, forlorn look
from his eyes.)

'Your father could come and live with us.'

'I'm afraid he could never live in London.  He is miserable now if
he is away from Cumberland.'

'If you could--if you could--love me a little, Vanessa.  I would
wait.  I would be very patient.  Perhaps you could love me a
little--'

She must be honest.

'No.  I don't love you, Ellis.  Love is very rare, isn't it?  I
like you so much--'

'Well, then,' he caught her up eagerly, 'that will perhaps turn
into love.  If you stay with us a little while.  My mother likes
you so much.  I have never known her like anyone so much before.  I
can be very patient.  I will give you as much time as you like--'

'I am afraid time will not alter it,' she answered gently.
'Friendship and love are so different--'

But he did not seem to hear.  He went on eagerly.

'I will give you everything you can want.  There's nothing you can
ask for that you shan't have.  I will never interfere with you.
Only let me love you and serve you.  I am not a man who has many
friends.  You have noticed that perhaps.  I have been always shy in
company, but with you beside me I feel that I could do anything.
You are so good, so beautiful--'

Now the little scene was becoming dreadful to her.  His intensity,
his earnestness shamed her as though she had been caught in some
misconduct.

'Ellis, dear.  Listen.  I don't love you.  I'm afraid I never
shall.  We would be both of us most unhappy.  Let us be friends,
better and better friends, and you will find someone who WILL love
you, who will make you so very happy--'

Words that every lady has used to every disconsolate lover!  She
knew it.  She had not conceived that she could be so stupid.  But,
it seemed, he had not heard her.  Rose and Horace gaily approached
them, Horace laughing, greeting all the world as a jolly brother.

'Never mind, Vanessa,' Ellis said quietly.  'I will ask you again.
It is a shock, of course.  I am afraid that I was very sudden.'

'We do apologize,' cried Rose.  'That was Colonel Norton.  I
haven't seen him for an age.  We were only gone a minute.'

It seemed to Vanessa that they had been an hour away.



When, alone in her room that night, she was dressing for dinner,
she most unexpectedly had a fit of crying.  She did not often cry,
although young ladies thought nothing of it.  But now, sitting in
front of the glass, twisting her hair into ringlets, she found that
the tears made ridiculous splashes on the pincushion, which was fat
and round like a large white toad with a bright pink eye.  She was
crying, she discovered, because that Ellis should love her made her
want Benjie so terribly.  Oh, if it had been Benjie who had said
those words in the Park!  But it was not.  It was Ellis.  Then she
found that she was crying because she felt, for the first time in
her life, lonely and needed her father.  She seemed to see him in
the glass facing her, his brown beard, his soft rather ironical,
rather sleepy eyes, his broad shoulders, rough coat . . .  She
thought that tomorrow morning, as early as possible, she would take
the train to Cumberland . . .

Her tears were quickly dried because she was, she saw in the glass,
so long and lanky.  Now Rose might cry very prettily because she
was slight and delicate in spite of her dark colour.  But Vanessa
was too tall for tears.  She stood up in her skirt, all flounces
and frills, raised her arms, threw up her head.  Because Ellis had
proposed to her was no reason for tears!

Then she laughed.  The day before she had paid a visit with Rose to
one of Rose's friends, a Mrs Pettinger.  Mrs Pettinger's husband
was an artist, and their little house in Pimlico had shone with the
new aestheticism.  The walls had Morris wallpapers, everywhere
there were Japanese fans, bamboo tables, lilies in tall thin
glasses, Japanese prints.  Also two drawings by Mr Whistler which,
privately, Vanessa had thought very beautiful.  Privately, because
Rose had confided to her that she found them absurd.

'Why, anyone could do that!' she said.  'I could.  Just take your
pencil and draw a few lines up and down.  You have to stand a mile
away to see what they're about.'

What made her laugh was the contrast between the room that she was
in now and Mrs Pettinger's house.  It seemed symbolically to be the
contrast that she felt between her love for Benjie and Ellis'
proposal.  Her large cold bedroom had not, she supposed, been
changed in detail for thirty years.  Especially did she notice, as
though seeing them for the first time, two armchairs of light oak
carved with floral decorations and upholstered with dark-green
velvet having a floral pattern.  When you sat down in one of them
it clung to you as though asserting its righteousness.  Then the
frame of Tonbridge-ware that contained a picture of a little girl
outside a church made in seaweed, the Coalport toilet service, the
dressing-table and mirror trimmed with glazed linen and muslin, the
mahogany bedstead, the needlework bell-pulls.  Yes, she thought,
sitting down on the green velvet armchair, there were two worlds,
as her father had always told her.  Sitting there, without moving,
staring before her, thinking of her mother, her father, Benjie, all
those whom she loved, she moved naturally, simply into another
world that had been, all her life, as real to her as the plush
chair on which she was sitting.  There was no effort, no conscious
act of the will.  An inner life flowed like a strong stream beneath
all external things.  This life had its own history, its own
progress, its own destiny.  She never spoke of it nor tried to
explain it.  It needed no explanation.  Sometimes the two lives
met, the two streams flowed together, but whereas the external life
had its checks, its alarms, its vanities, and empty disappointments,
this inner life flowed steadily, was always there.  Yes, two worlds
in everything.  How to connect them?  The Saints, she supposed, were
those who had learnt the answer, men and women in whose lives one
life always interpenetrated the other.  But she, Vanessa, was no
saint.  She could only, at certain moments, be conscious of an
awareness, an illumination, that irradiated everything so that in
that brilliant light both things and people had suddenly their
proper values.

Sitting on her plush chair she had now such a moment . . .



In the days that followed, Ellis behaved to her exactly as he had
always done.  It was as though their little conversation in the
Park had never been.  She obtained increasingly from the Herries
family both instruction and amusement.  Old Amery greatly amused
her with his intimate stories of high places, of the adventures,
for example, of King William of the Netherlands, one of whose
ladies broke all the crockery in his palace during one of her
tempers, of some Italian prince in Paris who disguised himself as
an organ-grinder for a whole month that he might station himself
outside his lady-love's door, of young Lord So-and-so who, rejected
by his mistress, put a large black band on his hat, went to his
rooms, and committed suicide by cutting his wrist open with a
razor, remembering first to place a slop pail by the chair that
there might be no mess.  Young Alfred amused her because he would
tolerate anyone who promised to be notable.  She liked Captain Will
with his breezy manner of finding the sea the only possible place,
and yet now he never went there.  The Rockages were redolent of the
country.  Carey himself, although he was tidy enough, seemed to
carry good Wiltshire mud on his boots, and little Lady Rockage
walked as though she were ready to spring on to a horse's back at
any moment.  She soon knew them all and liked them all with the
single exception of Emily, Barney's sister, who was pious but not
charitable, prudish with an unpleasant inquisitiveness, and a
mischief-maker for the best of motives.

She found them all most strangely alike in some basic way.  They
had no pose, made no attempts to assert themselves, took everything
for granted.  For them all, the Herries were the backbone of
England, and England was the only country in the world that
mattered at all.  It was Barney Newmark, however, who best
explained the family position to her, sitting beside her on the
occasion of the splendid Herries party in Hill Street when Mme
Trebelli sang and Signor Pesto played so enthusiastically the
violin.

Vanessa liked Barney best of them all.  Rose, of course, excepted.
Barney was now fifty-two, stout, fresh-coloured, and carelessly
dressed but not untidy.  He looked a little Bohemian but not very;
you would not know that he was a writer, said Vanessa.  That was a
period when writers LOOKED like writers.  He took life very
lightly, laughed at everyone and everything, but behind that was,
she thought, a disappointed man.  He had published a dozen novels
and lived comfortably on the proceeds.  She had read several of
them.  They were not very good and not very bad.  They were like
the books of other authors.  But he never spoke of his novels,
laughed scornfully when they were mentioned to him.  She felt,
however, that he would like it very much if someone else praised
them.  At their first meeting in London she said what she could.
At once he stopped her.

'Dear Vanessa.  Thank you very much.  And now we need never mention
them again, need we?  No friends of mine can read my novels.  That
is a sign of their friendship.'  Very different, had she but known
it, from the man who once at a prize-fight had clasped Mortimer
Collins by the shoulder!

They sat now in a corner of the big drawing-room and watched the
splendid affair.  The room was very crowded.  It looked for the
first time alive, for the heavy furniture was gone and, save for
the palms, ferns and flowers packed into the corners, round the
piano, in front of the great marble fireplace, only human beings
filled it.  The ladies wore their jewels, their shoulders gleamed
under the gaslight, everyone was splendid, dignified, assured and,
it appeared, happy.  Vanessa would never have had courage to
penetrate the throng, but almost at once she saw Barney, who
carried her off into a corner, saying:  'Now I shall be the
proudest man here for five minutes, before you are discovered, you
know.  Soon there will be so many proud men that you won't be able
to breathe.'

She was very happy alone with him.  She would like to stay thus
throughout the evening.

'Tell me who everyone is, Barney dear,' she said.

He pointed out a few.  'That dignified cleric is the Bishop of
London.  That fine fellow there is Mr Bancroft.'

'And oh, who is that darling old man?'

That darling old man looked like a ship's captain.  He had a grey
beard, grey hair erect and curly through which he often ran his
hands, a florid complexion, clear eyes.  He was the finest man in
the room.

'That is Mr Madox Brown,' said Barney.

'And that lovely lady?'

'That lovely lady is Mrs Samuel Maguire, and her husband gives her
a diamond every morning with her coffee.'

'And that very dark man?'

'That is Isaac Lowenfeld, the financier.  He once blacked
gentlemen's shoes in Constantinople.  Jews are coming in.  The
Prince of Wales likes them, and why should he not?  I like them
myself.  They have the best hearts, the best brains and the
staunchest religion in London.'

She noticed two young men with high white foreheads, long pale hair
and a very languishing manner.

'And those?'

'Those are the aesthetes.  They look at a lily for breakfast,
worship china teacups and lisp in poetry.  I don't like 'em myself.
They are not my kind.  But they have their uses.'

'Everyone is here then?  Lady Herries will be pleased.'

'Yes, it is a success because soon the room will be so crowded that
no one can move, so noisy that no one will hear anyone else, and so
hot that several young ladies will faint.'

She soon found members of the Herries family here and there.

'There is Emily.  How nice and healthy Captain Will looks!  I think
Alfred is over-dressed.'

'Yes, we are all here,' said Barney.  'A great satisfaction to all
of us.  A fine family.  And yet we are not of the first rank.  Oh,
I don't mean in history.  We are, I suppose, as old as any family
in England.  But we are not, and never shall be, like the
Chichesters, the Medleys.  Nor like the Beaminsters, the Cecils,
the Howards.  Although in fact we ARE a kind of relation of the
Howards.  But we're not like the new democrats either, people like
the Ruddards, the Denisons.  All very poor kind of talk this, but
it's important, the social history of England, partly because it's
history, partly because in another fifty years' time there won't be
any social history.  There, do you see that little woman in black
with that jade pendant--with the hard mouth and the small nose?
That's the Duchess of Wrexe.  That's her daughter, Adela
Beaminster, with her.  Well, she walks as though she owned the
world, every scrap of it.  Contrast her with Lady Herries.  Oh, I
know SHE isn't a Herries really, but she's acquired ALL the Herries
characteristics.  The wives of Herries men always do.  That's what
I mean.  We are upper middle class.  We belong in the country,
small Squires, maiden ladies in places like Bournemouth and
Harrogate, houses like Uldale for example.  That's where WE are.
For the last hundred years we've been rising or seeming to.  Will
made a heap of money and Ellis is making more.  Then there are the
Rockages, a small pocket-nobility.  But we are not first class in
anything.  We write--well, as I do.  We are parsons and one of us
becomes an Archdeacon.  We make money in the City but can't TOUCH
Lowenfeld.  We entertain, but when we bring off a party like this
it's a kind of accident.  Not that we see ourselves like that.  We
think there's nobody to touch us, but that's because we have no
imagination.  That's why we are of real importance in the country.
If there's ever a revolution in England it's the Herries and others
like them who will save us all.  Even as we begin to die out the
lower ranks take our places and become just like us.  We are filled
up from below, but we never RISE any higher.  We have our good
points--we are not acquisitive, we are not greedy, we are kind if
we are not attacked, generous even; we never lose our heads, we
adore our country although we criticize it.  We never have to speak
foreign languages, we revel in our abominable climate, on the whole
we are contented.'

'But?--' asked Vanessa.

'We have one great weakness.  We are terrified of anything out of
the normal.  If we see it we fight and slay it.  Unhappily there is
a strain of the artist in our family.  It breaks out again and
again.  Then we are shamed, disgraced, humiliated.  We have never
learnt how to assimilate it.  That is why if we breed an artist he
is always second-rate.  The family is too strong for him.  That is
why we fight among ourselves and why some of us, if we are
courageous enough not to come to terms, are so unhappy.  Oh, you
needn't look at me, my dear.  I HAVE come to terms.  I couldn't
fight it out.  That is why I am what I am.  I am always hoping that
we shall breed an artist who, because he is forced to fight,
becomes a GREAT artist.  Why have the English the finest poets in
the world?  Because the other members of the family have always
done their best to kill them.  Why was your grandmother so
splendid?  Because she never capitulated.'

'Father always says that she declared that she DID capitulate,'
said Vanessa.

'Capitulate?  She?  Think of her!  Capitulate?  Not she!  If she
were in this room tonight she'd blow out the Duchess of Wrexe like
a farthing dip!'

'And have you altogether capitulated, Barney?'

'Yes, my dear.  Entirely.  I'm no good at all.  But I tell you who
HASN'T capitulated.  That's Benjie!'

At the unexpected sound of his name the lights blurred, the voices
faded.

'No,' said Barney, 'but if he doesn't they'll drum him out of the
field.  You watch them.  It will be a fight worth beholding!'

And now the room was crammed indeed.  The roar of conversation,
like the break of the tide on shingle with here a whisper, here a
grating clatter of pebbles, here a resounding hiss, made private
talk impossible, so Barney, pleased with his analysis of his
relations, stood up and looked about him while Vanessa watched Mr
Madox Brown roaring at the Bishop of London, and the lovely Mrs
Williamson (who was reputed to bathe in milk every morning)
listening kindly to one of the young aesthetes, who twisted and
bent like a reed in a gale.

She caught fragments of conversation.  'I heard Trebelli at Sims
Reeves' concert in February.  No, he couldn't appear, so we had
Trebelli and Santley instead.  Oh, of course Trebelli's the best
contralto in the world.  But to tell you the honest truth I
enjoyed better Santley's "Vicar of Bray"--irresistible.  Quite
irresistible . . .'

'Oh, but Bradlaugh! . . .'

'And then, my love, WHAT do you think?  She went to the
pastrycook's round the corner and HERSELF fetched a dozen cream
buns in a paper bag . . .'

'Yes, but what _I_ say is that they could keep Jumbo here perfectly
well, doncherknow, if they wanted to--really wanted to.  What I
mean is, that Jumbo is important for the country, for the TOURISTS,
doncherknow--something for them to go to the Zoo and look at.  What
I mean is, we all feel it PERSONALLY . . .'

'Very UNKIND of Punch, I think.  Poor Mr Irving--to print his
picture and then quote "Romeo!  Romeo!  Wherefore are THOU Romeo?"
That's too personal in my opinion.  All the same he is NOT the
young, ardent lover . . .'

'Yes, but what Russell wants is to buy out the Irish landlords and
present the holdings to the tenants!  Simple!  I should think so!
If Gladstone would only say what he means . . .'

'And so, darling, Henry said to him, "That lady is intended
evidently for a Chinese"--trying to be witty, poor man, and the
large man with the teeth whom he'd NEVER seen before said
furiously, "And why, pray?  That lady is my sister."  And oh,
wasn't Henry clever?  He answered at once, "Why, because she has
such exquisitely small feet."'

It was Vanessa's first London party, and, standing there, waiting
before she should be drawn into the middle of it, she knew, as her
grandmother had known on just such another occasion, that something
in her responded to this with excitement and eagerness.  It was as
though, a vagabond and wanderer, peering in through a window at a
splendid feast, she exclaimed to herself:  'I can do this as well
as anyone.  I know all the tricks.'  She would never truly belong
to it, but it was a part that she could play as well as anyone
there.  The personal drama had seized her.  The drama of London,
the Park with the brilliant sunlit figures, the old crossing-
sweeper with the scarlet coat, Ellen Terry laughing into the wicked
eyes of old Mrs Stirling, Mr Conway rebuking his errant daughter,
Gladstone in his high collar thundering at the House, old Lady
Herries fixing, with trembling hands, the jewels about her throat,
the melancholy wail of the hurdy-gurdy two streets away, the Prince
of Wales talking to Mr Lowenfeld, the 'greenery-yallery' young men
yearning over a Japanese print, the carts packed with flowers
arriving in the early morning at Covent Garden, Gambetta drinking
his morning coffee in Paris, and that picturesque brigand Arabi
ordering an execution in Egypt, an account that she had read only
last week in a paper of a Professor who had invented 'little
electric lamps of wires of platinum inside glass bulbs,' Ellis
loving her and Horace Ormerod's friendliness, and Rose's
adventurousness, Barney's kindness, and, behind it all, sitting in
the hut at the top of the Cat Bells garden, watching the thin
spidery rain veil the Lake in webs of lawn while fragments of blue
sky, as bright as speedwells, flashed and vanished and flashed
again.  Her mind was a jumble of this kind; at the back of the
jumble was the deep unceasing preoccupation.  Would Benjie come
before the month was out?  Would he keep his word?  Was there
nothing that could still this burning ceaseless preoccupation of
hers?  And, if he cared no longer for her, could she make her life
without him?  She could!  She could!  She was not so weak, so
helpless!  But her throat was dry at the thought!  Her hand touched
her breast to check the wild beating of her heart.

She was discovered.  Rose and Horace discovered her.  They led her
into the throng and at once her own life was broken into little
scattered fragments.  She had no life.  She was nothing but a
laughing, smiling, murmuring adjunct to all the other laughs,
smiles, murmurs.

She was introduced to Mr Madox Brown.  They sat down together near
the piano.  At first he said nothing, pushing his strong brown hand
through his curly hair, muttering a little, looking as though he
wanted to escape.  Then something happened.  SHE did not know what
it was.  In actual fact it was his sudden realization of her
beauty.  He never saw her again, but many times after he would
growl:

'One night at one of those damned musical parties I came on a
girl . . . you never saw anyone so lovely.  Quite unconscious of
it too.'

He became gentle and most friendly.  He told her about his son.
'He died seven years ago.  There never WAS anyone so talented.
Only nineteen when he died.  One day, when he was dying and I
sitting at his bedside, he smiled and said I smelt of tobacco.  I
said, "All right.  I'll not smoke again until you're better."  I
never SHALL smoke again.  Never.  Paint?  Write?  He could do
anything.  And sweet-natured.  Oliver was the only genius I've
known.  No one else.  Not GENIUS.  Genius is something from another
world.  Nothing to do with this shabby one.'

He asked her where she came from.

She told him, Cumberland.

'Oh yes, Wordsworth and all that.'

Looking at her he said:

'You have beautiful eyes.  Forgive an old painter's impertinence,
my dear.  I always begin with the eyes, you know.  Paint the eyes
of the central figure first and that gives tone to the picture.  I
begin at the top left hand of the canvas and go straight down to
the bottom.  And what do YOU do?'

'I can't paint,' she answered, laughing.  'I can't do anything.'

'You don't need to,' he told her.

They could have become great friends had life arranged it.

Then she was alone with Rose, sitting behind a gigantic pessimistic
palm.  They were clearing the space about the piano.  Trebelli was
going to sing.  What, she thought, was Rose's power over her?  Why
was she so fond of her?  Rose was like a carnation, set deep in
colour, slight, with a wine-dark air.  Not beautiful, for her eyes
were too large for her small face, her nose a little snub, and her
mouth, Vanessa must confess, rather hard.  Her eyes laughed,
danced, sparkled, but her mouth was always a little cold, a little
cruel.  If you judged people by their eyes, then Rose was a dear
sweet girl, but if by their mouth, then Rose was nothing of the
kind.  She said once to Vanessa:

'Horace and I are both completely hard and self-seeking!'

'Oh no!' protested Vanessa.

'Oh yes, we are!  The only difference between us is that I look at
myself in the glass and know EXACTLY what I am.  Horace looks
greedily into other people's faces for his reflection and woe
betide you if it isn't a pleasant one.'  She added:  'We are both
adventurers.  We have scarcely a penny to our name.  I'm the Becky
Sharp in Thackeray's stupid novel except that I'm sometimes
sentimental.  After I've been sentimental I'm so angry with
everyone that I could commit murder.  I dare say I shall one day.
Probably my husband.  First I must get one.  I'm twenty-seven, you
know.'

She talked a great deal about herself, and this Vanessa found
delightful, but Rose's real attraction for her was that she knew
life so thoroughly.  Girls who were Vanessa's contemporaries knew
nothing about life at all.  They were not supposed to know and,
what was more, they really did not know.  Most of them married
without the slightest idea of what came next, with the simple
result that, for the rest of their days, they were a little
melancholy and looked at all men, except clergymen, with a faint
distrust.  The women on the other hand, like Rose, for whom life
(including men) had no secrets, were like gipsies who pitch their
caravans at their own risk.  The female world looked on them with
suspicion, and the male world frequently presumed further than
slight acquaintance warranted.

Rose had by this time told Vanessa everything she knew, and
Vanessa, because she possessed certain beliefs, fidelities and a
strong sense of humour, was not at all shocked.  She hoped
nevertheless that Rose would be married soon.  It would be wiser.

Rose, on her side, loved Vanessa.  She might be herself a lost
angel--and she was a great deal more lost than Vanessa realized--
but she adored a good angel with a sense of humour.  She admired
passionately in Vanessa all the qualities that she did not herself
possess.  She was no fool about human nature.  She knew quite well
that even from her mercenary point of view the virtues pay better
in the end than the vices.

So they sat together behind the pessimistic palm and talked about
those present.  Rose knew something about everyone.  She knew just
what to tell Vanessa, amusing things but not cruel ones.  She kept
her cruel ones for other audiences.

Then, touching Vanessa's hand, she said:  'There, I think, is the
man I am going to marry.'

'Oh, where?' cried Vanessa.  'Rose, dear, do you mean it.'

'I THINK that I mean it.  That man with the eyeglass, the pale
whiskers, the beautiful figure.'

Vanessa looked.  He was certainly very handsome.

'Oh, who is he?'

'He is Captain Fred Wycherley.  He is in the Army and is very
rich.'

'Oh, Rose dear, I am so glad!  Has he proposed to you?  Do you love
him very much?'

'No, he has not proposed, but I think within the week he will.  I
don't love him, of course.  It would never do for me to love my
husband: it would give him too much power over me.  But he is
agreeable, amusing.  I think we shall understand one another.'

Before they could say any more Trebelli began to sing.  She had an
extremely powerful voice and sang as though she were commanding a
regiment.  She was made, it appeared, of brass from head to foot.

After the singing everyone began to move about again and Vanessa
was introduced to a number of people.  Among them was a stout,
round gentleman with fair hair and the face of a very good-natured
pig, whose eyes beamed with kindliness.  This, she discovered, was
Lord John Beaminster, a son of the Duchess of Wrexe.  He spoke in
jerks, smiling upon her as though he had known her all her life.

'Very hot, these parties,' he said.

'Yes,' she said, copying Barney.  'The hotter they are the more
successful they are.'

'Do you care for music?'

'Yes, sometimes.'

'That woman has deafened my eardrum.  All the opera women shout.
Do you like the opera?'

'I've never been in my life,' said Vanessa.  'I live in the
country.'

'Oh, in the country, do you?  Wouldn't want to live there.  All
right for a day or two.  What part?'

'Up in Cumberland.'

'Doesn't it rain there?'

'Yes, when it wants to, but nobody minds the rain.'

'I do, unless I'm shooting or hunting, you know.'  He smiled as
though they had reached the most delightful intimacy.  'Oh, that
damned feller's going to play the fiddle.'

It was then that as she looked beyond him towards the door, as
though something had compelled her, the miracle of her whole life
occurred.  Beaminster was saying something to her.  The violin
began to wail.  The shining shoulders of some woman at her side
spread, as it appeared, into an infinite distance.

In the doorway, looking about him with a friendly grin, stood
Benjie Herries.

She did not move.  Beaminster, seeing a friend, said, with a bow:
'Excuse me one moment.'

Then Benjie seemed to drive, like a swimmer breasting the tide,
straight towards her.  She saw people greet him.  She heard (for he
was very near to her now) Will Herries exclaim:

'Hullo, Benjie!  Where have you come from?'

She did not move until his hand was on her sleeve.  She heard him
say:  'Come out of this.  Outside.'

She went with him down the room.  In the passage above the stairs
there was no one.  From the room within, the violin went on and on
like a voice speaking only for them.

She stood up against the wall, staring at him, feeling that at any
moment she might cry, unable to speak because her heart beat so
fiercely, hammering her body as though it must throw her down.  But
there was no need to speak, no time for it.

'You thought that I wasn't coming back.  Didn't you?  You thought
that I had forgotten.  Quick, Vanessa, tell me--do you love me?  Do
you love me as much as two years ago?  Is there anyone else?  If
so, where is he?  I'll kill him.  Quick.  Tell me.  I have run all
the way from Brindisi.  If you knew how I've run!  Tell me.  Tell
me.  Do you love me?  Are you going to marry me?  Can I go in there
now and tell them all?  Quick.  Don't waste a moment!  Do you love
me?'

'Benjie, wait!  Of course I do.  I thought you'd never come!  I've
been longing--'

But she did not finish her sentence.  He kissed her, patting her
shoulder, her arm, laying his cheek against hers.  Then he caught
her hand in his.

'Now come!  At once!  We must tell everyone!  We mustn't lose a
moment!'

He pulled her with him to the door.  The voice of the violin came
towards them, dancing over the crowd, the flowers, the palms.

Seated by the door was an old lady, blazing with diamonds,
listening to the music through an ear-trumpet.

'Excuse me--' said Benjie.

'Hush! hush!' said everyone near the door.  The violin rose into a
thin, long, vibrating note.  Then ceased.

The old lady, turning to a man beside her, said:

'And NOW it ought to be time for supper.'  Then, looking up:  'Why,
it's Benjamin Herries!  I thought you were in China, young man.'

Benjie wrung her hand as though she were the friend of his heart.

'I was, Lady Mullion.  I was--only yesterday.  Let me introduce you
to Miss Vanessa Paris.  We are going to be married--'

'Going to be what?' she asked, her round red face ignorantly
beaming.

He took the ear-trumpet, and, in a voice loud enough for all the
world to hear, shouted:  'We are going to be married.'

'Oh, is that all?' said the old lady.  'I thought there'd been an
accident.  And now I do HOPE we are going down to supper.'



THE SEASHORE


Timothy Bellairs took his wife and family that summer to an old
house, Low Dene, in the village of Gosforth, which was situated ten
miles from Wastwater and a little more than three miles from
Seascale on the coast.

Young Tim, now aged five, had not lately been very well; one cold
had followed the other.  Sea air would do the children good, and he
would have found some place ON the sea had it not been for Mrs
Bellairs, who disliked the sea and all its works.  So a compromise
was effected.

Low Dene was one of those large, rambling, untidy houses of which
at that time the country offered many examples.  They were
especially suited to the large families that good English parents
thought it proper to create.  The house was in a hollow under the
hill to the right of the village; fields ran to the edge of the big
scrambling garden; there was a croquet lawn, a wood, shrubberies, a
stream, everything that children desired.  The place belonged to a
retired Indian colonel whose children were now grown.  He had gone
with his wife and four daughters to Brighton, where he hoped to
marry the daughters and recapture some of his own youth.  It was
one of those houses which here are furnished and there are not.
The drawing-room, some of the bedrooms, were crowded with large and
small impedimenta, so crowded that you could scarcely move without
disabling a china figure, upsetting an Indian idol, or flinging a
wool mat to the floor.  On the other hand most of the passages,
some of the bedrooms, the bathroom, had no covering to the bare
boards, the wind whistled through the thin faded wallpapers, the
piano was altogether out of tune, every fireplace smoked, the gas
hissed, the cistern groaned, there was an odd smell of dog in every
room, and draughts played in every corner.  In spite of these
things the house had an air of cosiness and comfort--why, it would
be difficult to say.  It was, maybe, because a large family had
grown up in it and their games, quarrels, intimacies, pleasures had
sunk into the brick, permeated the boards of the passages, helped
to stain curtains and wallpapers into their faded homely colours.

Timothy, his wife, and children were well pleased.  Fell House,
Uldale, was the joy and boast of Timothy's heart, but it was
pleasant for a while to escape its responsibilities.  Timothy was
lazy although he disguised the laziness with true English aplomb.
As to the children this was the happiest summer of their young
lives.  Discipline was relaxed; their father condescended to walk
with them, there was the Farm at the top of the hill, the fields
with the haymaking, the mysterious wood, the sea, and above all
Vanessa.

It was Timothy who had invited Vanessa to stay with them.  Mrs
Bellairs had objected, although in her sleepy, limited fashion she
rather liked Vanessa.  They had both been deeply shocked--as had
Herries up and down the country--when they heard of her engagement
to Benjamin Herries.  They had thought at first that they would
never speak to Vanessa again.  But Timothy had as true an affection
for her as he had for anyone in the world.  In his stout slow body
there was little rancour, no spitefulness, temper only with his own
children.  He was negative in all his emotions except his family
pride.  He thought that he had the finest house, the finest wife,
the finest children in the world, and perhaps, deep in his heart,
he loved his children and had an affection for his wife.  But it
was not the fashion for either husbands or parents to be
demonstrative.  He was now forty-five years of age, laziness and
corpulency made him virtuous, but he had still an eye for a pretty
woman, and Vanessa's beauty, although he might not speak of it (for
Mrs Bellairs could be a jealous woman), gave him the greatest
pleasure to look upon.  He would stare and stare at her with
something of the same emotion with which he would gaze upon a fine
shoulder of mutton freshly come to table.  Nevertheless he cared
for Vanessa.  He would, at a push, do more for her than for anyone.

Discussing the tragic Vanessa-Benjie affair in the large family bed
at Uldale, he declared that Vanessa should be invited to come with
them to Gosforth.  Mrs Bellairs groaned and lamented, but knew that
if he had decided on something it was decided.  They were both lazy
people, but she was lazier than he.  His point was that they might
influence Vanessa.  She had been carried off her feet by the London
atmosphere.  (He had the greatest contempt for London.  He knew
that he would not shine if he went there.)  Let her spend a week or
two with them in the country and they would soon show her her silly
mistake.

'And her father?' murmured Mrs Bellairs.

'Let him come too,' said Timothy, who tolerated Adam but scorned
him because he did nothing with his time but write books.  'The
house is big enough.'

However, Adam refused.  He might come over for a day or two.

Timothy, his wife, his sister Jane, now an old maid of forty-two,
the children, Mrs Clopton the nurse, Agnes the young maid, Jim
Wilson the coachman, Peter the dog, all moved over to Low Dene in
the large family chariot.

Vanessa arrived there two days later.

The real reason of Vanessa's visit was that she wished to escape
from Benjie, whom she had been seeing almost every day for the last
three months.

It was not that she loved Benjie less: it was that she loved him
more, and this love had plunged her into a turmoil of problems,
excitements, and distresses not only about him but about herself as
well.

She had never, until now, known any very close and intimate
relation with anyone save her father and mother.  Her life had
always moved on certain fixed and stable laws.  Her own faults and
failings, which were many--impetuous feeling, hasty temper, neglect
of obvious duties--had all, when tested by a few principles, been
clearly faults and failings.  There had never been any question
about what she OUGHT to do.  Simply she had been wicked and failed.

But she was as honest as anyone alive, both with herself and
everyone else, and, after a week with Benjie, she saw that neither
right nor wrong conduct would ever be so clear and simple again.

That she had been carried off her feet by Benjie's return and
proposal did not at all blind her to the fact that no one else had.
She realized immediately at the first half-hour in the party at
Hill Street that no one anywhere was going to approve of the
engagement--no, not even Rose.  'She is throwing herself away,' she
could hear everyone saying.  Benjie's charm and light-heartedness
when he was happy affected many when he was with them, and during
that final week in London he was very charming indeed, but,
returning to Cumberland, she found that even Elizabeth was
doubtful.  'It is what I have always wanted,' Elizabeth said.  'And
oh, my dear, I do hope he will make you happy!'

And her father?  He kissed her and told her that her happiness was
dearer to him than anything else on earth.  She was a woman now.
She knew where her happiness lay.

She simply said:  'I have loved him all my life.'  He said no more,
but she noticed in him after this a constant anxiety, an extra
tenderness, and in herself, a certain reticence that had not been
there before.  Their relationship was for the first time in their
lives a little clouded.

Benjie came up to the Fortress and lived there quietly with his
mother.  At first he was happy with an exuberance, a generosity to
all the world, that showed him at his very best.  Everyone noticed
the change in him.

'I think,' Elizabeth confided to Vanessa after a week or two, 'that
it will be as I hoped.  You are going to change him altogether.'
He told her again and again how, during those last months abroad,
her image, his adoration of her, obsessed him more and more
completely.  On his journey home his impatience was a fever.  At
the sight of her at last in that silly drawing-room he nearly died!
They must be married immediately.  She was quite ready.  She did
not want to wait.  Let them be married tomorrow!

Then it was he, Benjie, who postponed it.  One afternoon, walking
again in the garden at the Fortress, all the old doubts came
forward.  He was not good enough for her.  Everyone was right.  He
would make her unhappy.  When she knew him better she would hate
him.  She calmed him.  She laughed at him.  She told him once again
that she had known him all her life, that she was not blind nor
ignorant about men, that they must trust one another and take what
came.  She was so certain of her own deep, unchangeable love that
they need have no fear.  He asked her, in a kind of despair, why
did she love him as she did.  Soon against her will she was asking
herself that question.  What was Benjie's power over her?  She
loved him because he alone in all the world drew everything out of
her: she loved him as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a
friend and a companion.  He was honest, generous, gay, independent,
brave.  He was also careless, selfish, casual, forgetful, always
surrendering to the mood of the moment, hating to be tied.  But
that he adored her no one could doubt.  He knew, his mother knew,
even the men and women about the place knew that, with all his
faults, this love for Vanessa was true, staunch, unyielding.  Had
his character been as fine as his love they would be happy for
evermore!

The wildness in him was quite untamed.  She knew that and reckoned
with it, but to watch it working at a distance and to have it in
close daily communion with herself were two quite different things.

He could conceal nothing that was in his mind, and soon he attacked
what he called her 'childishness'.  He attacked her religion.  He
told her again and again that he did not want her to change in the
least and tried to change her.  'You know that there can't be a
God, Vanessa.  In your heart you must know it.  You are a wise
woman.  You read and think.  Well, then, ask yourself.  How CAN
there be a God and life be as it is?  If there is one He ought to
be deuced ashamed of Himself, that's all I can say.'

She disliked intensely to talk about her religion.  She had never
done so with anyone save her mother and Elizabeth.  Her father had
always respected that reticence.  But quietly and with humour she
answered Benjie's indignation.  'We go by our experience, I
suppose, Benjie dear.  God is as real to me as you are.  Of course
I don't know WHY life is as it is.  I am a very ignorant woman, and
Mr Darwin's monkeys are beyond my scope.  But a hundred thousand
monkeys wouldn't alter the truth that I love you, nor would they
change my love of God either.  Don't worry about it, Benjie.  Let
us be what we are.'

Then soon there was another thing.  She had never known before what
physical love was.  She had never been close to Benjie so
constantly.  She had never conceived her own weakness.  One fine
day they had ridden out to Borrowdale and, sitting in the sun under
some trees above Rosthwaite, they had talked.  She knew that
everyone thought it very disgraceful that they went about together
without a chaperon.  Even her father had shyly spoken to her of it.
She had laughed and said that he need have no fears.  But now,
quite suddenly, she realized that he was right to be afraid.  It
was as though she and Benjie were caught up into a hot burning
cloud of light.  The world turned so that both sound and vision
were obliterated.  For a fearful dumb blind moment she was almost
lost.  Then by the grace of God she escaped into sight and sound
again.

Next day she said, 'Benjie, why should we wait?  Let us marry
soon.'

But there was her father.  She could not endure to leave him.  It
is true that she would be at the Fortress, not far away, but the
thought of his lonely days, his sitting at his table writing,
looking up out of window, thinking of her, wanting her, was
intolerable.  He told her with a smile that he would be quite
happy.  He had Will, he had his work and garden.  She knew that he
was doing his best.  He did not take her in at all.  Then in June
he fell ill.  He caught a cold, suffered from rheumatism, had to go
to bed for a while.  When he was better Benjie, who had been
wonderful during Adam's sickness, coming constantly to visit him,
laughing, cheering him up, reading to him, suffered from all his
old scruples again.

'Vanessa, give me up!  I'll go away and never come back!  I'm not
worth all your sacrifice.  I'm not worth anyone's sacrifice.'

But he loved her more than ever and he was more charming than ever.
He was, during those weeks in July, unselfish, thoughtful,
considered her in everything.  But they decided that they would
wait until the spring.  'You will know then finally, once and for
all, whether I am worth it.'

'I know it now,' she said gently.  'Nothing can change.'

But she perceived by now that, beyond any doubt, it was something
he knew about himself that stirred all his self-depreciation.
That, because he knew himself so well and loved her so dearly, he
was determined to do this one decent honest thing--not to ruin her
life.

But what was it that he knew about himself?  He was not, in his
attitude to anyone else, self-depreciatory.  Far from it.  'Take me
as I am; as I take you,' was his attitude to the world.  Only he
would not spoil Vanessa's life for her.

'But of course you will not spoil it.'

'You don't know me.'

'I take the risk,' she answered.

By the end of July she felt that she must, for a little while, be
at a distance from him.  This indecision and hesitation could not
go on.  It was making them both sensitive, moody, self-conscious.
So she went to Gosforth.

When she had been a day there her spirit was quieted, her gaiety
returned.

Gosforth itself, small quiet village that it was, contained all the
past.  In the churchyard there was a cross of red sandstone which
represented a figure chained beneath a serpent dropping upon him
poison.  This was a Christian cross and yet it had on it a heathen
symbol.  No one could tell its age, but many Vikings, she
understood, had been half Christian, half heathen.  She liked to
think that this had been a Viking cross.  Then there was Gosforth
Hall near the church, the very house where Bishop Nicolson in the
seventeenth century, as a young archdeacon, courted Barbara Copley.
Near the Hall was a holy well where there had been once a mediaeval
chapel, and half a mile from the Hall was the Dane's Camp, and
farther from that again the King's Camp, at Laconby.  Many of the
old houses in the neighbourhood, like Ponsonby Hall and Sella Park,
were packed with history, while not far away was Calder Abbey.

In the middle of all this concentration of Time slept the perfect
English countryside.  There was often sunshine that August and
sweeping shafts of it fell across the cornfields, warming the
colours into red gold, falling at the feet of the dark shadows of
the woods.  It was pastoral everywhere, while on windless days the
silence, made more musical by the creaking of a cart, dogs barking,
the call of the farmer to his horse, seemed to carry all the summer
scents of flowers and corn and trees and pile them about you so
that on the hot lawn you need not stir but gather, without motion,
everything into your heart.

Yet how strangely even in this country of cornfield, wood and
hedgerow still the mountains dominated.  At every point, from every
rise, Black Combe, thrusting its head like a lazy friendly whale
into the sea, held your eye.  From Black Combe's top you could hold
in your grasp the Isle of Man, the Scottish and Welsh coasts with
Snowdon greeting you, while landwards were Lancashire and the
Yorkshire Fells.

To the right from a little hill above the house you could salute
the Screes and in your mind's eye follow them as they rushed with
all their power to bury their foundations deep in the heart of the
black lake.  Standing on her hill Vanessa would watch the clouds
hurrying like smoke to invade the serried tops, then to spill
themselves in storm or to break into pavilions snow-white or
crimson with fire, or to shred and scatter into strands of gold and
crimson.  And she liked to sense, as she felt the motionless peace
of the cornfields below them, catching the sun and throwing it up
to her again, that above those hills the wind was raging and that
their shining, slanting surface glistened with hardness, and the
stone walls, straight as a sword, ran to the skyline over ground
that was rough and peaty and free.  All history was in this small
patch of ground, and all nature too, shadowed by the triumphant
wing of the great Eagle to whose kingly progress History was but a
day.

In the house and out of it there were the children.  They were
sternly disciplined.  Mrs Clopton, a tall dark woman with heavy
eyebrows and a faint moustache, was a Tartar.  She was not unkind,
but she thrived on her despair of human nature.  She hoped for the
best but gloried in her constant disappointment.  Her God--she was
a deeply religious woman--was the real God of the Israelites,
revengeful, on the watch for every blunder, cruel in His
punishments.  Oddly the children liked her; they were proud of her.
She had no need to punish; a look, a word from her was sufficient.
Not that they were perfect children.  They made their own lives in
their world of perpetual discipline.  They learnt their Collects on
Sunday, said 'Yes, Mama' and 'No, Mama', never spoke when with
their elders unless spoken to, but once by themselves, the official
eye removed from them, they were free, natural, and often naughty.
It was as though they understood the terms under which they lived
and made their plans accordingly.  Violet was delicate--fair-
haired, slender, blue-eyed and was already making her poor health
her pleasant advantage.

But Tim was Vanessa's darling.  He was fair and slender like
Violet, but strong and wiry.  She saw that he was an artist born
and that nothing would stop him.  He drew unconsciously without any
deliberate awareness.  He noticed the shapes and colours of clouds,
the patterns of leaves, the path that the wind made through the
corn, a snail's shiny track on the lawn, the purple shadows on the
flanks of Black Combe.  He was already at odds with Herries common
sense.

His father would darken the doorway.

'Tim, what are you doing?'

'Making a picture, Papa.'

'Let me see.'

Then after a pause:

'Now what is this?'

'A ship with pirates, Papa.'

'Pirates!  Pirates!  What do you know about pirates?'

'Aunt Essie told us, Papa.'

'And you call this a ship?'

'I don't know ships very well and--'

'Well, wait until you do.  Wasting your time like this!  What have
I often told you?'

'Not to waste my time, Papa.'

'Exactly.  Now put away that rubbish.'

The children worshipped Vanessa.  For half an hour before they went
to bed she was allowed to tell them stories.  Mrs Clopton listened
in stern astonishment.  There was nothing of which she disapproved
so thoroughly as stories, but, while her needles clicked, she found
herself attending: fairy palaces rose above her head, the Crystal
Lake was at her feet and a White Horse of incomparable splendour
strode the ice-bound hills.

'Time for their bed, Miss Vanessa.'

But, over her solitary supper, she wondered, against her will:
'What did the Princess find behind the secret door?  Did the dwarf
climb out of the cellar?  Why was the Green Necklace the King's
most treasured possession?'

Best of all there was the sea.  On fine days they drove there in
the victoria.  The sand stretched in a floor of mother-of-pearl to
the line of trembling white.  On the horizon the Isle of Man hung
between sea and sky.  Timothy slept, Mrs Bellairs talked, the
children were busy with their fantasies, Mrs Clopton read her
Bible, Vanessa thought of Benjamin.

On a sunny afternoon, staring dreamily at the incoming tide, she
saw him coming towards her.



At first she was delighted, then she was angry, then delighted
again.  She wanted NOT to be pleased!  He was for ever breaking his
word.  They had agreed that they would not meet for three weeks.
And why had he not written to her to tell her that he was coming?
Or had he perhaps ridden over and tomorrow was returning?  Or did
he intend? . . .  The children had seen him and began to run
towards him, then stopped, remembering their elders.  They loved,
however, Benjie better than anyone else in the world--far better
indeed.  No one, not even Aunt Vanessa nor Aunt Jane nor any other,
could create for them a world and then live contentedly inside it
as Benjie could.

'Uncle Benjie!  Uncle Benjie!' Tim cried and woke up his father.
Mrs Bellairs disapproved of Benjamin completely.  She was terrified
lest he should contaminate the children.  She SAID this, but in
actual fact when he was in her company she always surrendered to
him.  Had she been honest with herself she would have acknowledged
that to be so vicious and yet so amiable touched the adventurous
woman in her.  Although stout and forty, completely the British
matron, there hid somewhere within her a girl who longed to see
what the other half of the world was like.  This girl was slowly
starving to death.  Once and again she received sustenance: Benjie
more than any other kept her alive.

Nevertheless he WAS dangerous to the children with all the horrible
things he had seen and done, the dreadful women he must know.
Moreover, had they not invited Vanessa to stay for the sole purpose
of showing her how shocking, how impossible Benjie was?

But what were you to do when in a moment he was down on his knees
in the sand helping Tim with his castle, which the child had
already decorated with a pink shell, the green stopper of a ginger-
beer bottle, and a piece of red rag tied to a stick?

And WHAT were you to do when, smiling all over his face, sand on
his trousers, waving a child's spade, he came over to you crying:

'Just think, Violet, I've come all the way from the Fortress on a
bicycle.'

'On a bicycle!'  She sat up, settled her bustle, arranged the large
yellow brooch neatly on her bosom and stared with what she trusted
was a mixture of disapprobation and dignity.

'Now don't look like that, Violet!  You know you are glad I have
come.  One might think I was Cetewayo by your disapproval.  I'm not
going to poison the children or tell them naughty stories.  I MAY
tell you a few later on, but to be honest with you I've come to see
Vanessa, the lady to whom I'm engaged, and nobody else . . .  Yes,
I've come on a bicycle!  I bought it in Carlisle last week.'

'Where is it?' asked Mrs Bellairs, speaking as though he had
brought with him the late-lamented Jumbo from the Zoo.

'It is at my lodging.'

'Your lodging?  Then you are going to stay here?'

'For a day or two--as long as Vanessa will put up with me.'

'Well, we can't offer you a bed at Low Dene if that's what you
want.  There are rooms enough but no servants.  I'm sorry, but you
should have told us you were coming.'

Benjie laughed.  'But, my dear Violet, why will you not understand?
I have not come to see YOU.  Of course if you appear sometimes I
shall be glad to talk to you and to listen to what you have to say.
If you are VERY good I will tell you a story or two about Port
Said.  But I have not the slightest interest in either yourself or
Low Dene just now.  I prefer the company of Mrs Halliday and
Rosemary Cottage.'

'And WHO is Mrs Halliday?'

'A retired gentlewoman with a beautiful daughter, who, an hour ago,
lured me with a card in the window which said that a bedroom was to
let on moderate terms.  Rosemary Cottage has a sea view, the
beautiful daughter was in the parlour tending the plants.  Within
five minutes terms were arranged, and my bicycle is now occupying
all the space in the front hall.'

'Very well.  If you are satisfied.  But I'm sure you might leave
Vanessa alone for a little.  You do not mean to say that you've
come thirty miles today on that bicycle?'

'No.  I stayed last night in Whitehaven and transacted a little
piece of business.'

'I see.'  She rose with great dignity, patted her bosom, shook her
dress so that the frills and ruches settled in their proper places,
and said:

'Timothy, it is time we were returning.  Come, children.  The air
is chill.'

But the victoria had to be ordered, and Benjie was able to secure a
moment alone with Vanessa.

'Why have you come?' Vanessa asked him.  'Three weeks was our
bargain.'

'I know.  I could not help it.  I had to show you the bicycle.'

'No, but I am angry.  Really I am.  You should not have come.'

'You haven't written, Vanessa.'

'I have only been here four days.'

'Yes, but FOUR DAYS!  An intolerable time.  But see how tactful I
am.  I am here at Rosemary Cottage.  There is Mrs Halliday's
beautiful daughter.  I am quite happy, and we need not meet at
all.'

'You know that we shall meet.'

'Let the others go in front.'  He caught her hand.  'Vanessa.  We
must stop this nonsense.  We must be married immediately.  I mean
it.  I cannot live even four days without you.'

'Tomorrow you will say something quite different.  I cannot trust
you from one day to another.'

'No, I know.  That is why we must be married immediately.  Next
month.  I have told my mother.  There is nothing against it.'

'There has never been anything against it,' she answered.  'Only
your own indecision.'  Then she laughed.  'Oh, Benjie, I am so glad
to see you!  I have been wanting you every minute I have been
here!'

'If,' he said, 'we walk up through those sand-dunes no one can see
us.'

Between the sand dunes they kissed as though they had been parted
for years.

When he had seen them all drive off in the victoria he walked to
his lodging, singing.  Everything was settled at last.  His own
indecision was ended.  After all, was he not changed?  Did he not
adore Vanessa?  He knew that he did!  How beautiful, how very, very
beautiful she had looked in the simple blue dress with the high
dark collar, the white frill at the throat, the little gold brooch
that he had given her, her hair brushed from her splendid forehead,
she kneeling there on the sand watching Tim's castle.  No one was
so lovely, no one so good and true, no one loved him so dearly!
The wildness was gone from his nature.  They would settle at the
Fortress, soon there would be children, boys like Tim, girls better
than Violet; the garden should blossom with the rose, the Fortress
should burn with light and heat . . .

He was approaching Rosemary Cottage.  It stood by itself, its feet
almost in the sand dunes, a small wind-blown desolate garden
looking on to the sandy track.  As he approached it he ceased to
sing.  The sun was setting: shadows crept over the sea and a mist
veiled the little moon.

Before he entered he hesitated.  Something about this place checked
his high spirits.  Vanessa seemed far away.  A little wind,
suddenly rising, blew the sand in thin spirals among the strong
tufted grass.

In the sitting-room the lamp was already lit and a meal spread on
the table--a ham, a dish of stewed fruit, cheese.

Mrs Halliday appeared in the doorway.

'Shall I bring the eggs and tea now?' she asked.  She was a spare
desolate woman in a black silk dress.  He noticed that she had no
eyebrows and wore mittens on her hands.

'Thank you,' he said.  He pulled off his boots, changing them for
slippers, found in his bag a novel by Ouida, pulled out his pipe.
She reappeared with the tea and eggs.

'I trust you have no objection to smoking in here?' he asked,
looking up at her with a smile.

'Oh, none at all, Mr--'  She paused.  'I beg your pardon.  I did
not catch your name before.  Pray forgive me.'

'Oh, certainly.  My name is Herries.'

'Thank you.  I am a little deaf in one ear.'  She waited as though
she expected him to speak.

'That tea looks splendid.'  He moved to the table.  I am
exceedingly hungry.'

'I am very glad, I am sure.'  She waited, then went on.  'I do hope
we shall satisfy you.  My daughter and I are not accustomed to
having lodgers.  We have been in this place barely a month.'

'Oh yes?'  He cut the bread.

'Yes.  We come from Warwickshire.  My husband was a gentleman of
means.  He was carried off with a severe fever six months ago.'

'Oh, I AM sorry,' said Benjie.  'What brought you, then, to this
district?'

'I have a son who has taken a farm in the Buttermere direction.  He
always was fond of the country, but was of course in very different
circumstances when my poor husband was alive.'  She paused, gave a
dry little cough.  'He passed away with great suddenness.  His
affairs were sadly involved.  He was ruined by one whom he thought
his friend.'

'Oh dear, I AM sorry,' Benjie said.  But he had been startled by
the extreme vindictiveness of that last sentence.  Up to then she
had spoken so very quietly.

'Yes, and so after that my daughter and I have had to do what we
can . . .  Thank you, Mr Herries.  I hope that you have everything
that you need.'

'Oh yes, thank you.'

She left the room.  What an extremely quiet woman she was!  It was
not only that she spoke quietly, the words coming from between her
thin lips reluctantly, but her movements were quiet, almost
stealthy.  She had been in the room before he noticed it.  Had he
been anyone but Benjie he would have said at once that he did not
like her, but his charity was all-embracing, at any rate until he
had full and sufficient reason for a stern decision.  But as he ate
his ham and his eggs he felt uncomfortable.  He thought that
perhaps tomorrow he would make a move.  He had half an impulse to
get up and see whether his bicycle was safe in the hall.  At any
rates it was stuffy in here.  The room was too full of things,
china dogs, pale yellow daguerreotypes, large sea-shells, little
tables covered with plush fastened with bright gilt nails.  There
was a smell in the room as though the windows had not been opened
for a very long time--a smell, was it of seaweed, of stale scent,
musty and clinging?  Ah well, he was an ancient mariner, he had
travelled the world over and known every discomfort.  He would not
be disturbed by a musty smell and a china dog or two.  Nevertheless
he disliked intensely a large daguerreotype of a pale severe
gentleman in black cloth whose cold eyes followed him wherever he
moved.  Possibly Mrs Halliday would not object to moving THAT
picture in the morning!

There was a knock on the door; he said 'Come in!' and the daughter
entered.

'Mother wished me to see whether you needed anything,' she said.

'Not at all,' he answered.  'Everything is excellent, thank you.'

The girl stood against the table looking at him.

She was certainly not beautiful, not even pretty.  She was thin
like her mother and very fair.  Her colour was so pale as to be
almost white; her large eyes were blue-grey.  She looked at him and
smiled faintly.  No, she was not pretty but there was something
striking about her.  It was true that she was thin, but her very
fragility seemed to claim your protection.

He smiled back at her.

'Do you like it here?' he asked her.

'No,' she said.  'I do not.'  She came nearer to him and laid her
hand on the cloth.  He noticed at once what a beautiful hand she
had, finely formed, with slender fingers.  Her hand moved towards
the teapot while still she looked at him.

He had a mad impulse to put out his hand towards hers.

He jumped up from the table.

'I shan't want anything else tonight, thank you,' he said, turning
his back to her abruptly as he filled his pipe.



The world does not grow less mysterious as it grows older, and it
is one of its more striking but less incalculable secrets that
human love when it is strong enough defies physical distance.  This
was not the first time nor the last in their history that Vanessa,
as now, riding in the victoria through the dark summer hedges to
Low Dene, was quite suddenly aware that Benjie was in danger.
Benjie was so often in danger, whether spiritual, mental, or
physical, that there must have been many occasions when Vanessa was
unaware.  There is also the perfectly plausible theory that
Victorian women were exceptionally sensible to chills because they
wrapped up so much.  In any case Vanessa, sitting in the victoria,
perfectly happy, feeling that at last she was on a relationship
with Benjie that was safe and secure, began to shiver.  They were
turning into the long straggling Gosforth street.  The sky in front
of them was a pale translucent green in whose bright waters some
trembling silver stars were glittering.

'Why! you are shivering, my dear!' said Mrs Bellairs.  'Wrap this
round you!  I do trust that you haven't caught a chill!'

Young Tim was sitting beside her, and his hot damp fist was
enclosed in her gloved hand.  In his fist, as she knew, were
several shells and a piece of golden seaweed.  She had the obscure
and unreasonable fancy that it was through his hot little fist that
she caught the sense that Benjie was in danger.  How could he be in
danger?  He had left her only half an hour before to walk, happy
and singing, to his lodging.  Rosemary Cottage!  There COULD be
nothing wrong about Rosemary Cottage.  Nevertheless they were both
of a strange ancestry, she and Benjie.  Francis Herries fighting in
the frosty air, Mirabell bending over her lover's body on the
Carlisle stones, Francis Herries looking at a picture on the wall
in a London lodging for the last time, John--his son--calling
through the mist in Skiddaw Forest:  'Is anyone there?', Judith,
released at last, running into the road joyfully to greet her
friends--these are only moments in a contemporary history where
facts are important only as pointers, and where the significance is
only externally material, and where Time has no significance at
all.

'Thank you, Violet,' said Vanessa, gratefully accepting the
Shetland shawl.  'It IS cold after the sun sets.'  At the same
moment she had a most incongruous thought--that it was so LIKE
Timothy and Violet to christen their children with their own names!



She was uneasy all that evening and, next morning, a little talk
that she had with Aunt Jane only increased that uneasiness.

It was a blazing summer day and they sat out on the lawn while the
children, under the stern eye of Mrs Clopton, knocked the croquet
balls about.  Vanessa had on her knee a novel by Rhoda Broughton,
and Aunt Jane had on hers a novel by Mrs Alexander.  Aunt Jane had
a dear little face that would soon be covered with wrinkles.  Her
ringlets, her shawl (even in this warm weather), the spectacles
that she used when reading, her little apprehensive starts as
though she expected that at any moment a bear would jump out on her
from the shrubbery, a round silver biscuit tin from which she would
produce suddenly sweet biscuits for the children when Mrs Clopton
wasn't looking, her extreme delicacy about other people's feelings,
her willing slavery to the wishes of other people, her single-
hearted devotion to those whom she loved, none of these attributes
concealed from Vanessa the fact that, in spite of her modesty,
reserve and deep religious beliefs, she knew a great deal more
about life and men and women than did either Timothy or Violet.

Vanessa had not often an opportunity of being alone with her.  She
was constantly busy on other people's business.  Timothy especially
was always providing her with occupations.  She was, when others
were present, very silent, and her brother and sister-in-law would
have been amazed had they realized the things that she perceived
and pondered.  They were certain that she adored them and
considered them perfect human beings.  In the first of these they
were correct or nearly correct (she loved people in her own way,
which was not at all theirs), in the second they were altogether
wrong.

The little conversation that Vanessa now had with her was
punctuated with Mrs Clopton's sharp:  'Now, Master Tim, don't dirty
your stockings!' and 'Let your brother have the ball now, Miss
Violet', and 'What did I tell you?  You must look where you are
going.'

From the field above the garden came the voices of the haymakers.

'Benjie has come to stay in Seascale, Aunt Jane,' said Vanessa.

'Yes, dear, I know.  That's very nice for you.'

'And we are going to be married in the autumn.'

Aunt Jane took off her spectacles.

'I'm glad of that too.  I think you have been engaged quite long
enough.'

'Why do you think that?' Vanessa asked quietly.

'Oh, my dear, I know nothing about marriage of course, but Benjie,
I always say, is not at all an ordinary man.  I would never expect
YOU to marry an ordinary man, Vanessa dear.  You have too much of
your grandmother in you.  But when a man is NOT an ordinary man I
always say that it is better that he should be married.'

'Of course Benjie's not an ordinary man.  But then nobody is
ordinary if you know them well enough.'

'Quite so.  That's what Mrs Alexander, whose book I am finding it
extremely difficult to read, does not appear to have discovered.
All her characters are so VERY ordinary.'

Vanessa hesitated.  Then she went on:

'Aunt Jane, I am going to ask you something.  You are so very wise.
You have known both Benjie and me since we were babies.  Why is it,
do you think, that when we are together we so often misunderstand
one another?'

'That is just what I mean about marriage,' said Jane.  'People
always misunderstand one another.  But the point about marriage is
that if you go on long enough together you arrive at an
understanding.  Once you are married you are bound together.  I
believe all married people find the connexion very irritating for a
long while, and if they were not married they would separate.  But
being married they cannot, and so, at last, the understanding
arrives.  I put it very badly of course.  I am not clever as your
grandmother was.  But there it is.  That's what marriage does.'

'We must not be engaged too long, Benjie and I,' Vanessa said, as
though she were speaking to herself.  'There is something dangerous
about waiting.'

'There is something dangerous, my dear, about every human
relationship.  That is God's intention.  People would never learn
anything if there were not plenty of danger about.  That is what
your grandmother always said.'

'Oh, how I wish she were still alive!' Vanessa cried.  'She would
have helped me.  I know nothing about life at all--nothing about
Benjie either, I sometimes think, although I've been with him all
my life.  How can we know anything about men?  We are never alone
with them; all they do is concealed from us; when they are with us
they never tell us the truth.'

'Yes, dear, you are quite right,' said Jane.  'I often think that
women today are far too sheltered.  Not that I like the girls that
your Miss Broughton writes about.  That is surely going TOO far.
But when your grandmother was a girl, as she often told me, women
were far more free.  I dare say they will be again one day, but as
it is just now they have to spend all their time guessing.'

'Aunt Jane,' Vanessa said, staring at the rising field, the
sunlight that soaked the lawn, 'I'm frightened.  I feel that one
wrong slip and Benjie will be carried away into some place where I
can't reach him.  I love him so terribly, but I am only CLOSE to
him at moments.  He's here.  He's gone.  And when he is gone I am
so helpless . . .'

Jane smiled.  'Don't be frightened, my dear.  Trust God.  He knows
so very much more than we do.  Remember always that Benjie has a
tragic history behind him, his father, his grandfather . . .  You
know, don't you, that I was the last person to talk to his father
on that dreadful day?  He was leading his horse from the stable.
Of course I was only a little girl then, but I have always thought
that perhaps I could have stopped him if I had known what to do or
say, I loved him when I was a child more than I loved anyone, and I
have been haunted all my life since by the thought that I failed
him.  But what I say is,' she went on more cheerfully, 'that if we
do right as far as we can it's all we can do.  Life's a dangerous
thing, my dear, and you can't escape the danger by staying in bed
all day or making other people act FOR you.  Don't expect things to
be easy.  Why should they be?  God doesn't arrange the universe
only for me--nor for you either.  To listen to the way the people
talk in this novel of Mrs Alexander's you'd think that every time
they have a toothache God ought to be ashamed of Himself . . .'
She nodded to herself, picked up her book.  'I'm at page one
hundred and fifty-three and that's as far as I shall go.  I always
like to finish a book if I can; when the writer's taken so much
trouble it seems only right; but THIS time I simply can't be
bothered.  Mrs Alexander will never know, so there's no harm done.'

For one reason or another this little talk left Vanessa--who as a
rule was sensible enough and level-headed--in a kind of panic.
That was the quality that Aunt Jane had, that when she DID talk she
always suggested so much more than she said.  Her honesty forbade
her to offer false consolations.  If people did not inquire what
she thought she was too thorough a lady to tell them, but if they
DID ask her they must accept the consequences.  Vanessa now had the
conviction that Aunt Jane thought her love for Benjie a disaster!

She endured three days of a distress and apprehension altogether
new to her experience.  For much of this the child that she still
was was responsible.  These were perhaps the last days of
immaturity, those days when persons and events have still the size
and colours of nursery hours, moments when we are left alone in a
room where the flickering firelight throws gigantic shadows on the
wall, when the clock's tick is a menace, and the twig snapping on
the windowsill threatens the approach of some dreadful stranger!

She had three days of nightmare--and was transported into Paradise!

Timothy, as befitted a Bellairs, liked society if it was proper
enough, and at the houses in the neighbourhood--Muncaster and
Ponsonby and others--there was plenty.  It was still the fashion,
if you went out to dinner, to take a footman with you to assist at
the meal; there were elaborate croquet parties and magnificent
picnics.

So one fine day Timothy and his wife set off to Muncaster, and
Vanessa went with the nurse and children to the sea.  They had not
been settled on the shore five minutes before Benjie was with them.
He and Vanessa started to walk across the long, shining sands.

It was a day of perfect peace.  Chroniclers may define that moment
as the final peaceful one in English country life--a moment of
historic tranquillity when the cornfields lay placid beneath the
sun, the hedgerows slept, woods were untrodden, and every village
sheltered under its immemorial elm while the villagers slumbered
off their beer on the parochial bench.  At the final moment, then,
before the trumpet of the new world sounded, Benjamin and Vanessa
crossed Seascale sands!

She knew at once that he was disturbed.  There had been something,
then, in her own unrest.

She said at once:  'Benjie, what is it?'

He caught her arm with his hand and pressed her against his side so
that they might walk like one man.  She was taller than he.  She
was wearing a small, rather masculine hat ornamented with blue
flowers.  She held her parasol high over her head.  She was
smiling, she was happy.  She could feel his hand within her arm
against her heart.  All her fears were fled.

'There is nothing the matter except that I love you.  And that IS
the matter, for we must be married in a month's time.  I can wait
no longer.  I am bad through and through.  I am without a redeeming
point, but I have told you all that so often that I shall never
mention it again.'

'Certainly we will be married in a month's time.  Tomorrow if you
like!  I have been dreadfully unhappy these three days.  I can't
tell you why, but as I was driving back the other evening I had a
sudden fear that something had happened to you.  That cottage--what
did you call it?  Where you are staying.  I have been dreaming of
it, crawling with spiders and earwigs.  I have been thinking that
if we are not married at once we never will be married.  And Aunt
Jane frightened me.'

'What has Aunt Jane been saying?' he asked quickly.

'Oh, nothing--dear Aunt Jane!  She loves us both, I know.  But she
is afraid for us.  I know she is.  She thinks there is dangerous
blood in our veins.  She wants to see us SAFE.'

'She's right!' he said fiercely.  'We must be SAFE--or someone will
part us, something will happen!'

They were standing at the sea edge, on a floor of mother-of-pearl.
The incoming tide drew thin lines of white as with a pencil on the
shore and beyond the line the sea heaved without breaking, as
gently as a sigh.

'No,' she said.  'I think that NOTHING can part us.  I don't mean
because we love one another.  I can imagine that you might come to
hate me or I would be so proud that I would never see you again,
but still we would not be parted.  It has been like that all our
lives.'

Then she added, as though to herself:  'That is my worst fault, my
pride.'

He turned and looked at her as though he were seeing her newly.

'What do you mean, Vanessa--your pride?'

'I would endure anything, I think,' she answered, 'or so I feel.  I
would show what I was suffering to nobody, but it would remain
inside me.  I could not let it out, I cannot let things go--words
that someone said years ago, little things that people have done.
No one knows that I remember them, but I never forget.  They do
something to me.  I hate my pride.  I would like to be free as you
are, Benjie--every day a new day--'

'No, Vanessa darling,' he broke in.  'Not like me.  If there were
two of us, both like me, oh, what a time we would have!  You are
the only one in all the world who influences me!  That is why you
are to marry me, teach me, change me.'

'I don't think I can teach anyone.'  She sighed.  'I don't know why
it is, but I would rather leave people alone, leave them as they
are.  Father is like that too.  Mother used to be constantly
distressed at how bad people were.  Not that she blamed them.  She
was too kind.  But it bewildered her.  Right was so right and wrong
was so wrong.  I have no conscience for other people, I think--not
even for you, Benjie.'

He asked her again for the thousandth time:  'Why do you love me,
Vanessa?  Everyone tells you not to.'

'I love you,' she answered, 'as I shall always love you, because
you are part of me, because you are all that I have in the world,
because without you I am always lonely, because I am not alive
without you.  There!' she said, turning round and laughing, looking
at him too with infinite tenderness, with a kind of brooding
devotion as though she could not look at him enough, could not have
him close enough to her.  'Now--are you satisfied?'

For a moment he was silent, then he took her hand and kissed it.

'God helping me,' he said, 'you shall not regret it.'  Then,
characteristically, added as they turned to walk back:  'Although I
don't believe in Him, I expect Him to help me, you see.'

They discussed details.  He had written to Elizabeth the night
before.  They would be married in Ireby church, a very quiet
wedding.

'There is only Adam,' Benjie said.  'I hate to think how he will
miss you.  We will do everything we can.  You can go and stay with
him whenever you wish, and he shall stay with us.'

'He will be happy if I am,' she answered.  'And he is well now--
stronger than for a long while.'  But nevertheless she knew leaving
him would be terrible.  They must think of a plan . . . some
way . . .

As they neared the children two women passed them.  Benjie raised
his hat.

'Do you know them?' she asked.

'Yes,' he said, laughing.  'That is the enchantress of Rosemary
Cottage.  Two enchantresses.  Mrs Halliday and her lovely daughter
Marion.'

Driving home, with Violet on her lap while Mrs Clopton told her
stories of the heathen in Africa and all that was being done to
improve their minds, she was thinking in an ecstasy of happiness:

'We are safe!  We are safe!  In a month we shall be married.
Nothing can touch us now.'

In the morning the old postman, bent and twisted like a gnome,
brought her a letter.  It was from her father.


DEAREST VAN--I am not very well--nothing serious--but I think
perhaps you had better come home--Your loving

                                                    FATHER



FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ULDALE


Adam Paris hovered through the whole of that autumn between life
and death.  His sickness began, it appeared, with some mysterious
poisoning, was followed by pneumonia, and left him with a heart so
weak that every excitement, every sudden movement, was a danger.

So he was told not to move, not to suffer excitement.  In the early
days of January he was permitted to walk a little, supported on
Will Leathwaite's stout arm, in the garden.  During those months
Vanessa scarcely left his side; even Benjamin was almost forgotten
by her.

Whatever else Adam might be, he was always a philosopher.  By
January 1883 he was sixty-seven years of age--sixty-seven was three
years from three score and ten.  To die at that age was no very
terrible misfortune.  He did not want to die.  He did not want to
leave Cumberland, nor Will, nor Vanessa.  Every day held some
adventure, some charm, some beauty.  But he most certainly did not
care to linger on an invalid, a trouble and anxiety to everyone
about him.  He knew that had it not been for his illness Vanessa
would now be married, and although he did not wish, had never
wished, that Benjamin should marry her, he wanted to see her
settled before he went.  Moreover, he had now perceived that it was
Benjamin and Benjamin alone whom she must have, and he made the
best of it.

If anybody could make anything settled and secure out of Benjamin,
it was Vanessa.  So great an opinion had he of her wisdom, common
sense and fidelity that he thought that she might.

During those long trying days of convalescence he kept a Journal--
not a very regular one, not a very original one, but he put into it
his honest opinions, some of his experience.  These were some pages
of it:


. . . A long and dangerous illness is an odd enough thing, I find.
It is a commonplace that it seems to you, when you are in good
health, incredible that you should ever die, and that when you are
very ill you do not care a hang whether you die or no.  Nature has
arranged that very cleverly.  But now that I am growing stronger
again I find that I want to live for the smallest, most
insignificant reasons.  I have, for example, a new dog that Benjie
gave me the other day, a rough clumsy kind of terrier.  I have
called him Tux after Rousseau's animal--the one that the Duchess of
Luxembourg gave him.  I have always liked Prince de Conti and the
Luxembourg for their niceness to Rousseau, who must have been, just
then, as tiresome and sensitive a creature as God ever made--but
the queer thing and the enduring thing about Rousseau is that he
had in him something of Everyman.  He would have felt, I am sure,
just as I did yesterday when Timothy and Violet came up from Uldale
to pay me a visit.  So very well-meaning, so extremely irritating!
However, in one thing I am luckier than he.  I have no Thrse for
them to patronize!  But I felt just as he did about presents.
Timothy gave me a shawl 'to keep my knees warm' as though the whole
of the Herries family were presenting me with a medal.  However, it
is quite natural that he should think me a fool who all his life
has wasted his time over nothing!  And I had my ambitions once,
too, but ambitions when you get to my age are cheap affairs.  Would
I have been a happier man had I been Gladstone or Dizzy or Dickens?
Sour grapes perhaps to say that I would not.  It is natural that I
should like now to clap my hand on the table and say:  'Yes, I have
added THAT to the world's achievements, a law or a poem, a picture
or a character.'  But my illness has left me altogether
indifferent.  My dear mother, I suppose, went the wrong way for
both of us when she stayed at Uldale instead of escaping the family
and going to Watendlath.  She always said that it was the mistake
of her life.  Had she gone I would have been a farmer, never seen a
relation, never lived in London, never married Margaret, never had
Vanessa for a daughter.  What I would have missed!  But I might, I
fancy, have been a stronger man, a more determined character, and I
would certainly have had more of this country, the sight and smell
and sound of it.  But I would have been always a dreamer who never
pursued his dreams far enough.  There can be no man but is
dissatisfied with his life when he looks back on it.  What a
confusion of shreds and patches, of starting first here and then
there, of one blind move after another--walking at night along a
dark road and thinking every tree a hobgoblin!  But I was never
much of an adventurer, too easily disheartened, too ready to be an
idealist without suffering for my ideals, far too ready to shrink
away into myself if I met a rebuff.  A failure, I suppose, trying
to conceal my failure with a certain cynicism, and yet on the whole
what a happy life I have had.  I have known three glorious women--
my wife, my daughter, and my mother--one or two magnificent men--
Dickens, Caesar Kraft, Will, and in my babyhood, Reuben Sunwood.  I
have been given the perception of beauty in art and in nature and,
although my own writing has been less than nothing in its result, I
have had, in the pursuit of it, some glorious visions.  Best of
all, I have never been betrayed by my own failure into thinking man
a poor affair.  I have never come to thinking human nature a bad
blunder, although in my Chartist days I met some poor specimens.
Nor, thank God, have I ever suffered a fool gladly, least of all
myself.

The whole pageant of life has been, and is, of an extraordinary
interest.  I can see now clearly enough that Time is nothing, that
each and every man is tested with the same tests and rises or falls
according to what he learns.  Learning is everything.  But for
what?  I have never been sure of any kind of personal immortality.
As my mother used to say:  'I don't FEEL it and so I don't BELIEVE
it.'  But Margaret was sure and Vanessa is sure and they are both
wiser than I.  There is a great deal of the pagan in me, as there
was in my mother.  We inherit that, I suppose.  But even with my
paganism I wonder that the world should be so beautiful and men
often so fine and courageous if there is nothing more than this
brief experience.  I have touched some grand moments too: my first
sight of Margaret in that little room off the Seven Dials, Dickens'
hand on my shoulder, the day when I finished my first story, walks
with Will, the day when in a kind of panic I ran away from Margaret
up Cat Bells here, hours with books, sunrises and sunsets, even
yesterday when looking from this window I saw the hills rosy and
the Lake a misty blue.  Do these mountains of perception mean
nothing at all?  I don't know, and up to a week or so ago in all
those months of illness I certainly did not care.  One night in
September I was sure I would be dead before morning and everyone
else was sure too.  I was quite clearheaded and quite indifferent--
yes, even to Will and Vanessa.  But I remember that I felt
intolerably wise, that I thought that I had discovered the secret.
Will turned me over in bed that I might lie easier and I muttered:
'Well, THAT'S it.  Why didn't I discover that before?'  But what I
had discovered I haven't now the least idea.  Nothing is certain
except love, love of anything or anybody that takes you beyond
yourself.  This may be, for all I know, a proof of God.  It's as
good a one as anything the parsons can give you.  'For what we have
received let us be truly thankful . . .'


January 9th, 1883

Benjie came up yesterday afternoon and we had a talk.  I never saw
a man look so healthy.  He is a gipsy for colour and hard as iron.
Nothing seems to fatigue him and nothing bores him.  What is best
about him is that he is an individual.  He is like no one else at
all: you never know where you have him, or at least I don't.  If
you think him happy he isn't.  Behind his merriment (and I must say
I like it when he throws his head back and laughs as a boy laughs)
there is a strain of melancholy.  That he loves Vanessa there is no
mistaking, but I am certain that he has misgivings about their
marriage.  He is right when he says he can't stick to anything.  He
is always against the law, whatever the law happens to be, and in
that he is, I suppose, like my romantic grandfather and the
Frenchman my mother married.  He is of their world and so all
against the Herries world, which is altogether anti-individualist.
I couldn't help thinking yesterday as I listened to him that that
may be the fight the whole earth is slipping into--the type against
the individual.  All the troubles in our family have come from the
individual refusing to conform.  Do I want Vanessa to be engaged in
that kind of battle?  No, indeed I do not.  Nor do I want her to
marry a type-Herries either.  The truth is, I suppose, that I love
her so much that I shall never find anyone good enough for her!

Benjie yesterday was in a queer state of indecision.  He came, I
fancy, that I should make his mind up for him, but about what?  He
never said.  He asked me the absurdest questions all covering
something deeper that he never owned up to.  Should he go to a Ball
at Greystoke?  Yes, I said, if he wanted to.  Oh, he'd be sick of
it in half an hour and do something outrageous.  There's some woman
and her daughter whom he met in the summer at Seascale have come to
live in Keswick.  Should he go and call on them?  Why, yes, I said,
if he liked them.  But he didn't like them.  Well, then, don't go.
They had been friendly to him in Seascale and so on and so on.
Vanessa had gone to Uldale, and I could see that he was deeply
disappointed and yet was relieved.  Nevertheless how charming he
can be!  I never knew anyone better with Will.  He gets behind that
man's defences in a moment.  He knows by instinct what are Will's
reticences.  He is on a level with him completely, no patronage and
no sycophancy either.  His heart is good, but he is so restless and
so impulsive that he is in trouble before he knows where he is.  He
is like a wild man who has never been tamed, and then, in a flash,
a perfect courteous gentleman.  Can Vanessa tame him?  I believe
that he fears himself that she cannot, and trembles lest he should
do her a wrong.  Like him I must, and fear for the future I must
too.  How I wish that my mother were alive!  She would understand
him as no other.  She was the daughter of one wild man and tamed
another--but my mother was unique.  There will never be another
like her again.

When he was gone I was tired enough and Will helped me to bed.
That pain just over my heart returned like an old familiar friend.
Odd how a pain, to which you are accustomed, seems in a fashion
friendly.  I could feel its fingers pinching my flesh, then
pressing heavily, constricting the muscles, and as I laboured for
breath I could almost hear its voice:  'Now we are together again,
you and I.  Is not our intimacy pleasant?'  I could not altogether
own that it was, and yet I could have almost replied:  'Yes, but
don't press too hard, old fellow.  Spare me what you can.'

And now this morning, this bright frosted January morning, I am
well and the pain is forgotten.  How quickly the past is over!  How
dim the pain of five minutes before!  Yes, and the pleasure too!  I
can remember how often on a fine day, walking or sitting lazily in
my boat on the Lake, the beauty has been so intense that I have
longed to catch it in my fingers, hold it, wrap it up, put it away
for safety.  And in a moment it is gone.  A rosy cloud turns grey,
there is a whisper on the water, the shadow envelops the hill and
THAT beauty is lost!  But the intensity of the realization is
caught at least.  My friend Jean-Jacques, of whom for some reason I
have been thinking much in these last weeks, speaks of that.  I
haven't the Confessions with me but the passage goes a little like
this:  'The movement and the counter-movement of the water, the
stirrings, rising, falling, gave me pleasure in mere existence.  No
need to think, to live at that moment was enough!  Letting my boat
go where it would, I would abandon myself to reverie.  I was
completely under Thy power, Nature!  No wicked men to interpose
themselves between us!  Yes, all is a perpetual movement on earth.
Nothing is constant.  Our affections change and alter.  Everything
is in front or behind.  We recall the past to which we are now
indifferent or anticipate a future that may never come.  Nothing
solid for our hearts!  But the soul may find a state solid enough
on which it may repose with no thought of the past, no fear for the
future--and so long as such a state endures he who experiences it
may speak of bliss . . .'

Once on a day I knew that passage by heart, I think: now it comes
to me only in fragments.  Poor Rousseau, demon-haunted, finding no
spot where his foot might rest.  How in those days when the
Confessions were so actual to me, I hated Voltaire and the vile
Grimm and the false Madame d'Epinay!

But after all I suppose that his troubles were of his own making.
There would have been no genius had there been no sickness.  But I
think at my age I hate most in this life the jealousy and rage of
men against one another.  How trivial and worthless our plottings
when we are here for so short a time.  How easy, you would say, for
Man to tolerate his brother.  And yet how I myself detested old
Walter, so that I would lie awake and think how I might injure him.
And then at the last that poor, weak, crying old man to be fed with
a spoon and have his mouth wiped!  I swear that if I recover from
this I will never be angry again.  And yet it has been, I dare say,
that I have not been angry enough in life, have not known
indignation enough.  I have hated injustice, but men are too often
like birds in a cage.  They would not be there if they could
escape, and the cage is not of their own designing.  This wandering
along on paper has passed an hour--and now for The Story of an
African Farm that they are all praising.  New militant woman eager
for her rights!  If the world is to be full of them, as I suspect
it will be, I shall not be sorry to have gone . . .


FELL HOUSE, ULDALE,
April 3rd, 1883

. . . so three days ago Vanessa and I moved to Fell House for a
week or two.  I am a very great deal better, can take a walk by
myself and am not so utterly dependent on Will as I have been--how
patient, tolerant, and sensible he's been no words can say, but I
recognize sufficiently that two moments in my life have been
supremely lucky--one when as a small boy I watched Will win a race
through Keswick, the other when as Victoria returned crowned from
Westminster I tumbled up against Caesar Kraft.  The love of one man
for another is an odd thing: it is bare of sex and yet does in
certain moods surpass the love of woman.  Maybe I have never been a
sexual man.  Looking back now I can see that it was not virtue kept
me free in my youth but a certain fastidiousness that I got, as I
got so much else, from my mother.  I sometimes think that had I
been the child of a street-woman and, say, a card-sharper, I could
have been something of a writer.  But no matter now.  Never was
anything of less importance.  All the same, being what I am, I
doubt whether any relationship could be finer than mine with Will.
And it has been his fineness, not mine.  Complete unselfishness,
unsparing devotion, and a deep, always by me perceptible, emotion
under it all.  With all that it has been always humorous, mixed
with plenty of plain speaking.  I cannot see that it has had any
falseness in it anywhere.  And, although I have no belief in
immortality, it is hard for me, I confess, to imagine a state when
Will and I will not be together and consciously together.  Such a
relationship as ours goes far beyond the body and, maybe, survives
the body.  There is this at least about it that it makes you think
well of your fellow-men.  It makes me wonder sometimes whether any
country but England (and sometimes I wonder any county but
Cumberland) could produce such a man as Will.  He is altogether
Cumbrian in his honesty, reticence, obstinacy.  But this of course
is nonsense.  There are men like him, I don't doubt, all the world
over.  My grandfather had such a one.  Quixote found one, Montaigne
had one; thank God the world is full of them.

Well, after this sentiment which no eye will ever see but my own,
here is the other side of the shield.  The only other visitor here
but ourselves is Phyllis Newmark's boy, Philip Rochester.
Rochester, whom she married some thirty years ago, has something, I
fancy, to do with railways and has amassed a nice fortune.  Barney,
I know, dislikes him and always calls him a humbug.  As for Master
Philip, I have seldom disliked a young man so much.  He is thin and
willowy, talks in a piping voice about the 'Inevitability of Sin'
and that 'Art is the only Moralist'.  It happens that in this very
week's Punch there is a little piece which I shall have great
pleasure in showing him.  It is apt enough to copy into this
Journal:


TO BE SOLD, the whole of the Stock-in-Trade, Appliances, and
Inventions of a Successful Aesthete, who is retiring from business.
This will include a large stock of faded lilies, dilapidated
sunflowers, and shabby peacocks' feathers, several long-haired
wigs, a collection of incomprehensible poems, and a number of
impossible pictures.  Also, a valuable Manuscript Work, entitled
Instruction to Aesthetes, containing a list of aesthetic catch-
words, drawings of aesthetic attitudes, and many choice secrets of
the craft.  Also, a number of well-used dadoes, sad-coloured
draperies, blue and white china, and brass fenders.  To shallow-
pated young men with no education, who are anxious to embark in a
profitable business which requires no capital but impudence, and
involves no previous knowledge of anything, this presents an
unusual opportunity.  No reasonable offer refused.  Apply in the
first instance to Messrs SUCKLEMORE and SALLOWACK, Solicitors,
Chancery Lane.


A trifle sledge-hammer but it has got Mr Philip exactly.  I
wouldn't mind the young man's effeminacy, his ridiculous clothes,
and his languor, were it not that he considers himself the Prince
of the World.  The scorn that he feels AND expresses for everyone
in his house is nauseating.  Everyone but Vanessa, whom he
condescends to admire, and talks of 'a perfect du Maurier' and how
he wishes that Whistler could paint her.  He would apparently make
the attempt himself (for he paints the most atrocious daubs) 'had
he the time'.  Had he the time!  When he never gets up before ten,
wanders about the house like a misplanted lily, pecks at the piano
and studies himself in the looking-glass.  His morals would be, I
have no doubt, revolting had he any blood in his poor body.  He
speaks of his 'soul-mates and the tyranny of the marriage laws' and
such disgusting nonsense.  I should shudder whenever the children
approached him, but they, unlike his elders, find him a kind of
clown.  Amazingly, Timothy and Violet are both rather impressed,
and Vanessa, in her goodness of heart, is kind to him.  How my
mother would have dealt with him!


April 8th

It is perhaps my illness, but whatever the reason I cling to this
old house as never before.  My mother's presence is everywhere,
but, beyond that, the house itself for ever speaks to me as though
this were the last time it would ever shelter me, as though I were
the last human link it will ever have with all the life that is
gone.  And that is true enough.  There is no one else alive but
myself who knew it as it was.  When I first came here Francis and
Jennifer were living, David and Sarah were remembered and had seen
old Rogue Herries himself ride up, looking for his wandering wife.
David, Jennifer, my own mother died under its roof.  Violet has
done all she can to ruin it, as the house very well knows.  How
easy and pleasant to have left some of it as it was--at least the
little parlour that my mother so dearly loved.  I can yet see it as
it was when I was a child--the old spinet with the roses painted on
the lid, the famous music box that was played for me when I was
good, with the King in his amber-coloured coat and the Queen in her
green dress.  Then the carpet, upon which I sprawled with John,
that had the pictures of the great Battle, cannons firing and
horses rising on their haunches; the Chinese wallpaper with pagodas
of blue and white, temples, bridges, and flowers.  Best of all the
sofa, the stuff of which was decorated with apple trees and red
apples.  How well I remember that room and the way the clock with
the gold mandarin would strike the hour, coughing a little between
the strokes.

All gone now and also the things from my mother's bedroom, the red
chairs, the four-poster bed.  All gone, all gone, the house tonight
seems to echo around me.  And instead so many ugly things, mahogany
wardrobes like coffins set up on end, attempts here and there to be
in the fashion with imitation Morris wallpapers, sham Burne-Jones
tapestry in the drawing-room--but the dining-room how awful with
its circular cellarette, the vast Sheffield soup tureen, the
sideboard with its malignant and obscene carved ends, the lacquered
knife-tray, the needlework bell-pulls that Timothy tugs at so
furiously when he is impatient, the sheep-faced mahogany clock--and
all these things both Violet and Timothy think so handsome!  Yes, I
can hear the old house groaning through all its brickwork.  I am
the only one who knows how deeply ashamed it feels!


April 15th

I must write tonight to banish some of this intolerable melancholy
that has seized me.  There is a real Cumberland wind wailing about
the house, as though it had lost a thousand children.  How sharp
and strong it must be on the Tops!  Almost impossible to keep your
feet with the black heavy clouds driving furiously like chariots
above you, and all the streams preparing for rain . . .  I have not
been so well these last days and I have an assurance in my breast
that my time now is short.  I had my evening meal in my room and
Vanessa came up to talk to me.  I was allowed a fire and by the
light of two candles we chatted, comfortably, easily, like the old
friends we are.  Why was it that I had so dreary a sense that this
was to be our last talk?  Nonsense, of course, and in the morning,
as has happened so often before, feeling well again I shall laugh
at my past terrors.  But as I sat opposite over the fire I put out
my hand to touch her dress as though I were frightened to lose her,
and she drew her chair over to mine.  She was cheerful and
nonsensical as she often is, laughing at Phil Rochester who had
been reading her some of his poems, one called 'The Lovers Last
Cry' which was, I gathered, especially comical.  Benjie is staying
in Keswick.  She is sure that he has some attraction there and
takes it quite calmly.  All she said about THAT was:

'When we marry and are together, I'll make him happy, I know.'

And to that _I_ said:

'You'll have to beat him once a week.  He says so himself.'

How I hate to leave her no one knows but me!  She talked about
herself, a thing that she very seldom does.

'I find that I'm intolerant, Papa.  Intolerant and impatient.'

'Very well,' I said.  'Those are not bad things to be.'

'I was so angry with Timothy tonight that I could have smacked him.
He was so extremely self-satisfied.  I think all men are except
yourself.  Why should he talk as though he had MADE England?'

'That's a Herries habit,' I answered.

'Yes, but it's also something masculine.  We were talking about
Moody and Sankey and the Salvation Army and he said that such
things weren't English.  Englishmen never show their emotions, he
said, and THAT'S why England is what it is.  What he meant was,
"_I_ never show my emotions and THAT'S why England is what it is."'

'There's something in what he says,' I answered.

'Oh, well, I wanted to scream and beat that hideous Indian gong in
the hall.  Then he said that The Story of an African Farm is a
disgusting book and ought to be burnt.  When I asked him about it I
discovered that he had only read the first chapter.  And then after
that he was going to say something about Benjie, but Violet stopped
him.'

'Altogether a very pleasant meal,' I said.

'But why are we so different, you and I, from Timothy and Violet?'

'Two halves of the whole,' I told her.  'Life isn't complete
without both of us.'

I could see that in reality she was deeply dissatisfied with
herself.  She is maturing, and I am sure that this long uncertain
time with Benjie is affecting her seriously, although she is too
proud to say anything about it.

She sat close to me, holding my hand, her splendid noble head
raised high, looking into the fire.

'Well, I'm a perverse creature,' she said, nodding.  'I seem to
have no control over myself at all.'

'But you HAVE,' I assured her.  'You see you didn't bang the table
and you didn't beat the gong.'

'No, but I can't be rational, the thing that all nice women ought
to be.  I laugh when I should be serious, I'm angry when there's
nothing at all to be angry about.  I'm not at all proper in my
feelings either.  Violet thinks it dreadful to mention the word
adultery.  She positively said the other day that the Commandments
in church made her quite shy.  She thinks it dreadful to be seen
with a French novel.  Oh! I do hope I'm not going to be a prig!'

I laughed at that.

'Why, no, I should say the very opposite.'

'No, but, Papa, virtuous about other people being NOT virtuous! . . .
In fact I hate myself tonight.  Everything is wrong but you.'

She kissed me, laid her cheek against mine, made a fuss of me, told
me again and again how she loved me, asked me to forgive her for
all the trouble she had been to me.  Never was she more sweet,
never more my friend and companion.  Before she went she turned at
the door and blew me a kiss with her hand, laughing and saying:
'And now I'm going to the drawing-room to listen to Timothy telling
us out of The Times what HE would do if he were Gladstone.'

Tomorrow we are going for a drive.


This is the end of Adam's Journal.  They were the last words that
he ever wrote. . .

He lay in bed for a while, rather wide-awake, watching the shadows
from the fire leap on the wall, hearing the wind scream about the
house, tug at the windowpanes, belabour the trees and hammer the
tendrils of the vines against the glass.  He thought of the cottage
at Cat Bells, how cosy, warm with life and human affections.  He
had brought there many of his mother's things, her books, some
pictures, the account she dictated to Jane of her early days, bound
in a fat, green-leather volume, the presentation that they made her
on that fatal Hundredth Birthday.  Vanessa would have these things
and would pass them on, pass them on to her children and Benjie's,
and they to theirs, and so it would go on and on, until at length
it might be that it would only be through Judith's green book that
anyone knew that once a man sold a woman at a Fair or fought for
his beloved on Stye Head . . .  He was growing sleepy.  He laid his
head on his breast inside his shirt as though to say goodnight to
his heart and request it, as a favour, to keep quiet for an hour or
two.  He did not want to wake sharply to that grinding pain, that
squeezing of the muscles between two inhuman fingers, that beating
and struggling for breath . . .  He was falling asleep and a stout
man was riding on a horse and he a little boy as bare as your hand
danced to annoy him and the stout man raised his whip . . .

He awoke.  What had roused him he did not know.  He sat up, resting
on his arm.  He was so deeply accustomed now to find himself woken
at night by pain that that was his first thought:  'Where is the
pain this time?  Which part of me is misbehaving?'  But there was
no pain.  His heart beat calmly and his back did not ache.  He had
no neuralgia across his forehead.  The room was intensely dark.
Many hours must have passed since he fell asleep, for the fire had
been strong.  Now there was no glimmer of dying log or fading coal.
The wind was roaring like a beating lively voice in the darkness
but, listening, he heard something beyond the wind--a small
chattering whispering voice.  Was there someone in the room?  No,
it sounded like several voices, human and yet not human.  He raised
his head, sniffing.  A moment later he was out of bed.  Somewhere
something was on fire.  He opened the door and a belly of smoke
blew towards him.  He cried out:  'Fire!  Fire!' and ran back into
the room.  It was then that the strange stillness of everything
struck him.  The house slept like the dead, he heard clocks ticking
and somewhere a snore.

He pulled on a dressing-gown, and again, calling out 'Fire!
Fire!', ran into the passage.  His first thought was of Vanessa.
He knew that her room was on the floor above his and, covering his
mouth with his arm, turned towards the stairs, but even as he did
so the passage to the left leading to the servants' quarters began--
as it seemed to his excited imagination--to tremble, and a moment
later through the green-baize door there shot a tongue of fire
exactly like a vindictive criminal struggling to be free.  A second
later the flame shot upwards and little tongues began to lick the
green baize, and a thin line of light, clear as day, shone between
the hinges and the wall.  At the same time the smoke rising in the
same direction began to roll in thick grey waves, and the voices
that it contained grew louder and angrier.  What was strange was
that the rest of the house, his room, the staircase from the hall,
was cold, quiet, aloof, and even as he turned to the stair leading
to the other floor he heard the cuckoo-clock that was at the corner
of the hall below begin to sound the ridiculous bird's voice:
'Cuckoo!  Cuckoo!  Cuckoo!'

Still calling out and wondering in a mad irritation why nobody had
been aroused by all this commotion, he stumbled up the stairs but,
halfway up them, was met by another curling strand of smoke that
seemed to issue from the wall on his left.  For some reason that
smoke bewildered him.  It increased very rapidly, seeming to come
from below him and to encircle him, to beat about his head, to come
even from within himself, from his heart and lungs.  He should now
have been outside Vanessa's door, but he did not know where he was,
for his eyes were blinded and weeping with the bitter and acrid
thickness that now began to fill his mouth and heart and lungs.

He knocked his knees against a box or a chair, heard something fall
somewhere and, turning his head, saw below him spurts and whirls of
flame and a light that had a ferocity in it and a gigantic sense of
power.  He called out again and thought that some voice answered
him, but he spoke against a wall, almost as though some enemy held
a cloth over his mouth to deaden his cries.  He thought:  'But this
is absurd!  Where are they all?  What are they doing?'  Called
again and again:  'Vanessa!  Vanessa!  Wake up!  Fire!  Fire!'  He
moved to the right where he thought that her room must be, but now
was caught in a perfect fog of smoke.  His feet struck some more
stairs and he remembered that above this floor were the attics.  If
he could reach those he could fling open the windows, for even his
mad anxiety for Vanessa was countered by his agony for breath.  His
lungs were choked, he could not see and, although his brain was
clear, his limbs refused to obey him.  At that same moment pain
leapt on to him, pain moving in the centre of the smoke.  An iron
hand crushed his breast.  The fingers pressed and pressed.  He fell
on to his knees.  'A moment,' he thought.  'This pain will pass and
I shall be able to move again.'  But it did not.  The giant hand
turned and turned, so that he could see his poor heart crushed,
screwed round and then squeezed until the pain seemed to draw his
very eyeballs down into his stomach.

His last conscious thought was of Vanessa.  'Vanessa,' he murmured,
'Vanessa.'  He rolled over and lay there, prone, while the eddies
of smoke--strong, careless, singing a song--rose, saluted the wind,
filling every cranny.



Vanessa had been long in a dreamless sleep when she awoke to the
sound of a loud banging on her door.  Even as she opened her eyes
Violet and Timothy rushed in, behind them a strange glare and
everywhere in the air a crackling, murmuring, buzzing frenzy.

She did not need their cry:  'Vanessa!  Get up!  The whole house is
on fire!'

In an instant everything was visible and clear to her.  She seemed
in that moment of springing out of bed to have time to notice
everything--the calm undisturbed paraphernalia of the bedroom, her
clothes across the chair, the yellow sofa that she always thought
so ugly, the long looking-glass in which were reflected Timothy and
Violet, Timothy with a riding coat over his nightshirt, Violet in a
bright blue dressing-gown, and behind them that sinister glitter
veiled with sudden mists.  The air stank of smoke.  She heard a dog
bark.

Violet pulled at her arm.

'It's terrible!  It's terrible!' she continued to cry.  'The whole
house is on fire!'

And Timothy, running back, called:

'The children!  The children!  Get the children!'

But her own thought was at once for her father.  She thought of
nothing and nobody else.  She put on her dressing-gown and slippers
with a single gesture and ran out.  She saw them flocking down the
stairs--Philip, Timothy, Violet, the children.  The stairs were
still untouched.  You seemed from the lower stairs to plunge into
darkness while on the first floor the baize door was a sheet of
flame and all around her the smoke rose like water, flooding
forward, eddying back again.  She ran down the first flight and
crossed at once into her father's room.  It was empty.  At that
same moment she thought that through the crackle of the fire she
heard a cry from above her:  'Vanessa!'  She listened, and even as
she did so saw Timothy's head and shoulders above the lower
banister.

'Father!' she cried.  'He is not in his room!'

Timothy shouted back.  'Come down!  The whole place is falling
down.  It's all right--everyone's out.  Yes, Adam too.  He is on
the lawn!'

She turned back once more into his room, saw the bed disordered,
caught--without knowing what she did, obeying some blind instinct--
things from the table, his Journal, a book, his gold watch; then
ran out to meet in full force a towering column of smoke that rose
in front of her like some genie.  Gasping, her hand over her face,
she ran forward, was down the stairs, through the door, and, in an
instant, in a wild, chill, blowing world, the wind screaming above
her, voices everywhere, shouts and cries, some child's wail, the
neighing of horses, and faces white like paste in the blinding
light of the fire.

She ran from figure to figure, not recognizing them at all as
persons, for they also seemed to be running, moving in some kind of
dance through the wind.

She called again and again:

'Father!  Father!  Where are you?'  She pulled at some man's arm:
'My father!  Is he here?  Have you seen him?' and some figure that
she did not know, someone holding a clock and a picture, cried, as
though in an ecstasy.  'The house!  The house!  The roof will be
in!'

Then she ran into Leathwaite.  He cried before she could speak:

'Miss Vanessa!  The master!  He's not here!'

They turned together and ran towards the house which was now all
bright with flame and alive in every part, while from its heart
there came a beat like a drum and above it arms of fire strained up
to the ebony sky, starred with the pigeons from the loft, flying
into the light as though splashed with bright water, then vanishing
into darkness.

Will dashed through the door.  She would have gone after him but
some man's hand held her, gripping her shoulder.  'You mustn't go,
Miss Vanessa,' someone shouted in her ear as though she were deaf.
'It's not safe--' and then called, 'Will!  Will!  Come back!
Everyone's out!'

She struggled.  'Let me go!  What do you mean?  They are not all
out.  My father is there--'

A moment later Will's face, strangely unreal, appeared at a window.
He shouted to them.

'He's not here!  I'm in his room!'  And then, after looking into
the room again:  'I can't go back!  The fire's too strong!'

'Jump!' several voices cried, and a woman screamed.  He climbed out
on to the windowsill, let his legs dangle, caught his arm in
something and fell.

And, at once, as things happen in dreams, inconsequent, without
reason, Vanessa saw that Benjie was beside her.  She heard his
voice, as from an infinite distance, explaining that he had come
back from Keswick that evening, been roused and at once ridden
down.  'Oh, thank God you're safe, Vanessa,' he said, hurried from
her as figures do in dreams, was back again, his arm round her,
crying, 'It's all right.  Will's broken a leg.  No one else is
harmed.  Everyone's safe.'

She tore herself away from him.

'No, no, Benjie!  Don't you see?  Father's in there!  Father's
there!'

She ran forward.  He pulled her back.

'Don't be mad.  No one can live in there!  The roof is falling!'

She fought him, she struck his face.

'Let me go!  Let me go!  We must find him!'

He held her with all his strength, pressing her against him.  The
ground was covered with people; the horses that they had taken from
the stable trampled and neighed.  With a great gesture, as though
in a frenzy of exultation, the flames flung up their arms, the roof
crashed.

The house gave up its life.



WILD NIGHT IN THE HILLS


There was at that time in the hills between Derwentwater and
Cummock a very lonely farm called Hatchett's Fosse.

To this farm Benjamin Herries rode some three days after Adam
Paris' burial at Ireby.

Adam's charred and almost unrecognizable body had been found when
at last the fire had died sufficiently for safe search to be made.
The red brick walls of Fell House still stood, blackened and
scorched but enduring.  But these walls were a shell.  Nothing else
remained.  The wind that night had been so ferocious that in any
circumstances there could have been small hope of saving the house,
but everything had contributed to aggravating the disaster: the
ancient fire-engine at Braithwaite broke down on the road.  There
was nothing at the house itself, no protection of any kind.  The
horses and animals were saved.  No life was lost but Adam's.  A
little furniture, some pictures, were rescued.  That was all.  Fell
House, Uldale, was no more.

The death of Adam Paris shocked the whole countryside.  He had not
been widely known.  He was held to be a 'shy sort of man' but he
was liked.  He was said to be kindly, friendly, generous.  No one
had anything against him.  He was old Madame's son, even though he
had been born on the wrong side of the blanket, and he wrote books.
But more than any of these, he was the father of Vanessa, whose
beauty was renowned from Silloth to Kendal.  Everyone knew how she
had loved him, and there was something deeply real and true in the
sympathy that rose now on every side of her.  Cumberland people are
reputed by those who know them little to be too blunt of tongue for
complacent comfort, but any man in trouble will be lucky if he has
Cumbrian friends near to him.  They have not been masters of their
own soil for hundreds of years without learning what courtesy
means, and courtesy is not in this part of England another name for
heartlessness.

But Vanessa was stricken down in these first days beyond any
possibility of help.  With Jane Bellairs and Will she went back to
Cat Bells and there she stayed, seeing nobody.  On the day before
the funeral she saw Benjie.  He knew at once that she could not
just then bear either to see him or talk to him.

She spoke in a low voice, looking beyond him at the door as though
she expected someone to come in.

'I don't blame you, Benjie.  You did what you thought right, but
you should not have held me back.'

'Vanessa, HOW could I have let you go?  The roof fell in a moment
later.  You would have been killed as well as Adam.  What good
would that have been?'

'I had rather have been killed.  To think that he was alone in
there!  That nobody but myself and Will thought of him!'

He saw that at present there was nothing to be done.  He kissed
her.  She made no movement, no response.  She said in a low voice:

'The awful thing is that I heard him calling me.  From some other
part of the house.  But Timothy told me he was out.  I will never
forgive Timothy and I will never forgive myself.'

When he went home things were no better.  His mother had been
unwell for some months, and the night of the fire with its tragic
consequences was a shock from which it was unlikely that she would
recover.  The destruction of Fell House was a dreadful thing to
her.  She had been there so often.  John, her husband, had been
born there; he had walked out of there to his death.  More than
that, this appeared to her to be a revenge from the past.  Her
father had built the Fortress to triumph over Fell House.  It had
seemed at his death that he was defeated; but he had NOT been
defeated.  This was the last unexpected triumph of the Fortress, a
house that she had always hated and now detested.  She seemed to
hear her brother Uhland tapping with his stick night and day about
the passages.  How satisfied he must be!  These vindictive people
were stronger in death than they had been in life and there was no
end to their malevolence.  She had loved Adam, and her heart ached
now for Vanessa.  She was old, alone with ghosts.  No one could
help her.

Benjie, her son, it seemed, least of all.  She had been very
patient with his selfishness, but now at last she was exasperated.
He seemed to her hard and callous.  For once her intuition failed
her.  She did not know that he was suffering more deeply than she.
On the day after Adam's funeral he came into her bedroom and said:

'I can't bear this, Mother.  I must go away for a day or two.'

'What can't you bear?' she asked him quietly.

'Vanessa,' he broke out in a kind of storm of indignation, 'thinks
that I was responsible for Adam's death.'

She thought that he was indignant with Vanessa, but had she been
well and strong she would have known that the indignation was with
himself.

'She is suffering from shock,' she answered.  'You must be patient
and wait.'

'Wait!  Wait!' he burst out.  'For what?  Everything is changed,
Mother.  It will never be the same again.'

The farmer at Hatchett's Fosse was Fred Halliday, the son of the
woman with whom Benjie had stayed at Seascale.

Some months back Benjie, riding along Main Street, saw Mrs Halliday
and her daughter Marion looking at him from across the street.  His
first impulse had been to move on, but something had prevented him.
He did not like them, he did not wish to see them again;
nevertheless he rode over and spoke to them.  They were to stay in
Keswick for a while.  Mrs Halliday had notions of opening a
boarding house there.  Still with that strange mingling of
attraction and repulsion, he had met them a number of times.  Mrs
Halliday was definitely repugnant to him: she whined, she crept,
she was genteel, she was vindictive.  The girl spoke little, had
little colour in her voice or movements, but she had some power
over him.  He kissed her and hated himself for doing so.  She
appeared to expect his distaste; indeed she said to him once:

'How you dislike me!'

But she did not seem at all to resent this except that, in her
still, motionless way, she resented everything.  Her pale skin,
thin anaemic body, quiet, almost stealthy movements, stirred him as
though he were attracted by his own exact opposite.  She did not
speak to his mind nor his heart, but his senses.  When he touched
her--and always it seemed that it was by her volition and not his--
he felt no tenderness nor affection, but a sensual inquisitiveness
as though something persuaded him to explore further--as though
some sensual secret were hidden there which would, when discovered,
excite and surprise him.

He did not know--and he did not care--whether she liked him or no.
She appeared to like no one, to have no life beside that of sudden
little movements, unexpected advances and withdrawals.  One evening
he met her in the dusk walking down the hill behind St John's
Church.  He talked to her and then embraced her passionately.  She
eagerly returned his embraces.  He went home in a mood of bitter
revulsion against himself.  He had met her brother several times in
Keswick.  Fred Halliday was a big, broad, red-faced hearty man,
quite unlike his mother and sister, who laughed at everything,
drank a good deal, and was friend of all the world.  And yet it was
true that nobody in Keswick liked him.  He was not trusted, and it
was said that when drunk he was very quarrelsome and abusive.

Not a very worthy family for Benjie to be friendly with, but then
it was always like that with him.  When he was jolly, as at most
times he was, anyone would do to be jolly with.  At this period of
his life almost anyone was good enough to pass the time of day
with.  Who was he to be a judge?  Except for his mother and Vanessa
no one alive mattered.  He was proud of not caring.  Life was not
important and one man resembled another.  He loved Vanessa, who was
much too good for him, and if women liked to be kissed, why, he
liked to kiss them!  In spite of his escapades he had never yet got
any woman into trouble.  His luck in that had held.  He would not
hurt anyone for the world.

But as he rode out to Hatchett's Fosse he was not sure that he did
not want to hurt everybody.  Fred Halliday had often invited him to
come and see the farm; he had never thought that he would really
go.  But now anywhere would do, anywhere away from his own
unhappiness, his sense that he had lost Vanessa for ever and that
he deserved to have lost her.

The morbid side of his character had grown stronger during this
past year.  Although he loved the place, this Cumberland country
always increased the strain of superstition so deeply ingrained in
his character.  Away from his home he was as other men and could
consort with them on equal terms, but at the Fortress and in the
country around him he felt sometimes like a man caught in a trap.
On the one hand was the small lonely house in Skiddaw Forest where
his father had been murdered; on the other--and only a step away--
the great cavern beneath Skiddaw where all the spirits of the true
men lived and rejoiced for ever.  Surely fantastic nonsense as food
for a healthy man's brain!  But in this Benjie was not healthy, nor
are most imaginative men free of certain dreams, omens, and
apprehensions.  These two contrasted things were for him perhaps
only symbols, but they brought with them a conviction that,
whenever he returned to this country, he was not his own free
master.  And yet he must return!  He could not keep away from it.
He could not remain in it when he was there.  And were his
instincts altogether wrong?  Had he not, in this last year, been
twice prevented from marrying Vanessa, once by her father's illness
and now by this cursed fire?  The Men under Skiddaw would receive
him in their company IF he could reach them, but, like a man in a
dream, he was held back.  Who could dare to deny that the past was
more powerful than the present and that you must fight like the
devil or the moment you were born you were done for!  That old
ancestor of his, Francis Herries, might still have something to
say!

All this was, of course, only a part of Benjie's mind.  None of the
men who knew him as he roamed the world would credit him with THIS
kind of imagination!  But he was compounded of stiff incongruities--
proud and yet humble, faithful and yet most unfaithful, wandering
but steadfast--and at this time he was still young with most of his
soul-making ahead of him.

So as he rode down Bassenthwaite and on towards Braithwaite he felt
only an urgent need of escape: escape from the senseless waste of
Adam's death, from all the grief that that was causing (he had an
eager sensitiveness to the unhappiness of others); escape from his
mother, whom he knew that he should not be leaving; but above all
escape from Vanessa, whom he loved now when he was sure that he had
lost her, with a deeper sense of frustration than ever before.

Then he raised his head, looked up at the stormy sky and swore.
'Well, THIS has settled the business.  She is better, far better,
without me.  She'll know that at last.'

But even while he said this he felt that they were inseparable,
that however their lives went they would be bound together for ever--
yes, even when he was secure and singing with the Men under
Skiddaw he would be thinking of her!

As he began slowly to climb Whinlatter he felt the wind tugging at
him.  On the day following the fire the wind had folded its arms
and stolen away as though the purpose of its coming were
accomplished.  Then, as is often the case in the late spring, it
sprang up again and rushed about the country in flurries of
excitement, blowing the daffodils silly, making the young leaves
tremble and the young sheep skip, and flashing quivers of light
like turning glass across the streams.  The colours were all
delicate--faint shadowed plum, a gold so pale that it was almost
white under cloud, a wet virginal green of the young bracken.  And
field after field, up and up the hillsides, was silver-grey.

This afternoon, though, quite another mood was in the air, spring
was forgotten.  It happens sometimes here that the hills, as though
an order had been given, suddenly dominate all the scene.  The
pastoral fields, the farms, the roads, towns, villages shrink
together into nothingness and the hills step forward, spread their
shoulders, swell their chests out, raise their heads and begin to
march.  If you listen you can almost hear the tramping.  It is at
such times that you can understand Benjie's fantasy of his men
under the mountain, for it is no fantasy just then.  Lie down on
the turf and listen with your ear to the ground and you can catch
the echo of the voices, a rumble of a drinking song and laughter
like the cracking of a drum's skin.  At such a moment when the
hills take power there is a sense of menace in the air.  The sky is
disturbed with a furious confusion, great sweeps of cloud smoking
along with a wind behind them that is personal in its strength.
The old pictures of Aeolus blowing the four winds from his mouth is
true now.  You can see him standing behind the hills, his strong
legs spread across the sea, his broad naked shoulders stretched
above his vigorous lungs.  The wind and the hills act in unison.
The hills, that are in actual measurement so slight, take on
themselves additional properties that belong to the great mountains
of the world.  With white mist flanking them and black funnels of
cloud eddying above their heads, they seem as powerful as Everest.
Their power is menacing.  They seem to crowd together in conclave:
'Now shall we step forward and crush out of existence these little
fields, cowering hamlets, tiny midgets of humans?'  You can watch
them as they bend their heads together and twitch their shoulders
with the impatience of a group of boys waiting for the word of
release.  The wind is enchanted with the sport promised.  It goes
swinging from arm to arm of the hills, crying:  'Now let us go!
Now we are off!' and it sweeps whirlwinds of rain now here, now
there, making it sting the earth like a hail of small shot, then
raising it again in sheets of steel as though all the heavens were
letting down their defensive gates.  A great game that leads to no
ill because the power here is friendly.  They have not learnt any
deep vindictiveness.  This square of earth is kind to the men who
settle, for a moment, upon its surface.  The Genius here is
benevolent.

Such a storm of wind without rain rose about Benjie as he climbed
Whinlatter.  The water of Bassenthwaite below him that had been a
field of grey shadows as he rode beside it was now, when he looked
down upon it, trembling with white waves that gleamed with an
almost phosphorescent glow under the blackness of Skiddaw.  The
clouds were so low that when he was at the highest point of the
Pass they skirted him on every side, shifting from place to place
with long sweeps of spidery grey.  It was bitterly cold and he had
to lower his head, pulling up the collar of his riding coat.

He knew that with Lorton Fell on his right, before he turned off
down to Swinside, his path branched away to the left.  The farm was
just here somewhere, in a hollow between Grisedale Pike and
Hobcarton.  He directed his horse across the rough turf, moving
very slowly under the sting of the wind.  To his right he looked
down on to the flat plain that stretched to the Border with fields
like squares of a chessboard and trees and houses like dolls'
furniture.  The wind raced over this flat country with a shrill
whistling exultation; thin patches of white broke the grey sky
above the sea.  It was raining above St Bees.

It would be difficult to find this place, and if the mist came
down, impossible.  He might wander here for hours.  He cursed
himself for coming, and had an impulse to turn back.  In certain
moods this driving wind and cold sharp air would have exalted him,
but not today, for he was sick with his own self-distrust and
disapproval.  Nothing grand about him today to answer the grandeur
of the elements.  Why should he not turn back and wait patiently
for Vanessa to recover?  How impulsive he had been to have taken
her present mood as permanent!  And how selfish he had been to ride
away from her at the very moment when, in her heart, she needed
him!  He half turned his horse's head.  He would go back.  Then, as
he looked round him, he saw the farm, a little to his right in the
fold of the hill, a bare meagre place with a few bent trees and a
stone wall.  The first drops of rain stung his cheek.  He rode on.

When he reached the farm two dogs ran out, wildly barking: he heard
Fred's voice cursing them and then saw the big stout man filling
the doorway.

He gave a shout when he saw who it was.

'Hullo, Herries!  What a surprise!'

He came to meet him, his face beaming.

'You've come for the night, I hope?'

'Yes,' said Benjie.  'If you'll have me.'

'Of course I'll have you.  Couldn't be better.'

They led the horse round to the stable at the back of the house,
Halliday talking all the time.

'My mother and sister are staying here and some friends of ours are
coming up from Lorton this evening, so you've struck the right
moment.  It's going to be a wild night.  The wind's blowing great
guns.  Come along in and get warm.'

Benjie went in, hung up his hat and coat, passed into an inner room
that seemed half kitchen, half living-room.  Sitting beside a
roaring fire were Mrs Halliday and her daughter.

At the moment when he saw them, the large smoke-stained fireplace,
the window that looked out on to a little scrambling path where a
cluster of primroses was hiding, two canaries in a cage, and a
large sheepdog lying in front of the fire with his nose on his
paws, his mood changed.  This was jolly, cheerful, friendly.  They
were all friends of his.  Other friends were coming.  They would
make a night of it.  He had closed a door, a heavy silent-swinging
door like one that guards a cathedral, upon all that other world
where his friends were burnt, those whom he loved blamed him and,
worst of all, where he blamed himself.  Here he loved no one and no
one loved him.  It was not a world of hurting, haunting intimacies.
He would be happy.  So, as always when he was happy, he wanted to
do things for everybody, drew a chair to the fire and chattered
like a boy, threw back his head and roared with laughter, his
rather ugly face with friendliness and generosity in all its
wrinkles.  And the two women quietly answered or asked questions
while Fred Halliday leaned his bulk against the kitchen dresser
and, with a smile on his face, watched them.

Benjie had all the London gossip: of the success that Iolanthe was
and the other piece that the German Reeds were running, The
Mountain Heiress, where Corney Grain was a solicitor and sang a
wonderful song called 'Our Mess', and that Goring Thomas' Esmeralda
at the Lane, where Mr Carl Rosa had a month's opera season,
contained, they say, some pretty songs but that Mme Georgina Burns
couldn't act for toffee.

Mrs Halliday said that the matter with the London theatre today was
that it was too expensive, not comfortable enough, and that most of
the plays were silly.  In fact, with a few well-chosen words, she
demolished the London theatre.  And Benjie said, oh, he didn't
know.  That was a little severe, wasn't it, and that one went to
the theatre to be jolly, didn't one, and that he'd go a long way to
hear Corney Grain sing 'Our Mess'.  Then they discussed the Budget,
which had been introduced a week or two before by Mr Childers.
Certainly had forestalled the Conservatives, who had been intending
to come out as Champions of Economy, but Gladstone knew two of
that.  Everyone talking of Economy now.  Yes, said Mrs Halliday,
the great thing was of course to BE economical, but easier to say
than to do.  Benjie, nodding his head profoundly, agreed that that
WAS the problem!

Then they discussed books, and Benjie said that he did hope that
Miss Marion didn't read French novels, and Miss Marion said that
she sometimes did and thought them very amusing, much nearer to
real life than silly writers like Rhoda Broughton and Ouida.  She
liked poetry, though.  Did Mr Herries read poetry?  No, Mr Herries
didn't.  A writer like Tennyson took such a long time to say what
he wanted to.  No, Miss Halliday did NOT agree.  Poetry could do
something that nothing else could do.  Wouldn't Mr Herries agree to
that?  And, yes, he thought on the whole that he DID agree to that!

So they talked in the pleasantest fashion and the time flew by
while the wind roared outside and the rain that had swept up from
the sea beat against the window frames.  Fred Halliday had some
excellent beer and Benjie drank plenty of it.  The fire, the beer,
the pleasant easy talk all comforted and reassured him.  Yes, the
door, with its heavy leather curtain, had swung to; all sounds from
the outer world were deadened.  Mrs Halliday, he thought, was a
more agreeable woman than he supposed.  She sat there knitting a
stocking most domestically.  Her face was grave, but after all, not
repellent at all.  The glow from the fire softened her rather gaunt
features.

Once and again she smiled, baring her teeth with her upper lip,
almost as though she were about to whistle.

And as to the girl he felt once more, and increasingly as the beer
warmed him, that he would like to touch her.  He must be kind to
her, poor child, for she could not have much happiness in her life.
He began to wonder whether she had not finer feelings, more
sensitive tastes than her mother and brother could satisfy.  She
read French, she liked poetry.  Not that she had any pride.  No one
could be quieter about her accomplishments.  Once or twice he
caught her looking at him, her pale eyes staring at him, and he
felt then a little embarrassment, as though he should be ashamed of
his brown face and strong body when she herself was so delicate.
At the thought of her delicacy some sensuous nerve in him was
touched.  She was so slight, so fragile, that in his arms she would
be powerless, must submit to anything that he wished.  Not that he
would hurt her.  He would not hurt anybody in the world.

The shrill clock on the mantelpiece struck seven and, a moment
later, the door was flung open and Halliday came in, bringing three
men with him.  These men had taken their coats off in the passage;
two of them were youngish, had rough corduroy trousers with long
black coats containing deep pockets.  One of the two was little and
wiry, with bright red hair and a small, shaggy, red beard; the
other was broad, strong, very dark with bright, glancing, restless
eyes and a close-clipped black moustache.  He was a handsome
fellow.  These two men might be both between thirty and forty in
age.  The third, as Benjie immediately learned, was the father of
these two.  He was tall and thin, dressed in a long black coat with
wide tails and black trousers.  His hair was grey and sparse; he
had little eyes and above them a very high domed forehead.  He
looked something like a schoolmaster.

Halliday introduced them to Benjie.  Their name, he discovered, was
Endicott; Thomas the elder one, George and Robert the two sons.
They all sat down by the fire.  Thomas Endicott had rather a shrill
piercing voice, small in compass and high-pitched.  He spoke with
care as though, with difficulty, he had learned how to be cultured.
The voices of the two younger men were rough.  Robert, the little
red-haired fellow, spoke with an effeminate note; he was restless
and given to gestures.  George's voice was deep but without any
Cumbrian accent.  They seemed friendly.  They knew the two women
and were old acquaintances, it appeared, of Halliday.  Endicott the
elder talked to Benjie, a little pompously and always with that
slow carefulness as though he would choose the right word and never
on any account drop an 'h'.  Oh no, they did not live at Lorton.
He himself resided in Whitehaven.  Yes, oh yes, his wife and her
sister lived with him.  This boy George here, oh! he was a rascal,
could settle to nothing, had been in the Army for a bit, hadn't he,
George?  Could put his hand to anything, a fine boxer; oh yes, a
splendid footballer if he kept in condition--but a rascal.
Wouldn't settle to anything, would he, George?  They all laughed,
and George smiled at Benjie in friendly fashion, as much as to say:
'I like you.  I've taken to you.  We shall be friends.'

Oh yes, and Robert was a wanderer too.  He would go from place to
place selling things, go round Fairs, you know, all over the
country.  What you would call a pedlar in the old days.  Didn't
mind what he did any more than George.

Oh, they were a wandering family.  That's what his wife always
complained of.  Yes, an old Border family.  Nothing much to boast
of a hundred years ago--smugglers and worse, so he heard.

'As a matter of fact, Mr Herries,' he said, 'I have been wanting to
meet you.  We're almost related in a kind of way.  There was a girl
in our family years ago married one of your ancestors, well known
in the Borrowdale district.  Rogue Herries he was called.'

'What!' cried Benjie.  'Rogue Herries!  Why!--'

'Aye, there were two brothers, George and Anthony Endicott, mad
Tony they called him.  Their sister married a man called Starr and
these two had a daughter.  It was her old Herries married.'

Why, that was Judith's mother!  Benjie was indeed amazed; what with
the beer and the warmth of the kitchen everything seemed to him now
wonderful and jolly and all that it should be.  Here they were,
these three nice fellows, and their ancestress was Judith's mother.
Judith's mother, Vanessa's great-grandmother--but at that thought
the leather-curtained door, that had for a moment swung back, was
closed again.  No thought of Vanessa.  Vanessa was far away.

'Aye,' said Thomas Endicott.  'Funny how small the world is.  I've
often thought I'd like to meet one of you, although maybe those
ancestors of ours are nothing to be proud of.'

'Proud of them!' cried Benjie.  'I should think I am!  Francis
Herries you're speaking of, was a great man, a grand fighter, and a
man of his hands.'

'Aye,' said Thomas Endicott slowly.  'There are plenty of stories
of him in Borrowdale.  He sold his woman at a Fair once, they
tell.'

'And a good thing too!' Benjie cried.  'What do you say, Mrs
Halliday?  If you're tired of a woman and someone else wants her?
Why not sell her?  Fair exchange, you know.'

But Mrs Halliday only smiled and went on knitting.

Then they had supper, a very good supper too, ham and beef and
chicken, a big apple tart, rum butter and cheese and plenty of
cakes.  Halliday produced a wine, a good warming Burgundy, and
while they ate and chattered and laughed the wind tore at the house
as though it would tumble it over.  But the house was strong, very
old, Halliday told them.

'There was a man murdered here once,' Halliday said.  'In the
'forties it was.  His wife and daughter murdered him for his money.
Cut his head open with a hatchet and he bled all over this very
floor.'

After supper they all helped to clear the table and then they sang
songs.  There was an old piano there, not strictly in tune but what
did that matter?  They roared out the songs and banged the piano
and laughed and stood with their arms round one another's
shoulders.

Soon Benjie knew that he was very merry, very merry indeed.  Not
drunk; oh no, not drunk at all, but as happy as a grig.  He had
never had a better evening.  What splendid fellows they were, and
especially George!  His hand rested on George's shoulder.  He must
see George again, must see George often.  This was the kind of
evening he enjoyed.  Yes; he would like to do something for him,
put George in the way of a job if he wanted one.  And George looked
at him as though he liked him.  He didn't say much, but he smiled
and pushed out his chest when he sang and poured beer down his
throat.

The ladies said goodnight.  It was time for them to retire.

'We shall see you in the morning,' said Mrs Halliday.  'What a wild
night it is, to be sure!'

Some time later Benjie thought that he must go to the door for a
moment to cool his head.  He slipped out, opened the front door,
and was almost tumbled off his feet by the wind.  The world was
raging outside, the rain sweeping through the air in whipping fury.
With great difficulty he closed the door again and turned back to
see the girl standing there quite close to him.  There was a dim
reflection of light from the upper floor.  The voices of the men
singing came raucously from the inner room.

'Why, Marion!' he said.

'I am just going up to bed.'

'It was so hot in there I came out for a breath of air.'

'Yes, I know.  I was hot too.'

Her hand was touching his.  He caught it, then putting his arms
around her, kissed her.  She kissed him passionately in return, her
lips clinging to his as though they would never leave them.  When
he held her in his arms, so slight and slender was she that he was
afraid of hurting her.

'I'm hurting you,' he whispered.

'I like you to hurt me,' she whispered back, then gently freeing
herself, said 'Goodnight' and ran up the stairs.

Oh, well, he shouldn't have done that.  But she was so close to
him.  She was in his arms before he realized it.  Kissing a girl--
nothing in it.  It was natural to kiss a girl.  There was something
about her . . . not that he liked her . . .  He stood for a moment
leaning against the wall in the dark passage, and felt an odd
chagrin, an almost desperate loneliness, an impulse to leave the
house at once, fetch his horse from the stable and ride home . . .

But he went back into the room, joining the chorus with them as he
entered it.

Now that the women were gone, gaiety and friendliness rose a note
higher.  This was what life should be, men together with care
thrown out of the window, plenty to drink, a wild night outside,
all friends together.  They might have known one another all their
lives.  Father Endicott was not such a schoolmaster as you might
suppose.  He possessed, in fact, a grand fund of bawdy stories.
Very funny they were.  That one about the old farmer's wife of
Esthwaite and the two simple young men and the lady from London.
There was nothing about old Cumberland life that he didn't know,
the life that was going now so fast with all the tourists in the
summer and the railways everywhere.  A pity, a pity!  Those were
the good old days when Lizzie O'Branton, the witch, jumped out of
her coffin at her funeral and rode away on a broomstick, and Mrs
Machell of Penrith would drive her ghostly carriage whenever a
'helm' wind was blowing, when the 'need fire' charmed the cattle,
when the song was sung at the shearing.  Here they broke out all
together:


     Heigh O!  Heigh O!  Heigh O!
     And he that doth this health deny.
     Before his face I him defy.
     He's fit for no good company,
     So let this health go round.


Good fun, too, when they had the public whippings, or the hangings
in Carlisle or the witch-drownings.

'Changed times,' said old Endicott sadly.  'All the fine spirit
gone.'

But THEIR spirit was not gone.  It increased with every drop they
drank.  The table was pushed aside and George and Benjie tried a
'wrastle'.  They took off their coats, waistcoats, and shoes and
went to it.  Solemnly they circled round and round trying for a
hold.  But Benjie was no very great wrestler and soon George had
'buttocked' him and, throwing him, tumbled over him.  They crashed
to the floor and then lay there, panting, one on the other.  For
they were not drunk, oh no, not drunk at all, but it was
comfortable there on the floor and Benjie had his arm round
George's neck, looked up at the whitewashed ceiling, pulled
George's hair, said, laughing, 'I like you, George.  We're friends,
we are,' and George's hand rested on Benjie's back and he said
nothing at all.  Old Endicott played a polka on the piano and they
danced heavily, clumsily, staggering about the room, and Benjie
cried:

'There's a fine place under Skiddaw, George, where well go when
we're dead and we'll dance and sing for ever and ever.'

'Aye,' said George.  'Aye.  That'll be grand.'

In all the merry evening there was only one unpleasant incident,
which Benjie could never after properly recall.

He said something to little red-bearded Robert, and Robert took
offence.  The little man was dancing with rage and screaming out:

'You're a liar, I tell you.  A damned bloody liar!'

'Call me a liar?' shouted Benjie.

'Aye, and I will too.  Who do you think I am?'

'Why!' cried Benjie.  'I'll tell you who you are.  You're a funny
little man, that's who you are!'

'I was here in this country before any of you were born.  Aye, and
I was too, selling laces and silver boxes, visiting the witches in
Borrowdale--'

'Shut your mouth, Robert,' cried George.  'Who wants to listen to
your lies?  Why, man--'

'Lies, are they?'  The little man was screaming, dancing up and
down until to Benjie's dazzled eyes he seemed a dozen little men
with peaked caps on their heads, riding through the kitchen on the
wind and rain.  But the little man wanted to fight, and the others,
roaring with laughter, held his arms and they knocked the lamp
over.  The room was dark save for the firelight.  Oh, but the
little man's red beard shone and he was angry!  And Benjie embraced
him, pulled his beard, gave him a friendly kick on the pants, and
he went and sat in a corner by the fireplace, waving his hands and
making shadows of rabbits on the wall with his fingers.

Later, Benjie found himself with a candle wandering on his way to
bed.  Halliday showed him where his room was, a little whitewashed
room at the top of the house.  Halliday helped him into bed.



And later than that, as he lay looking at the ceiling and smiling,
the door opened.  The girl stood there, a candle in her hand,
wearing a dressing-gown with a wool collar over her nightdress.

He sat up on his elbow and looked at her.  She closed the door very
softly and came over to him.  She smiled and said:

'The wind's died down.  Everyone's sleeping.'

He could only stare at her.  She took off her dressing-gown and
carefully laid it on the chair.  Then she blew out the candle,
climbed into bed and lay down beside him.



INSIDE THE FORTRESS


It was early in the wet and stormy weather of that year when
Vanessa came to stay with Elizabeth at the Fortress.

Elizabeth had been seriously ill ever since the fire at Fell House
in April.  No one could say exactly where the trouble was.  It was
what was known as a 'decline'.  She was weak, instantly tired by
any exertion; her features now had the delicacy of a thin rose-
tinted shell.  Her hair was snow-white, her figure still slim and
erect, but ghost-like in its fragility.  She walked a little from
room to room: although she leaned on a stick she was still tall.
She was kind and gracious to everyone, but most of her, as Mrs
Harwen, the cook-housekeeper, said, was 'otherwhither'.

'It's my opinion,' John Harwen, the handyman about the place and
Mrs Harwen's little hostler-like spouse, remarked, 'That the
difference between her living and her dead is so slight that you'll
not notice it.  After she's gone she'll still be here, so to
speak.'

'We've enough ghosts in this house already,' said Mrs Harwen.

Benjie had not been home since June.  No one knew where he was.  No
one had heard from him.  Elizabeth had through many years practised
herself to be patient about these absences, but now it was another
matter.  For she knew that she had not long to live and she had
only one desire in her heart--that Benjie and Vanessa should be
married before she went.

She had not seen very much of Vanessa.  The girl had stayed first
with Timothy in Eskdale, where he had thoughts of buying a house
(for he had decided not to rebuild Fell House), then had returned
to Cat Bells, where Will and the old cook had looked after her.

In July she visited Elizabeth, who saw at once that here now was a
woman of self-command, deep reserves and a very fine courage.
Vanessa was cheerful, talked freely about her father, seemed indeed
to wish to talk of him, recalling days and moments and words and
phrases; saying:  'Papa always felt that' or 'Papa never troubled
to be angry--he said it was waste of time.'  But his death,
Elizabeth saw, had made a fundamental change in Vanessa, had
brought out certain qualities that were latent before, and had
checked others.

She was not so impetuous: her heart was as warm but it was guarded
now against shock.

Just before she went she said:

'And what about Benjie?'

Elizabeth told her that she had not heard, that she had no idea
where he was.

'It's a shame!' Vanessa cried indignantly.  'You wanting him--'

'Yes,' said Elizabeth quietly.  'I am not going to live much
longer, my dear, and I MUST see him.  But no one knows where he
is.'

'I think,' said Vanessa lowly, 'that perhaps I am partly to blame.
He came to see me--after the fire.  I was not myself.  I didn't
want Benjie or anyone.  I wanted to be left alone.  So he went
away.'

'We'll be independent of him,' said Elizabeth gently.

Then Vanessa asked if she might come and stay.  Elizabeth's pale
cheek flushed.

'Oh, Vanessa dearest, do you mean it?  Will you really come?  How
happy I shall be!'

Early in September Vanessa came.  No one knew what that was to her,
the first time that she looked from the long windows of the
Fortress down to the valley where, very clearly, in the pale
colourless moving air, the walls of Fell House were still standing.
She had been dreading this moment from the instant when she made
her proposal of a visit to Elizabeth.  She had not seen the place
since the day of the funeral.  But she knew that it had to be
faced, that everything had to be faced.  She had learnt many things
since April and one of them was that the only way to make anything
of life was to fit, resolutely, with courage, into the patterns
that life, in change after change, presented.  To attempt to force
life into YOUR pattern was to challenge disaster.  You must accept
EVERYTHING and turn it to good.

So she stood there that morning in her black dress, her hands
clenched at her sides, the house silent about her with that dull
brooding silence that seemed the Fortress' special property.  In
the valley the four bare walls stood, the moors climbing above them
as though they already recognized that here was a spot that now
they would soon reclaim, as, one day, they would reclaim
everything.

Tears rolled down Vanessa's cheeks, but she made no sound.  For a
moment she cried within herself:  'Oh, I cannot endure this!  I
CANNOT endure it!' and this was followed by the strong response:
'I CAN endure it!  I can endure anything!'

The hardest thing to bear was that she had not at present recovered
her father for herself.  When someone dearly loved passes away
there is a period when everything is blurred.  The personality has
broken up into a thousand pieces, something here, something there,
but the radiant heart is absent.  Slowly the friend returns, never--
if feeling has been true--to be lost again.

Elizabeth, watching her, felt at first the girl's deep loneliness.
There they were alike.  She, too, was lonely, had been for years,
but that is a lesson that women learn and it is one of the
principal bonds between them.  Vanessa was only setting out on a
road that Elizabeth knew by heart, of which she was even proud.  At
the same time they were not a gloomy pair.  They laughed, drove out
in the landau, had visitors, read together, played piquet and
backgammon.  Elizabeth's extreme weakness was what Vanessa needed.
She needed, more than she had ever conceived that she would,
someone to care for.  It was the strongest need of her nature and
would always be, as it had been her grandmother's.  That was why
she wanted Benjie more with every day that passed.  Now that Adam
was gone she had nobody else but Benjie.  And, as Elizabeth needed
him too, these two, although they seldom mentioned him, thought of
him all the time.

But there were other things growing in Vanessa, as Elizabeth one
day discovered.

A Mrs Marrable from Rosthwaite called.  Now the Marrable family,
its colour, personality, and circumstances, would make a very fit
subject of study for anyone interested in English family life in
the eighties.  Mr John Marrable had interests in China.  He was now
retired, wore a black beard, smoked a kind of Oriental hookah, and
was to be seen for the most part in green-and-red worsted carpet
slippers walking up and down the glass-covered passage on the
outside of his Rosthwaite house.  Mrs Marrable was round, stout,
full-bosomed, and her skirt so beflounced and beribboned that she
was all bits and pieces.  John Marrable was severe and extremely
self-satisfied.  Mrs Marrable very talkative, serious-minded, but
gay with that nervous gaiety peculiar to wives who expect their
husbands to enter at any moment in the worst of all possible
tempers.  The Marrables had five children, four girls and a boy;
they lived entirely up to the later caricatured notion of Victorian
manners in that the four Miss Marrables had been completely
sacrificed to their brother Edward, for whom everything had been
done.  The result of doing everything for Edward was that he had
turned out very badly indeed, being sent down from Cambridge for
grossly insulting a Proctor and then, while supposedly following
his father's Chinese interests in London, mixing in the lowest
society and incurring a multitude of debts.  Meanwhile the four
Miss Marrables, who were not beauties, waited patiently at home for
someone to marry them, were bullied by their father and grew ever
more plain of feature.  One of them, the third in age, Lettice,
Vanessa had liked, been kind to; the result of this was that
Lettice Marrable worshipped her with a passion that was made up of
religion, sexual hunger, and a devastating loneliness.  Lettice
Marrable's adoration for Vanessa had its consequences.

In any case for the moment here Mrs Marrable was, taking tea with
Elizabeth and Vanessa in the drawing-room of the Fortress.  She
chattered on for a long time in the eager, apprehensive, incoherent
manner that was especially hers, and as she talked a large locket
jumped about on her stout bosom like a thing imprisoned and mad for
freedom.

'Yes, thank you, we have heard from Ned.  His present enthusiasm is
for Miss Mary Anderson.  He goes to see her every evening in
Ingomar, although every evening is of course the dear fellow's
exaggeration.  The play is a failure, he tells us, but Miss
Anderson is lovelier than ever.'

'Why don't you take the girls up to London, Mrs Marrable, for a
jaunt, and go and see her?'

'Take the girls up to London!  My dear Miss Paris!  With things in
China as bad as they are!  No.  Mr Marrable says we must economize
in every possible direction, and we are thinking of cutting down
the landau.  He tells the girls that we must all make sacrifices
and he is quite right.  Ned went with some friends to Hurlingham
last weekend and seems really to have enjoyed himself, and he
actually saw the Duke of Cambridge riding down a side street on a
bicycle the other day!  I agree with Mr Marrable that our Royal
Family should keep up their position.  Do not you, Mrs Herries?
And Mr Marrable says that with all this odd behaviour of France in
China there is no knowing where we shall all be and we look to the
Royal Family to keep us all together.  Although Ned writes in his
letter that the Prince of Wales really DOES encourage some very
light-hearted behaviour.  Now is it right?  What I mean, Miss
Paris, is that we all look up to the Royal Family.  What kind of
example is he setting our girls?  And that reminds me.  They tell
me that Miss Nettleship, the daughter of Doctor Nettleship, is
going up to Girton.  Now I don't know what YOU think, Miss Paris,
but my opinion is--and Mr Marrable's too--that all these things
that girls are wanting to do are the GREATEST mistake.  More than
that, they are unwomanly--the very word that Mr Marrable used this
morning.'

'What things?' asked Vanessa, smiling.

Now it happened that that smile which Vanessa had intended in all
friendliness irritated Mrs Marrable.  She had had a trying day.
John Marrable had come down to breakfast with a cold and had been
very severe with everyone.  She was anxious about Ned's doings in
London, and Mrs Martin of Keswick had asked for her bill (a thing
that nobody in Keswick ever dreamt of doing unless seized by some
sudden insanity).  Moreover, neither she nor Mr Marrable really
approved of Vanessa.  It was true, of course, that she was a great
beauty, but was she quite nice?  It was said of her that she had
some very odd opinions, and unusual she certainly must be to engage
herself to that rascal of a son of Mrs Herries, who, poor woman,
was popular with everyone, partly because she did no harm and
partly because everyone had the luxury of pitying her.

Mrs Marrable did not approve of Vanessa although she could not deny
but that black suited her, she was a very lovely girl, she was kind
to Lettice, and belonged to one of the best families in Cumberland.
This smile, however, hinted at broad views, was patronizing, and
the drive back to Rosthwaite would be very long.  She wished now
that she had brought one of the girls to bear her company . . .

'What things?' cried Mrs Marrable, a little sharply.  'Why,
anything that takes a woman away from the home where she belongs.
All this gadding about, doing as men do--it isn't natural and you
know it isn't, Miss Paris.'

'Why isn't it natural?' asked Vanessa.  She was suddenly weary of
Mrs Marrable.  She wished that she would go.  Mrs Marrable's bright
green dress was most unsuited to her figure.

'Why isn't it natural?'  Mrs Marrable had a maddening habit of
repeating everything that the last speaker had said.  'Why, my dear
Miss Paris, what did Nature intend women for?  Marriage and the
home.  Marriage and the home.'

'But if they don't get married?' Vanessa continued, not very
wisely.  'There are more women than men in this country.  Many
more.  What are they to do?  What do they do?  Sit at home, twiddle
their thumbs, and look out of window for a husband.'

This was unwise of her because it was exactly what the Miss
Marrables spent their time in doing, as Mrs Marrable very well
knew.  She bridled in every limb.

'Well, if they do sit at home it is better in my opinion than that
they should unsex themselves.  Why, they are actually doctors, some
of them!  It is MY opinion, Miss Paris, that that Doctor Garrett
Anderson they are always talking about should be put in prison!'

Elizabeth, who was watching Vanessa rather anxiously, saw her
straighten her tall body and throw back her head.

'Another cup, Mrs Marrable?'

'Oh no, thank you, Mrs Herries.  I positively must be going.'

'Why should she be put in prison?' asked Vanessa.

'Well, really, Miss Paris,' Mrs Marrable said, patting her locket
and smiling rather nervously, 'I wonder you can ask such a
question!  But you, of course, are of the younger generation.  We
older ones wonder sometimes where the world is going to!'

'No, but, Mrs Marrable,' Vanessa persisted, 'I truly want to know.
WHY should Doctor Garrett Anderson be put in prison?'

This was plainly intended as a challenge and Mrs Marrable took it
as such.

'I consider her a wicked woman and a dangerous influence.  I read
an article about her only the other day.  Do you know that she once
actually read a paper on "The Limits of Parental Authority"?  Do
you happen to know, Miss Paris, that she actually supports the
fantastic idea that women should have a vote?  A vote indeed!  If
that is not against Nature I don't know what is!  And do you know,'
and here Mrs Marrable dropped her voice to an awful trembling hush,
'that she took the part of the fallen women in opposing an
excellent Act of Parliament demanding their supervision?--yes, and
she and her friends positively succeeded in having the Act
repealed.'

'If women do not protect fallen women I scarcely see who will.
Certainly not men.'

'Protect!  Protect!  My dear Miss Paris!  And you quite a young
girl!  One naturally dislikes discussing such a matter at all, but
people seem to discuss everything nowadays.  All I can say is that
if you approve this condonation of gross immorality I--I--I'm most
surprised!'

'Let that be as it may, Mrs Marrable,' Vanessa said.  'I know a few
things also about Doctor Anderson.  She is one of the bravest and
finest women alive in the world today.  In fact, with the exception
of Florence Nightingale, there is not a finer.  I also could tell
you one or two things about her that perhaps you don't know.  Have
you ever thought of the conditions women lived under when Doctor
Anderson was a girl?  A married woman was scarcely a human being.
She had no rights, no property, nothing.  Did you ever read Miss
Leigh Smith's Brief Summary of the Most Important Laws Concerning
Women?'

'No, indeed I have not,' said Mrs Marrable, panting with
nervousness and annoyance.

'Well then, you should.  It was written long ago and is still
excellent reading.  Do you know that when Elizabeth Garrett wanted
to be a doctor she could not find a physician in England to whom
she could be apprenticed?  Do you know that she worked all day at
the Middlesex Hospital, where there were no antiseptics and
anaesthetic was scarcely used?  That needed some courage, did it
not?  Do you know that the whole medical profession tried to stop
her, that they got up a memorial against her, that London
University when she tried to matriculate was closed to women?  Do
you know that she had to fight every step of the way and that when
at last with Sophia Jex-Blake she started the School of Medicine
for Women a howl went up through the whole of England?  And all for
why?  Because, Mrs Marrable, at last women in England have grown
tired of sitting still and looking out of the window for husbands!
They want to have a life of their own, they want to be independent,
as one day, please God, they shall be!'

Elizabeth had never seen Vanessa like this before.  Her voice rang
across the room as though she challenged the world.  With her
shoulders back and her eyes flashing she looked as though she would
like to crush Mrs Marrable to powder.  In fact at that moment she
hated that good, kindly, and quite unoffending woman.

Unoffending but not unoffended!  She was so deeply offended that
she would never forget--never forget and never forgive.  She was
not, in her life and circumstance, a happy enough woman to forgive.
Like all women who have a grievance which they refuse to admit, she
made her friends take the blame.  Vanessa was to be blamed for ever
and ever.

The lady got up to go, smoothing her bosom and arranging her wide
and voluminous skirt.

'Thank you, Mrs Herries, for a most delightful afternoon.'

'I am so glad that you came, Mrs Marrable.'

She carried it off.  She shook her fingers playfully at Vanessa.
'When you are my age, Miss Paris,' she said, 'you will see the
danger of these things.'



'Oh dear,' said Vanessa after her departure.  'How intolerable of
me!  And how unexpected!  It was the very last thing I thought of
doing.  And in your house too.'

'You were rather vehement,' said Elizabeth.  'I have never seen you
like that before.'

'No, but I am afraid you will see me like that again.  I have a
terrible temper and it flies up before I know that it's there.  You
are wise, Elizabeth.  Tell me what I shall do about it.'

'No.  I don't think you lost your temper, dear.  You were
indignant.  That's all.  And I agreed with every word that you
said.'

Nevertheless, going to bed that night, Vanessa was very unhappy.
Something was wrong, and what was wrong was that her spirit was
weighed down with an intolerable loneliness.  With every day that
passed she realized more bitterly the agony of her father's loss.
She had been wrong, perhaps, to build her life so entirely around
him.  It was the caring for him, the watching that he should be
happy, the comfort of knowing that they loved one another--these
things, gone, left in her utter desolation.  Dear Elizabeth . . .
but Elizabeth was now almost out of the world and did not need her.
Nobody needed her, nobody anywhere.

And at that she faced the other trouble besides her father's loss.
She wanted Benjie: she wanted to be married to Benjie, to care for
him, understand him, comfort him, make him happy.  And Benjie was
away, would perhaps never return.

'That's amusing,' she thought as she lay down in bed.  'Here was I
railing at Mrs Marrable about women's independence and I myself the
least independent woman in the world!'

Two days later a telegram came:

'Arriving tonight.  Benjie.'

Elizabeth ran to the door, flung it open, called out 'Vanessa!
Vanessa!' and Vanessa came running down the stairs, thinking that
Elizabeth was ill.

'Oh, what is it?'

But Elizabeth caught her hand.

'He's coming--tonight.  That's all he says.  It's sent from
Liverpool.'

Vanessa took the telegram.

'Tonight!  Oh, Elizabeth, I am so glad!  He'll take the train to
Carlisle, I shouldn't wonder, and then drive.  He says nothing
about being met.'

All day preparations were made, roses in his bedroom, Mrs Harwen
roasting two ducks, the silver polished, the garden paths brushed,
and everything at the end of it as dead around the house as it was
at the beginning.

It was four in the afternoon.  Tea had been just brought in.  The
hills beyond the windows lay like dark purple prehistoric animals
bathing in a sea of orange mist.  You could see them sprawling,
burying their snouts, heaving their scaly backs, while below, all
about the valley, the mist, like bales of wool, rolled from field
to field.

Vanessa, holding Elizabeth close to her, stared at the hills.

'Benjie thinks there are men under Skiddaw,' she said.  'Dead men.
A kind of Cumbrian Valhalla.'

But Elizabeth had not heard.  She looked exceedingly frail today.
Excitement was bad for her heart.  She trembled a little, leaning
against Vanessa's strong side.

'This house,' she said, 'whatever you do to it, it refuses to live.
It was conceived in hatred, my dear.  It has always hated everybody
and everything just as poor Uhland did.  It is this place should
have been burnt, not Fell House.  Look at this room.  Look at the
roses!  I have put them here, there, everywhere.  They are dropping
with uneasiness.  Nothing good will ever happen in this place.
Benjie is bringing some bad news.  I know it.'

Vanessa led her back to the sofa.

'Now lie down, Elizabeth darling.  I'll bring you your tea.  Don't
THINK about Benjie until he's here.  What bad news COULD there be?'

She was herself triumphant.  She felt that she was able to deal
with ANY situation that Benjie might offer.  Were he in trouble
through some foolishness she would stand by him.  There was nothing
that he could confess, as she had told him years ago, that she
would not share with him.  And then at last, after all these
postponements, they would be married.  There was nothing now to
prevent it save the old obstacle of Benjie's scruples, which came,
as she knew well, because he loved her so much.  Now when he saw
that her sorrow had only made her the more resolved, he would be as
eager as she.

She went about the house, singing.  She petted Mrs Harwen, who in
any case adored her, went several times to Benjie's room to see
that everything was right, put Elizabeth to bed.

'He will be late.  He has thirty miles to drive, you know.  He
shall come up to you the moment he arrives.'

It was after ten when he came.  She was standing at her window and
saw the lights of the carriage, heard the crunch of the wheels on
the road, heard the driver shout 'Whoa!' to his horses, then, with
a recognition that drove her heart against her ribs, the well-known
timbre of Benjie's voice.

'All right, driver.  I'll get someone to help you with the box.'

He came up the path, saw the light in her window, and looked up.

'Hulloa, Vanessa.  Is that you?' he called out.

'Yes.  I'll come down.'

As their hands clasped she knew that he loved her as dearly as
ever.  She was so happy that she could have flung her arms around
his neck, but all she did was to say, smiling her quiet steady
smile:

'Elizabeth has gone to bed.  She's longing to see you.'

Old Harwen helped the driver in with the luggage.  Benjie took off
his coat, nodded to her, and saying, 'I'll see Mother a moment and
come down,' he ran up the stairs.

It was something in his voice and look that frightened her.  WHAT
was it?  He did not look well, but he would be tired, of course,
after his journey.  It was not that.  As he spoke, he had avoided
her eyes.

She went into the dining-room where some supper was laid out for
him.  She told Mrs Harwen to bring in the soup in ten minutes.
Then she stood there under the gas that hissed very faintly above
her head and tried to calm her fear.

Something was the matter.  Had she not said that nothing that he
could tell her would alarm her?  Now, face to face with him, she
was not sure.  She felt herself quite inexperienced.  She had
thought that she could deal with him, but what did she REALLY know
about men?  Perhaps he was going to tell her that he did not love
her any more.  No, she knew that it was not that.  That first gaze
into one another's eyes had told her that they still belonged to
one another just as they had always done.  What else could it be?
Had he done anything disgraceful?  She would share that with him,
whatever it might be.  She moved restlessly about the room, moving
the things upon the table, seeing that the bowl of red and yellow
roses was in the centre, arranging knives and forks.

Mrs Harwen came in with the soup tureen.

'Yes, Mrs Harwen, I think he'll be down in a minute now.'

'And you'll ring for the meat and vegetables, Miss Vanessa?'

'Yes.  He must be hungry.'

'Yes, Miss.  It's a couple of ducks--and an apple tart to follow.'

She walked to the window.  Why did this house always fill her with
apprehension?  Her anxiety was needless.  He was tired after his
journey.  After five minutes with her he would be his old self.

The door opened and he came in.  He smiled at her, sat down and
began to eat: she drew a chair to the table near to him.

'How well you are looking, Vanessa,'

He had not seen her since the week of the fire.  They were both
conscious of that, she thought.  That is why he is uneasy and will
not look at me; but her fear increased.

'Where have you been, Benjie, all this time?  Are you hungry?  Is
the toast dry?  I told Mrs Harwen not to make it before she heard
you arriving.'

'I've come from Liverpool.'  He looked at her and smiled, a
pathetic smile as though he longed to be friends with her and for
some reason must not be.  The childishness so often apparent in
him--one of his strongest appeals to women because he was quite
unconscious of it--caught her heart, making her ache to take him in
her arms and comfort him.

He was terribly unhappy: that was certain.

'And where have you been besides Liverpool?'

'Oh, abroad.  In June I went to Germany.  I thought that I'd like
to see Bismarck.  Not to speak to him, of course--simply to have a
sight of the old man.  And I did.  He was driving one day in Berlin
in an open carriage.  It was strange, you know, Vanessa, because
when I was a boy at Rugby in 1870 I hated the Prussians--I would
have done anything to help the French--nearly ran away to Paris to
share in the Siege.  But when I saw the old boy riding through
Berlin I cheered like the others.'

'What did he look like?'

'Oh, just an old man.  But he sat up straight and bowed.  Very
striking eyes.'

Mrs Harwen came in with the ducks.

'Hulloa!  Mrs Harwen!  How are you?'

'Very well, thank you, sir, and I hope you're the same?'

'Oh, I'm well enough!  Two ducks!  I can't eat two ducks!'

'I thought if one wasn't tender you could try the other, sir.'

'Thanks.  But I'm not hungry.'

'There's an apple tart to follow, sir.'

'No.  Not for me tonight.  I'll have it cold tomorrow.'

He carved the duck, ate a little of it, then pushed his plate
aside.

'I'm not hungry, Vanessa.'

'Oh, you ought to be after that long journey.'

'No, I'm not . . .  Mother's not very well, I'm afraid.'

'No, she has grown much weaker lately.  I'm afraid she can't live
much longer, Benjie.'

His face seemed to be shadowed.  The constraint between them grew
deeper with every moment.

'No, I can't eat.'  He got up.  'Let's go into the other room.
There's something I must say to you.'

He opened the door for her and she went out, crossing the passage,
down the stairs, into the little room off the hall that had been
poor old Walter's sanctum.

There was a fire there and yet the room was cheerless.  They sat
down in the old leather armchairs opposite one another.

'Don't you hate this house?' he asked her.

'I don't like it.  It is impossible to make it comfortable.'

'Old Walter sees to that,' he answered grimly.  There followed an
awful pause.  At last she could endure it no longer.

'Benjie, what's the matter?'

'Nothing.  Oh yes, there is.  Of course there is.'

'Well, tell me.  Don't be a coward about it.'  She hesitated.  'Is
it that you don't love me any longer?'

He, too, hesitated.  Then he answered, looking her at last straight
in the face:

'I love you more than ever.'

A wave of joy, burning with splendid warmth, swept over her.  She
was, for an instant, submerged by it, blind, deaf, conscious of her
joy as though she were alone in space, the beautiful glass-green
wave arching above her head.

'I'm glad of that,' she said at last, 'because I also love you more
than ever.'  She went on:  'Father's death has left me with only
you.  I have no one else to care for, no one else to care for ME.
When you were away so long I thought I could not endure it--not if
it went on much longer.  I find that I cannot live without someone
to love, and as there is only you, Benjie--'

'Don't!' he broke in with a cry.  'Vanessa, don't!'

He had sprung to his feet.  A panic of apprehension caught her.
Something terrible had happened.  She held the arm of the chair
with her hand.

'What is it?'

'It's this.  We can't be married.  We can never be married.'

She waited for the next word.

'We can't be married because--because'--he turned away from her,
staring at the window--'because I was married last week.'



He had rehearsed this moment to himself all day, and for many days
past.  He had not known what he would do, nor what she would do
either.  He had thought of everything--every possibility but one.

He had not thought that, after what seemed to him an age of
silence, she would murmur:

'Oh, poor Benjie.  Oh, what a dreadful thing!'

She had thought first of himself.  She had guessed instantly that
he was in some bad, inescapable tangle.  He could have fallen at
her feet and kissed her hands for her perception.

'We should have married last year,' she said.  'That would have
saved both of us.'

He turned and looked at her with a deep sombre gaze as though he
were fixing her for ever in his mind, just as she was, now that he
had lost her.  Then he knelt down, at her feet, bowed his head: she
held his hand.  Neither of them spoke for a long time.

He got up and sat in the chair again.

'I must tell you about it,' he said.  'You must know everything.'

'Yes, tell me,' she answered.

'After the fire when I came to see you, you were upset.  I thought
that you blamed me for your father's death.  I'm so ready to be
blamed.  I'm blamed so often.  But I don't care.  I don't care
perhaps enough--unless it is you who blame me.  So I rode off in a
temper.  You remember that in Seascale last year I stayed in rooms
with a widow and her daughter?'

Vanessa, looking at him with eyes that were so unhappy but so
resolutely determined not to flinch that he could not face them,
nodded.

'Yes, I remember.  I saw them walking one day on the beach.'

'Yes.  Well--a mother and daughter called Halliday--I didn't like
them--not either of them.  I was thinking only of you, Vanessa,
that summer--you were obsessing me.  Nevertheless I kissed the
girl, disliked her more than ever, and kissed her again.'

He flashed a look at her, then dropped his glance and went on,
looking at the floor.

'You and I would have been married, of course, that autumn, had it
not been for Adam's illness.  Fate.  Call it what you like.
Perhaps really the best thing.  In any case the widow and her
daughter came to live in Keswick.'

'Tell me,' Vanessa said, 'what she looks like.  I saw her only for
a moment at Seascale.  Is she beautiful?  WHAT is she?'

'No, she is not.  She is not beautiful, she is not clever.  My eyes
have been open from the first.  She held me like one of one's pet
cheap temptations--those you are always ashamed of, never resist,
never confess to anyone . . .  I must be fair to her, Vanessa.
Whatever happens I must be fair.  But you will see in a moment what
she is like.'

Vanessa drew a deep, trembling breath.  Her hands were folded in
her lap.  Benjie stared at them as though hypnotized, noticing how
white they were against the black dress.  He thought that he could
tell the rest of the story better were he holding her hand, but he
did not move.

'Yes, I must be fair to her.  She knew that she had some attraction
for me.  She was, I think, determined from the very beginning that
I should marry her, but really because, I am afraid, she loved--
loves--me.'

'Yes,' said Vanessa.

'Thinking of you always, loving you more every day, yet I went to
see the two of them in Keswick.  I must speak of something
difficult, Vanessa.  It is this.  The more I saw you the more I
loved you--and with my body as well as the rest of me.  I have
always wanted my body to have power.  I have liked to see it
travelling about the world, getting experience, eating, drinking,
strong, vigorous.  I have always thought that most people do not
give their bodies all the chances.  Well, that spring you were
occupied with Adam, of course, and I would leave you, restless and
unsatisfied.  Both of us were, I think.  But I was doubly
unsatisfied--because I wanted you so badly and because I was so
unworthy of you.'

She murmured:  'That has been where the mistake was.'

'Oh, don't misunderstand me, Vanessa.  I don't go about the world
thinking I am unworthy of people.  Of nobody else.  Only you.  But
the one thing I must not do, I tell myself, is to spoil your life.
I mustn't.  I mustn't, I tell myself--and then--I do . . .

'So I went to see them.  Then a day or two after the fire I rode
out to Halliday's farm--the brother, you know.  I stayed there the
night.  I drank too much.  The girl slept with me.'

He waited.  There was a mouse scratching somewhere.  They both
raised their heads together, and Vanessa thought, as she had often
done before, that she heard one of the dogs that Uhland used to
keep in his room howling from the Tower.  Somewhere a dog WAS
howling, and at that moment she realized a hatred for that girl
such as she had never felt before for anyone.

'Next day,' Benjie went on, 'I came back to the Fortress.  I stayed
for a while, then I went off with Halliday and two of his friends
called Endicott shooting.  I met the girl again.  She was quiet,
most respectable, as though now she had got what she wanted.  I am
sure her mother knew.  I think her brother knew too.  I was
extremely unhappy.  I wanted to come to you and ask that we might
be married at once, but I was ashamed and afraid--you are the only
human being I have ever been afraid of, Vanessa.  I went abroad to
Germany.

'When I came back the girl, her mother, and brother were in London.
The girl came to see me and told me that she was going to have a
child--my child, she said.  I don't know whether that was the truth
or no.  That was a month ago.  Will you believe me, Vanessa, when I
tell you that I loved you during all this time more than ever?'

'Yes,' said Vanessa.  'I believe you.'

'The girl said that of course now I would marry her.  The mother
said the same.  The brother the same.  I was not frightened of them
in the least.  I have never been afraid of anyone or anything
except your despising me or doing you harm.  But also, in spite of
all that I have done, I have never got a woman into trouble.  I
tell you that I didn't know, I don't know now, whether I was
responsible in this case.  I want to be fair to her in every way,
but I cannot be certain of her virtue.  They were all three quite
friendly and quite frank.  The girl said that she had always loved
me, always meant to marry me.  The brother said that of course it
would not be pleasant for my mother if she knew of this.  I agreed
with that.  Ill as she was it would probably kill her.  But I think
that my mind was entirely on you.  Although I loved you so dearly I
might do this again.  I have never had any trust in myself.  It is
only myself that I blame, but from my birth, as I have always told
you, there has been some strain in me that I could never trust, as
there was in my father, my grandfather.  And I have always been
honest with you.  I would have had to tell you of this, and when
you knew that this was to be my child--would you marry me?  Would
you, Vanessa?  Would you have married me knowing this?'

He waited with passionate eagerness for her answer, leaning
forward, looking into her face.

At last she said:

'No.  Perhaps I would not.'

He nodded his head.  'I thought not.  "This ends it," I thought.
All this struggle about you that I have had for years.  You will be
free.  Perhaps you will hate me and so be clear of me, then after a
while you will marry somebody splendid.  One day, long after, you
will acknowledge that I was right.  That's what I thought.  So I
married her--last week in Liverpool.'

A long, long silence followed.

At last Vanessa said:

'Do you care for her?  Are you fond of her in any way at all?'

'No--not in any way at all.'

Then she said:

'Thank you for telling me so honestly.'  And then again, after
another pause:  'This will be terrible for Elizabeth.'

'Yes,' he answered.

She got up and went over to him and laid her hand against his
cheek.

'You must do all you can for her.'

He caught her hand fiercely; kissed it again and again.

'What are we to do?  I can't live without seeing you.'

She shook her head.

'No.  Of course we must not meet.  That would be too difficult for
both of us.'

She bent down and kissed him.

'How foolish we both have been, Benjie dear.'  She held him close
to her like a mother her son.  At that moment, with his head
against her breast, she realized with the utmost clarity the
desolation of her loneliness.  She kissed him again, then drew
herself from his grasp.

'Goodnight, Benjie darling.  I'll go back to Cat Bells in the
morning.  You won't write or anything, will you?  It will be much
better.'

'I'll do anything you say.'

At the door she turned back.

'I don't know whether it's right.  Very wrong perhaps.  But
although we mustn't meet or write, if you're in trouble--real,
serious trouble--you must tell me.'

'I'll tell you,' he said.

Then she went out.



THE DUCHESS OF WREXE'S BALL


One day in November 1884 Barney Newmark went in to drink a cup of
tea with his sister, Phyllis Rochester, in her pleasant little
house in Eaton Place.

He chose this afternoon because he knew that his brother-in-law,
Clarence Rochester, was at Brighton.  He did not like Clarence at
all--he thought him a humbug.  And Clarence did not like Barney--he
thought him an obscene, conceited libertine.  Phyllis, who cared
deeply for Barney and had grown accustomed to Clarence, kept the
balance between them.

Phyllis, who was now a buxom woman of sixty-three (all the Newmarks
of this generation were stout), loved her comforts and adored her
eccentric son Philip.  So long as she had plenty of the little
cakes, jams, and preserved fruits that she preferred and so long as
Philip lived with her in Eaton Place she had no alarms.  She had a
charming complexion, and Clarence was away as often as not.  Her
one fear had been lest Philip should marry.  But now it did not
seem likely.  Philip did not like women.

Barney today was in an excellent temper.  He had that morning
finished his novel, a novel in which Newmarket, Boulogne, and
Scottish shooting parties were his principal backgrounds, where
everything was very light and careless and the principal scene was
a baccarat-cheating scandal.  Like the majority of novelists he
enjoyed, for a day or two following a novel's conclusion, an
extraordinary sense of freedom and light-heartedness.  Unlike most
novelists these happy days were not followed by an intense gloom.
He knew the thing was of no value at all.  He told everybody so.
He wrote to make money.  He was none of your Merediths, Zolas, or
Shorthouses.  He couldn't write a novel like--what was its name?--
that John Inglesant to save his life.  Nor did he want to.  So long
as a fellow or two got his novel from a library he was perfectly
satisfied--and so were his publishers.

Between the brother and sister sitting together having tea in the
pleasant little drawing-room there was a strong resemblance.  They
were both stout, jolly, and easily amused.  Barney was the best of
fellows when alone with his sister.  They were both glad that
Clarence was at Brighton.  The room was very warm, heavily
curtained, and crammed with knick-knacks.  There were china dogs,
china shepherds and shepherdesses, china mandarins.  There was even
a large china copy of a Chinese temple with little bells that
tinkled when there was a draught, and of this Phyllis was
inordinately proud.  There were photographs everywhere.  Four
photographs of Mary Anderson, two of Ellen Terry, three of Mr
Terriss, photographs of Ellis and Garth and Emily Newmark (very
forbidding) and Barney (riding a horse) and Vanessa and Carey
Rockage.  There were numberless little tables, all heavily loaded,
a great many little chairs and a basket near the fire in which a
fat pug called Charles was now wheezing.  The two round tea tables
were covered with cakes, pastries, muffins, piles of buttered
toast.

'Good Heavens, Phil,' Barney cried, 'how many people are you
expecting?'

'Nobody except you.'

'Why all the food?'

'Oh, I like to have plenty to eat.  And Philip may come in.'

'Oh, may he?  And what is he doing today?'

'He has gone to an Art Exhibition with Samuel Roscoe.'

'Oh, has he?'

To change the subject--which might be an unpleasant one--Phyllis
asked:

'And what's the news?'

'I finished my novel this morning.'

'Oh, did you?  What is it called?'

'Neck or Nothing.'

'What a clever title!  I don't know how you think of all these
things.'

'No, nor do I.  I have been helping John Beaminster to choose a
horse.'

'Oh, have you?'  Phyllis was greatly interested.  The Beaminsters
were always exciting.  'Did he tell you anything about his mother?'

'No.  What should he tell me?'

'Oh, I don't know, but I do think it is so extraordinary her being
shut up in that Portland Place house all these years.  Do you
remember when she came to that party that Ellis gave a year or two
ago?'

'Of course I remember.'

'Well, they say she hadn't been out of doors for years before that.
Then for a week or two she was seen everywhere.  Then she went back
again and has shut herself up ever since.'

'That was the party,' said Barney slowly, 'when Benjie suddenly
appeared.  Do you remember?  And that night he was engaged to
Vanessa.'

Phyllis, shaking her head, choosing with great care the richest of
several little cakes, answered indignantly:

'Oh, don't mention Benjie to me!  I have finished with him for ever
and so has everybody!  I consider him a murderer!'

'Oh, come now,' said Barney, smiling.

'Well, isn't he?  He killed his mother by throwing Vanessa over and
marrying that horrible woman.'

'You don't know that she's horrible.  You've never seen her.'

'No, but other people have.  Alfred was up that way with a friend
the other day and thought he'd call.  They had the most dreadful
visit.  Benjie would do nothing but swear, and the house was a pig
sty and the baby howling.  Alfred said that the woman was awful!
As thin as a pole and cross-eyed.'

'Oh no, not that!' said Barney, laughing.

'Well, there was something odd about her eyes, Alfred said.  And
she hardly spoke a word.'

'I like Benjie,' Barney said.  'I always have and I always will.
There was something behind that business we don't know.'

'Nothing to Benjie's credit, you can be sure,' said Phyllis.  'Poor
Vanessa.  So beautiful and buried up there.  She's only been to
London once since it happened.  She stayed with Rose for a week,
you remember, and I never saw anyone more lovely.  Very nice she
was too.  Philip was in a passion over her.'

'You needn't pity Vanessa,' said Barney sharply.  'She needs no
one's pity.'

'Oh no, of course not!'  Here again seemed a dangerous subject, so
Phyllis, finding safety in general affairs, asked:

'And what do they say about General Gordon?'

'There is little news since Stewart's murder.  Wolseley is moving
up the Nile.'

'Do you think Gladstone has made a mistake?'

'Possibly.  He'll hear of it if he has.'

'Some people say that Gordon is mad.'

'Mad people do most of the things in this world.  That, my dear
Phil, is what our family will never learn.'

'I sometimes think Emily is mad.  What do you think she came in
here raging about yesterday?'

'I NEVER think about Emily.'

'She wants to close the Alhambra and have all the women who go
there put in prison.'

'Emily will be improperly assaulted one day by a Salvation Army
worker.  Then she will learn something.'

The maid opened the door and said:  'Miss Ormerod and Mr Ormerod.'

Rose and Horace came in and were eagerly welcomed.

Rose looked charming indeed, in one of the Scottish plaid costumes
that were then most fashionable, and her hat tilted over her hair
arranged in a bun was so small as to be almost invisible.  'Where,'
thought Phyllis, 'does she get the money to buy her clothes from?'

Horace, red-faced, amiable and enthusiastic, was like a successful
clergyman on holiday.  His vibrating enthusiasm made Barney very
cynical.  'I always believe well of human nature,' Barney said,
'until Horace Ormerod comes along.'

Horace rubbed his hands together, beamed, pushed his spectacles (he
had been wearing spectacles for a year or two) back on to his short
nose and cried:  'Well, this is splendid indeed!  Rose and I were
walking in the Park and I said to her, "We'll take a hansom and see
if Phil has some tea for us!"  Splendid day!  Fresh and bright!  I
never felt better in my life!'

Barney said:  'I'm glad of that, Horace.  We need cheering, with so
many of our fellows without employment and the City in a scare and
Egypt in a muddle!'

'Nonsense!  Nonsense!  You WILL look on the black side of things!
I have it on the best of authority that the City is doing very well
indeed.  And as to Egypt, you trust Gladstone.  He did the right
thing in sending Gordon.  You can take it from me!'

'I don't take it from you!' said Barney.  'How do you know?'

'What I always say,' said Horace, 'is that you can trust Old
England.  She always does the right thing in the end.  I hate this
pessimism.  It's men like you, Barney, who do all the harm.  But of
course you're a novelist, live in your imagination and that sort of
thing.'

'Now, Horace,' Rose interrupted, 'don't be tiresome.  Barney knows
more about everything than you do.  But I know something that HE
doesn't know!'

They were eager for information.

'Vanessa arrived at Hill Street this morning for a long visit!'

'No!' cried Barney.  'Vanessa!  How splendid!'

'Yes.  I saw Alfred in the Park, and HE had seen Ellis in the City.
Our dear Vanessa is with us again, and it shan't be our fault if
she doesn't stay for months.'

Phyllis nodded.

'Ellis will be glad,' she said.

'And Ellis' ma will be glad,' Rose went on.  'And I have come in
only for a moment because I am going to Hill Street to see her.'



An hour later Rose was in Hill Street.

'I will tell Miss Paris,' the butler said, leaving her alone in the
big cold drawing-room.

Old Lady Herries was now eighty years of age and spent most of her
time in bed where, rumour had it, she arranged her pearls, rubies
and diamonds on the counterpane, played games with them and counted
them over and over again.  But because she was in bed and Ellis for
most of the day in the City, the house was more like a mortuary
than a living-place.  The drawing-room was decorated in mustard
yellow, the curtains had heavy folds of it, the chairs and sofas
were wrapped in it.  On the mantelpiece was a clock of yellow-and-
white marble.  The marble statues that had been there ever since
Will Herries first bought the house glimmered whitely under the
gas.  Rose shivered.

'WHAT a house!  But now that Vanessa has come they will entertain
again.  Now that Benjie is out of the way they will think there is
hope for Ellis.  Is there?  Vanessa is lonely enough, poor darling,
to try anything, and she has always had a kind of maternal feeling
for Ellis.'

Ellis came in.

Rose did not dislike Ellis.  She thought him absurd and pathetic.
She was also blind neither to his baronetcy nor to his wealth.  At
one time she had thought that she might herself marry him, but her
clear common sense soon showed her that she did not attract him in
the least.

'He has no eyes for anyone but Vanessa.'

Now when he came in she was compelled to admit that he looked
distinguished, and not really his forty-two years.  Or rather he
might be any age.  His body was slim and erect.  His closely
fitting black clothes and high sharp-pointed collar gave him
distinction.  He was Sir Ellis Herries, Bart, all right and a
ridiculous physical copy of his father.  A very hideous painting
of his father hung on the left side of the fireplace.  Yes,
ludicrously alike, but the real Ellis, Rose (who was no poor judge
of character) well knew, was nervous, highly strung, sensitive,
unbalanced as his father had never been.

But now as she shook hands Rose liked him, for today he was radiant
with happiness.  When Ellis was happy you were touched because his
hold on his joy seemed so precarious.  He was like a man who, to
his own surprise, looks to be, for once, winning a game.  In the
end he will in all probability lose it, but this unusual,
unexpected chance gains you to his side.

'I came in only for a moment,' Rose said.  'Alfred told me that
Vanessa had arrived.  I couldn't wait to see her.'

'Vanessa,' said Ellis, speaking in his precise careful voice, 'is,
I am happy to say, under our roof again.  She will be delighted to
see you.'

'But this is splendid.  None of us knew that she was coming.'

'No.  WE did not know until last week.  She has been staying with
Carey in Wiltshire.'

'How is she looking?'

'Oh, very well.  Very well indeed.  But here she is.  Vanessa, my
dear, here is Rose to see you.'

They flung themselves into one another's arms while Ellis stood
benevolently by, stroking his chin and smiling.

'But, DEAR Rose!  How sweet of you to come so soon!'

'Well, of course!  But why not a line to anyone that you were
coming?'

'I truly did not know, did I, Ellis?  You see Carey and May quite
suddenly were invited to Panshanger and they thought they should
go.  They wanted me to stay on until they returned, but--well, I
fancied a little London gaiety.'

They sat down on the sofa together.

'And now, young ladies,' said Ellis in his best paternal fashion,
'I shall leave you.  I am sure you have a great deal to talk over.
Dinner at seven, Vanessa.'

'Oh Lord!' Rose cried, looking at her watch.  'And it is six now.'

'No, no,' said Vanessa eagerly, 'Come up with me when I dress.  It
is so LOVELY to see you.  And are you not engaged yet to Captain
What's-his-name and what other gentlemen are there and have you
seen dear Barney?  How is Horace?  How, in fact, are all the
Herries?'

They noticed at once changes in one another, as was natural after a
year's separation.  The difference that Vanessa saw in Rose was the
same difference that her grandmother had once noticed in this same
room years ago in Sylvia Herries--a slight, oh, so very slight,
fading of the natural bloom, a heightening of the artificial
colour, a little hardening of the voice, the eye a trifle more
anxious.  The Scottish plaid was extremely pretty, with its red and
grey, and the little hat was a beauty--very expensive clothes.
Rose looked altogether very expensive.  Upon what in reality did
she and her brother live?

And Rose saw at once that Vanessa was a girl no longer.  She was
even for a moment or two afraid of her.  Had she lost her?  But
very soon she realized the thing that she would realize again so
often--that once Vanessa was your friend it was not easy to lose
her.

Vanessa's dress was dove-grey, her dark hair brushed back from her
forehead.  Her hand caught Rose's and held it.

'Rose, I want to have FUN!  I want to see people, plenty and
plenty.  I want to go to the theatre.  There is Mary Anderson as
Juliet, isn't there? and Mr Wilson Barrett as Hamlet, and Gilbert
and Sullivan and Mrs John Wood.  I've been studying the papers.
Lady Herries has asked May and Carey to come and stay so that May
can chaperon me.  They are coming from Panshanger the day after
tomorrow.  I want to see everybody and do everything.'

'And everyone wants to see you.  You are much the most beautiful
woman in London.  Mrs Langtry is nothing at all in comparison.'

Vanessa smiled, very happy.

'I want to be beautiful just for a week or two--after that I don't
care in the least.  I want everyone to think me lovely, to say,
"Oh, who is THAT lovely girl?"  In fact, Rose dear, I want some
encouragement.  I've been fighting things by myself--without any
help from anyone.'

'I know, dear, I know,' Rose said, stroking her hand.  There was
something feverish, she thought, in Vanessa's tone, something
unlike her natural restraint.

'Yes, Timothy and Violet have been very good to me.  I stayed there
for months in the house they've bought in Eskdale.  Lovely.  Not
far from the sea, with the mountains behind them.  But of course I
couldn't TALK to them.  And there was another thing--'

She broke off, then, holding Rose's hand more tightly, went on:

'This is something I want to say and then we will never mention it
again.  About Benjie.  I know that everyone is against him, that
they think he treated me badly, that he made a wretched mess of
everything, which is what they have always hoped for.  Now, Rose
dear, I want you to make them understand--ALL of them--that I will
not hear one word against Benjie.  That I will never speak again to
anyone who attacks him when I'm there.  Barney is the only one I'll
talk to about him.  Barney is his friend, I know.  Will you make
them all understand that?'

'Of course,' Rose hesitated.  'Vanessa, what is it?  What happened?
What made him do it?'

'No, Rose, I can't tell even you.  It's his affair.  We don't meet.
We don't write.  But I understand what he did.  I'm his friend, and
not one word shall be said against him in my presence.'

Rose felt her hand tremble, she saw that her eyes were misty.  She
put her arms round her and kissed her.



'And now, Rose darling,' said Vanessa cheerfully, 'tell me about
yourself?  How are you?  When are you to be married?  That hat and
costume are lovely!'

'Yes, very nice,' said Rose.  'But not paid for, my dear.  Never
mind me.  Horace and I live in a little house in Shepherd Market.
Well, to tell you the truth they are four rooms over a grocer's.
We got them cheap from old Lady Martindale, who lost her money at
cards and had to decamp at a moment's notice.  They are the very
best address and are cosy even if they are small.  For the rest I
have debts, and gentlemen who admire me and ladies who don't, just
like any other lady--and I shall marry the first decent man who
proposes to me, whoever he is.'

'And Horace?'

'Oh, Horace is getting along fast on the simple plan of refusing to
know anyone save those who will be useful to him.  He smiles on
everyone and has a genius for not seeing those he doesn't want to
see.  And now, dear, let us go to your room.  I am longing to know
what you are going to wear.'

So they went upstairs.



Vanessa dined alone with Ellis and Miss Mabel Fortescue, the lady
who now 'ran' the Hill Street house.  Miss Fortescue reminded
Vanessa at once of Miss Murdstone, and she herself would have felt
not unlike David Copperfield had she not quickly seen that the
situation was serious and she must rather be Betsey Trotwood.  So
from the very beginning she was firm with Miss Fortescue.  Really
remarkable, her resemblance to Miss Murdstone.  She had the stiff
poker back, the dark complexion and black hair, the heavy eyebrows
that nearly met over a large nose, and Vanessa was certain that in
her bedroom were the 'two uncompromising hard black boxes, with her
initials on the lids in hard brass nails'.

Ellis thought the world of her--'Most efficient woman, Vanessa.
Excellently behaved.  Knows just how to treat my mother.'  Then
waking in the early morning hours to hear the London sparrows cheep
beyond the window, Vanessa discovered two other things.

'Miss Fortescue hated me at sight.  And hopes to marry Ellis.'

The dinner was a very agreeable one: Ellis was so happy and when he
was happy he was childlike.  Vanessa knew, too, that he was happy
because she was there, and it was so long since she had been cared
for in this way.  Timothy and Violet took her for granted.  Aunt
Jane loved her but thought her still ten years old.  So also Will
Leathwaite.  Carey and May were fond of her, but liked their dogs
and horses still better.  She was, she discovered, HUNGERING for
affection, and placing her foot in London had as it were set all
her world alight.  That afternoon, going for a walk, the window of
a florist in Piccadilly had been ablaze with chrysanthemums; down
Bond Street into Piccadilly had come the carriages, shining in the
November sun, the coachmen stout and splendid, the horses sleek,
the harness glittering, and from a distance, through the walls of
the houses, the echo of a barrel-organ, heard as it always should
be, a street or two away.  She had thrown up her head and sniffed
the air, sharp and horsy and honeyed with the sun.  London!  She
adored London!  She could manage without Cumberland, clouded with
unhappy memories, for a while.  Then against this background there
was first Rose, who loved her, and now Ellis, who loved her too.
Ellis was improved.  He was intelligent.  He talked about Gladstone
and Gordon, about the 'New Radicalism' that was interesting itself
in the conditions of housing and the happiness of the poorer
classes, about the Trades Unions, about the abolishing of the
Income Tax, about the provisions of the Electric Lighting Act,
about the Redistribution Bill, about all these serious things,
sensibly, with inside knowledge.  His tact with her was
extraordinary, for he was not by nature a tactful man.  He studied
her without appearing to.  He was affectionate, but with the
affection of a brother.  She knew of course that he loved her, but
he did not embarrass her with any implied emotion.

After dinner she went upstairs to visit Lady Herries.  She saw at
once a great change in her.  Some of the stories they told about
her were true, for she was sitting up in bed and on a white shawl
on her lap were rings, bracelets, and necklaces.  She played with
them like a child, holding them up to the light, rubbing them with
her fingers, laying one against the other.

Nevertheless she appeared quite sensible.  She was enchanted to see
Vanessa.

Her great pleasure was to talk about people.  Staying in her room
as she did, she brought the world around her, speculating,
gathering stories, chuckling over scandals and foibles.

'You will find London very much changed, my dear.  Money is the
only thing, getting it and losing it.  If you have money you can go
anywhere.  That is why London is much more amusing and not nearly
so remarkable as it used to be.'

She talked about the family.

'Alfred, Amery's boy, will make a fortune.  He's in with all the
Jews.  His nose gets sharper every day.  Dora, old Rodney's
daughter, has such a pretty child, Cynthia.  Dora married Freddie
Beauchamp.  Do you remember him?  A thin man with a long nose.
They live in London now, and Cynthia will marry well.  Very well, I
shouldn't wonder.  Then Barney has made quite a name for himself--
amusing books he writes--but he has some very odd friends.
However, that doesn't matter if he's a success.  Then Phyllis' boy,
Philip--you remember him?--a little affected but very clever.  He's
quite a friend of Mr Oscar Wilde.  I'm glad Carey and May are
coming.  Their two girls, Maud and Helen, are VERY plain, poor
things, but of course they have never done anything but ride
horses, so what can you expect?  They will improve as they grow
older.'

She chattered on, moving the jewels about on the white shawl,
sometimes talking to herself:

'Now THAT won't do!  If Carey and May come on Friday I must put off
Miss Blades.  She comes and reads to me, my dear.  A very nice
woman with the funniest stories about everyone . . .  I will not
have that fish three days running.  I must tell Miss Fortescue.'

Then quite unexpectedly she fell asleep, letting her head, with its
tousled white hair, fall on the pillow, opening her mouth and
snoring.

Vanessa soon discovered that she was to be a gathering point for
all the family.  They had been longing for something of the kind.
Hill Street sprang to life, and Ellis was rejuvenated.  May Rockage
was a simple creature whose heart was in the country with her
horses, her dogs, and her two girls.  But she had a hearty power of
enjoyment and, although she dressed badly, laughed like a man and
was extremely innocent of the world, she became very quickly an
excellent companion for Vanessa.

Vanessa threw herself into the family interests.  Soon she knew all
their secrets, their fears, their ambitions, and their odd little
ways.

First of all there was Rose, who, she declared to Vanessa, was
going 'the primrose path'.  She had two or three gentlemen friends,
a Captain Rackrent, horsy and raffish, a Mr Marchbanks, who was
some sort of a publisher and encouraged young men to write as much
like the French as possible, and a Mr Easy, who was like a Jew but
said he was not one, Assyrian, purple-bearded and, Rose said, very
rich.  He had something to do with the Theatre.  Rose said that he
proposed marriage to her every week--and she added, 'One day when
the bailiffs are drinking beer in the parlour--the awful thing will
happen--I shall marry him.'

Cynthia, Rodney's granddaughter, was the prettiest, most fairylike
creature.  She at once fell down at Vanessa's feet and worshipped.
Her hair was spun gold, her eyes the tenderest blue, her little
figure exquisite; wearing a tiny hat perched on a golden bun, her
dress gathered into loops behind her, her bosom clearly defined,
she was something to make men tremble.  She was sweet and tender
and loving but, Vanessa thought, quite ruthlessly determined to
make the best marriage possible.  All the girls were sweet, tender,
and loving, and all the girls were determined to be well married.
'You would think,' said Rose, 'to listen to these infants talk that
they didn't know what men were made of.  But they DO know.  They
know very well indeed.'

Barney's set were writers, painters, horsy men, theatrical men, and
men about town.  All these men--including Barney--had feminine
friends who were never obtruded.  Once Vanessa, going with Rose
unexpectedly to Barney's rooms, found an elegant creature seated on
his sofa, mending his stockings.  She was delightful, and most
maternal to Barney.  Her name was Miss Montefiore, an actress
'resting between engagements'.

Then Vanessa was forced, against her will, to see something of
Emily Newmark.  Vanessa did not like Emily, but had to confess that
she did good in the world.  She was for ever 'rescuing' people,
'unfortunate women', drunkards, young pickpockets and foreigners--
Chinamen, Negroes, lost and strayed Scandinavians.  Her only
interest in people was that they could be 'rescued'.  She lectured
Vanessa, patronized her, and was sometimes unexpectedly human,
bursting into tears and saying that she was 'misjudged'.

Old Amery, tottering and bewildered, thought only of his son
Alfred.  That sharp young man was always adding up figures and
subtracting them again.  He came to Ellis once a week with schemes.
Ellis said that many of these were clever.  Alfred would get on.

A very odd world, too, was that of young Philip, Phyllis' boy.  The
young men, Philip's friends, looked and were ridiculous, but they
lived up to their gospel.  They wrote little stories, painted
little pictures, and treated all the Arts as their own especial
property.  They arrived from Oxford in increasing numbers.  They
lisped, they languished.  They thought Mr Whistler, Mr Wilde,
French poets, and the art of Japan all 'too utterly beautiful'.

In short the Herries were everywhere.  Into every corner of London
life they drove their strong determined wedge of common sense.
Even Philip, with his absurdities, had common sense.  England was
now at the top of the world, was at a stage of material success and
triumph that exactly suited the Herries character.  No member of
the family ever boasted or wondered or explained.  They simply went
everywhere, into the Beaminster house in Portland Place, into the
theatres and restaurants, into the churches and lecture halls, into
the Kensington drawing-rooms, into the City, into the slums and did
their good work.  No Herries was at the TOP of anything.  No
Herries (with the exception of Ellis) accumulated great wealth,
cared for property, dominated politics or the Arts or the Church or
the Army.  They simply were everywhere and influenced everything.

Vanessa, however, soon discerned that her arrival was for all of
them a dramatic event.  At certain times in their history a
combination of circumstances produced an Event to which all the
family, gladly and joyfully, reacted.  Their hatred of the
eccentric, the queer, the abnormal made them respond ecstatically
to anything that allowed them to display that hatred.  It had been
so in the old days of the Rogue, in the quarrels about the famous
Fan, in the dreadful scandal of Uhland, and now it was so in the
affairs of Benjamin, Vanessa, and Ellis.  Benjie was their rogue,
their scapegoat.  Vanessa was, at this moment, their heroine.  What
had happened in the North about her engagement?  No one knew.
Would she marry Ellis and become not only the most beautiful but
also one of the richest women in London?  Why had she come to Hill
Street if not to marry Ellis?  Her presence made that winter one of
the most exciting in their lives.

And Vanessa let herself go.  She was there to forget all the
past.  She must make a world for herself in which she could be
independent--never, never would she depend on anyone again.  She
went everywhere, to balls and theatres and Hurlingham and concerts
and immensely long, elaborate dinner parties.

She and May travelled down to Brighton in the ten o'clock Pullman,
lunched at Mutton's, where Barney and Alfred joined them, watched
the dowagers in the carriages, the girls in the dogcarts, the
invalids in the both-chairs, the babies in the goat-chaises, men on
bicycles.  They went on the electric railways in Madeira Road,
visited the Aquarium, listened to the band in the Bird-cage and had
dinner at a fine hotel.  A glorious day!  Brighton in November,
sunshine, sea air.  What an enchanting world!

Vanessa went to the House and heard Mr Gladstone speak on the
Maamstrasna Murders question, and when Mr O'Connor rose and called
the speech 'the lamest, weakest and most halting I have ever
heard', and young Mr Stanhope shouted out, 'That's what the ferret
said when the lion roared', she could have clapped her hands in her
delight because that was exactly what SHE thought!

She went of course to Romeo and Juliet at the Lyceum and thought
Mary Anderson so lovely that she never troubled about the acting.
She saw Mrs John Wood in Young Mrs Winthrop and laughed herself
into tears.  When Mrs Wood meets her husband, from whom she has
been divorced, they do nothing but wink!  Oh, WHAT a wink!  In fact
all London went to see this not very good little play because of
Mrs Wood's wink.

She was sad when Henry Fawcett died, thrilled by what Mr Ruskin had
to say to his friends at Oxford, read William Black's Judith
Shakespeare, wanted to go to a Spiritualist meeting but could find
no one to accompany her, gazed at Mrs Langtry at a party, ate
oysters and pheasant, drove so often in hansoms that she thought
nothing at all about it, and enjoyed Mr Corney Grain in the German
Reeds' entertainment.  'Nothing,' as Emily Newmark said to her
severely, 'nothing but a life of idle pleasure.'

In that winter Vanessa caught a sense of London that she was never
after to lose, its smells and odours, flowers and horses and fogs,
its incongruities, its shabbiness, as for instance when you passed,
on the way into the Underground, the faded photographs, smirking
from the wall, of old burlesque actresses, Planch's ghost hovering
around them, or when in some of the smaller theatres the smell of
beer, the dim rose coverings of the stalls, the dirty globes of
gas, the white spots of plaster between the flaking gilt, the past,
mournful, pathetic, strangled the struggling present.  But
everywhere and in every case London was homely--homely in the clack-
clack of the horses, in the scattered rumbling of the omnibuses, in
the barrel-organs and the German bands, in the sudden flashing
splendour of the Guard riding up St James's from the Palace, in the
gentlemen's servants taking the air, in the elegant dandies of the
Row, in the melancholy street-singers, the lingering notes of the
church bells, in the fogs that, yellow and sulky, crept from street
to street, in the comfortable laziness of afternoon tea, in the
high collar of Mr Gladstone, the radiance of the Jersey Lily, the
dignity and humanity of the Prince, and, above all, in that stout
little regal figure, never forgotten, sitting somewhere behind the
walls of plain-faced Buckingham Palace or bird-haunted Windsor,
receiving an Indian prince, being sharp with Mr Gladstone or
smiling at her grandchildren.  All this was London and London was
all this.

One further thing that winter dominated the Town: the thought of
Gordon.  This great victory of common sense, this triumph of plain
reality--was it threatened by that figure, fanatical, heroic, and
alone, fearlessly erect among his enemies?  Could it be--and it was
a question forced again and again upon the Herries through all
their history--that common sense was not enough, that there were
other things, dangerous, mysterious things of the spirit that could
spring upon you and defeat you did you too long disregard them?  Is
there another world with which we have refused to reckon?

After the disaster of Abu Hamed there was silence.  On the day that
Herbert Stewart started across the desert there was a message:
'Khartoum all right.  14.12.84.  C. G. Gordon.'

After that, silence again.

On the 22nd of January, the day on which London learned of the
battle of Abu Klea, Ellis proposed to Vanessa the second time.

They were about to go up to bed.  The candles with their heavy
silver snuffers stood there waiting.  May Rockage had said
goodnight and started up the stairs, the great drawing-room with
its yellow hangings stayed patiently for their departure.  Ellis
touched Vanessa's arm.

'Vanessa--one moment.'

She turned to him, smiling, then knew at once what he was going to
say.  He was very nervous, he put his hand to his throat, looked at
her with a beseeching smile.

'I have been good, have I not?  You have been happy during these
weeks here?'

'Very happy, Ellis.'

'Your presence here has been a joy to all of us.  My mother has
been a different being, and I--I must tell you--I have never been
so happy in all my life before.'

'I'm very glad.  You have been wonderfully good to me.'

'How could one help being?  But I cannot wait any longer.  I must
ask you once more.  It is a long time, is it not, since the last
occasion in the Park.  Vanessa, will you marry me?'

Before she could answer he went on with a trembling eager passion
that touched her and made her long to be kind to him.

'Listen.  I implore you not to answer before you have thought it
over.  I know how much older I am.  I know that you do not love me.
But you like me.  You are friendly, aren't you?  I can feel that
you are friendly.'

'Of course I am friendly, Ellis.  And more than that.  But--'

'Well, then, that's all I ask.  Indeed it is.  I ask nothing more.
If you will marry me everything shall be as you wish.  I know that
money makes no appeal to you, but perhaps power--the power to do
good, to help others, to put wrong things right--may mean a little.
You are so good, you have so wonderful a character, that you SHOULD
be able to influence your generation.  I will help you to do that--
under your guidance.  And we are friends.  We have known one
another for a long time and surely can now trust one another
completely.  Think it over, Vanessa.  Do not answer me now.
Please, please not now.  But think of it . . .  Goodnight.'

And before she could speak he was gone

In her room that night she did indeed think of it.  Ellis, during
these two months, had been so kind, so unselfish and so wise--they
had been such good friends--he had talked about so many things with
so much understanding--that she had come to care for him as once
would have appeared impossible.  She did not love him.  But with
the impetuous certainty both of her youth and past events she was
sure that love was over for her, would never return.  Or, rather,
she loved as she had always done.  Benjie was as truly now in her
heart as he had always been.  But she must never think of him,
neither now nor in any possible future time.  So love being over
was this not perhaps the nest best thing?

Men had in these London weeks gathered round her.  Two had proposed
to her, and in the very moments of their proposal she had realized
that the very thought of any man but Benjie in THAT world of
romantic passion was fantastically unreal.  Well, this was not
romantic passion.  But Ellis was the only one save Rose who
belonged to her childhood and youth.  She had known him so long
that he was part of all that early life.  And he wanted to be cared
for, and SHE wanted, now more than anything else in the world, to
bestow her care on someone.

Was it also not true that she could do good in the world with the
power that his money would give her?  She was still very young in
many things and believed that to do good to your fellows was not so
very difficult.  She did not want to make them better, only to make
them happy.  Was this not, perhaps, her duty?  She knelt down and
prayed, passing as she always did into a world of comfort and
security.  God was more real to her than Ellis, more real to her
than Benjie . . .  But tonight she heard no reassuring voice.  She
rose from her knees in a struggle of bewilderment, for, coming she
knew not whence, a wildness that sometimes seized her, descended on
her.  She did not want to be here.  Her spirit was caught away into
a fantastic air of wind and rain, of streams running wildly, of
clouds tearing at the turf, of the sea tossing at the foot of the
hill.  Her blood was not tamed.  Cold January night though it was,
she threw up her window and, beyond the reddened haze of the
gigantic town, she saw Skiddaw's dividing lines, the serried edge
of Blencathra, and within the rhythm of a solitary hansom's clatter
was the whisper of the running water against the shining boulder
and the bark of the dog beyond the sloping hill.  She thought of
Judith.  She thought of her father.  She thought of Will
Leathwaite's slow smile.

She closed the window.  No.  Oh no, she COULD not marry Ellis!

                       *      *      *

A few days later came the invitation to the Duchess of Wrexe's
Ball, February 18th.

This Ball had been talked of all through the winter.  Very very
seldom was there a big function at the Portland Place house, but
when they DID have a show--well, it WAS a show!  The old Duchess
must have some reason for this event.  Perhaps her eldest son
Richard was at last to marry.  Or maybe John--or Adela.  But the
Duchess herself of course would not appear.  Somewhere hidden in
the dark confines of the Portland Place house, unseen by all save a
few intimates who played cards with her, her physician and the
family, she plotted and planned.  This Ball was to be a protest,
some people said, against the new world that she detested, the
Jewish financiers, the American heiresses come to search for titled
husbands, the South Americans, the Theatre, and the rest.  The Ball
would be exceedingly exclusive.  The Prince and Princess would be
present.

It was very quickly an interesting question as to who among the
Herries had been invited.  Quite a number--Ellis, Vanessa, Carey,
May, Barney, little Cynthia and her mother.  It was characteristic
of the family that so soon as it was known that there would be
several of them there, everyone was satisfied.  There was no
individual jealousy.  Granted that the Herries were sufficiently
represented, that was all that was necessary.  There was no flavour
of snobbery either.  It was important that members of the family
should be present because it would be for the general good of
English Society.  Anything anywhere was better for having a mixture
of Herries in it.  Barney was invited because of his friendship
with Johnnie Beaminster.  Little Cynthia had achieved quite a
friendship with Lady Adela.  Moreover, the Herries were the type of
English of which the Duchess approved--not Upper Ten, of course,
but good sound English stock with practically no foreign mixture.
The snobbery, in fact, was ENGLISH, not HERRIES.  Barney commented
on this.  'The English will always be snobs because they care about
caste.  But it's a fine sort of snobbery as the world is at
present.  Keeps the right people at the top.  One day when the
whole world is democratic and cares more for doing things than
being them, it will all seem most ridiculous.  Then England will
become a third-rate Power and everyone will be happier than they've
been for centuries.'

They were having an artistic hour at the Winter Exhibition of the
Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, Vanessa and Barney,
Horace and Rose.  Very delightful, Vanessa thought the pictures.
Mr Birket Foster's grand 'West Highlands' made her feel quite sick
for home, and Sir John Gilbert's 'Retreat' was splendid, Mr
Watson's 'Bathers' Pool' was enchanting, and Du Maurier's 'Last
Look at Whitby' so very clever.  But best of all Mr Goodwin's
'Strayed Sheep', so homely and English with its cawing rooks and
gentle colours.

'Oh, Horace, DO look at the pictures!  What have we come here for!'

But Horace's thoughts were on England.

'Really, Barney!  England a third-rate Power!  What about our
Empire?'  Everyone was beginning to beat on the word Empire as
though it were the family gong.

'Our Empire!  Who says it's ours?  It's ours for the moment.  One
day it will be off on its own.'

'Politics are SO tiresome,' said Rose.  'Doesn't that man over
there look like the Claimant?  He's been appearing at a music hall.
Yes, dear, I think the pictures are sweetly pretty.'  She wandered
off, her arm through Vanessa's.  'Vanessa darling, do you think
Ellis would lend me fifty pounds if I were to ask him?'

'Oh, Rose, I shouldn't.  Can't you get it in any other way?'

'Not without being under painful obligations.  Oh, do look at
Horace watching the door so that if anyone useful comes in he can
snatch at them!'

'Rose, dear, are you in a fix?'

'Yes, I am--about ten fixes.'

'Perhaps I can help.  How much do you truly need?'

'About twelve hundred pounds.  But twenty would help.'

'I think I can manage that.'

'Oh, you are good to me!'  Rose was charming when she was grateful.
She looked so pretty, so young, so sincere.  She WAS sincere.  She
loved to be grateful--but to the right people.

Vanessa, thinking about this and other things, discovered that the
family had come to regard her as Ellis' private conscience.  When
anyone wanted anything of Ellis, an opinion, an invitation, a tip
from the City, Vanessa was the oracle.  She could do with him, they
said, anything that she liked.  She knew that she could.

Then a little incident occurred.  One afternoon when he had just
returned from the City and they were discussing the evening plans,
Ellis cut his hand.  He was sharpening a pencil, the knife slipped.
It was a bad gash, blood flowed, he turned ashen.  She rang the
bell for Buller, the butler, and helped Ellis to a chair,
staunching the blood with his handkerchief, which soon was soaked.
Very white, he leaned back against her, her arm around him.  She
thought that he would faint.  Smiling very wanly he kissed her
cheek.  She did not move.  His slender body in her arm, his
confident reliance on her, his touching submission, made her feel
as though he were her child.  As she waited for Buller to come she
thought that when Ellis depended on her for comfort she could do
anything for him.  At that moment she loved him.  He said
something, and she bent forward to catch his words.  Her cheek
touched his.

'I think I am going to faint.'

'Buller will be here in a moment.'

Her arm tightened about him.  She just heard him sigh.

'Oh, Vanessa, how I love you!'

Then Buller came in, advancing as he always did like a churchwarden
to whom the morning's money offerings had proved disappointing.

'Sir Ellis has cut his hand badly.  Get brandy, Buller, and
something to bandage it with.'

She sat there, with Ellis in her arms.  Miss Fortescue appeared in
the doorway, then hurried forward.

'Oh, Sir Ellis, what HAVE you done?'

'Only a slight cut, Miss Fortescue.  Buller has gone for some
brandy.'

Miss Fortescue looked at them darkly.

'How that woman does hate me!' Vanessa thought.



As January drew to a close and February began there were only two
topics in the London world: General Gordon and the Beaminster Ball.
About the first it was said on the one side that an awful mistake
had been made, on the other that exactly the right thing had been
done.  About the Ball it was said that it would be the grandest
ever given.

On the 24th of January the steamers started up the Nile on an
advance on Khartoum; on February 6th it was known that Khartoum had
fallen and the relief force had been too late.  Meanwhile, having
satisfied himself that Khartoum was wholly in the Mahdi's hands,
Sir Charles Wilson had turned his steamers and gone downstream.
Then for ten days England remained in suspense.  On the 16th of
February a telegram was published from Wolseley saying that Gordon
had been killed.

Vanessa came down to breakfast on that morning to find family
prayer over and Ellis standing with The Times shaking in his hand.

'A crime!' he cried, with an odd shrill voice that she had never
heard before.  The most monstrous crime!  Gladstone will never be
forgiven for this!  Never!  Never!  Never!'

She thought for a moment that she had to do with a madman.  His
pale eyes were shining, his hands jerking the newspaper as though
they would tear it.  They were alone, for Carey and May had not yet
come down and Miss Fortescue had meals in her own fierce
fastnesses.

'What is it?  What has happened?'

'Gordon has been murdered!  We have basely deserted him.  Left the
bravest Saint and Hero to go to his death alone!  England will be
shamed before all the world!'

'Gordon murdered!  Gordon killed!'

'Yes, yes; there is the telegram!'

It seemed in thousands of homes that morning as though a veil of
darkness fell over the world.  Nothing could be clearer, simpler
than that splendid figure, selfless, a missionary thinking only of
his God, fearless; it was told of him how he had gone through all
the campaign in China, his only weapon a cane, of how he had
thought always of everyone but himself in the Sudan.  It seemed now
that the blackest treachery, the meanest political chicanery had
betrayed him.  There were other colours in the real picture, and it
says something for the accused that, through all those weeks of
almost insane vituperation, they never attempted to dim the
saintliness, the courage, the selflessness.  But Gordon's death
was, perhaps, the first warning cloud on a horizon that had been
now for a whole decade stainlessly blue.

That terrible news had also its private personal repercussions.

Ellis dropped the paper to the floor, sat down by the table, then,
speaking now quietly, said:

'I feel as though I had myself betrayed him.  Why do we all wait
and trust to a kind of luck?  Why are we all so cowardly?  Vanessa,
I am bitterly ashamed.'

His hand trembled against the tablecloth.

'I never thought that it would happen,' he said.  'I was afraid
sometimes, but Gladstone was so sure.  We have come to think that
Gladstone always has God in his pocket.  That they have intimate
talks together and Gladstone tells God what to do.  Well, this time
God has not listened.'

Ellis was always best when he forgot himself.  He had a kind of
almost fanatical pure-mindedness at such times.  Then something
robbed him of his self-consciousness, his fears, his absurd
egotisms.  He would now have thrown his money, his physical
cowardice, his fear of offending public opinion, even his Herries
blood out of the window could he, by doing so, have saved Gordon.
He had a kind of grandeur.

He and Vanessa were very close at that moment.  He took her hand.

'Oh, Vanessa!' he sighed.  'You and I--if only together we could
help it to be a better world!'

Then Carey and May came in and the world was at once a more mundane
place.  After breakfast Vanessa went upstairs to find old Lady
Herries in tears.

'Oh, poor General Gordon!  All alone!  Such a good man!  Those
savages!  And Gladstone worse than any of them!'

Then as though she realized that Ellis downstairs must be very
unhappy, her last word to Vanessa was:

'Be kind to Ellis, won't you, my dear?'



We quickly forget.  Two days later, although Gordon's death was the
only topic, the tragedy had become impersonal.  No one any longer
thought it was possible to have died at his side.  Not even perhaps
quite desirable.  What WAS desirable was to have Mr Gladstone's
head on a charger.

Vanessa went to the Beaminster Ball in a turmoil of varying
emotions.  There was, of course, her dress, the loveliest that she
had ever had.  It was a white dress, with a red rose fastened at
the narrow waist its only ornament.  The bodice fitted very tightly
to the figure.  She wore long white gloves and carried a beautiful
white fan of ostrich feathers, a present from Lady Herries.  Her
only ornament was a diamond brooch, bequeathed her by Judith,
fastened on her right shoulder.  The effect of her dark hair and
all this cloud of dazzling whiteness was very splendid, but, Ellis
thought as he glanced at her, it was the softness of her eyes, the
charm and kindliness of her eagerness, her youth, her excitement,
her happiness that made her so brilliant, so unlike anyone else.
For tonight she WAS happy.  She could have taken all London into
her arms and embraced it.  Her mind was set on the future, the life
that she would make for herself, the friendliness of all the world.
She was aware of her beauty and delighted that she was beautiful.
She had never BELIEVED that a dress could be so marvellous a fit!
She would see the Prince and Princess!  How good and kind of Ellis
to give her all this happiness!  She let her gloved hand rest on
Ellis' coat as the carriage rolled on through the lighted streets
and she heard men calling as though it were for her that they were
crying some message.  She sat very straight, her head forward,
taking all this life into her heart and intending to give it out
again with all the fullness of which she was capable.  Benjie was
never out of her mind, but tonight he was in the back of her
consciousness.  One day she would be with him again, quietly,
confidently, his friend.  Perhaps after all it had been for the
best.  This was the safer way.

They halted.  They were in a stream of carriages that stretched
down Portland Place.  Then on either side of the red carpet was a
crowd of sightseers whom a large policeman kept in order.  Vanessa
and May passed up the steps, into the hall.  Looking up for a
moment before she turned to the right to the cloakroom Vanessa saw
a line of footmen in red coats and velvet knee-breeches on either
side of the great staircase.  Dimly she heard the echoes of the
band.

As she arranged her hair before the looking-glass she heard May's
whisper:  'Oh, you do look lovely, Vanessa darling!'

Ellis and Carey were waiting for them and slowly they mounted the
staircase.  At the top Adela Beaminster, blazing in diamonds,
received them.

'Lord and Lady Rockage!'

'Sir Ellis Herries!'

'Miss Vanessa Paris!'

They passed on into the ballroom.  It was one of the famous rooms
in London with its white walls and gold ceiling, and on the white
walls were hanging the Lelys, the Van Dycks, the other famous
Beaminster portraits.  The far end of the great room where the band
played was banked with masses of white flowers.  Although so many
people were standing about there was plenty of dancing space.  The
roar of voices rolled in waves from wall to wall.

She stood at first with May, extremely happy, quite contented to
watch.  Decorations were worn, the dresses of the women were
superb.  How ridiculous of her to have been proud of her own!  She
had never seen in one place so many beautiful women.  The air
sparkled with diamonds.  A tall thin woman near her was wearing a
tiara that focused all the light to itself, that made, in truth,
her plain pale face shadowed like a mask.  Vanessa unfolded her fan
and stood, waving it slowly, smiling as though she could never have
enough of this lovely scene.

She was not, however, to be left alone for long.  Soon one man came
up to her and then another.  During these months in London she had
made many friends and was in fact very much better known than she
had any idea of.  A Captain Verrier, who had been sending her
flowers, who had taken her and May on one occasion to Hurlingham,
asked her to dance.  She adored to waltz--surely there was no
experience in life so perfect!  He talked to her, but she answered
him only in monosyllables.  When the music stopped and they had
moved into a long narrow room beyond the ballroom and sat down, he
said to her:

'I don't think you heard a word I said when we were dancing.'

'No.  I love dancing so much, it seems a pity to talk.'

'I'm sorry, because I said some very amusing things.'

'You can tell them me now, Captain Verrier.'

'You know, to look at you, Miss Paris, one would imagine that you
had never been to a Ball before.'

'I never have--a Ball like this.  When will the Prince and Princess
come?'

'Oh, later on.  About midnight, I expect.'

'And is the Duchess sitting in her room upstairs all this time?'

'Yes.  Like a field-marshal.  And her generals deliver dispatches.'

'I saw her once.  She came to a party in Hill Street.'

'Yes.  She went out for a little while some years ago.  But she
soon went in again.  She found that her importance was lessened as
soon as she became visible.'

Then he began to make love to her.  Laughing, she stopped him.

'Are you asking me to marry you?'

He was embarrassed.

'Well, no, not exactly.  You see--'

'I should make a very bad mistress, I am afraid.  I can imagine
nothing more uncomfortable.'

'Oh no.  You misunderstand me.  I only meant--'

'I like you very much, and I am very glad we are friends.'

'You are not offended?'

'Oh dear, no.  Why should I be?  Only why don't you marry?  There
are so many nice girls who are longing to be married--'

'Well, you see, I haven't a penny.  Only my pay--'

They discussed his affairs, and Vanessa was very maternal.

After that she was dancing all the time.  She found everyone
delightful.  Some tried to make love to her, some confided their
troubles to her, some laughed and behaved like schoolboys, some
were extremely pompous, one asked her to go to India with him.

'India!' she cried.  What should I do in India?'  He was not sure,
except that she would make him very happy.

Then something occurred which, on looking back afterwards,
affected, she found, strongly her later behaviour that night.
Barney appeared and with him a charming, shy young man.

'Vanessa,' Barney said, 'here is a cousin of yours.  An unknown
cousin.  Be kind to him.'

The boy, who looked about nineteen, was slender and tall with fair
hair and bright, ingenuous blue eyes.

'I'm not a good dancer,' he said, blushing furiously.  'Shall we
sit this out?  I think that you will be more comfortable that way.'
She discovered that his name was Adrian Cards and that he was at
New College, Oxford.  He was a younger brother of the Ruth and
Richard Cards who had, years ago, been present at Judith's
Hundredth Birthday.  He was a great-nephew of Jennifer Cards,
Benjie's grandmother.

At first he was very shy, but no one could be shy for long with
Vanessa.  He began to pour out his heart.  He had many enthusiasms.
Literature.  No, he did not like the Aesthetes much.  They still
read Swinburne, but were not he and Tennyson a little--well,
pontifical?  The earlier Browning,  but not these 'Inn Albums' and
things.  Pater, yes.  The Renaissance was wonderful.  He had met
Pater.  A Society called 'The Passionate Pilgrims' had invited him,
and there he had sat, cross-legged, looking rather like a Chinaman.
He had seen Matthew Arnold and often Jowett.  You could see Miss
Rhoda Broughton out walking.  But he was all, she discovered, for
philanthropy!  Toynbee Hall, W. T. Stead.  They had started a
Mission in Bethnal Green that he visited.  Oh, Miss Paris, he did
hope that she would not think him a prig.  He was not that.  He
rowed in his College boat.  He didn't like saints, he did not wish
to improve people's SOULS--no, but their BODIES!  Oh, Miss Paris!
Did she KNOW of the distress and unemployment?  Did she realize
that last month four thousand men came to the Mayor in Birmingham
and asked for work, that they were starving and could scarcely
stand?  Had she heard of the Industrial Remuneration Conference, of
all the things that the Trades Unions were doing?  There was a Mr
Bernard Shaw who had read a brilliant paper, and Mr John Burns had
warned them all of what England would be in another thirty years!
He was burning with it all, words poured from him, while the
splendour and almost fantastic pageantry of the evening passed
backwards and forwards in front of them.

Then he checked himself with a most charming smile.

'You have been so sympathetic!  I am ashamed of my preaching.  But
you are staying with Cousin Ellis, are you not?  I can't help
thinking of all he might do with his money if he liked!  Can't you
influence him, Miss Paris?'

'Don't call me Miss Paris,' she said.  'We are cousins, you know.
My name is Vanessa.'

'Oh, thank you.  And MY name is Adrian.'

'Yes, Barney told me.'

'Cannot you influence him?  The things he could do!  If only you
could persuade him just once to go to Bethnal Green.'

She told him that she had very little influence with anyone.

'Someone as beautiful as you are must have influence!  Oh, I beg
your pardon!  Have I been impertinent?'  He broke off and then with
the same eagerness he asked her about Cumberland.  He had never
been there.  Ruth had told him how lovely it was!  She often spoke
of Madame.  What a marvellous old lady she must have been!  And how
sad that the house at Uldale had been burnt down!

'Oh, your father--'  He was always rushing in and then out again!

'No, I like to talk of my father.  He was the best man who ever
lived!'  She began to tell him things about Adam and Cat Bells and
Uldale.  She told him about Hesket and Caldbeck, of John Peel and
the Herdwick sheep and the best-cured hams in the world.  They had
there the largest water-wheel and the smallest parish in England.
Of the grand old farmers and their splendid ploughing, of an old
lady she knew who had eighteen children and was ninety today, of
how if you asked an old ploughman, strong as the horse he was
leading, how old he was, he'd say 'Ah's nobbut eighty!' of how they
would sing 'Old Towler' under the fellside, of Tom Pearson, the
wrestler, who could dance a better step-dance than any woman, of
the 'Ivinson' grey tweed, the strongest in the world--and, as she
talked, all Skiddaw broke into the London house, clouds came down
over the gold ceiling, and the bleating of the sheep was louder
than the band!

She had missed a dance with someone or other.  She rose and held
out her hand.

'You'll come and see me, Adrian?  Come tomorrow to Hill Street, tea
time.'

'Yes, I will,' he said fervently.

But when she was dancing again she knew that something had happened
to her.  The wildness was upon her again, but now it was full of
fear and warning.  She must not return to Cumberland!  She must
make her life in another fashion.  Where Benjie was, danger lay.
That boy was right.  It was being shown to her clearly that, at the
side of Ellis she should help the world.  The two of them together--
what could they not do?  Ellis had told her that he was waiting
for her to help him.  Already in these weeks in London they had
grown close together.  At the thought of all they could do for the
world her cheeks burned, her heart beat high.

She had been living without any thought of all the unhappiness, the
poverty!  The things that Ellis and she might do together! . . .

There was a pause.  Everyone moved to the right and left.  The
Prince and Princess had arrived.

They walked up the room, bowing and smiling, stopping once and
again to speak to a friend, while the women curtsied and the band
blared.  It was a glorious moment.  He looked so kindly and she so
beautiful.  England was safe for ever and ever: the peoples of the
world were bowing.  A hero had died for his country in the Sudan.
Here and there were a ruffian or two to be taught their place and
duty!  The Beaminster portraits smiled down their loyalty and
patriotism, the jewels blazed, England lay like a cloak at the
royal feet, and the Empire did obeisance.

'Oh! to do something splendid!' Vanessa's heart cried.



It was Ellis who took her in to supper.  He was quiet, stealing
glances at her once and again.  She seemed to be carried high on
some wave of exaltation.  She looked at him so kindly that when
they moved away and sat down together in a distant corner where
from the hall below they could hear them summoning the carriages,
he said, now for the third time:

'Vanessa, will you marry me?'

She, staring beyond him into an imagined world, nodded her head,
saying:

'Yes, Ellis dear--if you want me.'




Part Two

THE HUSBAND



JUBILEE


Early in June of the great year 1887 Ellis and Vanessa went one
evening to hear Albani in Lucia and, waiting in the portico of the
Opera House, were caught by a breeze that, in spite of the warm
evening, made Ellis its victim.

In the following days he paid no attention to his chill, sternly
from morn to eve pursuing his City adventures.  On the eighteenth
of June there was a grand party in Hill Street, a Jubilee party,
with Royalty and Colonel Cody.  Next day Ellis was threatened with
pneumonia.  On the morning of the supreme Tuesday he was as
hopelessly a prisoner as any poor wretch in Vine Street.

It was a tragedy.  Ellis and Vanessa had seats in the Abbey; for
months Ellis had looked forward and, in his odd way, half child,
half man of importance, he had come to feel (as perhaps many other
Herries were feeling) that the Jubilee was created only that he
should sit with the loveliest woman in London and give his
approbation to his Queen's Thanksgiving.

He lay there, his cheeks mottled, his nose sharp and white, his
thin body stretched like a corpse, his eyes rheumy with cold and
bitter disappointment.  Vanessa refused to go to the Abbey without
him.  She would watch the Procession from Piccadilly with Rose and
Barney and young Adrian.  When she came in to say goodbye she felt
so vividly his own bitterness that she cried:  'Ellis, I won't go.
I'll stay here with you.  Rose will tell me all about it, and
besides the heat is fearful or will be soon.  Ellis, I'll stay.'

He longed to agree that she should.  He would not miss it so
grievously if she also missed it, and the thought that she had
given this up for him would be a salve to that intolerable
unceasing doubt, the doubt that she loved him.

But he was not so selfish; no, no, he was not so selfish.  So, in a
voice thick with cold, drawing the bedclothes close to his chin, he
murmured:  'Absurd!  How absurd you are, my darling!  You had
better not kiss me.  Go and enjoy yourself!'

He knew that when she was gone he would repeat to himself again and
again:  'She offered to stay.  One word from me and she would have
stayed.'

How beautiful she was!  He watched her hungrily.  Her dress with
its full bustle, rose-coloured, fitted her tall graceful body with
exquisite symmetry.  No woman in London wore clothes as Vanessa
did; the little hat, perched on her dark hair, was wreathed with
rosebuds.  The parasol that she carried was rose.  Two roses,
dark and rich like the summer weather, were at her waist.  She was
a Queen, he thought.  Had we gone to the Abbey she would have
been lovelier than any other woman there.  'The beautiful Lady
Herries . . .' and he would have been with her, the proudest man
in England.

'Give me some more of those drops, dear, before you go.'

She thought the big bare room chill and stuffy.  Beyond the window
the sun blazed on the street; very faintly from the far distance
came the sound of a band.  She could see a flag gently moving in
the morning breeze from an opposite house.  She was all impatience
to be gone.  She might be a grand lady now who must never forget
her dignity, but for nothing at all she would dance down Hill
Street waving her parasol.  How terrible had he said:  'Yes, dear.
Remain!'  How terrible not to see the kings and the princes, not to
hear the blare of the bands, not to see the colour and the excited
happy faces of the people, not to wave to the Queen!  She was so
sorry for his disappointment that tears filled her eyes as she
smoothed his thin hair with her hand, straightened the bedclothes,
laid the books and The Times close to him!  How old he looked when
he was ill!  How old and how at the same time like an ugly
disappointed little boy!  How near and how intimate to him she was,
and how far away and separate!  How kind and tender she wished to
be to him!  And how her very heart contracted in her breast when he
made love to her!  How grateful for all his kindness, how deeply
irritated, against her will, by his unceasing care of her!

She sat in the chair beside his bed, holding his hot dry hand.

'You will take care not to be in the sun.'

'Oh yes, there is a large awning over our stand.'

He was moved by a sudden spasm of irritation and kicked up his
knees beneath the bedclothes.

'It is too bad.  It is really too bad.  To happen just now!  In
another week I could have gone!'

'I know, I know, dear.  Oh, why did we go to that silly Opera? . . .
Ellis, let me stay!  I'll go with Rose this evening and see the
illuminations . . .  After all it is going to be so hot, most
uncomfortable, I expect, and a procession is always so quickly
over . . .'

He sighed.  How wonderful if it had been she who was ill and he had
been given the opportunity of sacrificing himself!  At once he was
ashamed of such a thought.  His love for Vanessa prompted him to
strange wicked desires.  He who would give her anything in the
world, to wish anything so wicked!  He choked, coughed, drank a
little water, smiled with wan bravery.

'What you must think me!  As though I could be so selfish!  Enjoy
yourself, my dearest, and tell me about it . . .'

He picked up Walter Besant's novel, laid it pathetically on the
bedclothes.  'I shall count the minutes until your return.'



Afterwards in the sun and splendour she felt as though she had
escaped, by a miracle, from prison.

Early though it was, the streets were thronged and the stands
already crowded, but she had only to slip down Berkeley Square and
in at a back door, be conducted by an extremely polite young
footman through a drawing-room and so out to the stand where Rose
already was.

When she settled herself and looked about her she uttered a cry of
childlike delight.  The sky was an unbroken blue, the full green of
the trees of the Green Park was soft and deep and luminous like a
sunlit cloud.  From her seat she could watch the hovering flutter
of the flags, the massed colour of clothes, the splashes of scarlet
that broke the pearl-grey of the London stone.  All this colour
was translated by the sunlight into something trembling and
unsubstantial as though lit by some unseen fire.  There was a
brooding silence scored like a sheet of music with the clatter of a
horse's hoofs, the echo of distant band music rising and falling on
the slight morning breeze.  Above the buildings flags drifted
against the blue as though under the impulse of some secret rhythm.
The front of the stand was banked with flowers.

She sat there, her gloved hands clasped, her lips parted, her eyes
shining.  At that moment, if she had been ordered, she would have
died for her country, for the Queen, for any cause that needed her.
For a very little thing she would have burst into tears.

Rose, who looked very exotic with her dark colour, her red dress,
was as deeply excited as Vanessa.

'This is all very foolish,' she said.  'By this afternoon I shall
be ashamed of myself.  No matter, I like being ashamed of myself.'
Rose read from her programme:


Her Majesty will be accompanied on horseback by the following
Princes placed in the order of their relationship to Her Majesty:


        Grandsons and Grandsons-in-Law of Her Majesty

HIH the Grand        HRH the Prince         HRH the Prince
Duke Serge of        Albert Victor of       William of Prussia,
Russia               Wales, KG              KG

HRH the Prince       HRH the Prince         HRH the Hereditary
Henry of Prussia,    George of Wales,       Grand Duke of
GCB                  KG                     Hesse

His Highness the     His Highness the       His Serene Highness
Hereditary Prince    Prince Christian       the Prince Louis of
of Saxe-Meiningen    Victor of Schleswig-   Battenberg, KCB
                     Holstein

                 Sons-in-Law of Her Majesty

HRH the Prince       His Imperial and       HRH the Grand
Christian of         Royal Highness the     Duke of Hesse,
Schleswig-Holstein,  Crown Prince of        KG
KG                   Germany, KG

                     Sons of Her Majesty

HRH the Duke of      HRH The Prince of      HRH the Duke of 
Connaught and        Wales, KG              Edinburgh, KG
Strathearn, KG


She talked without ceasing, waving her hands, half rising from her
seat, turning to look for friends.  Did Vanessa know that people
were paying twenty-five pounds for a good place?  That nearly three
hundred books of gold leaf had been used for decorating the State
Coach, that there was still living a survivor of George III's
Jubilee, an old lady in Gloucestershire, that the Pope is so
pleased at the Jubilee that he wants England to re-establish
relations with the Vatican, that so much gas was to be used in the
illuminations, that? . . .

She said:

'Oh, Vanessa, I am so happy!'

She caught Vanessa's hand, then drew away again whispering:

'No, I won't spoil your fun.  Don't listen to me.  It isn't true.
I'm too excited to know what I am saying.'

Vanessa turned to her.

'Rose, what has happened?  What have you done?'

'Nothing.  Nothing.  I didn't mean what I said.'  Then abruptly
again she broke out:

'You know that Horace is engaged?'

'No.  When?  To whom?'

'A few nights ago--at the Ball at the Reform Club.  A Miss Lindsay.
A nice little girl.  With money of course.  And he will treat her
abominably.'

'You'll be alone, Rose.  You won't like that even though Horace
isn't the most--'

'No.  Yes.  Well, perhaps.'

'Rose, you are going to do something foolish.  What is it?  Tell
me.  I insist on your telling me.'

Their lives had been bound together.  Ever since that day of
Judith's Hundredth Birthday when Vanessa, looking across the
luncheon table, had seen her, wanted her for a friend, loved her,
there had been a bond which Rose's recklessness, her risks and
mistakes and gradual descent from safety into danger, had only
strengthened.

'Vanessa, you will always love me, always, always, whatever I do?'

So also Benjie had claimed.  She had fulfilled her promise.  She
laid her hand on Rose's arm.

'Rose, don't do anything without telling me.  You must not.  It is
not fair to me.  We have been friends so long and have helped one
another so often.  Promise me!  Promise me!'

'Look!  There is someone riding up the street.  He is seeing that
everything is clear.  Doesn't he look grand with his feathers?'

'Rose, tell me.  What are you doing?  Not Fred Wycherley?  You told
me--'

'Vanessa, darling--it is all right.  Really it is.  I was excited.
I'm always doing something silly.  Look! how the stands are
filling up!  Why don't Barney and Adrian come?  They are missing
everything--'

'But it isn't Wycherley?  Promise me that it isn't Wycherley--with
his wife and those two children--'

'No, of course it isn't Fred.  Oh, do look at that woman in that
bonnet!  There, to the right!  Did you ever SEE such a thing?'

At that moment Barney and Adrian Cards arrived.

Adrian, who, young as he was, was now in the Foreign Office, who
wrote articles for the magazines on religion, economics, French
poetry, who loved Vanessa with such open devotion that everyone
thought it charming, sat on one side of her, Barney, who was now
very stout, on the other.

'Here we are!' said Barney.  'I have just seen Timothy and Violet
and their offspring.'  (Timothy had brought his family with him
permanently to London.)

'I have also seen Phyllis and Rochester struggling for breath in
Northumberland Avenue, Amery, son Alfred, and the new plain wife
nestling under the lions in Trafalgar Square, so I have not done so
badly by the family.  How is poor Ellis?'

'Oh, Barney,' said Vanessa, 'he was crying with disappointment.  He
had been SO looking forward--'

'Yes.  It's a shame.  Poor Ellis.'  But he was not thinking of poor
Ellis as he leant his fat body forward and drank in delightedly the
scene, except perhaps, without any unkindness, to relish his own
fun the more because Ellis' catastrophe made him realize that he
too might have caught a cold and been prevented.  He pushed out his
chest, stretched his stout arms a little, wondered how little Daisy
McPhail (the present lady of his apartments) was getting on
somewhere along the Mall (he had loved her now for three months and
still found her good company), considered (as all novelists
consider) whether he would be able to describe this heat, colour,
movement, expectation on paper, looked at Vanessa and marvelled yet
once again at her beauty ('But this life with Ellis is telling on
her, and I don't wonder'); leaned yet farther forward to gaze down
Piccadilly and saw, a little to the right, only a row or two away,
Benjamin Herries.

'By Heaven--'

'What is it?' Rose asked--and he could feel that she was trembling
with some agitation deeper than any Jubilee warranted.

'Nothing.'  He had pulled himself in.  'Only that everything is so
jolly.  WHAT a day!  Doesn't that old lady have luck with her
weather?'  (WAS it Benjie?  Yes, certainly.  He had half turned.
He had seen then.)  Barney suddenly was assured that Benjie had
seen Vanessa from the moment of her first entry.  The little man,
square-backed, brown as a berry, in some fashion independent, alone
like a hill-man who had come down to study for a moment, the people
of the plain, sat erect, his chin resting on the handle of his
stick, the most significant thing about him his living, questing,
eager eyes.

'A bandit!' Barney thought.  'For tuppence he'd hold a gun at the
lot of us!'

Benjie half turned again and gave Barney a nod, slight, humorous,
secret.

'His eye never leaves Vanessa.  But Vanessa must not see him.
Lucky that Ellis is locked away in Hill Street!'

And again, like any novelist, he considered that here was a
situation, old and hackneyed though it might be, that would make a
chapter or two: Benjie, Ellis, Vanessa--all of them so much more
real than anything that Barney could do on paper.  And he summed up
for judgement the half-written efforts of his present work, Julia
Paddock . . .  Poor thing, how she wilted and died before the sharp
indifference of actual life!

'Look here, Adrian, change places with me, will you?  I'm a bit
deaf in this right ear.  Creeping senility, you know.'

They changed places, Adrian seated now between Vanessa and Rose.
Barney's broad body would, with decent luck, hide Benjie from
Vanessa.

Young Adrian talked of the People's Palace which Besant's All Sorts
and Conditions of Men had started as popular philanthropy.  Vanessa
was on a Committee.  Mr Besant had come to tea in Hill Street.  A
nice, booming, self-confident, bustling kind of man.

'Oh, don't let's think of committees!' cried Vanessa.  'This is so
much nicer.  I'm not very good at committees, Adrian.  My thoughts
wander.'

He was only twenty-two years of age, and Vanessa was the love of
his whole life.  He had the imagination of the abnormal, but with
it the common sense and balance of the normal.  He was, in fact,
closer to Will and Ellis and Timothy and old Pomfret than to
Francis and John and Adam.  He would never commit suicide nor dream
his life away.  His philanthropy, idealism, poetry, would be
practical, definite things.  He was the straight, normal Herries at
its best.  So, looking at Vanessa, he worshipped her without any
thought of contact.  She was the greatest lady he would ever know,
the kindest, the loveliest.  And how glorious to be beside her
today when she was like a child in her pleasure!  He had seen her
of late so often as the hostess sitting at the end of her table at
those endless dinner parties in Hill Street, curtsying to Royalty,
talking to Ambassadors, moving down the room with all eyes upon
her . . .  Now, for an hour, she was close to him, friend with
friend.  Not that she was ever affected or grand.  The world in
which for two years now she had moved had not touched her, but, as
he had often noticed, when Ellis was not there, she was free,
spontaneous, self-forgetful . . .

'Oh! they are coming!' she cried.  'They are coming!  I can hear
the bands!'

Distant music broke across the heat and light as though somewhere a
door had opened.  All individuality was lost; colours, blue,
crimson, green, hung like painted cloths about an empty-room, for
here in the sunlight there was a bare space which only one figure
could fill.  The empty room waited for that entrance; the door
would be opened and soon, for the briefest instant, a small stout
old lady would be borne forward, would stay for a moment, looking
about her while the colour, the music, the sunlight made a canopy
over her; then, with a little bow, she would retire and all would
be ended.  A bell would ring, a trumpet blare, the door would
close.

A kind of sanctification fell upon those people.  They turned,
their eyes straining down that long pathway between the banks of
colour, a pathway so oddly bare.  There was a fear of a last
instant's frustration.  Would a thunderbolt fall, the final
trumpets for Judgement sound, and so--after the agonized
anticipation--that royal carriage with the little bowing figure
never appear?  The sky, the trees, the flags, the splashes of
crimson, all a painted prepared pattern for that instant of
completion that even yet might not occur.  Vanessa, looking upwards
for a moment, saw three birds, dark and remote, slowly fly across
the blue.  At the sight of the first advancing soldier, glittering
in the sun, his black horse moving with dignified austerity, she
turned to Barney and whispered:

'My father met my mother for the first time on the Queen's
Coronation Day.'

She wanted to evoke Adam.  She wanted him there with his kind,
sleepy smile and that touch of his hand on her arm . . .  Then she
forgot everything but the Procession.  Thicker and thicker they
came.  The pathway that had been so bare sparkled now with silver
and gold.  She was drawn down into a medley of colours, sounds,
and, pressing close upon her, that clear clop-clop of the horses'
hoofs like the ringing of little hammers on stone.  Men were
detached from the river of movement; a figure, the back straight as
a board, the thighs stiff, one gauntleted hand raised, would become
real against fantasy.  You believed suddenly that it breathed, it
touched its bearded cheek with its gauntlet: the rider and the
horse stood out above the flood as though the trumpets had summoned
it.  The three Kings were in closed carriages--very disappointing
of them.  The cheering increased.  Now, glittering with gold, an
open carriage could be seen, and then, in an instant, the air broke
into cheering, the caparisoned horses, the outriders, the scarlet
and the gold swung into being before the green clouded trees.  The
Queen, her parasol raised, in a dress of black and white, passed
by.  One horseman, in a silver helmet and shining cuirass, seemed
her especial guardian--the Crown Prince of Germany.  The door
closed.



'Oh!' said Vanessa.  'How lovely that was!'

The soldiers were still marching, the drums and trumpets sounding,
but the ordinary real world had assumed its place again.  She heard
someone behind her say:  'The twenty-sixth, remember.  I'll have
the carriage and we'll go straight down.'

She sat there watching for a while, happy, tranquil, remembering
things to tell Ellis, suddenly thinking of Will Leathwaite in the
cottage on Cat Bells.  He would be going out that evening to see
the bonfires and he would think of her as he always did when
anything of interest happened.

'Didn't you love that, Rose?  Didn't you think her splendid?'

But Rose was gone.  How strange!

'Adrian, did you see Rose go?'

'Yes, she slipped away just after the Queen passed.  She didn't
want to disturb you.'

'Oh, I wanted to tell her--'  Vanessa looked back to see whether
she might yet catch her.  People were rising, moving about, already
many seats were empty.

Then, turning to the right, looking over Barney's head, she saw
Benjie.

He was staring at her, standing up in his place.  They looked at
one another.  He raised his hat, bowed, gave her one more long
stare; then, turning his back, climbed up the wooden benches and
disappeared.

She had invited Barney and Adrian to luncheon and they returned to
the house with her, but, before she joined them, before she went in
to see Ellis, she stood, without moving, in the middle of the floor
of her bedroom, gazing in front of her.  She had but a moment.
Ellis, in the next room, knew that she had returned but, with the
sunlight streaming about her, still wearing her hat and gloves, she
stayed there, lost.

Benjie!  She had not seen him for close on four years, but in that
momentary glance it had been as it had always been.  They had not
separated.  They COULD not separate.  Marriage altered nothing,
distance altered nothing; she must confess to herself what indeed
she had never denied--that Benjie and herself could not be parted.
He had looked as he always looked.  His London clothes, his tall
hat and dark coat could not change him, his apartness, his humorous
defiance, his challenge to the world.  He had been, apparently,
alone.  Had he been aware of her for a long while?  Had he intended
to speak to her?  Was he staying in London?  Was he here
permanently, perhaps with his wife and boy?  Or had he parted from
his wife?  Or was he on his way abroad?  How strange that out of
all the thousands who had watched the Procession they two should
have been so close together.  He could not have known where she
would sit.  Or had he perhaps met Barney the day before and asked
him?  Would he call at Hill Street or would he keep his part of
their bargain?  During these four years he had never written to
her, nor sent a message.  As she took off her hat and slowly drew
off her gloves she knew that she would at that moment give
everything--name, reputation, happiness--for one word with him.

Her body shivered.  She knelt down for an instant beside her bed,
pressing her hands against her eyes.  Oh, how she wished that she
had not seen him!  Oh, how glad, how glad she was that she had!
The sunlight fell hot upon her head like a caress.  She bathed her
face and hands and went through into Ellis' room.

Ellis lay there, his long hands with their prominent knuckles on
the counterpane, and he looked at her steadily, following her with
his eyes as she moved as a painted portrait does.

She came to the bed, sat down, took his hand and began to tell him
all about everything.  'The colour, Ellis!  You can't imagine it!
The trees of the Park made everything so much brighter, and then
the splashes of scarlet and the grey buildings and all the flowers.
We had beautiful places, better than the Abbey.  We could see both
ways down Piccadilly and had a view of the Queen's carriage for
ever so long.  Rose was there.  She was rather restless.  I do hope
she isn't getting into trouble again.  And Barney and Adrian,
Barney is really disgracefully fat.  He said he'd seen Timothy and
Violet and Amery and his son.'

'Did you see anyone else you knew?'

She realized at once that Ellis was hostile, that something had
happened here in her absence.  HAD Benjie called?  Had he written?
Had Barney been up to see Ellis already and told him?  Oh, but he
would not!  That was not Barney's way.  Had someone else seen
Benjie about London and told Ellis?  Since their marriage Ellis had
never uttered Benjie's name . . .

She answered quickly:

'No one to speak to.  We left before the Procession was over to
escape the crowd.  And we did.  The Square was quite empty.  Not a
soul about.  But the crush in the streets was dreadful, and what
the heat must have been . . .'

He interrupted in that small cold voice always used by him when he
was offended (he was very proud of it: he thought it was calculated
to strike terror into any heart).

'Some letters came for you while you were away.'

So that was it!  There was a letter for her in some hand that he
suspected.  She had noticed of late that he looked at the writing
on the envelopes of her letters with an eager curiosity which he
always thought that he hid.

'Miss Fortescue brought them in,' he went on.  'She thought that
you were still here.'

('She KNEW that I was NOT here,' Vanessa thought indignantly.)

The letters were in a little pile on a table near the door.  She
went across, picked them up, then turned and smiled at Ellis.
'Well,' she said, 'what has disturbed you, Ellis?  Something has
made you unhappy.'

He said at once, his voice shaking:

'One of those letters is from Benjamin Herries.'

(Was it so?  Then he had written to tell her that he was coming to
London?  He had written to make an appointment?)



She looked quickly.  There was no letter from Benjie.  One, in a
man's hand, was from Keswick, but, as she knew at once, it was from
a Doctor Harris there who had written asking if she would subscribe
to some sports to be held in August at Threlkeld.  She did not dare
even glimpse at her own fierce disappointment.  She was NOT
disappointed.  It was MUCH better that Benjie should not write,
should never write, never see her, never speak to her . . .

She came quietly to the bedside and gave Ellis the letter.

'There is nothing from Benjie.  This, I suppose, is the letter you
meant.  Read it.'

He looked quickly at the letters, then pushed them towards her.

'No, no.  Of course I will not read them.  I am very ashamed.
Please, please forgive me.  If you knew how I have been suffering!'

'It has done your cold good anyway,' she thought, 'having something
else to think about.'

Her anger and indignation, of which she was always afraid because
they were so strong when they were aroused, stirred in her eyes.
She did not ask herself whether her disappointment assisted her
anger.

'Please read them, Ellis, if you want to.  I have no secrets from
you whatever.'  (Had she not?)

He looked up at her abjectly, a look that she detested, in human
beings, in animals, in anyone or anything that should have pride.

'Please, please forgive me.  The handwriting was like.  I thought
that he might be coming to London for the Jubilee.  I have been
lying here all these hours longing for you . . .  You are so
beautiful today . . .  I love you so terribly.  I cannot grow used
to it.  I used to think that in time it would become part of life,
ordinary, but it does not.  It is stronger every day because it is
never satisfied.  It is not your fault.  But you don't love me.
You never loved me.'

That was just.  That was true.  At once she felt tender towards him
because of that injustice.  He was like a small son who had asked
for a present that she could not give him, and so she put her arms
around him and comforted him.  She sat down beside him and took his
hand again.

'Ellis, dear, we all care for one another in different ways.  That
is everybody's trouble.  I think perhaps I am not passionate in the
way you mean.  Many women are not.  But we are such splendid
friends.  More every day.  Let us be thankful for that.  And don't
begin to suspect things.  Let's trust one another.  If we do not we
shall torture one another.  We have been married for over two years
and have trusted one another perfectly.  Ask me always if anything
makes you uneasy; suspicion in marriage is horrible.  It's worthy
of neither of us.'

He moved towards her, put his thin arms round her, laid his head on
her breast.

'Love me!  Love me!  Love me!'

She tried to comfort him; her relief when at last he moved away
made her feel ashamed.  Today something new had entered their
married life, something not quite new.  Rather a forgotten
acquaintance who unexpectedly arrives and says that now, from
henceforth, he will live in the house.

She kissed him and stood up.

'I must go down to Barney and Adrian.  They are waiting for
luncheon.  I will come up afterwards.'

He lay staring at the door long after she had left the room.



And even then this day was not done with her.  When Adrian and
Barney were gone she went upstairs again and read Besant's novel
aloud until Ellis slept.  Then she went down to the drawing-room.
She had done what she could with it.  There was a portrait of her
by Whistler in a white dress standing against a dull gold
wallpaper, holding a fan.  She had not filled the room with odds
and ends as many of her friends liked to do.  It had now a silver-
grey wallpaper, there were many flowers about, there was a deep
purple Persian carpet, but the place was not alive.  It would never
live, it would never be home to her.  The two tall windows were
open--a pale blue light shadowed the houses.  The sky was pale with
the evening heat.  There was holiday everywhere, shouts and cries,
distant bands, and the flags moving lazily in the gentle summer
breeze.  There was that scent of burning that a very hot day in
London leaves behind it, and the odour of flowers, roses,
carnations, and the dry dusty fragrance of geranium leaves.  She
turned back into the long dusky room that was like a cool deserted
cave.  She walked up and down, knowing that life, after two years
of comparative quiescence, had in a moment taken another turn.
Everything from this hour was different.  Tonight there was to be a
family dinner party.  Ellis had insisted that his illness should
make no change.  Rose and Horace, Phyllis, Clarence Rochester and
Philip, Barney, Amery and his son and new daughter-in-law, Timothy
and Violet and Aunt Jane, Carey and May Rockage, pretty Cynthia,
Rodney's grand-daughter, and her husband Peile Worcester,
Adrian . . . they were all coming.  No one but the Family.  What
an odd mixed lot they were, and yet how alike--even the wives of
other stock.  They moved forward in one body, not to the outer world
important and yet affecting the world by their quiet insistence on
normality, confidence, the domestic virtues, patriotism, deep
suspicion of the foreigner, belief in the Church, Tennyson, the
Houses of Parliament, the Royal Family (with reservations about the
Prince of Wales, Barney's mistresses, Rose's reputation, Jews--
unless they were very rich--and one or two things more).

They had been very kindly to Vanessa.  Old Lady Herries before she
died last year had said:  'My dear, never fight the family.  I know
you often want to, but it isn't worth it.  They always win in the
end.'

But did they?  Had not Judith defeated them, and Uhland and even
her own father?  The battle continued.  She had not, herself,
surrendered.  And Benjie?  Oh, WHERE was he?  Was he quite close to
her somewhere in London?  She had the maddest impulse to go to
Barney's rooms in Duke Street.  He would know, she was sure.  She
went to the door, opened it, and listened.  The house was as still
as the inside of a drum.  Only the beating of her heart seemed to
thud down the passages.  Then there was something else.  Someone
was coming up the stairs.

She went back into the drawing-room with the wildest thought that
it might be Benjie.  What would she do?  How could she defend both
herself and him?  She stood, one hand pressed to her breast,
staring at the door.  But, when it opened, it was Finch, the new
butler, a man she did not like because she was sure that he was in
league with Miss Fortescue, a fat red-faced man with sandy hair.

He had a note on the salver.

'A letter for you, my lady.  A boy has just left it.  He said that
he was told that there was no answer.'

She saw at once that it was in Rose's hand, and as soon as Finch
was gone, opened it, reading it there where she stood.


DEAREST--I could not tell you this morning.  I went to the
Procession with a wild hope that something would occur, that I
should break a leg or be strangled by the crowd.  Nothing DID
occur, so by the time that you get this I shall be on my way to
France with Fred.  Insane.  I know it.  I think that we both of us
know it.  But I would not care if it were not for you.  But you
said that you would love me whatever I did.  Remember--your love is
all that I shall have in a year's time.

                                                         ROSE


The note fell from her hand to the ground.  She bent down and
picked it up.  A foreboding, dusky and cold like the room, crept to
her side and touched her hand.



THE FLITTING


Benjie Herries, a week or two after Jubilee Day, walked up the hill
on a lovely summer evening towards the Fortress.  He had been
playing cricket with the young men of Ireby village.  On his
shoulder he was carrying his son Tom, aged three years, and beside
him was Bob Rantwood, a famous poacher, drunkard and ne'er-do-well,
one of Benjie's best friends.  A sunny haze covered all the world.
In the village there had been much motion, the long wagon drawn by
its splendid team of horses, the chatter at the little inn with its
coloured prints, its gay pictures of hunters and horses, and a
grand flower-and-fruit piece that was the landlord's especial joy,
left there by some travellers to pay a debt more than a hundred
years ago, the flagged passage, and beyond the bottle-green windows
the clear blue of the summer sky.  Mrs Enderby's shop with the
liquorice, bull's-eyes, bootlaces and a portrait of the Prince of
Wales, the long fields rising to the grey hills, the deep oaks, the
bleatings of sheep, the brilliant leaves of the copper beech, the
scent of clover and bean blossom.

He was at peace and not at peace; he had enjoyed the game, the
comradeship (for they liked him), the taste and sound of Cumbrian
air and soil, but Rantwood unsettled him.  He had poached with him
many a time, knew all about salmon and trout poaching, the
'draughting' and 'poling'.  Lovely nights he had had with Rantwood
draughting a river, or, by himself, guiding his poles, knowing
exactly where there is a spile or a crook.  The thrill, in mild
weather, to find a spot where the fish are spawning, or on a dark
night to see the dawn steal over the fan-shaped hill, to hear the
moorhen plunge!  Or, draughting with Rantwood, trailing the net
slowly down the river, stoning the water to frighten the salmon
into the net--or best of all on a moonlight night, when an old coat
had been soaked with paraffin, the thrill of the moment when this
improvised torch is lit and the men with him, sticks in hand,
plunge into the water . . .

Rantwood, like most poachers, was a discontented, cursing, but most
amiable fellow.  Nothing was ever right with him.  He would swear
at the game laws by the hour together, 'gloweran' aboot' like a
madman, and then he would laugh, throw his thick arms around, and
call Benjie, for whom he had warm friendship but no reverence,
'thoo girt daft cauf, thoo'.

He was always restless, always wanting to be somewhere where he was
not--and so was Benjie.  But Benjie knew what was now the matter
with him.  He should not have gone to London, should not have seen
Vanessa . . .

Three days he had stayed there.  He had not especially enjoyed his
visit although he had done all the things that would, he thought,
amuse him.  He had visited Earl's Court and seen 'Buffalo Bill'
Cody's Wild West Show, had travelled on the Underground Railway and
been stifled by the sulphur and smoke from the engine, the fumes
from the oil lamp, the reeking pipes of his fellow-travellers.  He
had visited the Gaiety Bar and talked to the magnificent ladies who
served him, had spent several hours in the Argyle Music Hall,
admired the Chairman who with such militant authority banged the
table with his gavel, and wondered at the amount of liquor he could
consume.

He had wandered the streets and like any country yokel stared at
the illuminations, had watched London Society display its elegance
in Hyde Park, had been pleased with the superb procession of
curricles, landaus, victorias, the powdered footmen, the silk
stockings, the yellow plush; had found a beautiful lady at the
Alhambra, gone with her to her room in Portland Street, but once
there, after half an hour's most elegant conversation, had politely
left her.  He had been, in fact, the loneliest of men.  That seat
from which he had viewed the Procession (a pretty penny he had paid
for it!) had been his ruin.  He had gone to London on a sudden
impulse, resolving to visit no member of the family.  It had been
the cruellest fate (the kind of check to his virtue that fate was
for ever dealing out to him) that Vanessa should be sitting there
almost at his side!  For two hours he had watched her.  Every
detail of her dress, every movement had been absorbed by him.  It
was not her loveliness that had struck him to the heart, but his
intimacy with her so that he knew instantly, at the first sight of
her, that nothing was altered, that his four years' exile from her
had hindered nothing.

He had made no attempt to speak to her.  Weak, irresolute as he
was, he would keep his word--at least, for a little longer.  But he
returned to Cumberland a haunted man.

He shifted young Tom a little, liking to feel the warmth of those
small confident fingers against his neck.  A funny freak of chance
that Tom should have in him some kindred blood with the second wife
of Vanessa's great-grandfather.  After Vanessa he loved Tom--the
only two in the world whom he loved.

'All the family have cleared out of the country,' he said aloud,
following his thoughts.  'I'm the last here.  We were all over the
County a while ago.'

'Aye,' said Rantwood, who was pursuing his own thoughts.  Would
Herries ask him in for a drink?  He had a thirst all right.  But
Mrs Herries--she didn't like him.  Nor he her--whimsey-whumsey kind
of female.

'My great-great-grandfather rode into Keswick one night from
Doncaster.  That's how it all started.  We were all over the place
once.  Oh, I've told you before.  And now we're all away again.'
He looked over the hedge down the valley where the summer evening
breathed tranquilly under a stainless sky.  Around them the insects
were humming and on the other side of the hedge a brook sang
beneath the willows.  Voices cried through the stillness with a
dying fall.  As though he spoke aloud:  'I am walking up this hill
and soon I will be gone.  I have done my best.  I have kept my vow,
but soon I shall be wandering again.  I can neither be free of this
country nor settle in it, and when I am away I shall remember just
such an evening as this, the meadow falling into dusk, and all the
names that I love--Blencathra, Uldale (almost all the bricks of the
house are gone now: soon there will be nothing but the turf and the
sheep cropping it), Bassenthwaite, Ireby--beautiful names like the
words of a vow, a vow that I have kept but can keep no longer.  I
hate this house I am coming to.  I have always hated it.  I hate
this woman in the house.  I have always hated her, and one day soon
I shall take young Tom and we will walk away and never come back.
The last Herries . . . but the place will be always in my bones.  I
shall never tread on such turf again nor drink such running water
nor see such lithe walls running into the sky nor hear such
friendly voices.  But I have lived long enough away from Vanessa,
and although I never speak to her again I must see her once between
one day and another day.'

'That was a good catch I made to get Will Davidson,' he said aloud.

'Aye,' said Rantwood.  'Thoo can play at cricket a' reet.'

'Well, goodnight to you, Bob.'  He turned in at the gate.

'I mun slacken my thirst wi' watter,' Rantwood thought
discontentedly, starting down the hill.

Inside the house even on this summer evening it was damp.  They had
come down to live only in three rooms and the kitchen.  An old
woman, Mrs Cumming, was the present successor to all the in-and-out
females who had done service in that place.  The room at the top of
the first stair-flight that had once been the drawing-room with the
fine gilt chairs, the naked goddesses, the rosy cupids on the
ceiling, was now the general living-room.  All that remained of
Walter's splendours was the long mirror with the gilded frame, and
reflected in this Benjie now stood with his little son.  His shirt
wide open showed his brown chest, his neck firmly set, his head
like a hard apple, the twinkling kindly eyes alive and eager, his
small restless body upon which clothes seemed always an
excrescence, Benjamin Herries, rogue, good fellow, a 'deep' chap, a
good-for-nothing, the kindest man in the county, the suddenest-
tempered, 'a man all by himself', a jolly man, a man of his word, a
man you couldn't trust, a gentleman, a vagabond, a wise man, a fool--
just as your personal experience happened to be.

And his small son stood beside him, like his father because he had
the brown colour and the sparkling eyes, a child always laughing,
filled already with secret plans and plays of his own, never
wanting company, never afraid, never asking anyone to help him.

The mirror also reflected the room, which was a scramble and a
confusion, littered with fishing rods, guns, a woman's dress, a
child's playthings, a table with the remains of a meal, and a sofa
with a hole in it.

'Vanessa,' said Benjie, looking into the mirror.

Later, to the light of a smoking lamp, Mr and Mrs Herries enjoyed
their evening meal together, old Mrs Cumming clattering in on her
clogs bringing the beef and gooseberry pudding, banging them down
on the table, going out with a toss of the head because she and Mrs
Herries had but now crossed swords in the kitchen.

Mrs Herries was the thinnest woman in all Cumberland and her face
was of a faintly green pallor.  But she was the same reserved
passive woman she had ever been.  In years she was still a girl,
but her features were of that ageless cast belonging to women who
have matured when very young and live on their passions.  Benjie
was always kind to her; that he hated her was not her fault.  He
knew that she had been many times unfaithful to him, but she was no
more personal to him than her pale reflection in the mirror might
be.  It was amazing to him that they had stayed together in this
horrible house for three years, but his vow had kept him, he
supposed.  He had shown Vanessa that he could be faithful.  This
woman had at least done that for him; so he was kind to her, smiled
across the table at her and told her he had made thirty runs in the
cricket game.  He ate his beef, seeing that the long gilt mirror
was loose on its nail and swayed ever so slightly, so that the room
rocked too a little.  The two high windows were open and the place
was suffused with the summer evening heat, with the odour of the
roses that rioted about the garden.  A moon, tip-tilted on the edge
of one small cloud lit from within like cotton wool around a
lantern, drunkenly grinned through the window.

'Mrs Cumming can't cook meat, that's one thing certain,' he said,
smiling at his wife.

'No, she can't,' the late Miss Halliday agreed, 'But we never get a
decent servant here.'

'We pay them plenty,' said Benjie, who from land, from money left
him by Elizabeth, was not so badly off.

'They won't come here.  They are afraid of you.'

'What! that I'll go to bed with them?  You know that I've been
faithful to you since our wedding day.'

(He had, marvel of marvels!  Or no--to put it better, he had been
faithful to Vanessa.)

'That doesn't interest me,' Mrs Herries said.  'You know you're
free to do what you like.  Oh, it isn't you.  They would know how
to deal with you if you started anything.  No, it's the house.'

'Ghosts?' said Benjie,

'What you like to call them.  Mrs Cumming was talking about it
tonight--steps up and down the passage, a dog whining.  You've
heard the dog yourself up there in the Tower.  Someone tapping with
a stick.  And that woman in black wandering about the garden.'

'Do you believe in spirits, then?' he asked her.

'Spirits!' she answered impatiently.  'These gooseberries aren't
half cooked.  Well, what are you to think?  Those friends of my
brother's, YOUR friends, those Endicott men, they've seen things
time and again.  But there's something queer about this house.'

'Yes, from the moment the first stone was laid.  My grandfather
spoilt it with his obstinacy.  If you see a thing isn't going to
turn out well you should give it up.  No good going on if the signs
are against you.'

She sat leaning forward, her sharp-peaked chin resting on her
hands.  He noticed that she was regarding him with great attention
tonight.  He felt that something was in the wind.

'Ghosts!'  He smiled.  'I saw one in London the other day--a
beauty.  She was tall like a lily, carried herself like a queen,
she was dressed like a rose and a had dark, dark hair.  It makes
you think of a ghost like that when you see a room in the mess this
is in.  Why don't you tidy things a bit, Marion; keep things in
order more?'

'Ah!  What's the use?  You're never in, and nothing would ever stay
neat in this house.  Three years I've had of it--'

'You're a strange woman.'  They regarded one another in friendly
fashion.  'You've never had any liking for the boy, and he's a fine
little chap too.  It has meant nothing to you, being a mother.'

'No, nothing at all,' she answered.  'Women mean nothing to me, no,
nor children.  But men--ah! that's another story!  And you, Benjie,
more than any.  I want to be in your arms as badly as ever I did
the first time I saw you.  But what's the use?  Why you've stayed
with me all this time I can't imagine . . .  Well, I must wash the
dishes.  I won't have that sneak of a woman in the house after
tonight.  She goes tomorrow.'

'Why, what has she been doing?'

She was standing up, her hands on her hips, staring at him as
though she would never see him again.

'I like you like that with your shirt open.  You're brown all over
like a foreigner.  Where did you get that skin from?'

'Who knows where one gets anything from?  That's the mystery.
Where we come from, who made us what we are, what we make ourselves
into, where we are going to.  And we've lived three years together,
Marion, and are as far apart as ever we were.'

'Yes,' she said.  'It's all the body, what it looks like, what its
clothes are.  I'm not your beautiful ghost like a rose, tall as a
lily.  But see the rose's nose crooked and give her a black eye,
and where's your love for her then?'

'I'm not so sure,' said Benjie.  'I'm not so sure.'

'But I am!  It's only because you've a brown skin and are strong
and haven't an ugly mark on your body that I'm in love with you.
But what's the use?  You don't care for me and never did.  And
you're the only man I've never tired of.  Most men are the same
after you've known them once.'

She said all this in a quiet, dispassionate voice.  Was it because
of her own unresting physical passion that he had once on a day
been caught by her?  Maybe.  But that didn't matter now.  It was
not her fault.  A pity that she didn't care about young Tom,
though.  That might have been something of a bond between them.

'Well, I mustn't stay talking here.  That woman's stealing the
spoons, I wouldn't wonder.'  She went out, carrying the beef with
her.

He wandered out into the garden.

Moonlight on a summer's night is a most impermanent thing.
Everything is new born, but only for a moment, and when the silvery
world rises it is like a dream that, even while you are enchanted,
you know that you must not trust.  The flowers on such a night are
ghosts that at a touch will vanish away, and water, shining under
the moon, belongs to no earthly stream.  This garden had never
yielded to any man's will.  Flowers had died when you cared for
them and waxed abundant when you neglected them.  The moonlight
poured out now from under the trees like a flood that, at the
beckoning of a cloud, would be withdrawn.  Only the trees stood
firm, waiting the moment when they would advance, cover the ground,
swallow the house and resume their kingdom.  Man had never been
wanted here, especially man filled with the spirit of obstinacy,
revenge, and pride.

Was there some dark figure moving under the trees?  He stood there
watching.  It was easy to imagine, with all that you had heard,
that a tall woman in black, now in moonlight, now in grey shadow,
moved, hesitated, moved again.  He walked forward, the plants
crowding about him; then he turned to the stone steps that ran to
the higher ground at the side of the house.  He had always disliked
these steps.  His mother had told him that for some reason they had
always frightened her.  Uhland had tap-tapped down them with his
stick, Walter's drunken friends had sprawled against them and
fallen from top to bottom like the helpless fools that they were.
Now they were washed white in the moonlight and you could see the
tufts of grass like black bunches of fingers pressing up between
the broken flagstones.  Here, standing halfway up, he was exactly
under Uhland's stair and he could fancy that behind that dark
window Uhland was standing and behind him perhaps old Rogue
Herries.  The two of them watching the third in that sequence.  He
stretched his arms.  He whistled a tune.  He might be of their
family, but he was not of their destinies.  He was fit and well and
strong; he had a son and he loved a woman, he had friends and a
hundred miles of country that he would not exchange, with its
clouds and stones, for all the sunny kingdoms of the world.  He
looked down on that moonlit garden.  He could hear the water
falling from one pool to another.  An owl hooted.  WAS not that a
woman who moved from tree to tree?  He whistled his tune, kicked
the loose stones from under his foot and went in to see that his
child was comfortably sleeping on this hot night.

Tom slept in a corner of his own bedroom, a room in Uhland's Tower,
once used by Walter as a guest room.  It was sparsely furnished,
his bed, Tom's small one, a large tin bath, a dressing-table, his
hunting prints and the faded painting of the old Elizabethan
Herries that had once hung in Borrowdale.  A fierce, frowning old
boy with no nonsense about him!  The carpet had holes, the cupboard
where Benjie kept his clothes creaked with every wind, but tonight
it was transformed with the moonlight and the scent of the roses.
Although the window was open the room was very hot, and the child
had thrown off the bedclothes and lay, his nightshirt ruffled to
his chest, his little legs drawn up, one fist--clutching a small
wooden horse--still clenched.

Benjie stood there, looking at him.  This was his son, and not a
bad son either.  Pity he had that Halliday blood which was no good
at all in his veins, but Benjie flattered himself that his own
Herries blood could beat the Halliday mixture.  Vanessa had as yet
no child.  That anaemic husband of hers would never give her one--
and, perhaps, one day Tom would know her and love her and get his
idea of women from her.

Poor Benjie sighed.  He was really ashamed of himself for having a
son at all.  He was no sort of father for a boy to have, and he
knew already what a man, who is no great hero and has done a
shameful thing or two in his time, can feel when a small boy thinks
him perfect.  'Well, he won't think me perfect long, and I can
teach him to shoot and ride and not be afraid of anyone . . .
Still, he ought to have some sort of mother to care for him.'

Then he undressed.  He could not find a nightshirt so he slept
naked, curling up his legs as his child had done.  Father and son
slept side by side and the clouds came up over the moon, drenching
the room with darkness.



Tom always woke very early and came into his father's bed.  He
would lie, his small head against his father's chest, looking at
the trees beyond the window, waiting until his father should wake.
He talked to his horse, named Caesar, telling him about the things
that they would do that day, bacon for breakfast, a visit to the
village, and, if very lucky, a ride to Bassenthwaite.  He didn't
PROMISE Caesar these delights.  He had learnt already that it did
not do to expect ANYTHING, that one was left alone when one least
expected it, or worst of all, handed over to Mrs Cumming with her
constant:  'Now don't be a worrit' or 'Keep quiet, do'.  He was
accustomed to being without his father for days at a time and,
although his mother was never unkind to him, he knew quite well
that she did not care for him.  Only once had she been really angry
with him, and that was when, coming into a room unexpectedly, he
had seen her sitting on a fat man's knee.  She had slapped him
severely although he did not know what wrong he had done, and then
the fat man had given him sixpence.  The only fear that he had was
that, when his father went away, he would never come back again.
He discussed this often with Caesar, and Caesar reassured him.  OF
COURSE his father would come back.  But when he was in bed with his
father he clutched him very tightly, his arm on his breast or his
neck.  That comforted him greatly.

At last the grand moment arrived when his father opened his eyes,
grinned, yawned, stretched his arms, played a game or two.  Then he
watched his father splash in the tin bath, after which he was
himself plunged into the same.  His father helped him with his
clothes, fastening his buttons, brushing his hair, and tying his
boots.  This was a lovely morning, as fresh as a bird's wing, and
between the trees you could see Blencathra's shoulder resting
against the faint early summer blue.  His father whistled and sang,
which showed that he was happy this morning; then, hand in hand,
they went down to breakfast together.

The big untidy room was bright with sunshine, but there was no
breakfast; no cloth was on the table, and, although it was by now
half past eight, no sign nor sound of Mrs Herries.

Then Mrs Cumming came clopping in, carrying a plate of bacon in one
hand and a dented silver coffee pot in the other.

'Where's Mrs Herries?' asked Benjie.

'Mrs Herries is gone,' said Mrs Cumming, her eyes staring with a
fat, half-sleepy curiosity.

'Gone?'

'Aye.  Mr Ewart's trap come and fetch her seven this morning.  She
told me they was driving into Carlisle and she left me a letter.'

She felt in the pocket of her cotton dress and produced it; she
gave him a stare and went out.

He held the letter in his hand, but, before he opened it, settled
Tom in his place, cut the bread, gave him some bacon and poured out
the coffee.  Tom wriggled until he was comfortable, set Caesar up
on the table in front of his place and set to.

The letter was as follows:


DEAR BENJAMIN--I have gone away with Charlie Ewart and shall never
return.  He has been pressing me for a long time.  I'd have told
you last night, but what's the use?  There's nothing to be said.
You don't want me, you never have after the first night or two.  I
did a wrong thing in the first place to force you to it as I did,
but Mother pressed me and I was in love with you.  I wonder we've
stayed together as long as we have and I must say you've always
been very patient, your nature being what it is.  We haven't had
what you could really call a cross word all these years.  All the
same we haven't been happy, either of us.  I wish I could have felt
more for the boy.  I'm sure I've tried, but it isn't in my nature.
I wasn't meant to have children and if I can help it shan't ever
have another.

You'll be much better without me; I haven't a gift for keeping
things straight and tidy.  What Charlie Ewart sees in me I can't
think, and I don't suppose we shall be together long although he
says different.  You can divorce me if you want to but I don't want
any money from you and I'll never be married again.  Well, goodbye,
Benjie.  One thing I'm glad of, that I shan't have to live in the
Fortress any more.  It's a place would make a cat sick--Your
sincere friend,

                                                       Marion


Benjie read the letter through three times, then he gave his son
some more bacon.  'Well, that settles it,' he said aloud.  As
though the sunshine penetrated his heart he felt a great joy and
gladness.  He was free again; he had been set free.  He had kept
his vow and now, without any act on his part, he was liberated.
Charlie Ewart!  That thin, shanky, lop-eared farmer!  Poor Marion!
He was so sorry for her that had she at that moment appeared in the
doorway he would, in spite of his disappointment at her return,
have been kind and considerate.  But, thank Heaven, there was no
need to be kind and considerate any more!

He went into the passage and called Mrs Cumming.

'Mrs Cumming, Mrs Herries has gone to London.  I am going also and
I want you to order Sam Bender round with the trap in an hour's
time.  I'll catch the train from Carlisle.  I'm taking the boy with
me.  I don't know when I'll be back, but I'll write from London.'

So that was the end of the Fortress.  He would sell the damned
place and be done with it for ever.  He would be in London and
Vanessa would be in London.  He had done what he could, and it was
not his fault that now he was free to go where he would.

Poor Marion!  Charlie Ewart!  Well, well . . .

He went to his room and packed a few things, Tom going hand in hand
with him everywhere.  He dressed Tom in his best suit and his grey
summer jacket.

'We are going to London,' he said.  'You, I and Caesar.'

While he was sitting waiting for the trap, he talked to his son.

'We're going away, Tom, and I don't expect we'll ever live in this
house again.  Years and years ago a man rode into this country with
his son and went to live in a little house the other side of
Keswick.  He had a brother living in Keswick too.  And as the years
went by his son had a wife, and they went and lived in a house down
in the valley there which was burnt in a fire later on.  There were
many of our family in the country, but, one by one, they died and
went away until you and I are the only ones left.  And now we're
going away too.  But that's not the end of it.  You and I have got
this country in our blood.  You don't know what that means now, but
you will one day.  Everything you ever do will be affected by this
country, and however far you travel you'll never find any other
country so beautiful nor any other that's in your bones as this one
is.  You'll come back to it.  Be sure of that.  But I hope you
won't come back to this house, because it was built in a bad temper
and hasn't been any good to anybody.'

Tom seemed to understand.  'The funny thing is,' thought Benjie,
'that one remembers after the things that one was told although one
was too young at the time.  I remember things that Adam told me
about birds and wrestling.  Very rum that.'

'You've got to be a better man than I've been, Tom,' he added.
'And I hope you'll stay in one place sometimes.  You never learn
anything if you're always moving.  But you'll be all right so long
as you're never afraid of anyone.  There's nothing to be afraid of
really.'

It wasn't like him to preach, but the warm sun was comforting and
he felt so happy and cheerful that he had to be talking to someone.

They took a last look at the place together, the Cumberland stone,
the overgrown garden, the two cross-faced towers.  A dog was
whining somewhere and little flakes of plaster fell from the
ceiling of the living-room.

Then Sam Bender came with his trap and took them both away.



VIOLET BELLAIRS IS PREVENTED


When Timothy Bellairs and Violet his wife had been established in
London a year or so they became the centre of social exchange for
the London members of the Herries family.

Hill Street was of course the Temple: all the splendour and
sanctification were in Hill Street.  Only Vanessa of all the
Herries entertained the Prince and Princess to tea (although it was
said that the Prince HAD paid pretty little Cynthia a visit at her
pretty little house in Charles Street); only Vanessa invited
Archbishop Benson to luncheon; only Vanessa was on friendly
personal terms with Mr Chamberlain.

During these years Hill Street was the Temple.  But neither Ellis
nor Vanessa cared for gossip.  At least Vanessa enjoyed it but
appeared to consider some things spiteful when they were only
amusing.  Now Violet Bellairs was quite different from this.  A
Cumberland country cousin, she had become very speedily a most
entertaining London hostess.  She was not, of course, very clever:
you could laugh at her to her face and she seldom perceived it.
She had no talent for the Arts, thought Oscar Wilde an actor, and
supposed that Robert Elsmere was written by a clergyman, and had
only just heard of young Mr Kipling.  But it was not for the Arts
that any Herries went to Onslow Square.  They went, quite frankly,
to hear about the other Herries.  You could always tell when any
scandal was afoot because Violet, her stout body enclosed within
the brightest colours, her red face beaming, her hat elegant with a
stuffed bird, her eager, friendly voice with its 'Well, how are
you?  Haven't seen you for an age!' was to be seen everywhere--at
Charles Street, in Barney's bachelor rooms in Duke Street, in
Phyllis' overcrowded drawing-room, even in the cold and gloomy
place in Kensington where old Emily Newmark held her prayer
meetings.

Violet was always in the best of spirits, kind and friendly to
everyone, leaving a trail of scandal behind her.  She DID enjoy a
gossip, she freely confessed, and liking, quite naturally, to be
the centre of any company, if she had no thrilling tale to tell she
invented one.  Her husband, who was fat and sleepy, spent his days
in the Conservative Club and his evenings at Jimmie's or the
Alhambra or where you please.  He was no trouble to her at all.

Violet, like so many women who married Herries men, became more
Herries than the Herries.  She was patriotic, strictly moral and
all for the law.  Nevertheless any human failing made her happy
because she was never censorious, but treated a 'mishap' as a town
crier treats a lost dog--rang her bell, felt kindly towards the dog
but hoped that it would not be found before the whole town had had
time to observe that it was lost.  Her best women friends among the
Herries were old Phyllis Rochester, Cynthia Worcester, Alfred's
wife (Amery's daughter-in-law) and (again oddly enough) old Emily
Newmark.

She had, of course, many many friends quite outside the Herries
circle, but they were not of quite the same importance to her.  As
she often said:  'Our family holds together.  There's not another
family like it in England for that.'

It happened that, early in September 1889, Violet was very busy.
It had not been a dull summer, for first there had been Mrs
Maybrick (dreadful woman: why was she not hung?), and then those
terrible Dock Strikers who, week after week, poor abandoned
creatures, went about demanding their Rights, starving and
altogether behaving disgracefully.  It was not, however, either Mrs
Maybrick or the Strikers who gave her so agreeable a week or two at
the beginning of this September.  It was a real Herries sensation--
WHAT was happening in Hill Street?

Two years earlier, a week or two after the Jubilee, the question
had been--what WILL happen in Hill Street? for Benjamin Herries had
come to Town, leading his son by the hand, and one of those family
crises so greatly beloved by the Herries promised to be on the way.
Then, to everyone's surprise--to the surprise of old Garth, old
Amery, young Alfred, heavy Emily, dear little Cynthia, even the
stout Barney himself--NOTHING occurred.  Benjie called on none of
them.  He spent an evening or two with Barney; he never went NEAR
Hill Street.  So far as anyone could tell, he neither wrote to
Vanessa nor spoke to her.  Everything had been the more dramatic in
that summer of 1887 because of the dreadful (but rather delightful)
Rose scandal.  She had escaped to Paris with Captain Fred
Wycherley, leaving Mrs Wycherley, poor thing, and two young
children in London.  ('Did you expect him to take them with him?'
Barney asked ironically.)  More than that, she met Carey Rockage in
the Rue de Rivoli one September day and laughed and joked with him
as though nothing had occurred.

Carey was in a fine way because May, his wife, and Maud, his elder
daughter, were at a hotel not two streets distant.  How fearful if
Rose should suggest that she should call!  But Rose (who was
looking both young and pretty, Carey thought) suggested nothing of
the kind.

'I know you have May and Maud with you, Carey.  You were at the
Opra-Comique last night.  If you are making a domestic parade one
day and meet Fred and myself, we shall expect to be cut, you know.
So don't worry.  Only, if out on a little bit of evening fun on
your own, Carey, remember that Fred has his spies everywhere.
He'll give you a tip or two as to the best places if you ask him!
He's the kindest of creatures!'  She went off, laughing, swinging
her bustle.  Poor Rose.  She had been always a coarse woman.
Horace, her brother, married last autumn and it was understood that
he did not wish Rose's name to be mentioned.  Simply because of the
awkwardness that it caused to others.  Looking more like a Bishop
than ever, he let it be understood that he was devoted to Rose.
'Which of us is above reproach?' he inquired of Barney, 'What I
mean, old fellow, is that charity is the finest of the virtues.
For my part I look at the good qualities in my fellow-men.  Who am
I to judge?  And Rose has loved Fred Wycherley for years.'

Nevertheless it could not be expected that Miss Ada Lindsay that
was, a plain pale-faced girl, twenty-one years of age to Horace's
thirty when he married her, coming as she did straight from a
wealthy but Christian family in Kensington, would care to hear such
things mentioned.  What Ada herself thought of it nobody knew
because she seldom spoke.  No one knew what her thoughts were about
anything--including Horace.

However, the really interesting side to Rose's disgrace was that it
was well known in all Herries circles that there was a deep
difference of opinion concerning it in Hill Street.  Ellis was
disgusted, Vanessa would not listen to a word against Rose.
Cynthia Worcester was known to be devoted to Vanessa, to worship
her in fact, but even she confessed that if Vanessa was going to
'bite her nose off like that all about nothing' she would think
twice about visiting Hill Street again.  All that she had said was
that Rose had got at last what she wanted, and Vanessa had turned
on her, scolded her in front of Ellis as though she were ten years
old.

It was plain then that Vanessa's own views on morals were a little
queer.  Had they not always been queer?  After all, had not Judith
Paris been her grandmother, Rogue Herries her great-grandfather?
Had not her own father been illegitimate and her mother a German?
No one meant any of this unkindly.  Vanessa was so beautiful, so
generous and socially so resplendent that one could forgive her
almost anything; nevertheless she belonged to the quarter from
which the dangerous winds were for ever blowing, those winds that
had for centuries disturbed the peace and order of the right-
living, right-thinking Herries.

Benjie, however, was a disappointment.  He did nothing spectacular.
Nobody saw him.  They said that his wife in Cumberland had run away
from him after he had beaten her to jelly, that he drank like a
fish and consorted with abandoned women.  But these things were but
rumour and Barney stoutly denied all of them.  In the winter of '87
he left London for what destination no one knew.

It was in the spring of '88 that everyone began to say that things
were not well in Hill Street.  On the surface everything was very
well indeed.  Vanessa went everywhere and Ellis was often at her
side, looking as proud as a peacock.  Everyone LOVED Vanessa; how
could you help it, so kind and generous and simple-hearted as she
was?  Nevertheless she made few friendships.  Cynthia complained
that 'there was always a barrier', but old Phyllis Rochester said
that Cynthia was 'socially jealous'.  Did Vanessa give herself
airs?  Surely not.  She was the same to everyone, knew no social
distinctions, and had been seen one day by Emily Newmark sitting on
the top of a bus and chatting to the driver.  Her only close friend
was young Adrian Cards.  She certainly spoilt that young man, who,
because he was in the Foreign Office, looked after a Boys' Club in
the East End and wrote for Mr Henley, thought himself quite out of
the ordinary.  OF COURSE no one suggested that Vanessa was in love
with him, but it was agreed that he visited Hill Street a great
deal more often than Ellis cared for, and he helped Vanessa with
her many charities.

Ellis was, in fact, the mystery.  What went on behind that cold
reserved official manner of his?  He loved Vanessa madly: ever MORE
madly as the time went on.  He behaved to her in public with a
really exaggerated courtesy and deference, but it began to be said
that in private he was impossibly jealous.  How do these things
become known?  Miss Fortescue (who, as everyone was aware, did not
like Vanessa) told a thing or two, and there was that occasion when
Alfred and his wife were lunching at Hill Street.  Ellis had left
the table abruptly and had not appeared again.  Very odd.  They all
shook their heads over it.  Then, in the late spring of '89, Benjie
Herries once more reappeared in London.  He lived in two rooms in
Soho Square with his little boy.  Poor little boy!  That was the
first thing that everyone said.  Benjie did not now conceal himself
as he had done on the earlier occasion.  He paid calls on everyone--
including Vanessa--and aroused the greatest interest.  They all
surrendered to his charm while he was WITH them.  He looked
peculiar, wearing clothes of a rough tweed, sometimes the new
knickerbockers, but for the most part loose baggy trousers.  His
tie was generally a deep red in colour and enclosed in a gold ring,
and this colour with his dark skin gave him the nickname of 'the
little gipsy'.  They told one another, however, with a rather
reluctant satisfaction, that you could never mistake him for
anything but a gentleman.  He was always at his ease, laughed like
a boy, was worshipped by any Herries children who happened to be
about.  He made no effort to win the affections of his relations:
they could take him or leave him, and for a while they certainly
took him.  After June there was an exodus from London: Cynthia and
her husband went to Ostend; Timothy and his family to Eastbourne;
Alfred and his wife to Brighton.

Old Emily of course remained, and it was from her one must suppose
that the story spread--the story that one night at the Alhambra,
Benjie was engaged in a disgraceful scuffle, knocked a man down and
spent the night in a police station.  There HAD been a scuffle,
that was certain, but Barney said that it had been extremely
creditable to Benjie.  Some drunken ruffian had insulted the lady
in Benjie's company and Benjie had knocked him down.  But what was
Benjie doing at the Alhambra with a lady and what sort of a lady
was she?

Then in August came the great news that Benjie had paid a call at
Hill Street and been forbidden the house for evermore by Ellis.
This was from Miss Fortescue.

Well, now, what do you think of that?  Somebody said that Ellis had
slapped Benjie's face, someone else that Vanessa had had to rush in
between the two men and separate them.  No one knew what had
happened because nobody was present.  Ellis and Vanessa left town
to pay a series of visits.  They stayed with the Rockages in
Wiltshire, and with Horace Newmark--Barney's brother--now an old
man of seventy in his grand house near Manchester.

It was reported that Vanessa was serene and happy, but that Ellis
was 'queer'.  What do you mean by queer?  Well, May Rockage was
bound to confess that she didn't like the look in Ellis' eye.  He
seemed unhappy if Vanessa left him even for a moment.  Pathetic to
see how he adored her, and Vanessa looked after him as though he
were her son, but he was restless and Carey confessed that 'he
didn't seem normal', the most alarming thing that any one Herries
could say about another.  All the old family scandals were revived,
the misbehaviour of the ancient Rogue, the old quarrel at
Christabel's ball, the suicide of Francis, and of course the
dreadful affair of poor John and the crazy Uhland.  Was the family
never to be allowed to sit down quietly by its fireside and enjoy
its domesticity, serve the country and worship its Maker?  What was
this crazy spirit that refused to leave them alone?  Benjie was as
bad as the old Rogue, and the sooner he left the country for good
the better.

Early in September most of the Herries were back in London again;
Vanessa was at Hill Street, Amery and Alfred in Tavistock Square,
Timothy and Violet in Onslow Square, and Emily remained in Tutton
Street, South Kensington.

So one fine September afternoon Violet thought that she would go
and see what everyone was thinking.  She took her son, young
Timothy, aged now twelve, with her.  Timothy was a beautiful boy;
she refused to cut his hair, which fell in gold ringlets to his
broad white collar.  For parties or calls he was dressed in a black
velvet suit.  He was the pride of his mother's heart.  It is sad to
have to record that at this period of his life he detested his
mother.  He was not allowed to go to school, but shared his
sister's governess.  He was washed and dressed and brushed morning,
noon and evening.  He loathed his long hair, his velvet suit, the
comments of his mother's friends; he was mocked at and shouted
after by little street boys; he cried himself to sleep at nights
because of their insults.  The only thing in the world for which he
cared was to draw and paint; this he must do in secret because his
father, whom he rarely saw, laughed at such nonsense and his mother
showed his drawings to her friends.  He had to drive in an open
carriage in the Park with his mama, he had to sit on a chair in
ladies' drawing-rooms and be commented on as though he were
something in a circus.  His settled resolve was to run away as soon
as the proper moment occurred.  Barney Newmark was his only friend.
Barney had said to Timothy:  'What the devil do you dress the poor
child up like that for?  It's cruelty to children, poor little
beggar,' and Violet, hearing of this, never forgave him.

On this particular afternoon in Cynthia Worcester's drawing-room,
he was not altogether out of place.  Two young poets were present,
a lady dressed in blue velvet and peacock's feathers, and Mr Oscar
Wilde.  Mr Wilde was very kind to him, sat beside him in a corner
and told him a story about a young Prince who ran away from his
father's kingdom and became a bell ringer in a church with a
wonderfully high tower.  One day when the Prince was ringing the
bells, a swallow flew into the tower and rested on his shoulder.
The swallow had damaged its wing, so the Prince took it back with
him to the cottage where he was living . . .

At this point the ladies demanded that Mr Wilde should entertain
them, so the tall heavy man with the grave eyes and the beautiful
voice had reluctantly to leave young Tim, who never afterwards
forgot him.

Two more men and a girl came in.  There was a great chatter.
Violet admired Cynthia's looks but she must say she couldn't admire
the way that she did her drawing-room with the pale grey wallpaper,
some flowers in a white vase, a Japanese screen, one little table
with some odd-looking thin books upon it--nothing else.  No
photographs!  No cosy coverings to her room, no fans pinned to the
wall, or shelves with cups and saucers and large blue plates.
However, Cynthia LOVED a good talk and was just jealous enough of
Vanessa to enjoy a story or two.  You could not find two types more
exactly opposite than Cynthia--so small and fair, with such very
light-blue eyes--and Vanessa--tall, dark, 'one of Du Maurier's
women', or as Horace Ormerod liked to say impressively, '"A
daughter of the gods divinely fair"--fair in the sense of
beautiful, you know.'  So that there was just enough difference
between the two for Cynthia not to object to a little scandal . . .
no harm, only to ask where Benjie was, had anyone seen him,
did Cynthia know what Ellis, when he was staying down in
Wiltshire . . . ?

So that Violet was pleased when the two young men and the girl came
in, because now it would be perfectly easy to have a little chat
with Cynthia without disturbing the others.  Smiling happily upon
everyone as though she would say, 'Now I know I'm a large woman and
when I move it is a little upsetting, but I like you all immensely
and you must none of you be disturbed,' she drew her chair closer
to Cynthia's.

'Cynthia darling--what BEAUTIFUL teacups!  Where did you find them?
Everything you have is always so lovely.  Listen, dear.'  She
dropped her voice.  'HAVE you heard what Benjie has been doing?
They tell me that Ellis . . .'

But something was wrong.  For once Cynthia did not appear to be
attending.

She said:  'Yes, Violet dear, how interesting!' but her sharp blue
eyes were fastened on the heavy frock-coated man with the pale
jowl, the friendly smile, the heavily lidded eyes, who, standing in
front of the fireplace, talked with a self-confidence that awed
Violet although privately she thought it a little vulgar.

One of the young men said something with a titter about the Queen.
All the patriotic Herries in Violet (acquired by marriage) was
affronted.  Smiling very brightly she said:

'The Queen!  Surely we must be proud to HAVE such a Queen.  Young
man, you are disloyal.'  (Shaking her finger at him playfully.)

'Violet is really dreadful when she's coy,' thought Cynthia, and
for the first time (because she was not interested in children)
wondered whether it was not rather a shame that poor child on the
sofa (to whom one of ladies was now talking) should be dressed as a
doll.

Mr Wilde said:  'The Queen?  Do you know, madam, what Thackeray
once wrote about our Queen?'

'No,' said Violet, 'Something fine, I'm sure.'

'Very fine,' said Mr Wilde, looking at her with so kindly an
expression that she wondered whether she would not invite him to
luncheon.  'He wrote, as nearly as I recollect, something like
this:  "I salute the sovereign; the good mother; the accomplished
lady; the enlightened friend of art."'

'How very fine--and how true!' said Violet.

'Not true at all, madam.  The Queen has not been a good mother, she
is not accomplished, and she has not been a friend to art in any
fashion whatever.'

Everyone laughed, Violet felt most uncomfortable.

'We owe to her in fact the present interest in the Arts.  An
Englishman is only an artist when those in authority despise the
Arts.'

'What about Queen Elizabeth?' said Cynthia, laughing.

'Do you imagine that Elizabeth was an artist or cared for the Arts?
She wanted to be entertained and made love to, and because the Arts
then were part of a man's daily life, to tempt a man to make love
to you was to rouse the artist in him.  The Arts today can only
exist by separating themselves from daily life.  That is why the
real artists today are never successful lovers, live from hand to
mouth and wander the streets.  Very different from the life of our
Queen.'

'You are forgetting Mr Kipling,' said Violet, who had been
persuaded only a week or two ago to read Soldiers Three.

'Mr Kipling believes in the Empire,' said Mr Wilde, smiling.

'Do we not all believe in the Empire?' asked Violet, pleased that
she was holding her own in this very intellectual conversation.

'Do you know what Tennyson wrote for the Jubilee?'

'A very splendid poem, I remember,' said Violet.  'He wrote:


    'Fifty years of ever-broadening Commerce!
     Fifty years of ever-brightening Science!
     Fifty years of ever-widening Empire!'


Everyone laughed, but Violet did not see that there was anything to
laugh at.  Uncomfortable without knowing why, she waited a minute
or two and then attempted Cynthia again:

'Do tell me, Cynthia darling.  Have you been to Hill Street since
they came back from the country?  How did you think Vanessa was
looking?'

'No, I haven't seen Vanessa for weeks.'

'It seems that Ellis has been behaving so very strangely--not
sleeping, they say, and absurdly jealous.  Phyllis had a letter
from May Rockage . . .'

Everyone was laughing.  The young man with the flowing black tie on
the sofa had been drawing a picture for Timothy, and here was
Timothy actually himself drawing something!

'It's a ship!  It's a ship!' he cried excitedly.

One of the other young men jumped up and began to recite
dramatically:


    'Spirit of Beauty!  Tarry still awhile.
       They are not dead, thine ancient votaries,
     Some few there are to whom thy radiant smile
       Is better than a thousand victories,
     Though all the nobly slain of Waterloo
     
     Rise up in wrath against them!  Tarry still, there are a few
     Who for thy sake would give their manlihood
       And consecrate their being.  I at least
     Have done so, made thy lips my daily food,
       And in thy temples found a goodlier feast
     Than this starved age can give me, spite of all
     Its new-found creeds so sceptical and so dogmatical.'


'A very good poem,' said Mr Wilde, 'whoever wrote it.  Its fault is
that it contains a philosophy.  Poetry has nothing to do with
philosophy, but only with feeling.'

'You had a philosophy when you wrote it, Oscar,' said one of the
young men.

'Yes, and got rid of it by writing about it.  Any philosophy is
foolish if you look it in the face.  Christ hid His face, you
remember, to cover the foolishness of His disciples.  And that is
why He loved John, because John had no philosophy--only feeling.'

'What very bad taste,' Violet thought, 'to talk about Christ in
that ordinary fashion.'

Nevertheless it was now that she was disturbed by an odd sensation.
There was something in this room that deprived her of her desire
for gossip.  It was not that she thought the Arts important; the
young men looked most unhealthy, and Mr Wilde's complexion was
anything but hearty.  Nor was she ashamed of wishing to talk about
the family, but there was something here before which personalities
seemed unimportant.  She felt frustrated, prevented.  Even Cynthia,
whom she knew so well, was different.  The things of which these
men talked were not in Violet's mind beautiful, and yet beauty was
in the air.  Perhaps after all her drawing-room in Onslow Square
was a little overcrowded.  The flowers in the white vase were a
pretty colour . . .

It was almost as though someone had laid a hand on her mouth.  She
was most uncomfortable and thought at the first opportunity she
would make an excuse and go.

One of the young men had, it seemed, but just returned from Paris
and had seen there a performance of Othello.

'The absurdity about Othello,' Cynthia said, 'is that he should be
upset so easily by so trivial a matter.  A magnificent general, the
strongest man in the State, and a little strawberry-spotted
handkerchief--'

'You are wrong, dear lady,' said Mr Wilde.  The tragedy of Othello
is not Desdemona.  She is only one element in his downfall.  We
know, when he appears before the Senate, that he is poised above an
abyss.  He knows, we know, the Senate knows, that this new command
is his last chance.  He would have been recalled from Cyprus and
Cassio given his place had there been no wife, no jealousy, no
murder.  Before the play begins he has reached the moment that
comes to every man when the journey downhill has started.  I have
always seen Othello played as though he were a king of men in the
majesty of purple triumph, with the trumpets sounding about him.
That is wrong; he has the bitter knowledge that the glory is
already in the past.  It is of the past that he speaks to
Desdemona, not the future.  He comes to the Senate, leading
Desdemona by the hand, and despair is already seated in his eyes.
Great success demands great failure.'  He laughed, smiling at them
all.  'I am already preparing for the day when I shall know St
Helena, and perhaps Calvary.  I hope I shall not complain, because
the only artist who can count himself fortunate is he who has
learnt the value of great failure.  When Othello pierced his breast
with his sword and remembered Aleppo his soul cried triumphantly:
"Now my experience is complete.  I thank the Gods!"  For Othello
was undoubtedly a great artist.'

'You are making him out to be as self-conscious as yourself,
Oscar,' said one of the young men.

'Not to be self-conscious is not to be conscious at all,' Mr Wilde
answered.

'And not to be conscious at all--well, that is to be "Ruskin".'

Everyone laughed, although again Violet saw nothing funny in the
remark.  Mr Ruskin, whose name was constantly in the paper, was
most certainly of a greater importance than Mr Wilde.  To be
important was, apparently, with these young men, to be mocked at.
The Queen, Lord Tennyson, Mr Kipling, Thackeray, Mr Ruskin . . . it
was some comfort to her to recollect that she admired them all.
She wanted to remain and she wanted to go.  Something stirred in
her.  The house in Onslow Square, Timothy, the general trend and
colour of her daily life--she was suddenly dissatisfied with them
all.  Family gossip, for a moment, seemed stupid and worthless.

But this was absurd.  She resented her disloyalty to herself.  She
got up to go.

'Do tell me, Mr Wilde,' she said, 'one or two interesting new poets
to read.'

He regarded her with so kindly a glance that once again she
wondered whether she would not invite him to luncheon.

'I am afraid there ARE no new poets,' he answered her.  'But then
there never have been.  The best poets are old from the beginning.
Mr Dowson there is a poet, and a very old one indeed, although he
only left Oxford a year or so ago.'  He indicated one of the young
men on the sofa.

'I will remember.'  She nodded graciously to the young man.  'Come,
Timothy.  Well, Cynthia, it has been most delightful.  You must
come to luncheon one day soon, dear, and perhaps you will bring Mr
Wilde with you.'

But in the carriage she was indignant.  Whatever had possessed her
to be affected by two or three young men who were so irreverent and
common?  And how stupid of her to have determined to have a word or
two with Cynthia.  It was a lovely afternoon; she would drive to
Kensington and see old Emily, who always loved a gossip and was
certain to know the latest thing about Vanessa and Ellis.

Timothy was silent as he always was when exposed in public.  But he
was not unhappy.  He thought longingly of the large heavy man who
had begun to tell him a story and the other pale-faced man who had
drawn things for him, who had not laughed at his own drawing of a
ship but on the contrary had liked it so well that he had shown it
to his friend.

The weather brought out the bicycles.  What Timothy longed for more
than any of the world's treasures was a bicycle.  As a very small
infant at Uldale he had seen Mr Rander, the clergyman from Ireby,
ride a penny-farthing, and that glorious entrancing vehicle with
its high front wheel and tiny back wheel had seemed to him the
height of possible adventure.  Now first Mr Stanley and then Mr
Dunlop had provided safety and reasonableness.  Everyone was
beginning to bicycle.  Timothy, sitting stiffly opposite his mama
wishing that his hands were as large as umbrellas that they might
cover his velvet suit, thought of the kind gentleman who had told
him a story, and then with longing eyes looked out on the driver of
the omnibus, yet more fervently on the driver of the hansom, but
most passionately of all upon the bicyclist.  It was the bicycle
that must be--not, he hoped, so far distantly--his engine of
escape!

'Now here we are at Miss Newmark's,' said Violet to her little son,
speaking with some severity.  She was still uncomfortable, still
felt the touch of an unknown hand upon her mouth . . .

Here at any rate there would be no hindrance to a nice heart-to-
heart gossip.  But, as always when she was ill at ease, she was
severe with her children, and now she spoke impatiently to Timothy
and told Hunter, the coachman, that she might be a long time, she
might not, she did not know, she could not tell, all this in the
severe irritable voice that the Herries always use when they are
nervous.

She had no need to be nervous as she stood, holding Timothy's hand
outside the gloomy plague-stricken door of Miss Newmark's
Kensington home.  She had been here so very often before and called
the door 'plague-stricken' because the paint had faded and
blistered until the surface represented a chart for one of the more
sinister Oriental diseases.  Above the door was a top hat made of
iron and painted a faded green.  The lower part of the house had
once belonged to a hatter.  Violet had often noticed how, when she
called upon Emily on a sunny day, there was always a gloomy sky in
Emily's street.  Very odd--as though the houses in Emily's street
were mountains!  It was the same today.  Just as Parker, Emily's
viperish maid, opened the door, the first drop of rain fell.
Parker had been with Emily for twenty years and hated and despised
all her fellow human beings without any exception whatever, save
only her mistress.  She could not be said to love her mistress,
because she was part of her, bone of her bone and flesh of her
flesh, and both Parker and Emily were above any kind of personal
vanity.  But Parker was of importance at this moment in the Herries
family affairs because she was on speaking terms with Miss
Fortescue from Hill Street.  Miss Fortescue, who as a child had
lived in a family of Second Adventists, visited Emily frequently
and had many a chat with Parker before she left the house.  These
little social contacts have made history before now.

Violet and Timothy climbed the steep dark stairs and heard the
thunder roll beyond the walls.

'I said it was going to thunder,' said Violet.  All the way up the
staircase Timothy gazed with a terrified eye at the series of
pictures from the Bible decorating the wall.  He hated to come to
this house for many reasons, but chiefly because of these pictures,
which represented all the more dreadful scenes in Old Testament
history--the murder of Abel, the destruction of the Cities of the
Plain, the Flood, the Serpent in the Wilderness, the Plagues of the
Egyptians.  He wanted to hurry past, but his mother held him always
tightly by the hand; her movements were slow and solemn.  He wanted
not to look, but was compelled.  There was in one picture a fat
snake with a flicking tongue, which writhed its coils around a
shrieking woman and her child.  That snake was remembered by
Timothy all his life long.

'Mrs Bellairs and Master Bellairs, Miss Newmark.'  So Parker always
announced them in tones of the deepest dissatisfaction.  She called
her mistress 'Miss Newmark' on every occasion.  They both preferred
it.

In spite of the gloomy and uncertain light of the drawing-room,
Violet saw at once that there were other visitors.  Emily, now a
large and heavy woman with hair of steely grey, a slight grey
moustache on her upper lip, dressed always in black and having the
oddest resemblance at times both in voice and features to her very
different brother Barney, came forward and greeted them.

'Miss Pope.  Mr Pope.  Mrs Glass,' she said, introducing a pale
young woman, a young man and a stout round lady wearing an old-
fashioned bonnet, a very large bustle and a cashmere shawl.

On all ordinary occasions when Violet paid Emily a visit the same
procedure was followed: first Timothy was put into a corner of a
sofa and given a large illustrated Bible to look at and then the
two ladies drew up to the fire (or the window if it were summer)
and gossiped away the fortunes and happiness of every Herries in
England.  But today things were different.  The lady in the shawl,
Mrs Glass, said almost at once to Timothy:  'Oh, the pretty dear!
Come and talk to me, my dear, and tell me where you got your lovely
curls from.'

The room was littered with properties, sacred and reminiscent:
Bibles, huge sea-shells, family albums, and volumes of poetry of a
pious nature.  These things gave the room the homely comfort which
it needed.  But today there was no homely comfort.  Although the
curtains were drawn and the gas lit, the thunderstorm could very
distinctly be heard.

'I'll ring for some fresh tea,' said Emily.

'Oh no,' said Violet.  'I have had some tea with Cynthia'--then
wished that she had not mentioned Cynthia, because Emily
disapproved of her even more than she did of Vanessa.  But today
the mention of Cynthia roused no response.  Emily seemed absent-
minded.  The three visitors were talking together, making a fuss of
Timothy, who was struggling with a vast fragment of ancient and
desiccated seed-cake.

Violet sighed, then patted Emily's knee.

'Well, how are you, my dear?  I thought that I must just drive
round and see how you were.  For one thing Phillis has had a letter
from May Rockage that would, I was certain, interest you.  Vanessa
and Ellis have been staying with them, you know, and it seems from
what May says that Ellis's jealousy is becoming QUITE abnormal.
She says that if Vanessa leaves the room for a single moment he
begins--'

'There you are, Miss Pope!' Emily suddenly interrupted.  'Just what
you said!  A thunderstorm!  Now isn't that strange after Mr
Euclid's sermon last Sunday evening?  Did he not foretell this very
thing?  God will thunder forth from His Heavens that we may be
warned of the Wrath to come!  Those were his very words.  Violet,
I've told you again and again that you should go to St Hilary's of
a Sunday.  Yes, and bring your husband with you.  It would do him a
world of good . . .  Listen to that thunder!  God speaking to us if
ever He did and yet we will not listen . . .  I beg your pardon,
Violet . . .  What were you saying about May Rockage?'

But here the pale young woman, Miss Pope, interrupted.  She had,
Violet thought, a HYSTERICAL face, for set like little fires in
that pallor were her large burning eyes.  She had a quiet, rather
pleasing voice; her long, thin hands were clasped together as she
spoke, and her body trembled slightly.

'Miss Newmark, you must come next time with my brother and myself.
Really you must!  You cannot imagine how affecting it was!  The
dock directors are monstrous.  They could not behave as they do had
they seen some of the sights that Edward and I see every day.  They
refuse to agree to the payment of sixpence an hour.  Sixpence an
hour!  They would give a dog more!  Dr Liddon's fund for the women
and children is being wonderfully supported and that shows what the
public feeling is!  You should go down to the docks, Miss Newmark!
They are empty.  The Corn Exchange and the Coal Exchange are
practically empty.  You should have heard how Mr Burns and Mr
Tillett were cheered last week, by big City men themselves.  I
cannot sleep, Miss Newmark, thinking of the women and children--the
starving children--'

Violet thought that she was about to cry, and oh! how uncomfortable
that would be!

Emily said:  'God is working for them.  The day will come when
these wicked oppressors will be punished as they deserve.'  Her
voice was gentle.  She was touched as Violet had never seen her
before.  Really, with the thunder outside and this emotion inside,
the atmosphere of the room was quite embarrassing, but soon the
three on the sofa with Timothy began to talk eagerly together once
more.

'Have you seen Vanessa since she returned, Emily?' Violet asked.

'No, my dear.'

'I do hope that everything is all right in Hill Street.  You know
that Benjie is in London again . . .'

'We should go through the streets,' Emily cried, 'with Christ at
our head and FORCE the world to listen.  I suggest, Miss Pope, that
you go and see Mr Euclid and suggest something of the kind to him.
I know that you would find him sympathetic.  We don't ask God's
help enough.  That's what _I_ think!  We try with our own feeble
hands to build up His kingdom.  We can do nothing of ourselves.'

'You are right, Miss Newmark,' said the young man in a voice
unexpectedly deep and manly.  He got up.  'Would you mind--should
we not offer up a prayer now to Almighty God and ask Him to help
these poor brothers and sisters of ours?  Where two or three are
gathered together . . .'

He went down on his knees, almost upsetting the table as he did so.
The three ladies did the same and Violet was also compelled to do
so, although she felt extremely awkward.

'O Lord!' said Mr Pope, 'we Thy humble servants gathered by chance
together speak to Thee with one voice for our unhappy brothers and
sisters.  We have sinned in our selfishness.  We have not asked for
Thy guidance.  Show us, dear Lord, in Thine own good time how
these, our suffering brothers and sisters, may be rightly helped
and taken out of their undeserved misery, and open the hearts of
the wicked taskmasters that they may incline towards mercy and know
that without Thee the temple that they build rests on sand.  Show
us what to do, O Lord, and give us strength so that without fear we
may go forward in Thy good work to Thy glory, world without end,
Amen.'

'Amen,' said everyone.

Then Emily repeated the Lord's Prayer.

When they rose from their knees they showed no shyness at all, but
began eagerly to talk together.

For the second time that afternoon Violet felt that a hand had been
laid on her mouth,

There was nothing to do but go.

'Come, Timothy! . . .  Well, Emily,' she broke in upon their talk,
'we must be on our way.  Do let me know in what way I can help.  I
had no idea that the poor people were suffering so.  It does seem
too bad indeed.'

She embraced Emily, bowed to the others and departed.

In the carriage again, as she turned towards home, she felt vexed
and uneasy.  There had been something very queer abroad this
afternoon.  Now, as they drove through the streets, the lamps
seemed to blow in the breeze that had sprung up, everyone was
moving swiftly as though bent on some secret mission.  Her mind
hung about Vanessa.  Vanessa was in great trouble.  She was sure of
it.  It was as though the lights, the passers-by, the air of the
September evening thickening as though with a film of thin smoke
about the roofs and chimneys--all these formed a clouded mirror in
whose glass she saw pictures shaping.  Real trouble.  Not something
at a distant remove, about which it would be amusing to gossip.
Her heart was moved, she could not tell why.  She made Timothy sit
beside her, wrapping the carriage rug round him, then put her arm
about him drawing him closer to her.  She would go and see Vanessa
tomorrow . . .

Vanessa was in trouble.  And then these poor people at the
Docks . . .

'How much is there in your money box, Timothy?'

'I don't know, Mama.  About three shillings, I think.'

'Wouldn't it be nice to give it to those poor women who can't give
their children enough to eat?'

'Yes, Mama.'

But he thought:  'Now it will be longer than ever to buy the
bicycle.'

'We must be kind to everyone,' said his mother, kissing him.



A JOURNAL AND SOME LETTERS


Barney Newmark kept for many years a Journal.  In 1896 he squeezed
out of it what he felt to be some of the more interesting passages
and made a volume of reminiscences which failed to attract much
attention,* but for the purposes of a family chronicle some
extracts from the original diaries are of interest.  It was their
misfortune, from the ordinary reader's point of view, that they
dealt with private persons rather than public, family incidents
rather than general affairs.  He had always kept them for his own
amusement and in that at least he had the advantage of some of his
contemporaries.


* Some Memories, by Barnabus Newmark.  Hatcher and Thorburn, 1896.


February 4th, 1890

. . . I could not conceive what he wanted me there for.  I came to
the house, I'll confess, in spite of my advanced years, rather like
a naughty schoolboy ordered to the headmaster's study.  He has of
course never liked me.  That is in fact putting it mildly.  I date
his positive antagonism from that evening long ago when he went
with me and young Benjie on an evening out, went reluctant and
returned disgusted.  With the years his dislike has grown to a kind
of horror.  I stand for everything that he most abominates--a
writer of cheap novels, irreligious, a lover of horses and women, a
gambler, a drunkard.  That I have been none of these things very
desperately has given him only the greater displeasure.  Had I gone
to the dogs he could have pitied me.  As it is I have kept my head
just sufficiently above water to be still a danger.  Vanessa's
persistent loyalty to me has only aggravated the trouble.  This is
the first time that he has asked to see me for at least twenty
years.  The odd thing is that I have always rather liked him.  He
has an integrity that I can admire.  Then I understand so well his
desire to win affection and his inability to do so, his shyness,
his rectitude of conduct, his honesty.  But is not his rectitude at
last threatened?  After yesterday I am inclined to think so.

I arrived at Hill Street punctually at four o'clock.  Orders had
been given that I was to be taken straight to his private Cave and
I was conveyed up dark stairs and along sombre passages as though I
were either a criminal or a spy--both, perhaps.

He was not there when I arrived and I had time to look about me in
what is surely one of the gloomiest little rooms in London--
bookcases filled with those dreary volumes of Journals and Papers
marked with little white paper labels, a bald bust of some dead
Roman, a large stern writing-table with silver writing things and
an immaculate blotter, a grim, grizzling little fire and two
leather armchairs.  Poor Ellis!  Many is the time, I am sure, that
he has paced that little room, wondering why things are wrong when
he is himself so right, shrinking from a world that he would give
his soul to placate, lonely and bewildered, suspicious and uneasy.

I was not there very long.  He came in, said:  'Well, Barney, how
are you?' asked me to sit down, seated himself opposite me, and
then, tapping his fingers together, looked all round and about him
with a kind of distressed dismay on his features that was both
pathetic and funny.

We hung about for a long time without coming to the point.  He said
that it was a long while since we had met, that it was a pity, that
he understood that Allsopp's brewery was in difficulties, that the
shortage of gold made separate bank reserves very difficult, that
it was high time the Treasury dealt with the Coinage question, and
so on and so on.  He asked me whether I was writing anything just
now in that tone in which people who despise novels speak to
novelists--as you might inquire of a coiner whether he has been
doing well lately.

I made some suitable reply and then silence fell.  I had no
intention of helping him out.  It was his affair, not mine.

Then suddenly it came:

Would I use my influence to persuade Benjie Herries to leave
England?

So that was it?  I stared and said nothing.  He was extremely
uncomfortable.  He got up and began to walk the room.  I must
understand that he had nothing against the fellow.  He disliked
him, of course.  He would be perfectly frank with me.  He had
always disliked him.  He dare say that he was well enough from his
own point of view, but I would have to admit that he had never been
a credit to the family--very much the opposite in fact.  His life,
quite frankly, had been something of a scandal.  That was Benjie's
private affair.  The last thing that Ellis wanted to do was to
interfere with anyone's private life, but his continued residence
here in London was distressing to many of us, and he, Ellis, as
head of the family in London, had felt for a considerable time that
something ought to be done.  He wished me to understand that he
brought no kind of personal charge and he hoped that I would regard
this conversation as most strictly confidential.  I broke in there
that of course he understood that I was Benjie's friend.  I also
asked him did he wish me to tell Benjie that he had spoken to me?

To which he answered in great distress, Oh no! of course not!  The
last thing that he wanted was any quarrel with Benjie.  It was
unfortunate, most unfortunate, that some time ago he had been
compelled to ask Benjie not to pay any more visits in Hill Street.
He regretted it, regretted it greatly, but on his last visit he had
been so outrageous in some of his views and had behaved most
insultingly to Miss Fortescue--'My wife's lady housekeeper,' he
added, poor dear, as though he didn't know that _I_ know exactly
all that Miss Fortescue is and how thoroughly Vanessa has always
detested her.

But really, he went on, the point was simply this.  He did not wish
to detain me.  He knew that I was an extremely busy man.  Did I
think that I could persuade Benjie that a residence abroad would be
more suitable, more suitable in every way . . . more suitable in
every way? . . .  While he was speaking my mind ran over past
family history.  How odd this perpetual desire in our family for
one member to rid himself of another!  Old Francis the Rogue and
his brother, Jennifer and Christabel, Walter and Jennifer, John and
Uhland--as though it is a law with us that one half of us shall
always aggravate the other to madness!  Yes, to madness!  As I
watched Ellis, with his pale face, long restless hands, pacing up
and down the room, it seemed to me that there was a kind of
insanity, born of brooding unhappiness and perhaps jealousy--born
anyway of a tormented unsatisfied love--not so far away!

I replied, quietly enough, that I certainly could not ask Benjie to
leave the country.  I could not agree with him that Benjie was a
scandal.  He was sometimes in London, sometimes abroad; he had his
own friends, lived his own life.  I could not see that he did harm
to anyone.

At that Ellis became more agitated.  Oh, indeed!  And what had I to
say to his fight at the Alhambra and a night in Vine Street?  What
had I to say to . . .  Here, with a great effort, he pulled himself
up.  He must repeat that he had no charges against Benjie.  It was
only for his own good, for his own good and the general good . . .
Did I think--Here he paused, seemed to be greatly agitated.  Did I
think that a sum of money? . . .  He was prepared to offer . . .

At that I rose from my stiff leather chair.

'Look here Ellis,' I said.  'This goes no further of course.  It
ends here.  But you don't know what you're saying.  You send for me
and suggest to me that I should bribe a friend of mine for no
reason whatever to leave the country, go into exile.  He has a son,
you know, a fine little boy.  Frankly I shall forget that we ever
had this conversation.  It is not worthy of you.'

I went to the door.  He followed me and looked at me for a moment
with such malevolence that it was a new Ellis, one I had never seen
before.

'Oh, of course,' he said.  'You are his friend.  I might have
known . . .  GOOD afternoon'

And that was all.  I was out of the house almost as soon as I was
in it.  As I walked away I thought that I had never known a queerer
business.  How could he have supposed for a moment that I would
have listened to anything of the kind?  And to what a pitch of
brooding and suspicion he must have come to send for ME, whom he
has always so greatly disliked!  At first I was so angry that I
felt like turning back and punching his head.  Then the pathos of
the man himself came to me.  And after that real fear and anxiety
for Vanessa.  I have known for some while that things are not going
well with her, but she keeps up so brave a front that none of us
can tell what is really happening to her.  Is she meeting Benjie?
Does Ellis know of something hidden from the rest of us?  Of one
thing I am sure--that she will be honest and straightforward in all
her dealings; but all last night the thought of her enclosed behind
those walls with Ellis for her companion and Fortescue in
attendance--well, frankly it spoilt my evening.  But I have put
everything concerned with this little incident down here exactly as
it occurred.  The facts may be useful one day.  I am Benjie's
friend, Vanessa's friend, even--who knows?--Ellis' friend.  A
nuisance for an old, selfish, comfort-loving bachelor who hates to
be disturbed.  All day today I have been tempted to go and see
Vanessa.  But no.  It is better that I avoid Hill Street for a
time.  The nuisance is that tonight when I should have been getting
on with my novel I haven't been able to think of a thing.  Quite
impossible to get Vanessa and Ellis out of my head!


From Vanessa Herries to Rose Ormerod at 27 Rue Montaigne, Paris


                                                September 6th, 1850

MY DEAREST ROSE--I have the whole evening to myself--Ellis has gone
out to some meeting and I have done what I love better than
anything else in the world, gone to bed, had some supper on a tray
and now can write you a long letter without fear of any
interruption.

After you left on Wednesday I was very unhappy.  We had so short a
time together and said so little although we both wanted to say so
much.  I was unhappy too because I knew that you were.  You could
not disguise it from me.  All your brave talk about your loving to
be alone and Fred's having been so generous in his settlement and
your finding it such a relief to have done with men for ever--none
of it deceived me in the least.  The very fact that we had to meet
as furtively as we did in Miss Mercer's rooms speaks volumes!  You
and I furtive!  Doesn't that of itself show that there is something
very wrong?  Why not have come to Hill Street?  Ellis would not
have eaten you.  You never used to be afraid of anyone.  And
although you pretended that it was for MY sake.  Well, I can deal
with Ellis, you know.  I haven't lived with him all these years for
nothing!  It struck me suddenly tonight with a kind of terror that
for the first time in all our married life I have, in this one
week, concealed two things from him--one my meeting with you, the
other, well, I will tell you of the other in a moment.

But now, Rose, listen.  Let me tell you here sitting alone in my
room, loving you very dearly, something that I could not when we
were together.  The association with Fred Wycherley has been
dreadfully bad for you.  You know it better than I.  I was shocked
at the change and more shocked still at your own consciousness of
it.  You saw also a change in me.  Yes, it is true.  I know now
this about life--that, far more than I had ever supposed, we affect
one another.  To live with another is to have to fight for your own
integrity morning and night.  I suppose if you love someone enough
you lose your own integrity and find another much finer.  But if
you don't . . .  You know, Rose, when leaning on that hideous
mantelpiece at Miss Mercer's you looked over your shoulder and
said:  'Vanessa, men don't mind what they turn their women into', I
knew and you knew where you have got to in these last years.  Rose
darling, oh darling darling Rose, let this life go.  Leave Paris.
Settle somewhere in England where it isn't too dull.  You have some
money, you have intelligence enough not to need the kind of life
Fred gave you.  I suppose you don't hunger for Cumberland all day
and every day as I do, but why not try it for a while?  Try Eskdale
or Coniston or Ullswater for a month or two.  They are lovely in
the autumn.  The Cumbrians are kindly uninquisitive folk.  Why not
bring that Mlle Mathieu with you whom you like?  I don't know.
Making plans for others is never any good, but if you were to tell
me that I was to have a week on Cat Bells beginning tomorrow, I
think I'd just go crazy with joy!  But Ellis is frightened of
Cumberland.  He thinks I'll go wild there, leave him for a gipsy or
something.  Yes, after all these years of my good proper social
behaviour he still fears it.  More now than ever.  Which brings me
to the other thing.  I nearly told you on Wednesday.  I tell you
now because you are the only one I can tell.  I won't even say that
it's a secret.  If Ellis asks me tomorrow morning:  'Have you seen
Benjie Herries?' I shall say yes and tell him all (or almost all)
about it.  But if he doesn't ask me . . .

This is all it is, my grand secret.  Since 1887 I have seen Benjie
a few times and spoken with him, but never by arrangement.  I saw
him at the Jubilee Procession.  I saw him once at the Theatre.  On
neither occasion did we exchange a word.  Last week on a lovely
afternoon I had been visiting Cynthia, I sent the carriage back and
walked in the Park.  I was wandering down one of the paths,
thinking how old I was getting (I am thirty-one, you know),
frightened as old married ladies will be at the way that life was
passing, when I looked up and there was Benjie with his little boy
walking straight into me!  Well, what were we to do?  We couldn't,
all things considered, just pass one another with a stiff bow!  I
had never seen his little boy.  But in any case we could not stop
to reason.  We have been friends since we were babies.  He belongs
to all my life, all of it that I love the most passionately.  We--
oh well, why explain anything to you?  There we were and both of us
so happy at meeting that we could only look at one another, without
words.  It was, as it always is when we are together, as though we
had never parted.  We sat down on a bench, the little boy beside
me.  We had then the happiest hour of our lives.  We did not mind
who saw us.  People were passing all the time.  If Ellis had come
by, I would not have cared.  What was there to be ashamed of?  Even
Ellis must admit that all this time we have done our duty, never
tried to see one another, never written.  We love one another of
course.  We have always loved one another.  I have no doubt that if
we had married as we meant to, we would have been very unhappy, but
happiness and unhappiness have nothing to do with love.  If Ellis
asks me--as he will one day--do you love Benjie, of course I will
say yes.  I will never lie to him or to anyone.  We thought of none
of this, not of Ellis nor the family nor anyone at all but
ourselves.  He told me about his life, that he was lonely, that Tom
his boy--who is six now--is going soon to a little day school in
Bloomsbury; I told him a little about Hill Street--not everything.
But we didn't talk very much as I remember.  We were simply so
happy to be together again.  Then we walked a little way and
parted.  We made an arrangement to meet in Barney's rooms.  He was
to be there and I was to come as though by accident.  But in the
evening when I was home again I knew that it would not do.  I wrote
him a letter saying that we must not meet again and I know that I
was right.  Nothing stands still.  At every meeting it would be
harder to part and what would the end of it be?  But, Rose--never
forget it--Benjie has been wonderful during these years.  With his
character and nature to keep away as he has done, to help me by
keeping away--no man has ever done anything finer.

Well, there it is.  So we go on, the three of us, doing our best.
The queer thing is that since that meeting, Ellis, although he
can't possibly know of it, has been increasingly uneasy and
suspicious.  He isn't well, is working too hard and has dreadful
headaches.  Then there is Miss Fortescue, who hates me, of course,
and would do me harm if she could.  Poor Ellis--if only he would be
content with what we have.  All these years we have been friends.
When he is happy we are SUCH good friends and life goes so calmly,
but lately I have been afraid.  He behaved so strangely last year
in Wiltshire that everyone noticed it.  His love frightens me
often and is becoming every week less tranquil.  Can I manage
all this?  Of course I can.  I have never been beaten by anything
yet, but marriage isn't easy when it's dramatic--or perhaps it is
I who hate scenes.  HOW I hate them!  Their childishness and
extravagance . . .

Rose, darling, goodnight.  Come away from Paris.  Come home.  I saw
Horace yesterday and his silent wife.  He was VERY cheerful and
bright and breezy--Your most loving

                                                        VANESSA


Part of a letter from Mrs Timothy Bellairs to Miss Lavinia Newmark,
              Constance Court, near Manchester.


                                                    June 25th, 1891

. . . I do hope that your father is better.  Of course at his age
one must expect a day in bed now and again.  Timothy has been
complaining of lumbago and I insisted on his staying in bed last
week.  As you may imagine, no one has been talking of anything but
the Baccarat Case.  Poor Sir William!  I am quite SURE that he did
not intend cheating and I really think that some of them showed
great vindictiveness.  Mrs Lycett Green is quite a friend of May
Rockage you know, and Timothy has often met Lord Coventry at his
Club.  Of course the Prince's appearance in the witness box was THE
sensation and everyone thinks that he came out of it very well and
that it was most unnecessary of The Times to say what it did!  It
is all a great pity and very bad for the working classes, who are
inclined in any case to be troublesome just now.  Timothy says that
that man Burns is a danger to the country and ought to be in gaol.
I suppose you haven't heard of poor Vanessa's illness.  So unlike
her to be ill and nobody QUITE knows what the matter has been.
They say all sorts of things, but I refuse to listen to gossip,
especially of the family variety. . .


                  Barney Newmark's Journal.


February 18th, 1892

I haven't entered anything in this Journal for weeks, but yesterday
afternoon deserves a record.  Stephen Bertrand, the novelist, came
in most unexpectedly to see me.  And then who should enter directly
after but dear Horace Ormerod?  It was really entertaining to see
them together.  Horace I knew had come for some purpose.  He would
never waste his time on me unless he wanted something.  Bertrand
had met him once or twice before and was pleased to see him again,
as well he might be, for no human alive could better satisfy his
passion for innocent copy!  I could see Bertrand's round, obese
little body hurrying home that he might not waste a moment before
putting Horace's self-revelations into his notebook!  And how
Horace gratified him!  He was nervous a little, I suppose, of
Bertrand's cold penetrating eye and talked therefore twice as much
as ordinary!  His healthy rosy face beamed with complacency; his
honest, clean, and incipiently stout person vibrated with energy.
His friendly eyes shone behind their glasses.  With jolly
deprecation he told us how good he found life to be, how easy it
was to be generous, how simple to see the best in everyone!  'Have
you seen Valentine lately?' Bertrand asked rather cruelly.
Valentine at the time of the success two or three years back had
been a great friend of Horace, who liked to be intimate with one of
the most promising poets of the day.  THEN one thought that he
would be John Lane's proudest boast, that Dowson, Lionel Johnson
and the rest were not in the race compared with him!  But alas, the
bottle and the ladies have been too much for poor Valentine!  No
one is a greater adept than Horace at dropping a failure
gracefully!  There were, I swear, tears behind his glasses as he
cried:

'Poor Valentine!  I wish I could do something for him.  He's his
own worst enemy, I fear.  I did have a word with him some six
months ago, but he has become oddly embittered, poor fellow.'

This was joy indeed to Bertrand, who most skilfully led poor Horace
on until I could not bear it any longer and had to interfere.  When
Bertrand was gone Horace said complacently:

'Nice fellow, Bertrand.  I must invite him to lunch at the Club.
He seems to know everybody and that last novel of his had quite a
success, hadn't it?'

I told him that it had.

'What was it called?'

I told him.

'I must remember and read it before he comes to luncheon.  You
novelists are all so sensitive!'

Funnily enough, on reflection, I felt a strong resemblance between
Bertrand and Horace, although I must confess that I like Bertrand
the better of the two.  Both are equally complacent, Horace because
he is a fool and Bertrand because he is pleased with his gifts,
with his penetration into human motives, with his cold, clear eye,
with his horror of sentiment.  But both are sentimentalists,
Bertrand perhaps the greater of the two.  Bertrand cannot
understand that he is disliked (as I fear that he is) and
attributes it to the fear of his fellow human beings for the naked
truth.  Bertrand is the kindest of men and Horace one of the
unkindest, yet Bertrand is held to be cruel and Horace, although a
fool, good-natured.  Bertrand means no unfriendliness when he puts
his acquaintances into his books.  Indeed he thinks they are lucky
fellows to be used for so fine a work of art!  'The artist,' he
says, 'thinks only of his art', and forgets that his friends, and
still more his friends' friends, think only of their reputations.
And this is odd because Bertrand himself thinks a great deal of his
own reputation.  But I like Bertrand and give him free leave to
make any use of me that he pleases!

But now to the point, Horace's point.  Violet Bellairs and Horace
have become great friends of late.  They have many things in
common.  Violet, it seems, often appeals to Horace for help in her
troubles.  Here is the latest!  Young Timothy (a very decent kid
who will be an artist one day) has, it appears, been indulging a
secret friendship with Tom, Benjie's boy!  Where they first met, or
how, I don't know.  It has been a complete and most dreadful
surprise to Timothy's poor mother!  Tim is fourteen and Tom under
eight, so you would not suppose that Tim was in great danger!  But
Tom is already--according to Horace (who by the way has never set
eyes on the child)--a young ruffian and a moral danger to any
companion.  This letter was discovered by Violet Bellairs in the
pocket of one of her young son's jackets.  Horace left it with me
and I copy it here verbatim, spelling and all:


DEAR TOM--Mother is going out tomorrow afternoon and it's a
harfholiday.  The old cat is in bed with inflewensa so i can meat
you the same place--Your loving

                                                         TIM


I at once inquired of Horace whether 'the old cat' was Tim's
mother, but it seems not.  She is apparently Violet's governess,
and I at once said that Violet deserved all she got if she wouldn't
send Tim to a decent school like any other boy.  'Oh, well,' said
Horace, who never defends his friends whole-heartedly unless
everyone around him is doing the same, 'Violet thinks Tim's
delicate.'

'She only thinks he's delicate because she's tried to make him so,'
I burst out, 'with his curls and all.  The kid's a fighter and with
a will of his own.  He'll be a grand artist one day.  But what's
the matter anyway if Tim does make a friend of young Tom?'

Oh, then Horace broke out, forgetting all his natural caution.
Benjie was a danger to everyone.  They were all coming to feel it.
I, poor fool, was the only one left to stand by him.  He was
contaminating the family reputation.  Ellis had done with him long
ago.  Alfred hated him.  Cynthia wouldn't have him in the house,
and now, through his nasty little boy, Benjie was perverting
Violet's child.  Only I and of course Vanessa . . . and everyone
knew that Vanessa was in love with him even though she DIDN'T see
him . . .

At that I did gloriously what I haven't done for years, I lost my
temper.  I lost it so that I took Horace by his fat shoulders and
shook him so that his glasses rolled on his fat nose.  All my long
dislike of Horace was at last expressed.  I called him every name I
could think of, obscene words that Horace's soul would shudder at;
I told him what I thought of him, that he was false, sycophantic,
mean, treacherous.  (Only one side of Horace after all, for he is
not a whit worse than the rest of us, only naver.)  I told him
that I was Benjie's friend and that Benjie was worth all the family
put together (which Benjie isn't, of course), I told him that he
was not fit to breathe in Vanessa's presence and that if I ever
heard him utter a word against Vanessa again I'd murder him.  I'm
sure he thought that I would.  I never saw a man look more
frightened.  So I threw him out of the room, washed my face and
hands and laughed a little.  But it is truly no laughing matter.
The thing grows.  It is instinctive.  Benjie is some wild half-
human animal to them and Vanessa DOES love him.  And Ellis' brain
begins to turn.  Well, God help them all, say I, and myself no less
than the rest.  But how the troubles in this world come from
chatter!  Fools like Horace and Violet!--and perhaps ruin to nobler
men because there are parrots on the trees.  Could we but keep
silent for a little while and let men work out their own salvation
without comment.  Too much ever to hope for!


     A letter from Benjamin Herries to Vanessa Herries.


                                     TOLEDO, Spain, April 6th, 1893

Vanessa, will you ever see this?  For the first time I am breaking
my vow and now I shall continue to break it, for my endurance has
been tested too sharply.  This goes to Barney.  I have told him to
let you have it.  I expect no answer but I am hungering for one--
only one line to tell me that you understand the sort of fate that
follows me, a ridiculous fate that I cannot escape and shall no
longer try to, by God!  This last time was too much!  As though it
wasn't enough that Cynthia should be there, but Alfred and his wife
as well!  I had not drunk a drop that evening.  You may believe it,
Vanessa.  I have never lied to you yet.  I came into the place as
sober as a church.  The woman who was with me was a poor thing I
used to know, hadn't seen for years, found that afternoon longing
for a meal in a decent restaurant, quietly, with a friend.  Well,
the Caf Riche is decent enough, isn't it?  We were having our meal
as quietly as two churchwardens all sober in our corner.  I saw
Cynthia come in with a man.  Then a little later Alfred and his
wife.  We had nearly finished when Fanny Church (the girl with me)
caught my arm, begged me to pay my bill and go.  There was a man at
the other side of the room of whom she was terrified.  She had been
his mistress once, it seemed, and he had treated her damnably--a
heavy man with a black beard.  Before I could do anything he had
seen us and come to our table.  He paid no attention to me, but,
smiling at Fanny, said he was glad to see her again and where had
she been all this time and wouldn't she tell him where she was
living?  She was trembling all over, poor girl, looking at me to
protect her, and I, very quietly and most politely, asked him to
go.  He asked me who the devil I was and did I know that I was
interfering with his friends, his VERY old friends.  Then he put
his hand on her arm.  What could I do then but knock him down?
Wouldn't any man have done the same?  He was a big man and he fell
heavily and a table went over.  Of course there was a row.  I
waited quietly, told him that I would pay for the damage, left my
card and went out with Fanny.  That was all.  But quite enough of
course.  Cynthia and Alfred had all the evidence they wanted.

But the SECOND public row, Vanessa!  After all these years of
discipline.  Was there ever anyone born more unlucky?  Well, this
is the end.  I can do no more.  I was never made for this hypocrisy
nor were YOU made for that life in Hill Street.  Tom is at a good
school, that's one comfort, and I am finished for ever with London
and that farce of civilization and the damned family and their
chatter and my trying to be what I'm not.  I'm finished for ever
with everything but loving you.  I shall write sometimes and tell
you how I love you, for I am a boy no longer.  If you do not answer
me it will make no difference.  I cannot believe any longer that
you are happy, for I know that you are not.  I shall always let you
hear where I am, one way or another, and one day, if it is all too
much for you, come to me.  In this black town I am at peace again.
The walls go sheer down to the plain.  As I look from my window I
can see the gipsies moving off along the narrow street, and in the
Cathedral it is so cool and dark that you can stay there by the
hour and hear no man's chatter.  I have a room in an inn; my room
is high up.  Everything is grand here, the gold in the Cathedral,
the wind against the wall, the sound of water falling as it does in
Cumberland.  One thing already makes me think of you.  In a little
church at the end of my street there is a picture painted years
ago, they say--pictor ignotus--of a Black Centaur pawing the
ground, his head up, while over the hill there goes a Procession
carrying the Host.  I don't know its meaning, bringing Christ to
the Heathen or some such thing, but the Centaur is noble.  His head
is up, he is ready for what may come, and he made me think of you
because of that dream you used to tell me of--the horse that
strikes the mountain with his hooves, springing from the water.  I
WILL not be dismayed, Vanessa!  That little London is behind me.  I
have only Tom and you in the world, but YOU know and _I_ know that
as long as life lasts we will go on finding the meaning of it,
loving one another although we never meet again, not fearing
anything, not despising life until we KNOW that it is worthless,
which it is not and never will be.  I have tried hard all these
years to do as you say.  YOU know how I have tried--but I will be
tied down no longer.  They think, Cynthia and Alfred and Ellis and
the rest, that life is a cow to be milked--but it is rather the
Centaur on to whose back I will leap.  One day you will ride with
me.  When you see Barney tell him to write to me once a week about
Tom.  That's a good school, they say, and I liked the man when I
saw him.  There's someone playing music in the inn room and I'm
going down.

You won't despise me I know, or believe anything they say.  You are
part of me and the law is we must NOT despise ourselves.  Give my
love to dear Violet and Timothy and Barney's sweet sister Emily.
Oh God! but I'm glad I'm done with London!--Your loving, loving

                                                        BENJIE


  A letter from Vanessa Herries to Barney Newmark in Rome.


                                                   March 13th, 1894

MY DEAR BARNEY--The moment I received your telegram I went down to
the school.  Fortunately Ellis was away on a visit to old Horace
for three days.  I went down, taking Lettice Marrable with me.  You
don't know who she is, do you?  She is a girl from Cumberland whom
I have brought to Hill Street as my secretary--a kind of counter to
Miss Fortescue.  She is an odd girl, would like to dress like a
man, has all this new craze for tennis, breeches, women's freedom--
all a result of the frightful way she has been kept down all her
life at home.  However, you won't want me to waste your time with
HER except that she is the most loyal, faithful, attached creature
who ever lived and a great comfort to me.  We went by train to
Salisbury and drove over to the school.  The headmaster, Mr
Collins, was exceedingly kind.  I took the greatest fancy to him,
his wild black beard, his black eyes so lively behind his glasses,
and his evident friendship and loyalty to Benjie.  He took me to
the Infirmary where Tom was.  He HAS been very ill, but is much
better.  He lay there as white as paper, but he has Benjie's smile,
hasn't he?  I had only ever met him once before--in the Park a long
time ago--but he remembered me and told me about the book the nurse
was reading to him--a Talbot Baines Reed--and he was greatly amused
by Lettice's hard straw hat and the sort of golfing suit she wears!
He likes funny things, Mr Collins says.  He asked me had I seen
Tim, Violet's boy?  He showed me a letter Tim had written him in
secret.  Awkward for me, wasn't it?  He was too white-faced for me
to say it was wrong for himself and Tim to write to one another.  I
said nothing.  In fact, dear Barney, ALL my ideas of the difference
between right and wrong are fast vanishing!  Which brings me to
this.  You must send me Benjie's address, tell me where he is.  I
had a letter last year from Toledo.  I did not answer it.  I have
not written a line to him since he left England, although YOU know
how I have wanted to!  But I can keep it up no longer.  I must send
him word about Tom, right or wrong.  He worships his father of
course.  He said to me over and over again:  'When is he coming?
He hasn't been here for a long time!'  For the Easter holiday he is
going, as you know, to the Quintires again at Longbridge Deveril.
He says it is nice there, they are kind to him, pleasant girls who
tell him stories.  They write them themselves, he says, which seems
to him marvellous.  They have a magazine among themselves and oh!
Tom said, wouldn't they be lucky if they could get Tim to draw
pictures for it!  He is a warm-hearted little boy.  I wished,
coming back in the train, that I had one like that of my own.
Lettice slipped some money under his pillow.  I saw her do it, and
it's good of her because she hasn't a penny!  But he's all right,
Barney, and I like that master.  For myself what shall I tell you?
Nothing.  You're in Rome and London is far away.  We have been to
Charley's Aunt and The Second Mrs Tanqueray.  We have had a party.
Cynthia has had a party.  I have had a letter from Will Leathwaite,
from Cat Bells.  Barney, Cat Bells!  Cat Bells!  Cat Bells! . . .
No more of that.  Shall I tell you about clothes?  Sleeves are very
wide, waists narrower than ever.  Skirts are long and trailing.  My
arm aches with holding mine up.  Everybody is wanting to be rich.
If you are rich enough you can go anywhere.  Alfred gets richer
every day.  But this is not what you want in Rome.  I have read a
beautiful book by a man called Yeats, The Celtic Twilight.  Have
you heard of him?  But of course you have.  Ibsen is the fashion.
Ellis--but I will not weary you with my silly troubles.  Am I
happy?  No, Barney, I am not.  Is anyone happy?  Possibly no one.
Are we all being gay and merry?  Very gay and merry indeed.  Send
me Benjie's address--Your loving

                                                        VANESSA


Extracts from Barney Newmark's Journal.


April and May 1895

                                        COPLEY BECK, DUDDON VALLEY.

. . . This letter.  What am I to do about it?  Ellis has not spoken
to me for years, thinks I am altogether on Benjie's side and must
know that Benjie is in England.  I showed him the letter at once
and asked him what I should do.  It is a number of days old,
forwarded with some bills and papers from Duke Street--and we have
been walking from Seascale to Boot, from Boot here--that's two
days.  Vanessa is probably in Cumberland by now.  She gives a
Keswick hotel as an address.  But Benjie swears that she can have
no idea that he is even in England, much less that he is walking up
here with me.  But is Ellis likely to believe that?  Can I prevent
them meeting, do I even want to?  I put it to Benjie on his
conscience.  'My conscience says that I am to see her,' he
answered, and his silly brown face lit up with such happiness at
the thought that I would be a thief robbing a blind man to prevent
him.  Why should I stop their half-hour?  She has the Marrable she-
male with her, she tells me, and she is surely enough for anyone as
guard!  Ellis need never know--WILL never know!  Benjie is even
now, as I write, standing out on the sward, looking at the lambs,
the water jumping the rocks of Harter Fell in a thundercloud and
the sun striking like a sword on the fresh green of the larch.  He
is standing there kicking stones with his foot, giving little
leaps.  For a small man, he is a packet of vitality, but it is
happiness that makes him leap!  To see her, out of the blue,
without arrangement on his part . . . by divine accident!  He will
go over to the little hotel at Dungeon Ghyll for a day.  Vanessa
and the Marrable girl can stay the night there or drive over from
Ambleside.  Could anything be more discreet?  And I'm tired of
Ellis.  He has been considerably rude to me for years and he is
making Vanessa unhappy.  That's enough for me . . .


. . . Benjie and I have been talking for hours about the Wilde
affair.  Benjie sees her tomorrow and can think of nothing else, so
I talk to divert him.  But poor Oscar!  What a muddle of vanity,
British hypocrisy, snobbery and false judgement.  As to the crime
itself I say nothing.  It has not, thank God, been one of my
temptations, but as I have always yielded to every temptation I
HAVE had, if that had been one of them I might have yielded to it.
How do I know?  Anyway it is more mental than criminal, I suspect.
But this I do know: that Oscar is always at his best with very
simple childish people.  He is himself a child with his vanity,
heartlessness, kindness, generosities and self-confidence.  I
always disliked him when he was showing off, but put him with
children or stupid kindly men or warm-hearted impulsive women and
he is lovable indeed.  Men like Whistler or Charles Brookfield or
Carson really terrify him at heart, as children are frightened
when, sent for by unwise parents to show off to their elders, they
suddenly see the cold eye of a guest speculatively fixed upon them.
This remains at least, that never even in hypocritical England has
there been such a revolting show of hypocrisy as this--and it will
put Art and Letters in England back for twenty years . . .


. . . Well, we are back again, and Benjie is out walking in the
rain and dark by himself.  I have had a happy afternoon walking for
two and a half hours with the Marrable girl.  We landed at last,
after climbing Wrynose, back at Blea Tarn and sat there patiently.
I never saw it more beautiful with the trees coming down black as
thunder to the very edge, Wordsworth's 'Solitary's' cottage white
in the sun and the sky pale yellow behind the Pikes.  I was
interested too, for she told me enough about Ellis to fill a
volume.  Vanessa's patience with him must be a marvellous thing,
and even Lettice Marrable who hates him, pities him too.  It must
be a weird household now with the monstrous Fortescue, Ellis half
mad with a vague torturing jealousy that has no facts at all to
justify it, and this odd, masculine country girl who worships
Vanessa.  'I would DIE for her!' she cries, looking into the green
water of the Tarn.

'Now would you?' I ask her cynically.  'Easily said.'  Then look at
her and feel that she really would!

What will be the end of it?

Of what Vanessa and Benjie said to one another I know nothing.  I
asked nothing.  I was told nothing.  Vanessa is better than ever.
She is surely the grand lady.  To see her walk across a room is a
benefit to humanity.  But she is a child too.  When she saw Benjie
there she simply laughed, took his arm and walked off with him.  I
don't think I ever before realized so sharply that, behind all this
present fuss and bother, there is the fact that they have been
friends all their lives long.  That makes a difference, of course.

I said:  'Miss Marrable, shall we take a stroll?'  And so we did.
WHAT a plain girl!  But I can't help liking her.


 Part of a letter from Violet Bellairs to Cynthia Worcester.


                                                September 9th, 1896

. . . We have been with the Rockages a week now.  I can't say that
it's a comfortable house--horses and dogs morning and night, and
Carey is so far behind with The Times--which he intends to read
every night but goes to sleep over--that he is still discussing the
Jameson Raid.  It has been the hottest summer ever known here and
the children feel it.  Timothy is being very difficult.  Carey
agrees with me that this painting nonsense must be knocked out of
him!  I never knew anyone talk so much about CRICKET as Carey does.
It's Ranjitsinhji for every meal, or whether Cambridge or Oxford
bowled balls that WEREN'T balls in the University Match!  Men are
too strange and I've simply given up trying to understand them.
Timothy WILL read this nasty new paper the Daily Mail.  I think
it's the HALFPENNY that appeals to him.  He always LOVES to get
something for nothing.  I hear that Benjie Herries is in Africa and
has married a Negress.  Thank heaven that friendship between his
boy and Timothy was nipped in the bud.  Did you ever know anything
so horrible as the baby-farming murder?  I hear that the Dyer woman
actually . . .


        From Master Tom Herries to Timothy Bellairs.


                                                LONGBRIDGE, DEVERIL
                                                                   
                                               September, 9th, 1896

DEAR TIM--I will bicycle over on Tuesday and be JUST INSIDE the
farm gate by Locker Wood at half past three--Your loving

                                                      T.



ELLIS IN PRISON


On that warm evening in July 1897 Timothy Bellairs senior left
Ellis soon after dinner and went home.  He was going to bed; he had
a touch of lumbago and would catch it in time.

'He looks a lot more than his sixty years,' Ellis thought with some
satisfaction.  And he did.  He had grown terribly stout.  It would
have been better for his health had he stayed in Cumberland.

The house was still as the tomb after Timothy's departure--and why
was it never really warm even on these summer evenings?  Or was it
Ellis who was never warm?  After seeing Timothy off, he stood in
the hall listening to the silence.  Vanessa was at the theatre with
the Worcesters, and he had promised her to go to bed early because
all day he had had one of his terrible headaches.  It was she who
had suggested that he should invite old Timothy to have dinner with
him, because Timothy was no trouble but would chatter on and on
about anything or nothing.  So he had done; about the Jubilee, very
different from the '87 affair--not many people in the streets and
the Queen so feeble, poor old lady, that it had almost killed her;
all the same, WHAT a country England was!  The Review at Spithead
made you feel that: no other country could touch us for a Navy!
Still, the country hadn't the style it used to have with cohorts of
young men on bicycles and these halfpenny papers.  Fine poem,
Kipling's 'Recessional'.  (He recited some of it as though Ellis
had never heard it before!)  Made you feel proud to be a Briton AND
a Herries!  He could remember when he was a boy in Cumberland . . .
And Salisbury had said that Africa was created to be the plague of
the Foreign Office.  Some truth there!  They had better watch
President Krger.  (He spoke with scorn of Krger as though the
Herries family had decided in conclave that Krger was a rat and
ought to be stamped on.)  Well, we are getting on, getting on . . .
Sixty last birthday, and yet it seemed only yesterday when old
Madame--Judith Paris--had threatened him with the cane she always
carried, for stealing gooseberries out of the Uldale garden.  Pity
that place was burned down!  Fine place.  And there was something
about Cumberland which . . .  But Ellis did not like to hear about
Cumberland, and changed the conversation.  Well, he must be getting
home.  This damnable lumbago . . .  Driving with Violet yesterday
in the Park.  Did Ellis know that Alfred had bought one of these
motor-cars, and only last year, wasn't it, they had changed the law
about a man walking in front with a red flag?  Pity in his opinion
they HAD changed the law.  How were you to protect the public with
these things charging all over the place?  However, they would
never do away with the carriage, thank Heaven.  Sensible people
would always prefer the horse to those stinking, screaming engines
that nobody could control.  Well, well, it was a changing world and
time he went home.  Violet wasn't quite the woman she had been.  A
bit puffy in the chest and they were not quite happy about Timothy,
who was at Cambridge now and not settling down as he should.
Always wanting to go to Paris and paint!  Ridiculous notion for a
gentleman's son.

Well, well, goodnight to you, Ellis.  Give my love to Vanessa.
Still the handsomest woman in London . . .

Why was the house so silent?  When would Vanessa be back from the
theatre?  It was of no use to go to bed.  He never slept until she
came to say goodnight to him, and she knew that, and was good about
returning early.  Good?  Was Vanessa good?  As usual, so soon as he
began to think of her his heart thumped in his thin bony breast,
and that other man, taller than he, with the handkerchief wrapped
round his head, stole out of the wall and stood beside him.  WHY
was the house so silent?  The servants must be moving about
somewhere.  Miss Fortescue must be in her room.  He climbed the
stairs to his study, the other figure keeping pace with him.  The
room was cold.  The bust of Cicero watched him with its blind
lidless eyes.  Could you watch anyone if you were blind?  Why, most
certainly.  His shadow with the handkerchief bound about its head
was blind and yet, with ceaseless preoccupation, it watched him.

He began to pace the room as now so many, many times a day he paced
it.  The distance that he must cover was not of great extent AND
how well he knew it!  So far to the writing-table where he would
pause and arrange, rearrange, arrange again the silver writing
things.  Then, half turn, four paces to the wall where there hung
an excellent engraving of that fine picture, 'Christ Leaving the
Praetorium'.  Christ, so gentle, so kindly, His hands bound in
front of Him, the crowd pressing forward, the stout muscle-swelling
guards restraining them.  One guard Ellis had come to know well, a
broad, cheerful, helmeted fellow looking over his shoulder at Ellis
and, Ellis thought, in some friendly way warning him.  Warning him
of what?  Well, and then, half turn again and down the room until
you reached the door.  This door, which was painted an ugly light
brown, had for a handle a round cold white knob.  Ellis always
touched this knob, grasped it indeed with his warm fingers, for its
chill indifferent hardness comforted him; it stilled his beating
heart.  He thought of it sometimes when he was in the City or the
Park or at the Play.  That cold white knob, so gloriously
indifferent!  What did IT care whether he were torn with jealousy,
whether Vanessa loved him? . . .  But of course Vanessa did not
love him.  That was the first fact.  He stopped, as a thousand
times he had stopped in the middle of that floor, and marshalled
the facts that, when seen in an ordinary row, would make him a
sensible clear-headed man.

It only needed that they should be properly marshalled, and he saw
them like little children (cretins perhaps) with large round white
heads like the doorknob, all sitting in a line, their white fleshy
hands folded, waiting to be marshalled.

Bald-headed Fact One.  Vanessa did not love him, had never loved
him, would never love him.

Bald-headed Fact Two.  He loved Vanessa with a burning, devouring
fire.  (It was literally that.  In a cavity behind his ribs this
fire was burning.  He could see the flames leap and fall and leap
again.)

Bald-headed Fact Three.  He was jealous without reason.  Jealousy.
Dreadful.  Like catching a disease that turned your bones to water.
Intermittent.  It was most devilish in this--that it left you for
five, ten minutes, so that, within that space, you saw quite
clearly and wondered how you ever could BE jealous.  See!  See!  No
reason.  Vanessa has never been faithless to you.  She is honest,
is fond of you, has been very, very good to you for more than a
dozen years.  And then, the more savage for its brief absence, the
jealousy returns, just distorting everything so that the wallpaper
is tinged with green and the cat moves to its platter of milk with
private purpose in its eyes.

Bald-headed Fact Four.  That he is no longer any good in the City.
That his business powers have left him.  That young Alfred who has
come into the Firm is already taking his place.  He must see to
this.  He is losing money.

Bald-headed Fact Five.  His body.  That he cannot sleep.  That he
has headaches.  That he is suspicious of everyone.  That he is
drinking.  That his body is hot at one moment and cold the next.
That he sleeps with Vanessa when she does not wish it, which is
what no gentleman should do.  That the Family--Violet and Cynthia
and Alfred and Emily and the effeminate Philip--are watching him
just as he is watching them and everyone else.  Cat and Mouse.
Mouse and Cat.

Bald-headed Fact Six.  That he thinks much about the past.  His
father who wanted him to love him, but he could not; his poor old
mother; his shyness and awkwardness and longing to be liked; the
first moment when, on old Madame's Hundredth Birthday, he had seen
Vanessa.  Shadows, shadows of the Past.  That Cumberland which he
hated and feared.  Always trying to lure him back to it again so
that it might set its fingers about his throat and hold him there
while the mocking rain poured down on his upturned face and the
stone walls crowded him in and the clouds came lower and lower . . .
All the ghosts of the Past.  Old Herries, poor Francis who shot
himself, John who was murdered, mad Uhland.

Bald-headed Fact Seven.  That this beastly, threatening world had
as its representative that brown, ragamuffin, dissolute gipsy whom
Vanessa loved.  Had always loved.  They had been children together.

Bald-headed Fact Eight.  That when all the Facts were seated
quietly in the row he would see how unreal they were, would see
that he was Sir Ellis Herries, third Baronet, a wealthy decent
citizen of Queen Victoria, much honoured by his friends, thought
well of in the City, possessing the handsomest woman in London for
his wife, the kindest, the truest, most popular.  There was, he
would see, no reason at all for agitation.  All was well.  He had
reason to be happy.  He must go about and show people that he meant
them well, that he was a likeable good man, that the hospitality
for which his house was famous was practised because he wished them
well, because he liked them and wished them well . . .

Someone was in the room.  He started as though a gun had been let
off in his ear.  Oh! it was Miss Fortescue.

'I beg your pardon, Sir Ellis.  I thought you had gone to bed.  I
came to put these papers ready for you in the morning.'

Miss Fortescue was now, in appearance, completely the sinister
remorseless figure of one of Mr Wilkie Collins' savage women.  She
was hard, black (hair, eyes, eyebrows), efficient, and humourless.
Nevertheless, she was no villainess.  She was sentimental, read
with passion and admiration the novels of Ouida, Miss Braddon, and
that comparatively new writer Mr Hall Caine.  She was lonely and
romantic and had, from the first moment of seeing him, decided that
Ellis also was lonely and romantic.  She was not in love with him;
she had loved, so many times, so many heroes in fiction that no man
in everyday life could satisfy her.  But she had from the first
considered her master as her child, to be protected, guarded,
aided.  Vanessa's beauty had always irritated her.  She thought her
kindliness a posture, for she was convinced that she had married
Ellis for his money while in secret she had loved another--which
was quite in agreement with her reading.  She also by temperament
distrusted Vanessa's general friendliness, her high spirits, her
generosities.  This was not a world in which women could let
themselves go.  There was danger, as her novels told her, on every
side.  She kept her romanticism and sentiment for her reading and
for one or two human beings--Ellis, her ancient mother who lived at
Canterbury, and an ailing brother.  It had, however, taken many
years for her dislike and distrust of Vanessa to grow into hatred--
that true and unalterable hatred that can come to any human being
who has never known passion nor independence nor compliments.  In
daily life she was an excellent practical woman.  She gave no joy
to the house in Hill Street but she managed it perfectly.  Vanessa
always admitted that all the burdens were taken from her shoulders.
She added that she would willingly sweep the floors and make the
beds were Miss Fortescue removed.  She had never asked for her
removal because, as the years advanced, it became more and more
evident that Ellis would be a lost man without her.

She stood now, her black dress sweeping the floor in iron folds,
the high puffs of her sleeves made, it seemed, of steel.

Her pale cheeks might, had she been another woman, have betrayed
her excitement.  The moment for which, during many long, unjust,
weary years, she had been waiting, had arrived.

He had paused in his walk and seemed to be listening.  Then he
realized her.

'I thought you had gone to bed,' he said.

'Yes, Sir Ellis.  I am just going.  But there is one thing--'

'Yes?' he said, more at ease and comfortable now that the silence
was broken and that the tall figure with the handkerchief on its
head had slipped into the wall again.  He sat down in one of the
armchairs, picking up aimlessly a Society paper that was lying
there.  He opened it, turning over the pages, looking at the
illustrations.  There was a supplement illustrating the Spithead
Review.

She stood near to him, her hands folded.

'You have often told me,' she said, 'that if there was anything
that I thought you ought to know, I should tell you.'

'Certainly,' he answered.  'Yes, Miss Fortescue.'

'Something has come to my ears that I think you should know.'  This
was like a scene in one of Miss Braddon's novels.  She recognized
every step and movement.  She was (a luxury seldom allowed her)
herself a figure in one of her beloved stories.  At the same time
this was real life.  The room was real; the persons concerned were
real.  She was the sort of woman who might poison an acquaintance,
with no malice at all, simply that she might justify her own
reading.  Neverthless there was malice, true revenge for beauty,
wealth, power, that she had never enjoyed.

'I learnt today from an unquestioned source that a little more than
two years ago Lady Herries spent a whole day, practically alone,
with Mr Benjamin Herries in Cumberland.  Probably she has already
told you of this; if she has not, I think it right that you should
know.  It is exactly information of this kind that you have said to
me that you WISH to know.'

He asked her:  'Where did you learn this, Miss Fortescue?'

'A sister of Miss Marrable's is in London.  She told Miss Emily
Newmark, who this afternoon told me.  Both Lady Herries and Mr
Herries, who are of course well known in the district, were seen in
a compromising position at a hotel called the Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.'

He was shaking from head to foot, but all that Miss Fortescue saw
was that his hand trembled against the paper and his foot tapped
the floor.

'It is a long while ago.'

'Yes; but it can be completely substantiated by reliable witnesses
if you wish it.'

Incredible that, loving Vanessa as he did, he should not have
sprung from his chair and banished Miss Fortescue from the house
for ever, but at her first word he had moved from the world where
things are as they are, to the world, long familiar to him, where
men are seen as shadows and a mist-like smoke reveals only monsters
of distrust.

'Where and when do you say this occurred?'

'Just over two years ago.  At a hotel called the Dungeon Ghyll
Hotel in Cumberland.'

He waited a long time; then he said:

'It is of no importance.  Lady Herries, I think, spoke to me about
it.'  He looked at her.  'You misunderstood me if you thought that
I wished to hear such things.  I know that you always wish to help
me, but I have complete confidence in Lady Herries.'

She cleared her throat, a small, dry, mechanical sound.

'I thought it my duty; I cannot bear to see you deceived.  Whatever
I do, I do out of loyalty to you.  You are the only interest that I
have and you have taken me on many occasions into your confidence.'

'Yes, yes,' he said.  'But I do not wish you to speak of Lady
Herries to me.  That is not your province.'

'I understand,' she answered.  'If I have done wrong, please
forgive me.  I considered the matter and thought that it was better
that you should hear of it from me than from someone--someone less
loyal.'

He took the paper and began to read.

'Goodnight,' she said, and went.

He read very seriously with knitted brows the Society paper.  He
read every word.


The sight of London divested of its boards and bunting was too
distressing to my aesthetic soul, so I came down to Medmenham Abbey
Hotel for a few days' perfect rest, where the flags are not scarlet
and blue but violet and purple, and where they rest not against
crimson cotton, but on a tender background of green leaves.  It is
quite beautiful down here, the only drawback to its complete charm
being its distance from the railway station.  I have a passion for
flying from my fellow-creatures, so that they can flee after me;
but when it is a question of a four-mile drive after an hour's
journey with a change of trains at Bourne End, their pursuing
ardour seems to cool.  However, Mr Playfair, whose marriage was
such a blow to me last year, and who is living in the neighbourhood
to write a book, offers to supply the social deficiencies of my
existence, and Florrie's husband has comforted me with the loan of
his punt, which looks absolutely beautiful with new blue and white
cushions, so I expect I shall get on very well, and by my calm
acquiescence in my solitary state excite the suspicions of my
unworthy family.  I have seen only two dresses worthy of the name
since I came here, and they were both my own; one of light drab
homespun with a mauve batiste shirt, with a turndown linen collar
and a black necktie, which does duty with a white linen skirt,
crowned with a pale-green mushroom-shaped hat, trimmed with a mass
of shaded green wings.  Now I must go out and see if I can get Mr
Playfair to agree with me as to the charms of this latter.'


Of all of this he read every word; he read it all twice over,
murmuring aloud some of the sentences:  'A tender background of
green leaves' . . . 'I have a passion for flying from my fellow-
creatures' . . . 'Mr Playfair, whose marriage was such a blow to
me' . . . 'Florrie's husband has comforted me' . . . 'The
suspicions of my unworthy family' . . . 'A pale-green mushroom-
shaped hat' . . . 'A mass of shaded green wings' . . . 'If I can
get Mr Playfair to agree with me'.

'Mr Playfair, Mr Playfair, Mr Playfair,' he repeated, looking at
the shaded eyes of Cicero.  Although he read the whole of this
passage with such intensity and although some of the sentences from
it were to remain with him for the rest of his life, he was not, at
the moment, in the least aware of anything that he had been
reading.  He put the paper down, got his hat, and went out.



It was after ten o'clock, and the streets were quiet.  Berkeley
Square was very still, the leaves of the trees rustling faintly in
an evening breeze, the clop-clop of a hansom's horse sounding once
and again from Piccadilly.  At this hour London streets and houses
take on themselves a listening, watching air.  They resume their
own proper purposeful life which has been disguised during the day
by the rushing torrent of human beings; with their lighted windows
they watch the traffic of the world that moves without sound, their
chimneys and doorways re-establish communication one with another.
Like cats they can see in the dark.

Ellis walked, his tall body bent, his head with its high black hat
a little forward, his hands clasped behind his back.  He passed
into the light of Piccadilly, then back again into thin-shadowed
streets.  His companion walked with him.  It is the condition of
the disease of jealousy that love, self-pity and hatred move
forward together.  The victim can be cured, in a moment, by a word,
only to be the more diseased by another.  He moves always in double
form, for while he sees clearly his own madness he at the same time
embraces it with eager conviction.  He cries out for relief from
his torture and at the same time refuses to allow himself to be
relieved.  Every word, every sound is a significant portent, and
yet he is aware how insignificant these words can, in the final
truth, prove themselves.

He accepts greedily evidence that he knows to be no evidence at
all.

With Ellis this was the climax to years of unsatisfied desire--a
climax, the night, the trees, the houses, the lighted windows,
thundered into his ears, and yet he knew also that the facts were
in themselves almost nothing.  Two years ago.  In all the time
since then Vanessa had been kind, honest, attentive.  If, at any
moment, he had said to her: 'Vanessa, have you seen Benjie
Herries?' he knew that she would at once have replied:  'Yes--in
Cumberland on such a day.'  Thousands upon thousands of times in
these twelve years he had longed to ask her this question and yet
never once had he dared to do so.  Since the day of the '87
Jubilee, when he had spoken to her of the letter, he had scarcely
mentioned Herries, but in blind, secret, surreptitious ways he had
spied upon her.  That had been disgraceful.  It had been
disgraceful that he had permitted Miss Fortescue to speak to him
tonight, but it is a symptom of jealousy that the noblest of men
may commit disgraceful acts as a chaste woman will utter
obscenities in delirium.  And Ellis was not the noblest of men.  He
had, all his life, been lonely, mistrustful, caught in a web that
he could not break.

This remained:  Vanessa had spent a day with Herries and had not
told him.  She had spent one day--why not others?  She had deceived
him in this.  Then she had deceived him often.  But she had not
deceived him because he had not asked her.  She had not lied.  She
had, he knew, never lied to him--but is it not a lie when a woman
sees her lover in secret?  Was Herries her lover?  It was at that
agonizing moment, a moment that had visited him often before but
never with such tyranny as now, that he looked about him and saw
that the starlit sky, the houses, the deserted street, were
coloured a faint green.  'A tender background of green leaves.'  'A
pale-green mushroom-shaped hat.'  'A mass of shaded green wings.'
This faint green light trembled like the mist of a cloud of
greenflies, touching the steps before dark walls, the white posters
of the evening papers outside the closed and barred newspaper shop,
the bent figure of an old woman in a battered straw hat picking
something from the gutter, the light of a gas lamp.

A hansom clattered past.  A bell from some church sounded the hour.
Trembling with a terrible chilling heat, Ellis turned homewards.



He was half undressed when he heard Vanessa come in.  As though he
were a man with a thousand ears he had been listening ever since he
entered his room for those sounds.  His door was just ajar.  He
knew what he would hear.  The closing of the hall door, the soft
voice of the butler, Vanessa's softer one, a little pause.  Then
'Goodnight', the butler's 'Goodnight, my lady', then the sweep of
her long dress as she climbed the stairs.  Then the opening of her
own door, its shutting.

After that he undressed feverishly, but was extremely careful to
fold his clothes, to place his studs in their silver box, to brush
his scanty hair.  Over his nightdress he drew on his dark grey
dressing-gown, went into the passage, listened, then knocked.

She knew of course his knock.  He heard her say:  'Come in.'

She was sitting in front of her mirror, a white wrap over her
shoulders, brushing her long dark hair which fell to her waist.  As
he came in she looked at him over her shoulder, smiling.

'I thought you would be asleep.  I came in as quietly as I could.'

He stood by the door staring at her; seeing her in the lamplight
with that dark flood of hair, the white wrap over the loose white
robe, her smile so friendly and simple, he felt so furious a storm
of jealousy sweep over him that he lowered his eyes as though, in
actuality, he had been overwhelmed by a tremendous arching wave of
blinding deafening water.

At last he moved across the room and sat in a chair near the bed.
She continued to brush her hair, talking happily.  'We went to The
Prisoner of Zenda after all.  Peile had seen it before, but as he
never remembers anything THAT didn't matter.  It was new to the
rest of us.  George Alexander and Fay Davis, you know.  Miss Davis
is handsome, but WHAT a stick of a part, and Alexander never can
forget the clothes he's wearing.  The house was full, but of course
it was only revived last week.  I saw Johnny Beaminster and, oh
yes, Alice Parlington.  You remember--you danced with her at the
Devonshire Ball.  She was Isabella of Spain or something.  Well,
she asked about you and wants us to go to dinner one night . . .'

She moved into her dressing-room.  For a long while he sat there,
staring in front of him.  She returned and got into bed, giving him
a light kiss on his forehead as she passed him.

'What sort of an evening have you had?  Was old Timothy a terrible
bore?  I thought of you when Alexander was an hour or more kissing
Flavia's hand.  I was most dreadfully bored, but comforted myself
with thinking that you were equally bored at home.  Cynthia looked
so pretty, but I am sure she is harming herself with her tiny
waist.  It is smaller every time I see her.  And the smaller her
waist grows the more intellectual she becomes.  Ibsen is her only
wear.  Elizabeth Robins and Janet Achurch her only actresses.  She
was so horrified when she found that I hadn't read Esther Waters
that I thought she'd fall out of the box, and yet she puts up with
Peile Worcester who can hardly spell his own name.  She loves him,
I really believe . . .'  She stopped.  She was aware that he had
not spoken since he had entered the room.  She sat up, resting her
head on her hand.

'What is it, Ellis?  Aren't you well?  Is your head still bad?'

She put out her hand and touched his forehead.

'Why, you're in a fever.  Let me--'

'No,' he said.  'Don't do anything.  I want to speak to you.'

She saw then that he was trembling from head to foot and, as always
when someone near her was suffering, she forgot everything save
that distress.  She got out of bed, put on the white wrap and went
towards the door.

'You're ill.  You're shaking all over.  Wait, while I--'

He looked across the room at her.

'No, please.  There's something I must say.  Go back to bed.'

She did so.  She knew that something had occurred while she was at
the theatre.  She had now for so many years been prepared for some
crisis that never arrived.  How many times there had been a preface
like this: Ellis in misery, dumb with some hidden trouble,
beginning to speak, turning away like a child afraid, and because
he was always a child to her she always comforted him, not asking
what his trouble was, but consoling him.  Men seemed to her
completely inarticulate in any real distress--her father, Benjie,
Ellis, they were all the same.  They could not speak when they had
something important to say, and when there was nothing they
chattered interminably.  She had been tired, wearied with her day,
the gossip, the heat of the theatre, but now she forgot herself,
wondering only, as she had wondered so often before, what she could
do to soothe him.

Then he said, not looking at her:

'I heard this evening that two years ago you were alone in
Cumberland with Herries--alone for a whole day, seen in a
compromising position.'

So THAT was it!  Two years ago.  Ridiculous.  A compromising
position.  That angered her.  She drew back into the bed like a
child who has been hurt.

'It is quite true that I was with Benjie in Cumberland one
afternoon two years ago.  The "compromising position" part of it is
insulting.  You remember, I went to Cumberland for a week.  I had
no idea that Benjie was there, of course.  When we found that we
were so near, we met.  If you had asked me I would have told you.'

'Then you admit it?'

'Admit what?'

'That you met him secretly, spent the day with him alone, and told
me nothing afterwards.'

'I met him certainly.  We were alone for part of the time.  I would
have told you had you asked me.'

She looked at him, forgetting very quickly her own anger because
the fuss was about so little, was so unimportant.  Once sure of
that, her earlier sensation swept back--that here was something
small, childlike, suffering, and that she must comfort him.  She
moved nearer to him.  She put out her hand and let it rest very
gently on his shoulder.

'Ellis dear, there is no mystery, no adultery, nothing sensational.
Miss Fortescue, I suppose, told you--tonight while I was at the
theatre.  The "compromising position" could be only hers.  Now
listen, Ellis.  I have seen Benjie perhaps half a dozen times since
our marriage--and we have been married over twelve years--so that's
not bad, is it?  I have spoken to him twice alone, once in the
Park, once in Cumberland.  I gave no promise not to speak to him.
If you had ever asked me I would have told you.  You must remember
that Benjie and I have been friends all our lives.  I know that
some of the family don't like him, that you don't like him, but
when you have known someone always--you see them differently.'

She had broken off abruptly, the tone of her voice had changed, her
hand had withdrawn from his shoulder, because suddenly in the
middle of a sentence she saw that he, not hearing what she was
saying to him, was staring at her and that his stare was crazy.
Two people living together with some ill-adjustment often find that
they go with slow measured steps for a long period and that then
quite suddenly, and for no apparent cause, as though someone caught
them in the small of their backs and jerked them forward, they are
hurled into a precipitous and often catastrophic descent.  It is
only afterwards, on looking back, that they can see that this
sudden jerk forward had the beginning of its impetus in those very
first slow steps.

It was so with Vanessa now.  She looked at Ellis and saw a
grotesque.  Under the shade of the lamp a man with a high domed
forehead and a lean peaked nose was sitting.  This man wore a grey
dressing-gown and a nightdress that was open at the neck so that
two protruding bones, pink in the lamplight, gave him a hen's neck.
His bare ankles, too, were pink and sharply boned.  This thin bony
man with his long body looped together in the chair had two eyes
that looked at Vanessa but did not see her, looked beyond her at
the room but did not see that either, saw something that frightened
and angered them, something that no one else saw.  This separate
and apart vision--which is what the sane man means when he calls
his brother insane--gave the figure in the chair an aspect of
loneliness, isolation.  Put this man in a crowded theatre and he
would be quite alone, put him in a solitary cell and he would have
company.

Vanessa saw life very simply.  She had some of the good sense and
quiet of her father, some of the good sense and love of action of
her grandmother.  She was entirely sane about all things.  That she
was also a poet, because of the country blood in her veins,
affected not at all her relations with her fellows.  She had lived
with Ellis for more than twelve years and had needed all her
patience, sanity, humour, and common sense.  Any woman, living with
a man who loves her, whom she herself does not love, needs all
these things, day by day and week by week.  But she had learnt that
you can care for a man without loving him and obtain satisfaction
of your need--so she cared for Ellis.  But behind her care there
had grown and grown the fear that one day the situation would be
too difficult for her.  As she always herself said, she hated
scenes, melodramas, floods of tears, self-pityings, shrieks, and
beatings of the breast.  She did not know how to behave in such a
world.  Her father and mother had been quiet people and she was a
quiet person, although as with her grandmother there was a wild
passionate life at the core of her nature.  She had also a strong
sense of the ridiculous both in herself and in others.

But now, looking at Ellis, she had no sense of the ridiculous.
There was something here both real and terrible.  Instinctively, as
she always did in a crisis, she thought of her father.  'Help me
through this,' she said, as she had done when she was a little
child on Cat Bells.

She suspected that Ellis was going to scream.

'He will rouse the whole house.'  She even remembered that Miss
Fortescue would not yet be asleep and that her room was not far
away.  However, Ellis did not scream.  He said very quietly:

'You are a liar.  Herries has been your lover for years.'

(Even as he said it he knew that it was not true.  A very quiet
little animal squatting inside his head observed rather wearily:
'THAT you know is not true.')

'Ellis, let us talk sense.'  Vanessa held her hands tightly
together under the bedclothes.  'You are fifty-four.  I shall soon
be thirty-eight.  We have lived together for years and you know
that I have never lied to you, not in the smallest, most
unimportant matter.  I have never been Benjie's lover nor anyone's
lover.  You must trust me as I trust you, otherwise we must
separate.'

He leant forward towards her: her impulse was to shrink back, but
courage in this dangerous moment for which, she felt now, she had
for years been preparing, was of more importance than any other
quality.  So she sat up, put out her hand and picked up the white
silk wrap from the chair on the other side of the bed; then with it
warmly around her, her hair falling darkly about her, leaning
forward, her hands clasped on her raised knees, she said, very
quietly:

'Ellis, listen.  We are too old not to be sensible about this.  We
matter too much to one another to have scenes.  Besides, I hate
scenes.  You mustn't be unhappy and there is no reason--'

'No reason!' he broke in.  His thin hand shot forward and caught
her upraised knee.  'No reason when you have made me unhappy for
years--not loving me, pretending, taking people in, but not me.
Do you hear?--never me!  Do you hear?  Do you hear?  I've had
enough of it.  You drive me mad with your unkindness!  You--your
lover . . .'

All drama verges on the ridiculous, and especially English drama.
Vanessa had once, years ago, in the Park, felt Ellis' physical
contact although he had not touched her.  When her protective
affection was aroused Ellis' body was there for her to comfort.
But when he was angry or sexually passionate she hated his touch.
One hand had closed about her knee, the other was on her breast;
his face was close to hers, his body stretching up to the bed.  If
this scene was ludicrous she was too angry to notice it.

'You are hurting me,' she said.

He threw himself on the bed, his body convulsed, trembling,
thrusting against hers.  He tore open her nightdress; with his
knees on the bed, his arms around her body, his hands bruising her,
he pushed her down into the bed.  Then his hands moved to her neck:
panting, murmuring unintelligible words, he twisted her head round
into the pillow.  His hysteria gave him great strength; she began
to wonder, in a quite detached way, whether he would kill her, and
she had no power at all to resist.  She tried to conserve her
strength, for his hands now were so tightly about her neck that she
could not breathe except in little gasps of pain.  A black cloud,
scattered with spots of intense light, pushed against her vision.

She thought:  'This is absurd', and anger, fear of death, pain were
all mingled in the dark wavering cloud.



The pressure of his hands relaxed.  His body, without moving, lay
heavily on hers.  He was crying.  She listened, as it seemed for a
long time, to his sobs.  At last, very wearily, she turned.  He
slowly raised himself, slipped off the bed.  She lifted herself
painfully and saw that he was kneeling on the floor, his head
bowed, hidden in the bed, his body shaken with sobs.

For a long while there was no other sound in the room.  At last she
rose, went into the dressing-room, bathed her face and hands, stood
there for a while wondering what she would do.  When she came back
he was still there, his body bent low, his face buried in his
hands, crying.

She touched his shoulder.

'You will catch cold, Ellis.'  She took her white cloak and wrapped
it round him, but as her hands came into contact with his body he
trembled.  She went back into bed and waited for him to recover.



THE GREAT TIMOTHY SCANDAL


'Yes, that is the cruel moment, when you really begin to feel old,'
said Barney, nodding his head and settling his fat body more
comfortably in his chair.  'I am sixty-eight, you know, Vanessa, in
this year of grace eighteen hundred and ninety-eight--close on
seventy--and I had no sense of age at all until last week when
Nevinson took me to a Fabian Reception.  There we were all walking
about, already in the New Century, and every macaroon was a hard
little Fact and every cup of tea an admonition not to be silly.
Well, I like to be silly.  In the coming century no one is going to
be silly.  It will be motor-cars, telephones, and all our food will
be in little pills.  If it weren't for things like the Klondike
madness and the German Emperor and Sarah Grand I should know that
the Fairy-Tale World was gone for ever.  I've lived all my life in
it, you know--charming world where everything had a meaning, when
we believed in Faith, Hope, and Charity, assisted by Watts, when we
really meant to be good even if we were not, when our children said
"Sir" and "Ma'am", when we thought the Albert Memorial lovely, and
were certain that it was our duty to convert every unhappy Black
Man to trousers and the worship of our Sovereign.  Why, in the
coming century I wouldn't wonder if we don't believe in the Empire
any more!  I wouldn't be surprised if even adultery becomes a
scientific fact rather than a moral crime.  But I liked the old
world.  It was MY world.  My silly novels amused it (or a small
fragment of it), I could lead my own life without interference so
long as I didn't shock anyone in public, I could eat and drink as
much as I liked.  I remember, Vanessa, when I was a lad, going to
the fight between Sayers and Heenan, the last great fight in
England it was.  It was just an adventure then, but I can see now
that it was the end of an epoch.  Epochs are always ending, I
suppose; it doesn't matter unless you're seventy.  Well, I've had a
good life.  I can grow as fat as I like.  Nobody cares any more.'

'I care,' said Vanessa, smiling across the table at him.  They were
having tea alone together in Hill Street.

'While I'm getting fatter you're getting thinner.'

'Am I?  I'm thirty-nine this year, you know.'

He looked at her intently.  He loved her very dearly, more now than
any other woman in the world.

'You haven't been very merry lately, Vanessa,' he said.  'I haven't
heard you laugh as you used to do for a long time.'

'I'm not very merry,' she answered, getting up and walking about
the room, her long black-and-white dress trailing behind her.  She
turned round, came over to him and stood beside him.

'Barney--what are the family saying?'

'The family?'

'Yes--Violet, Cynthia, Alfred--all of them.'

'Saying about what?'

'Us--Ellis.  This house.'

He didn't answer at first, then he said slowly:

'Nothing much.'

'Oh!  They are!  In the last few months they've been closing in--
nearer and nearer.  For one thing Miss Fortescue's going must have
been enough to start them--'  She drew a chair close to him and sat
down.'

'I can't keep quiet any longer.  Something must be done.  I've
never been beaten by anything before, and I said that THIS
shouldn't beat me either.  Two other bad things have happened to me
in my life--once when my father died, once when Benjie and I--oh,
well, that's past history.  Each time I held my head up and said:
"I can manage this"--and manage it I did.  My married life hasn't
been easy, you know, but there have always been all kinds of little
things to help it along.  Life, I'm sure, isn't MEANT to be too
tragic and I've had great consolation in feeling that I was
dressing up--PRETENDING to be a grand hostess, you know.
Grandmother had a devil of pride inside her and so have I had, and
all the time that I was longing to run away to Cumberland and be my
real self I have felt as though she and father knew about this game
that I was playing and wanted me to do my best at it.  Then there's
been Ellis.  I did him a terrible injustice in marrying him when I
didn't love him.  The only thing I could do in return was to be
kind to him, protect him, be his friend . . .  I'm not boasting,
Barney, but I truly have played the game all these years.  Now I
can play it no longer.  I'm beaten.'

Barney took her hand in his.

'What's happened, my dear?'

'Last July Ellis and I had a dreadful scene.  Miss Fortescue told
him one evening that I had been alone with Benjie two years before
in Cumberland.  You know--that day at Dungeon Ghyll.  In itself
that was nothing, but Ellis had been wretchedly jealous long
before, as you know.  This was the climax.  I was in bed and he
almost strangled me--a ridiculous scene, and it ended in his crying
all night, imploring me to forgive him, going to sleep at last in
my arms.  For weeks after that he was abject.  He dismissed Miss
Fortescue, as you know, and for a time I thought that I could
manage him.  That was July.  This is February.  I know now that
I'll never be able to manage him again.'

She paused.  Barney felt her hand tremble in his.

'What is it?' he asked.

'Ellis is mad.  He has been mad for months.  Oh, only at times.  We
have parties here, he goes to the City.  So far as I know no one
except Lettice Marrable suspects anything.  The servants may.  I
don't know . . .  You can't think, Barney, how pitiful it is!  If I
could help him neither you nor anyone else should know anything,
but I CAN'T help him.  It is I who aggravate him.  I would give him
anything, anything he asks if it would help him.  Nothing can help
him.  I don't know whether to go or stay.  But one day it will be
too much for me and I shall go.  The worst of it is that now,
although I am so sorry for him, I don't feel even kind.  If I had
loved him I would stay with him for ever, but the dreadful thing
now . . . the dreadful thing . . .'  She turned her head.  'I hate
him.  I fear him.  I have never been afraid of anyone or anything,
but now the very sound of his step . . .'

She began to cry.  Barney had never seen her cry before.

'I am middle-aged.  I have loved one man all my life with my whole
heart and he has loved me.  Why should I lose everything?  What
have I done?'

Very quickly she recovered herself.  She walked to the window and
he waited.  When she returned she was quite calm again.

'Listen, Barney.  You are to say nothing of this to anybody.
Only . . . if it gets too difficult . . . I shall ask you to help
me.  It may be better soon.  He has been quite normal for the last
month.  Very quiet.  Very submissive.  Poor Ellis!  Listen!  He's
coming . . .  I know his step now, even when I don't hear it.'

Ellis came in.  But he was not alone: on either side of him walked
a lady, and Barney remembered afterwards with amusement that the
first sight that he had of his two relations, Miss Vera Trent and
Miss Winifred Trent, was this entry, guarding and protecting Ellis.

For they were, it seemed, distant cousins.  Ellis, quietly and with
much courtesy, explained it.  'Henry Cards--he had a wife back in
the eighteenth century, Lucilla.  I can remember, dear Miss Trent,
my father speaking of her.  My father was born in 1770--it seems
odd, doesn't it?--and Lucilla died about 1780, I think.  She
painted very charming watercolours.  I shouldn't wonder if there
are not one or two still about somewhere.  Henry and Lucilla had
two sons.  One of them, Prosper, was Jennifer's father, my dear
Vanessa.  Well, Prosper married a Miss Amelia Trent, and our two
cousins descend from her younger brother.  Now what does that make
you to us, Miss Trent?  About second cousin twice removed, does it
not?  Still, there's always a strong family feeling, a very strong
family feeling . . .'

Everyone laughed.  The butler brought in fresh tea.  Who were these
two ladies?  Vanessa had the sense that they had been in this house
all their lives and had known Ellis for ever.  However, it appeared
not.  They had never visited Hill Street.  Their carriage had
driven up just as Ellis had arrived from the City.  They had met on
the doorstep.  Oh! they must apologize, but the fact is that they
had lived all their lives in Bournemouth.  Such a charming place,
and a hundred years ago there was nothing at all but the sea waves,
the sand, a tree or two!  Yes, they loved Bournemouth.  Vanessa
interrupted.  That was where Jennifer's father and mother had
lived, was it not?  Yes, indeed, Doctor Trent of those days had
been a close friend of Mr and Mrs Cards.  Mrs Cards had been SO
proud of Bournemouth, so proud that she used to speak and write of
the town as a fashionable watering-place when it was really only a
house or two.  Doctor Trent and Mr and Mrs Cards had been among its
earliest inhabitants.  Oh yes, they remembered all about the
beautiful Jennifer!  At one time it was thought that she would
become the Duchess of Wrexe.  She was actually engaged to the Duke
for a brief while, they believed . . .

They chattered on, most happily.  They were both tall and elderly
women and remarkably alike.  They were slim and had soft grey hair
under their large black hats.  They wore black feather boas, black
silk dresses very long in the skirts; each lady had a big bunch of
imitation Parma violets pinned to her breast and wore a very thin
gold chain.  Their faces resembled those of placid, extremely
kindly sheep, but behind the mildness, Vanessa decided, there was a
strong and possibly relentless determination.  It certainly
appeared that they had made complete appropriation of Ellis.  They
sat one on either side of him and, although they smiled at Vanessa
and listened with deference to Barney, it was Ellis whom they
admired.  Their voices were soft with that comforting murmur that
belongs to a distant mowing machine on a summer day.  They took off
their gloves; each wore two or three rings, thickly studded with
diamonds, on the fingers.  They were alike in almost every
particular; the only difference perhaps being that Miss Vera was a
little the more severe and determined of the two, Miss Winifred the
softer and more melting.  They were greatly interested in all the
Herries relations--Alfred and his wife, Horace and HIS wife, Emily,
Phyllis' son Philip, old Horace in Manchester, the Rockages in
Wiltshire and their girls Maud and Helen, Cynthia and Peile
Worcester.  They seemed to have the fullest information about all
of them.  Vanessa noticed that they made no mention of Benjie or
Rose and that they shook their heads over Timothy at Cambridge.
Yesterday, it appeared, they had paid a call on Violet.  With all
their comments and questions they were kind and hushed.  They
behaved, Vanessa thought, as though they were nurses in a sickroom.

Barney watched all this in amazement.  He found that he could not
tear himself away.  How dramatic a transition!  A moment before
Vanessa had been telling him the most awful things, speaking, he
could not doubt, with the most absolute sincerity, and now here
they were all drinking tea together, these two old maids like two
cows in a field, and Ellis, calm, benign, dignified, smiling and
courteous!  Had Vanessa been imagining her terrors?  No, he knew
her too well.  She was the least hysterical of women.  He would not
wonder but that the tears that she had just now shed were the first
since her childhood.  As he saw her now so quiet and so lovely in
her black-and-white dress, laughing, looking after the two old
women as though they were her first care in the world, smiling up
at Ellis, her broad unruffled brow, her large dark eyes that had
never lost the frankness, the eagerness of her earlier simplicity,
her dignity as hostess, her natural friendliness as one human being
with another, he thought:  'Well, I'm damned if she can't manage
this.  It's not so bad as she said.'

When he got up to go, Ellis most courteously went all the way
downstairs with him, bending his long neck to hear what Barney had
to say, rather as an Ambassador listens with the utmost attention
to a diplomatic visitor.

'Hullo!  That's a new clock you've got!' Barney said, at the turn
of the stairs.  It was a long thin clock of gilded red Chinese
lacquer.

'Yes,' said Ellis.  'Vanessa saw it somewhere and liked it.'

'Of course he hates me,' Barney thought.  'We both know that.
Still, he's behaving very well.'

Finally, in the street, he shook his head.  Ellis was not mad.  He,
Barney, knew a madman when he saw one!

When the ladies were gone Vanessa praised them.  Ellis walked about
the room and praised them too.  How quiet, intelligent, and well-
behaved!  He had feared that the women in England were lost, with
their clubs, their passion for 'this Bridge', their bicycle riding,
their indecent novels, their conceit.  He understood that there
were in London alone thirty clubs for ladies.  What did ladies want
with clubs?  What--

He stopped, went to a table and fidgeted with a small silver box, a
paper knife, a book.  He picked up the book, put it down.

'Vanessa, I did not care for that hat you were wearing yesterday.'

The room was rather dimly lit, the fire low.  Her nerves had been
shaken by her little talk with Barney, and as she got up and went
across to him she felt an impulse, so strong that she wondered
whether she would be able to conquer it, to tell him that she could
endure this no longer, that she must leave the house, London, all
the life that had, so ridiculously, been built up around her . . .
leave the house, at once, without a moment's delay . . .

'What hat?' she asked.

'The one you were wearing yesterday.  The one with the--green
birds' wings.'  He seemed to have difficulty in speaking the last
words.

She was standing close to him.  Her agitation fell from her because
his eyes were so weary that she was suddenly filled with pity.

'Oh, Ellis, you're tired.  Go and lie down until dinner.  Or stay
here.  I'll read to you.'

'No.  But you understand, Vanessa?  Please don't wear that hat
again.'

She laughed and was frightened.  His hand was shaking against the
dark stuff of his trousers.

'It's quite new.  Yesterday was the first time I had worn it.  I
thought you would like it.'

'Then you must change its colour.  You know that . . . green . . .
I don't like it as a colour.'

She tried to speak easily.  'Certainly.  You shall never see the
hat again.'

He put his hand out and touched her forehead.  All her strength was
needed not to move away, so she came closer to him.

'How cool your forehead is!  Mine is always burning.'

She put her hand through his arm and drew him to the sofa.  She
helped him to lie down, arranging the cushions, but he said, as
though he were half asleep:  'No, sit here--close to me.'

She sat down and he laid his head on her lap.  He closed his eyes.
The creeping whisper of the fire, the steady determined tick of the
large gold clock on the mantelpiece filled the long, shadowy room.
She sat there without moving.  Her childhood--the friendly figures
of her father, Will Leathwaite, Elizabeth, Aunt Jane, her
grandmother--the places, the Cat Bells garden with the little
sturdy wood, the stream, the line of the hill above the cottage,
lovely days at Uldale, the seashore at Seascale, the purple shadows
of Skiddaw, sunlit brilliant clouds of snow on Blencathra, the main
street of Keswick, someone riding by on a horse, the scarlet coach
from Kendal, the friendliness, the small gardens of daffodils and
primulas, the grey steeple of St John's above the green fields
running to the Lake's edge, the hillsides flaming with bracken, the
Herdwicks moving their thick sturdy bodies slowly in front of the
shepherd . . . her father, her father waving his hand to her from
his writing-table as she passed along the garden path, her father
with his soft lazy eyes, his loving ironical glance, his hand
resting on Will's shoulder . . .

Tears stole down her cheek.  Without moving, yet she felt that she
was hastening, against her will, down a dark path away from
everything in life that was loving and good into a house dark and
chill, with doors that would be locked behind her.  How dearly
she loved life!  How hard she had tried to do what was right,
and now she was nearly forty, frightened like a small child, and
lonely! . . .  She had never known that it was possible for anyone
to be as lonely as she was.  What was she to do?

And Benjie?  She had, in these hard minutes, kept him away from
her, but now, heart and mind opened, too weak any longer to resist,
she threw out her arms, he came running, running to her.  She
clasped him to her, felt his face pressed close to hers, his heart
beat against her breast.

The Chinese clock on the stairs struck.  The gold clock followed
it.  For an hour she had not moved and Ellis, pallid as a dead man,
lay with his head on her lap.



Then the Great Timothy Scandal sprang upon her.  It was an
excellent moment for a family excitement.  There was but little in
May 1898 for anyone to discuss.  A small coal strike, a war between
the United States and Spain, the death of poor old Mr Gladstone,
the Dreyfus case, the low spirits of the Liberal Party.  In none of
these things did the Herries take a very extravagant interest.
Cynthia redecorated her little house and gave an evening party
for the Ibsen enthusiasts, Alfred introduced everywhere an
astonishingly uncouth South African who was said to be worth
millions, Emily discovered a Prophet from Shoreditch.  The Season
began and huge evening receptions rolled from house to house.  The
West End was populated with coachmen, footmen and men with grave
diplomatic countenances hired for the evening.  Every kind of
carriage and every kind of horse glittered and shone.  The window
boxes blazed with geraniums.  The Opera sparkled with diamonds.
There was so much money that everyone despised it and would do
anything, invite anybody, go anywhere, to obtain more.  Morals were
as loose as usual and manners beginning to crumble.  Woman was no
longer subservient to Man, and the Empire was at its apogee.

The Herries took all this for granted as every other English family
was taking it for granted.  The Herries concluded that everything
would last for ever just as it was.  Emily's Prophet said
uncomfortable things, and Cynthia, Violet, Mrs Alfred, went to a
meeting to hear him.  They found him very sweet with his deep black
eyes and flowing black hair.  Melba sang at the Opera.  Also at one
of Vanessa's parties.  A man called Conrad published a book called
Tales of Unrest, but no member of the Herries family read it.
Several ladies and gentlemen rode in electric cabs.  Violet wore an
evening dress with a high collar encircled with four rows of
pearls.  Lettice Marrable was seen bicycling in a pair of
knickerbockers.  For some while, however, inside this dazzling
world the Herries circle had been moving quietly.  There had been
no family sensation.  Something strange was happening in Hill
Street although Vanessa appeared as usual and Ellis was stiff,
courtly, and boring as usual.  Rose, it was said, was drinking
herself to death in Paris.  Nothing had been heard of Benjie.  One
topic of interest was the career of the two Miss Trents, who went
everywhere and were constantly at Hill Street.  That, however, was
not a scandal--far from it.  Two quieter, gentler ladies could not
be found anywhere.

The Great Timothy Scandal, then, burst brilliantly and, small
though its cause, it brought in its sequence changes to many
people.  It struck Vanessa on a sunny May day when, coming back
after a drive in the Park with Cynthia, when they had both been
very gay and talked much nonsense, Lettice Marrable threw the news
at the quiet tea-table.  Cynthia always regarded Miss Marrable as a
kind of aboriginal savage: her little hard hats, her manlike tunic,
short skirt, her brusque masculine tone and quite extraordinary
masculine attitudes, her public smoking of cigarettes, her
abilities at tennis and golf, her passionate desire that women
should sit in Parliament, all these things filled Cynthia with a
wondering amaze.  She was never weary of looking at her, although
she did not care to be seen with her in public.

Lettice Marrable now came in and said:

'Timothy Bellairs has run away to Paris with Tom, Benjie Herries'
boy.  Violet has just heard.  Timothy had a letter written from
Paris.  Violet is in a terrible way and says that Tom has perverted
Timothy or some word like that.  Timothy senior has left for Paris.
If he sees Benjie he is going to shoot him.  They are all talking
at Violet's now.  I've just come from there.  Horace and the Miss
Trents and Carey Rockage . . .  Benjie Herries is to be
horsewhipped whenever he's found.  Oh, you never saw anything so
funny in your life as Horace threatening to whip Benjie--WHEN he
finds him!  And the real joke is that Tom is only fourteen.  He
must have run away from school up to town and met Tim here.  Anyway
they are both safe in Paris.'

Cynthia said:  'I wish I was.'

Vanessa said:  'But it is ridiculous of Violet to blame anyone but
herself.  Tim has wanted to be a painter since he was a baby.  It
is nothing to do with Benjie at all.'

After that with every hour the affair grew.  It seemed that Benjie
WAS in Paris and that the two boys stayed with him.  Then came news
of a meeting between old Timothy and Benjie.  Old Timothy gave it
him, it was generally understood, 'hot and strong'.  What really
happened no one knew because no third person was present: it was
difficult, however, for the Herries to believe that Timothy gave
anyone anything 'hot and strong'.  He was sixty-one, suffered from
his heart, was as fat as a barrel.  Moreover he was amiably minded.

It appeared that Benjie's attitude was that, as regarded his own
boy, if he wanted to leave school and see the world, he should do
so.  Benjie was the same at his age.  As for Timothy, he was twenty-
one and ought to know his own mind.  As a matter of fact he always
HAD known his own mind, and it was only the stupid conventionality
of his parents that held him back.  It was said that at this point
old Timothy called Benjie 'a damned blackguard' and that Benjie did
not resent the insult as any gentleman would have done, but offered
Timothy a cigarette.  It was further said that the interview
between Timothy and his son was extremely painful.  Young Timothy
declared that now that he was in Paris he was going to stay there
and that Tom Herries had had nothing whatever to do with it.  They
had been friends all their lives, he and Tom; Tom hated his school
and wanted to be with his father.  By this time it was generally
admitted that Benjie was the Devil.  He had always been the Devil.
It was time the family were rid of him.

Would Benjie come to London and face his accusers?  It was
understood that, with a shrug of his shoulders, he said that of
course he would come to London, although he had no idea what he was
to be accused of.

He came to London.

A meeting, as famous in its own small way as Christabel's Ball or
Walter's historic visit to the Christmas party at Uldale, took
place on the second of June at the Rockland Club between these
gentlemen: Carey Rockage, Timothy Bellairs, Alfred Herries, Horace
Ormerod, Barney Newmark and Benjamin Herries, Esquire.

The best evidence of what actually occurred is to be found in
Barney's Journal (the Journals are all in the family archives at
Centor Park, bound in faded red leather, behind glass, in the
library.  Judith Paris' book and the earlier eighteenth-century
papers are in the same bookshelf, equally protected and equally
unread).


DUKE STREET, W.  June 2nd, 1898

I will try to put down as briefly as possible what occurred today
at Rockland's, a matter purely of family interest but important
perhaps one day to young Tim and to Tom.

I met Benjie at the Criterion for lunch.  I hadn't seen him for a
considerable time, but there he was, just the same as ever, brown
with health, cocky as a robin--very like a robin.  He has just that
bright, roguish, adventurous, don't-care-a-damn kind of eye and,
although he's stocky, his lack of height (always a sore point with
him) gives him a birdlike appearance.  He looked, I'll confess, a
bit odd because he wasn't wearing a hat; he had a soft nondescript
collar with his usual dark red tie in its gold ring, and his
clothes were a sort of wine-coloured tweed.  He is always
scrupulously clean, though.  Benjie's careless but at the same time
spruce, and his brown cheeks, bright eyes, stiff close-cropped wiry
hair, hands that look as hard as iron, taut, springy body--all
these, with the very kindly wrinkles about his eyes and his
extremely engaging smile, prejudice you in his favour if you're an
ordinary man on two legs and not a hypocrite like Horace or a prig
like Ellis.

Anyway there he was, saying 'Hullo, Barney!' just as though we'd
met yesterday, and walking into the big room at the Criterion as
though he owned the place and at the same time found it very
absurd.

As usual he ate very little.  He didn't talk much either.  He
couldn't understand what they wanted to see him about.  'I'm not a
boy, you know.  I'm forty-three.  I haven't harmed the family so
far as I can see.  They seem to think that I've lured Tim to Paris
and that I may ruin his body and soul--using young Tom as a decoy.
Damnable nonsense!  Tim's a fine painter.  I don't know much about
it, but he's started away at Lucien's, which is, I believe, one of
the best of those places, and old Lucien himself thinks highly of
him.  Tim's crazy about these men I don't understand--Gauguin, Van
Gogh, Cezanne--but I'm ready to tell him he's right.  How do you
and I know?  We may have taste but we don't care enough really to
know.  You can only know about Art if you happen both to love it
and have a trained taste.  Anyway, there he is and Tom's learning
languages.  He's got a passion for them and his great idea is to
train for a War Correspondent.  "What'll you do if there's never a
war again?" I asked him.  "Oh, there'll always be one somewhere,"
he said, and I expect he's right.  He can put things down on paper
pretty smartly for his age.  Well, there they are, a decent pair of
kids.  What's the trouble?  _I_ had nothing to do with it.  What do
they want ME to do?'

'As I understand it,' I answered, 'they want you to tell Tim to
return to his parents.  They think you've got some unholy influence
over him.'

'Unholy be damned!' said Benjie.  'I've never had the smallest
influence over anyone.'

'If you refuse they'll expel you with bell, book, and candle.'

'Expel me from what?'

'The family circle.'

'A fat lot _I_ care!'

So after luncheon we went along.  Rockland's is, I have always
thought, the stupidest and slowest Club in London.  It is just
right for elderly Herries like Timothy and Carey Rockage and old
Horace when he comes down from Manchester.  It is small and dingy,
and the room where they waited for us smelt of whisky and stale
cigar-smoke.  The windows looked as though they hadn't been cleaned
for months.  Timothy and Carey belong to grander Clubs of course,
and when they want to show off they go to them, but for a real
family bust-up Rockland's is the place.  They were all waiting for
us in an upstairs card room which we had to ourselves.  When we
came in it struck me at once how large physically we were compared
with Benjie and how physically unfit.  Carey, Timothy, Horace and
myself are all stout men and Alfred is pasty.  Benjie could have
taken the lot of us on and thrown us all out of window!  However,
he was not in the least aggressive.  He smiled at everyone as
though he loved them and if no one smiled back that was not HIS
fault!  Oddly enough as I looked round the room I felt, although
I'd come there of course as Benjie's friend and supporter, an acute
sympathy with all of them.  I understood exactly how they felt.
With the exception of Horace they are all decent men, and in my
opinion the decent normal Herries man is about as decent as any
Englishman anywhere.  He is brave, loyal, patriotic, God-fearing,
good to his women and generous to all men.  Simply he hasn't any
imagination.  A little imagination and they would understand that
Benjie's type is permanent.  You can't get rid of it by cursing and
abusing it.  You've got somehow to make terms with it.  Put it in
gaol, exile it, and it will always return.  When men like Carey and
old Timothy have learnt how to assimilate men like Benjie, the
Herries family will rule the world--until then it will be always
second-rate.  But, of course, that assimilation will never occur.
So there will be always tales to tell, poets formed out of
rebellion, and wars between nations.  But I understood how they
felt about Benjie.  You could see, as they looked at his country
clothes and his round head with its sharp little eyes and his
sturdy little legs, that he was the personification of disorder to
them!  And they were right.

Old Timothy, as the principal sufferer, took charge, and, standing
in front of the fireplace, with his legs spread, he outlined the
case.  Unfortunately he was both lengthy and pompous.  He said the
same thing over and over again.  What it came to was that he wanted
his son back, that Benjie had tempted him to Paris and must
therefore bring him back to London again.  There was nothing
personal in this.  He spoke as though Benjie were the kind of man
with whom he could not possibly HAVE any personal relations.

When Timothy had finished at last, Benjie answered quietly that he
had NOT tempted young Tim to Paris, that Tim was of age, and that,
although of course it was a pity that he and his father did not
agree, it was nevertheless the boy's own affair.  'In fact,' said
Benjie, beaming round on all of them, 'I cannot see what I have to
do with it or why you have asked me to meet you here.'

At that everyone wanted to speak at once.  It was interesting to me
to see the strong likeness that springs up between the men of our
family when we are together.  Alfred with his sharp nose that is
always a little shiny, his high cheekbones and short black curly
hair can hardly be said to resemble short-armed, short-legged,
paunchy Carey who is the perfect Country Gentleman, or Timothy who
is a kind of hundred-times-cleaned-scrubbed-and-brushed pillowcase,
or myself who am just fat, careless and, alas, now purple-veined
about the nostrils.  And yet alike we all are, alike we always have
been.  Is it our English beef and cabbage that has made us so?  Or
our politics?  Or the Battle of Hastings, 1066?  Or insular
security?

There in any case we all were, leaning forward like one man wanting
to tell Benjie what we thought of him.  Carey, who always speaks as
though the thick Wiltshire soil had through the years crept up and
swallowed his tonsils, had his word.  He spoke as an English peer
who has the crops, the family, and the British reputation among
foreigners all to protect at once.

'Why we have asked you here,' he said, 'is because we feel, rightly
or wrongly, that you are responsible for Timothy's boy's behaviour.
The lad has caused his mother and father much pain.  He has carried
on a clandestine correspondence with your boy, it seems, for a long
time past and of that we feel that you must have been--ah--
cognizant.'  (Here I caricature old Carey's style a bit.)
'THEREFORE, therefore we have asked you to meet us.  We are
representing here today the family in London.  I need not emphasize
to you the grief that this has caused the lad's mother, nor the
necessity we all feel that her boy--her only boy--should be
restored to her.  The lad is a good lad--fundamentally a good lad--
and we feel that he must have been under some most unfortunate
influence to persuade him--'

'Rot!' Benjie broke in.  'Never was greater nonsense.  Tim's been
pleading since he was in that unfortunate velvet suit that his
mother always made him wear, to be allowed to be a painter.  There
isn't one of us here who understands anything about Art, including
Barney, even if he does write novels.  Why the devil,' he went on,
suddenly attacking Timothy, 'couldn't you have let the boy try his
hand?  It's none of my business or was none until I was dragged
into it like this, but no one is responsible for Tim's running off
to Paris except his parents--and that's the truth!'

This was from every point of view a most unfortunate speech, and
after it there was no hope at all of saving anybody's bacon.  I had
tried to advise Benjie at luncheon that he must go slow, placate
the old boys, show them that he meant them no harm.  But it was of
course hopeless from the start.  The very sight of their London
clothes, the air they had not only of owning the Rockland (to which
they were thoroughly welcome) but the whole of England, annoyed
him, exasperated him.  However, it might not have been so bad had
it not been for his allusion to Art.  Now none of them--not
Timothy, nor Carey, nor Alfred, nor Horace--cared a damn about
pictures, but they hated to be told that they knew nothing about
them.  Carey said to me long afterwards:  'It was the arrogance of
it, you know--telling us we don't know a picture when we see one!
Why, damn it, a picture is a picture, isn't it?  A feller has eyes,
hasn't he?'

When Benjie had finished Carey rapped out:

'Are you going to bring young Tim back to London or not?'

'Certainly not,' said Benjie.

Horace broke in:

'Oh, but, Benjie, I'm sure that Carey misunderstands you!  What you
mean to say is that you will do all you can in the circumstances--'

Benjie jumped to his feet.

'I mean nothing of the sort!'  (He really loathed Horace.)  'I
consider it a piece of damnedest impertinence, all of you sitting
round here as though you were in judgement on me.  I only came to
show you that I didn't care a damn for any of you!  You can all go
to hell for all I care!'

Both Carey and Alfred, who were hot-tempered, jumped to their feet
and I thought for a moment that there would be a bit of a fight.
Alfred is tall and wiry; Carey, although his arms are so short, has
shoulders like a coal-heaver and is strong for his sixty-odd years.
Benjie stood there, almost touching them, waiting for anything that
might come.  Horace was nervously pushing at his glasses in a way
that he has when he is frightened (Rose used to imitate this very
well), Timothy threw out his stomach as a sort of vanguard of
protection.

But this was where I came in.  I took Benjie by the arm and led him
out of the group.

'We're not in the Klondike,' I remarked (or something equally
cheap).  'Benjie doesn't see that he has any responsibility for
Tim's being in Paris and I don't see that he has either.  Feeling
no responsibility, he doesn't see that he can do anything about it.
And that's the end of it.'

I could see them looking at us and classing us together.  All
writers are queer to men like Carey and Timothy, and at that time,
with the Wilde trial still fresh in their minds, queerer than
queer.  It was perhaps some feeling about the Wilde business that
made them the more intolerant of Benjie although they all knew that
Benjie was normal enough.  The fact remains that the Wilde trial
made many people in England think, for a long time, that all
writers, painters, musicians, were freaks and dangerous freaks.  So
there we were, the 'little gipsy', the rogue of the family, and the
loose-living, novel-writing eccentric.  We were damned together.

'That's not the end of it,' said Carey at last.  'We don't want to
be unfair, Benjie, but the fact is that we've had about enough of
you.  For years now you've been upsetting everyone.  Even as a boy
you were a family scandal.  You've been mixed up in two public
brawls already and now there's this business.  It is the feeling of
all of us that we wish to have nothing more to do with you.  And if
you're a gentleman we trust you'll respect our feeling.'

Then it was I who figured in the scene.  I lost my temper.  Never
mind what I said.  It's of no importance.  But as I once told
Horace what I thought of him, so now I told Timothy, Carey, and
Alfred.  I enjoyed myself for at least five minutes.

When, scant of breath (for I'm nearly seventy and my heart is not
as good as it was), I had ended, it was Benjie who drew me away.

He smiled at them all.  'Goodbye, friends and relations,' he said.
'I shan't bother any of you again.'  (He liked a little
theatricality at times.  It stirred his sense of colour.)

So, his arm through mine, we went out together.



VANESSA IN PRISON


Hysteria is the only word for the emotional state in which the
Herries family now indulged.  It is little exaggeration to say that
as London once saw Jack the Ripper behind every area step, so now
the Herries saw Benjie.

In 1898 and 1899, as afterwards in 1913 and 1914, London itself
became hysterical.  A mad craze for wealth and pleasure, an
extravagance of display, a fantastic exhibitionism of non-morality
raged everywhere.  Diamonds and politics from Africa, an
international plutocracy from the Holy Land, a pride and arrogance
and self-confidence, a recklessness of materialism, the beginning
of the breaking down of all barriers of caste and exclusive
traditions: these things marked these years, the last defiant
'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' before the drums beat in the figures and the
problems of the new world.

The Kaiser waved his theatrical arm in Potsdam, old Krger sat in
his kitchen reading his Bible, in London jumping signs for the
first time illuminated the night sky and frightened the horses, The
Belle of New York and The Gay Lord Quex shocked the religious, vast
audiences swallowed gladly the wild tales of de Rougemont; Kipling
frightened two hemispheres by threatening to die of pneumonia; the
cry was everywhere, 'Let 'em all come!'

In the week of the Rockland meeting young Timothy caught pneumonia
in Paris, nearly died of it and refused to see either his father or
mother when they hurried over to him.  But Violet saw Benjie.  She
could not deny that he was quiet and courteous.  He was eager that
she should see her son: it was Timothy who refused to allow her to
enter his room.  She returned to London like an insane woman.  It
was perhaps that she felt in her heart that she had herself been to
blame in the first place.  She was an old woman.  She was a
tiresome woman.  Her passion for chatter had grown into a
garrulousness that bored the world; her grievances were so many
that she was herself confused by their number.  She said that
'everything had begun' on an awful day when old Emily Newmark had
prayed over her and Oscar Wilde had laughed at her.  Violet--her
daughter--married in 1897 a Colonel Caldecott.  The house in Onslow
Square was the stiller and emptier for old Violet's ceaseless
chatter.

Bore though everyone found her, it became the accepted fact that
Benjie had stolen her son from her and ruined her life.
Respectable people like the Rockages and the Worcesters and the
Alfred Herries were, in sober fact, terrified of what Benjie might
do next.  The Worcesters and the Alfreds now had young children--
Cynthia had two girls, Alfred a boy and a girl; who knew but that
Benjie might kidnap them and hold them for ransom?

He was seen in London and the whole Herries world shuddered.  The
situation was developed by the part that Adrian Cards played in it.
He went everywhere--and he was now a man of importance in the
London world, an Under-Secretary and a writer of witty articles
('Very malicious', Alfred and Horace thought him)--saying that
Benjie Herries was the best of fellows and that his relations were
ridiculous people.  The Herries--the Worcesters, Alfred, Violet and
old Timothy, the Rockages--felt that everywhere Adrian went they
were mocked.  They knew of course the reason of his championship of
Benjie.  It was, as they assured everyone, because of his passion
for Vanessa.  He went with Vanessa everywhere.  She was, at last,
after years of good behaviour, forgetting her position, her duty to
Ellis.  All that wildness that MUST be in her blood when you
remember her grandmother and great-grandfather, was at last coming
out.  It was true that Ellis must be very trying.  But could she
not remember what she owed to her position?  There, too, Benjie's
influence could be traced.  After the scene at the Rockland Club,
Benjie was banished from all decent male society, and yet Vanessa
was known to have said that all the Herries men, except Barney, had
behaved like fools in that affair.

It was true, Vanessa was at last angry.  For thirteen years she had
behaved, both in public and in private, as she ought to behave.
Now she was beginning not to care whether she behaved or no.  For
she was increasingly unhappy, frightened and indignant.  She was
moving swiftly, with a crazy husband at her side, no close woman
friend except Lettice Marrable in the world, a sense of deep
injustice burning within her, to a climax.

The two ladies, Miss Vera and Miss Winifred Trent, helped to
precipitate it.  'What is reality?  This mirror is real because I
can touch the silver tracing on the woodwork of the frame, but I
stand, looking into it, brushing my hair, and Ellis is suddenly
standing behind me.  Ellis is not real.  Then is the mirror not
real any longer?  Ellis is listening behind the door?  I open it
and the carpet on the stairs is real, the ticking from the Chinese
clock is real, but is there not the sudden sharp click of a closing
door, the very crack of the finger of unreality?  And through all
this I am a woman who longs to love and be loved in return.  I am
nearing forty and my life is more than half gone.  I have no
children, no one--since my father died--to whom I might freely
give my whole heart.  Only Benjie and Rose--both disgraced, both
exiles . . .  Is that, then, at last MY reality, my hunger for love,
my HUNGER, my HUNGER . . . in a woman who is nearly forty surely
THAT cannot be real? . . .  The Miss Trents have called.  As they
call now every day.'

'Dear Vanessa.  We drove round to see how you and dear Ellis are.
HOW is Ellis?  Is his headache better?'

'Yes,' says Vanessa.  'Tonight we are going to The Canary.  They
say that it is a most amusing play.'

They look at her, inspect her with their large, soft and yet most
resolute gaze.  Everyone is watching her just as Ellis never ceases
to watch her.

'If I don't get out of this I shall go mad, just as Ellis is . . .'

Yet, with all this, she could not prevent herself from enjoying to
the full any fun that came her way.  She went out and about with
Adrian, Barney, Cynthia.  She had plenty of the great world, for
the Duchess of Devonshire was less formidable with her than with
any other woman in London, she watched Lady Londonderry's passion
for power with all the more sympathy because she had never herself
known the passion, and she helped Lady de Grey turn the Opera from
a shabby squalling business into a splendid tiaraed pageant.  Of
all the grand ladies Lady Dorothy Nevill was to her taste the most
delightful; she never tired of her daintiness, her humour, her
anecdotes, her resolute vulgarities, and her eager curiosity about
human nature.  No one who came to Hill Street thought that there
was anything but peace and plenty there.  Only the Family knew and
the Family didn't say.  It was the business of the Family to inform
the world in general that anything Herries was right.  Vanessa was
the Family public pride and of the utmost importance to them all.

Adrian was Lady Dorothy Nevill's especial pet, and he and Vanessa
went together very often to the house in Charles Street.

'You're not in love with the young man, are you, my dear?' she
asked.

'Not the least little bit,' said Vanessa, laughing.

'Not that it matters,' said Lady Dorothy, tossing her little head
with its marvellous auburn wig, shaking her many beads and necklets
and amulets.  'You're not like these modern girls with all their
paintin' and powderin'.  How men can kiss them _I_ can't
understand.  What Dizzy if HE were alive . . .'

Vanessa had friends everywhere, girls in shops, young men from the
East End in whom Adrian was interested, writers famous like Henry
James and Kipling, obscure like young Mr Smith who brought her the
tattered manuscript of his novel to read or Mr Brown who had
written an Epic on the Armada, actresses and actors like Irving,
Ellen Terry, Forbes-Robertson and young men who walked on at the
Lyceum.  All were alike to her.  She had no pose, no arrogances, no
prejudices.  So life whirled on the outside while within steadily
the drama grew more intolerable.

Insanity is of all things the most pathetic, the most piteous, the
most intangible.  Everyone WITHIN the house knew that Ellis was
insane.  The servants nodded their heads together and watched him
as children watch a strange and unaccountable animal.  They
developed a kind of pride in him.  They marvelled that towards the
outside world he was 'always all right'.  Seriously, with an almost
magisterial dignity, saying very little, listening to his guests
with a sort of absorbed gravity (he was not listening; he was
watching the figures BEHIND the figures), he played his part.  With
Finch the butler, Mrs Martin the cook, the two men-servants, the
housemaids, Lettice Marrable, he was the master of the house,
betraying himself to them only by the twitching of his fingers, the
way in which he would look over their shoulders, the sudden
impatient 'Very well, very well' or a sharp 'Is that door closed?
I can hear someone moving upstairs.'

The servants had for both their master and mistress a new and
rather touching kindliness.  They were very well treated, were paid
excellent wages.  Vanessa they adored.  (Even Finch, who, after
Miss Fortescue's departure, robbed right and left, drank the best
wine and so had a real friendliness to his employers.)  They were
kind, did their duties, but they waited . . .  Something would
happen soon . . .  They might all be murdered in their beds . . .
This made them feel privileged.

Vanessa herself wondered, often enough, whether there were not two
Ellises.  He was very often, when alone with her, so quiet and
rational that it was almost as though the old friendly days were
back again.  When he slept beside her he moaned in his sleep and
she drew him to her, stroked his forehead, felt as though she were
protecting him against an evil demon.  Yet, with this, she suffered
an appalling fear of him that, do what she would, always increased.
Perhaps one night he would kill her.  She was always prepared for
that.  She would not, she thought, mind very greatly.  Oddly, pity
and fear went hand in hand together.  She, too, waited for the next
step . . .

Then one day in June 1898 she received a letter saying that Will
Leathwaite was dead.

She had just come in from a drive and stood in the hall, the letter
in her hand.  It was from Mrs Newson, who had looked after the
cottage and Will for some years--a very decent woman.  It simply
said that Will had been ailing for some time past, hadn't cared for
his food, complained of his legs.  Mrs Newson had gone to Grange to
see a friend and, returning about seven of the evening, found Will
dying in his chair by the fire.

'I thought you'd like to know, my lady, that it was your father's
name he kept saying before he died, over and over.  I don't rightly
think he was ever the same man after your father died.  But he was
tranquil up to the last, and a finer-looking man not to be found
anywhere I always said.  And no trouble at all, not to no one.'

She stood there, lost in the past.  Will was gone: now everyone was
gone.  She remembered her father's description of Will winning the
race at Keswick years and years ago, how he pounded up the hill to
the Druids' Circle, and young Adam, himself only a boy, riding in
front of Will's father on the family mare, yelled encouragement.
And then how Will had come up to Adam one Christmas Day and asked
if he did not want a servant.  Will's love for Adam had been the
best that one human being can find for another: its character was
paternal, protective, selfless, and also gay, simple, unsycophantic,
man to man, brother to brother.  It had been perhaps the finest
thing in her father's life, Vanessa thought, looking back.  Was
there not always antagonism in every sex relation?  But in this
perfect charity, honesty, and--above all, best of all--
equality . . .

There was no Past when you experienced a love like this, for Adam
and Will would go on for ever, for ever racing up the Keswick hill,
for ever meeting, the snow sun-glittering at their feet, the blue
smoke rising in the silent air, for ever one waiting the other's
return, for ever that exchange of glance, sure and trustful, for
ever that touch of hand on hand . . .  In all this changing,
bewildering, unstable world the one sure and certain proof that
there is something eternal in man's soul; that, once in a lifetime,
one touches, deep in the heart, evidence of immortality.

The letter fell to the ground: she heard the Chinese lacquered
clock strike the half-hour with its sententious solemn purr.  The
clock's voice resembled Horace's.  Will's death increased her
loneliness.  She had not seen him for so long a time and yet he had
been behind her--they two together thinking of Adam.

She picked up the letter and saw that Ellis was standing near to
her and looking at her.  Why did she never hear his step these
days?

'Oh, Ellis!' she cried.  'Will Leathwaite is dead!'

Ridiculously, tears stole down her cheek behind her veil.

'Will Leathwaite?' he asked.

'Yes.  Father's servant.  You've seen him--a big fair-haired man
with blue eyes.'

She had trained herself never to mention anything in connexion with
Cumberland, but at this moment she was thinking of Will, not of
Ellis.

He nodded, looked at her without speaking, and walked upstairs.

A few days later a very unaccountable thing occurred.  He came to
her in her room where she was reading, and timidly, as though he
were asking a favour, said:

'Vanessa, let us go to Cumberland for a week--to your cottage on
Derwentwater.'

He stood in front of her, very tall, very pale and rigid, as though
she had ordered him in front of her to be scolded.

'To Cumberland?'  She was so deeply astonished that she dropped the
book.  'But, Ellis, you hate Cumberland!'

'No--who told you that?'

'Nobody, of course.  Only yourself.'

'When have I said that I hated Cumberland?'

'Not HATED.  But disliked it.  The rain--and you don't like the
North--'

'Who told you that I hated Cumberland?'

She got up and walked away.  His eyes frightened her.  He bent down
and picked up the book.  'Why do they bind books in green?  It is
such an ugly colour.'  Then, in rather a shrill voice:  'I don't
hate Cumberland.  Of course not.  It will be very agreeable.  I
need a holiday.'

She came back to him, smiling.

'That IS good of you, Ellis.  Of course I shall love to go.'



And they went.  On the evening of her arrival she could not believe
that she was there.  In the living-room there were all her father's
things just as they had always been.  His books--the little blue
volumes of the Iliad and the Odyssey--the tattered shilling parts
of Pickwick, the English Poets, Sir Charles Grandison and Tristram
Shandy, Barney's novels, Dandy Grimmett and the rest.

And all the old beloved things, part of her very life: the two
cornucopias, Zobel's sand picture, 'The Saddle Horse', the old
watercolour, 'The Lady of the House', the Baxter print 'Dippers and
Nest', the Peepshow of the Central Hall at the Great Exhibition,
above all, the spinet from Uldale with the roses painted on the
lid, and the music box with the King in his amber coat and the
Queen in her green dress.

As she stood at the window, with all these beloved things around
her, she held her hands tightly together lest she should show her
emotion.  The last evening light touched the hills: Skiddaw's twin
peaks lay like islands in a clear cold silver above bars of fleecy
cloud, and the ridge of Blencathra was black against the
whitewashed sky.  Between the trees the water of the Lake, struck
by the trail of a tiny boat, fell into darker and darker shadow.
The wood pigeons murmured from the wood.  Some ghostly sheep
wandered, just as they had so often done, slowly up the road.  This
was her home.  How foolish she had been to be so long an exile from
it!  And as she watched, the years fell away from her.  Twenty of
those years were suddenly gone.  She raised her arms above her head
and, smiling, saw herself, another very different woman, moving
slowly up the staircase of some grand house, hearing the names
called, the distant band--Lady Herries, a middle-aged woman with a
dull, stiff husband, still beautiful but soon not to be very
interesting, to be nothing more than a London hostess who knew
everyone, whom everyone knew, who mattered to no one, to whom no
one mattered.  Her body seemed to her young again; she would hear
her father call her name, Benjie would be riding over from Uldale,
all life was before her . . .  All life before her?  She shivered.
It was behind her.  She was in prison with Ellis.

But in the following days she could not keep down her joy.  She had
come home.  What is it that makes in a certain square of ground
every blade of grass, every hovering uncertain cloud, every note in
a bird's song one's own?  She had heard often enough, in London,
scorn of this country, its rain, its ponds, its little hills, old
Wordsworth and his daffodils, Coleridge and his opium, reading
parties from Cambridge.  She had had often to hold herself back
from a ridiculous personal protest as though the scoffers had
insulted herself.  She had wondered why Lettice and Timothy and
Violet, who had lived so long here, had had no personal feeling.
She had heard Timothy thank his stars that he had done with the
'beastly climate'.  She had asked Lettice whether she did not want
to go back.  'Go back?  All the unhappiest part of my life was
there.  I never want to see the place again.'  She knew for herself
that if her childhood had been one long misery still she must
return . . . and return . . .

There was something deeper here, some inheritance that was mingled
with all the truest, most importunate things in life.  Her love of
this place was her key to the connexion between the two worlds.
'Only connect . . .'  'Only connect . . .'  The whole problem for
man and for woman was here.  They move as in a game of blind-man's-
buff from figure to figure turned, twisted, bewildered.  Guess
rightly and the light floods in . . .

As she stood at the window, the world beyond it sinking into
darkness, she knew with sudden certainty that to find the key of
connexion was man's only business on this earth.  All else was
folly beside it.  And the key for her, as it had been for her
father, her grandmother, her great-grandfather, was here--like a
pot of gold hidden in this square of ground.  For Benjie too
perhaps?  She had, in that instant, one of those illuminating
flashes of revelation, that once and again are granted the Hoodman
Blind.  God the Invisible and man exploring; she smiled as she
thought of the ironies of Barney or Benjie or Rose if she told them
of her navet.

'I looked out of the window as the world grew dark and knew that
there are two worlds, that they are linked together, and that it is
God's purpose that we should find the connexion.  All beauty is for
that.  I must have courage, honesty, and I must rid myself of my
Blind Man's Hood, my egotism . . .  I must test life by no
experience but my own.  For you, dear Barney, God is an exploded
superstition.  That is YOUR experience.  You are right to hold
honestly by it.  But for myself, standing at this window, I have
another guide.  Credit my honesty and I will credit yours.  Let us
be tolerant to one another.'

As she turned back into the lighted room she had a moment of almost
blinding happiness.  Her troubles faded.  What matter if she were
close on forty, if she loved Benjie whom she could never be with
any more?  What was her fear of Ellis?  All the values of life were
for a moment altered.  She had courage for anything.



She needed that courage in the days that followed.

They were sitting quietly after supper, she reading a novel, he a
newspaper.  He said, still looking at his paper:

'Vanessa, when we return to London, I shall wish you to see a
doctor.'

'A doctor?'

'Yes,' he said, leaning forward and laying his long bony hands on
his knees.  'I have been long coming to the conclusion that you are
not well.  I came up here with you that I might observe you a
little.  In London it is so difficult.  So many people to
interfere.  We do not see enough of one another.  My suspicions--my
suspicions,' he repeated the word softly, 'are quite confirmed.'

'What suspicions?  I am perfectly well, Ellis dear.'

'Ah, so you think,' he went on quietly.  'That, I fear, is part of
the disease.'

'Disease?' she broke in.  Her heart was hammering.  She looked
quickly about among the old familiar things in the room to reassure
herself.  'Why, I was never better in my life, and especially since
I have come up here.'

'There, there.  You mustn't get excited.  Excitement is bad for
both of us.  I have said nothing until I could be certain.  I did
not wish to alarm you.  I have myself for some while been none too
well, but now I am quite recovered--quite recovered,' he repeated,
nodding his head.  'But now that I have mentioned it, you can speak
to me without fear.  There is no one listening.  At least I think
not.'  He got up, went very cautiously to the door and listened,
then to the windows, pulling back the curtains for a moment.  He
walked on tiptoe.

'Listen, Vanessa.  For a long time we have not been happy.  Oh, I
know that it has not been altogether your fault.  For a time I was
accompanied everywhere by someone.  Very unagreeable and difficult
to account for, but now that he is gone again--and I took care not
to bother you with his intrusion--I realize that your care of me
during these last years, in addition to all your social duties, has
been too much for your strength, your mental strength.  And then it
is hereditary, no doubt.  Your grandmother . . .  You will need
great quiet in the future, and an able doctor--perhaps retirement
into the country to some soothing place . . .'  He stopped to
listen.  'You heard nothing?  The city is so noisy and restless.
Always something moving.'

She picked up her book.  Her hands were trembling, but she answered
quietly:

'There is nothing the matter with me, Ellis.'  Forcing herself, she
looked up at him and smiled.  'We have both been tired a little by
London.  That is why this week in the country was such a good
idea.'

He bent down, patted her shoulder, kissed her forehead.

'There, there.  You must not disturb yourself.  I will see to it.'
He straightened himself and tiptoed to the door.  He listened,
looking anxiously into the wall.  'And now I think I will go up to
bed.  Don't worry.  Worry is bad for you.  Quiet, quiet.  We must
all have quiet.'

She lay awake for hours that night, wondering what she should do.
In the large bed that they shared he slept the peace of the insane
just.  He breathed like a child, never stirring.  She beat herself
into common sense.  Panic was so near that, all the night through,
she kept it off only by using her utmost strength.  She could run
away, leave him never to return, but that would mean defeat and
cowardice.  If she left him it would not be long before he would be
put somewhere, in some awful, silent house, faced with dark silent
windows, inhabited by poor sufferers like himself.  She must not go
until the last test of endurance had been reached.  But this new
twist of his brain was so awful that she refused to face it.  If
he, mad though he was, thought HER mad, might not others also think
so?  Had the strain of these last years been too much for her?  Had
there been something hysterically unreal in her manner?  In the
darkness of the room she saw the Misses Trent, in their large black
hats, their trailing gowns, standing close together watching her.
'Yes,' she heard one of them say to Ellis.  'You are right.
Vanessa has been behaving very strangely . . .'  But then her
common sense returned.  She had never been more sane in her life
than she was now.  She could deal with this as she had dealt with
everything that preceded it.  She turned on her side and slept.

Then, after one happy hour, she realized to the full the danger
that she was in.  That day, the seventeenth of June 1898, was
stamped, in its tiniest detail, on her memory for ever.

In the afternoon she drove to Rosthwaite.  A lady, Mrs Merriman,
who lived in Borrowdale, gave a party for some of the children from
Grange, Rosthwaite, Seatoller, and invited Vanessa.  They all knew
her here.  She was one of themselves and had it not been for her
silent, pale-faced, alarming husband they would have asked her
everywhere.  They hoped, now that she had returned to her real
home, that she would often come and, although they did not say so,
without her husband.  They knew that she was a grand lady in
London, but Cumberland people take things naturally.  Everyone is
on a level, and if anyone behaves grandly they look foolish and are
to be pitied.  Vanessa of course did not behave grandly at all.  No
one could be more simple, and on this afternoon in Rosthwaite she
sat on the floor and allowed the babies to climb all over her,
played musical chairs with breathless excitement and then, to the
cracked piano, sang songs for them and afterwards played for them
to dance.  Mrs Merriman, who was thin and pale, had an invalid
husband and more children than she wanted, had been inclined to be
jealous at first of this woman with her lovely clothes, her beauty,
her life in the great world.  'She has everything.  How unfair it
is.'  But soon she was not sure that she had everything.  There was
something, she told her husband, pathetic about Vanessa.  'She
played with the children as though she could not bear to let them
go.  She told me that coming back here was heaven to her.  She went
to the window and looked out at the hill like a starving woman.
"Well, why don't you come here more often, Lady Herries?" I asked
her.  "After all, it's your home.  We are all delighted to have you
here."  "Oh, how I wish I could!" she said.  I wouldn't wonder if
she's not happy with her husband.  I'm sure I shouldn't be.  He
really frightened me, he was so stiff and solemn.  I never saw a
woman carry herself so beautifully, and such lovely dark hair as
she's got and such a kind expression.  But I'm certain she's not
happy.  Lovely dark hair with not a grey thread, although she can't
be far off forty.  No airs at all, although the Prince and Princess
often come to her house, I believe.  You know, Philip, I felt like
a mother to her.  There's something makes me feel that she needs
someone to love her.  Oh, I know you'll call me romantic.  But I
can't help it.  She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen and
simply sweet with the children.  You could tell her anything, I'm
sure.'

When the children were having tea Vanessa slipped out, crossed the
road, the bridge, and looked at the solid, comfortable little
Victorian house with its sloping lawn, its trim garden, the house
built on the very spot where her great-grandfather had once lived.
She stood there, listening to the running water, feeling the
afternoon sun on her face, wondering where that old wild man now
was.  He, too, had stood here, looking at the hills, feeling the
sun on his face, waiting for his wife to return.  It had been wild
then: the bare rock, the tumbling water, the valley beyond uncouth
and deserted.  The sun had shone on his purple coat and silver
braid.  She felt intimately close to him.  Once again time was not.
Was it fancy that a hand rested on her shoulder, comforting her?
Of course it was fancy.

Here was the trim garden and on the lawn two garden chairs, a small
mowing machine, a watering pot.  An old bent gardener was clipping
the roses.  Two bicyclists passed down the road, and then a scarlet
coach filled with tourists.  But, after the coach was gone, silence
tumbled back again, the hills, clear and defined in the sunshine,
cut the cloudless sky.  The gardener pushed the mowing machine, and
the soft dreamy whirr filled the world with summer peace.  As she
turned to the bridge she whispered 'Goodbye'.  Was it fancy that a
figure in a purple coat watched her go?

'And now, children, we must all thank Lady Herries for helping to
make our afternoon such a pleasant one.'

They all thanked her in shrill treble voices.  They ran into the
road to see the splendid lady in her rose-coloured coat get into
the carriage, and one baby cried because it was not allowed to go
with her.  She kissed Mrs Merriman.

'Come back soon,' Mrs Merriman said.

'Yes, I will,' said Vanessa.



Ellis locked the door.  Vanessa looked up from her book at the
sound of the turning key.  Why had he locked the door?  She had
thought that he had gone up to bed.  The little clock with the
painted moon and stars (as a baby she had been lifted again and
again to count them) pointed to quarter to eleven.  Mrs Newson and
her husband slept on the far side of the cottage.  They would hear
nothing.  She continued to read.  This was a very clever book of
short stores; it was written by a woman who must be simply too
clever to do any of the ordinary things that ordinary women did.
The stories were in the manner that was becoming popular; they had
no beginning.  One story called 'The Haystack' started with this
sentence:  'Oh, but dripping is so cheap . . . and it's really not
bad when you get used to it.'  Nor had they any conclusion.  'The
Haystack' ended:  'Yes, but half a crown--that was altogether too
much for such a second-rate article.'  They were depressing
stories.  London in the rain, hateful boarding houses, shabby men
making love, the British Museum Reading Room, someone wringing a
chicken's neck outside the kitchen window.  They were very
feminist.  Men figured as poor creatures, mean, faithless, and
greedy.  But oh! what cleverness!  What observation!  Nothing
escaped this lady's eye; the yellow stain on the tablecloth where
mustard had been spilled at the last meal, the tear in the cheap
umbrella, the shabby feather in the outworn hat . . .  Vanessa
knew, as she read, that one thing that was the matter with herself
was that she was not clever at all.  Neither clever nor witty.  She
could not remember that she had ever said a brilliant thing in her
life.  Rose, Cynthia, Lady Dorothy Nevill--what clever things they
were always saying!  'I'm a bore,' thought Vanessa.  'The woman who
wrote this book wouldn't endure me for five minutes.'

But why had he locked the door?  He came and sat down opposite to
her.  The clothes that he was wearing, a dark brown cloth intended
for the country, did not suit him nor did they look like country
clothes.  Wherever he might be, he wore always the deep sharp
collar that belonged to the Gladstone caricatures, and that did not
suit him either because his throat was so thin, his Adam's apple so
large.  She noticed tonight for the first time that the back of his
pale long hand was freckled.

He sighed, then said:

'It was not kind of you, Vanessa, to have me watched all this
afternoon.'

She looked at him steadily, determining that tonight at least she
would not be afraid.  They were returning to London tomorrow and
then something must be done.  For her own safety, for his,
something must be done.

'What DO you mean, Ellis?  No one was watching you.'

'Ah, come, Vanessa.  Why lie to me?  I don't blame you, not at all.
I know that you are not yourself.  But it is wrong of you to
embarrass me.  And such an unpleasant man.  I stood here for half
an hour while he watched me outside the window.  He never moved
until I came myself to the window; then he vanished into that green
bush beyond the flowerbed.  Then when I returned to the fireplace,
pretending not to notice him, he came to the window again.  A long
thin man in a green coat.  I fancied that I had seen him before.'

She got up and came over to him, seeming very tall in that small
room.

'Ellis dear, let's go to bed.  You know that I haven't had you
watched.  Why should I?  Now come to bed.'

'Oh, I'm not vexed, my dear.  Not at all vexed.  I said to myself,
"If he hadn't got that green coat I really should not mind.  He
could watch me as long as he pleased.  But I dislike green as a
colour and his eyes were most unpleasant."  When I went out into
the garden he was gone.  Then he came back again.  He pressed his
face to the windowpane.  All the same you would dislike it if I had
YOU watched, you know.  You wouldn't like it at all.  In fact,
lately, I've had it in my mind because, being as you are, it isn't
safe for you to go about alone.'  He sighed, deeply, deeply as
though in dreadful distress.  The truth is that we are neither of
us well.  Life has been a failure for both of us.  It is better for
us to end it.'

She looked about the room to reassure herself with the old homely
comfort of the familiar things--the spinet, the books, the music
box, the pictures.  She walked to the window, then from the far
side of the table said:  'Ellis, give me that key.  You have locked
the door.  Give me that key.'

'No, my dear, certainly not.  Because you had me watched this
afternoon is reason enough.  We have not been happy for a long
time; indeed I have never been happy.  I cannot remember a time
when I was happy.  Nor are you happy.  So here, very quietly, while
there is no one about, is a very good opportunity to finish all
this tiresome business.  I feel it my duty.  I have hesitated for
some time, but now my duty is quite clear.'

He fumbled in his inside coat pocket and brought from it a large
kitchen knife with a thick brown handle.

'You will feel nothing,' he said smiling.  'It will be no more than
a cut on the finger.  And then I will follow you.  I can't possibly
express to you how agreeable it will be to be tired no longer, to
have no more headaches.  For both of us it will be a relief, I am
sure--'

He held the knife in one hand and stroked its edge, very gently,
with the other.  The little clock struck eleven.

'This is the silliest scene,' she thought, 'I have ever been in.
So unreal that all the things in the room have become unreal too.'
She thought also:  'But this ends everything.  At last, thank
Heaven, this ends everything.'

'I have thought it all out,' he said.  'Sit in that chair, Vanessa.
Close your eyes.  You'll feel nothing at all.'  He was very close
to her now, but she did not move.

'Ellis, give me the key.  Put down that knife.  Go to bed.  You are
behaving like a baby.  Put that knife down on that table.'

'Perhaps I will,' he said, looking at her very cunningly.  'Perhaps
I will not.  But it won't matter, because nothing you can say will
alter my decision.  And how absurd of you not to do as I wish!  But
you have never done as I wish.  A pale-green mushroom hat that you
are always wearing.  You know that I dislike it.  And yet day after
day you persist in wearing it.'  He murmured:  'A mass of shaded
green wings.  A mass of shaded green wings.  That's what Mr
Playfair said.'

He threw out his hand and caught her arm.

'Come to the chair, Vanessa.  Come to the chair.  That is the
easiest way.'

He looked up at her like a beseeching child.  His eyes were filled
with tears.

'Dear Vanessa.  How I love you!  How unhappy we are!'



His arm encircled her body . . .  His head fell forward and rested
on her breast.  The knife tumbled to the floor.  She led him back
to the armchair, he submitting like a child.

'Please, Ellis, give me the key,' she said.

Tears pouring down his cheeks, he fumbled for the key, found it,
gave it her.

'Another time,' he sobbed.  'Perhaps another time will be better.
I meant it for the best . . .'  Then, as she moved away, he caught
her hand:  'Don't leave me.  Don't leave me.  I am afraid of being
alone.'

She knelt down beside him, comforting him as she had done so often
before.  But, in her heart, she knew that this was for the last
time.



ESCAPE INTO DANGER


They had to leave very early next morning to catch the train for
London.  Vanessa, who had not slept at all, stood at the lawn's
edge and found that the world was rolling in rosy smoke.  It would
be a hot day.  The smoke lifted from the Lake even as she looked,
as someone lifts the covers from a bed: the Lake shivered,
trembling, at the touch of the sun that itself also dared as yet
only to breathe upon the water, but to breathe like God, strongly,
confidently (in spite of so very many disappointments) and with the
very tenderness of love.  The colour flew upwards from the hills
and broke into petals of rose against the sky that would soon be
drenched with sun.  All the hills waited--Cat Bells, Robinson,
Gable, Scafell, the Langdales, Helvellyn, Blencathra--they all
waited for their illumination high, high above these madmen who
today are one thing and tomorrow another.

This would be a horrible journey--and so it was.

'Perhaps,' said Ellis, when they were halfway down England, 'you
would like my Times?'  He spoke to a stout fellow in a suit of loud
checks who had been, ever since Penrith, staggered by Vanessa's
beauty.  For she wore a small toque, a spotted veil, her rose-
coloured coat; behind the veil, the man in the checks was, with
beating heart, assured, breathed the only woman for whom all his
life he had been searching.  He had money, he had rude health, a
kind wife and a mistress in Carlisle, but he had not, he had never,
never had, the Beauty for which he longed.

'Thank you, sir.  Very kind of you.  Hooley's bankruptcy means the
end of the cycling boom.  Mark my word.'

The fields rushed up to the window and all the houses bobbed and
curtsied in the sun.  Vanessa sat there, her clever book of stories
on her lap, and fought down her terrors.  She had not slept, and
Ellis, who now looked like a Prime Minister, a director of a
railway company or the real author of Robert Elsmere, had last
night wished to cut her throat with a knife with a brown handle.
He had, as usual, wept leaning against her breast.  He would never
weep against her breast again, for her duty there was ended.  Once
she had loved him as a mother her child, then she had pitied him
because he was sick, now she was a weary, angry woman resolved on
escape.  Next week they were giving a Ball in Hill Street, a very
grand Ball indeed, and that should be the last.  That should be
the end, for her, of Ellis, Hill Street, London . . .  One need
not, one must not, be stuck so deep in a quagmire of ludicrous
danger . . . ludicrous kitchen knives, Ellis' tears and tiptoe to
the window, Ellis' man in the green bush beyond the window, Ellis'
moaning in his sleep, poor Ellis . . .  'To find some life that is
neither false nor dangerous . . .'  Letting her head fall, she
slept at last, dreaming that the babies in Rosthwaite pulled her
with eager hands up the hill to the water falling with such cool
certainty down the face of the rock.  Standing waiting for her
there was Benjie.



At Hill Street was a letter for her from Rose.  Next day she went
to see her.  Rose was living in two very small dingy rooms off
Baker Street.  She met Vanessa defiantly, as though to say:  'I
know you will find me changed and you can say, if you wish, that
you never want to see me again.'  Yes, Rose WAS changed.  Her
cheeks were painted, the puffed shoulders of her dress absurdly
exaggerated, her waist too small for any comfort, her eyes unhappy.
Her room was untidy, clothes thrown about, a dusty piano open with
a bright green hat ornamented with a bird of paradise plume flung
down on the keys.

A strange thought struck Vanessa.  'This is the world into which,
very shortly, I may be moving.'

But oh! it was wonderful to be loved again!  She could not believe
that she had endured all these years without it!  She was like a
woman starved as, sitting with Rose on the shabby hole-and-corner
sofa, she heard what Rose chose to tell her (a sort of fairy story
in which every gentleman was kind, money sprang from the carpet,
and life was one long victory).

At the end of it Vanessa said:

'I'm glad you're so happy.'

And Rose said:

'Life's hell.  Don't believe a word I've said, Vanessa.'

They discovered very quickly that life just then was bad for both
of them.  Vanessa did not tell Rose that Ellis had wanted to cut
her throat with a kitchen knife, but she DID give her to understand
that the end of Hill Street had arrived at last and that Rose must
be prepared . . .

There came in upon them without a word of warning the most dreadful
man--Major Featherstone-Haigh.  The Major was short, purple in the
face, smelt of brandy, called Vanessa 'My dear' and looked at Rose
as though he owned her--which, at that moment, he probably did.

Vanessa went back to Hill Street.  She went back to Hill Street to
find Miss Vera and Miss Winifred Trent waiting for her in the
drawing-room.  Standing in her room, before she went down to them,
she knew a moment of fear worse than any that had preceded it.  She
stood, motionless, her head up as though she were listening.  Then
with quick nervous movements she took off her white soft-feathered
toque, her veil, her long gloves.  She listened again.  It was a
hot thundery day and her windows were wide open.  A hansom clop-
clopped down Hill Street; she looked out and saw a man crying his
flowers which blazed in a cloud of colour on his barrow--roses,
carnations, lilies.  Below the windows of the houses the window
boxes shone with bright blue, with scarlet, with flaunting yellows.
At the end of the street was a barrel-organ that played again and
again an old air from Trovatore.  Light, colour, music: but inside
the house it was cold and dark as it always was.  Her dress was
white and black, the shoulders very puffed, the waist very small.
She looked at herself in the long silver mirror.  She seemed to
herself hideous, her pale face beneath the dark hair, her long
white neck, her full bosom; her height was ridiculous.  She hated
the way that she carried her head, stiff, pompous, 'as though I
were for ever at the top of the stairs, receiving.  Thank Heaven,
it is ended.  In a week or two, in one way or another, it will be
over.  I will never receive anyone any more.  Death, perhaps.'  It
did not seem impossible, for there was Ellis loose about the house,
and the house so still, and those two old women in their long
trailing black waiting for her in the drawing-room.

At that moment, looking at herself in the mirror with disgust as at
someone for whom everything was over, someone moving in a crazy
house cold as the grave, a lunatic its master, she had almost, for
the first time, lost all her courage.  Rose lost, Benjie somewhere
wandering, no one else . . .  Then also she remembered her
grandmother, that small indomitable woman with the white hair and
ivory cane who lived to be a hundred, who had faced everything
because she knew how to be indifferent to life whilst adoring it,
'She did--so can I.'  She went down to the two ladies.

'Ah, dear Vanessa, how nice to see you again.  And how are you?'

'Very well indeed, thank you.'

They both kissed her, and as they did so it was as though they were
graciously inviting her to stay for an hour or so in her own
drawing-room.  They were extremely quiet.  When they moved, their
long black dresses scarcely rustled.  They appeared also to have a
secret understanding.  They had moreover the power to make you feel
that you could not take a step without their permission.  Finch
brought in the tea, and it seemed likely for a moment that Miss
Vera Trent would instruct him where the table should be placed.
Their voices were what Barney once called 'boneless'.

'We have already seen dear Ellis,' said Miss Winifred.

'He says that his holiday has done him good,' said Miss Vera.

'But we advised him to be careful during these hot weeks in
London,' said Miss Winifred.  'The worst thing possible for his
headaches.  How is he, do you think, Vanessa?'

'Oh, very well,' said Vanessa brightly.  'We had such lovely
weather in Cumberland.'

'You did?' said Miss Winifred.  'Now isn't that delightful?
Cumberland when it is FINE must be indeed charming.'

'And for you--to return to your old home again--how delightful!'
said Miss Vera.  'There is no place quite the same as one's
childhood's home.'

'And what have you been doing?' asked Vanessa.  'What are the
family scandals?  Whom have you seen?'

'Oh, we lead quiet lives, you know,' said Miss Winifred.  'We had
tea one day with dear Cynthia.  May and her girls were in London
for a week.  And poor Violet--not at all well, I fear, and now that
both children--'  She broke off.  The Misses Trent were nothing if
not tactful, and, after all, Vanessa most strangely defended that
horrible man who had lured poor Violet's boy--

They both looked at her together, a strange look, a look full of
some knowledge that at present they would keep to themselves.  Miss
Vera said, smiling, raising her hand on which her diamond rings
sparkled, to help herself to a little cake:  'And what is this that
Ellis tells us, dear Vanessa, about your own health?  Rather a sad
report, I fear.'

'My health?' said Vanessa.  'Why, it was never better.'

Miss Vera shook her finger.  'Now that is not at all what dear
Ellis tells us.  He insists that you see a doctor.  Altogether over-
fatigued, he says, and I am sure that I don't wonder with all that
you do.  And then this great Ball next week to which Winifred and I
are so greatly looking forward.  But after it Ellis thinks that a
quiet time in the country--'

Her anger rose.  She was suddenly aware that she hated these two
women as she had never hated anyone in her life before.  'I think
that I am the best judge of that,' she said quietly.  'I am
perfectly well.'

The door opened and she saw that Ellis had come in.  The two ladies
rose and moved to either side of him.  He greeted them with a grave
smile.

Surely, they must be aware of his strangeness, his eyes are never
still nor do they see the things at which they are looking, and he
walks now like a cat with padded feet . . .

All three looked at her.  Then Ellis said:

'A little tea, my dear.  Thundery weather.'

They all sat down.



One more move needed to complete the preparation.  Next day meeting
Barney at Cynthia's he put in her hand a note.  It was from Benjie.


                                              18 Half Moon Street.

DEAR VANESSA--I am here and shall be so for some weeks.  If I may
not see you I may at least be happy because I am near you.

                                                           B.



The last Ball ever given by Vanessa and Ellis in Hill Street was a
brilliant success.  Vanessa, in a dress of white satin and with
diamonds in her hair, stood at the top of the stairs.  She saw, as
though it were a mechanical toy wound up for her amusement, the
figures appear around the bend of the staircase--one two, one two,
one two--the ladies' heads erect, bosoms thrust forward, trains
draped over their arms, jewels glittering, a scent of powder and
roses and the heat of the London June evening . . .

'Lord and Lady Danesborough.'

'Sir James and Lady Ford.'

'Mr Forbes-Robertson.'

'Lady Carteris.'

'Lord John Beaminster.'

'Lady Adela Beaminster.'

'Miss Rachel Beaminster.'

'Mr Timothy Herries.'

'Miss Vera Trent.'

'Miss Winifred Trent.'

'Lady Dorothy Nevill.'

'Sir Henry and Miss Nevill and Lady Wade.'

'Madame Sarah Bernhardt.'

'Mr and Mrs Peile Worcester.'

'Lord Clancarty.'

'Mr Henry James.'

'Mr Edmund Gosse.'

'Mr and Mrs Colvin.'

'Lady Sarah Meux.'

'Monsieur Felix Brun.'

'Mr Yale Ross.'

'Lady Carloes.'

'Mr Robert Hichens.'

'Sir Roderick Seddon.'

'The Honourable Lionel Talmache.'

'Mr Adrian Cards.'

'Lady Lettice Forjambe.'

'Mr and Mrs Humphrey Ward.'

'Sir Peter and Lady Thornby.'

'Miss Mary Thornby.'

'Lady Eustace.'

'Miss Pamela Eustace.'

'Mrs Clifford.'

'Mr Barnabas Newmark.'

'Lord and Lady Rockage.'

'Miss Veasey.'

'Mr and Mrs Ormerod.'

'Lady Cynthia Lamb.'

'Mr and Mrs Frederick Macmillan.'

'Mrs Grant Bingham.'

'Mr Herbert Beerbohm Tree.'

'Mr Pendle Smith.'

'Mrs Langtry.'

'General Fortescue and Mrs Fortescue.'

'Mr Max Beerbohm.'

'Miss Carlyon.'

'Mr Ross.'

'Mr Tumer.'

'Mrs Fortescue Brown.'

'Mr Brookfield.'

'Mrs Craigie.'

'Mr Charles Wyndham.'

She reflected:  'It must be midnight.  The actors and actresses are
arriving.'  She glanced back and saw that the long room was now
filled to overflowing with dancers.

'Mr Bertrand.'

'Lady Garvice.'

'Miss Garvice.'

'Mr Galleon.'

'Lady Torring.'

'Mr and Mrs Frost.'

Barney, a little later, found himself in a corner with Bertrand the
novelist.

'I suppose,' Bertrand said, 'you think I'm here to pour scorn on my
fellow-creatures.'

'No, not especially,' said Barney.  'Any more than anyone else.'

'As a matter of fact,' said Bertrand, 'I love my fellow-creatures.
I think we are all absurd, of course.  And tonight I feel something
sinister in the air.'

'Sinister?' asked Barney.

'Yes.  I can't explain it except that I think London IS sinister
just now.  Have you read Hichens' Londoners, or don't you read your
fellow-novelists?'

'Not very often,' said Barney.

'Neither do I.  But Hichens' book is clever madness--too long, but
not really exaggerated.  We are all mad.'  He looked around him.
'Do you see that little man over there talking to Mrs Langtry?'  He
pointed to a small, very dapper gentleman, with bright observant
eyes, who was talking with exceeding animation and a good deal of
un-English gesticulation.

'That is Felix Brun.  He lives only for the social history of
Europe.  He knows all the moves, the undercurrents, the plots, and
plotters.  Whenever he appears in London, you can be sure that
there is a change coming.  I met him a week or two ago at the Rede
Gallery where he had come to look at Ross' portrait of the old
Duchess of Wrexe--a very fine painting, by the way.  He was very
interesting.  Like myself, he has no illusions.'

'You must have been a fine gloomy pair,' Barney said, laughing.

'Oh, not gloomy at all.  Why be gloomy?  It has been dull, this
long sleepy prosperity.  Brun agrees with me that things are
breaking up.'

'What things?' Barney asked.  He was looking at Ellis, who,
standing near to him, alone, had in his eyes so fixed a gaze, and
in his pose so odd an air of waiting for someone, that he
interested Barney.

'What things?' repeated Bertrand.  'Oh, all this.  The conviction
that we are the finest people in the world, superior to everything
and everybody.  The conviction that we rule the world and it is
right that we should.  Brun says that England's day as ruler of the
world is over.'

'That must give you great satisfaction.'

'No--why should it?  We do some things very well, but we have no
taste, no subtlety, no sensitiveness to what other people are
feeling, and our Imperial ambitions are revolting.  I am going to
live in France.'

Beaminster brought up to Vanessa a very beautiful girl.

'This is my niece Rachel, Vanessa.  You were at her Ball the other
day.  She has not been out long enough yet to be blas.  She thinks
you are the most wonderful woman in London.'

Vanessa looked with great pleasure at the girl in front of her.
Miss Rachel Beaminster, granddaughter of the old Duchess of Wrexe.
Vanessa had gone in May to a very grand Ball in Portland Place
given for this child's coming-out.  The girl was tall and thin,
with dark hair and beautiful eyes, a little gauche and a little
foreign.  Her mother had been a Russian actress, and the old
Duchess had, Vanessa was told, never forgiven her son for his
msalliance.  But the importance of this meeting for Vanessa was
that this girl might be herself--herself twenty years ago.

'I do hope you're enjoying yourself.'

'Oh yes, Lady Herries.  It's a lovely Ball.'

'Plenty of partners?'

The girl smiled and became at once transformed; her happiness took
away that little awkwardness and you felt pleasure, excitement,
anticipation beat through her body.

'Plenty.  I could dance all night.'

'I have known your uncle a long time.  He is one of my oldest
friends.'

'Oh, Uncle John?  Isn't he a dear?  I should have been terrified of
everything had it not been for him.'

Yes, and she might be, Vanessa thought, with that awful old
grandmother and stiff, forbidding Adela for an aunt and prim,
pompous Richard for an uncle!

'It's so wonderful,' Rachel said, 'seeing Sarah Bernhardt.  Uncle
John is taking me next week to one of her plays at the Lyric.  She
looks kinder, more simple--'

'Would you like to meet her?' asked Vanessa.

'Oh yes!  Can I?  You see, my mother was an actress--'

'Come along and I'll introduce you.  Tell her about your mother.'

They went across to where the great woman was listening, with eyes
half closed, to M. Brun.

Vanessa presented the girl and was pleased to see with what ease
and simplicity the child behaved.  She turned and, for a moment
before she was caught again, watched the room, swinging under the
lights to the rhythm and symmetry of the waltzes.  The music softly
beat into her ears:  'The last time--the last time--the last
time . . .'

What if there should be a scene?  What if Ellis should commit some
awful indiscretion?  He was looking strange tonight.  Surely others
had noticed it besides herself.  She talked, she laughed, she
walked with uplifted head.  Many said afterwards that she had never
seemed more splendid than at this Ball, more easily the mistress of
her world.  'And for her age still such a beauty,' said little
Brun.  'What is she?  Nearly forty?  She must be.'  He remarked to
Bertrand:  'An interesting family, these Herries.  So typically
English and yet with a strain of something--'

'And we'll have fires out of the Grand Duke's Wood,' quoted
Bertrand.

'Fires out of the wood?'

'Yes--a quotation from one of the other Herries--the mad ones, you
know.'

'Ah, there have been mad ones then?'

'Oh, plenty.  There are several scandals at the moment.'

'Ah,' said Brun.  'That's what makes you English so interesting.
You are madder than any other people and yet so conventional.
Impossible to understand, you turn and rend your madmen while they
are alive and yet are so proud of them after they are dead.'

'That,' said Bertrand, who was suddenly bored with little Brun (he
tired of people very quickly--of himself also), 'is why we are so
conceited.  We have so much common sense that when our poets have
written their poetry we kill them.  Except Wordsworth and Tennyson
of course.  But they were mad very young and got over it.'

After that Bertrand sat by himself for a while and collected notes
for his notebook.  He watched Madame Bernhardt act and Henry James
unravel sentences of benignity from his beard, Mrs Langtry raise
her lovely arm, bishops grow genial, politicians indiscreet and all
the most beautiful girls in London manoeuvre for husbands.  Then he
noticed his host, who listened at first with grave intensity to a
stout lady in a bright green dress, and then, when she left him,
stood as though bewildered, staring about him.

'By Jove, the old boy's trembling from head to foot,' he said to
himself.  'He'll have a fit or something.'

Ellis backed to the wall.  He straightened himself against it.
Then Bertrand saw that he felt the wall with the palm of his hand;
he moved his hand up and down against the surface, and in his eyes
was the most unhappy gaze that Bertrand had ever seen in a human
countenance.  Then Bertrand saw that two tall elderly ladies came
up to him, stood on either side of him, talking to him.  With his
hand through the arm of one of them, Ellis moved away.  Bertrand
wrote in his notebook that night:

'But the strangest thing this evening was the terror of my host.  A
very commonplace dull man, you would say, but the dullest of us may
become interesting when, lost in the bush, he hears the tom-toms of
the approaching cannibals.'



The Ball reached its apogee.  There was a superb and nearly riotous
set of Lancers.  Everyone had had supper.  The summer morning was
breaking beyond the windows.  The carriages drove away.  Finch,
downstairs, entertained the footmen and the maids with his splendid
imitations of the more important guests.

Vanessa, reaching her room at last, locked the door.  A few minutes
later there was a knock.  She stood motionless, listening.  The
knock was several times repeated.  Then silence.



As the small brown silver-faced clock that she had brought with her
from Cat Bells struck eleven, she awoke.  She had told them not to
call her; now she rang the bell, looked at her letters, the
newspaper, drank her coffee.  Through and behind it all was a sense
of crisis.  And yet why?  She had given last night one of the most
successful Balls of the season; no hitch, no misadventure.  And
today there was no reason why anything should happen.  Something
SOON must be done, but immediately, today . . .

The sun poured into the room.  The paper told her that there was a
new successful play at the Court--His Excellency the Governor--and
that her friend, Irene Vanbrugh, one of the women whom for her
generous spirit, unaffected good nature and cheerful courage she
liked best in London, had made a great success in it.  She read of
a hat that sounded a miracle of loveliness:


A daring little toque of turquoise straw, jet pins with very big
heads, white wings and a black velvet rosette in front.  She also
read:  The Louis Seize bow is almost ubiquitous.  We meet it on
hats, it is a charming head-dress for evening wear, it occurs in
almost every embroidery, every appliqu of lace, it airs itself in
the lace curtains, on our walls, everywhere.


'There shall be no Louis Seize bows on MY walls,' she thought, half
asleep, and then remembered, with the sharpness of a knife cutting
through tissue paper, an unexpected little incident of the evening
before.  Just after she had come up from supper Ellis appeared at
her elbow and with him a stout roughly bearded man.  All that Ellis
had said was that this was a friend of his, a Doctor Playfair.  She
had talked with the man for five minutes.  What had they discussed?
Bernhardt's season at the Lyric, the Spanish-American War,
Gladstone's funeral, Cecil Rhodes--anything, nothing?  He had
seemed a well-informed, pleasant enough man.  As soon as his back
was turned she had forgotten him.  She had not thought of him again
until now when, suddenly, she seemed to see him in the room here
with her--his untidy brown beard speckled with grey, his white
waistcoat that fitted ill over his paunch, his heavy bowed
shoulders, but, above all, his thick glasses behind which his large
grey eyes had stared at her without blinking.  How he had stared!
She had not at the time thought of it, for, by now, she was
accustomed that people should stare at her.  But how he had stared!
She fancied now that there had been some especial emphasis in
Ellis' introduction . . .

She must get away!  Oh! at once! at once!  Somewhere, anywhere.
Was she perhaps nervously overstrung?  This trembling, this beating
of the heart . . .  Had people been thinking her ill and not cared
to tell her?  WAS her mind affected by this last horrible year?
She jumped out of bed, went to the mirror.  Nothing ailed her.  She
was in the full vigorous possession of her brain, her will, her
heart.  She had never been more conscious of true bodily strength,
of real and absolute sanity.  She had been imagining the doctor . . .
There had been nothing intended, nothing sinister--but with
Ellis now from minute to minute you never knew . . . you never
knew . . .

She had luncheon alone and afterwards drove to the Rede Art Gallery
in Bond Street, where she had arranged to meet Barney.  They had
agreed that they must see Yale Ross' portrait of the Duchess of
Wrexe.  He was waiting for her inside the Gallery and she thought
to herself:  'What a nice wide-awake amusing face he has for an old
man of nearly seventy!  How pleasant it is always to see him!  What
a friend he has always been to both Benjie and myself!'

They went together and looked at the portrait.  It was certainly
brilliant.  The old woman sat, leaning a little forward, holding a
black ebony cane, in a high carved chair.  The most striking thing
in her pose was the way in which her dry claw-like fingers clutched
her cane.  Her dress was black and the only colour against it was
the dull green of a jade pendant.  The colour of her face was
almost dead white and the skin was drawn so tightly over the veins
that a sigh, a breath, you felt, would snap it.  She looked
indomitable, remorseless, proud, nor was there a shadow of humour
in her mouth (which was cruel) and her eyes (which were cold).  On
either side of the chair were two green and white dragons,
grotesques with large flat feet and open mouths.  A tapestry of
dull figured gold filled the background.

'Theatrical, brilliant, and most uncomplimentary,' Vanessa said.

'She wouldn't think so,' said Barney.  'I'm told she's delighted
with the picture.  And she IS theatrical--her life, I mean.  She
shuts herself up in Portland Place so that she may be a figure.  If
she went out and about she would be simply an old and tiresome
woman who had outlived her time.  As it is people think that she
pulls all the strings.'

Vanessa thought of the young girl, Rachel, to whom she had spoken
last night.

'That girl has character,' she said.  'It would be a tussle between
the two of them if they fought.'

They found a quiet corner.  The little room with its cool light,
its gleaming pictures, its silence, was most refreshing.

'Now tell me, Barney, quite honestly, have you noticed anything
strange in me lately?'

'No.  Nothing.  Of course not.  I never saw you more beautiful,
more completely mistress of yourself, than last night.  Everyone
said the same.'

'Thank you, my dear.  And now listen.'

Vanessa told him everything; of the journey to Cumberland, the
incident of the knife, Ellis' remarks about her health, the two old
women in the house, the few minutes with the doctor.  Barney was
horrified.

'At least that settles it.  Something must be done at once--at
once.'

'Yes, but what?  I cannot--no, I cannot--endure another week of
this.  And it is not right for Ellis either.  We are not safe and
he is not safe.'

Barney stared in front of him.  'This is dreadful.  I knew that
things were bad, but not like this.'

'How much does anyone else know?'

'Well, we--the family--have realized that something was wrong with
Ellis for a long time.  But only vaguely.  I have only known what
you told me and others have guessed a little perhaps, but so long
as everything was all right on the surface they have accepted it.
They don't WANT, you see, that there should be anything public.
There have been enough Herries scandals.'

Vanessa went on:

'And it is all my fault.  The sin was my marrying Ellis in the
first place when it was Benjie whom I loved.  I thought of myself
rather than Ellis.  But there was this strain, perhaps, in him from
the beginning . . .  I can't DEAL with it, Barney.  My courage is
gone, and I thought once that I had enough for anything.  But how
can I leave him like this, defenceless, without anybody, in that
awful world of his own?  If you saw how unhappy he sometimes looks,
the way that he cries, the BITTERNESS of his weeping!  How lonely
one must be!'

She trembled and put one gloved hand on Barney's knee to steady
herself.

'Oh, Barney, WHAT am I to do?'

'Wait,' Barney said.  'Let's be sensible about this.  Under the
cold eyes of the old Duchess.  What would SHE do?  Lock Ellis up in
a Portland Place cellar and feed him on bread and water.  No my
dear, I'm not laughing.  This is serious enough for anything, but
forgive me if I'm thinking about you first.  You have to be
protected, you know.  Let's be practical.  Ellis is dangerous, poor
chap.  And there are the two old women.  And that doctor last
night.'

She asked him, dropping her voice:

'Can they do anything?  I mean if they really tried to get me away
into the country.  Oh, I don't mean murder me.  But shut me up,
isolate me?'

'Oh no--not while Benjie and I are about.  That is only a crazy
idea of Ellis'.  He honestly believes it, I shouldn't wonder.  He
may have persuaded the two old ladies that at least you are tired,
overstrung.  But you MUST leave him--for the time, anyway.'

'And precipitate everything,' she went on quickly.  'If I go and
refuse to return there will be no question about Ellis--everyone
will know.'

'Will they?  I wonder.  You will be blamed of course.'  He looked
at her.  'Vanessa, will you mind blame, criticism?  You have had
very little in your life, haven't you?  Everyone has loved you.  It
will be different.  You won't be the splendid Lady Herries any
more . . .'

'Oh, that!  That is nothing.  But there IS something else . . .'

Some people had come into the Gallery.  She lowered her voice.

'I don't think, Barney, that I can go on any longer without seeing
Benjie.  I've had thirteen years of it, you know.  I love him as
deeply as ever I did--more deeply, I think.  He is alone, has been
for years.  I know that it is wrong.  I've no illusions about that
at all.  I'm very old-fashioned about God, my friends tell me, but
of this I'm sure--that to live with Benjie would be a sin and that
somewhere, sometime, I should suffer and rightly suffer.  If I
sinned it would be deliberately, one thing against another.  But I
think NOW that perhaps to sin and be punished is better than to
live and die without loving anyone.'

When Vanessa talked like this she seemed to Barney so touchingly
childish that he wanted to pat her hand and say:  There!  There! my
dear.  I'll go with you and tell them it wasn't your fault.  I'll
see that you're not punished.'  Sin!  Good Heavens!  WHAT a word!
And the things that HE had done, the fine times he had had, and
here he was nearing seventy and as hale and hearty . . .

'Well, that may be, my dear--or it may not be.  Sin seems to me a
vague word.  If you're right and there's some old tyrant waiting to
see you slip and punish you, why, then I'd defy him and tell him to
do his worst.  Let's be practical.  Go off with Benjie, well and
good.  But there are two things to consider.  One is the social
part of it.  Probably that seems unimportant to you, but it isn't
so nice in practice.  Men and women can be very nasty when they see
someone enjoying a freedom they haven't themselves the courage
for.'

'Yes,' said Vanessa, and thought of Rose.

'And there's another thing.  What about Benjie?  How old is he now?
Forty something, isn't he?  You aren't either of you very young any
longer.  Benjie's a rover.  He IS a bit of the gipsy they call him.
He loves you, I know.  That has been the finest, by far the finest,
thing in his life.  I think if you've courage enough you can bring
it off.  But you'll need all the courage you've got.'

She stood up, pulling down her veil, standing there in her pale
dress of grey and silver, for a moment, as desolate and lonely as
he'd ever seen her.

'I know,' she said.  'I'm in a muddle, aren't I?  Father always
used to say that I was a careless little fool--not those words, you
know, but that's what it amounted to.  And yet for so long I've
been so careful--so absurdly careful.

As they went out she said:

'I wish we hadn't talked under the eyes of that dreadful old woman,
Barney.'

As they went down the stairs Barney caught her hand.

'Remember, Vanessa, that I'm here whenever you want me.  Always,
whatever you decide.'

'Yes,' she said, smiling back at him.  'You, Benjie, Rose, Adrian,
Lettice.  Five.  In the whole world.  Well, I suppose there are
many people would be grateful for so many.'  She added, as she got
into her carriage:  'And I AM grateful!  You're a friend worth
having, Barney.'



They dined alone, very late, she and Ellis, and at once she saw
that the crisis was upon her.  Ellis had some plan that was not to
wait long for its explanation.  Living with him, as she had done in
these last years, she had learnt something of the strange country
in which he was now lodging.  She knew that his brain always moved
along a single path, or rather the paths lay side by side like
railway tracks and he might jump at any second from one to another,
but that he was conscious ONLY of the one that he was, at that
moment, treading.  Tonight she was very close to him; she could see
clearly the character of the world in which he moved, its grey
uncertain darkness so that you went stumbling, hitting your shins
against sharp edges like razors, or of a sudden putting your hand
on a cold soft substance, a gelatinous mass on whose surface
spiders wove webs.  And then at such contacts you screamed.  What
could you do other, alone as you were, wrapped in darkness, driving
forward but with no knowledge of your destination?

She understood, too, how bewildering were the sudden flares of
light--like the up-blazing in some works when, conducted around by
the manager, he explains the moving of some minute wheel--both of
you lit by the glare of Hell.  That was Ellis' world, and these
flares of hot flaming light were all he had to guide him.  They
might be a hat with a mass of green wings, the name of Playfair, a
man looking through the window, the swinging of a mirror for no
cause, the whistle of a train, a book read late at night when the
house is silent--these and such as these were all he had to light
his path.  But pursue his path he must, and would with an absorbed
intensity.  One track--one purpose.  The burning molten substances
flares to heaven, and the track and purpose are changed--changed
but as intensely pursued.

She knew tonight that some intention completely absorbed him and
that that intention concerned herself.  Because she knew this she
had a kind of prevision of what was coming.  At least she was quite
certain that this very evening would see the finish of all her
business here.  She even knew, as she smiled at Finch and said:
'No, no more asparagus, thank you, Finch', that this was the last
time that she would sit at this table, the last time at least for
many a day . . .  One might return.  She speculated about that.  To
what did one not return?  The same tests were repeated again and
again.  She felt that there was neither time nor space tonight but
that together she, her father, grandmother, great-grandfather, Will
Leathwaite, Rose, Benjie's wife, anyone you please, all in the same
moment stood up to be tested while the Eagle flew across the
sun . . .

Just before she rose from the table to lead the way up to the
drawing-room, she had the hallucination, staring at the wallpaper
under the candlelight, that it would be for ever thus--she and
Ellis facing one another over the broken fruit skins and half-
emptied glasses, her father swinging her to and fro above the grass
of the Cat Bells lawn, old David falling at the news of the
Bastille, older Herries standing at his door waiting for his wife,
Rose and Major Featherstone-Haigh, all the Herries, nay, all the
world transfixed into immobility while God cries from His judgement
seat:  'Now!'  The candles blew in the wind, a picture swung very,
very slightly on its cord, and it was Ellis, not God, who said
'Now!'

'Now, Vanessa, we will go upstairs.  There is something I must tell
you.'

So highly pitched was her sensibility that when they were alone
together in the drawing-room and the door closed behind them, she
felt like an animal entrapped.  There was, in fact, good reasonable
common sense here, for you could not one evening allow your husband
to attempt to cut your throat without, after that, finding other
evenings with him rather dangerous.  The door was not, this time,
locked.  Finch and the young footman were within calling distance.
She had always hated this room.  She had done what she could with
it, taken down the yellow hangings, allowed Whistler to paint her
portrait, spread rugs, bought roses, carnations, lilies--but
Whistlers, rugs, roses, carnations, lilies COULD not prevent that
this room was still the yellow drawing-room that, even though only
last night it had swung with a maze of happy figures under the
crystal candelabra, was dead like a mausoleum and cold as Hell must
be for those who love the warmth.

He made her sit down beside him on the sofa.  He patted her hand
and his hand was warm and dry.

'Are you tired, Vanessa?'  He spoke to her with infinite
consideration.

'Not in the least.'

'Not after last night's festivities?'

'No.  I slept until eleven.'

'What have you done today?'

'Oh, nothing very much.  I went to the Rede Gallery to see Ross'
portrait of the old Duchess that everyone is talking of.'

'Did anyone go with you?'

'Yes, Barney.'

'Ah . . .  Barney . . .  Everyone agrees that last night's was a
most successful Ball.'

'I think it was.  Really Finch and the servants did excellently.
Finch may have his faults, but he knows his business.'

'Did you notice last night,' Ellis asked her, 'how those who were
not invited came and laughed at us?  It disturbed me greatly, but I
said nothing to anybody.  They gathered in groups, I was afraid at
one time there would be trouble.'

'No one came who was not invited.'

'Oh yes.  You are quite wrong.  There were many there who had no
right to be present.  I thought at one time that I would have them
driven out of the house.  But that would have made a scene.
Neither of us wished for that.  Everything must be done quietly.'

She moved a little away.  She looked at the clock.  It was five
minutes to ten.  The servants would go to bed early tonight.

'Well,' he went on cheerfully, patting his knee with his hand, 'we
must be thankful that all went off well.  It is the last Ball that
we shall give for a long time, because tomorrow I am going to send
you into the country.'

'And where are you sending me?' she asked, smiling.

'There is a Doctor Playfair.  At least I call him that.  I am not
sure at the moment whether that is his right name.  He has a place--
in Gloucestershire, I think.  But I have it all written down.  I
am sure that it is Gloucestershire.'

She began to speak.

'But why--'

He put up his hand.  'Now, Vanessa, please.  I have one of my
headaches tonight--spiders in the brain, you know.  That is exactly
what Doctor Playfair said when I told him about my headaches, "Like
spiders in the brain?" he asked.  "Exactly," I replied, "and behind
the eyes."  He understood as though it had been his own experience,
and when I spoke to him this morning about you--he had had five
minutes' conversation with you last night--'

'I remember,' said Vanessa.  'A large heavy man with spectacles and
an untidy beard.'

'Exactly.  Doctor Playfair.  He called to see me this morning.  At
this house in Gloucestershire--I THINK he said Gloucestershire--you
will find every comfort.  It is very quiet there.  There are woods.
Only the other patients--'

Vanessa laughed.  'This is all nonsense, of course, about my
wanting a rest.  But even if it were not, do you really suppose,
Ellis, that I would leave you all alone here?'

'Ah, that is what I had intended to tell you.  I shall NOT be
alone.  Vera and Winifred will for the future live here.  This will
be their home.'

So THAT was it!  At the same instant as she realized with a flash
of discovery that her responsibility was ended--and HOW strange
THAT revelation was, liberating her, she suddenly saw, from years
of bondage--a horror of being caught seized her.  Those two old
women!  Did she not act immediately she would never escape.  How
they would hold her she did not know, but hold her they would!  So
many things came to her at the same instant and with these a new
view of Ellis as though he had become twice as dangerous and twice
as far removed.  Through all the insanity of this last year she had
thought at least that he needed her; now, with that spoken
sentence, she saw that he did not need her.  Those two old women
had taken her place . . .  But there were three against her now
instead of one.

'Vera and Winifred?  To make this their home?  But that's
preposterous.  You are joking, Ellis.  You--'

'It is arranged,' he answered, smiling and patting his knee.  'Very
satisfactory.  You will rest in the country and they will see that
I am comfortable while you are away.  I shall shut up part of the
house.  I am very tired of parties and I shall see no one--only
Doctor Playfair and one or two old friends.  The house will be
thoroughly cleaned, swept from top to bottom.  The windows need
cleaning.  They have grown darker every day.'

He came very close to her.  He put his hand on her forehead.

'See how hot your forehead is!  You have been ill for a long, long
time.  That is why I have myself been so very uneasy.  Doctor
Playfair agrees that what you need is quiet.  And what _I_ need is
quiet.  We will have shutters on the windows and someone will see
to the doors.  They have been far too noisy.'

He got up.  'Tomorrow afternoon,' he said, 'you shall go down to
Gloucestershire.'  He stood, looking down at her.

'Poor dear, poor dear!'  He kissed her forehead.  'Go to bed now.
Rest is what you want.  I shall be in my room for a while.  I have
most important work--very important work indeed.'

When he was gone she sat there thinking.  Her first impulse was for
immediate flight.  But where?  Rose.  Yes, Rose.  Then she thought:
'No.  This will be cowardice.  And besides this may be all Ellis'
imagination.  How do I know that this absurd idea about Winifred
and Vera is not invented by him?  And this ridiculous notion about
my going into the country.  Of course he cannot MAKE me go.  I must
talk to him again.  Just now I said nothing.  I must talk to
Barney.  Perhaps HE will see Ellis.  In any case I can't leave him
like this without knowing the truth, the facts . . .'

Then she thought of Benjie.  She was in a turmoil of weariness,
fear, indignation.  The appalling element in it was her own
isolation, and she saw now that, for months, she had been becoming
more isolated; everything had been closing in upon her, shutting
her off.

It came to her like a cry.  She would see Benjie.  About her future
now she was reckless.  She had done her utmost, she had fought
battle after battle, and now she would fight no more.  The thought
that half an hour from now she might be with Benjie, have, at last,
after all this long waiting, his love again . . . simply to see
him, to hear his voice, to escape from this fantasy of the last
years so easily . . . the room swam before her eyes.

She ran up to her room, found a hat and cloak, waited on the
landing, listening, reached the hall in safety (no sound in all the
house but the ticking of the clocks), opened the door and, at the
end of Hill Street, found a hansom.  She gave the man the number in
Half Moon Street.  Benjie would, in all probability, be out.  Would
she wait in his rooms for him?  The old stock situation of the
Society melodrama . . .  As the hansom turned into Half Moon
Street, which was only a minute's distance from Hill Street, she
tried to think what she would do, but she could not.  She was
ringing the bell before she came to any decision.  A grave elderly
manservant opened the door.

'Is Mr Herries at home?' she asked.

He did not seem in the least surprised to see her.

'If you will come in a moment, madam, I will see.  What name,
madam?'

'Lady Herries.'

'Very good, my lady, if you would not mind waiting.'

He disappeared around the corner of the stairs.  Almost at once he
appeared again, saying:

'Yes, Mr Herries is in.  Will you come up, please?'

Benjie was at the door of his room.  She went in and he followed
her, closing the door behind him.  He stared at her as though a
cloud of angels had floated down to him from the ceiling.

'Vanessa!'

'Yes.  This is just like a play, isn't it?'  She was trembling but
was determined that he should not see it.  At the very sight of him
she was so happy that she could only smile, stare back at him,
then, with fumbling hands, take off her hat.

'Here,' he said.  'Take this chair.  It is the only comfortable
one.  Oh, my God, Vanessa!  If you knew how many times I've sat
here imagining just this: saying to myself, "And now the bell will
ring and Humphries will come to the door and he will say 'Lady
Herries', and I . . ."'

'That's in the play too.'  She steadied her hands, holding them
tightly together.  'But there is nothing dramatic in this, Benjie.
I have come only for five minutes.  But that isn't true either.  It
IS dramatic, I suppose.  You must give me advice.  Tell me what to
do.'

He sat down in the chair on the other side of the fireplace, his
small body balanced forward, staring and staring and staring.

She saw that he was looking splendid, as brown and hard as a russet
apple, spare, taut, not changed.  Oh, not changed in the least
these twenty years!

'I shouldn't have done this, I suppose,' she went on.  'At least--I
don't know.  There's no SHOULDN'T any more.  The fact is, quite
simply, that Ellis is proposing to send me away to a private asylum
in the country tomorrow . . .  It has been tonight a situation that
I couldn't face by myself any longer.  You know about Ellis?  You
have heard something?'

'My God!' Benjie shouted, springing up.  'Send YOU away?  Send you
to an asylum?'

'Yes.  Quietly, Benjie dear.  We have got to be sensible about
this.  The fact is that Ellis has been out of his mind for the last
year or more.  Twice he has tried to kill me, and still I held on.
It has been miserable, tragic . . .  I don't want to talk about
that part of it.  That is past.  But I must do something now, now,
at once.  You know Winifred and Vera Trent?'

Benjie nodded.

'They have taken charge of him.  I think they intended to from the
first.  Oh, I don't mean that it is they who have planned to get me
out of the house.  I don't think they had the least idea of it.
That is only Ellis' crazy notion.  But it has come to this--that
tonight, an hour ago, Ellis told me that they were from now on to
live in the house, I was to be sent into the country, most of the
house to be shut up.  I don't know how much is Ellis' fantasy, how
much is truth, but I DID know, as he went on talking, that I could
stand no more, I have been alone in this thing too long.  And so--I
came to see you.'

'Oh, Vanessa!' he sighed.  'At last!'

She nodded, smiling.

'Yes--at last.  I have wasted my whole life.  I can't go on without
you any longer.'

He came over to her, knelt down beside her and took her hand.  He
sat on the floor, resting his head against her, her hand pulsing
against his.  They stayed for a long time quietly, without
speaking, feeling as at every long-separated meeting they had
always done--that there had never been any parting.

Then he became practical.  He asked her every sort of question and
she told him everything.  For the first time in all these many
years she poured everything from her heart, her unresting love for
himself, her increasing loneliness, the friendship that she and
Ellis had had for the first few years, the influence of Miss
Fortescue, Ellis' headaches, the day of the Jubilee when he had
first made her uneasy, the night when he had attacked her, and then
detail after detail to the last Cumberland visit.

'But now--even now--I would not go were it not for those two old
women.  How I hate them!  Oh, Benjie, how I hate them!  But it
isn't that; it is that my responsibility is over.'

He nodded.

'You have always been dreadfully conscientious, Vanessa.  And now
you are coming to me--for ever and ever and ever, amen.'

'Yes.  I talked to Barney about it this afternoon.'

'And what did HE say?'

'He pointed out that the world would be shocked, Violet would close
her doors to me, I should no more be asked to Grosset.'

'Yes, that's true.  And shall you mind?'

'I don't know--a little, perhaps.  What I DO know is that I am
doing wrong.  I shall suffer for it in one way or another.  I
suppose that, without realizing it, I have been thinking of this
for a long time.  I am not a fool about it.  I know the delight--
and I know the punishment.'

'Punishment!' he cried.  'There will be no punishment!  We shall be
happy for ever!'

She smiled, shaking her head.

'Of course nobody is happy for ever.'  She put her hand under his
chin, turning his face up towards hers.  'Benjie, are you SURE you
want me?  Are you certain?  I'm middle-aged, you know.  You're
middle-aged too, but for a man it is quite different.  Are you SURE
that you want me--still--after all this time?'

'Sure?  Sure?  Why, Vanessa, I love you more than I did twenty
years ago.  Loving you has been the only good thing in me--that,
and caring for Tom.  Are YOU sure,' he went on, 'that YOU want me?
I'm not much, you know, Vanessa.  Apart from you I'm nothing at
all.  With you I may still do something.'

'Yes, I'm sure,' she said quietly.

'It is true, too, what Barney said.  We shall be cut, you know.
Wherever we live someone will be unkind.  And as to the relations!
Yet another scandal in the Herries history!'

'Oh yes.'  She nodded her head.  'I understand just how things will
be.'  (Again, for a flashing instant, she thought of Rose.)  'I
understand everything, I think,' she went on.  'I'm not a child
now.  I have seen how things go.  Often and often I have been
tempted to come to you.  You must have known that!  But I was wrong
when I married Ellis, and his needing me--or my thinking that he
did--kept me there.  And then,' she added after a moment, 'to fly
in the face of God.  I know those are only words to you, but it is
true reality to me.  But if I can make you happy--isn't that
something?  You see, I've never made anyone happy since my father
died.  No one.  Isn't that awful?  If I had made MYSELF happy it
would have been a little, but not even that.  Until tonight.  Until
now.  Now I am so happy that there MUST be something right in it
somewhere.  Don't you think so?'

'I don't know about God.  I think that's a tall word.  But here and
now we are going to do the best we can by one another.  Until your
God separates us we'll stay together just as years ago we meant to
do.'

After a while they discussed the immediate plan.

'Tonight I'm returning to Hill Street,' Vanessa said.  'I must see
Ellis once more and know what is fact and what isn't.  I can't
leave him until I know.'

'Then I am coming back with you,' Benjie said.

'To Hill Street?'

'Certainly.  I must see that you are safe.  If Ellis has gone to
bed and is asleep, well and good.  What time is it?  Nearly twelve.
He ought to be asleep.  If he is not, I will talk to him.  Don't be
frightened.  There shall be none of my famous fights.  But I don't
leave you until you are safe.'

She agreed.  She wished now to hide nothing.  If Ellis in reality
intended to carry out his crazy plan it was right that she should
be no longer alone.  And she felt a feverish impatience that this
absurd business should be settled once and for all.  And she could
not face Ellis alone again that night.

They walked round to Hill Street.  In that clear air they heard Big
Ben strike midnight as she opened the door with her key.  They went
up to the drawing-room.  Ellis was standing there in front of the
big marble fireplace.

Benjie spoke at once.

'I beg your pardon, Ellis, for coming at this impossible hour.
Vanessa came round to me tonight to tell me that you intended to
send her into the country tomorrow--to some doctor's.  Well,
Vanessa and I are very old friends, you know.  We have obeyed your
wishes all these years and kept apart, but when Vanessa told me
this we thought it better that we should both see you.  We can talk
about it tomorrow if you prefer, but in that case Vanessa will go
to a hotel for the night.'

Vanessa said:  'Ellis, after our talk tonight I couldn't stay here
alone.  For both our sakes--'

But Ellis, without moving and very quietly, waved his hand at the
door.

'Would you mind,' he said to Benjie, 'coming farther into the room?
They may be listening outside.'

Benjie came forward.

'Thank you.'  Ellis looked at him very severely.  'I thought I told
you that you were never to enter my house again?'

'Yes,' said Benjie.  'You did, and I wouldn't have come had it not
been for Vanessa.  Frankly, Ellis, she's frightened.  You shouldn't
have talked that nonsense about sending her into the country.'

'That is perfectly correct,' said Ellis.  'She is going to Doctor
Playfair's.'

'Well--she is not,' said Benjie.  'Nothing of the kind.  You must
see, Ellis, that she can't live with you any longer after this.  I
didn't want her to come back here tonight at all, but she said she
must know whether you MEANT what you said.  It seems that you do.'

Vanessa had been standing, her hand up to the white cloak with the
high white collar that she was wearing.  She had been looking into
Ellis' face, trying to find there some appeal to herself for help,
some kindliness.  If at that moment he had turned and gone to her,
blindly asking her, as he used to do, that she should help him, she
would, even now, have stayed . . .

But he did not seem in the least unusual.  There was no sign of
madness in him anywhere, and after that one sentence to Benjie
about the door there was, in this scene, NO queerness.  There was
no QUEERNESS, but there was hatred.

'You see, Ellis,' Vanessa said, 'I have realized that you don't
need me anymore.  We haven't been happy together for a long time,
have we?  And as you don't need me we had better separate.'

'That is our affair,' he said.  'We can settle that tomorrow.  If
you were well, Vanessa, I'd have something to say to you for
bringing this dirty ruffian here.  As it is, Herries, get out and
keep out.'

'Come on, Vanessa,' Benjie said.  'Let's go.'

She took a step forward to Ellis.

'Ellis.  Don't you see how impossible it is?--'

He moved forward to her.  Benjie stepped between them, then, taking
her arm, he drew her away.

With quick steps Ellis followed them.  He passed them as though he
did not see them and ran down the stairs.  In the hall he turned.

In a high, shrill, convulsed voice he cried:

'Get out, both of you!  Get out!  Get out!'

At the same moment the Chinese clock struck the half-hour.  Benjie,
halfway down the stairs, put his hand on Vanessa's shoulder.  They
waited.  He did not know what Ellis would do.  But the scene ended
very quietly.  Ellis did not move.  Vanessa and Benjie walked out
of the house.



They found a hansom in Piccadilly.

'And now where?' Benjie asked.

'I'll go to Rose,' Vanessa answered.

She was trembling and he put his arm round her, holding her close
to him.  Benjie gave the address to the cabman.




Part Three

The Lover



HAPPINESS IN RAVENGLASS


One fine September afternoon of that momentous year 1899, Mrs
Runcing of Olive Bank, Ravenglass, came to tea with Mrs Jocelyn of
Sea View Cottage.  It was a most beautiful day, and the sun
caressed the sea, the sea caressed the shore, and the birds rising
in little flocks from the island hovered against the quivering sky
like blown petals, silver-grey, and as the wing turned, of
glittering metal.  The cry of the gulls made the lazy sky lazier.

The two ladies sat at the window of Sea View Cottage and drank
their tea.

'I'm using this room,' Mrs Jocelyn explained, 'because of my
lodgers.  I'm not sure that I don't like it quite as well as the
other.'

A lady and gentleman rode past on a tandem bicycle.  The gentleman
rang his bell.

'What's that, dear?' an odd, croaking, half-strangled voice asked
from within the room.

'Only a bicycle, Mother.'

On the farther side of the fireplace, almost hidden with shawls,
was old Mrs Burgess, Mrs Jocelyn's mother.  Mrs Burgess was ninety-
two and, except that she was never warm, was a wonder for her age.
She was as lively and spiteful and selfish and scandal-mongering as
though she had been a young thing of twenty.  There was nothing
that happened from Barrow to Whitehaven in which she did not take
an interest, and most especially, of course, in anything that had
to do with love and--most particularly--illicit love.  She was a
Puritan and had all the eager questing spirit of the Puritan.  Her
curiosity it was that had kept her alive and would, it seemed, keep
her alive for evermore.

Her daughter, Hester Jocelyn, was in every way her opposite: a
little, warm-blooded, impetuous, charitable, kind-hearted woman
whose husband had, ten years earlier, run away with an actress to
South America.  She had not loved him very much, but her loneliness
was often worst at three in the morning when she could not sleep--
quite terrible, yet she was cheerful, busy, charitable and
infinitely patient with her horrid old mother.  Something of a
heroine perhaps.

Mrs Runcing, her visitor, was nothing of a heroine: a long bony
woman with three daughters whom she would sell her eyes to marry.
She threw them at the men of the district as you throw darts at a
dartboard.  As with so many women of their time, they had been
trained to nothing, taught nothing.  Their father thought them too
tiresome for words, their mother hated them because no one would
have them and yet loved them because they were hers.  The poor Miss
Runcings!

'Things look bad in South Africa,' said Mrs Runcing.  'Henry says
we shall have war for certain.  It's all the fault of that wicked
old Krger.  And so you like your lodgers, Hetty dear?'  She laid
rum butter thickly on her bread.  She was a greedy woman.

'Like them!' said Mrs Jocelyn.  'I should think so!  No one could
help it.  Mr Herries is as gay a gentleman as you'd find anywhere,
always singing and laughing.  No trouble at all.  But Mrs Herries
is my favourite.  She's a LOVELY lady--so kind and thoughtful, and
so friendly.  It's nice to see a married pair so happy--and not
young either.  I've never had visitors I've taken to so.'

There was a pause.  Mrs Jocelyn looked up.

'What is it, Cecilia?  You've something on your mind.'

Mrs Runcing paused yet longer, then, dropping her voice, said:
'Hetty, there's something you ought to know.'

Mrs Jocelyn moved uneasily.  She knew well this opening of her
friend's and always it meant no good.

'Know?  What ought I to know?'

'It's just like you, Hetty.  The last in the place to be aware of
what everyone is saying.'

'WHAT is everyone saying?'

'About Mrs Herries.  She isn't Mrs Herries at all.  She's Lady
Herries--and she and Mr Herries are no more married than . . . than
you and I are!'

'Cecilia, what ARE you saying?'  Mrs Jocelyn got up from the
window, 'Now I won't have it!  You've always got some story about
someone, Cecilia.  It's too bad.  It's a shame.'

'Oh, is it!  Always got some story, have I?  That's a nice thing to
say to an old friend.  I'm telling you out of kindness.  It's been
the talk here for days and you ought to know it.'

There was an excited movement of the shawls from the back of the
room.

'I'm sure Mr and Mrs Herries are married.  I don't care what anyone
says.'

'Well, you're wrong for once.  Mrs Herries is Lady Herries, wife of
Sir Ellis Herries in London.  She ran away from him last year, with
this Mr Herries.'

'What's that you are saying, Cecilia?' the old lady from the
fireplace croaked.  'Not married, you say?  Not married?  Well, I
never!  Well, I never did!  Not married!'

'Of course they're not married.  The affair made a sensation last
year in London.  And more than that, they've been lovers for years
and years.  Everybody knows them.  The Herries are Cumberland
people or, anyway, they've been in Cumberland for centuries.  There
was an old Mr Herries lived here in Ravenglass years ago, they say,
and this Mr Herries has a house near Bassenthwaite Lake.  Lady
Herries was brought up on Derwentwater.  She was a great lady in
London for years.  I call it a piece of downright impertinence for
them to come back to this part of the country where everyone knows
them.  Disgusting, I call it.  But they say there's been one
scandal after another in that family.  Years and years ago there
was a Mr Herries who was a holy terror, and some fifty years back
one of the Herries murdered another one somewhere by Keswick.  It's
a disgrace their coming to Ravenglass.  They should be ashamed to
show their faces!'

Mrs Runcing had not intended to be so violent, but, as often
before, when denouncing the vices of others her own virtues grew in
colour and strength.  As others went down she herself went up, and
the higher she went the better she felt.

Little Mrs Jocelyn had turned very pale.  At last she said:

'I don't care whether they're married or not.  They shall stay here
as long as they like!'

'Hetty!'  Here was a thing for a decent Christian woman to say!

'I don't care!  I mean it!'

'Think of what people will say!'

And there was a croak from the fireplace:  'Not married . . . in
this house!'

Then, beyond the half-open window, they heard a step on the gravel
path.  Both women turned and looked.  Vanessa was coming up from
the sea.

'All I know,' said Mrs Jocelyn, almost sobbing with emotion, 'is
that that's the finest lady I've ever met.  She's welcome to this
roof as long as she wishes.'

Vanessa was walking, her head back to the sea breeze, her dress
blown against her legs.  Her face was warm with colour.  She had
grown a little stouter in this last year, her bosom fuller, and,
carrying herself thus strongly, she moved like a woman who was
happy, free and self-confident.

This seemed to Mrs Runcing, whose own bosom, do what she would, was
never what it ought to be, insulting.

'You'd think she had nothing to be ashamed of,' she said.

'Neither she has,' answered Mrs Jocelyn indignantly.  'They're
happy, aren't they?  And that's more than most people manage to be.
I expect her husband was horrible.'

Mrs Runcing set her lips.  'You'll be sorry, Hetty,' she said.
'Encouraging immorality.  You'll see how people will talk . . .'



Meanwhile Vanessa had gone into the little sitting-room on the
other side of the passage, taken off her straw hat, and sat down by
the window to wait for Benjie.  He had gone fishing.  In an hour's
time he would return, they would sit reading, talking, the veils of
light would fall over the sea, the stars would come out, the cries
of the birds would die away; after supper they would take a last
walk, then, tired and happy, return, light the lamp, play chess, go
up the crooked staircase to bed.

She sat there, dreaming.

More than a year had passed and still God had not let loose His
thunderbolts.  She had known a period of perfect unrestrained
happiness.  She looked back, first to the time at Eastbourne, then
to the months in France, then to the wonderful glorious experience
of coming home to Cumberland.  What troubles had there been?  In
Eastbourne she had been cut by Mrs Harbin, a friend of Violet's.
Alfred and his wife had met her in the hotel lounge and that had
been a little uncomfortable.  On the other hand Adrian, at one
time, Rose at another, Barney at another, had stayed with them.
The news from London had at first been a little distressing.  The
talk had been, she understood, terrific.  The sympathy had gone,
universally, to Ellis.  Winifred and Vera Trent had gone to live in
Hill Street and, so far as Vanessa could discover, Ellis had been
quite tranquil, had enjoyed the sympathy and had allowed it
generally to be understood that he was able to bear his misfortunes
like a gentleman.  Often--and this was perhaps her severest trouble--
she asked herself whether she had imagined all that queerness.
But no: the scene in Cumberland, the frenzies and tears in Hill
Street had been real enough, but how much of it had been
histrionic, an attempt on Ellis' side to catch her sympathy, a
passion for melodrama?

Strangely the question of Ellis' insanity was no longer the main
one.  She knew now, in the light of these last months, that for
years she had been living in prison.  It was only now that she
understood how solemn, how unhumorous, how dreary that Hill Street
life had been, what a DREARY creature she herself had become!
Everything in it had been false, the social fuss, the hours that
she had spent with people for whom she did not care, the shamness
of her interests.  She thought of the balls, the receptions, the
silly games, the sillier country houses and race meetings and
baccarat; her weak good nature, her amiability, her own stupidity,
she told herself, had kept her there long, long after she should
have left it.

And Benjie?  She smiled as she lay back in her chair looking at the
long dune like the back of a whale over whose brown surface little
waves broke in edges of white and silver.  Benjie was not perfect.
She had never supposed that he would be.  There had been the night
at Eastbourne when she had entered their bedroom to discover him
kissing the chambermaid.  Twice, once at Eastbourne, once in Paris,
he had left her for two days without warning.  Sometimes he was out
of temper, sometimes (but very seldom) he was drunk.  He knew some
very queer people, although he was scrupulous about the company he
introduced her to.  Once he had declared that he must go
immediately to Italy to meet a man in Siena.  Tom, who, although he
was only still a boy, had much wisdom, had settled that little
business.  Tom, by good fortune, thought Vanessa the most wonderful
woman in the world.

Vanessa, on her side, was not always perfect.  Far from it.  She
was impatient, suffered fools badly (and some of Benjie's friends
were very foolish), sometimes nagged Benjie, sometimes (as she well
knew) bored him with her navet, her religion, her obstinacy.  But
they had been saved, both of them, by their splendid comradeship.
Because they had been friends all their lives long that business of
compromise, so difficult in the first year of marriage, had been
quite natural for both of them.  They loved for every kind of
reason, but chiefly because they knew one another so well, and
admired and laughed at, for the most part, the same things.  The
wildness in Benjie Vanessa understood because, in her own way, she
had the same wildness.  They must both be free.  They stayed
together only because they loved one another.  The troubles that
they had were on the surface because the base of their relationship
was firm, unshakeable.  They were honest, but not so honest that
they were for ever challenging weaknesses.  OF COURSE they were
weak, mistaken, faulty in this way or that.  They took these things
for granted.  Because Benjie kissed the chambermaid it did not mean
that he did not love Vanessa.  He loved ONLY Vanessa.  He had loved
Vanessa only, all his life long.

But the best of their relationship was its gaiety.  Vanessa found
that she had not been gay for thirteen years but now, like a
language once learnt and long unpractised, living with the natives
again, back it returned.

Love, if it is to be worth anything, must be honest, trusting,
humorous, protective, far-seeing.  With them both it was all these
things.

And under its influence Vanessa grew and developed.  It had been
her danger always that because of her great simplicity of nature
she would become tiresome company.  Her mother and father had both
been very simple people and it was possible that they had bored a
good many persons.  Vanessa, in her London years, had learnt
superficial variety--that is, she had been trained to adapt herself
to a great many different characters--but her lack of subtlety
sometimes revealed her.  Bertrand, the novelist, whose eye was so
sharp that its rather fishy, sleepy indifference often deceived the
innocent, said that the only women who were interesting were the
good ones who wanted to be bad, that no women were so dull as the
bad women who wanted to be good.  The bad ones who were content to
be bad were, he said, amusing companions, but they were all the
same--know one and you knew all.

Now Vanessa had, in London, been a good woman determined to be
unprejudiced and open-minded.  She defended Rose because she loved
her, but also a little to show that she was above censorship.  She
had never REALLY known the kind of life that a woman like Rose was
leading.  Her father, Barney, her husband, Lettice Marrable--from
none of these did she get the real sense of it.  But after a year
with Benjie she knew.  They talked together like two schoolboys
without any reticences whatever.  She was now TRULY aware of the
humour, the generosity, the comradeship, the dirty untidy tragedy
of the 'vicious' world.  She knew that it was NOT vicious--simply a
place inhabited by the uncontrolled, the needy, the weak, the
greedy and, above all, the lonely.  That the very last thing that
it called for was superior patronage, and that those who lived in
it did not wish, for the most part, for any sympathy from anybody.

So Vanessa grew wise.  She learnt now to be patient, tolerant and
unpriggish.  This continuous love that burnt steadily from hour to
hour, from day to day, warmed her heart so that it was impossible
NOT to be generous.  It is only the disappointed, starved, and
robbed who are jealous and unfair.

Waiting now for Benjie she had on her lap and read from time to
time Judith's old green-bound book.  She had rescued it from her
father's room at Uldale on the night of the fire.  Judith, in her
old age, had dictated it to Aunt Jane, and in Aunt Jane's clear
spidery hand it was as fresh as though written last week.  There
was a piece about Ravenglass.

It seemed that, in the spring of 1737, Judith's father, Rogue
Herries, had ridden over with his son David to spend a night or two
with his brother Harcourt Herries, an old bachelor who had lived
for many years in Ravenglass.

'David used to tell us,' Judith's book said, 'of that visit to
Ravenglass as one of the striking incidents in his life because of
the quarrel that he had with his father there.  He would describe
to us the ride over Stye Head on horseback, how gloomy his father
was on that ride, suffering from one of his "demons", how they came
into Ravenglass in the evening, clattering over the cobbles,
smelling the sea, and hearing the gulls.  Then there was Uncle
Harcourt, who was a very precise old bachelor and wouldn't have a
woman in his house, and he wore, David remembered, a wonderful ring
on his finger with a green stone, and a rose-coloured skirted coat.
After supper Uncle Harcourt talked of the London of Queen Anne,
where he had been as a boy, of the Sacheverell Riots, of the Thames
barge the Folly, and the coffee houses, and of how he had seen Mrs
Rogers as Berenice.

'Uncle Harcourt was a fervent Jacobite and gave the toast of "The
King over the water", breaking his wine glass after it, and he
recited to them Pope's Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady.
Then David's father lost his temper, took David out to sea and
ordered him to strip for a beating as a punishment for some fancied
misdemeanour.  David refused and said that he was no longer a
child, and that was the beginning of a new relationship between
them.  This,' Judith went on, 'was one of David's favourite stories
and, as a little girl, while I listened I could see it all as
vividly as though I had been there--the London of Queen Anne, and
the little bachelor declaiming Pope, and David and his father
standing by the sea.'

'And here I am,' thought Vanessa, 'in this same place as though
time never had been.  Little Uncle Harcourt might walk in at this
door any moment.  I knew Judith so well and she lived in the same
house with the man whose uncle saw the Sacheverell Riots.  In
London now they have the telephone and there are these new "moving
pictures" and Alfred Herries has a motor-car.  Time does not
separate any of us, but rather our stupidities, selfishness, and
fears.  Judith, if she were here, would scold me for moralizing.
She always hated it.  But, on the other hand, she would be glad
that I am happy and would altogether approve of my running away
from Ellis . . .'

She heard the hall door open and close, a quick step, and Benjie
had come in.  'They say that when you live with anyone their
features become so familiar that you can't see them any more.
Well, I can see Benjie all right, his bright eyes with the humorous
crows' feet at the corners, his brown hands, the part of his
forehead that grows white above the brown just below his hair; I
know how his arms fasten about me and how strong is his kiss on my
lips.  It is all as new as though it had never happened until now,
and my heart beats at the sound of his step as though now for the
first time he was about to tell me that he loved me.'

He went up and washed.  Mrs Jocelyn brought in the supper, and
after they had eaten they sat close together by the window.

'I've been reading Judith's book, Benjie,' Vanessa said.  'The part
about Ravenglass.  It seemed as though time hadn't passed at all
and little Harcourt Herries might be walking in on us with his
green ring and rose-coloured coat.  My great-grandfather was born
in William III's reign, and Alfred has a motor-car.  So soon as I
am back in this part of the country time doesn't exist.  We none of
us die here--'

'Take a step,' Benjie said lazily, 'and you are at Gosforth;
another, and it's Ennerdale.  Then over the hill to Buttermere,
Honister, Borrowdale.  Yes, we're back in our own country, Vanessa.
Bold of us, perhaps.  The old boatman wasn't so friendly today.  He
knows we're living in sin.'

She did not answer.  They had been living in sin for a year and she
was not yet aware of it.  Was it now, when she had returned to her
own people, that she WOULD be aware?

'I've had a letter from that man Alington.  He advises me to go in
for those Australian mines--at once, without losing a minute.
Shall I?'

She looked at him quietly.  'No, I don't think so.'  Everyone was
speculating.  The fever in London had spread everywhere, and Gold
Mines glittered on every doorstep.  'You promised me, you know.  We
don't know enough about it.  We have enough.  We don't want to be
rich, either of us.'

'Don't we?'  She saw that he was restless.  'I'm not sure that I
don't.  I've never been rich.  I wouldn't mind the sensation.'

She put out her hand and caught his.

'You're restless--what is it?'

'It's South Africa for one thing.  It looks bad--or good if you
like.  A war would be fun.  We haven't had one for ages.  Tom would
go as a war correspondent if he weren't so young.'

'Well, YOU'RE too old to go.  That's one comfort.'

'Oh no, I'm not,' he answered quickly.

'You're forty-four.'

'What's that?  No age at all.  And I'm as fit as a fiddle.'

'Let's not talk of it.'  She stilled her fear.  'I'm so happy.
Don't spoil it.'

'If there WAS a war,' he said, 'it would be only for a week or two.
I'd be back in no time--with a VC probably and all the Family
greeting me like a hero.'

He drew his chair closer to her and leant his head on her shoulder.

'Vanessa, you're not tired of me yet?'

'No, I'm not tired of you.'

'How happy we've been and are!'  He sighed.  'Why can't everyone
find love like this?  It seems so simple when you get it.  I
suppose that somewhere there's the right person for everyone--one
for each--but they don't meet.  Do you find there's something a
little pathetic in two people of our age loving one another so?  We
ought to be young--we ought to be twenty--as we might have been had
I not been such a fool.  And I'm still a fool, Vanessa.  It may
break out any time.'

She laid her hand against his cheek.

'We used to say long ago that nothing could separate us.  Nothing
has.  Nothing can now.'

'Yes--death,' he answered.

'You know that I don't think so.'

'Without our bodies?  Shall we love still?  You without your hair,
your eyes, without the warm touch of your hand against my cheek?
When I can see you smile no longer nor the way that you put your
hand up to your hair, nor hear your voice.  And I!  I'll be a poor
ghost, Vanessa--'

'What of your Valhalla under the hill, the men singing?'

'Ah, you won't be there!  And I'll be such a wild ghost, flying
from Top to Top, haunting old women down the chimney, stealing the
butter from the dairy, pinching the young women.  I love you for
every conceivable reason, Vanessa, but without your body I
shouldn't know you.  I'd be as restless as I used to be.  I'd never
find you.  I'd go searching from ghost to ghost . . .  And you'd be
so good.  You'd be in favour in Heaven, one of the guardian angels.
They'd have no use for me, I'm afraid, and whatever job they set me
to do I'd do it wrong.'

She kissed him.

'I'd find you.  Wherever you went I'd go too.'

'Are you sure,' he asked her, 'that you never miss London?  Not
Ellis, of course, nor Hill Street--but all your friends and the
good times you had with all the nobs.  Don't you MIND being a
disgrace and something to make virtuous ladies shudder over?'

'I've never been so happy in all my life,' she said, her voice very
low.  'I seem to have reached middle age quite emptily--as though
I'd been born yesterday.  There was my childhood--that was happy.
And now there's this.  Nothing between.'

'And now there's this,' he repeated contentedly.

They were aware that the door opened.  They both turned together,
thinking that it was Mrs Jocelyn who had come to say goodnight.
The lamp was burning dimly and in the half-light they saw the
oddest figure in the doorway.  It was old Mrs Burgess, wrapped in a
multitude of shawls, leaning on her stick; she stood there, her old
brown wrinkled face pushed forward like the head of a tortoise.
She stared at them, they could see, as though she could never
satisfy her curiosity.  Then she vanished.

'What did SHE want?' Benjie asked.  He got up and went to the door.
'What cheek!  To come in without knocking--'

'She's half crazy, poor old thing,' Vanessa said.  'Mrs Jocelyn
says that she ought to be in her bed, but they can't keep her
there.'

'What did she want?  She looked at us as though she'd never seen us
before.'

They played their game of chess and went up to bed.  Long after
Benjie was asleep in Vanessa's arms she lay there awake.  He slept
like a child, his hand on her breast.  She lay there, forcing
herself resolutely, quite calmly, to a new courage.  Instinct,
light words lightly spoken, some shadow like the finger of a cloud
on a sunlit hill, told her that it would be needed.



She was right.  It WAS needed.  Next day Benjie had moved into his
savage state.  That was how she always put it to herself.  It was
as though he reverted into some old wild existence where the rules,
objects, dangers, joys of life were all quite different from this
one.  He seemed physically to change.  He could not stay in the
same spot from one tick of the clock to another.  He moved about
the room as though he were unclothed, his brown finely muscled body
moving naked through tall grass, his eyes shiningly alert for the
enemy.  As often as not he did not hear what you said to him, he
snapped back replies, he suddenly started walking down the road
saying that he did not know when he would return.

The happy thing was that Vanessa understood this transformed state
to perfection.  She was aware of it often in herself but, being a
woman and therefore having all her eggs in one basket (which was
Benjie), Benjie could satisfy her wildest longings.  She could not
satisfy Benjie's.  Nor did she try.  When this restlessness came on
him she let him go free.

But now there was more serious trouble.  His words about South
Africa had clutched her heart.  Was there going to be war?  If so,
then Benjie would be off . . .  Nothing could keep him . . .  He
would revel in it.  He would be killed, perhaps.  People were
killed in wars . . .

Today was the eighteenth of September, and it seemed that, on the
sixteenth, the Transvaal had replied to the British proposals of
starting the argument all over again by proposing to revert to a
joint Commission.  There was something sinister in the tone
underlying the Boer phrases.

What was it all about?  For a long while she had not taken it with
any seriousness.  It was all due, it seemed, to Krger's fear of
Rand dominion of his country.  It all went back to the old Gold
Rushes into the Rand.  Rather naturally, Vanessa considered, Krger
thought that to give franchise to the Rand population must entirely
alter Boer rule.  He was honest, perhaps, in wishing to keep the
Transvaal an agricultural country.  On the other hand, the British
Government must protect its subjects.  But ought those subjects to
be in that country at all?  Didn't it look as though a small,
resolute, independent people were to be bullied and affronted by a
big Power when all that the little people wanted was freedom to
live as they wished on their own soil?  On the other hand, COULD
Great Britain allow her own sons to be persecuted, ill-treated,
mishandled, and say nothing?

It seemed, Vanessa thought with a sigh, one of those questions that
had so clearly two sides to it.  And the Boers were thick-headed,
obstinate, stupid, hypocritical perhaps . . .  On the other hand,
it WAS their country!  Or wasn't it?  She soon, however, abandoned
the wider, more public question for the private personal one.  If
there was a war, Benjie would go . . .  If Benjie went . . .  She
pulled herself to her full height, clasping her hands behind her
head, staring in front of her.  The stiffest job of her whole life
was approaching her.

Then a very absurd thing occurred.  Coming into the house one
morning she encountered old Mrs Burgess, who was shuffling along in
flat slippers, trailing shawls about her and making that odd wheezy
noise peculiarly her own.  She saw Vanessa and, thrusting her old
head forward, hissed some word.  Then, with yellow convulsive
hands, drawing her shawls tightly about her, she slip-slopped into
her fastness.

Vanessa did not know what the word was, but it was evidently
intended to express moral horror and indignation.  She asked Mrs
Jocelyn to come and speak to her.  She told her of it.  She liked
Mrs Jocelyn extremely.

'Sit down, Mrs Jocelyn,' Vanessa said.  'Let's sit together by the
window.'  They sat down.  'Now I'm not wrong, am I, in supposing
that your mother has learnt that Mr Herries and I are not married?'

Mrs Jocelyn nervously rubbed her hands together.

'No, Mrs Herries.  That's correct.'

'I should have told you before.  I'm not Mrs Herries.  I'm Lady
Herries.  I left my husband last year.'

'Oh yes . . .' said Mrs Jocelyn nervously.

'I should have told you.  I did not mean to conceal anything.  I
would have told you at once if you had asked me, but I really did
not feel that it was anyone's business but our own.  Now I suppose
you would like us to go.  I quite understand and I do hope you'll
forgive us for putting you into this unpleasant position.  We have
been so happy here and you have been so very good to us.'

Mrs Jocelyn was a sentimental and emotional little woman.  Her eyes
glittered with tears as she looked out of the window.  Many things
made her cry: the music of a band in the street, reading of a deed
of heroism in the newspaper, details of a wedding, the more moving
portions of almost any novel.  But although she was emotional, she
had the strength (and sometimes the obstinacy) of Mr Krger
himself.

'Oh no, Lady Herries,' she said.  'Please don't think of going.  A
friend told us, a week or so ago.  It appears that you and Mr
Herries are well known in Cumberland and Westmorland.  You come
from these parts, do you not?  So of course the people here have
talked about you.  But please pay no attention.  Mother is a very
old lady and not always accountable.  It doesn't matter at all.
Really it doesn't.'

Vanessa smiled.

'Thank you, Mrs Jocelyn, for saying that.  We'll never forget it.
But of course we mustn't stay here.  It would be wrong for us to
make it awkward for you in any way.'

'It doesn't make it awkward,' said Mrs Jocelyn with tremendous
energy.  'I hope you won't think it impertinent, but my knowing
you, Lady Herries, has been the nicest thing that has ever happened
to me.  I don't know, of course, what reasons you had for leaving
your husband, but I'm sure they were very good ones.  There were
times in the past when I quite easily might have left Mr Jocelyn,
although now that he isn't here I wouldn't like to say anything
against him.  I'm sorry, of course, that you and Mr Herries can't
be married, but as you can't you can't, and that's all there is to
it.'

Vanessa was very much moved.

'I'm afraid that isn't all there is to it,' she said.  'I have done
something that is wrong.  I did it knowing that it was wrong, and
the fact that we are both happy doesn't make it any more right.
But I did it deliberately and I will take what comes.  All the same
it's not fair that anyone else should be involved, especially
anyone as kind and good as you are.'

'I'm neither kind nor good,' Mrs Jocelyn replied.  'I'm often most
unkind to my mother, I'm afraid.  And as to being good, I'm too old
now, I suppose, to be anything else very much, but when I was
younger there were times when I would have run away from Mr Jocelyn
most gladly if there had been anyone to run away with.'

She got up and added, smiling rather timidly:

'I've not had many friends and my life hasn't been very exciting,
but when I HAVE a friend--well, there it is.  If you were to go
away I should be very unhappy.  And don't mind Mother.  I'll see
that she doesn't worry you.'

Vanessa went with her to the door and kissed her.

'Then we'll stay,' she said.



On October 9th the Boers delivered their ultimatum.  For three
weeks after this neither Benjie nor Vanessa spoke of the only
subject in their minds.

Under the eyes of a watchful and gossiping Ravenglass they spent
quiet days, bicycling to Wastwater and Black Combe, seeing the
shadows turn the flanks of the Screes to purple and the bracken
flame in Eskdale.  Then Vanessa had a letter from Adrian.


DEAREST VANESSA--How are things going with you?  Here we talk
nothing but the War.  General opinion is that it will be over
before Christmas and everyone--except your humble servant--is
turning himself into a soldier as quickly as possible that he may
see something of the fun before it is finished.  I am not so sure.
It seems to me that we are already everywhere on the defensive.  I
lie low and say nothing, for the general feeling is that it is all
a great lark--a sort of polo game in which even the poorest may
join.  I listened to Chamberlain defending the Government for three
long hours and what he DID say was all right--but how about all the
things he didn't?

What is certain is that we are now beholding the end of the
Victorian Era.  Do you remember young Violet complaining to you and
me once how, when the maid was busy elsewhere, she must sit indoors
all a fine afternoon because she must not go out alone?  Haven't
you, at your own Balls, seen the chaperons sitting in weary rows
hour after hour?  I prophesy that you will never see those
chaperons again and that Alfred's girl will, in another fifteen
years or so, be smoking a cigarette as she enjoys her luncheon
alone at the Criterion.

The Family, by the way, is amusing.  They take the War of course as
their own affair.  Krger is a kind of Benjie who has insulted them
all personally.  It is 'OUR War'--Horace especially is full of club-
martial ardour.  Carey is going out in some capacity or another
although he's sixty-three or so.  Also Peile Worcester and--would
you believe it?--Philip is being sent out by some paper, I am
generally despised because I say that the Government must be
carried on and if _I_ go who will remain?

And Benjie?  What is he going to do?  If he goes, don't worry.
Benjie will always survive things like wars.  They were made for
him, not he for them.  Write and tell me . . .


Then Benjie had a letter from Paris.  Tom, young though he was, had
hitched himself on to some French newspaper man and was already on
the sea.  Tim had thrown over his painting and come home to enlist.

'You see,' Benjie said, staring at her as though he were taking her
image into his very heart.  'I've got to go.'

'Yes,' said Vanessa, smiling.  'Of course you have.'

Their last night in Ravenglass they did not sleep.  They lay in one
another's arms while the rain lashed the windows and the wind
screamed along the sea.  A bird, in the early morning, beat its
wings against the pane.

'You mustn't be lonely,' Benjie said over and over again.  'I shall
be back almost before I've gone.  I shall think of you all the
time.  You mustn't be lonely.  You mustn't be lonely.'

As the light wove grey webs upon the wall he said, stroking her
cheek:

'When I loved you a year ago, Vanessa, I didn't know what love was.
This year has taught me.'

'And I love you,' she answered simply, 'more every day.  I thought
it couldn't grow; I didn't know . . . I didn't believe . . .'

She began to cry--a ridiculous thing, she thought, a woman of forty
crying.  But this once when there was no one to see . . .  He
kissed her tears.  He had lain so often in her arms like a boy.
Now he held her like a man and she was a child.

They were both very merry that morning.  She would not come with
him to London.  She saw him drive off in the old cab; she waved her
hand, laughing, while all Ravenglass watched from behind its
windows.

Then she walked, her head bent to the wind, and did not return till
it was dark.



THE KOPJE


She went back to Cat Bells.

Was not that perhaps a piece of impertinence?  Everyone in the
neighbourhood thought so.  But she was not at all disturbed by the
thoughts of her neighbours.  She said to Mrs Newson on the evening
of her arrival:

'You know, Mrs Newson, that I've left my husband.'

'Yes--so I've heard, my lady.'

'And since that time Mr Benjamin Herries and I have lived as man
and wife.  He has gone out to South Africa.'

'Yes, my lady.  I hope he'll come back safe.'

'So do I,' said Vanessa, smiling.  'But I want you to tell me if
you and your husband would rather get some other position.  I shall
be glad to help you until you are suited.'

Mrs Newson, who was a stout short woman with red checks and grey
hair, paused.  Then slowly delivered her mind.

'It's like this, my lady.  It wouldn't be fair to say that me and
Robert haven't talked this over.  We have.  We don't think it right
in general for a woman to live with a man she's not married to.  I
wouldn't do it myself, nor would Robert.  But you see, you're
different.  Folks can say what they like, but you're our own, so to
speak.  The last thing Will Leathwaite said to me while he was
sensible enough to say anything was you was a grand lady and I
wasn't to forget it.  In Cumberland we're slow but sure, and me and
Robert think you must have had good reasons for what you done, and
there's no place can be to us what this cottage is after being here
so long, so we'll be staying if it's all the same to you, my lady.'

After a week she could not have been more private, she thought, had
she lived in a nunnery.  No one came to see her; she went to see no
one.  She walked, read, followed with passionate interest every
detail of the war.  Gradually the peace of that place stole about
her and enfolded her.  Her father, her mother, Will, seemed to keep
her company.  The fell that rose above the roof of the cottage was
burnished with the dying bracken; the herons sailed majestically
against the sky.  The little field circled with its toy-like trees
on the slope above Lodore caught the morning light with such
confident tranquillity that its curve, like the bowl of a cup,
filled, emptied, filled again as though obeying happily its
commander.

She bicycled over to the Fortress and looked down into the Uldale
valley.  There was a church there now and sheep were grazing where
Fell House had been.  The Fortress, she heard, was let to a Mr
Swanwick.  Children were playing in the garden, a bicycle leant
against the door, two dogs ran to the gate and barked at her.

She thought day and night of Benjie.  His earlier training as one
of the much-bemocked Volunteers years before helped him now and he
had sailed for South Africa early in November.  She took a hurried
journey to London, stayed there with him for two nights, seeing no
one else but Barney, and returned to Cumberland.  Then, some weeks
later, she received her first letter.


MY DARLING--This must be only a short note.  I shall soon have a
chance, I hope, of a long letter.  The worst part of the voyage was
its monotony.  From the moment we left London we were shut off from
all news.  To be without news for a fortnight at a time like this--
you can imagine what hell it is!  We thought we'd learn something
at Madeira.  Not a word.  We were all inoculated against enteric
and I to my shame took it badly.  We had cinematograph men on
board, but I don't myself think THAT will ever come to much!  The
machinery is so cumbrous that if they want to take anything that
moves it is gone before their machines are ready.  Then at last we
sighted a sail and were so close that, when they put a board up
with some news on it, we could read it easily.  What they told us
was:  'Three battles.  Boers defeated'--and then didn't we cheer?
After that no more news till we sighted Robben Island.  THEN there
was news all right! . . .  But you will know it all by this time
and much more.

What else can I tell you but that I love you, love you, my darling?
I carry you with me.  You are never absent from me for a single
moment, your courage, your goodness, your loyalty to a poor old
devil whom no one has a good word for.  But haven't they?  The
world has changed, Vanessa.  Everyone is to me like a brother.  No
member of the Herries family here to tell the world what I really
am--all damned good fellows--and, old though I am, I'm as lively as
the youngest and will make you proud of me before I'm done.  So
cheer up, my sweetest, and believe in me as you have always done.
Tomorrow, I believe, we are off again--whither I don't know.  I'm
as impatient as a flea on a hot plate.  Impatient also for your
first letter.  Tell me EVERYTHING--how the stream runs down through
the garden, what you do every hour of the day, are the Newsons good
to you?  Have you had a look at the Fortress?

They are calling me.  I must go--Your loving and devoted and
eternally faithful

                                                      B.


A fortnight passed and there was another letter, a long one.  Part
of it was as follows:


. . . It was a bit of a battle.  How can I make you see it?
Looking back I can see a green hill, kopje, almost blood colour,
and then grass-green veldt.  The trains stopped and poured khaki
into the veldt.  Funny to see the confused mass, then order forming
out of it, then the line of tiny dots, then a thicker line, more
and more lines, then a mass of khaki.  First the dots were at the
base, almost lost in the brown of the hill, then altogether lost,
then suddenly against the skyline.  Away on the right the Imperial
Light Horse.  Then our guns thudded, and, thud came the answer.
Then the shells.  Thin whirr, screaming cry.  Ball after ball of
white smoke struck the kopje, then little balloons of shrapnel from
our guns; then the guns pealing faster and faster.  Just as our own
order to move came, down crashed the rain.  You never saw anything
like it, Vanessa.  It drove through macintoshes like blotting
paper.  The earth underfoot melted while you looked at it into mud
and the mud turned to water.  Everything was blotted out in the
cloud of swirling water, but the guns thundered and doggedly we
pushed ahead.

Soon we were in it--my first battle, you know.  What did I feel?  I
can't tell you--except that the ridges we must conquer seemed
endless.  Up one there was another!  I wasn't afraid.  The bugles
and the pipes stirred your blood.  And then I was caught into the
noise.  Officers shouting, swearing, cursing; all of us stumbling,
falling, jumping, killing--and then, like a maniac's desired dream
there at our feet the Boer camp and the Boers galloping out of it!

As I started down the hill, though, something struck me.  Don't be
frightened.  It turned out to be nothing--a slight scratch--but my
face was buried in mud, all the world seemed to crash over my head
and when at last I raised myself and wiped the mud from my eyes I
seemed to be transfixed by a small kopje not far off.  It stared at
me, I at it.  Brown-red in colour, it was shaped like a pig with
horns.  It seemed to move, to wriggle as though it wanted to
scratch its back.  I was dazed of course, and didn't rightly know
for a moment where I was, but I thought it moved towards me,
wagging its ears.  Then the scene cleared.  I stood up.  I was all
right and ran down the hill. . .

Afterwards it was cold and drizzling.  Some of the prisoners joined
us and we were all most friendly.  Decent chaps the Boers really--
fine fellows with their beards and corduroys, with a grand dignity,
some of them.  There's been a lot of looting and you see men with
the weirdest clothes.  And you should watch the guns scatter at a
shell.  See the legs of the horses leap!  You never imagined such
nimbleness . . .

And who do you think has turned up?  George Endicott, a friend of
my wife's brother.  A wild chap but I always liked him and now here
he is in my own regiment.  Small world, isn't it?  Young Tom's shut
up in Mafeking.  Carey Rockage is in Ladysmith.  Are you well, my
darling, and keeping up your spirits?  You seem to be always with
me.  Last night I talked to you . . .


She held on, but the strain began to tell.  The loneliness of her
days and nights frightened her.  She became restless.  She wanted
to be doing something, something for the war, something, through
others, for Benjie.

After the Black Week, the 10th-16th of December: Stormberg,
Magersfontein, Tugela River, the feeling of the whole country
changed.  What was this that had happened to England?  While the
rest of the world looked on, jeering, hostile, longing for our
humiliation--here was the most shameful time for us since the
Indian Mutiny.  Lord Roberts was appointed to the chief command,
and Kitchener of Khartoum was to go with him.  The appointment
roused a storm of new energy.  The gay, light-hearted jesting was
over.  This was a job that the country must settle.  The colonies
offered new contingents, a great call went out for yeomanry, and
the new infantry volunteers flamed into being.  The City of London
would raise and equip a regiment entirely at its own expense.
Everywhere there were new khaki uniforms.  From all parts of the
country, shipyard men, squires' sons, farmers' sons, artisans, and
clerks poured into the new forces.  Nothing spectacular any more.
Had they but known it, that Black Week killed spectacular warfare
for ever.  Nothing to catch the eye was tolerated.  Scarlet fled,
never to return to the battlefield.  A new patience, a fresh
endurance, no more the reckless charge, but 'the infinitely painful
crawl through the long, long day'.

For Vanessa those first months in the new year became an agony.
She heard now from Benjie at the longest intervals.  This country,
for the first time in her life, failed her.  The old beloved names--
Skiddaw and Scafell, the running Derwent, the ridge of Blencathra,
the slow ripple of the quiet Lake meant nothing.  The valleys held
no peace and the running water no music.

Her ostracism now terribly distressed her.  It was a time when she
wanted to have part and lot with all her fellow-beings, but on Cat
Bells she was like a prisoner.  Her loneliness became a horror; she
could not sleep.  She walked restlessly, tried to read and could
not.  She grew thin and pale.  The Newsons heard her talking to
herself, and once Mrs Newson found her crying, her head in her
hands.

'Don't cry, my lady.  It will be all right.  'Twill be over soon,
they all say.'

Then at the beginning of April she had a brief letter from Benjie
that frightened her.  He had been ill in hospital; he was better,
but things moved slowly.  It would be all right, of course, but the
Boers were obstinate fellows and Tom in Mafeking made it anxious
work . . .  But he was all right . . .  She wasn't to worry . . .
That letter was too much for her.  She came to London.



She went to a little hotel called 'The Clarence', off Baker Street.
A lady in the train told her of it and she thought:  'How funny!  I
have never stayed by myself in a hotel before!'  As soon as she was
in the hansom driving to the hotel she was happy.  She was nearer
to Benjie; she was in touch with human beings again.  She had not
minded at all when Mrs Hope of Portinscale cut her in the Keswick
street, when Mrs Merriman, who had before been so kind to her in
Rosthwaite, gave her a sharp little bow and hurried down the
Borrowdale Road.  No, no, she had not minded . . .  She had been
prepared for it.  She had taken it gaily.  Nevertheless, how
different these things were without Benjie!  Loneliness had
returned, not the old spiritual loneliness of the life at Hill
Street, but physical, material loneliness, hearing no voice,
touching no hand, receiving no kiss.  Now she was in the middle of
life again.  She noticed how many motors there were now; all the
traffic was speedier and pedestrians were speedier too.  One good
thing--these new motor-cars would soon kill that London plague, the
cab tout who had run at the side of your hansom pestering to serve
you.  She had a rich grand sense, after the silence of those
Cumberland months, of plunging into a roaring new world ready to
welcome her.  Well, the Family would not be ready to welcome her.
But she need not see them--only Barney and Adrian and Rose.  And
perhaps Cynthia--she had not, in the old days, been so violently
shocked!  It would be pleasant to have tea with Cynthia again in
her pretty room, to hear the gossip, to ask about the theatres and
to catch, even though from a distance, the tone and colour of that
world to which she had once belonged!  She sat upright in her
hansom staring through the glass in front of her like a young girl
free for the first time!

'The Clarence' was odd enough.  A very large lady, her hair puffed
out over elaborate pads, her shoulders very high, her waist almost
invisible beneath her swelling bosom, her costume sweeping the
floor, received Vanessa in an affected manner and directed a minute
and rather shabby pageboy to show her to her room.  This was dingy,
with a view of chimney pots, a large portrait of Queen Victoria and
a general gurgling of water pipes to give it character and life.
The hotel smelt of fog and dead geraniums.  At the head of the
stairs was a large tank in which goldfish were swimming.  The walls
were everywhere very thin.  As Vanessa changed her dress she heard
from the next room a protesting voice:

'But, Mama, why not?'

'Because Mother thinks it better not, dear.'

'But Mama--'

'Now, Cecily.  Mother knows best.  He is not a young man who can
possibly mean anything seriously.  He has not a penny besides his
Army pay.'

'But, Mama--'

The intimacy of this conversation terrified Vanessa, and when next
afternoon Adrian came to visit her, and they sat in a room crowded
with palms and dimmed by windows with blue and red glass, Vanessa
told him that this was the most virtuous hotel in London.  No
indiscretion could be committed without everyone in the hotel being
aware of it.

She was gay, merry, full of eagerness to enter life again.

'I must get something to do, Adrian.  It was dreadful in
Cumberland.  I simply moped.  I must work, help, tire myself to
death until Benjie returns.'

She was aware of a certain awkwardness in Adrian.  She remembered
unexpectedly that evening, years ago, when Adrian had been led up
to her at the Ball, his eagerness, his vitality, his impulsive
determination to help the world.  He was as kind, as affectionate
as ever, but he was now a Government servant, the HERRIES
Government servant.  His clothes were exquisite, his manner that of
one who had to carry a good many public burdens on his shoulders.
Was he writing anything?  No, he had little time he was afraid.  H.
D. Traill's death had distressed him greatly; he had given him a
good deal of reviewing in Literature.  Had she read Fleury's Louis
XV Intime?  A most interesting work with a very striking portrait
of La Pompadour.  And Dr Barry's Arden Massiter, quite good as
novels go.  A little overwritten.  And a very amusing little book,
Lambkin's Remains.  The writer signed himself H. B.  He was the
author of The Bad Child's Book of Beasts.  'You remember, Vanessa.'

But Vanessa, alas, did not remember.  She had never heard of Dr
Barry and was not sure whether she had met Mr Traill or no.

'Perhaps he came to one of our parties.'

Oh no, Traill never went to parties.  But Vanessa was trembling for
news.

'Adrian, tell me about Hill Street.'

Adrian's pale, still very youthful countenance coloured.

'Oh, no one goes there now.  Winifred and Vera keep Ellis quite a
prisoner.  He likes it, I believe.  He's queer, of course.  They
say he makes paper boats and has toy engines.  He doesn't go to the
City any more.  Alfred has everything in his hands.  But they say
Ellis is quite happy.'

Did Vanessa imagine it or was there a new note in Adrian's voice?
Was he a little, a very little, superior?  Why did he seem to
patronize?  Vanessa's imagination.  And then he must hate this
hotel.

'It's a horrid hotel, isn't it?' she said.

'Yes.  Beastly.  But you want it quiet, don't you?  I mean--you
don't want to run up against any of the family.'

'Oh no--except Barney, of course.'

'Dear old Barney--he's getting pretty aged.  He plays bridge all
his evenings.'

'Bridge?'

Why, of course!'  Adrian expressed surprise.  'Where HAVE you been?
Don't they play it in Cumberland?  London's crazy about it--has
been for ages.'

There was a pause.  Mrs Mont, the proprietress, came into the room
and looked around.  It was odd to see her balance her enormous
bosom on two such very small feet!  She patted her great head of
hair and stared at the pair of them.

'Has she already heard about me?' Vanessa wondered.

'Oh yes--and do tell me about the others.  Carey's shut up in
Ladysmith, Benjie told me.  And Cynthia's husband--he's in Natal,
isn't he?  Adrian!--Cynthia--how does she feel about me?  Do you
think I could go and see her?  Would she mind?  She used to be very
broad-minded . . .'

There was an awkward pause.  Adrian coughed, stroking the side of
his nose in a manner common to many of the Herries men.

At last he spoke:  'Look here, Vanessa.  There's something I ought
to say.  You're such a sport, you're so wise, I know you'll
understand perfectly.  But the whole family has taken this awfully
badly.  They can't get over it.  You see--they admired you so much
and they were so proud of Hill Street.  And then--if it had been
anyone but Benjie, whom they've disapproved of for years!  And then
there have been so many family scandals!  It didn't matter so much
perhaps years ago when they weren't anyone particularly, but now
they are respected everywhere.  Alfred's a great man in the City,
and Cynthia thinks herself Queen of London.  She does really.
You'd be amused if you saw her.  Already she's bringing her two
girls up most awfully carefully.  They're nice little girls too.
She wants them to marry Dukes.  What I mean is--there's me and
there's Barney--but the others--well, I'm afraid you mustn't expect
them to change.  They won't.  They are more respectable than you've
any idea of.  They can't endure Benjie and they think you--they
think you were unkind to Ellis.'

'I see,' said Vanessa quietly.  'Thank you for telling me, Adrian.'

'Oh, that's all right.  I say, isn't there rather a queer smell in
here?  It may be my fancy.'

He got up.

'Well, I must be off.  Got some work to do.  You tell me, Vanessa,
if there's anything I can do.  We'll go out one night.  We'll do a
play.  The one at the St James's isn't bad--The Man of Forty.
Alexander and Fay Davis.'

'Thank you, Adrian.'  She stood looking at him with a wise and
rather maternal smile.  She could not resist saying:  'You won't be
ashamed to be seen out with me, will you, Adrian?'

He blushed, looking like a boy of eighteen.

'My God, no!  Why, what do you think, Vanessa?  _I_ haven't any
prejudices.  I'll be proud!'

But, a little later, sitting in her bedroom and listening to the
gurgles of the water pipes, she was not so sure.

Then, next day, when old Barney came to see her, she learnt more
about the Family.  Barney was seventy, stout, rather untidy.  There
were pouches under the eyes, his cheeks were puffed out, giving him
a childish pouting expression, but the eyes themselves were full of
sparkle, humour, kindliness, and his grey hair, though it was
untidy, was strong and wiry.  He had a paunch, but he walked on his
thick legs sturdily, his back straight, his head up, and always
that slightly mocking boy-out-for-a-lark expression at his mouth's
corners as though he found life more of a joke than ever.  And yet
you could, if you knew the Family, tell that he was old Emily's
brother and pompous, long-buried Newmark's son.  He found life a
joke indeed because there had been originally enough of the solemn
Herries there for him to see how ridiculous it could be.

Sitting again in the room with the palms and the coloured glass,
this teatime was very different from the one of yesterday.  Vanessa
was one of Barney's REAL devotions.  As he saw her now, seated very
quietly, a middle-aged woman whose hair was turning grey, in this
shabby hotel, and thought how barely two years ago he had seen her
with her white satin and diamonds leading the cotillion in the Hill
Street drawing-room, satin and diamonds seemed to him very vulgar
things.  But did she mind this shabby hotel, he wondered?  Was she
still satisfied with her bargain?

'Adrian came to tea yesterday,' she told him.  'I thought him a
little--well, a little superior.  Has he become so, or is it only
with me because I'm a black sheep now, or did I imagine it?'

'Oh, Adrian's a little more Herries than he was--that's all.  The
Foreign Office might have been invented by our family--it's so
exactly what we most approve of.'

He looked at her anxiously, rather as though he were her father.

'You're happy, Vanessa?'

'Well, I'm rather lonely, Barney, at the moment.  I miss Benjie,
you see--and I want work, something to do.  Can you find me
something?  I must be busy.'

'Yes, I think I can find something.  There's a Mrs Cundlip who's a
friend of mine.  She has a working party.  They make things for the
soldiers three afternoons a week.  She and her friends live very
quietly in Kensington.  They don't gossip and they are nice kind
women.  I think you'd like it.'

'Oh, Barney, thank you!  You ARE a dear!'

He was touched by her gratitude.  Poor Vanessa, she MUST have been
lonely!  He told her more of the Family.  Cynthia was now the star.
Worcester was doing very well in South Africa.  He was to join
Roberts' staff.  May Rockage was in London, doing war work, and
desperately trying to find husbands for her girls.  Horace was
rather chastened.  His silent wife had developed into a grim woman
who frightened him.  Alfred's two children were nice little things.
Richard Cards--Adrian's older brother--was now living in London.
He had married rather late and had two children.  Barney gave very
much the same account of Hill Street as Adrian had done.  No one
saw Ellis and it was generally known that he was eccentric.  Barney
did not tell Vanessa the general opinion that her flight had turned
Ellis' brain.  Winifred and Vera Trent never left him.  And that
was that.  Vanessa understood quite clearly that the Family would
have nothing to do with her . . .

In another day or two she went to call on Mrs Cundlip, found her a
kindly simple woman with a son at the Front and a plain energetic
daughter with a passion for the clergy.

Whether Mrs Cundlip and her friend knew Vanessa's story or no, they
gave no sign of interest in it.  Indeed they seemed never to gossip
and had, as a group, a curiously impersonal air as thought they
were part of the quiet Kensington scene like the trees in the
Gardens, the nurses with their perambulators, the solid policeman
at the gates, the decorous shoppers in the High Street.  Vanessa
found them a comfort.  She worked in the gentle Kensington drawing-
room hung with watercolours of Switzerland and Italy and thought of
Benjie and tried to be happy.  As the days passed she found that
increasingly she was afraid of a chance encounter with one of the
Family.  She remained in her unpleasant hotel because it was so
safe.  None of them would ever come there.  When she shopped or
went to the theatre her apprehension was always alive.  It would
hurt her, she knew now, to be cut by Cynthia or May.  WOULD May cut
her?--that kind, simple countrywoman in whose house she had so
often stayed?  But May had her girls now to think of.  Old Violet
Bellairs was very ill and never left her bed.  The younger Violet
who had married a Colonel belonged, Vanessa heard, to a very fast
set (in revenge for her constricted youth) who played bridge all
day and all night.  And Lettice Marrable?  Lettice was secretary
now to a branch in Manchester of Women's Suffrage.  She wrote very
lovingly to Vanessa and said that she would come to see her as soon
as she had time to visit London.  She was very busy and talked in
her letter about The Cause as though there were but one in all the
world.

So there they all were.

Then one sunny afternoon early in May, Vanessa tumbled almost into
Horace's arms in the Army and Navy Stores.  There was no way of
avoiding it!  There was Horace, red-faced, stout, benignant behind
his glasses, buying soap.  He stepped back unexpectedly, almost
trod on Vanessa, said, 'I beg your pardon' with his customary
episcopal courtesy and saw who it was.  His plump cheeks were
scarlet.

'Vanessa!' he said.

'How are you, Horace?' she replied, holding out her hand and
smiling.

They shook hands and she noticed that at once he moved with her a
little out of earshot.

'I'm so glad to see you, Horace.  You're looking very well.'

'Yes, I'm very well, thanks.'

'I can see you're busy.  So am I.'

She smiled at him very gaily.  Oh yes, it WAS pleasant to see one
of the Family even though it were only Horace, with his high white
forehead, large spectacles and protruding chin!  For the first time
in her life she LIKED Horace.

'Oh yes--indeed yes . . . very busy . . .' he stuttered, looking
nervously about him.  No one was near him, no one was looking at
him.  He coughed.  'Very agreeable to see you, Vanessa.  Are you
long in London?'

'Yes, for some time, I think.'  She looked him straight between the
glasses.  'Benjie is in South Africa, you know.'

'Oh yes, indeed.  I had heard . . .'  (Why wasn't he a Bishop?  Not
that she had anything against Bishops.  Often the noblest of men,
but Horace's benevolence needed an apron.)

Now that he was assured that no one was observing them he was more
at his ease.  He began to talk with some of his old eager but, in
some odd way, calculated friendliness.  He spoke of the nobility of
our men at the Front, of Britain's showing the world, of everyone
doing what they could, of human nature being at its best in times
of stress.  He became more practical, revealing himself, as he had
always liked to do, at the very centre of affairs.  He had just
been lunching with a most interesting man--name of Yerkes--the
projector of the new electric Underground.  He confidently
prophesied that we should all be living at least fifty miles out of
London owing to electrified trains--we should think nothing of it,
nothing of it at all; said what a nuisance half-sovereigns were--he
had nearly given one just now as a tip instead of a sixpence; that
all the best horses had gone to South Africa, so that the omnibuses
were sadly suffering.  He talked as though he were delivering an
address to a gathering of charity children, Vanessa thought, but he
meant to be kindly.  It had always been Horace's trouble that he
meant so well, but had weaknesses, insincerities, tempers and
absent-mindedness like the rest of us.  Then he saw some ladies
approaching and, raising his hat, hurried away.

'The gentleman has forgotten his soap,' the shopman said.

'He will come back for it, I'm sure,' said Vanessa.

She was very tired.  It would have been nice of Horace if he had
invited her to take a cup of tea.  But certainly that was too much
to expect.  Her arm ached.  She was suffering from what was known
as 'skirt wrist'.

A night or two later she had a horrible dream.  She dreamt that she
was on a vast green plain, bounded by hills spotted with small
black patches.  She had lost her way and then saw coming towards
her the kopje that Benjie had mentioned in one of his first
letters.  It was coloured red, as Benjie had said, and shaped like
a pig.  It came wriggling after her, flapping large naked red ears.
It covered the ground with extraordinary speed.  She began to run
but made no advance.  It came nearer and nearer; she could smell
its fetid breath and see, on its back, tufts of hair.  The thing
rolled in its movement.  It had no face, only the flapping ears.
'This is my punishment,' she thought in her despair.  'I knew that
I could not escape it.'  She screamed for Benjie and woke.

After that night she seemed always to be tired.  The loneliness
that she had felt in Cumberland returned.  Both Adrian and Barney
were kind, but they were busy people; the ladies in Kensington were
most pleasant, but they did not invite her to their houses; she
grew no nearer in intimacy to any of them, nor did she wish to.
After that dream she was haunted with fear for Benjie.  It was a
fortnight now since she had heard from him, and his last letter had
seemed to her dispirited, disappointed.  With increasing unrest she
looked every day at the casualties in the newspaper.  She told
herself that she must be calm and brave, that thousands of other
women were suffering as she was, but it became soon impossible for
her to be impersonal.  There seemed to be no one in the world but
Benjie.  It was not only that he might be killed, but that his
restlessness, his passion for liberty, must be fed my this
adventure, that the longer he was away from her the easier it would
be for him to remain away.

She suffered as all women do who love a man but are tied to him by
no official bond.  She had no hold on him at all but his love for
her, and he might love other women as he loved her.  When he was
there she knew that he loved her, but now she was tortured by the
very indefiniteness of their relationship, although at its heart it
was anything but indefinite.

Then, on the eighteenth of May, sitting in her bedroom, reading,
she heard a timid knock on the door.

'Come in!' she said.

The blowsy good-natured chambermaid, Kate by name, put her head in
through the door.

'Excuse me, mum,' she said, 'but I thought you'd like to know.
They're saying as Mafeking's been relieved!'

'Oh no!' Vanessa cried, jumping up.

'Yes, mum.  Ain't it grand?  Relieved yesterday, they say!'

Her first thought was for Tom.  How delighted Benjie would be!  And
then that it would mean that the war would be soon ended, very soon
perhaps.  And, after that, that now England could hold her head up
again, the long period of doubt and failure was over.  She was so
happy that, in a moment, all her troubles seemed to be ended.
Everyone would be happy!  Everyone WAS happy!

At dinner in the hotel that evening even the old waiter in his
dirty dicky could scarcely carry the plates for joy.  Two old
ladies who had never before spoken to her said:  'Isn't it
excellent?  SUCH good news!  We are so glad!' as though it had all
been done for their especial benefit.

At the table next to hers a schoolgirl with her mother was in a
state of almost frenzied excitement.  She had, it seemed, been
allowed to come down to dinner in celebration of the great event.
She was a plain little girl, wearing the hideous khaki-coloured
dress then considered patriotic for schoolgirls.  She was talking
of some elder girl who was allowed to wear a red, white, and blue
costume, with a regimental clasp in front.  The 'thing' at school
was to pin on to yourself many penny buttons decorated with the
heads of generals, and one girl was the envy of all the others
because she had found somewhere a regular saucer with the picture
of Baden-Powell and went everywhere with this pinned to her chest.

As Vanessa listened she thought, 'I'd like to have a little girl of
my own.  Would it be unfair to her that Benjie and I are not
married?  Father was illegitimate and never minded.  Is it worse
for a girl?  Would _I_ have minded?  Nothing that Father had done
would have seemed to me wrong.'  Soon she would be too old to have
children.  She had missed that as she had missed other things.  But
she had not missed love . . .  Benjie would soon be back now, and
Tom.  She would love Tom with all her heart, be a splendid friend
to him and, in her old age, stand by him, help his wife when he
married.  For Tom was unusual like all the other unusual Herries--
wild at the heart, wanting often to be free of everyone; hard men
for a woman to understand were these Herries!

She would go out and share in everybody's happiness.  In Baker
Street she boarded an omnibus, but when they reached Oxford Circus
they could go no farther.  She climbed down and plunged into
pandemonium.  She stayed for a while in a shop door and let the
crowd surge past her.  First, looking upwards it was as though the
sky itself had gone mad.  From nowhere out of nothing (for there
had been little warning) the faades had created their illumination.
Electric light was still rare and, at its greatest peak of grandeur,
could not have rivalled the magic of those gas jets.  Their wonder
was that they were swayed by those little winds that came and went,
running in blue-and-gold ripples like water against the grey
surface, seeming for a moment to be blown out and then, with a
sense of mischievous laughter, bursting into life again, as though
by their own happy agency they had relighted themselves.  They ran
in waves of trembling light, hesitated, vanished and, with new
energy, ran again.  The sky was alive with beauty.

Beneath it what a world--as though a new race inhabited the earth!
Men in evening dress, hats on the back of their heads, cocked
sideways, evening capes flying, danced arm in arm with the ladies
of the East End.  These women who were to go down in history,
dressed in black satin, wore great hats crowned with ostrich
plumes; and so they danced, their fine bosoms swelling, the
flounces of their long dresses swinging from their tiny waists,
petticoats whitely revealed and vanishing.  Their own gentlemen for
that night at least were in 'high dress' with mother-of-pearl on
their flat caps, trousers tight to the knee, flapping round the
ankles.  They changed hats with their Donahs, moving in the 'double-
shuffle' in an ecstasy of joy.  The East End came West that night,
and the West was glad.

And the noise!  Everyone was shouting, singing, turning rattles,
blowing the coiled paper springs, screaming down pink-and-white
tuppenny trumpets gay with silvery angels' hair.  You were 'killing
Krger with your mouth'.  You were singing 'Duke's son, cook's son,
son of a belted Earl'.  You were shouting 'W'ERE did you get that
'at?', 'Wot price old Krger!', 'Git yer 'air cut!'  You were
singing:


     Hark! I hear the bugle calling,
     And I can no longer stay.
     Goodbye, Dolly, I must leave you.
     Goodbye, Dolly Gray!


That night the British Army was worshipped.  It was to be
worshipped again, but in another sterner spirit, when tuppenny
trumpets and mother-of-pearl could not meet a far more menacing
enemy.

The soldier and the sailor were the heroes, and the 'Little
Englander' was the villain of the piece.  Close to Vanessa a girl,
waving her arms, screamed:  'Down with Lloyd George!' and behold
his image was flung deep under the dancing shoes of that multitude.
And there is a god in a monocle, with an orchid in his buttonhole--
'Three cheers for Joe!'  'Not for Joseph!'  'Good old Joe!'
Labour?  One man named Keir Hardie has boldly walked into the House
with a cloth cap on his head.  So much for Labour.  Squeakers and
ticklers and corncrakes have, that evening, little consciousness of
a new world that very soon will be demanding very different
instruments . . .

Vanessa for a while was safe in her doorway, but soon the crowd was
wilder.  Hansoms appearing from the very bowels of the earth
discharged young men in evening dress; something other than tea is
the draught of the Town; here there is a fight between a cabman and
a fare, there a policeman has seized some gesticulating figure,
raised him above the crowd, then, as though abandoning the hopeless
charge, dropped him back into the crowd again.

Vanessa has been swung from her doorstep.  It is best to go with
the crowd.  Someone has linked arms with her and she is swayed down
Regent Street, all the shouts, songs, cries seeming to catch a
sudden rhythm so that it is as though the very sky itself were
singing.  At the edge of Piccadilly Circus the surge forward is
arrested and you see a rising, falling pattern of life--not
individual life now but something made up of the windy, swaying
lights, tumbling bursts of sound, the very buildings swinging, it
seemed, in the uncertain glare.

A woman grasped her arm: with her other hand she wielded a toy
trumpet, her straw hat at the back of her padded hair.  Vanessa
turned and looked.  It was Rose.

'Hooray!  Hooray!' she cried, waving the trumpet.  'Hooray for Joe!
Hooray--'  She said confidently to Vanessa:  'Come on, dear!  Let's
give him a cheer!'

'Rose,' Vanessa said, bending her body sideways to avoid the
pressure of a stout perspiring gentleman with a tickler.  'Don't
you know me?'

Rose stared.  'Vanessa!'  She threw her arms around her, scratching
the back of her neck with her trumpet.  Her straw hat, falling,
disappeared.  'Oh, Vanessa--my darling! my darling!'

Vanessa realized that Rose had been too splendidly celebrating
victory.  At the moment she could realize nothing further, for the
impulse of the crowd swept them both off their feet.  It appeared
not unlikely that there and then they would find death in one
another's arms, bells clanging in their ears, somewhere the
trumpets of a distant band, the smell of sweating bodies,
broadcloth, patchouli, against their nostrils and, against the sky,
grey walls like rocks on whose surfaces flickered in the wind the
jets of blue, green, red, thrown up from the tossing dark pool at
their feet.  It was then confusion.  The fountain of the Circus
stood out above the singing waters.  Heads rose and fell like
despairing drowning mariners.  Fastened firmly in the midst was the
rock of a towering hansom up whose side figures were climbing.
Beyond that again an effigy with a tangled beard, a battered high
hat, jerked as though in agony against the lights--Krger moving to
his bonfire.

Then the waters parted.  Waves of human beings slumped like falling
walls.  The effigy was moving forward, followed by a great cheering
procession, men waving their hats, women screaming, and under the
confusion--above it, outside and within it--the steady pulse of The
Soldiers of the Queen, into whose tune at last all the scattered
sounds and voices were gathered.

Driven back at the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue, Vanessa suddenly
discovered that, a wide porch of a restaurant protecting her, she
was free.  Miraculously, still holding to her arm was Rose.

'Oh, where is he?' Rose cried.  'The Captain!  The Captain gone!
He swore he wouldn't leave me.  Oh, Vanessa, I'm lost--I don't know
where he lives.  He's got my little green bag, my little bag . . .'

They stood in the shelter of the porch against the wall, shoulder
to shoulder.  Rose cried out as though she were demented.  A lock
of false hair had detached itself from the disordered pile and
tickled her mouth.  There was a small scratch on her cheek from
which blood was trickling.  Altogether a battered Rose.

She looked at Vanessa, and as she looked her wildness fell from
her.

'Oh, Vanessa, I've drunk too much.  Take me home.  I don't care if
I never see the Captain again.'

Very slowly they moved up Shaftesbury Avenue; then, turning at the
first opening, found themselves in a little dark street, deserted,
melancholy, shutting off like a curtain the lights, the singing,
the press of the surging crowd.

'Where's your hat, dear?' Vanessa asked.  She took out her
handkerchief and wiped Rose's cheek.  Rose began to cry.

'Oh, you must think me dreadful.  Fancy your meeting me like this
after all this time.  But it was all the Captain's fault, and my
bag had all my money in it.'

Vanessa, her hand through Rose's arm, led her from little street to
little street.  Near Oxford Street they found a hansom.

'Now, Rose, where are you living?'

Rose stared.  'I don't know . . .  Oh yes, Three Orcutt Street.
That's where I was living three days ago, before I met the
Captain.'

'Well--is that where you want to go?'

'Yes.  You'll come with me, Vanessa?  I'm not drunk really.  I only
had a drop in the Captain's room.'

In the hansom Rose leant her head against Vanessa's bosom and
sobbed.

'Mafeking!  Mafeking!  I wish to God I had never heard of Mafeking
or the Captain either.'  In a grim little street they stopped at a
grim little house.

'No.  Don't come in.  My room isn't very grand.'  She was quite
sober now, looking like a dishevelled child afraid of a scolding.
'But you'll come and see me tomorrow?  Or I'll come and see YOU.
May I?'

Vanessa told her the address of the hotel.  Once more Rose flung
her arms about her neck and passionately kissed her.

'It all feels different, meeting you.  Like old times.'  She wiped
her eyes.  'I've lost my hat.  I don't know what Mrs Blaker will
think if she sees me.  She doesn't think much of me anyway.
Goodnight, darling.'



Later up to Vanessa's bedroom came the shouts and cries of a city
madly rejoicing.  Some kind of a triumph.  A passionate impulse of
compassion caught her heart, compassion for the world, for Rose,
for all lonely and misguided creatures.  The kopje could not
frighten her now.



Indeed, indeed it could not.  Two weeks later there was a telegram
forwarded from Cumberland.  Benjie had lost an arm and was being
sent home at once.

She sat, with the telegram in her hand, staring in front of her.
She was so happy that she could scarcely breathe lest the telegram
should prove unreal.  Then she knelt down by her bed and thanked
God.



YOUNG TOM IN NEWLANDS


Young Tom Herries, sitting one summer evening on a slope below Dale
Head, the peak which closes the Newlands Valley, watched the sky.
It had for some while fascinated him and distracted him from the
second volume of Hardy's The Woodlanders, which lay on the turf
beside him.  He was always known as Young Tom, but even in years he
was not so young any longer, for he was now seventeen years of age,
but in character, in a subtle intuition of motive and feeling, in
self-command, he had never been young.  In looks he was something
like his father, dark, short and thick with a round hard head and
short wiry hair.  He had also some of his father's geniality and
all of his warmth of heart.

But he was different from him altogether in his self-control, in
his patience, in his consideration for others.  His early flight to
Paris with Timothy, the free life there spent always in the company
of his elders, his experiences in South Africa, his acquaintance
with all the ways of humankind, bad, good, sensual, virtuous,
foolish, wise, had helped him to come to terms with real life long
before the common time.  But, with this, there was something young
in him that made folk, the country people, the townspeople, all who
knew him, speak of him as Young Tom.  He WAS young in this: that
unlike his father he took all his responsibilities with extreme
seriousness.  His principal responsibility was to his father and to
Vanessa.  He loved them both, but he knew his father too well to
think him in any way wonderful.  He felt to his father as he would
to a younger brother whose faults he knew by heart but whom he
loved and guarded the more for those faults, but Vanessa he
worshipped.

He had been living with them now in this little house in the Vale
of Newlands for six months, and the longer he lived with them the
deeper did his devotion to Vanessa grow.  He was thinking of her
now as he lay on his back, his arms behind his head, looking at the
sky.  She seemed to him of another kind altogether from any women
he had ever known, and he had known some very strange ones.  Her
love for him, which she had felt since she had visited him a little
boy ill at school, made her more natural with him, perhaps, than
she was with anyone else.  They were very often alone together and
then she talked to him as though she were a girl of his own age.
She poured out all her heart to him: she told him more than she had
ever told Benjie.  She told him everything: of her childhood, her
love for her father, her life in London with Ellis, her love for
Tom's father--and they discussed, for hours together, Benjie's
character, his sweetness, irresponsibility, restlessness, honesty,
infidelities.  When Benjie was drunk (rare occasions but
unfortunate) Tom managed him to a marvel.  When Benjie disappeared,
Tom reassured Vanessa until he appeared again.  Tom sometimes rated
his father as though their positions were reversed.  Benjie never
resented it.  He was as proud of his son as he could be.  Tom
himself, of course, was far from perfect.  He was obstinate and
sometimes sulked.  He was given to fits of melancholy that he
inherited from his own Herries strain, and then he would go away by
himself and brood.  There were many causes for these, but the chief
of them was that he had always meant, since he was a tiny boy, to
be a great writer and he thought now that he would never be even a
good one.  His early devotion to Timothy had been stirred the more
by his saying to himself that Tim would be a great painter and he
would be a great writer.  Now Tim was, if not a great painter, a
very good one.  He was in Paris selling his pictures.  He was known
everywhere as a promising and unusual artist.  But Tom, although he
was a fair journalist, was no more.  He talked to Vanessa again and
again about this; he showed her his attempts.  She was too honest
and knew the value that he put on her honesty too well to encourage
him.

'What is it,' he said to her in despair, 'that I can't get?'

'It is something, I suppose, that doesn't come by asking for it.
Never mind, Tom.  You began so young.  You're only seventeen now!
There are so many writers.  You will do something better in another
way.'

Now, thinking of The Woodlanders, he felt a sort of rage against
fate.  Yes, he was only seventeen--there was plenty of time--and
yet he did not lie to himself.  THIS thing would never be his.  And
WHAT was it?  Hardy, Tom thought, was a peasant, he had scarcely
moved from his countryside: he already knew far more about the wide
world than Hardy could know.  Hardy often made his characters talk
in stilted, unnatural sentences; his books were filled with
ridiculous coincidences--but here in these pages was life, the life
that so many polished sophisticated writers missed altogether.  Tom
looked at the scene around him and his spirits fell into quiet.

For the last fortnight there had been perfect weather in
Cumberland.  By day the sun had shone, veiled with mist sufficient
to give hill and water their rightful size.  It was a late year and
so the larch still stood in patterns of green flame against the
smoky shadows of yew and fir, the stems of the young bracken were
pellucid as are the throats of pale-green glasses.  And with the
sunny mist, over the green flats, up the stony sides of the fells,
above the glittering chattering runnels of water, there was now
thin shadow, now a breadth of light, all warm, kindly, beneficent;
as a generous man's hand strokes his dog's shoulder, so God bent
down from His cloud and caressed His world.

Tom, lying on his back, wondered that now the sky could be so quiet
and so pure when so often he had watched clouds battling in armies
for supremacy, seen one fierce cloud-captain drag another by his
hair, watched the surge upward, from the hinder-parts of the Tops,
of whirling frenzied clouds, angrily purple, and the thick grey
sullen banks of storm mount and spread until all the world was
covered with them and rain fell in spears of steel upon the earth.
Now the sky was pale like the inside of a pearl shell; light was
translucent and softer than down.  Cat Bells and Dale Head,
Robinson and Maiden Moor were bathed in a peace that seemed
eternal, and towards the dip where Lobstone Band hid its rocky
tors, a carpet of purple shadow hung above the little fields that
welcomed the evening.

Near him Herdwick sheep were browsing--the bravest little sheep in
England and the most adaptable.  Their wool may be harsh, but so
faithful in spirit are they that all their lives they will not move
far from the place where they were born, not because they are
unenterprising, but because here for generations their ancestors
have been and here, like proper Cumbrians, their heart is set.  So,
with the old forest trees, the fir, the oak, the birch, with the
stones and boulders that they can, if they will, so closely
resemble, with the running water and the flying clouds, they obey
the law.

Soon the stars would come out, breaking the green of the evening
sky, and a young crescent moon would rise, and all night long the
light would last, paler than ivory, quieter than sleep.  The air
was scented with the newly cut hay from a field nearby, with the
first honeysuckle, with the summer heat drawn from grass and fern.
Birds winged slowly, making the silence vocal.  The line of the
hills grew with every moment sharper as the shining sky paled.

Tom's thoughts turned to his own future.  This had been a fine
holiday, but it could not last for ever.  He loved this country as
he loved none other, but soon he must go back into the world again.
He had for so long now been a man--ever since he was fourteen--that
he had not a boy's light indifference of waiting until life should
begin for him.  He had been kicked about in Paris, he had endured a
historic siege like the other men with him, and time would not
wait.  For six months, too, he had been ostracized.  No one came to
see them at Cold Fell.  His mother's cottage was only ten minutes
away over the hill.  It was let to a painter and his family, but
that long slow slope of Cat Bells cut the three of them from the
world as though they were on a separate planet.  Sometimes, when he
rode into Keswick, he was looked at almost as though he had a
deformity.  He minded in spite of himself.  What did it matter that
his father and Vanessa were not married?  They WOULD be married if
only that crazy old lunatic in London would die.  They loved one
another more faithfully than many a married pair, and, stroking the
back of The Woodlanders with his hand, he thought to himself that
the writer of that book would understand if he were here and would
come to see them and be their friend.  There was something terribly
wrong with the world when people as good as his father and Vanessa
could be exiled simply because some old clergyman had not blessed
them.  He knew, though, that it all went further than this, that
people thought it impertinent of his father to come back and live
with his woman here in the very spot where they were so well known,
and that there had been scandals before, old scandals of a hundred
and fifty years ago that everyone in these valleys knew, scandals
that had lost nothing in constant telling.

His young heart was passionately in sympathy with all the outlaws.
It was enough for someone to be in disgrace for Tom to be on his
side, so long as the outlaw was not cruel nor mean nor a coward.
At his age it seemed very easy for the world to be wrong and for
all the good men to be outlaws.  And he was, like his father, a
born champion of lost causes.

He heard voices and, sitting up, saw his father coming towards him
and with him a large rough untidy-looking man.  Benjie, when he saw
his son, waved his one arm and, as they came up, introduced his
companion.

'Tom, this is Mr George Endicott, an old friend of mine.'  Then,
reaching his hand up to the big man's shoulder, he said:  'George,
this is my boy, Tom.  I don't think you've seen him before.  Tom,
Endicott was with me in Africa.  This boy, you know, George, was
all through the Mafeking siege.'

The man, Tom thought, was one of the strongest and wildest he had
ever seen.  He looked like part of the countryside, belonging to
the stones and bracken like the Herdwick sheep.

He wore no hat, his face was of a brick-red colour, and his shirt
was wide open, showing a brown chest with a pelt of black hair.
His body was solid like a stone, but he moved lightly on his feet,
making no sound.  He had only nodded at Tom and then passed
straight up the fell, swinging his arms.

'Tom, look here.  I'm glad I saw you.  When you go down tell them I
shan't be back tonight.'

'When will you be back?'

'Oh, tomorrow likely.  Endicott has come over from Whitehaven.
We're going for a tramp.'

Benjie looked shamefaced.  He knew that Tom knew that he had gone
from the house without telling Vanessa.

'All right,' Tom said shortly, and without another word, picking up
his book, he started down the hill.  He hated it when his father
was ashamed, when Vanessa was disappointed, when rough ill-looking
men from God-knows-where took his father off to drink and fool with
girls and not to return for days perhaps.  His father was fine, his
father was the best man he knew--but why must he make Vanessa
unhappy?

Cold Fell had changed not at all in the last hundred years, with
its whitewashed front, its narrow passages and low-ceilinged rooms,
the rough cobbling before the door, the slope down the hill where
the hens were and the broad fields that crossed the stream and the
valley, the cows now clustered for the cool under a large oak, the
sheep browsing on the fell slope.  Great sweeping shadows of gold
covered the valley, and the sun, low now above the hill, struck
through the thick leafage of the oak.  The river, shrunk though it
was now, could be heard very clearly chattering over its stones, so
still was the air.

Vanessa was standing in the doorway when Tom came up.

'Have you seen your father, Tom?'

'Yes.'  Tom put his arm round her and kissed her.  He did not kiss
anyone easily, but he liked to kiss Vanessa--her skin was so cool
and so firm.  Her hair was greying but her cheek had a girl's
freshness.  'Yes.  He's away for the night.'

She said nothing but went in.

Later they had their supper in the porch.  An old woman called Mrs
Williams came every day and 'did' for them.  But Benjie and Vanessa
cooked, and they, all three of them, did the house, looked after
the piece of garden at the back.  Tom went into Keswick for the
shopping.  For six months Vanessa had scarcely stirred from the
valley.  She looked now like a woman who had always lived in the
country, her hair very simply brushed back, parted in the middle,
leaving her fine brow clear and broad.  She wore a plain blue
cotton dress, shorter by a great deal than the prevailing fashion.
Her waist was not pinched nor were her shoulders puffed.  She
looked her age, but her body had strengthened.  With her height,
her broad shoulders, her firm big breasts, she was a woman who
would be noticed anywhere, and all her life she had carried herself
superbly.

They had cold chicken and Cumberland ham, a salad, a cold apple
tart, and a cheese.  A fine supper on a summer evening with the
murmur of the river coming up to them and the air as sweet as
honey.

Vanessa, leaning her arms on the table, looked out to the valley.

'You know, Tom, I think Benjie might have told me.'

'He was afraid to.  He had a man with him.'

'A man?--what man?'

'His name was Enderby, or Enderley--something like that.'

'Endicott.  George Endicott.  I know him.  He is an old friend of
Benjie's.  He met him first when he met your mother.  He was a
friend of your uncle's.'

'What kind of man is he?'

'Oh, all right, I dare say.  Rough, wild, always on the tramp.'

'Father said he was with him in Africa.'

'I wouldn't mind,' she went on, after a pause, 'if only he'd tell
me when he's going, but he slips out of the house as though he were
ashamed.'

'He IS ashamed,' said Tom.

'The trouble is that each time I say to myself:  "Perhaps this time
he won't come back."  Judith, my grandmother, used to talk to me
sometimes when I was a girl about HER married life.  She's often
told me that her husband--he was a Frenchman--would go off just
like that, only he would be away for months.  The difference was,
though, that Judith was married.  I'm not.  I've no hold on your
father except that we love one another.  That's the only hold any
woman ought to want, but women are funny.  I've never known a
woman, Tom, who was really sure of a man.  Men belong to a
different world, and you can't be sure, from minute to minute, that
they won't have a new idea in their head.  Women are too serious
about everything.  They can't take things lightly.  It isn't that I
doubt your father.  We've loved one another all our lives--but I've
nothing else now.  I've put all my eggs in one basket.'

'You've got me,' Tom said proudly.

'Yes.  You're very faithful.  You'll make a splendid husband one
day.'

Tom saw that she was struggling not to be unhappy; he saw how
deeply disappointed she was and, with an intuition wonderful for a
boy, knew that she was dreading the long lonely summer night.  He
wanted terribly to help her.

'I know what it is in Father,' he said.  'It isn't anything to do
with you and me.  He wants to be free sometimes.  He told me once
that there's bad blood in us.  My great-uncle killed my grandfather
in Skiddaw Forest and my great-grandfather killed himself.  You
know all that.  And I think sometimes it all comes over my father--
a kind of superstition about the past.  Of course the past can't do
anything to you REALLY, can it?  But you have to fight it sometimes
perhaps.  So he goes away and fights and then comes back to you
again.  That's HOW I explain it!' he ended.

She got up and kissed him.

'The truth is, Tom dear, that I've never been a very sensible
woman.  I haven't enough humour.  If I could only see how funny
things are it would be a lot easier.  When the Queen died I was
unhappy for weeks.  Why should I have been?  I'd never known her,
but I couldn't get used to her not being there.  It's always been
the same if I've loved anyone.  You take life lightly, Tom, and
people easily.  It's the only way.'

'I'm rather serious-minded too, I expect,' said Tom.  'Tim's always
said so.  Tim used to say that I ought to have been an old nurse
with families of other people's children to look after.'  He
laughed.  'Don't you worry.  Father will be back tomorrow.'  He got
up and patted her on the shoulder, then moved about taking the
plates and dishes into the house.

Vanessa sat there, her chin propped on her hands, staring in front
of her.

Three days passed and Benjie had not returned, nor had any word
come from him.  This was the longest time that he had ever been
away from Vanessa since her flight from Hill Street.  The hours
were quiet, stealthy, and packed with a secret significance.  She
did not know that time could be so long, and on the third day she
found herself walking down the valley towards the hills, standing
and looking about her, starting with an agitated excitement at the
figure of a shepherd, thinking that stones were men and that every
sound in the air was Benjie's voice.  Tom's care of her, which he
tried to make unconcerned and indifferent, irritated her.  She came
back to the house on the afternoon of the fourth day, driven by
absurd fear.  Benjie had been planning this for months past; he was
weary of her and had not the courage to tell her so.  Some woman
somewhere had entrapped him and, as he had always been faithless,
so now he proved it to her for ever.  She was intensely humiliated.
'I have never been able to hold anyone to myself; there is
something in me charmless, dull, wearying; everything that I touch
falls away from me.'  She was even haunted by the dazzling,
dominating figure of her grandmother who, with her head up,
stamping her ivory cane, could rule the world if she wished, but
she, Vanessa, who had had beauty and all the world to charm, had
been able to hold no one.  Women between thirty and forty often
know an especial terror and apprehension, for youth has gone; if
they have had children they are being abandoned by them, men are
searching for younger faces, and old age, that demands more wisdom
for the subduing of its terrors from women than from men, already
leers, like a cocksure arrogant old man, over the fence.  Women
have greater courage wherewith to meet spiritual loneliness than
men have, but their capacity for spiritual experience is also
greater.

She came back to the house, its floors flooded with the June sun as
though to taunt her, and said passionately to Tom:  'He is never
coming back.  I can make my mind up to it.'

Tom said something.  She turned on him furiously with one of her
old tempers.  'What do you know about it?  You are only a boy!'

Then she burst out of the house again and walked swiftly away from
the hills.  She was in a mood for anything.  That old, scared,
irrational Herries blood for ever mixing in the personal Herries
history beat now in her brain.  Why not end it?  Her life had been
a failure from beginning to end.  Her father had died when she
might have saved him, she had married a man without loving him and
he had gone crazy from it, she had risked everything for another
Herries who was notorious for his instability and lightness.  But
even now, in this passion of fear and unhappiness, she would not
blame Benjie.  No, it was herself--her dullness and heaviness of
spirit.  'Why have I not managed life better?  What is lacking, has
always been lacking in me?'  She came to the little church and,
scarcely knowing that she did so, finding the door open, entered.

She had often, in the last six months, visited this little place
and had grown to love it.  Behind its wall, guarded by its trees,
hills mounting to every side of it and one of the loveliest small
rivers in England at its back, quiet, restrained and confident, it
held something in its heart greater than change or fashion.
Everything was simple, the whitewashed walls, the altar, the pews,
the birds that nestled in its roof, the scents that filled it from
the summer fields, and the unceasing rhythm of the river.

Very unhappy, Vanessa knelt and prayed:  'God, in this quiet place,
help me to find my courage again.  I knew, when I did wrong, that I
would suffer, but if it be possible allow me not to suffer without
anyone to help me.  It is not right that I should ask You anything,
for I have not yet repented of the wrong that I did.  I know that
You ask me to be honest, and so I say that if there was that wrong
to do again I would do it again.  I feel that I acted against a law
and against my conscience, but I did it deliberately.  God, don't
take Benjie away from me.  Let me care for him and watch over him
and share his life later when we will need somebody.  If You are my
Father as, in this quiet place, I feel You to be, do as my own
father would have done, and let me be good to someone I love.
Don't take Benjie from me.  I know him better than anyone else
does.  I can care for him more than anyone else can.  Let me be
punished in any other way, but not by losing Benjie.  You have
placed this church here that we should make our requests in it.
This is my only prayer--let me keep Benjie . . .'

She found that she was saying aloud, her hands clenched, her eyes
staring at the little altar on which was a glass bowl filled with
red and white roses:  'Don't take Benjie away from me!  Don't take
Benjie away from me!'

The strain of her intensity snapped.  She rose from her knees and
sat on the hard bench.  She heard a bird singing, the water
swinging by, and the voice of a shepherd as he crossed the grass by
the church wall, talking to another.

'Well, goodnight.'

'Goodnight.'

She knew the man by his voice and with that familiarity all the
outer world swung in.  She heard Barney in London saying:  'Why,
no, Vanessa dear, if it makes you happy to believe in such
things . . .'

She saw the Prince and Princess entering in procession into the
Hill Street drawing-room . . .  She was in a theatre and Bernhardt
was speaking . . .  Then, someone saying:  'God?  Oh, God died long
ago.  Didn't you know?'

But the church filled with light.  She heard the sheep with their
gentle sleepy rustle pass beyond the wall.  A fragrance of flowers
and new-mown hay seemed to be carried, by the sweet, persistent
note of the bird, into the church again.  She knew with a sudden
delighted conviction that for herself at least this presence was
true.  Some wise power entered into her and, falling on her knees
again and hiding her face in her hands, she was pervaded, through
and through, with intimate kindliness.  That intimacy!  To be
lonely no more!  'Only connect . . .'  The connexion was there, her
hands were held, her bent head blessed.  Time was lost.  The bird
continued its song as the shadows came down upon the mountains.



When she came into the house again Tom was there in the passage.

'It's all right,' he said (a little shyly, for she had been angry
when she went away).  'Father's back.  He's upstairs and he's
awfully tired, for he's walked miles.'

She went up into the low-ceilinged bedroom and there was Benjie,
lying, stripped to his trousers, on the bed, his arms behind his
head.  He grinned but didn't move.  She saw the stump of his arm
where the flesh had been joined in a sharp red line, the deep brown
of his bare chest, taut and spare as a boy's, his hair tumbled over
his forehead, his impudent ashamed grin, and she was drowned in a
wave of triumphant happiness.  But she must not show it.  She must
be calm, sarcastically humorous as a wise woman would be,
indifferent as though whether he went or came meant little to her.
So she stood where she was and looked at him.

'So you're back?'

'Yes.'  Then as she still didn't move, with his bright eyes
fastened on her face he said:  'Haven't you a kiss for me?'

'No, I haven't.  Why did you go off without telling me?'

'Oh, I don't know.  That man Endicott came over from Whitehaven.
He wanted a walk.'

'I see.  You never thought, I suppose, how anxious Tom and I would
be.'

'Why should you be anxious?  You knew I'd come back.'

'Four days is a long time without a word from you.'  She gave him
one long look, then turned to the door.  'I suppose I'd better get
you something to eat.  You'll be hungry.'

'Yes--famished.'  He looked at her, smiling.  He put out his arm.
'Here, Vanessa.  Come here.  Don't be so cross with me.  I haven't
seen you for four days.'

'I'm not cross.'  She came over to the bed and stood there.  He put
his bare arm round her waist, then drew her down.  She knelt by the
bed and they embraced.  Then she rested her head on his body, he
stroking her hair.

'Benjie, it wasn't kind . . . four whole days . . . I was in a
panic.  Tom and I are all alone here.  Nobody comes, and if you're
away the days drag.  I've been watching the hills all day.'

He turned on his side, drew her on to the bed, put his hand inside
her cotton dress that it might rest on her heart.  Her hand stroked
his back, rejoicing in the strong muscles, the smooth skin warm and
fresh like the summer evening.  Through the open window she could
hear the bird singing and the running water as she had done in the
church.  He settled himself comfortably against her.

'Now I'll tell you all about it.  Quite truthfully.  George
Endicott turned up and as soon as I saw him I wanted to go off.  He
wasn't here more than a minute.  You were in the back of the house.
I said "Hullo, George," and he said, "Hullo."  I asked him where he
had come from and he said "Whitehaven".  I asked him whether he
wanted a walk and he said "Yes" and there we were.  I HAD to go off
when I saw him, Vanessa.  I HAD to.  I'd have told you, only I knew
you'd want to know WHERE I was going and how long I'd be, and I
didn't know where and I didn't know how long.'

'I wouldn't,' she murmured.  (But she knew that she would.)

'Then we went up the Fell and saw young Tom and I told him.  It was
pretty late by then, but we got on to Robinson and then at dusk on
Honister.  It isn't dusk, you know--there's a white light in the
sky.  There was a new moon, too.  We found a cave on the other side
of Honister.  Endicott said that in the old days, years ago, his
great-grandfather used the cave when they were smuggling.  They
were bad lots, you know--as bad as they make 'em.  When we came to
the cave there were two others there--a man and a girl.  The girl
had red hair and was pretty in a way.  They didn't say much, but
they were cooking a hare and they let us share their meal.

'Then we all curled up and went to sleep and I was as happy,
Vanessa, as I've ever been in my life.  I didn't care for you or
Tom or anybody or anything.  It was just like that--I'm telling you
honestly.  I was free and the air was fine and warm.  I'd drunk
their whisky and eaten their meat and beyond the cave there was the
misty moonlight over the hills.  I was a free man and I didn't want
ever to be tied again.  Well, I went to sleep and, after a time, I
woke to find the girl had come over and was lying close to me,
right up against me she was, with her arm around me.  There she lay
all night.  I didn't do a thing to her.  I didn't even kiss her.
I'm telling you honestly, mind.  I'd tell you just the same if
there'd been anything, I'm not being virtuous about it.  I might
have done a lot of things but I just didn't.  In the morning we set
off again, the four of us.  We were together the next three days.
We went down into Eskdale, then over to Coniston, on to Helvellyn,
along the Saddleback.  This morning we separated, and here I am.
It was grand, I tell you, Vanessa--lovely days and fine nights, not
saying much, any of us.  George wanted me to come back to
Whitehaven and stay with him a bit, but by this morning you'd all
come over me again, Vanessa.  I HAD to see you.  I didn't feel free
any longer.  I didn't WANT to be free.  So I kissed the red-haired
girl for the first time, gave George a kick, and here I am.  I know
I did wrong not to tell you, but if I'd told you I wouldn't have
had such a good time somehow.  You've got to forgive me and believe
me too.  I've never told you a lie yet.'

She sat up on the bed, her arm around him.  This was something of a
crisis between them and she wanted to say what was best and wisest.

'Yes, Benjie, that's all right.  I know you must be free.  Haven't
I always said so?'

'Yes, you've always SAID so,' he answered, laughing and stroking
her cheek.

'Have I prevented you?  Have I ever stopped you?' she asked.

'Don't be so serious, darling.  Take it lightly.  I've only been
for a walk--and here I am.'

'That's easy to say,' she answered.  'Does no man EVER understand
these things?  Every time you go off I can't be sure you'll ever
come back again.  Oh yes, I feel safe enough now--now that you are
here and close to me--but when you are gone I say to myself, why
should he come back?  I've no hold on him.  He may be tired of me,
hiding it from me.'

Tired of you?  I love you more than I ever did.  Why, Vanessa, I've
loved you all my life!  How could I NOT come back?  I'll always
return--'

'Ah yes, you think so!' she answered quickly.  'But I've seen you
change your mind so often about so many things!  If I were younger,
gayer!  But sometimes I seem to myself so dull, so heavy!  Women
are faithful if they're given a chance--it's the thing they like
best to be!  But men--when they've got what they want, they want
something else.  Then,' she went on, 'it's lonely when you're away.
For six months here we've seen nobody.  When you're with me I don't
WANT to see anyone, but when you're away every minute is an hour.
It wouldn't be if I knew you'd be back at such and such a time.
But when you haven't said a word--'

He sat up.  'Look here, Vanessa.  Let's have a child!  Then you
wouldn't doubt any more--'

'Oh no,' she answered slowly.  'That would be wrong--'

'Why wrong?  Your father didn't mind because he was illegitimate.'

'I think he did.  It made a difference to his life.'

'If only Ellis would die!'  He beat the bed with his hand.  'Now
don't be hypocritical about that, Vanessa.  You know it would be
much better if he should die.  He's old, he's crazy.  Life can't be
any fun for him.'

But he was afraid of alluding to Ellis.  A shadow crept into her
eyes.  He hated that she should think of the past.

'Look, Vanessa!  I have to go off sometimes.  Sometimes I'm
restless beyond bearing.  I think of my father, my mad uncle, my
grandfather.  There are days when I hate myself, my ancestry, all
the past and the present together.  Then you can't help me--nobody
can.  But never doubt that you're the love of my whole life,
Vanessa.  If ever any man in the world loved anyone, I love you!
Why, even now I couldn't be away three days from you without
running back!  But there's this country, every fell-side, every
stream, every stone wall, is in my blood!  Why, you know that as
well as I!  Wasn't it crazy of us to come back here where everyone
knows us and all our family history?  But could we help it?  Of
course not!  No man escapes the past, nor the fields where he was
as a boy if that poison is in his blood.  With some of us it is,
with some of us it isn't.  What do Timothy or Violet or Ellis care
for this country?  That's why they'll never understand us nor why
we do what we do!  We are the gipsies, with the smell of the ground
always in our nostrils.  That's our history, mixed up with the
country, with Cumberland, with England.'

He stretched himself and yawned.

'Lord!  I'm a poet!  And I'm famished too!  I could eat a whole
sheep!'

He held her tightly in his arm, kissing her again and again.

'Darling, don't be sad, don't be too serious.  I'm yours for ever
and ever.  You're the one thing I'll never leave.  You and this
country here.  And I'll be good next time--I'll tell you before I
go.  And I didn't make love to the red-haired girl.  Remember that!
Vanessa, sweetheart, darling sweetheart, don't you KNOW that you've
got me for ever and ever?  Have you no sense?  Can't you TELL a
thing like that?'



A little later, going down to prepare the food, she found Tom
making, very seriously, an omelette.

'Father's frightfully hungry,' he said.  Then he saw how happy she
was.  He sighed as though a great burden were lifted from him.  She
kissed him.

'I'm sorry I was angry this afternoon,' she said.  Then, as she
began to make the meal, she added:  'I'm afraid, Tom dear, that we
both take life too seriously.'

An hour later, in front of the cottage, the moon, cherry-tinted in
a white sky, rising above the hill, they had the best meal of their
lives.



STORM COMING UP


'Time, of course,' said Mr Benbow who was, during September, taking
the work of the Vicar of Newlands, 'does not exist.  There IS no
time.'  He was, he had always been, of a mathematical mind, but he
did not know, as he said this, raising his glass of beer and
looking at the charming sun through its smoky depths, the strange
things that his simple sentence provoked.

Here, in the September sunshine, sitting with Benjie and Vanessa
outside their white house (he was a man who cared nothing for
social conventions), he killed history.  There was no past.  Upon
this square of ground, over which the Eagle was magnificently
sailing, even as he spoke, across the spine of hill that rose in
front of them, Francis Herries, his small son tight against his
breast, rode over the wild land, not pastured now, sweeping in
unchecked confusion down Borrowdale to the small house under the
moon, with its shining suits of armour.  'Take me to the Fair with
you,' Mrs Press cried.  'No, I will not,' he answered, while
Margaret his wife lay sick in the room above.

Keswick waited basking in the sun while the coach rolled in from
Kendal, and old Pomfret, a little drunken, looked out of his study
window.  At the same moment David, at Uldale, heard of the fall of
the Bastille and cursed his son, Jennifer walked tapping with her
slippers up the road to the Fortress, and Judith's boy, naked by
the Tarn, mocked the big man on the white horse.  In his London
rooms Francis, David's son, sick of life, blew his brains out while
young Tom Macaulay talked with old Rogers in Hatchard's bookshop.
Judith saw the big woman count the lumps of sugar in the Paris
caf, and young Will raced up to the Druids' Circle while Adam
cheered him on.  'It's war then,' said Judith, nodding her bonnet
at Walter, and, even as she spoke, the flames leapt upon Uldale and
her son fell fighting the choking fumes.  The carriages moved
slowly at Will's funeral, and Sayers with a broken arm faced
unflinchingly the blinded Heenan.

'Thank you very much, Miss Martineau,' said Judith, shouting down
the ear-trumpet, one eye on the tea tent, and John called through
the mists of Skiddaw for his enemy.  'Yes, it's too late,' said
Benjie, bowing his head; 'I'm married already,' and Vanessa turned,
in the long drawing-room, thinking that she heard Ellis' step on
the stair.  The Chinese clock strikes, and old Emily has offered up
a prayer while young Tom, his hand for a moment on Vanessa's
shoulder, says:  'He'll be back soon.  He'll be back soon,
Vanessa.'

Behind these figures, mingling with them, giving them their meaning
and sharing in their destinies, fog swallows up Carlisle to hide
Prince Charlie's men, Keswick receives Mr Gray and the young
gentlemen from Cambridge who hope to have a word with Mr Southey
while on their reading party, the Reform Bill rides in with a
cheering mob behind it, trees fall, the roads are bound with stone
walls, figures from here, there, everywhere, buy lead pencils,
picnic on Skiddaw, whose green slopes young Mr Keats and sturdy Sir
Walter find adventurous.  A Macclesfield paper advertises for
workers:  'Wanted, between 4,000 and 5,000 persons between the ages
of 7 and 21 years.'  Thick bellies of smoke veil the Midland sky.
Disraeli sees the war of the two nations; Mr Joseph Hebergam, aged
seventeen, works from five in the morning until eight at night with
a break of thirty minutes at noon.  'Bravo!  Bravo!' cry Will and
Horace and the Vicar of Little Rodney-on-the-Marsh, 'England rules
the world', while a man or two, with pens in their hands--Shelley,
Carlyle, Dickens, Ruskin, Morris--speak of 'a Golgotha of souls and
bodies buried alive'.  The Herries are rising, the lights of London
grow brighter, the fields of middle England are lost in smoke,
slowly, slowly men are pushing up from under ground, are meeting,
are banding together, demanding their share, pulling down the Park
railings, putting up bright little red houses, chasing the Squire's
wife out of the cottages, pushing into Westminster Hall, driving
the South African millionaires out of Park Lane, running here,
running there, from coast to coast with their children behind them,
dancing on Primrose Hill, standing in rows of shiny black as, at
last, the old Queen passes . . .

And still on that square of ground, over which the Eagle is
hovering, nothing has changed.  The coach rolls in to Keswick
square, the shepherd searches the mist under Helvellyn for his
wandering sheep, the sun falls from Seatoller on to the silent blue
of Buttermere and, under Gable, the Tarn sleeps like a rusted
shield.

'There is no time,' said Mr Benbow.  'Time is an anachronism.  At
this moment Caesar falls on the steps of the Capitol and David
challenges his giant enemy.'



At this moment, too, Cynthia Worcester brought her two little girls
on a visit to Cumberland.  Strange how the Herries were drawn back,
again and again, to this patch of ground.  But in Cynthia's case it
was perhaps Vanessa rather than Cumberland that drew her.  Cynthia
had never set an eye on Vanessa since the flight from Hill Street.
She had not seen her but had stepped into her place--or very
nearly.  Peile Worcester was not, of course, as rich as Ellis; they
could not, in their house in Charles Street, entertain as Vanessa
had done in Hill Street.  On the other hand, they were cleverer
than Vanessa.  Vanessa had not been clever--kind, gentle, generous,
most beautiful to look upon, but NOT, oh, most certainly not
clever.

Cynthia was as pretty as a rosebud (a flower to which she had been
often compared) and ALSO as clever as a monkey.  She had always
been INSIDE the Arts as Vanessa had never attempted to be.  Indeed,
so far was Cynthia now inside that her set embalmed her like a fly
in amber.  But everyone came to her afternoons, her evenings--Mr
Bernard Shaw, the Sidney Webbs and Mr H. G. Wells; while on the
other side there were the aesthetes, Mr Sidney Colvin at the
Museum, young Mr Binyon, a wild young man who had sailed before the
mast and swept the floor in a bar, Mr Masefield, and, above all,
the Homer, the Milton (who knew, perhaps the Shakespeare of our
day?), honey-voiced Mr Stephen Phillips.  The politicians came too--
Cynthia had no Party politics: Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman dined
at her table as well as Mr Balfour.  Even the new Labour candidate
for Barnard Castle, Mr Arthur Henderson, came to tea . . .

Cynthia had taken Vanessa's place.  She was the social head of the
family now, and the younger generation, Alfred's children, Maurice
and Clara, Carey's girls, cousins from Manchester and cousins from
Bournemouth, Philip and his odd effeminate friends, young Violet
and her stupid husband--they recognized it and submitted to it.

Nevertheless (as is always the case in every family history) some
things were not quite right.  Cynthia was not as happy as she ought
to be.  She possessed just enough imagination to wish her position
a little different.  HER struggle between Prose and Poetry was, of
course, all on the side of Prose.  There was never any doubt as to
which party she belonged to.  Of the world of Judith, of Rose, of
Vanessa she would never even glimpse the borders: nevertheless the
world where she was was not quite good enough.  Peile Worcester was
not quite good enough, their income was not quite good enough,
their two lovely obedient little girls were not quite good enough.
In fact, in this September of 1903, Cynthia was supremely
discontented, her rosebud mouth curled down at the ends; she, one
afternoon, startled Mr Phillips almost out of his life by saying
that today she really didn't want to listen to Marpessa, and she
lost her temper altogether with Horace when he informed her that
'in his own small way he grew with every increasing year more and
more of an optimist'.  She could not ABIDE Horace, she decided,
with his high domed forehead, his mild eyes naked of eyebrows, his
plump rosy cheeks, and his way of being able to help anyone in the
world out of any trouble so long as he personally got the glory of
it.

After her rudeness to Horace (for which she was sincerely sorry,
for she was a kind-hearted little thing) she took herself in hand.
What was the matter with her?  Two things.  One, her husband.  The
other, that she longed to see Vanessa again.  She must get away
from Peile for a while and she must see Vanessa, if only for a
moment.  With a start of surprise, staring into her mirror, she
discovered that, in all probability, she cared for and admired
Vanessa more than anyone else in the world.  Vanessa had of course
done a dreadful thing.  Had she run away with anyone but Benjie
Herries!  Nevertheless Cynthia, feeling as she did at the moment
about Peile, thought that running away from one's husband was not
so extraordinary a business.  Only it was a thing that a Herries
must never do, because the eyes of the world were on the Herries
family, they stood for domesticity, patriotism, and virtuous common
sense.  That was why Vanessa's affair had been so truly awful!

The matter with Peile was that he never changed.  He was exactly
the same as he had been when she married him, EXACTLY the same, and
all the things for which she had loved him then were precisely the
things that exasperated her now!

He had not changed in looks; he was as good-looking as ever.  He
did not appear a day older (how she wished he did!) with his
crinkly fair hair, his fair short moustache, his splendid figure,
his immaculate clothes.  He was an English Gentleman in excelsis.
He had today precisely the same complaints against the English
middle classes that he had had when he married her.  THEN they had
seemed to her charming, and she had agreed with every one of them,
for the Herries belonged to the Upper Middle Classes and thought
therefore that almost everything that the Middle Middle Classes did
was a pity.  Peile's complaints and sarcasms now were just what
they had always been but were more, far more, vehemently expressed,
because he was older now and had all the Englishman's touching
faith that the older you grew the more important your opinions
were.

At this particular moment there were a number of things that made
the Middle Middle Classes especially offensive to Peile.  Business
was bad.  The country had not yet recovered from the effects of
that stupid mismanaged war.  How ironical to remember the cheering
crowds lining the street as the CIVs marched past, or the shocking
vulgar manifestations of Mafeking night!  Then there was the
Whitaker-Wright affair that had been dragging on for years, and
only in March had the Public Prosecutor seen fit to prosecute.
There was Chamberlain's absurd loan of thirty-five million pounds
to South Africa.  THERE was a nice burden for the Upper Middle
Class (on whom now ALL the taxes were falling!) to pay!  There were
the unemployed walking about the streets with their collecting
boxes.  There was Brodrick's ridiculous 'Phantom Army Corps' of
which young Winston Churchill so rightly made fun.  There was this
demand on the part of the Lower Middle Classes for cheap food--and
they were getting it too, mostly in tins, of course, but
nevertheless eating lobster and asparagus, peas and apricots, as
though these things were their right instead of a luxury.  There
was the horrible 'Art and Craft' furniture with which the Lower
Middle Classes were encumbering their homes, dreadful cheap
confusions of memories of William Morris and vulgar German Kunst, A
typist whom Alfred had engaged actually owned a mechanical piano-
player, bought of course on hire-purchase.  There was this new
passion on the part of the Lower Middle Classes for learning
things, for buying cheap books about atheism and how to put a
bicycle together.  There were their odd forms of entertainment and
exercise--walking races to Brighton.  There had been the other day
a race to Brighton for waitresses!  There was a sudden craze for
swimming the Channel; and schools for quite inferior children were
mad about hockey teams, just like the school attended by his own
girls.  There was this crazy ugly music by Richard Strauss that had
not a tune in it, and this vulgar new halfpenny paper, the Daily
Mirror, for women.  There was the sordid excitement over the Moat
Farm Murder, and there was this fearful increase in motor vehicles,
so that a law was to be passed ordering them to be numbered and
some 'test of efficiency' for the driver . . .

It was not that Peile was a snob.  He did not think himself better
than anyone else, or only so very, very little better, but anyone
could see that this new power in the Lower Middle Classes, their
crazy desire for the best of things and intolerable fashion of
making themselves heard through the daily Press, through Leagues
and Unions and meetings and speeches was doing old England no good,
was in fact fast dragging her down from her grand position as
Mistress of the World.  Something must be done about it, and the
Upper Middle Classes were the people to do it: it was their right
and their duty.  Peile did not know WHAT everyone was about!  The
country going to wrack and ruin and nobody cared.  What was Alfred
doing, and old Barney and older Horace in Manchester?  Why, simply
nothing at all!

It was after Cynthia had endured months and months of this at every
meal and for an hour or so every night in the quiet of the
matrimonial chamber that she decided to take the girls for a
holiday to Cumberland.

She simply told Peile one evening and, next morning, departed.



Arrived in Keswick, she looked for rooms, preferring these to a
hotel, and found them--most charming ones--on the right side of the
road that ran down to the lake.  She spent half an hour putting the
rooms' things away into a cupboard--trays from India, china figures
from Manchester, bead mats, two large coloured portraits and three
huge sea-shells.  Mrs Colbourne the landlady was a little
astonished, but there was something about Cynthia, so tiny but so
charming, with such lovely hair, such lovely eyes, and a manner
that had just the right mixture of kindliness and authority.  Mrs
Colbourne, who was a widow and came from near Liverpool (had she
been a Cumbrian she would not have been so quickly melted),
surrendered to Cynthia entirely, giving the governess special food
(for she had a delicate stomach), sitting up one night when
Rosalind had a cough that might become pneumonia (you never can
tell), and hiring a pony trap from her friend Mr Lewthwaite at
especial terms for Cynthia's especial use.  In those few days she
used it in fact a great deal.  She became a familiar sight in
Keswick, sitting up driving, her little back like a ramrod, and a
veil concealing her lovely features.  The citizens of Keswick are
not very easily impressed--they have too many visitors--but the Hon
Mrs Peile Worcester, driving her pony cart, her two lovely little
girls sitting as stiff as Royalty behind with their governess, Miss
King, was a sight that they did not for a while forget.

Then, after four extremely happy days, there came a peremptory
letter from Peile.  He was not well.  He had been in bed all day.
He had a temperature.  The doctor thought that it might be serious.
He demanded her instant return.

She did not return instantly, however.  She waited a day.  She went
with her two little girls and called on Vanessa.  The pony trap
arrived at the church.  There they all three dismounted and walked
across the meadows to the white house.  Having tea by the house
door were Vanessa, Benjie, and Tom.  At first Cynthia thought it
was the farmer and his wife.  It was one of those lovely September
days when, above the turning bracken, the sun lies in happy content
from shoulder to shoulder of the hills and all the little streams
flash with light.  Perhaps one small cloud, dark as a mulberry,
hangs motionless like a hawk above the glittering valley and, for a
moment, the sun slips behind its shelter.  Then at that instant all
is sombre--the hill, the streams, the little running walls, as
though a vast curving wing from the protecting Eagle shadowed the
world.  Then the sun is free of the cloud, and light leaps up from
the heart of the soil.

It was such a day, but very warm: Benjie was in his shirt sleeves,
the sleeve of his one arm rolled up; his neck was bare.  He was
wearing corduroy riding breeches, and Vanessa in a sun bonnet had a
cotton dress--white scattered with blue flowers.

After another look Cynthia saw that it was indeed Vanessa: she ran
forward with a little cry.  The two women embraced.

Two days after her return to London, Cynthia wrote to May Rockage.
This is part of the letter:


. . . But of course I wasn't going to miss Vanessa, the very thing
I'd come up there for.  So we drove over, the girls and I, to the
funny little valley where they live.  Peile was very annoyed when
he heard that I took the girls.  Very annoyed indeed, especially as
he has a sore throat and thinks himself on the point of death.
(He's better tonight.  Nothing but a bad cold.  Aren't husbands
absurd?)  But the girls enjoyed themselves.  They went off quite
alone with Benjie's boy, Tom.  He's nineteen now, Vanessa told me,
and MOST serious as though he was eighty.  But of course he had all
that time in Paris and South Africa, which makes him more grown-up.
Anyway I knew the children were quite safe with him.  I think both
of them have fallen in love with him.  They've talked of nothing
else since.  Benjie was nice.  I should say Vanessa's calmed him
down.  Of course he LOOKS rough.  He might have been a tramp or
gipsy or anything, and he's brown as a berry.  But he's always a
gentleman even if he hasn't always behaved like one.

But, May dear, here's the great news.  Vanessa is going to have a
baby.  Any time.  It might have come while we were there having
tea!  She doesn't attempt to conceal it.  Really I was rather
afraid what the girls would think, but they're too young, thank
Heaven, to know anything about it.  Miss King is EXCELLENT at
answering awkward questions.  When I went up with Vanessa to her
room (SUCH a small room, with whitewashed walls and smelling of
hay), she told me that they hadn't meant to have one--a baby I mean--
but there it is, and of course it will be illegitimate, which is a
pity.  Isn't it funny how we CAN'T keep illegitimacy out of the
family, and yet I'm sure most of us are as proper as can be?  When
I was with Vanessa I couldn't help feeling I'd made a mistake and
it would have been much better to have run away in a caravan with a
gipsy instead of all these silly London parties.  Benjie and
Vanessa seemed so VERY happy.  But of course as soon as I was in
London again I knew it would never have done.  I'd NEVER be happy
in a caravan roasting hedgehogs and telling people's fortunes.  But
what IS there about Vanessa?  Of course she's still beautiful even
as she is and dressed like a cottage woman with a sun bonnet.  But
her features are lovely, so NOBLE without being a bit superior.
She has the grandest eyes, the finest forehead, the kindest mouth
of any woman I've ever seen.  I've always adored her, even though I
WAS a little jealous of her in London.  She's just as quiet as she
always was.  She sits there, her hands on her lap, and you feel you
could tell her anything.  She isn't clever of course--I mean she
never SAYS anything that's clever--but you can trust her
absolutely, which you can't do with many women.  She asked about
Ellis, but I couldn't tell her much except that he's quite happy
looked after by those two awful old women.  I asked her whether she
were happy and she said she was.  I think she is--part of the time.
But I caught her looking at Benjie as though she expected him to go
off at any moment.  Not that she lets HIM see that.  She's too
wise.  She knows that men want to FEEL they're free even though
they're not really.  I asked her whether she were anxious about the
baby.  She's forty-four you know and it's her first.  But she said
no.  She said she didn't mind dying so long as Benjie was there.
But I don't know WHAT he'd do without her.  He may be wild and all
the rest, but if any man ever loved a woman Benjie loves Vanessa.
And it was all so quiet there, with the sun on the fields and the
sheep grazing and the noise of running water.  If Maud and Helen
are coming up next week to town do let me know.  Peile says . . .



'A storm's coming up,' said Benjie, looking back towards Keskadale
and Buttermere Hause.  The sky was a stainless blue, but over
Whiteless Pike little shreds of cloud like tags of cotton wool
floated and gathered.  A low whispering wind stirred the dying
bracken.

'I'm coming with you,' Vanessa said.  As she said it she thought:
'Now this is foolish of me.  This is what I determined not to do--
not to force myself on him.  He doesn't want me.  He will be so
much happier by himself.  And yet I'm determined.  What is it?  Is
it the child?  I can't bear these days to let him out of my sight.'

'Better not,' Benjie said.  'There's a storm coming.  And I'm out
for a long walk--Hindscarth, Robinson, over Red Pike to Ennerdale.
You'll never do it, Van, as you are.  It wouldn't be safe.'

How well she knew him when he thought that someone was laying a
hand on him to constrain him--herself, anyone--like a hare who,
with ears pricked, hears the hunter treading the long grass.  But
she was determined.  All her cautious ways of dealing with him were
gone.  She could not ENDURE a whole day and night just now without
him.  If she had asked him to stay he would have stayed--but
reluctantly, behaving all day as though she had tethered him with a
rope to a stone!  How well she knew him!  As though it were herself
who was resenting it.

'I can't help it,' she said, smiling, her head up, her hands on her
broad hips.  'I must come, Benjie.  It will be all right.  Wenlock
says that it won't be yet.  I never felt better in my life.'

He looked at her and she knew what he was thinking:  'This big
broad woman stands over me like a gaoler.  Why did I tie myself up?
Can't even go off for a walk by myself!'

And yet, all these months, since they had known that there was to
be a child, he had been exquisitely tender for her, taking every
trouble, thinking of her, watching over her as he never would have
done for anyone five years ago.  Oh! he had grown.  Living with
her, loving her, had taught him something.  Had taught HER
something too--should have taught her not to worry him, to let him
go off free!  But he ought not to want to go for a night and a day
now, when, in spite of what the doctor had said, he knew that the
child MIGHT be born . . . and she alone with Tom in the house.  The
child MIGHT be born . . . it was mad of her to insist that she must
go with him.  And yet she DID insist.

'I'm coming,' she said obstinately.

'Look here.'  He did not look at her, but slanted his eyes, bright,
lively, shining in his brown face, away from her, looking at the
walls of the house, the sheep cropping, the wind stirring in the
bracken.  'Look here, I've told you.  There's a storm coming.  I
must have a walk.  I've been cooped up for weeks.  ('Oh no, you
haven't,' Vanessa thought.  'Last week you were away for two
nights.')  I'll be back tomorrow morning.  It's madness for you to
think of coming.  Look here.  Walk to the end of the lane with me.
Then come back.'

'No, I'm coming,' she answered obstinately.  She went in to get
some things.  As she was collecting them she thought:  'What is
making me do this?  And why, at moments like this, do we almost
hate one another?  I would give him anything, anything in the
world.  I would die for him.  It wouldn't be hard at all.  But now
the more he wants me not to come with him the more I'm coming.  And
when it's like this it seems as though we had always been fighting
one another, all our lives long.  And yet soon--when we are agreed
again--it will seem as though we had never had a fight in our lives
worth mentioning.'

When she came down in her short skirt and with her stick and
rucksack she looked in at the lower room to say goodbye to Tom.  He
was seated at the table, his square arm firmly planted, his honest
determined eyes bent on a book.  He sprang up.

'Why, where are you going?'

'I'm going with Benjie for a walk.'

The look came into his eyes that she knew so well--of fear and love
and motherly anxiety.

'Oh, but you shouldn't!  Not now.  What's father doing to let you?--'

She smiled the old ironical mischievous smile that she had had as a
child, a smile just like Adam's.

'He doesn't want me to.  He's very cross about it, in fact.'

'Well, of course he is.  Oh, Van, you mustn't.'

She caught him to her and kissed him.

'Dear Tom!  You're going to have an awful life--always upsetting
yourself about other people.'

She went outside.  Benjie never said a word, but he was as sulky as
a scolded schoolboy.  They set off.  She waved to Tom who was
watching at the window, who would be, she knew, anxious and
miserable all day.

'I don't care,' she thought defiantly.  'They're only men.  They
haven't the least idea what a woman wants.  It will be good for me,
this exercise.  I never felt better in my life.'  She walked, her
head up, striding, a smile on her lips, and Benjie stepped along at
her side, whistling, kicking pebbles.  Only as they crossed the
beck and she jumped from a stone to the bank he said:

'You're a fool, Van, you know.  But on your own head be it.'  Then
he seemed better.  He could never be sulky for long.  Any little
thing interrupted his mood.  'Look, Van!  Look at that hawk!  Like
a stone on the sky!  Ah! it's dropped--a fieldmouse, I expect.
Here.  Take my hand.  This fence is a bit steep.'

Then all was well again; they were as close together as though they
were one body, moving through the air, treading the turf so
lightly, brushing the bracken as they began to climb.  She looked
back on the little stream before they left it.  It played
lingeringly about its gleaming stones as though loath to leave
them, and the stones, too, seemed to cling to the water, stopping
it, having excited murmurous chats with it, then, as though trying
a last strategy, exercising in a tiny dance with flurries of silver
lines and circles.  All about the stream the scene was 'calm as a
resting wheel' and the air so clean that trees and hill lines
seemed stamped on the atmosphere like a seal on blue paper.  The
September day was exceptionally warm, but everywhere was the finger
of decay, the leaves gold and dun and then of a sudden brightly
green as though defiant of approaching death.  At a cottage above
the right bank of the stream a woman called to a shepherd striding
uphill, two dogs at his heel:  'Well, anudder time . . .'  Her
voice rang out in the still air like a cry.

'Oh, how happy I am!' Vanessa thought, 'and ten minutes back I was
nervous, uncertain, anxious.  I only want Benjie to be happy and
then everything in me is tranquil.'  She remembered, as they
pressed past a big boulder and began to tread the turf and to feel
the wind, touched with the salt of the sea, in their faces, her
London life.  How dead and gone that seemed!  But Cynthia's visit
had stirred her strangely.  She had accepted her ostracism almost
gladly--she had suffered so little--but she had been moved, deeply
moved that Cynthia had brought her children.  Yes, and had allowed
Tom to take them off across the valley.  Tom had thought little
Mary the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld.  He had spoken
of her again and again.  He was to go shortly to London.  He was to
be given a trial on the Standard newspaper, a job that dear old
Barney had found for him.  How would the Family receive him?  Peile
and Alfred and Horace . . .  Would May and Carey invite him to
Wiltshire?  After all, it was not HIS fault, poor boy, that his
father had disgraced himself!  And Society was more tolerant now.
Every kind of queer person was admitted.  When she had married
Ellis the conventions had been rigid, as though you belonged to a
Regiment, and any social or moral offence was as bad as desertion.
She did not care for herself--HER case was socially hopeless and
would be more so after the birth of a child--but she DID want Tom
to have a good time!

Benjie took her arm to help her up a steep place.  At his touch
warmth poured through her body.  It was always so.  She had had, in
her life, so little experience, but she had always heard that, when
passion was gone, the best that a married pair could hope for was a
kind of compromising friendship.  But still, after all these years,
Benjie's body was lovely to her.  She would lie awake at night,
while he slept, her hand on his thigh, and know that his vigour,
his warmth, the freshness of his skin, the strength of his bones
was unique for her and always would be.  Now she understood
fidelity--spiritual fidelity.  Yes, that she had always understood,
but when it was aided by the body how undefeated it must be!  She
understood now the tragedy of the marriage in which physical things
were disharmonized.  Easy for others to argue that it must be
endured, but the touch, the kiss, the stroke of the hand, the
meeting of the cheek against cheek, the personal flavour of the
flesh, how much of spiritual contact went with these physical
things--they were the very gateway of the spirit!

So, on the brow of the hill, she said that they would sit down for
a moment and they did so.  He put his arm around her and she drew
his head to her breast.  She felt almost a faintness of ecstasy
here in this high air, with the smell of bracken and short stiff
grass and the sea wind.  Far below them she saw a little figure of
a man leading his horse, and she thought of him, the year going
past him, rousing his horses, driving his plough through flint and
marl, the peewit wheeling above him, kestrels soaring, his eyes
always so patient, so wise about so many things, walking as his
forefathers had done in all the old ways.  The child leapt in her
womb and, with that lovely sense of new life, her eyes grew bright
with comfort and she smiled.

They moved on again.  She asked Benjie:

'I suppose now you think you know me better than anyone else in the
world?'

'Yes, I think I do.'

'Yes, now.  Father knew me; Rose--poor Rose--knew me . . .  Don't
you know me so well, Benjie, that it's dull?'

'Dull?'

'Yes.  I never can surprise you any more.  You always know what I'm
going to do.'

'I know you as though you were part of myself--the better part.
You ARE part of myself.  You always have been.'

'A part you often want to be rid of.'

'No, not often.  Sometimes.  Every man is like that.'  He stopped
and looked at her.  'Sure you're all right?  Not tired?'

'Splendid.  I could walk a hundred miles.'

'You know, when you said you were coming with me I hated you for a
moment.  I could have run off and never come back.  That's what I
felt like.'

'Yes, I knew you did.'

'Aren't you wise?  You resent nothing.  You forgive everything.'

'Yes,' she said, laughing.  'I'm placid--like a cow.'

'No.  Oh no!'  He struck his stick against a stone.  'You've a
fearful temper.  You can be so angry that the air quivers.  But you
never resent.  You forgive and pass on.  Every day you're finer.'

'Am I?  That's because I love you.'

'Yes, and I love YOU!  I love you!  I love you!  I love you!' he
called.  'Do you hear the echo?  It comes from that rift of rock.'
Then, looking about him, sniffing the air, he went on:  'I was
right about the storm, Van.  It's coming.  Do you see those
clouds?'

Over Newlands a fleet of small, ragged clouds were slowly
gathering, as though with purpose, as though marshalled.  The sun
shone brightly, but the air was colder and the wind now was busy
along the ground, whistling in an undertone.

She didn't care about the storm.  It would be nothing.  She took
her last look at the valley, so small but packed with history.  In
the time of Elizabeth, the German company had worked the mines in
Newlands: there had been the Goldscope lead mines worked at the
beginning of the nineteenth century.  At Stair there had been the
woollen mills--all that energy and human life, lovemaking and
childbearing, foreign tongues, and Elizabeth's sharp eye fixed on
her profits--and now the little valley bathed in silence, the small
farms, the enclosed fields, the hawks and kestrels, the shepherd
calling his dogs, the farmer ploughing the stiff field . . .

'Benjie, this is the only place in the world for us!  The only
spot . . . and for my father, my grandmother, her father . . .'

'Yes,' he answered.  'I can't tear away from it.  Try as I may I
can't.  Everything passes--on the surface everything passes.  But
underneath, Van, you land on the rock, you give a cry of delight,
you defend yourself against attack, and then, in a moment, you're
gone to join the others under Skiddaw perhaps.  We SEEM to change
but we don't.'

She stopped, leaning on her stick.

'Yes, God gives you your moment of experience--to overcome fear.'

'Oh, you and your God!' he said, laughing.  'Hasn't science taught
you anything yet, Vanessa?'

'Science I don't know . . .'

He looked at her curiously.  'Then God does exist for you, Van?
Just as I do?'

'Yes, if one's brave enough to believe in Him,' she said shyly, 'It
needs courage like everything else.  We never talk about Him,
Benjie.  Why?  Because I'm afraid that you'll laugh, and YOU'RE
afraid--what are you afraid of?  Of looking too far.  What does
everyone say?  That Huxley and Darwin have settled the whole
question, so why argue?  And they leave it like that because it's
easier, because it's dangerous to look any further.  I shouldn't
have the courage if I were not driven to it, but I think God has
tormented me all my life.  Tormented isn't the right word perhaps.
Moved restlessly in and around me.  YOU say that that is
superstition.  _I_ say that there's no other choice for me.  I HAVE
to be aware that you are there; I know your step, your voice, your
frown.  So I'm aware that God is there.  I didn't ask for it.  I'm
not better or worse than you or anyone else because of it.  It's
simply a fact.'

She had not for a very long time discussed such things with him.
He knew that she prayed, that much of the tranquillity that was
always increasing in her came from some inner experience, the only
thing that she did not share with him.  Once he had been jealous of
it, angry with her because of it.  Now he loved her so much that he
only wanted her to be happy.  Perhaps? . . .  Who knows? . . .

'It's a great thing to conquer fear,' he said.  'Anyone who does
that is a kind of god.'

Even as he spoke the storm broke on them.  Benjie knew the dangers
of this piece of country.  Robinson and Hindscarth had rough faces
with much scree, and the ghylls into Buttermere had loose and
falling rock with water suddenly, and sodden turf on the fell-side.
A nasty ground for mist.  But, at the moment, he could think of
nothing but the wind which, quite suddenly, leapt from the ground,
rushed forward from the hillside and tore up the valley.  The
clouds boiled from behind the hill, and the sun was obscured.  The
moss, heather, bracken that had been so brightly lit lost all
colour.

'Are you all right?' he shouted to Vanessa.

'Yes, yes, I'm all right,' she answered.

Could they reach the bend of the hill they would have shelter.  The
storm was so furious that it could not last, he thought, but how
strange was this sudden roaring of waters!  The rain had begun to
fall in slanting whips of steel, but the becks and mountain
rivulets had not had time to absorb it; yet in his ears it was as
though all the thundering waters of the world had been unloosed!
It was as though a spirit with inky hair strode the fell and
passed, blowing a great horn summoning his army!  They could see
the rain sweeping from the farthest horizon in curtains of gauze,
blowing, bending, but never breaking.

'Turn your back to it!' he cried to Vanessa.  'Get your breath!
There'll be a rock soon that we can shelter against.'

She turned, her skirts blown against her legs, her hair in her eyes
and, at that same moment, with a little gasp of pain, felt a strong
hand clutch her vitals, squeeze them, let them go.  She bent her
head.  The stab of pain passed.  She hurried, pressing through the
storm so swiftly that Benjie cried:

'Come on!  That's the spirit!  We'll find shelter beyond the brow.'

They were both soaked through their coats, but a sort of ecstasy
seized Benjie.  This was what he loved, all the hills bared by the
wind, all the streams exulting because they would be strong and
vehement again, rain and wind at their full power and the sky black
with cloud.  If Vanessa were not beaten by it!  But there she was,
her head up, striding forward, striking the earth with her stick!
He ran, he jumped the stones, he sang!  Then, through the rain, the
mist surged forward.  It rose, broke to show dark fell and shining
rock, closed again with fingers on your eyes, lifted from the
ground a little to reveal the short grass tugging to escape the
soil . . .

Vanessa was gone. . .  He shouted.

'Van!  Van!  Vanessa!  Where are you?'

The mist broke and he saw one jet-black cloud, and towards it
everything, fell and gleaming stone and line of hill, seemed to
strain.

He saw Vanessa standing, her hand to her heart.  He caught up with
her.

'Are you all right?'

Her face was grey in that half-light, but as she answered him the
mist came down again, hiding her.

But she was glad that he could not see her, for she was about to
die.  She knew it as certainly as though the tall figure, grey-
cloaked with grave assured eyes, stood in the mist, his curving
silver-gleaming scythe in his hand.  Her knees bent, her head was
bowed on her breast.  So appalling was the pain that death held no
terrors, nor her loneliness.  Strange that her one thought about
death for years had been that Benjie must be with her when it came.
And now it was here, and she hoped that Benjie would not see her,
but would pass on, striking his iron-tipped stick on the stone,
and she would drop there where she was and die, alone, hidden in
mist . . .  She did not want anyone to see her die.

So fearful was the pain that she could not keep back a moan, and
then another.  But only her own heart heard.  The wind screamed
in her ear, and the mist, wet like a thin soaked towel, pressed
on her eyes and nose and mouth.  Dimly through her pain she
thought how silly it had been that, only ten minutes before, she
had been talking so confidently about God.  God was not here.
She was animal, only fighting for endurance and to die without
cowardice . . .

Then the pain was so fierce that she thought of nothing, neither
the storm nor any company.  She knelt on the sodden turf, her head
back, her teeth set, hands clenched.  She fancied that, from a
great distance, she heard Benjie calling, and a sudden warming
thought as though it were the very last that she would have in this
world came to her of his sweetness, jollity, kindliness.  Nothing
in this world mattered so much as kindliness . . . that men should
be kind to one another because they suffered, one and all, and life
was short . . .

The pain passed.  It withdrew as though a figure that had been
bending over her had moved away.

She looked up and saw that the mist had broken, leaving a round cup
like a room suddenly revealed, a room furnished with a gleaming
rock like a ship's stern.  The pain was gone: she would not die
yet.  The child should be born.  Not rain nor wind should defeat
her, and she rose from her knees and breasted the wind, moving
forward.  The mist cleared still further and she saw Benjie moving
back to her.

'It's all right,' he shouted.  'There's a farm here just on the
bend.  Where the trees are.'

She took his arm.

'Isn't the wind strong?  It almost beat me to my knees.'

He had noticed nothing, and she now brought all her resources to
the business of meeting the pain again when it returned.  For
return it would.  She could hear it afar off as though faintly the
thin warning of a distant horn.

When they came to the trees they were rocking and groaning like mad
things.  The mist was shredded now, blowing in crazy tears and
tatters over a landscape that was all fell scattered with stone and
rock.  The scene was immemorial and had changed in nothing since,
maybe, Roman trumpets had echoed there from distance to distance.

It was a little white farmhouse, very simple, with a small beck
rushing furiously at its side, the whole world filled with wind and
rain.  Benjie knocked on the door, two dogs barked, then a woman
opened it and looked out.  The wind rushed in and they followed it,
coming into a clean and bright kitchen.  It was low-roofed; there
were legs of cured mutton and hams hanging from the smoky rafters.
On a shelf nearby there were pots and jars, little yellow cheeses,
dried herbs.  By the ingle there was an old white-haired man,
another younger man with broad shoulders and a bull-neck standing
up, the woman who had opened the door, and a pretty girl in a blue
gown busy at the table.

They were very cordial and friendly, made Vanessa and Benjie come
to the fire to dry themselves.  Yes, they had a spare room for the
night if the storm kept on.  The old man was loquacious; he had
light blue eyes like flowers.

'Aye,' he said.  We're verra oot o't warld--seven mile fra a shop,
eight mile fra a church--an' hard roads.'

He was proud of their isolation.  The housewife asked them if they
were hungry.  Benjie said indeed he was.  She began to be busy
cooking eggs and Cumberland ham.

Vanessa sat there, her knees close together, looking into the fire,
waiting for the next pain to come.  She wondered how soon she might
go up to bed, take her things off: Benjie had noticed nothing.  He
was exceedingly happy, had taken off his boots and stockings, coat
and waistcoat, and sat there, smiling at them all.  He told them
how he had lost his arm in Africa in the war.  The old man had a
long story to tell about sheep--'terrible wark' sometimes.  The
young man had a newspaper a week old.  'A newspaper!  Aye--we mun
gang a lang ways to get yan o' thame here.'  Benjie laughed and
chattered, loving the sound of the storm beyond the house, the
smell of the frying eggs and ham.  His twinkling eyes rested on the
girl.  WHAT a pretty girl!  Dark, slim, and a cheeky upturned nose
such as he preferred.  He smiled at her and she shyly smiled back
again . . .



Later Vanessa said:  'Benjie, I am tired.  I think I'll go to bed.'

'Supper's nearly ready.  You must be starved.  I know I am.'

'I'm not hungry,' she answered.  'I think I'll go up.'

She stood, her hand pressed to her side.  He looked at her
anxiously but she smiled back at him.  The girl went up with her to
show her the room.

The storm died down.  Benjie had his supper, the woman and girl
waiting on him.  It was now, in a place like this with simple,
friendly people, that he felt at his best.  In his shirt and
trousers he sat there, eating, drinking big cups of tea, laughing,
telling them about South Africa and other parts of the world where
he had been.  Once and again he smiled at the girl and she glanced
back at him, their eyes meeting, holding one another, parting
quickly.  The storm had died away and beyond the kitchen window a
flood of primrose light laced with the tree branches spread above
the bare fell.

'Hurray!  The storm is over!' Benjie said.

The girl had gone.  He could hear her moving on the floor above.
He got up.

'I'll go and see how my wife is,' he said.  But, even as he spoke,
the wind came again, raging in a fury about the house, banging at
the house door, rattling the windows.  All the trees screamed and
the colour ebbed from the sky, leaving it white.

'That was sudden,' he said, turning round.  'I thought it had
died.'

He saw a scurry of leaves blow against the pane and flatten.  Some
stayed pressed against the window.

''Twill be a wild neet,' the old man said calmly.

Benjie climbed the crooked stairs that smelt of mice and whitewash.
At the top was the girl just coming down.  There was a ghostly
light from the passage window.  He caught the girl with his arm and
she surrendered to him at once, pressing closely against him as
though she were hungry to be loved, which indeed she was.  He held
her tight, kissing her eyes, her cheeks, her mouth.  Then, behind
the pleasure and strength and warm happiness that wrapped him in,
he heard a deep breath as of someone close at his elbow.  Looking
past the girl he saw Vanessa at the doorway.  Her hair fell about
her shoulders and she had caught a patchwork quilt around her; the
colours were bizarre--blue, crimson, orange, green--and above it
her eyes, fixed as though fastened on some desperate resolution,
stared at him.  She said something, but the wind was shaking the
window.  All the house seemed to be quivering.  The girl was as
though she had never been, and as he reached Vanessa's side he
said:

'Vanessa, it was nothing . . .  Vanessa darling . . .'

She looked at him, tried to smile, but her mouth shook.  He heard
her murmur, 'I'm very ill . . .  Tell the woman to come . . .'

So, as nearly ninety years ago Judith Paris, her grandmother, had
borne an illegitimate child in the heart of storm and confusion,
did Vanessa now.

Sally, daughter of Benjamin Herries and Vanessa Herries, was born
at eleven-thirty on the night of September 21st, 1903, at Randle
Farm in Cumberland.



PERFECT LOVE


Vanessa sat on the slope of the hill behind the white farm watching
for Tom's coming.

Sally, now nearly three years of age, sprawled beside her.  Vanessa
had a book on her lap but she was not reading.  It was a cold sunny
May afternoon.  The scene was so still that it was like a painted
canvas--or a bowl with flowers, for the hills circled her in but
flowers were everywhere--crab blossom, speedwell blue as a jewel,
anemones.  In the garden behind the farm the primroses were still
in yellow clumps, violets, celandines, and pansies.  Soon the blue
hyacinths would be full-blown.  But the bowl that held the flowers
was harsh with the tang of winter.  The higher hills were thinly
powdered with snow and the rocks so black that they glittered in
the May sun like steel, and the little coppice beyond the stream
yet seemed to tremble as though it could not be sure that winter
was truly over.

Sally was not a pretty child but she, too, was a flower.  She was
small, spare, taut.  Her hair had a red shadow in its brown, and
she was always pale, but not with the pallor of ill-health.  She
was the strongest child.  Nothing ever ailed her.  When she cried
it was from ill-temper.  She had a most determined will, hated to
be frustrated, knew her own way and intention always.  But she
never sulked, loved where she loved, hated where she hated, stood
no nonsense, refused to be either flattered or petted and thought
her mother the beginning and end of all things.

The love of this baby for her mother was astonishing.  It had been
so from the very beginning, and Vanessa, sitting there in the sun,
felt a supreme content.  Three human beings loved her--Benjie, Tom
and Sally.  They would not love her for ever perhaps.  Benjie still
moved towards her and then away from her again.  Tom, although he
was the most faithful of men, had his own life now and much of it
she could not share.  Sally would grow up and leave her.  But at
this moment, in this pellucid air, happy in this bowl of flowers,
she thanked God for all that He had given her.

'Am I still frightened?' she asked herself.  For, since her
childhood, she had had to battle with fear.  She had, all her life,
given her heart to someone of whom she could not be certain and
that was perhaps the reason that she loved him so dearly.  Would
the time ever come when she would be CERTAIN of Benjie?  He was
fifty-one now, she nearing forty-seven, but the old alarms
returned, day after day, as they had always done.  When he went
would he return?

Nevertheless in the years since Sally's birth she had known greater
happiness than ever before.  They had been shut off from all the
world; the friends they had made had been farmers, shepherds,
wandering men.  They had had almost no communication with London.
An occasional letter from old Barney, Adrian, once from Cynthia.
Benjie had been twice abroad, once to Italy, once to Spain, but had
not stayed in London on either occasion.  Anything that they knew
of the outer life was from Tom.  When he came he told them all the
news, journalistic, social, family.  He was happy on his newspaper;
the family were kind to him, and he was deeply, hopelessly in love
with Mary, Cynthia's girl, who was still only a child but, Tom said
(he confessed only to Vanessa), the love of his life . . .

Time had passed with incredible swiftness.  They were forgotten,
Vanessa said, not only by the world but by time as well.  They were
contented.

But for how long would this endure?  Still she never woke of a
morning without wondering whether before night Benjie would not
leave her.  He loved her--of course he loved her--but the
restlessness was there in his blood as it had ever been.  One day
he would go, and he would be lured farther and farther, always
intending to return, never returning . . .  What she had suffered
during his two adventures out of England no one would ever know.
She had, by now, trained herself to the complete hiding of her
fear.  She gave him no sign . . .

Somewhere a dog barked and at the same moment she saw that a trap
had drawn up at the gate behind the church.  Someone climbed out.
It was Tom.

'Sally!  Sally!' she cried.  'It's Tom!'  She was as excited as a
child.

Sally screamed:  'Tom!  Tom!  Tom!'

She picked Sally up and ran down the slope to the farm.

They hurried along the green sward, she carrying the child in the
crook of her arm.  She waved with the other hand, Tom waved back.
A moment later they were all together.

Tom was short and sturdy.  He had Adam's figure before he became
stout and he had Adam's quietness and certainty.  You knew always
exactly where you were with him.  Some people would think him dull
as they had thought Adam.  Other people found that he was to be
trusted beyond most men and that, once his loyalty and affection
were engaged, nothing could cause them to waver again.  A dull
quality, loyalty, and an unimaginative!  But valuable to some
people who believe in knowing where they are.

He was not dull to Vanessa.  For one thing he loved her, as he
showed with every look, every movement.  For another he was their
herald from the outer world.  As they sat that evening round the
table he had a thousand things to tell them.  He had taken Adrian
to one of these wrestling matches, now so popular.  There had been
a dinner party at Cynthia's.  He had met Edmund Gosse, who had told
funny stories about George Eliot.

'I haven't the least notion who Edmund Gosse is, darling,' Vanessa
said.

Barney had been ill with rheumatism.  But the most sensational
piece of news was that Maud and Helen, Carey's girls, had become
desperate Suffragettes.  Really desperate.  They wanted to break
into the Houses of Parliament.  They had marched in a procession
carrying banners.  Their mother was dreadfully distressed.

About journalism there were many exciting things.  It was rumoured
that Harmsworth, now Lord Northcliffe, intended to purchase The
Times.  Everything in Fleet Street was changing.  Men were
dismissed from their jobs at a moment's notice.  No one was safe
any longer.

'Oh, it's nice here!' he said at last.  'It's so quiet.  There's
such a good smell.'

'How long have you got?' Benjie asked.

'A fortnight.'  He wanted to walk.  He wanted to go over to
Haweswater and spend two days in Eskdale.

'I'll go with you,' said Benjie.

'Oh, that will be grand!' Tom said.

But Vanessa was sure that he wanted to go alone.  There was
something not quite intimate between himself and his father--
something a little uneasy.

And that night as Benjie was undressing he said to Vanessa:

'Tom doesn't want me with him.'

He was pulling off his shirt, a little awkwardly with his one arm.
His face flushed, his hair tousled, looking at her over the top of
his shirt before he dragged it over his head, he seemed to her
suddenly pathetic a little, and her love went out to him with an
unexpected fierce rush of emotion.  She was sitting before the
glass brushing her hair.  She turned, the brush in her hand.  He,
standing bare to the waist, looked back at her.  They exchanged a
long deep gaze.  The room was lit with candles that blew in the
breeze from the open window, and their shadows were gigantic on the
white wall.

They stayed, transfixed, looking at one another.  Then at last,
with a deep breath as though he were experiencing some extraordinary
new emotion, he came over to her.  He put his hand on her shoulder,
then moved it to her neck and so held her, her gaze still upon him.
Her eyes filled with tears; her heart was hammering.  It was as
though he had never made love to her before, as though at last he
were about to say to her the words for which she had so long been
aching.

He knelt down and enfolded her with his arm, his head on her
breast.  With light gentle fingers she stroked his hair, staring in
front of her, all the room dimmed because her eyes were dim.  A
ridiculous clock that had a note, Benjie always said, like an angry
parrot, told the hour, but the sound was an infinite distance away.
What had happened?  What was then this tumultuous fiery rush of joy
at her heart?

'What is it?' she said at last.  'Benjie--darling--tell me.  Are
you unhappy about Tom?'

He did not answer.  He held her only the more tightly.  At last he
said:

'It's like this, Van . . .  It's as though I had never seen you
before.'

He got up and stood there, looking at her.

'You'll catch cold with the window open.'

But he did not move; only stood there staring at her.

'Isn't it odd, Van?  I'm falling in love with you all over again.'

She finished brushing her hair, although it was difficult because
her hands trembled.  She slipped on her nightdress and got into
bed.

He always wore at night an open shirt that came no farther than the
knees.  For a moment he was naked and, looking at him in the
candlelight, she thought how wonderfully he had preserved his body.
For a man of past fifty he had an astonishing spareness and
hardness.  No fat.  Nothing slack.  And, as always, he looked as
though he never wore clothes, as though his flesh were always
exposed to the wind and sun.  He stretched himself like an animal,
raised his arm above his head, swelled out his brown chest.  But he
never took his bright, blue, fearless eyes from her face.  She had
never seen such eyes in any other man.  They were so childlike,
honest, dependable.  But he was not a child and he was not
dependable . . .

She expected that her own emotion would recede.  It had been but a
moment, born perhaps of her maternal longing over him because he
was disappointed in Tom.  But the emotion did not recede.  She
clasped her hands under the bedclothes and tried to beat down her
joy.  Like many another woman she was afraid of it lest it should
lead her to expect too much and bring soon some disappointment that
would be almost unbearably bitter--that she would remember
afterwards, when the joy was forgotten.

'I mustn't love him too much,' she told herself, as so many, many
times she had told herself before.  He blew out the candles and lay
down beside her.  She knew at once by his touch on her breast that
tonight he was very gentle.  He scarcely touched her and yet she
was thrilled by his proximity as she had never been before.  They
kissed and it was a kiss far deeper than passion.  They did not
stir, only their two hearts beating the one against the other, but
this kiss was different from any other that they had ever
exchanged.  It was radiant with awe and wonder and reverence at
something quite beyond and outside themselves.

At last he said:  'What has happened, Van?  I have never loved
anyone as I do you tonight.'  His hand found hers and now they lay,
very quietly, side by side, hand in hand.  She turned on her side,
laying her cheek against his.

'How still it is!  Only the running water!'

He stroked her arm with his hand, very gently, as though he were
afraid lest he should hurt her.

'Van, this is heaven.  I have never loved you before as I do
tonight.'

'Nor I you, Benjie.'

'We'll never forget this.'

'No.  Never, never.'

'I seem to understand at this moment what life ought to be.'  She
sighed with a deep, yearning happiness.  'I'm not afraid any more.
I don't care now what happens.  We have never been together like
this before . . .'

'No.  Never.  I wonder why . . .'

They turned to meet one another in a passionate embrace.

And, with the morning, nothing was changed.  She knew immediately
that he was still moving in this new relationship.  She saw that
Tom was at once aware of it and that he came in an instant more
closely to his father.  Benjie was quiet.  In ordinary he conveyed
a sense of restlessness, of wanting to move from the place where he
was to some other place.  But this morning, after they had
breakfasted, he stood in front of the farm looking at the green
field, the hills, the flowers, as though he had never seen them
before.

'Come for a stroll,' he said to Vanessa, and they went.  But, as
they walked, they scarcely spoke.  They went side by side, and for
Vanessa it was as though they were not walking but rather were
held, in some burning cloud, alone, away from man and time and
destiny.  What had happened?  Was it not impossible that at their
age, after they had lived so long together, known one another so
intimately, there could be a new relationship between them?
Friendship, comradeship, yes; but a new emotion, a new passion?
Surely it was impossible?

Only at the end of this walk, before they went into the house, he
turned to her and said again:

'Vanessa, what has happened to us?  Are we in love for the first
time?'

Day followed day, week followed week; the summer passed and autumn
was smoke and flame, smoke of the clouds, flame of the bracken.
With November the rains fell.  There was clouded light over the
dales and the wind currents were as vexed and troubled as the
twists and turns of a stream.  A black whirlwind of cloud would
rush across the tops, discharging its waters as though from a
gigantic tub impatiently overset by a celestial housemaid: you
would wake to a morning of universal dark; the very fire burnt
dimly and the rain fell with the tramp of armies; or the wet mists
would blow from Robinson, from Cat Bells, thin and airy, carrying
with them all the scene, a bare hillside lit by a sudden splash of
shining rock, a herd of sheep stalwart under the chill stone walls,
houses of stone raised into air by the web of vapour.  Or it would
rain quite solemnly like a clergyman of the old school preaching
into eternity, or a writer of stories for whom two hundred years
are but as a day, and then nothing lovelier in the world could be
seen than that quick break before dusk when a pulse of gold beats
through the dark and the sun creeps from under the blanket of cloud
and everything is lit with radiance for a short breathless while.
In these valleys and hills rain is as beautiful as fair weather and
more various, and it is rain always broken by sudden breathtaking
surprises.  Only in this weather and perhaps only in this country
can you see what the ebon flank of a cloud may be above a misty
hill, or how purple--richer than grape-bloom--can cover a fell
after tempest, or the white shadow, whiter than ivory and thin like
glass, that strokes the field under a pale young stormy moon.

Men who write of these things are always defeated by them, so rare
and strange is their beauty, but in their hearts an eternal
homesickness is created so that they are never either safe or happy
again in any land where it is dry and the sun is for ever shining.

Throughout the summer, the autumn, the winter, this miracle
remained for Benjie and Vanessa.  Many writers for hundreds of
years have written about first love, and some writers (but not so
very many) have spoken of the happiness of married comradeship.
But life is never settled nor arranged, nor does it behave as it
ought, by the laws of the written word, to do.  Many men and women
would behave nobly were they given the perfect conditions and
circumstances, but there is always toothache, a broken promise, a
jealousy, an unreasonable desire.  Only once in a lifetime perhaps
a Beethoven Symphony arrives punctually and, in a lighted room, two
friends forget that there is such a tyranny as Time.  And, even
then, sentiment may steal the prize.

Vanessa and Benjie had good fortune.  Not by their own desire, and,
in any case, they did not know where to look for it.  It came to
them and they knew what perfect love can be.

During this winter they were never parted.  Their happiness was too
deep and soundless for them to fear it.  For Vanessa it was as
though God kept them in continual company.  Her ideas of God were,
of course, very simple; she felt His radiance as though she moved
from morning to night in sunlight.  For Benjie it was simpler
still.  He wanted to be near Vanessa; he did not know why she
irritated him no more, why he was restless no longer.  He did not
search for reasons.  He only knew that body, soul, and spirit, he
was complete.

One starlit night after Christmas they climbed the hill and sat
down together.  The sky was quite clear.  It was as though they
were wrapped in Stardust.  A little way above them the snow began.
It was bitterly cold, but he wrapped his large shepherd's cloak
around both of them and, because there was no wind, they took no
hurt.

'It would not be bad, Van,' he said, 'if we were to die now, both
of us together.'

Then, as she did not answer, he went on:  'That is what all lovers
have always said.  But YOUNG lovers.  Lovers in their first
ecstasy.  We are very OLD lovers.'

'I don't feel old,' she answered at last.  'When shall we begin to
feel old?'

'Oh, I suppose--with sickness, separation . . .'

'We will never be separated now,' she said quickly.

He held her to him, under the cloak, more closely.

'I don't trust life even now.  I think you're the only thing in the
whole world I trust.  There never was anyone so trustworthy as you
are.'

She laughed.  'Yes, that's why I'm dull--for everyone except you
and Tom.'

'No.  You're not dull.  They didn't think you dull in London.  But
you're shy.  You can't show people what you are.  You're courageous
enough about THINGS.  You'd stand up to anything.  But you're shy
of human beings.  Only in these last three months have even I known
what you are.'

'For the first time since my father died,' she said.  'I'm not
afraid.'

Five weeks later the letter came.

It came, as catastrophic letters often come, with an almost
maidenly quietness.  Vanessa opened it, looking over the table to
Benjie, and laughing at something that he had just said.  This was
the letter:


                                          Hill Street, London, W.
                                               February 8th, 1907

DEAR VANESSA--You will, I am sure, be extremely surprised to
receive a letter from me--surprised and not altogether pleased, I
fear, but Vera and I have, for some weeks now, discussed the matter
and have at last decided that this letter must be written.  The
matter is quite simply this.  For some while now--ever since last
summer in fact--Ellis has been seriously ailing.  He has not, of
course, been strong mentally for a very long time past.  That you
know.  But his bodily conditions have been surprisingly good: he
has eaten and slept well, and, within his own mental world, has
really lived with content under our care.  We have done our best.
It has not always been easy, but of that I wish here to say
nothing.  Last summer we took Ellis to Harrogate as perhaps you
heard at the time.  We found a small and comfortable house where we
could enjoy privacy and where, at the same time, my sister (whose
rheumatism has for some time been trying) and Ellis could receive
medical attention.

It was during our stay in Harrogate that the change took place.  He
has long been given, as you must have heard, to childish pursuits.
He enjoys playing with dolls, soldiers, and trains.  We have
always, under excellent Doctor Lancaster's advice, humoured him in
this and one day in Harrogate Vera bought him a doll to give him
pleasure.  So soon as he saw it it reminded him of you.  I must
tell you that he had not, so far as my sister and I were aware,
once mentioned your name during all these years.  But on this
occasion, on Vera's presenting him with the doll, he said at once:
'Why, this is Vanessa come back again!'  At first he seemed
extremely happy at his fancy, but my sister and I noticed that from
this moment he began to be less well.  His headaches, which you
will perhaps remember, returned.  His temperature was often above
normal.  He was restless.  Many of the things that had amused him
seemed to amuse him no longer.  He is of course, not young any more--
sixty-four years of age--and his recurrent fever made us anxious.
Whatever you may feel about my sister and myself you must remember,
Vanessa, that we have both for a very long time now been most
deeply and sincerely attached to your husband.  Throughout this
last winter he has been most unwell and now for several weeks has
not left his bed.  Doctor Lancaster says that it is difficult to
say that there is anything organically wrong, but he fears that he
has not long to live.  We feel, Vera and I, that if this is indeed
so, we must do everything to make the last months of his life
happy.  We are two childless women and in these years at Hill
Street we have come to feel for Ellis as though he were our son.  I
hope you will forgive my saying this, but the whole situation is--
and has always been--so very strange!

And now to come to the point of this letter (it has not been an
easy one to write).  It is that, continually, during these last
weeks Ellis has begged for your return.  He has, it seems, a clear
memory of the events that led up to your departure, but his mental
decay has wiped from his recollection all bitterness and anger.  He
is as gentle and submissive as the child that so often he seems to
be.  'I want Vanessa!' he cries and, again and again:  'When is
Vanessa coming?  Why does Vanessa not come?'

In these circumstances my sister and I feel it right that you
should know how things stand.  It is not easy for us to take this
step.  We can not pretend that we approved, or now approve, of the
action that you took.  But it is not for us to judge and we can
only assure you that if you return to Hill Street for the few
remaining weeks of Ellis' life (Doctor Lancaster tells us that it
cannot be much more) you will hear no single word of reproach from
us and we will regard you as the mistress of this house in every
way.  Your place just now, Vanessa, is with your husband, whatever
the past has been.  You have it in your power to give him this last
happiness.  We feel that we would never forgive ourselves if we did
not acquaint you with the facts--Yours sincerely,

                                                 WINIFRED TRENT


Vanessa read the letter.  Benjie, watching her from the other side
of the table, saw at once that something of the uttermost
seriousness had occurred.

'What is it?' he asked, coming across to her.

She gave him the letter.  He read it slowly, sometimes repeating
some of the words aloud.

'But this is monstrous!' he said at last.  His face was flushed
with anger, and also with the beginning of a terrible fear.

She sat down, staring in front of her, then held out her hand for
the letter and read it through again.

'Yes,' she said.  'I have always known that the punishment would
come.  It HAD to come--to make things just.'

'Now--look, Van.'  He sat down beside her.  'You are not to
consider this for a moment; what the old witch suggests, I mean.
Go to London.  I'll come with you.  Go to Hill Street.  Pay him a
visit.  We'll stay in London if you like and you shall go often and
see him--anything else is preposterous.'

She shook her head.

'He wants me back.  I never would have left him if he had wanted
me.  But he didn't.  Now he does.  He's dying.'

Benjie with an effort to be calm--one of the hardest things he had
attempted for many a day (for this WAS preposterous; this was a
plot, Hill Street all madmen and witches)--put his hand on hers,
which was trembling, and summoned all his wisdom:

'Listen, Van.  He doesn't want you.  He can't.  He doesn't know
what he wants.  It's some plot to get you back there again.  The
two old women are tired of their job, I shouldn't wonder.  They
think it would be a fine thing for you to take it on again.  He
CAN'T want you with his dolls and his trains.'

'No.  I don't like Vera and Winifred--but they're honest.  They
have no imagination and no humour, but they're honest and they've
been angels to Ellis.  When I wrote to Vera three years ago--you
remember--to ask her to persuade Ellis to divorce me, her letter
wasn't kind but it was honest and plucky.  I don't like them, but
there are no lies in this letter.'

She turned round and stared at him.  She looked, he thought, quite
suddenly an ageing woman.  Her confidence and happiness had left
her.

'This is awful,' she said at last.  'Terrible.  The worst thing
that could happen.  To go back to that house, that life . . . to
leave you.  Oh!' she cried, her hand on her breast.  'I don't think
I can!  I don't think I can!'

'Of course you can't--and, I tell you, there's no need to.  We'll
go to London.  We'll see Ellis . . .'

But she shook her head.  She had recovered her courage.

'Of course I must go--and you know it, Benjie.  There can be no
other way.  What would I feel now if, after that letter, I didn't
go?  How could I go on living with you as we have been living?  Oh,
I knew it was too good to last!  Something HAD to happen . . .
these last six months--we've had a new life--and it was too fine,
too wonderful to be allowed much of.  It's unfair, it's unfair.
That one mistake I made so long ago, to be punished for it so many
times!'  Then she cried out in a kind of agony:  'That house,
Benjie!  I can't STAND that house!'

Then he was really frightened and because he was frightened he was
angry.  He got up roughly, knocking his chair over.

'Look here Van--if you leave me now because two crazy old women
write a letter--if you leave me after all that has happened to us
these last months--you'll lose me.  I can't keep up without you
now.  I'm not young any more.  I could have done without you once,
perhaps, but not now . . .  You owe me more than you owe Ellis.'

'No, I don't,' she interrupted.  'I ruined Ellis' life.  I've made
you happy, I made him unhappy.'

'It was his own fault.  He made you marry him.'  (He did not
remember that it had been HIS fault.)

'No, he did not.  I need not have married him . . .'  Then she
turned and caught his arm.  'Benjie, there's Sally!  There's
Sally!'

'You see,' he cried triumphantly.  'You see how impossible it is.
Of course you can't leave Sally.  She's your child, isn't she?'

'No . . .  No . . .  Of course, I would have to have Sally with me.
I would insist on that.  I would make my terms--'

Then he swore at her.  'Damn you, Vanessa, am _I_ nothing?  What
about me?  You think of your crazy husband, you think of your baby.
But I'm to be left out of it.  Anything can happen to me--'  He was
not going to plead for himself.  He looked at her and saw that her
mind was made up.  This was the law: Vanessa's character being what
it was, this was fate.

He saw that and saw, also, for himself a future so intolerable that
he closed his eyes and bowed his head.

Then they drew together and clung together, without a word.  Both
knew that in this there was no alternative.



TIMOTHY BELLAIRS PAYS SOME VISITS


Old Barney Newmark died quite suddenly in his sleep in the autumn
of 1909.  The Family were sorry because they had approved of
Barney's fame as a novelist.  It was not, perhaps, very great and
he belonged to a very different generation from the present.  The
obituaries were kind; he had been a genial fellow, always in
London, friendly and cheerful with everyone.  He was spoken of as
the 'Hawley Smart of his period'.  The Referee wrote:  'Mr Newmark
could write of horses and pretty women with a grace and humour that
exceeded any of his contemporaries.'  But the paragraph that
pleased the Family was one in The Daily Telegraph:  'Mr Newmark,
whose loss was so widely deplored last week, was of course a member
of the famous Herries family, so well known in so many directions.
Lord Rockage, who owns in Wiltshire one of the finest houses in
England, is a member of it; Mr Alfred Herries, the well-known
financier, another; Mr Timothy Bellairs, whose picture "Mme
Rochambert" created a sensation in last year's Salon, another.  The
Hon Mrs Peile Worcester, whose parties in Charles Street have long
been famous, is a member of the family, and another member, Mr
Horace Newmark, who died not so long ago, was known for many years
as "the Monarch of Manchester".  The Herries family is very well
known in the North of England, most especially in Cumberland and
the Border country.  One of the most remarkable women of an earlier
generation in the North was Madame Paris, also a member of the
famous family.  She has become almost a legend in Cumberland and
Westmorland, I believe.  Mr Newmark's delightful friendly, easy,
and merry novels belonged to a time when the art of fiction was
scarcely as seriously considered as it is today.  This has been a
sad year for English letters, mourning as we do both Meredith and
Swinburne.  Mr Newmark would have been the first to deprecate any
comparison between two such giants and his own agreeable novels.
Nevertheless he will be missed and for a long time to come.'

This was very pleasant.  It had been for the Herries family a year
of definite accomplishment.  They had lived down the misadventures
of the South African War and the disgrace of Vanessa's elopement
(both events, in their view, of equal family importance).  The
Edwardian period, with its gracious (if materially minded) monarch,
its common sense, its proper appreciation of money, its fostering
of the upper middle class (even though the lower orders WERE
behaving immodestly), its enthusiasm for Empire, its general
applause for the solider English virtues, exactly suited the
Herries: wildness, immorality, gambling, these things, when they
appeared, became almost at once socially rationalized.  The Family
had no objection to immorality when it was photographed at a
weekend house party during the shooting season.  Private behaviour
was no matter so long as it appeared publicly decent, and this was
not hypocrisy on the Herries' part.  It was simply that they cared
for England, guarded her reputation most zealously.  And this was
natural, for England was Herries and Herries were England . . .

At last they could sit back for a moment and see that all was well.
Family feuds (ridiculous, all about nothing--a fan, a green vase, a
house on a hill) were things of the past.  One possible scandal,
the unspeakable Rose--poor Horace Ormerod's sister--had, luckily,
been hidden by the grime of mean streets.  Vanessa was living once
again most properly with her husband; even Barney's death was not
so bad a thing, for he had outlived his reputation and had been
inclined at times to say oddly sarcastic things about the Family.

England had never seemed more secure, more prosperous, more certain
of the grandeur of her great destiny--and as England was, so were
the Herries.



It happened that Timothy Bellairs, the painter, came over to London
for Barney's funeral.  The old boy had been good to him in times
past.  Barney and Benjie (and of course young Tom) were the only
members of the Family for whom he cared.  He had lived so long in
Paris that he did not feel Herries any longer.  Or did he?  He came
over to London to find out.

He was a tall thin man with very light blue eyes and hair the
colour of pale corn.  He wore a small pointed beard.  He had a way
of watching you while you talked, of agreeing with you but causing
you to wonder whether he did not think you a terrible fool.  His
voice was gentle and he had a charming smile.  He appeared detached
and impersonal.  He had in fact only two passions--one was for
painting, the other for one or two individuals.  He was capable of
iron fidelity.  Benjie and Tom were two of his devotions, although
he had not seen either of them for a very long time.  Another was a
stout and extremely cynical lady who shared his bed and board in
Paris.

Attending Barney's funeral he observed the Family.

Vanessa was there.  He had not seen her for many years but, knowing
her story and of her return to Ellis nearly three years ago, he
watched her with especial interest.  Her grey hair under the black
hat, the pale face beneath the veil--these gave her a greater
appearance of age than he had expected.  But her carriage (he
watched her as, attended by a little thin woman, she walked up the
aisle to her seat) was very fine.  She was a big woman, full-
breasted, large-shouldered and, he thought, as he saw her before
she turned into her seat, apart from everyone else there.  'She has
learnt how to play her role.'

Tom was with him and whispered some names.  That was Horace, that
stout fellow in glasses, with plump cheeks, the full Herries chin
and an air of self-conscious benevolence.  'Barney hated him,' Tom
whispered.  Cynthia swept up, Peile Worcester in attendance.  Very
smart, Timothy thought, with her beautifully fitting black and
Parma violets--not thinking about Barney, though.

An extremely thin tall gentleman, wearing pince-nez, his black
clothes rigid as though cut from wood, 'very Herries' in feature,
moved to his seat as though he were taking his place as chairman of
a board meeting.

'That's Alfred.'

A fat cheerful gentleman and a very fat cheerful lady hurried up
the aisle, showering benevolence on all around them.  'Sidney and
Mary--Horace's son from Manchester.'

Then old Carey Rockage, bent with rheumatism, May thin and short-
sighted, with the two suffragette daughters who strode forward
looking about them with an air of resentment.

Timothy's sister, who had married a Colonel and lived in Surbiton,
was not present.  Vanessa was by far the most interesting person in
that church to Timothy.  He thought of Barney.

'Good old boy.  He had a fine life.  Did what he wanted, enjoyed
every moment of it.'  When he remembered Barney's mistresses it
amused him that the Family should come, in such numbers, to pay him
the last compliments.  'They wouldn't do the same for Benjie,' he
thought, feeling the touch of Tom's shoulder against his.  But
Barney, in some clever fashion of his own, had never openly
outraged the conventions.  No member of the Family had ever been
brought face to face with his mistresses, while in poor Benjie's
case every rebellion had been as open as it could be!  And then,
just as the service was about to start, Benjie walked up the aisle.
He walked slowly, his brown face and bright blue eyes unconcerned,
the empty sleeve of his jacket pinned to his breast.  He was
wearing a loose dark suit--so far he had submitted to convention--
but he looked, as he always looked in public, apart, as though he
were of another country, an exile and a rebellious one.  'He looks
more than that,' Tim thought.  'He looks worn and strained.  He's
too thin.'

Had he seen Tom and Timothy he would undoubtedly have stopped and
sat with them, but, his head up, seeing nobody, he walked straight
ahead.  'He said he wasn't coming,' Tom whispered.

He passed the seat where Vanessa was.  Some instinct seemed to tell
him.  He stopped for a moment, then turned and found a place on the
other side of the aisle beside stout Sidney and Mary Newmark.  It
amused Timothy to observe the startled and frightened look that
they gave him.

So old Barney Newmark, accorded by the Family full honours, joined
(perhaps thankfully) the Rogue and David, Judith and young John,
and was, beyond question, glad of their company.



Timothy had not as yet paid Benjie a proper visit.  Tom, who shared
lodgings with his father in Tite Street, told Tim that Benjie was
in one of his bad moods.

'He'll tell you all about it when you go.  He's very unhappy--but
he'll tell you.  Only you'd better wait till he chooses his day.'

Meanwhile Timothy was painting Mary Worcester's picture.  He had
seen, at once, that this was a thing that he had to do.  She was
the loveliest child he had ever beheld.  She was going to be a real
beauty.  The modelling of her face was exquisite, her colour
perfect, everything delicate, gentle, dark hair, dark eyes, already
a sense of poise and movement.  But, he decided very quickly, she
was stupid and dull.  Her voice was lovely in tone, soft and
resonant, but she had nothing to say.  Her eyes were large and
full; she had a way of using them so that they rested on you as
though they found you enchanting.  But she did not find you
enchanting.  She was not thinking about you at all.  She was only
sixteen and had been kept, at home, closely guarded, but even then
Timothy thought, she surely had SOME ideas about something!  It
seemed that she had not.

Her mother, whose little figure was still perfect but was betrayed
by her too bony neck and eyes that were older than her complexion
allowed for, said about her beautiful daughter that:  'You've no
idea how intelligent that child is!  Now Rosalind says just what's
in her head and nine times out of ten it's nonsense, as I tell her--
but MARY!  No one knows what that child's thinking!'

Cynthia also unburdened herself to Timothy about Vanessa:

'Of course it's awful for her.  We all realize that.  She came back
nearly three years ago thinking that Ellis had only a week or two
to live.  And now there he is quite strong and hearty!  Of course
he's mad as a hatter, but quite nice and gentle, I believe.  He's
simply Vanessa's slave, poor thing.  And isn't it odd!  Vera and
Winifred Trent used to hate her, but since Vera died last year
Winifred adores her.  I must say Vanessa always had the power of
making people fond of her.  I always have loved her in spite of
what she did.  What is it about Vanessa?  Perhaps you'll find out,
Timothy.  Because she's really dull and has no sense of humour at
all.  I must say she's very sporting.  Right or wrong, Benjie's the
love of her life and there they both are, eating their hearts out.
Between you and me I wonder Benjie doesn't creep into Hill Street
and poison Ellis.  What's the good of his living?  He's quite
hopeless mentally, you know.  Of course Vanessa's got Sally with
her.  She insisted on that.  Her little girl and Benjie's.  It
always seems funny to me when Ellis, poor thing, has always been so
proper and moral, that Vanessa's illegitimate child should be in
his house under his roof.  And I believe he's passionately fond of
the child.  Altogether very queer.  Vanessa doesn't go out into
society at all, but she likes people to go and see her.  I go
sometimes although Peile doesn't much like my doing it and I
confess the place gives me the shudders.'

'Does she see Benjie?' Timothy asked.

'Oh yes, sometimes.  There's nothing improper of course.  The fact
is, Timothy, they are the only example I know anywhere of real
love.  It's gone on all their lives and they're as much in love as
ever they were.  She's quite tamed Benjie.  He used to be as wild
as anything.  It's a bit hard on him, isn't it?  Separated from his
child, too, but I believe he thinks it the right thing for Vanessa
to do.  They're an odd pair altogether.'

It happened that on the afternoon following the funeral Cynthia was
giving a small children's party.  For a brief while Timothy
observed the ceremony; not for long--he detested children unless
they were paintable.  He was extremely sharp at catching character
from face, voice, and movement.  He had a number of young Herries
under his eye (the coming upholders of the Herries tradition) and
quickly decided that only one of them was beautiful (Mary Worcester
of course) and only one charming--little Sally, Vanessa's daughter.
He wondered for a moment that 'a little bastard' should be allowed
in among all the true-born offspring, but decided that this was the
Herries way of showing Vanessa that they had forgiven her.

The Herries children were: first Mary and Rosalind Worcester (Mary
a gracious and lovely hostess; Rosalind clutching her friend little
Ada Newmark--Horace's grandchild, the daughter of stout Sidney and
stout Mary--and going off with her into a corner); the aforesaid
Ada and her brother Gordon; Maurice and Clara, Alfred's children,
plain, with good manners, but wanting the best for themselves.
Mary, Rosalind, Ada, Gordon, Maurice and Clara: little ordinary
Herries, all that they should be.  It was amusing, he thought, as
he watched, to notice the way in which these Herries children took
command of the other children who were not Herries.  Took command
quite confidently, without arrogance or tiresome conceit, but quite
as though it must be.  And yet, with the notable exception of Mary,
they were not very beautiful nor certainly were they brilliant.
The Herries, he reflected, were never first class unless they were
mad.  'I am not first class because I am not mad.  Benjie, although
he has never done anything with his life except love Vanessa, has
something first class about him.  A first-class passion for
something outside oneself can make one first class.  I have a
passion for my Art.  Why am I not first class?  Because there is
just enough Herries in me to prevent my escape from myself.'

Then he saw little Sally and went and talked to her.  She was an
odd-looking child, small with straight uncurling brown hair and a
pale face.  But she was all alive.  She sat on a sofa and her eyes
were everywhere, eager, merry, and very intelligent.  She did not
join in anything until she was invited, but she suffered from no
self-consciousness.  Little coloured balloons were handed round
(they were to be blown across a tablecloth).  Clara, Alfred's
child, preferred the colour of Sally's balloon to her own and said
so.  Sally at once gave her hers, but Tim thought that she, at the
same time, looked at her with a little baby irony as much as to
say:  'You're like that, are you, even at your age'--a very elderly
look for a child of six.  'But then,' thought Timothy, 'it will be
odd if she isn't queer, born as she was and brought up in Hill
Street.'



Next day he went and visited Benjie.  London was very interesting
to him.  It was so long since he had stayed here.  This was a great
year for mechanical progress.  The virtue of single planes advanced
in a sudden leap the history of flying.  In July, Blriot had
crossed the Channel.  In October there was a flying week at
Blackpool and Mr Farman surprised everyone by flying for half an
hour in wild and gusty weather.

But the great change in London was the advance of motor-cabs.
Hitherto motoring had been mainly for the well-to-do.  Now it was
discovered that cabs could be made both cheaply and strongly.  The
new cabs, fitted with taximeters, were comfortable, safe, and the
old uncertainty of the proper fare for the tiresome and truculent
old cabby was gone.  Only a little while before, motors had been
the property of the rich: now, quite suddenly, they were
everywhere.  The whole aspect of the London streets was changed.
It signified perhaps the final advent to assured power and
importance of the middle classes.

Timothy felt this most emphatically during his evening expeditions
about the town.  He went everywhere: to the White City, to a first
night at Wyndham's, or the Haymarket, or the St James's, to a
dinner at the Savage Club, to the National Sporting Club, to the
London Sketch Club, to a Sunday night at the New Lyric, and
everywhere it was the same--the English Middle Class was now
triumphant, subservient to nothing and nobody.  The reign of the
Autocrats in England was over.  Sargent painted his Jew
millionaires, Wells and Bennett invigorated the novel with their
portraits of lower middle-class life.  The word 'respectable' had
no longer any especial significance in English life.  The ordinary
man ruled England and he was determined to find pleasure where he
could and hold to it.  The ordinary man ruled England, and Herries
were the ordinary man.

He found Benjie in three rooms of the upper part of a house in Tite
Street, Chelsea.  When he came in, Benjie was walking up and down.
He was wearing an old grey jacket, grey flannel trousers, and a
faded red tie.  Tim was struck, more than ever, by his spareness,
the fierceness of his blue eyes.  He noticed that his hair was
turning grey at the temples.  He looked as though he had been lost
in the desert and rescued in the nick of time.  After half an
hour's talk Tim felt that Benjie would, on the whole, have
preferred that the rescue had not take place.

The room was very bare, but it had a broad bright window filled
with scurrying clouds and a cold blue sky.  Very shortly it would
be dark.  In the window was a long deal table with Vanessa's
photograph (a very old one), a book which Tim picked up and found
to be Hudson's Purple Land, some writing paper, a pen, and a long
truculent-looking ruler.  On the walls there was nothing save over
the fireplace two grinning masks made of some dark wood.  There
were two shabby armchairs.

Tim knew Benjie well.  In the very old days when he had gone over
to Paris with Tom, Benjie had been his saviour.  He had protected
him against the Family, Tim, who was faithful, would stick to
Benjie always because of that, were there no other reason.  But
there WERE other reasons, plenty of them.  He liked Benjie because
he was honest, generous, courageous, and his own worst enemy.
Benjie had one charming quality, and a very rare one it is.  He
always, whatever his own personal melodramas, wanted to hear about
the adventures of his friends.  This was not from self-conscious
duty nor from a desire to be kind.  He was truly interested.

So Timothy told him--about Mlle Thrse, his stout but charming
mistress, about his new flat, about the portrait he was painting of
the two little girls of the Minister of Finance, about his picking
up a charming Berthe Morisot for almost nothing, of English writers
whom he had met in Paris--Somerset Maugham and Arnold Bennett
('both interested in painting--very odd'), about this and that.

'And you?' he asked at last

'Oh--I?'  Benjie sat on the deal table, swinging his legs, 'I go on--
as you see.'

Tim was aware, at that moment, just as a rather slatternly white-
haired woman brought in the tea, that he was encountering some
experience so deep and poignant that he was frightened of it.  He
was frightened of very little; he was certainly not frightened of
Benjie.  But there was something here that belonged to that rarest
of all worlds--the world of absolute and positive experience.
'Because,' he thought, 'we all live one skin deep at the most.  We
do not, most of us, know that we can go deeper.'

So to ease things he himself talked.

'I've been observing the Family.  I haven't seen it, you know, for
a long time.  Coming along very nicely, I should say.  It
ostracized me once and now it welcomes me because I'm a moderate
success.  I'm not exactly prejudiced in its favour.  But we've
settled down.  All the quarrels are over.  All the same there are a
few rebels left, but they're not so grand as they used to be.'
Then he said an incautious thing.  'But I tell you what, Benjie--
your daughter's going to be a rebel.  You should have seen her with
the rest of them.  It persists, the divine strain.  How I wish I
had more of it!'

Benjie jumped to the floor.

'You've seen Sally--where? when?'

'Oh, yesterday--at a children's party at Cynthia's.'

'Did you talk to her?  She's remarkable, isn't she?  Unusual?'

'Yes, I talked to her a little.  I loathe children's parties, you
know.  Certainly she's unusual.  I was saying so.'

'I see her, you know.'  Benjie came and sat down close to him,
bending eagerly forward.  'Quite often.  In fact I can see her as
often as I like so long as I never go to the house.  Odd situation,
isn't it?'

'Very,' said Timothy, terribly touched by his friend's emotion,
thinking, too of the old Benjie who had been a wandering kind of
rascal with no very constant attachment.

'Have you been to see Vanessa, Tim?'

'No, not yet.  Do you think she would like to see me?'

'Of course she would.  And you must go soon.  Then come and tell me
about it.'

'Tell you about it?'

'Yes.  Vanessa and I meet sometimes.  Not too often or it would be
unbearable.  But I never enter the house of course.  And I don't
ask her about the house.  When we are together in fact we don't
talk very much.  Talking seems to waste the time.  The only one who
told me much about what it was like inside was old Barney.  And now
he's gone.  Adrian goes there, but Adrian's a prig.  The rest of
the family don't see much of me, you know.'

'I see,' said Timothy.  'Of course I'll go if she won't think it
impertinent.'

'Oh no, she'll love it.  Especially if you tell her you've been
here.  You'll have to repeat every word of our conversation, you
know.'

Tim said slowly:  'It's all damned hard on you.'

Benjie answered quickly:  'It's far worse for her.  You see, the
bad part of it is that we were having such a marvellous time just
before he wanted her.  And we thought it was only for a month or
two.  Now it's been close on three years, and God knows how much
longer!'

'Well, if you want my opinion,' Timothy broke out, 'I think the
whole thing's preposterous!  There are you, two people in the prime
of life, loving one another, and on the other side Ellis who's too
mad to know whether she's there or no.'

'You're wrong,' Benjie said quietly.  'Know?  Why, she's his very
life!  He worships her.  If she left him it would be like leaving a
helpless child, and worse than that, because she married him.  She
only left him because he DIDN'T want her.  No, there's no other way--
until Ellis dies.  She would never be happy for a moment if she
came away.  Not that she's happy as it is, but she's got Sally.'

'And you?' Tim asked.

'Oh, I?  Don't mind about me.  Don't think I'm being noble either.
I'm not.  I curse like hell.  I'd hate him if--if he were normal.
As it is one can't hate anyone in the affair, more's the pity.  Oh,
I'm all right.  I go abroad sometimes.  There's Tom here for
company and he's so kind that I could kill him.  I'm working at a
job too.  I go to a travel agency every day and advise people about
foreign parts.  Sometimes I go wild for a day or two.  I've got
some awful friends, you know.  But I'm never wild for long nor away
for long.  I come slinking back because Vanessa's here.'

'I'm glad you love her so much,' Tim said.  'Anyone's in luck to
have the chance of the real thing.'

'Love her?'  He threw his head back.  'Did you ever know our real
story, Tim?  No.  Well, I'm not going to bore you with it.  But we
loved one another from childhood.  We meant to marry.  First her
father died--was burnt in the fire at Uldale.  That stopped it.
Then--imagine it!--I married someone else!  Fantastic?  Not at all.
My cursed imbecility that has made me do the wrong thing at the
wrong time all my life.  But listen.  However wild I've been,
however caught she's been--caught in a trap, because that's what
her marriage to Ellis was--we've never ceased to love one another
for a single moment.  At the very instant of making love to another
woman I've always known it was only Vanessa I loved.  And the best
time we ever had was just before we parted.  And now we'll never be
free of one another--I doubt if death can part us.  And yet when I
say that, how ridiculous, how sentimental!  Hasn't every lover
always said the same?  But we are such OLD lovers!  It goes far
beyond the body--beyond--into what?  Is it simply association, all
that we have been through together?  Vanessa isn't very clever.
She isn't any longer very beautiful.  But she's LOVELY, Tim.  She
never falters, she never lets you down, she has a childish pleasure
in tiny things, she's generous, loyal, and although she thinks
she's a coward, she never flinches at anything.  And yet it's only
a little for her character that I love her.  One doesn't love
people for their character, does one?  Or only a little.  Why?
Why?  Why are Vanessa and I bound together?  Is she right, do you
think?  Is there a spiritual life that outlasts the bodily?  Will
Vanessa and I go on together, never apart, loving one another? . . .
Sometimes when I sit alone in here at night, hearing the mouse
in the wall and seeing those masks grin, knowing that she's there
and I here--such a little distance--I begin to believe that I can
pull her spirit in here with me, her body there in Hill Street.  I
could swear that she comes in, sits with her head against my knee
as she used to do in Cumberland--is this mad, Tim, do you think?
Am I going queer a bit?  Do I LOOK queer?'

'No, Benjie, not in the least.  Only it's bad for both of you, I
should think, separated like this and yet so near to one another.
Lord!  I wish I loved someone like that, though!  Or do I?  It's
a terrible strain.  One can't work if one's always wanting
someone . . .'

He waited a while, then he said abruptly:

'Do you ever read history, Benjie?'

'History?  No.  Oh, I've read Macaulay and a bit of Froude--'

'You SHOULD read history.  There's nothing so interesting.  History
or biography.  A nation or a family or an individual--it's all the
same.  The point is that men's values are all wrong.  The things
that they THINK are happening aren't happening at all.  Do you
remember Tolstoi's Anna Karnina and the racecourse scene?
Everyone THOUGHT that the racing was the important thing.  It
wasn't in the least.  It was the struggle in the hearts of Anna and
Karnin and Vronsky.  Yes, and in thousands of other souls that
day.  Little temptations to meanness, lusts, sacrifices.  Small
tests, tests as small as a pin--but soul histories are the only
histories.  Write an account of a family or a county and find out
where the crises of the human spirit lie.  See how it meets all the
tests, is beaten, is victorious, encounters its two chief enemies,
greed and fear, is encouraged to extend into something wider,
grander, nobler than itself.  Shakespeare knew that that was the
only kind of history.  What are the stories of his six great kings
but soul histories?  What does he care for national history?  It is
Richard in his tent, Henry praying before the battle, the old king
dying in Westminster . . .  I'm not religious, you know.  I can't
swear to heaven, I don't know whether there are pearly gates.  And
I'm not given to preaching.  But I do know that you've got the only
thing that matters, Benjie.  You can feed your soul with an
unselfish passion.  You're not starving it.  You should see old
Monet painting.  He's like an eagle beating his wings for joy that
he's free, gross, fat old man that he is!  To escape beyond
oneself!  To lose one's soul because one's beyond fear, and so to
save it.  That's the history of the endeavour of every man and
woman born on this earth.  The only thing that gives us grandeur,
fleas on a cinder as we are!'

Benjie smiled.

'I've never heard you talk like that before.'

'No.  I'm growing old.  I've faced up to the fact that I shall
never be the painter I hoped to be, never meet the woman I hoped to
meet.  We all do.  I'm just of the age.  I hold my tongue.  I
haven't talked like this for an age.  The French are a cynical
people, you know.  All the same it's a marvel to me that men can
refuse so obstinately to think of the only things that really
matter.  We'll suffer for it.  We're bound to.  Well, I must go.'

He raised his long thin body, pulled at his pale corn-coloured
beard, stretched his arms and yawned.

'You're going to see Vanessa, aren't you?'

'Yes--tomorrow.'

'And you'll come and see me again?'

'I'll come and see you again.'

When he was gone Benjie sat down and wrote to Vanessa.



Next day Tim went to Hill Street.  An old butler with face like a
muffin, plump, boneless, without shape, received him and led him
upstairs.  In the long drawing-room Vanessa was entertaining Mary
Newmark, wife of Sidney, old Horace's son.  Mary Newmark was fat in
a bright, cheerful way.  She wore a dress of shining blue and she
had a large hat with blue feathers.  Under the hat her face, like a
gigantic strawberry, beamed on the world.  Beside her Vanessa, who
was dressed in black, looked very quiet.  But Tim was surprised.
He had expected her to be grave and a little ceremonious.  Not at
all.  She was extremely human.  He could see that she was bored
with Mary Newmark, who quite clearly had no idea of it.  Mary was
one of those women who, without any arrogance, feel that their
presence is a benefit to all concerned.  She was also convinced
that any statement, any opinion on her part, was of the first
importance.

Tim saw that Vanessa was surprised to see him and greatly pleased.
Mary Newmark was flustered a little; artists were to her strange
creatures: moreover Timothy lived in Paris.  She was plainly
determined to be kind to him whatever he might have done.

'No, don't send for more tea,' he said.  'This is splendid.  If
it's stewed I like it stewed.'

'I was telling Vanessa,' Mary Newmark began, 'that Sidney and I
disapprove totally of the Suffragettes.'

'Why?' asked Timothy.

'The proper place for women is the home.  I don't want a vote.
What would I do with one?'

As Timothy was about to speak she shook a finger at him.

'Now, Mr Bellairs, I know you're an artist and have, I'm sure, all
sorts of queer ideas.  But if women don't look after their homes,
who will?'

'Perhaps the men will,' said Timothy.

'Men!' said Mary Newmark gaily.  'Would you like to know what I
think about men?'

'Very much,' said Timothy.

'Men are children.  Nothing but children.  They never grow up.
Once learn that about a man and you never have any more trouble.'

'Well, then, isn't it wrong if men are only children that they
should have all the say in governing the country?  If women are so
much wiser--'

'Ah, that's just it,' said Mary Newmark with complete self-
confidence.  'Women ARE much cleverer, but their proper place is
behind the scenes, influencing the men.  Sidney doesn't know it,
but there's not a thought in his head that doesn't come from me.'
She beamed on the world.  'I've no use at all for all this modern
nonsense, nor has Sidney.  Modern books, modern pictures, modern
women--I don't mean anything personal, Mr Bellairs.  I'm sure you
paint very nice pictures--very pleasant, I'm sure, but what was
good enough for my mother is good enough for me.  What modern
writers have we to compare with Charles Dickens?  Answer me that
now.'

'It would be a great pity, wouldn't it,' said Timothy, 'if we had
Dickens over and over again?  One Dickens, yes--but a hundred
Dickenses!'

'Well, I don't know, I'm sure.  I've certainly read David
Copperfield over and over--my favourite bits, you know.  Sidney
reads aloud to me in the evenings in Manchester.'

The door opened and Sally came in.  She stood for a moment,
hesitating and smiling.  Then she came forward.

'Say how do you do to Mrs Newmark, darling.'

'How do you do?' said Sally.

'And to Mr Bellairs.  You met him the other day, you know.'

'How do you do?' said Sally, grinning.

Mary Newmark drew Sally forward and spoke to her in the voice she
considered suitable to children, a voice she also used for little
dogs.

'Well, darling?  And what have you been doing today?'

'I've done my lessons and I've been for a walk.'

'That's a good little girl.  And where did you go for a walk?'

'I went in Kensington Gardens.'

'And what did you see there?'

'Oh, nothing particular.'

Mrs Newmark pinched her cheek, a thing that she considered children
adored.

'And what lessons have you done today?'

This was frightful.  Vanessa intervened.

'At present she has lessons with me.  I'm not a very good teacher,
I'm afraid.'

There was silence.  Sally was looking at Mrs Newmark with a smile
that in some undefined way she felt to be sarcastic.  A strange
child, with her peaked face and dark brown hair.  She was suddenly
uncomfortable.  The house was so very silent and the painter not
very friendly.  Moreover, there was Ellis somewhere and at any
moment he might break in.  How unpleasant that would be!  Whenever
she was uncomfortable she moved on.  She moved on now.

'I'm afraid I must be going, Vanessa dear.  It HAS been delightful.
You must come and see us before we go back to Manchester.  Goodbye,
Mr Bellairs.  Don't become TOO modern in your painting!'  She
kissed Sally and sailed away.  Halfway down the stairs she stopped
a moment to listen whether she could hear Ellis moving about.
There was no sound anywhere.

After she had gone they all three sat on the sofa together.
Timothy had at once noticed that there was a strong and deep
alliance between the mother and the child.  When Sally moved and
spoke it was as though Vanessa moved and spoke with her.  Now Sally
sat beside her mother; they sat hand in hand.  They made no
allusion at all to Mrs Newmark.  Their feelings about her were
identical.  They were all three very happy and confidential
together.

'Now, darling, you must go to bed.'

Sally got up from the sofa.  She sighed.

'Don't you wish you hadn't to go to bed?' she asked Timothy.

'I love my bed,' he answered.  'It's the best place there is.'

She looked at him sharply to see whether he were speaking the
truth.  She decided that he was.

'When I'm older I shall go to bed only once a week--every Friday.'

'Why Friday?'

'Because Saturday's a nice day and Thursday's a nice day, but
Friday's horrid.'

She lifted her face to be kissed.

'I'll come up and see you, darling,' Vanessa said.

She walked away rather sadly.  At the door she looked back and
smiled.

Vanessa looked at the door for a moment after it closed.  Then she
turned back.

'It was extraordinarily nice of you to come and see me.'

There was something young about her, Timothy thought, and eager.
She was not dull as he had half expected to find her.  She had
lived, he knew, for years in lonely country but she was not dowdy.
Her wide clear forehead, her grey hair parted in the middle, the
severity of her black dress, her breadth and height, gave her
massiveness, but he had an unexpected conviction that she was
younger than he, years and years younger.

'It's very strange,' Vanessa said, 'but I've never set eyes on you
since you were a small boy.  I can see you now sitting up in an
open carriage dressed like little Lord Fauntleroy and hating it.'

'Yes, I did hate it.  And I'm afraid I hated my mother too for
making a show of me.'

'No--but when you were such wonderful friends with Tom and
Benjie . . . it's absurd that we should never have met!  You were
with Benjie yesterday!' she added quickly.

'Yes.  How did you know?'

'I had a letter from him this morning, telling me about your visit.
He writes and tells me if anything especially nice has happened.
How was he?  How was he looking?'

'Rather thin, I thought.  No spare flesh.'

'No.  I saw him last a fortnight ago.  I wish he'd eat more.  He
doesn't look after himself.'

And then, in front of him, her face in a moment aged.  She was
sitting quietly, her hands folded on her lap, but he felt that
behind her serenity she was enduring to the limit of everything:
one burden more and she would break.  He was a man who found life
in general amusing and absurd rather than dramatic, but he was very
sharply aware of the drama now being played in front of him--this
long chill room, the house beyond it where Ellis was playing at
soldiers or nursing a doll, Benjie in Tite Street, and all the
Family moving like figures in a wavering tapestry as a frame to the
scene.  Vanessa, he thought, must be fifty or more and yet he had,
at that moment, as urgent a longing to help her to escape as though
she were a lovely girl of twenty!

'Benjie tells me,' she went on, 'that he talked about me--about us.
Do--do you think--Do you think that it is all getting to be more
than he can stand?  I mean--oughtn't I perhaps to MAKE him go away,
to insist on it?  Perhaps, away from me, he would find someone--'

'There's nothing you can do.  He will never be able to go away.  He
will never find someone else.'

'I don't want him to go away, you know.'  She smiled again.  'I
think I'd die if he did.  Oh, don't fancy that I'm pitying myself.
I have him and Tom--and Sally of course.  Don't you like Sally?'

'I do indeed.  She's very unusual.'

'Yes, she is, isn't she?  And--I'm telling you everything because
you have been Benjie's friend so long and of course that makes you
mine.  Ellis . . . I have grown fond of him.  No one could help it.
He needs me, and he is so docile and so affectionate.  So different
from what he was.  But of course it's not a good house for Sally to
grow up in.  It's not healthy here, although she's too young to
understand things and behaves to Ellis as though he were her
brother.  I thought at first that I would keep them apart, but
Sally made that impossible.  She goes to him quite naturally, never
seems to think it strange that an old man of sixty-six should play
with dolls and soldiers.  Perhaps she knows more than we think.
Children may be much wiser than we suppose.'

'You are all, it seems to me,' said Timothy, 'behaving very
finely.'

'Oh no, we're not!  I don't see how we could behave otherwise.  And
I myself am not fine at all.  Often I long for Ellis to die.
Sometimes I feel that I CANNOT keep away from Benjie any longer.
You see, we thought that it would only be for a month or two.
Already it has been nearly three years . . .'  She hesitated,
looking down at her lap.  'The hardest part of it has been that in
Cumberland, just before we separated, Benjie and I were happier
than ever before.'

'I know.  Benjie told me.'

'Oh, did he tell you?  I'm so very glad.'  She went on:  'You must
think this all very sentimental, Timothy.  Two old people like
Benjie and me both pouring out our hearts to you.'

'Only false things are sentimental,' Timothy said.  'And this isn't
false, Vanessa.  Your grandmother, Judith Paris, wouldn't have
thought so.  I gather that she was anything but sentimental.'

'No--she wouldn't have thought it false.  I so often think of her
and sometimes feel as if she were here helping us both.  I still
have a tiny tea-set she gave me when I was a little girl, and it
seems only yesterday that I climbed on to her bed and kissed her.'

There was a pause.  He got up to go.

'I must be moving on.  I'm so glad that we have met, and if there
is anything I can do, Vanessa, I always will.  You can count on me.
I've got every weakness except infidelity.'

'Yes.  Benjie always says that you are one of the most faithful
people in the world.'

Before he went he said, rather shyly:

'Look here!  Don't let this be too much of a strain on you.  One
can only stand so much, you know.  Oughtn't you to go out more?'

'Go out?'

'Yes, be gay a little--go to theatres and see the sights.'

'Oh, I do go out.  And I've had so much of that in the past.  But
it's all right.  I'm perfectly happy.'

With that brave challenge in her ears he left the house, but for
several days he could not get her out of his mind.



When he had gone, Vanessa went up to say goodnight to Sally.  She
was in bed waiting.  Vanessa sat on the bed and Sally lay within
her arm, very contentedly, her eyes smiling.

'Mummy, Mrs Newmark IS a funny lady!'  (It was like Sally to have
the surname quite clearly and accurately.)

'In what way funny, darling?'

'She thinks children silly.  They aren't, are they?'

'Sometimes.'

'Well, not like THAT, anyway.'

Soon she was asleep.

Then Vanessa went to Ellis.  The upper part of the house had now
been made into a suite for him.  He had a sitting-room, bedroom and
bathroom of his own.  The sitting-room was large, with high windows
looking out on to chimney pots and sky.  On the table was a large
bowl with chrysanthemums (he loved flowers).  Near the flowers was
a big wooden fort with guns and soldiers.  In one armchair an
elaborate doll, dressed in blue silk, was lolling.

Ellis himself was sitting, when she came in, very busy with one of
those puzzles the point of which is that little black balls should
roll into little silver holes.  He was bending over this, shaking
it, holding it very still, shaking it again.  He looked very old.
His thin hair was white now, his shoulders very bent.  He had the
almost waxen cleanliness of a patient who is constantly washed and
brushed by others.

'Oh, Vanessa!' he cried, when he saw her.  'I'm so glad you've
come.  I've been trying to do this for ever so long.  As soon as
one's in another rolls out.'

She sat down beside him and took the puzzle.  He watched her as she
manipulated it, with the eager attention of a dog who is waiting
for you to throw a ball.

Soon all the little black balls were in the little silver holes.
He clapped his hands.

'Oh, that's lovely!  Now shake it!  Now I'll see if I can do it!'

She sat there quietly beside him.

He put the puzzle down.

'I'm very hungry,' he said.

'Your dinner will be coming very soon, dear.'

'What do you think it will be?'

'I don't know.  Something nice.'

'Marmalade pudding?'

'Perhaps.'

'Oh, I hope so.'  He sighed, laying his head against his hand.  She
put her arm around him.

'Did you have a nice drive?' she asked him.

'We saw some soldiers.'

'Was there a band?'

'No.  There wasn't a band.  I wish we could have a band--here in
this room.  Wouldn't it make a fine noise?'  He sighed again.  'My
head aches.'

'It's the weather, Ellis dear.  It's been very close all day.  My
head's been aching all day.'

'Has it?'  He put his hand up and stroked her forehead and then her
cheek.  He loved to do that.  At first she had shrunk from it.  His
hand was dry and hot and his fingernails very white, like a dead
man's nails.  But now it moved her strangely when he made any
demonstration.  And once, years and years ago, he had wanted to
kill her!  How queer!

With the abrupt restlessness that was characteristic of him he got
up and fetched the doll from the chair.

'I've dressed and undressed her three times today,' he said.  'She
doesn't seem to mind.'  He gave her to Vanessa.  'Will you play for
me tonight, Vanessa?'

In the corner of the room was a small piano.  Vanessa did not play
very well--only old and simple things, old songs, hymns tunes,
waltzes.  He loved her to play.  He could sit for hours watching
her.

'Yes, of course, dear.  I'll come up when I've had my dinner.'

He was delighted.

'Oh, how nice!  Play the one with mice in the can.'

'Yes, I'll play that one.'

'And the one with armies marching.'

'Yes, dear.'

She put her arm around him and he lay back against her with his
eyes closed.

After a while Winifred Trent came in.  She was very thin and her
pale long face was covered with wrinkles.

'I think dinner is ready, Vanessa.  I'll stay with Ellis while he
has his.'

A gong sounded from below.  Winifred Trent said every evening this
same sentence.

'Thank you, Winifred.'  Vanessa got up.  She kissed Ellis and went
downstairs.

The dining-room seemed very large and empty.  Rodd, the butler with
a face like a muffin, waited on her.

'Sole, my lady?'

'Thank you, Rodd.'

She sat staring in front of her.  Suddenly she smiled.  Benjie had
enjoyed Timothy's visit.  He would be happier today.

'Brussels sprouts, my lady?'

'Thank you, Rodd.'

After Ellis was in bed she would write to Benjie and tell him about
Timothy's visit.



WHITE WITH SWANS


One night early in 1912, Vanessa woke and was assured that she was
about to die.  She was conscious of no especial pain, only a
scantness of breath and a general faintness.  Dimly, as though she
were many miles away, she realized that the early morning light,
very cold and thin, laid ghostly shadows on the floor.  She heard a
sparrow twitter.

But so certain was she that the end had come that she felt that she
must write something to Benjie, saying goodbye, telling him to be
good to Sally . . . but she found that she had no wish to make the
slightest movement.  She lay there, her eyes fixed on the ceiling
upon whose dark surface some strange light, thin and bright like a
lustre bowl, seemed to hover.  Her brain was quite clear.  For
months past she had known that her energy was leaving her as water
trickles from a cistern.  Until less than three years ago (she
could fix the time exactly, for the change had come when Timothy
Bellairs, the painter, had paid her a visit and, turning to her,
had said:  'Don't let this be too much of a strain on you') her
resistance had been equal to the struggle.  But after that day (she
remembered that when Timothy had gone she had been up and said
goodnight to Sally, had visited Ellis and dined downstairs alone,
and Rodd had said 'Brussels sprouts, my lady') something had
snapped.  Her nobility had gone, she supposed.  Lying now, about to
pass away altogether from this silly business, she could summarize
the past clearly and without sentiment.  Her nobility had gone.
She no longer, after that day, wanted to play her part.  What she
wanted was for Ellis to die and then, for herself, that she should
go to Benjie and never again, for one single moment, night or day,
leave him.

She seemed after this (it was as though she were now speaking to
God Himself, for life was over and He would understand) to be
without scruples and yet to be tied with scruples.  She was now
quite shameless and, in intention, had already left Ellis and was
somewhere safe in Cumberland with Benjie, but in fact of course she
did nothing of the kind.

For three more years she did as she had already done; nursed Ellis,
played her part, ached (oh God, how her heart had ached!) for
Benjie, and there it was.  But whereas in the first three years she
had acted as she did because she thought it right, in the second
three she acted as she did because she had to.  She could not leave
Ellis because he was so helpless, but her heart became a strange
confusion of disgust and misery and longing and sheer exhausted
weariness.

The effort was becoming always more frightful, and not only for
herself but also for Benjie.  For one whole year he went abroad.
They wrote and met when he was in London.  They poured their very
souls into their letters.  But the longing became too great.  He
returned, thin as a stick, new lines of age and perhaps of
bitterness in his face.  During this last year they met more and
more often, but always as though, at the very moment of meeting,
they must part.  As for Ellis, nothing ailed him, and Vanessa was
his very life.  Then Winifred Trent died.  Six months ago a chill
had carried her off.  Before she died she said to Vanessa:  'You've
been wonderful,' and Vanessa, although she had grown to be fond of
Winifred Trent, had a terrible impulse to tell Winifred Trent a
number of coarse truths . . .

After that strength had ebbed from her.  She woke weary; she went
to bed too tired to sleep.  And Ellis grew stronger and stronger in
the body.  He liked her to play to him on the little piano by the
hour.  Well, now she was going to die and the whole thing would be
over.  She thought of Benjie and Sally and Tom, and summoned them
to her side.

To Benjie she said:  'My darling, my beloved, this can't
separate . . .'

To Tom:  'Thank you for looking after me, Tom dear.  Mary Worcester
isn't worth it . . .'

And to Sally:  'Don't forget me.  Have a good life, darling . . .'

Then it seemed to her that her heart ceased to beat.  She thought
of God as very near to her.  She clasped her hands and began the
Lord's Prayer . . .

A moment later apparently Janet, the maid, came in, carrying the
tea, drawing the blinds.  So she had not died!

She lay there, drank her tea.

'What kind of day is it, Janet?'

'Nice and bright, my lady.'

Then Janet said:

'You don't look very well this morning, my lady.  Have your
breakfast in bed.  Do now.'

(Janet had from the first, two years ago, been very friendly,
maternal, and comforting.)

'Oh no, Janet.  I must get up.  I didn't sleep very well.'

'What a shame!  I should stay the morning in bed, my lady.'

And she did.  She was surprised at herself.  Sally came in to say
goodbye to her before departing to her school in Kensington.  She
had her luncheon with Ellis in his room.

But, after this, the obsession remained with her that she had not
long to live.

One evening she was gay: that is, she went with Cynthia, Philip
Rochester and Horace Ormerod to the first night of a new play.  It
was Tuesday, March 5th--Cynthia's birthday--and they had a very
charming dinner first at Claridge's.  Cynthia was very coy about
her age, Horace hearty and hopeful, and Philip--who painted his
face so cleverly that you wouldn't notice it unless you were a
woman--was most witty at the expense of all his nearest and
dearest.

'But I thought you liked Humphrey Bell!' Cynthia said, when Philip
had just intimated that Humphrey cheated at cards and beat his
mistresses.

'Oh, so I do!  I ADORE Humphrey!  He's a perfect pet!  I know he
wouldn't mind a WORD I've been saying!'

'Well, I'm not so sure,' observed Cynthia.

How very old, Vanessa thought, Philip was!  He was all Dowsonish
and Wildeish.  And how long ago was that buried age with its
glittering surface and tinkling music box echoes!  The time when
she had been a hostess and driven in the Park, had tea with Mrs
Langtry in that extraordinarily cosy drawing-room, breathing that
lovely lady's good-nature and kindness of heart.  It had been a
cosy, good-natured time--yes, and an enterprising one too!  Now--
what was the matter?--everyone was restless, uneasy; nothing seemed
secure.  She herself felt shabby, an old owl not used to the light.
She sat in the back of the box with Horace, feeling a little faint,
longing for Cumberland and Benjie and the Newlands farm . . .

The play seemed to answer some of her questions.  It was called
Milestones and was by Arnold Bennett and Edward Knoblock.  The
little Royalty Theatre contained that night many celebrated
persons.  The customary first-night remark was made that if a bomb
were dropped on the theatre . . .  In fact, all the customary first-
night remarks were made.  Mr Knoblock was discerned sitting in a
box with his sister.  Famous persons were observed, commented upon.
But it was not, as it happened, a first night quite like other
first nights.  It was, in itself, a Milestone.  This passing of
time, this blindness of each generation to the significant things,
the battle between the helpless imaginative and the confident
unimaginative.

'Why, these are Herries!' Vanessa thought.  'These are our very
selves!'

And then Haide Wright's brilliant passionate Aunt was simply
Judith Paris come to life.  She seemed to Vanessa to be living
there on the stage in front of her.  She was eternal, immortal, as
Judith was.  That little figure, her voice trembling with her
vitality and courage, dominated not only the theatre but the world
beyond it.  'So Judith still dominates us all.'  In the last Act an
actress made a great success.  She was extremely beautiful, and
Vanessa, who had never seen her before, searched her programme.
Her name was Gladys Cooper.  There was something in her self-
confidence and scorn of sentiment that spoke of the future.  'Will
Sally be like that?  Not so beautiful of course, but brave,
scornful of anything that seems to her unreal?'  Everyone in the
theatre that night was thinking a little as Vanessa.  How time
passes and we don't know it!  We are at the mercy of forces greater
than ourselves.  What if these forces grow stronger than we?  What
if we become their slaves?  A wind of insecurity blew through the
theatre that night.  The actors seemed like figures in a Morality.

In the second interval, Cynthia and Philip went out to greet some
friends.  In the back of the box, Vanessa and Horace talked.
Vanessa had never liked Horace before, but tonight he touched her
sympathy.  His wife had died in the preceding year.  He said that
he was very lonely.  This big heavy man with the protruding chin,
the shining forehead, the gleaming glasses, was suddenly a small
and very unprotected schoolboy.

'I suppose it's my own fault,' he said.  'I'm sure I've always done
my best, looked on the bright side, been cheerful very often when I
really didn't feel it, but people don't want you to be cheerful and
kind and jolly.  They like you much better if you're sour and
cynical.  The fact is, I know it, people get bored with me.  There
was a woman once, Vanessa, whom I loved to distraction.  I'd have
done anything for her.  For a month or so it was like heaven--it
was really.  I thought she loved me passionately.  One weekend she
went to Eastbourne and wrote me two of the most wonderful letters.
Beautiful they were.  And then, one night, she was to dine with me
in my flat.  I was all ready and waiting.  I'd ordered the most
beautiful little dinner.  But instead of coming herself she sent a
letter--a short, curt note saying that she was afraid she couldn't
see me any more.  She was very sorry.  She had thought about it and
decided that it wasn't right her seeing me and so on.  But I knew
that THAT wasn't the reason.  It was simply that she was bored with
me.  And yet I'd always done my best.'

'You'd spoilt her, I expect,' said Vanessa.

'No.  I'd done what any other man would have done.  She found me a
bore.  Yes, it's very strange.  People like you if you're cruel and
malicious.  I've never been cruel in my life to anyone.'

'Would you mind, Horace,' Vanessa said, 'getting me a glass of
water?  I feel rather faint.'

When he returned with one he had something he wanted to say.  It
was about Rose.  He had seen Rose that very afternoon.

'Oh, Rose!' Vanessa exclaimed.  'Quick, Horace, tell me!  I have
written to her and had no answer.  Once a letter from Madrid, a
short one, telling me nothing.'

'I've seen her from time to time,' Horace said.  'Of course it's
been very painful.  But she was always determined that you
shouldn't see her.  It's been the one thing that she resolved.  She
was ashamed . . .'

'Oh no,' Vanessa cried.  'She shouldn't have been.  I'm her friend.
Quick, Horace, they're coming back.  Where is she now?  Is she in
London?'

'Yes, that's why I told you.  She's very ill.  She's going to have
a serious operation.  This is her address.  I've written it down.'

(Poor old Horace.  Not such a bad fellow--or at any rate not so bad
in old age and loneliness, much more bearable in misfortune.)

Cynthia and Philip came into the box.  Vanessa had the address.
She thought, as the curtain went up--'They've forgiven me.  They
consider me respectable again.  But Rose they have pushed down and
down . . .'



On the following afternoon she found her way to the street in
Bloomsbury.  It was a fine March day with gay light clouds hurrying
like ballerinas across the chimney pots.  The pigeons fluttered on
the steps of the Museum, and there was a sniff of spring in the
air.

Rose's room was at the very top of the thin grey house and, halfway
up, Vanessa felt once more her faintness, had to pause while the
stairs slowly rose and fell and a grimy window bent anxiously
towards her.  At last she was there.  She knocked on the door and
went in.  Rose was sitting, a shawl over her shoulders, before a
grumbling, sulky fire.  The room was stuffy and had the smell of a
not very clean blanket.

'Oh!  Vanessa!' Rose cried out.

Vanessa bent down and they embraced as though they would never let
one another go.  Rose cried a little, wiping her eyes with a rather
soiled handkerchief.  Then she brightened.  She was fearfully thin
and her complexion was a pale and dry yellow.  She was wearing a
shabby blue skirt and faded silver slippers.  She held Vanessa's
hand.

'At last I told Horace that you might come and see me.  I wouldn't
hear of it before.  But my number's up at last and I had to have
one last glimpse of you before I met St Peter.'

'I've tried to see you--'

'Yes, I know.  I've been abroad.  Here, let's have a look at you!'

She took Vanessa by the shoulder and held her off so that she might
see her.

'This bloody gas!  It isn't very gay, is it?  But we don't run to
electric light here yet.  Well, my dear, you don't look any too
grand yourself, if I may say so.  You're a fine big woman, of
course--always were.  But you look as though you hadn't had any
sleep for a month.'

'I haven't been sleeping very well, but never mind me.  What about
yourself?  What's the matter, Rose darling?'

'Oh, the wages of sin.  As a matter of fact it's cancer and that's
the plain truth.  Old Furry-Face the doctor says, "Only a little
internal trouble.  We'll have you right in no time."  But _I_ know.
You can't cheat me.  I'm starving to death and I'm sick of it.
Horace has been a brick, though.  He's paying for the nursing home,
insists on it although I tell him any old ditch will do to die in.'

'But, Rose, you're wrong.  I'm sure you are!  After all, they know--'

'Wrong my foot!  You can't kid me.  Now look here, my dear, now you
ARE here!  I want to know everything.  How ARE you?  How's Benjie?
How much longer are you going on in this ridiculous way?'

Vanessa told her something of her life, ending up:  'You see, we
thought that it wouldn't be so long.  It's been five years.'

'And Benjie and you eating your hearts out!  Well, I think it's a
bit of sentimental tosh!  Giving yourself up heart, soul and body
to someone who'd be just as happy with any nurse--'

'No,' Vanessa said.  'You're wrong there.  I might have left him,
perhaps, if he hadn't needed me.  Because it hasn't been fair on
Benjie.  But he DOES need me.  Every year it has been more
impossible to leave him.'

'And now you're killing yourself!  Oh, I know!  It's draining all
the strength out of you.  I can see it.  And here we are, the two
of us!  You've done the virtuous thing.  I've done the other!  Not
much to choose . . .'

They talked about old times.  Rose never let Vanessa's hand go.
Her clutch was hot and feverish.

'You needn't be afraid, Vanessa.  It's all over.  There's no
drunken Major coming in.  Even my taste for drink has gone.  I was
in Madrid three years.  Yes, a Professor kept me--a very nice
little man he was, with a curly black beard and a wife he couldn't
stand the sight of.  I was fond of him.  I truly was.  That's a
funny thing.  In spite of the life I've led I haven't got tired of
wanting to be fond of men--really fond of them, mend their clothes,
put their buttons on, that sort of thing.  Then I get tired of
them.  Domestic one minute, restless the next.  But virtue's got
nothing to do with it.  I've never felt more virtuous than when
I've been doing my worst . . .  There was a young fellow from
College once went off with me.  Pretty well broke his mother's
heart, too.  We went on a trip to Scotland.  We stopped at Keswick.
I wanted to have a look at it, and there it was, same as ever--St
John's spire and the square with the clock.  We went down to the
Lake the night we arrived and I can hear the water lapping against
the jetty now.  And Friar's Crag.  We went on to Friar's Crag and
the boy talked about Ruskin.  Well, you never saw a more virtuous
pair than we were that trip, reading Shelley and wondering whether
there was a God and picking flowers . . . and I suppose I never did
a wickeder thing than taking that young man away.  Funny, isn't it?
This morality!  Very vexed question, if you ask me!'

After a while she asked Vanessa:

'Why do you love Benjie so, Vanessa?  I've never loved anyone like
that.  You're the only one I've loved all my life long and you're a
woman.  Why do you love him so?'

'Oh, I don't know,' said Vanessa.  'He's everything I want in a
man.  You should ask rather why he loves me.  I often tell him he
should have a gay, lively woman, witty, and quick to see things.
There's ONE reason I love him, I think.  I can see his jokes.  It
used to be terrible in the old days in Hill Street when I didn't
see a joke and had to pretend I did.  But Benjie and I find one
another amusing.  We're comic to one another.  That's a good reason
for love.'

They fell into silence.  Vanessa thought that Rose had fallen
asleep.  At last it was time for her to go.

'Rose darling--are you looked after here?  Is there anyone to care
for you?'

'Oh yes, it isn't so bad.  The woman's quite decent.  And I'm going
to the nursing home tomorrow.  You'll come and see me there, won't
you?'

Vanessa promised.  She looked back at the door and saw Rose's eyes--
hungry, shining, feverish--fixed upon her.  She went slowly away.



She visited Rose every day in the nursing home.  A week later Rose
had her operation and three days after that she died.  She was worn
out, the doctor said.  Injudicious living in the past . . . yes . . .
sad . . . but, as a matter of fact, there would have been no hope.
She could not have recovered.

Vanessa was happy for her sake.  That was the way that she would
have wished it.

Meanwhile the Family watched Vanessa with curiosity.  She went
round paying visits on everybody exactly as though she were going
away somewhere.

Cynthia and May Rockage (who was in London just then) and stout
Mary Newmark, putting their heads together, decided that she was
going off with Benjie again.  She was gay, light-hearted and
extraordinarily kind.  She said some odd things.  She said to
Cynthia:  'I can't get that play Milestones out of my head.  Do you
remember the girl in the last Act saying, "Please remember that
we're in the year 1912"?  Isn't it funny to think that for Sally,
one day, 1912 will be as old-fashioned as 1812?  Doesn't it make
you feel queer?'

'Not in the least,' said Cynthia.

'Oh, well, then--doesn't it seem odd to you that my grandmother
probably said, "Please remember that we're in the year 1812"?'

'Not in the least.  Your grandmother lived to be a hundred.'

'Oh, I know.  That isn't what I mean.  What I mean is that people
are more important than time.  What I mean is that my father, who
was a darling, once said in his garden on Cat Bells: "Look,
Vanessa!  There's the squirrel again!"  That, my relationship to
him, our love for one another, all of it comes back as I think of
that sentence: it isn't dead, it isn't gone.  He's alive because we
loved one another.  1812, 1912 doesn't mean anything at all.  What
we think is life is nothing--the secret life has quite another
history.  Am I being very stupid?'

'No, dear,' said Cynthia, who was only half listening, because
there were some new and extremely beautiful photographs of her
daughter Mary that she was examining.  'You're being very clever--
too clever for me I'm afraid.'

('One half of our family will NEVER understand what the other half
is after--never, never, never!' Vanessa thought.)

'Aren't these good?' said Cynthia.  'I don't want to be the fond
mother, but really Mary is going to be a beauty.'

'Yes, she is,' said Vanessa eagerly, glad that Cynthia was happy
and at the same time wishing, in spite of herself, that Sally was
taller and had a brighter complexion.

'Do you think, Cynthia, that there is something true in what the
old man said at the end of Milestones?'

'What did he say, dear?' asked Cynthia, holding one of the
photographs at an odd angle and smiling at it.

'Don't you remember?  He said women of today aren't what they used
to be.  They're hard.  They've none of the old charm.  They're
unsexed.  Are Sally and Mary going to be hard?  They ARE different
from us.  I've noticed it.  Sally isn't afraid of anything and she
doesn't like to show her feelings.  She's rather like a boy
sometimes.  Won't it be dreadful if all the women are like men and
all the men--?'

'Like Philip,' Cynthia concluded.  'Why do you think so much about
the future, Vanessa?  The present is so very agreeable.  Peile
hasn't been in a bad temper for weeks.  Everything is so
comfortable and settled.'

'Settled?  Do you think so?' said Vanessa.

Later, the Family recalled the strangeness of Vanessa during these
weeks.  They had, perhaps, none of them ever really known her.  She
became again rather beautiful.  Her pallor suited her grey hair,
and her eyes were still lovely, soft, gentle, and generous.  No,
they had none of them really known her.  There was something wild
in the middle of her gentleness.  You might call her timid because
she disliked quarrelling, high words.  Yet she had a temper, she
could be most courageous.  She had been, by all Herries standards,
grossly immoral, living for years with a man to whom she was not
married, and yet she was religious as none of them were.  She had
succeeded in holding a man's devotion for a whole lifetime, and a
most difficult man too.  And yet she was not a woman of the type,
you would suppose, for Benjie.  For five years she had performed a
task that was, they all admitted, an exceedingly hard one.  They
admired her now although they had once criticized her so severely.
But she was outside them all--a stranger in the end.  'There have
been always odd ones in the family,' Mary Newmark said complacently.
'As Sidney says, "We're different from ordinary families."'

Vanessa meanwhile paid a visit to her doctor.

'Is there anything wrong with me?  I'd like to know.'

He examined her.

'You have been under a great strain.  You're very tired.  Can't you
go abroad for a while and have a proper rest?'

'No,' said Vanessa.  'I can't, I'm afraid.'

'Well, you aren't looking after yourself properly--'

'Is anything organically wrong?'

'No.  You're nearly fifty-three, though, and should take care of
yourself.  A chill or an extra strain--any little thing--might be
serious.'

She smiled.  They were very old friends,

'Thank you.  I'll try and take care.'

Then the day came (she had known that it was coming) when she could
not leave Benjie.  They had been having tea in his room as they did
about once a fortnight.  ('How old we're getting!' she said to
Benjie once.  'No one thinks it immoral for us to be alone any
more.')  She got up to go.  She could not.  She stared at him
helplessly.

'What is it?' he asked, getting up and coming to her.

'Oh, I don't know!'  She tried to smile, but her mouth trembled.
'Suppose that this should be the last time!'

'What do you mean--the last time?'

'It's always been like that lately--harder to part.'  She drew away
from him.  'Oh, I was forgetting!  I brought you something.'

She went to the deal table and picked something up.  'I thought I'd
like you to have this.'

'What is it?  You're always giving me things.'

She undid the paper wrapper.

'This is Judith's book.  You know, the one we used to read out of
in Cumberland.'  She held it up, with its faded green cover.  'I
thought I'd like YOU to have it now.'

'Why?  But you are so fond of it!'

'Yes--but if anything happened . . .  You know, Benjie, I've always
thought it such a pity that someone shouldn't publish it; it's so
lively and amusing.'

'People aren't interested.  We aren't a very remarkable family.'

'Aren't we?' said Vanessa.  'I think we are.'

He kissed her.  'All right.  I'll look after it for you.  Write
your name in it--your name and mine.'

She went to the table and sat down.  She wrote:  'For Benjie with
love from Vanessa Herries and Judith Paris.  March 29th, 1912.'

'I feel as though she were in the room with us now.'

He laughed.  He was standing behind her, his hand on her shoulder.

'Ghosts!  What a child you are, Van!  Once we're gone we're gone!'

He felt her shiver.

'What's the matter?' he asked.  'Are you cold?'

'No.'  She turned round, looked up into his face, her hands on his
chest.  'Don't say that, Benjie.  I can't endure to think that
death--physical death--can separate us.  After all--who knows?--it
may be only after that that we're really together.  When two people
have loved one another so long and so truly as we have, isn't it
absurd to think that a little thing--a cold, a stumble in the
street, oh! anything--can separate us for ever?'

'Well,' he said, looking down at her with great tenderness, 'life
is absurd, my darling--absurd, meaningless, cruel.'

She lowered her eyes.  He felt her tremble again.

'Perhaps I'm wrong,' he said, putting his arm round her, holding
her to him.  'I don't know any more than the next fellow.  It's
ridiculous to dogmatize.  But if there's a God and He's kept us
apart for five years as a cat tortures a mouse, why, then I say as
many a man has said before me--'

He stopped.  She was crying.  He knelt down beside her.

'Oh, my darling, don't cry!  After all, we've got one another.
We've had years of one another.  That's something.  And this can't
go on for ever.  It mustn't.  It shan't.  It gets harder every day.
It's killing both of us . . .  Darling, look up!  Think of the
happy times!  Think of the night in Newlands when Tom arrived from
London!  And even now--the hours we have, the way our love grows
stronger and stronger . . .'

He knelt, holding her, while she sobbed against his shoulder.  He
caught some words.

'I'm so tired . . .  I love you so much . . .'

She rose, wiping her eyes.  'There!  At my age!  Wait.  I'll wash
my face in your bedroom!'

While she was gone he stood there in perplexity.  Tonight he could
not endure that she should leave him and return to that house, to
that dark house, that insane house . . .

This could not go on as it was.  They had both endured it too long.
He must think of some way.

She came back smiling, but he saw that she was dreadfully weary.

'Come with me to the King's Road until I get a cab.'

At the door they embraced, clinging to one another with an almost
dreadful desperation.

'I wish I'd seen Tom,' she said.  'Say goodbye to him for me.'

'Of course.  But you'll be seeing him next week.'

'Oh yes.  It was so good of him to take Sally out the other day.
She DID enjoy it so!'

They went down the long stairs hand in hand.  He walked beside her
with the defiant boyish adventurous air that was so especially his,
his hat cocked a little to the side, his empty sleeve, a flower in
his coat.

In the King's Road they saw a cab, but she said:

'Let's walk a little farther.  There'll be another.'  The only
thing that she said was:  'What do you think?  Carey and May are
going to America in April.  Adventurous for old things like them,
isn't it?  They're going in this wonderful new ship, the Titanic.'

'We'll go to America one day!' he said.

In Sloane Square she found a cab and got in.  He stood looking
after it until it turned the corner.

It was a quiet, still evening with little clouds of peach blossom
floating serenely across a gentle sky.  The traffic moved as in a
dream and she stopped the cab by the Ritz (she wanted to go to
Hatchard's bookshop), got out and walked.  Influenced as she always
was by the world about her, all humankind seemed, in this evening
hush, to be amiable and friendly.  She thought of the Family, that
they had all been good to her after their lights, Cynthia and Mary
and May and Alfred, Horace and Adrian; two old bachelor brothers,
George and Stephen Cards, who, having come to live in London, had
been especially good to her, leaving flowers at Hill Street and
inviting her to their funny little dinners.  All the feuds were
over.  Into what kind of world would Sally, Mary and Rosalind and
Maurice grow up?  The Family had risen now above the old jealousies
and causeless rivalries.  She felt that she herself had done her
part in the mysterious weaving of God's shuttle by her return to
Ellis.  Her love and Benjie's had not been wasted.  Nothing was
wasted, no goodness, no kindness, no little unheeded courtesy.

She lost, for a moment, under that peach-blossom sky, consciousness
of her own small personal history and so was happy.  But she was
tired.  She sat down on one of Mr Hatchard's chairs as they
fastened up for her a book, Carnival, by some new young man.
Adrian had told her that she must certainly read it.  Then, as she
went out into the street again, she was conscious of a small,
stabbing pain in her side.  As she was aware of it she knew also a
sudden mysterious foreboding as though someone had whispered in her
ear:  'This is what you have been waiting for.  You will need now
all your courage.'  She put her hand to her side as though to
reassure herself.

At home again she went up to Sally's room and found her sitting at
her table biting her pencil over arithmetic.  She sprawled over the
table, the perfect schoolgirl in her dark blue dress, ink on her
cheek and her hair ruffled, drumming her heels on the floor.

'I'm no good at sums, darling,' Vanessa said, sitting down beside
her and loving her with a passionate desire to draw her into her
arms and never let her go again.  But she knew well that Sally did
not care for demonstrations.

'Oh, that's all right, Mummy,' Sally said.  'I'll do the beastly
things.  It's in our blood, I expect, not to be good at sums.'
Then she added casually:  'I'm playing for the First at Hockey on
Saturday.'

Vanessa knew that this had been, during the last two months,
Sally's besetting ambition, but she only said:

'Oh, are you, darling?  I'm so glad.'

'Yes.'  Sally pushed the book away and looked at her mother.  'You
DO look sweet!  Who gave you the violets?'

'Your father.'

'Good.'  She thought a moment.  Then she went on:  'Mummy, ought I
to mind about being illegitimate?'

'Why, dear?'

'Well, Mabel Staines said today that she wouldn't be illegitimate
for anything, and that her mother wanted to ask me to tea but
wouldn't when Mabel told her.'

'I shouldn't worry about it, Sally dear,' Vanessa said.

'Oh, _I_ don't worry!' Sally said cheerfully.  'I told her that her
mother could keep her old tea.  I rather like being illegitimate.
I'm different from the other girls.'

'Do most of the girls know?' asked Vanessa.

'I don't think so.  They're all quite decent anyway.'  Then she
looked at her mother again.  'Mummy, you're tired.  You want some
tea.  I'll get some.'

'No, dear, thank you.  I've had some.'

Then Sally did what was rare with her.  She threw her arms round
Vanessa's neck and hugged her.  She rubbed her cheek against her
mother's.

'I'll look after you when you're older, and you're the only one I
WILL look after.'

'Will you, darling?'

'Yes, you shall have everything you want.  I'll make money for you
and keep you.'

'What'll you make money with?'

'Oh, I don't know--be a secretary or a market gardener or
something.'

'Perhaps you'll marry?'

'Indeed I shan't.  I think boys and men are awful.  All except Tom
and Daddy and Ellis.'  Then she dropped her voice confidentially.
'Ellis came in here crying a little while ago.  He'd broken a green
vase they put flowers in.  I told him not to worry.'

(Extraordinary, Vanessa thought, how Sally takes everything for
granted!)

'I must go up to him.'

Sally gave her a long and very wet kiss.

'Darling Mummy, I do love you so!' she murmured.

'And I love you,' Vanessa said.

She went up to Ellis and found him, quite contented, playing cards.
There was a very simple Patience that Vanessa had taught him.  As
he played he murmured to himself.  'That's the Red Queen.  Now
where's the next one.  What comes after nine, Vanessa?' he asked as
she came in.

'Ten,' she said.

'No, the other way.'

'Eight comes before nine.

'Eight.  Eight.  Eight,' he said.

He had grown, in the last few weeks, to look very old.  His face
was wizened, very wrinkled.  He looked like a pathetic old monkey.

'Play the piano,' he said, smiling at her.

She sat down at the piano, and as she played 'Annie Laurie' and
'Drink to me only' she felt the pain at her side like a knife.  He
came and stood beside her, humming out the tune.  Then he drew a
chair and sat there, all huddled up, nursing his knees.

He was like a little gnome, and with his dead white fingernails he
tapped on his knee.

Soon she stopped.

'I'm tired tonight,' she said.

'Yes, I'm tired too,' he said and laid his head on her lap.  She
stroked his white hair as he liked her to do.  Poor Ellis!  Would
it not be kinder? . . .  Then, at the thought which sometimes came
to her like a messenger falsely tempting her, she put her arms
round his thin body and held him close to her.

But she was too weary to go on.  She kissed him and left him, he
looking after her with his pathetic wondering eyes.

She went to bed.  She was brought some food, but could not eat it.
When, at last, to her great relief, she was left alone, she propped
her pillows up and wrote a letter to Benjie.  Then she lay down to
sleep.  She could not sleep.  Out of a cave of darkness where a
dragon slumbered, she moved (carefully lest she should rouse the
dragon).  She thought that she would read, and she opened a book
that was on the little table.  It was a volume of Rossetti's poems
and, to pain now stabbing her with every breath, she read some
verses:


     Although the lattice had dropped loose
       There was no wind; the heat
     Being so at rest that Amelotte
     Heard far beneath the plunge and float
     Of a hound swimming in the moat.
     
     Some minutes since, two rooks had toiled
       Home to the nests that crowned
     Ancestral ash-trees.  Through the glare
     Beating again, they seemed to tear
     With that thick caw the woof o' the air.
     
     But else, 'twas at the dead of noon
       Absolute silence: all
     From the raised bridge and guarded sconce
     To green-clad places of pleasaunce
     Where the long lake was white with swans.


She let the book fall and lay back that she might struggle the
better with her painful breathing.  What was the matter with her?
She was ill.  She felt the heat rising, as in dry dusty wafts from
the desert, through her body, and this heat seemed to be mingled
with the clear, sharp picture in the poem that she had just been
reading.  She herself leant out from some high window on a day of
fierce heat and in the general stillness she could hear the sudden
cool splash of the hound, and then the caw of the rooks tearing the
still air, and then, turning her weary head, she saw the lake, like
a mirror in a green wall, and over its glassy green-reflected light
the swans, whiter than sunny snow, floated.  Ah, this heat and this
coldness!  This stillness behind whose surface heat beat like a
drum!  And the swans became horses, great white horses struggling
through the lake that now was black; out of the icy water the
horses struggled up on to the flank of the frozen hills and their
hoofs rang against the ice!  As the splendid white horses drew
breath with pain, so she fought for hers.  Everything moved and
shifted.  She was a child running across the Cat Bells lawn to
greet her father, the house was burning, flames rose mountain-high,
as high as Skiddaw, and she was burning too.

But Benjie came and caught her up with his one arm and they rode on
the white horse over Skiddaw, Blencathra, over Helvellyn and the
Pikes, sailed above Scafell and so out to sea, to the magical
island on the horizon, and below them all Wastwater was a lake set
in a green wall, and the white swans, with a grand remote dignity,
floated on its surface . . .

At some moment, she could not tell when, she saw the crumpled face
of Rodd, the butler, bending over her.

'No, Rodd,' she whispered from an infinite distance.  'I'm not very
well.  I don't think I'll get up today.'



Rodd went upstairs to see the nurse who tended Ellis.  She was a
big bony woman with a serious kindly face.  She had a faint
moustache and grey eyes that were both practical and gentle.  Her
name was Milligan.

'Nurse, her ladyship is very unwell.  I don't like the look of her
at all.'

The nurse went down.  Vanessa recognized her and smiled at her.

'I'm not very well,' she said.  'I have a bad pain in my side.  I
don't think I'll get up, if you don't mind.'

'It's pneumonia,' Milligan said to Rodd.  'I'll get Doctor
Lancaster at once.'

Doctor Lancaster came.  Vanessa was very ill.

Later in the morning Rodd telephoned to Cynthia, Cynthia had, a
moment before, been telephoning about bridge and she was annoyed
because she could not, that afternoon, secure the four that she
wanted.  It was stupid of Anne Fellowes to bother, on that
afternoon of all afternoons, about her old husband just because he
had only been home from China a week.  'When he's been home another
fortnight she won't bother,' she thought.  She put down the
receiver and wondered whom she should ask.  The bell rang.

'Well,' she said, in that little voice exactly like ice knocking
against a glass, a voice that was warning enough to anyone who was
sensitive.  'Oh, is that you, Rodd?' she said.

'Yes, madam,' said Rodd, who was not at all sensitive.  'It's her
ladyship, madam.  She's very ill.  Pneumonia, Doctor Lancaster
said.  We were wondering whether you could come to Hill Street.'

Half an hour later she was in Hill Street.  As she came into the
room she heard a strange sound of recurrent short breaths,
something inhuman and cruel.  Vanessa did not recognize her, but
murmured:  'The white swans.  Benjie!  Benjie!  Look at the swans!'

On the following morning Benjie was roused, at about half past
seven, from a deep sleep by the ringing of the telephone.  When he
went to it he heard to his surprise Cynthia's voice:

'Benjie, is that you?'

'Yes,' he said, shivering a little in his pyjamas.

'I'm at Hill Street.  I think you'd better come as soon as
possible.'

'Hill Street?' he repeated, bewildered.

'Yes.  It's Vanessa.  She's terribly ill.  Double pneumonia.'

'I'll come at once,' he answered quietly.

He was aware that Tom was in the room.

'Father's what is it?'

'It's Vanessa.  She's very ill.  Double pneumonia.'

'Oh no!  Oh no!' Tom cried.

'Yes.  I must go at once.'

He felt nothing except that he must get to Vanessa.  He must get to
Vanessa and save her.

He found a cab, rang in a frenzy the bell, rushed into the house
and up the stairs.  On the first landing he saw Cynthia.

'Oh, Benjie!' she cried and stopped.  Then, the tears streaming
down her face, she said:  'Vanessa's dead!'



He did not see her.  He stood in the long drawing-room like a man
lost, his eyes wandering from wall to wall.  He was not thinking at
all.

He felt a touch on his arm and, turning, saw at his side an old,
wizened, bent, and wrinkle-faced man who looked up at him with
questioning eyes.  Moving from some infinite cold distance he came
close to this strange figure.  Then, with no shock of surprise, he
realized that it was Ellis.  From this same room Ellis had once
driven him out.  Now he said, in a trembling voice:

'Where is Vanessa?'

Benjie led him to the sofa and the old man sat down beside him,
close to him, shivering a little.

'Vanessa's all right,' he said.

'No.  But why isn't she here?  Why hasn't she come upstairs?  I
want her to play the piano.'

He put his arm round the old man.  'We must both be patient,' he
said.

'Yes, I'll be patient,' Ellis said and sat there, staring in front
of him, waiting . . .

Afterwards Cynthia gave him a letter.

'It is for you, Benjie.  Vanessa had written on the envelope that
it was to be given to you after she was gone.'  Cynthia, who had
loved Vanessa, looked at him as though she would like to achieve
with him some new and affectionate relation, but she discovered at
once that she did not know him at all, that he looked 'foreign',
and that he scarcely saw her.  He took the letter and walked out of
the house.

He read it in his own room.


MY DARLING--I'm writing this in bed.  Perhaps you will never read
it, but I am writing because I feel unwell tonight and for weeks
now have had a foreboding that I might die without seeing you.
This is probably nothing except my being very tired, as I have been
now for a long time.  But in any case it is like talking to you,
and is better than that in some ways because I can say some things
that I might be shy to say to your face, well though I know you--or
perhaps because I do know you so well.

What I want most to say is that if I were to die very suddenly and
you not see me, you are never to feel afterwards that our love has
been wasted.  It has been the most wonderful and glorious thing in
both our lives, hasn't it?  It has been everything to me, not only
because of our love, but because it has shown me that there is
something in life far deeper than anything physical or material.  I
have sometimes thought that the separation of these last years has
been the best thing that could have happened, because we have been
separated and yet in every important way have been closer together
than ever we were.  I have wished so often that I could have been a
different kind of woman for you--I suppose every woman wishes that
for the man she loves.  I would have liked to be brilliant, witty,
the kind of woman clever men describe in their books.  I have been
unfortunate, I sometimes think, because I have been a woman between
two periods.  Forty years ago women knew what they were supposed to
be and do.  In fact there was no choice for most of them.  In times
to come when Sally is grown up, women, I expect, will be free,
equal with men, afraid of nothing.  I have not, I'm sure, made a
success of my life, and yet I feel that I have, because I won and
KEPT your love, and Sally and Tom love me too.  I won't say
anything about religion, because I know that it bores you, but
think sometimes of me that I had no more doubt that God exists than
I have of your love for me.  People nowadays seem to think that
anyone who believes in God is a hypocrite, TRYING to believe
because it is more comfortable, but it ISN'T so.  There are many
people who are not stupid nor false who feel God close to them
quite as practically as they feel the people they know close to
them.  I express this very badly and I don't want you to think I am
influencing you--only when I am gone remember that this was the
greatest TRUE fact in my life.  Perhaps you will come to feel one
day that there may be some other life that goes on side by side
with, or rather INSIDE, the physical one.  I feel that just now
everyone is bewildered, unhappy and restless.  It wasn't always so,
I am sure.  People will understand God one day perhaps in a new
fashion when they have been unsatisfied and restless long enough.

But I didn't mean this letter to be a sermon.  I only meant to
thank you, again and again, for loving me so much and so long.
Don't be sad if I go.  Perhaps I shall be more with you than I have
been.  Who knows?  Do you really think that our love, after all it
has been through, can be killed by physical death?  I am sure that
it cannot.  Think often of all the happy times we have had,
especially in Newlands.  That is our country.  That is where I will
always be closest to you.  It has been our country for nearly two
hundred years and perhaps before that.  Every stone and tree there
is a witness that life is worth living, however hard it is,
beautiful and terrible and comic and disappointing and rewarding.
Go and climb Robinson or stand by the Watendlath Tarn and think of
Judith and remember old Herries in Borrowdale.  I KNOW that nothing
is lost, that everything lives, that there is no death, whatever
people say.

You will care for Sally, won't you?  She is very high-spirited and
determined, and I sometimes think that she is the first FEARLESS
Herries, the first one to rise above all the jealousy and fear and
greediness that there has been so long.  Perhaps the world that is
coming will be full of Sallies!  And give Tom all the love that you
can.  He will miss me, I think, more than anyone.  He has such a
warm heart and all his happiness is bound up in other people.
Forgive me for all the times that you have thought me sentimental
and stupid and slow to see things.  But I know you have and will.
Remember that our love isn't ended, that it will never end, that
nothing can destroy it now--Your most loving and devoted

                                                       VANESSA

If you have a chance, see poor Ellis sometimes.




Part Four

The Ghost



KALEIDOSCOPE

I

The Flame


Three weeks after the outbreak of war several of the Herries family
dined at Alfred's fine house in Drummond Street.

It was a kind of farewell dinner, because Tom, Maurice--Alfred's
son--and Gordon--the son of Sidney and Mary Newmark--would be
shortly departing for the Front.  There were present Alfred
himself, Benjie (who, in two days' time, was leaving for Russia),
Tom, Mary Worcester (now twenty-one years of age and a frantic
beauty), Rosalind (her sister), Maurice and Clara (Alfred's
children), Gordon and Ada, with Sidney and Mary Newmark (their
parents)--and Sally, who was not quite eleven, but was allowed to
stay up on this one occasion because it might be a long time before
she had dinner with Benjie and Tom again.

There were twelve of the family in all.

Dinner was finished.  Tom, Maurice and Gordon, looking very young
and innocent in uniform, were sipping Alfred's brandy with the
quiet air of practised connoisseurs.

Alfred got up to make a speech.  The Herries family had always been
rather fond of making speeches.  Alfred especially enjoyed it.  He
was a practised hand at making speeches in the City and proving in
his cold, restrained voice that everything was absolutely for the
best so long as he and his fellow-directors were in charge.

Tonight, however, his voice was not quite cold, not quite
restrained.  His long nose and thin horse-like face looked down at
them with a kind of anxious tenderness, and he looked especially at
Maurice, his son, whose face was round and rosy, whose tastes were
for the Arts rather than figures, who was unlike him in everything.

And he was doing for the first time in his life, perhaps, an
artistic thing.  He held in one long, bony hand a thin, beautifully
chased silver candlestick.  Up its slender stem ran a pattern of
leaves and branches.

'I'm not going to make a long speech,' he said.  'But I must say
something.  Here we all are as a family, all together, wishing one
another well.  It hasn't always been so, you may remember.  At one
time, in the days of our grandfathers and grandmothers, there was
some trouble, as I dare say you know.  But now we are all united, a
symbol, I like to think, of England itself--all united to fight the
greatest enemy the world has ever known--Prussian militarism.
Whatever else you may say about our family, no one can deny that,
on the whole, we have always stood for England's best interests.
One of our ancestors helped to defend Carlisle against Prince
Charlie and the Scots.  Benjie here lost an arm in South Africa,
and in countless other ways we have backed our country.  And now we
are doing it again.  She has never needed us as she needs us now,
but because we believe she is in the right we are giving all we
have, our sons, our money, our lives.  Ahem! yes . . . well . . .
It was Maurice's idea that we should do some little thing tonight
that we should all remember when we are separated later on, and
that when we remember it we should remember one another . . .
Yes . . . I have, left me by my father, a pair of old candlesticks.
They belonged, I believe, to an ancestor of ours, Harcourt Herries,
who lived in Cumberland in the eighteenth century, and before him
to an old Elizabethan Herries who had something to do with the
mines in Keswick.  Well, that's past history and this is present
history, and it was Maurice's idea that we should link up past and
present, that we should pass this candle round, each one of us
standing up in his or her turn, holding the lighted candle and
wishing the rest of us good luck.

'Well . . . ahem . . . that's all, I think.  Except that Sally
here, the youngest, shall be the one to light it.'

It was done as he said.  Sally--standing on a chair because she was
so small--lit it and round it went.  The electric light was
switched out and round the little flame went, very clear and bright
and steady.  Everyone wished everyone else good luck.



It was a frosty, sparkling morning and the guns were still.  Two
hours after midnight there had been a fearful bombardment.  On and
on went that shattering malignant thunder.  Then it ended.  There
was a perfect cloud of silence everywhere over the desolate
country.  Tom was ordered to see how the land, now remorselessly
altered, might look.  New mounds, new pits.  Four or five of the
raiders lay stretched out, abandoned and desolate; one a stout
officer with a snub nose and part of his face gone, another a dark
squat-shaped boy who lay, his head on his arm, his wide dark eyes
staring at the sky.  The raid had been well planned.  Tom returned.
The light was strengthening, but the air was thin like stretched
paper and most bitterly cold.  He looked out over a land that might
have been trampled by dinosaurs.  The country was quite deserted
save for one or two snipers at the sap-head.  No sound anywhere,
but he knew that all about him thousands of men were concealed.
Desolation and silence . . .  He went into his dug-out and began a
letter to Sally.


DARLING LITTLE SALLY--I've got half an hour to myself and
everything's as quiet as the top of Cat Bells.  They raided us last
night and for an hour or two there was a terrible din.  We lost
some men, I'm afraid.  It's a cold and frosty morning, which is
heaps better than the mud and rain.  I'm all right, feeling very
well in fact.  Do you remember the dinner at Alfred's when you lit
the candle, and do you remember his saying that we were proud, as
proper, right-minded Herries, of defending the world against
Prussian Militarism?  I suppose we were right at the time to feel
like that, and it's still nice to think of that lighted candle
going round the table, isn't it?  But how long ago that all seems
now, and how our point of view has altered!

I haven't had any sleep for twenty-fours hours, but last time I DID
sleep I dreamt of Vanessa.  It was scarcely like a dream.  She
seemed to be sitting beside me holding my hand and wearing the
clothes she used to wear in Newlands--just as I would wake
sometimes in the morning and find her sitting on my bed.  Doesn't
she seem PEACEFUL now in all this trouble?  Do you remember how
calm she used to be when something went wrong, and the way she
smiled? . . .


He broke off and stared in front of him, smiling at the thought of
Vanessa.  Then he went on:


The thing I hate most here is being sent out to reconnoitre
positions and getting lost.  It's awful.  Perhaps it's raining, and
through the mist you see lights trembling on the horizon, or you
think you do.  Then, out of nowhere, someone says, as though they
were fearfully angry, 'Get down!' and you find yourself in a
barrage.  Then you run for your life, the wet clay clinging to your
legs like hands.  Then you're lost again--in darkness.  You go up
and you go down, not knowing what is hill and what isn't.  Perhaps
some rifles suddenly open on you.  You run and crouch, and slip and
crouch and run--always lost, always alone and dirty and cold, like
a nightmare after we'd eaten too much as kids.

How are you?  Are you doing well at school?  Remember there are the
three of us--you and I and Father--or four with Vanessa.  Never
forget Vanessa, darling, will you?  Of course I know you won't.
Have you heard from Father in Russia?  I haven't for ages.  Have
you seen Mary?  Did you ask her to write to me?  She promised to
but she hasn't yet.  DON'T FORGET THIS.  It's very important.  Do
you write to Father regularly?  You must, even though he seems so
far away.  I think he's in Galicia somewhere.  Isn't this funny?
It's lying on the table beside me.  Someone left it:


                           PLEASE!

Will you help your lad at the Front and all other lads, in a very
simple way, and will you give your friends the chance to help as
well?

                         Do it Thus!

Fill in THIS POSTCARD with your name and address, and post it back
to us.  We will then send you a number of bookmarkers . . .


Bookmarkers!  You don't know how funny that sounds here.  And lads!
Don't you hate the word 'lads'?

Well, darling, keep up your spirits and behave just as though
everything were all right.  I'm fine myself and perhaps I'll get a
spot of leave soon.  Don't forget to write to Father and don't
forget to ask Mary to write to me.  Tell me what she was wearing
when you saw her last.  That's important--Your most loving brother,

                                                            TOM



The candle, stuck in a bottle with a collar of grease, flared up.
The flame was bright, pure, steady, of gold.

'There's a flame!' cried Benjie.

The Retreat had begun and with the rest of the Otriad he had been
flung into the little town of O----.  It was a place of dust,
whirling clouds of dust, dust in your eyes and mouth and nose.
This dust was blown by the wind and behind the thin spirals of it a
hot sun blazed.  Everywhere there was the Russian soldier, the
Russian soldier apathetic like a cow but humorous and touching
also.  He was everywhere, in the streets, on the dirty staircases,
crowding the tumbled untidy rooms; the Russian soldier and the
dust.

'I never want to see either of them again,' thought Benjie.

But he had cried out at the sudden flame.  It was evening and,
after the dust storms and the hot malignant sun, the pale blue of
the sky and the cool air were friendly.  The members of the Otriad
were lying or walking or sitting in the half-ruined building into
which Molozov, their chief, had turned them.  Benjie found this
place intolerable.  It was a long room with a naked gleaming floor
and an apparently endless succession of looking-glasses.  This
gleaming empty reflection was broken with an infernal clatter
through the open window of horses, soldiers and carts that rattled
on the cobbles.  There was a smell everywhere of dust and dung.

He went to see if he could be of any use with the wounded.  Going
out originally in August 1914 with two journalists who were friends
of his, he kicked his heels in Moscow for some weary months and at
last only found adventure by joining, after a week or two in a
Moscow hospital, a Red Cross unit attached to the Ninth Army.  They
had been sent to Galicia and, after some apparent victories, had
begun a retreat.  He would never forget the moment of that change
of fortune.  He and several soldiers had gone, under the charge of
a rather feckless Englishman called Trenchard, to the forest to
bury the dead.  This was not his own Otriad.  He had come over with
two of his own unit to pay this Otriad a visit.  It had been
pleasant to find another Englishman here, although no two men could
have been found more different than Benjie with his short thick
figure, his off-hand but commanding independent personality, and
this untidy, seemingly foolish Englishman who would wander about
singing Early One Morning in a cracked voice or, quite unexpectedly,
looking so wretched that you thought he would burst into tears.
Benjie was told that he had been engaged to a pretty, charming
nurse in his Otriad who had thrown him over.

Benjie was to return that same evening to his own Otriad.  But he
did not.  Under the trees of the forest he was looking at a dead
man--a man who had been dead some three weeks perhaps.  This man
was all right until you came to his face.  His strong blue-grey
trousers were in splendid condition and he had good stout boots.
Out of the top of one boot a tin spoon protruded.  But he had no
face, only a grinning skull, and in and out of the mouth and eye
sockets little black creatures like ants were crawling.  It was all
very peaceful there.  The sanitars began to dig a grave.  Some
quietly smoked cigarettes.  Then a sanitar observed that the
bursting of the shrapnel that had been dim and distant all day now
sounded much closer.  That was the beginning of the Retreat . . .

But it was at the town of O---- that he saw the sudden flame.  He
had been for nearly a week now with this Otriad that was not his
own.  He had begun to know them all--Molozov, the stocky square-
shouldered Chief who would say over and over again:  'There's no
method . . . no system . . . nothing at all . . .  By God, THERE'S
a pretty girl!'  Nikitin, a doctor who had a charming intellectual
face; a surgeon, Alexei Petrovitch Semyonov, a striking-looking
fellow, very thickset and muscular with a strange square-cut beard
of so fair a colour that in some lights it seemed almost white.  A
man of very strong personality and great self-confidence.  There
was the pretty Sister, Marie Ivanovna, and the feckless untidy
Englishman, Trenchard.  He made friends with them and liked them,
but they were nevertheless all shadows on a screen to him who had
his constant, secret preoccupations.

He found work to do in the vast room at O----.  This was a strange
place.  It had been the theatre of the town.  It was lit now with
candles stuck into bottles, and in this dim and wavering light the
doctors did their work.  The busy silence was broken with patient
plaintive cries of 'Oh, Steritza!  Oh, Steritza!' or 'Borj moi!
Borj moi!' and then the sharp official questions, 'What regiment?
What division?  Shrapnel or bullet?'

And across the stage at the back of the room was still hanging,
wavering in the draught, the painted backcloth of some old play.
This amused Benjie by its incongruity, for there was a picture of a
market-place in a town all very gaily painted, and down the marble
stairs flower-girls with legs like bolsters came merrily tripping
while soldiers in scarlet and blue drank with their girls at little
tables.

Meanwhile the real soldiers cried out in their agony 'Oh!  Oh!
Oh! . . .  Oh! Borj moi . . .  Borj moi!' as Nikitin and Semyonov
probed for bullets under the uncertain flame of the candles, and a
soldier in delirium sang a song about gathering the corn, in a
shrill broken voice.

The dominating square-bearded man, Semyonov, had stopped his work
for a moment and stood, his arms folded, looking on, beside Benjie.

'You seem to stand this pretty well,' he said.  'If it isn't
impertinent--how old are you?'

'Just gone sixty,' said Benjie.

'Yes.  You look fit.  Lose your arm in this War?'

'No.  In the Boer War.'

'Bad luck.'

'Oh, I'm used to it.'

'What do you think of us--the Russians, I mean?' Semyonov asked.

'Oh, you're plucky--marvellous.  I never saw such courage.  But
you're a bit muddled high up, aren't you?'

'Yes.  Hopeless.  Everyone's robbing and cheating and spying and
betraying.  It's a mess of a war altogether.  When do you think it
will end?'

'Never, I should think,' said Benjie.

'I agree.  Why don't you people do something on the other Front?'

'We're doing our best, I believe,' said Benjie.

'I believe you are.  But they're beginning to be impatient over
here.'  He turned angrily, and Benjie thought he had never seen a
more determined aggressive profile.  'There's that bloody fellow-
countryman of yours messing things up again.  Never saw a more
useless fellow in my life.'

'Oh, you mean Trenchard,' Benjie said.

'Yes.  I wish to God he'd get back to his own country.'

It was then that a candle, close at Benjie's elbow, flared.  It was
low down in its socket.  In the spurt of light Benjie thought that
he saw Vanessa.  She stood quietly there, smiling at Trenchard, who
was nervously bandaging the knee of a large patient-eyed soldier.
She smiled at him, then turned her eyes to Benjie's.  They drank in
one another's happiness.  Oh! how glad he was to see her again!
But she was not there.  Only the flame, bright, pure, steady.



And Sally, seeing it, said to Mary Worcester:  'Look, Mary!  That
light in the sky!'

Sally and Mary were looking out from behind the blinds in Cynthia's
house in Eaton Place.  Cynthia had taken the house six months ago.
It was small, compact, could be worked with four servants.
Everyone must make sacrifices now.

Ellis had died two months after Vanessa.  He had been lost,
bewildered; he had cried a great deal and would sit for hours, his
knees hunched up, staring like an old sick monkey at the closed
piano.  They had found him there one morning huddled up in the
chair dead.  So had passed away the son of Will's old age and great
hopes.

After his death Sally had gone to live with her father and Tom, and
then, when war broke out, Cynthia had taken her.  Although she was
now, at the beginning of 1916, over twelve years of ago, she did
not grow.  She did not herself mind.

'I'm like my great-grandmother.  She didn't grow, but nobody
cared.'

She never worried in the least about her own personal appearance,
as, in fact, her great-grandmother had done.  How many, many times
Judith Paris had wished that her legs were longer, but Sally
Herries didn't care a damn!

She was, Mary thought, regrettably tomboyish.  She didn't care how
she looked, how she sat, what clothes she wore.  She might be made
to look rather striking with her brown hair and pale face.  She
said she simply could not bother.  She was, at her present stage,
direct and honest to a terrible degree.  Loyal and warm-hearted, if
she liked anyone.  Unfortunately she did not like Mary nor did Mary
like her.  Mary considered that Sally was envious of her great
beauty and, further, that she was jealous of her because her adored
Tom thought Mary a queen and a goddess.

In the first of these there was no truth at all.  Sally DID think
Mary the most beautiful woman in the world.  She also thought her
the coldest and most selfish, and for this reason she resented
Tom's quite hopeless passion.  For Mary would never dream of
marrying a poor journalist like Tom.  She was extremely ambitious.
On the other hand, she was neither so cold nor so hard-hearted as
Sally supposed her.  The true basic reason for Sally's dislike of
Mary, however, was that Mary had no feeling about Vanessa.  Vanessa
was the principal abiding fact in Sally's life.  There never had
been, there never would be again, anyone like Sally's mother.
Sally was neither sentimental nor gushing, but deep in her nature
lived intense emotion.  All this, as yet, was given to the memory
of her mother.  She adored Tom, she liked her father, but they also
were part of Vanessa.

Now, for Mary, when someone was dead someone was dead.  Moreover,
she had not seen Vanessa very often and remembered her only as a
large rather calm lady with a broad white forehead and grey hair
parted in an old-fashioned way.  Also Vanessa had lived with a man
not her husband and of this Sally was the result.  Mary was
conventional.  She liked people to do the proper things.  So why
SHOULD she be passionate about Vanessa?  Twice she had spoken
rather slightingly to Sally about her mother--only in a joke of
course, but Mary's sense of humour was not very delicate.  She was
neither witty nor quick-witted.  Like other beautiful women, her
beauty was all she needed.

But, ironically, she had, if she had known it, something of the
beauty that Vanessa had had as a young woman.  She was tall, dark,
full-breasted.  She had been told that she carried herself like a
queen and never forgot it.  It was her tragedy, perhaps, that she
was moving into an age when carrying yourself like a queen would be
no longer an asset.

Sally knelt on a chair beside Mary and stared, from behind the
blind, at a dark and dead London.  No light showed anywhere.  Only
on the horizon there had flashed a sudden finger of light.

'A flame in the sky!' Sally cried.

'It's a searchlight,' said Mary.

Rosalind, a plain-faced, good-natured girl, was seated at the table
within the room, knitting.  They had all been knitting, making
chest-protectors.  The Ladies' Committee for which they worked
wanted body-belts, Warleigh leggings, gas masks, pneumonia jackets
and operation shirts.  Sally hated to knit and so did Mary.
Rosalind enjoyed it.

'Take care you don't show any light,' she said mildly, for the
penalty of failing to conform was actually One Hundred Pounds or
six months' imprisonment.  People were making blinds from old
curtains and women's skirts.

'Oh, that's all right!'  Sally came back to the table.  'I suppose
I must do my beastly algebra.  Oh dear, there's never any peace
these days!'

At first the War had been fun, then it had been a bore, now it was
rather terrible.  Many girls at school had lost their fathers and
brothers, and when it came to your best friend (whose name was
Charlotte Greene) having to leave because her father was killed and
there was no money in the family any more--why, then you positively
realized it.  Tom had been home on leave twice, and last time he
had been pale-faced, nervous and oddly silent.  But the worst was
Maurice, Alfred's son, who, two nights before he went back, alone
with Sally in his father's dining-room had, quite unexpectedly,
burst into tears.  He had been joking but a moment before.

'I don't want to go back!  I don't want to go back!' he had cried.

Sally had plenty of common sense.  She never lost her head, but if
at that moment it had been suggested that she should return to
France instead of Maurice, she would at once have agreed to go.

She stood by the table thinking of her father (so far away in
Russia, with only his one arm), of Tom who wrote such splendid
letters, of poor Maurice and of Gordon Newmark, who did not seem to
mind a bit and had won the DSO.  Standing there, thinking, it
seemed to Sally as though, across a dark stretch of water, there
was a black marshy land and down its length spread a vast scaly
dragon, flame issuing from its jaws.

'You funny little thing!' said Mary, who, drawn to her full height,
was looking very beautiful in front of the blind.  'What are you
thinking about?'

But Sally pushed past her and, on the other side of the blind,
stared into the dark.  Even as she looked a flame of light shot up
into the sky.



'THAT was a flash!' said Maurice Herries.

This was from one of the gas-projectors from the hill behind them.
They were hurling opened cylinders of gas on to the enemy position
some thousand yards away.  Maurice shivered.  Time was short.  He
ordered the morning rum issue to be taken round the platoons.  Then
suddenly there began a procession of 'whizz-bangs'.

Maurice stood there wishing that he might 'stop one' before he had
to go over the top.  It was that cold, terrifying moment half an
hour before the dawn when everything is clear and unmistakable like
hell.  'In another forty minutes I may be dead.  In another forty
minutes I may be sticking my bayonet into a Boche's belly, deep,
deep, as though into butter.  In forty minutes I may be mad with
pain, my sight gone, my body crippled for life . . .'

Many men did not think of those things.  Maurice was a poet.  He
thought Shakespeare, Blake and Gerard Manley Hopkins the three
greatest men in the world.  He loathed the mud and the filth and
the smells and Berkley Cannon, his best friend, dying in his arms,
and he loved the comradeship, the good humour, the courage and
friendly simplicity of common men, the moments of ecstasy . . . and
he hated this pause before action, hated it as he had never hated
anything in his life before.

He wondered whether a Boche attack had forestalled their own.
'Perhaps they have learned our plans and will shatter our huddled
groups before we leave our lines.'

Then the flame!  It stabbed the sky.  First the roar was one blow
as on a great sheet of iron, then after a pause another, then a
pause again and another.  Then one continuous throbbing thunder.
The shells screamed and a pillar of fire leaned up the wall of the
dim uncertain sky.  'Our barrage,' Maurice thought.  'Zero hour.'

Maurice shouted to his little group, they jumped out of the trench
and stumbled forward.  Now came the moment that he always dreaded,
when the group broke and one straggled forward singly, one little
mannikin in a world of malignant danger.  Through the noise as of
cannon-balls rolling down sheets of iron, there was the phut! phut!
of rifle bullets.  And there to the right are heads of Boches in a
shell hole shooting.  Trotter, a giant of a man, one of the
jolliest, most carefree and kindest, staggers, seems to leap on his
feet, crashes down.  'No, there is no chance for us tumbling
through this mud with these fellows shooting at us,' and he and
Conklin, Bush and two others have slithered down into a shell hole
and are firing over the top of it.  Conklin's face is smashed in.
We have got two of the Boches but more are running up.  The sky is
lightening, and the roar of the guns, and now the German guns,
thunders on--but by this time it is familiar, belonging to a world
that one knows, that is part of one, that is almost friendly.

Then Maurice 'stopped one'.  There was an impact on his right
shoulder as though a big stone had hit him.  No pain.  He slipped
down into the bottom of the shell hole and, staring upwards, was
aware now that the sky was much lighter and, to his great surprise,
that he was alone there except for Conklin who, his smashed face in
the mud, huddled at his feet.  His shoulder, his arm, his hand were
soaking wet, but still there was no pain.  He did not want to move.
He was quite happy.  A faint, a very faint blue was stealing into
the sky, and some small clouds, like rosy petals, seemed to his eye
to be dancing, gently and carefully, against the blue.

The thundering noise withdrew, and in front of his eyes, which he
soon must close, a small and delicate flame wavered.  The flame of
the candle that Sally had lit!  He smiled.  He would write a poem
about it, this small candleflame that neither the wind of the great
guns nor the delicate fleeciness of the morning clouds could put
out.  Pity that his father hated him to write poetry, thought all
books a mistake, wanted him to add up sums in the City.  He would
never add up sums, but he would write poems to the glory of England
as Rupert Brooke had done, or about old ships like Flecker . . .
He would carry on the glory of the Family, would go and live in
Cumberland, near the sea, in the valleys of which old Benjie
Herries had told him.  A face bent close to his.  Someone moved him
and a flame of pain licked his heart.  He cried out and the flame
moved up, spreading, glorious, golden, blotting out, with its
light, the whole world.  There were two flames . . .



The two flames burnt steadily, illuminating the mirror, lighting
the dressing-table, the pictures on the walls, of 'Queen Victoria
receiving the News of her Accession' and 'Dignity and Impudence',
the narrow bed and the small shining table beside it.

'The electric light's fused,' said Gordon Newmark, looking in at
the door.

'I know,' said Tom.  'I've found some candles.'  He sat in front of
the mirror, brushing his hair with his two old battered silver
brushes.

'Hurry up, you blighter,' Gordon said.

'All right.  I won't be a minute.'

Gordon Newmark was broad and tall and the pink of self-confidence.
Tom seemed gentle, small, submissive beside him.  Tom was thirty-
two and Gordon twenty-one, but Gordon had won the DSO, loved the
War--'best time I'm ever likely to have, old boy'--and was home now
on leave as a kind of conqueror, patronizing, in a jolly friendly
way, all the family, especially his old father and mother and his
sister Ada, who all adored him.  He was, if he had known it, the
recurrent Herries type, the type of old Pomfret, of Prosper--
Jennifer's father, of Rodney--Cynthia's grandfather, and especially
of Walter--Tom's great-grandfather.  But he didn't know it.  He
didn't care.  He was the triumphant, riding, roughshod, bullying
Herries.  But the type had softened, emasculated a bit.  He thought
old Benjie a dissolute old rogue and Tom a 'soft 'un' and Maurice
Herries 'a decent sort of ass who writes poems'; his type was as
far from the other as ever, in the family history, it had been, but
the two did not quarrel any more.  Life was beginning to move too
swiftly; you had too much to do to bother about quarrels.  The
Herries didn't fight any more.  But Gordon felt, all the same, a
sort of friendly scorn as he saw Tom struggling into his clothes.
Under the light of the candles Tom's face was serious, careworn,
too kindly to be aggressive.  'That's all he'll ever be,' Gordon
thought, 'a sort of second-rate journalist.  Thinks too much about
other people.  Almost a woman--about his old father, his kid
sister, his father's mistress who died.  I'd worry!' thought
Gordon, who hoped that night to pick up a pretty girl somewhere . . .
you needn't be too particular these days when you'd be returning
in a week's time to be killed maybe . . .  But Tom didn't want a
girl.  He was sweet on Mary Worcester.  Poor old Tom!  He hadn't a
dog's chance with that beautiful swollen-headed female!

Tom blew out the candles.  They groped their way down the dark
staircase.  Tom still stuck to the rooms in Tite Street.  In the
dark King's Road they found a taxi, and through a town of pitch
they plunged until the friendly arms of the Carlton Grill received
them.  Then they went to the Alhambra to see The Bing Boys for the
twentieth time, sang If you were the only girl in the world with
other of their slightly intoxicated fellows and roared at George
Robey whenever he lifted his eyebrows.

Afterwards they found a dingy door in Soho and behind it a yet
dingier nightclub known as 'The Five Pennies'.  Tom had not wanted
to go.  'Leave' was offering no attractions.  He wanted to be back
in France, although he didn't like that either.  Mary tortured him.
She liked him, he thought.  Sometimes he fancied that she more than
liked him, but he knew in his heart that he had no chance with her,
and knowing it loved her only the more desperately.  He had loved
her always.  He was chaste, having had no sexual experience
whatever, and this chastity seemed, just now, to separate him from
everybody.  Men, all men, seemed to be caught into a passionate
longing for sexual intercourse--any intercourse with anyone . . .
It was a hunger, the only solace for the filth, the fear, the cold,
the wounds, the long drawn-out tension of this fantastic trial.
And he?  He thought always of Vanessa and of Mary.  Of his father
and Sally and his friends as well, but Vanessa and Mary were always
with him, one of the kindest, gentlest, most understanding of
mothers, the other the loveliest, divinest of goddesses.  And he
could touch neither: one was a ghost, the other a dream . . .

As he sat in the small, fearfully hot and indecently smelling room
of 'The Five Pennies' he screwed his courage to the sticking point.
His life seemed just now to be running on hard lines, but it was
worse for others.  Worse for poor Maurice, for instance, who had
lost his arm, worse for hundreds, for thousands of fine men.  He
would stick it, but he wished that he had Gordon's hardy
indifference--Gordon who was, at this moment, talking to two women
with a carefree gaiety that made him seem the only really happy
person in the room.  A girl came and sat beside Tom.  He ordered
her a drink; drink was being served in coffee cups.  He watched
Gordon a little anxiously.  He knew that these places just now were
haunted by 'crows', women who made their men friends drunk, took
them on somewhere and robbed them of everything they had.  But
Gordon was no fool.  He knew a thing or two.

The girl at Tom's table was tired.  She complained, through the
raucous jazz music, in a weary little voice, of the violence and
callousness of men.  Men didn't seem to care.  They weren't kind
any more.  Generous, yes, but not kind.  Life wasn't really gay
although everyone pretended that it was.  Food was awful.  Why,
fancy, eggs were a luxury food.  Fancy eggs being a luxury!  Butter
was half a crown a pound and a chicken cost thirteen bob!  Why,
fancy a chicken costing . . .  So she went on, repeating everything
twice.

Suddenly, into the middle of the jazz, the laughter, the movement
of the dancers, a voice broke.  A tall swaying officer had pushed
into the middle of the floor, he was brushing the dancers aside.
He was drunk, of course.  And he cried out in a shrill scream:

'Blast this bloody war!  To hell with it!  Blast this bloody war!
To hell with the bloody war!  To hell . . .'

Two waiters caught hold of him and led him away.  People laughed.

'You see,' said the girl.  'That's just what I say.  What I mean to
say is that nobody really enjoys things much.  And they aren't kind
any more.  If you were a woman you'd agree with me.  And the women
aren't kind either.  What I mean to say is, it's affected
everybody, and how we're ever to get back to the way we were--'

'We'll never get back,' said Tom.

He was watching a man near him who held up, with a rather unsteady
hand, a lighter.  He pushed at his cigarette with it.  The little
flame burnt bravely, with a fine uprightness.  Then it went out.



KALEIDOSCOPE

II

Triumphal Arch


In the early days of 1917 Sally Herries had a strange experience.
It was at Cynthia's house in Eaton Place.

Altogether life was strange at this time, strange and yet familiar.
Sally was over thirteen years of age, went to school every day, did
on the whole what she was told, was calm and quiet and collected,
but suffered, at unexpected moments, extraordinary and poignant
longings for her mother--also, but less poignantly, for her father
and for Tom.

She had only a few friends, but in this dark uncertain world that
now surrounded everyone friendships were not important.  Some of
the girls at school she liked, but they had all now their own
especial interests--the ways in which they were helping the War,
brothers, fathers at the Front, food that had become important
because it was rationed, the personal experiences of air raids or
the second-hand experiences of emotionalists, rumour and story and
gossip; it seemed that all these things kept one apart from the
ordinary relationships of ordinary life.  Sally did not care.  At
Eaton Place she was quite alone.  Mary and Rosalind were too old,
Peile a silly (but kindly) old man, Cynthia infinitely distant.

But HOW fantastic a world it was!  That moment after dusk when all
the world was dark, the first experience of an air raid with the
alarm, the silence, the distant firing, the expectancy (not at all
frightening--pleasurable, like being at the theatre just before the
curtain went up), the rumours, the stories that people told, the
anxieties about Tom, about Gordon, the many women wearing black,
the tales that reached even her ears of the funny ways that
soldiers and their girlfriends had in places like Trafalgar Square
after dark . . .

She was aware that her family were behaving very finely.  She
herself caught some of the family pride.  It was really true, she
felt, that but for her family England and the War would be lost.
When she went to other people's houses--the houses of the parents
of her friends--she heard many very despairing remarks.  It would
make no difference, they said, that America had severed diplomatic
relations with Germany.  America would not be able to be in time,
we would all be defeated before America could do anything.  Someone
told a story about going into a tear-shell factory and weeping
tears enough to fill a jug.  People recounted horrible details of
wounds and suffering and lonely agonies.  Sally tried not to listen
but she HAD to . . .  Her imagination was vivid.  She saw these
dreadful things as though they were happening in front of her.  She
grew older very quickly.  People said that we were bound to be
beaten.  All the glory was gone.  We were led by idiotic Generals,
our politicians were impossible fools.  People said that it would
be better if we made terms with the Germans.  Let THEM have the
glory!

'Oh no!' Sally cried out in the house of kind Mrs Mickleham, the
mother of Connie Mickleham who was so clever at algebra.  'That
would be wicked!'  And for once she burst into tears and ran from
the room.

But INSIDE the family it was ALL quite different.  No one dreamt of
anything but complete victory.  We would go on for ever and ever
but victory must certainly be ours.

It was now that the Herries were seen at their very best.  Their
normality, their common sense, the absence of GRAB in their
natures, their non-property qualities, so to speak, their courage,
their indifference to facts that they refused to realize, enabled
them to become completely patriotic.  They loved their country
because their country depended on them and while THEY were there
all must be well.

Maurice came home without an arm and sat, with a white face,
staring into distance.  They were sorry for him but disregarded
him.  Gordon came home, filled with the War.  It was glorious.
When the Americans came in we would soon sweep the dirty Boche back
to Berlin.  He had extraordinary stories about the dirtiness of the
Boche, his meanness, cruelty, cowardice and savagery.  The Herries
on one side, the Germans on the other.  Who could doubt of the
result?

It was on one March evening that Sally had her funny little
adventure.

She had been doing her schoolwork in her cold little room at the
top of the house and remembered that her geography book was in the
dining-room.  She came downstairs for it.  The house was still and
plunged into that eerie dusk that seemed now to be always the
atmosphere of rooms and passages.  She reached the hall that had
only a light at the farthest end, near the kitchen stairs.  She
walked forward to the dining-room door and saw that a man was
hiding, close up against the wall, behind the umbrella stand.  He
was a little man with spectacles, a rather dirty face, and he was
in uniform.  As she saw him he whispered, but without moving from
the wall to which he seemed to be fastened, 'If yer say a word I'll
throttle yer.'

It was all part of the general strangeness, the half-light, the
silent streets, the sense of the War, prowling like a large cat
almost at one's very door, of Benjie somewhere in Russia, of Tom
underground in France eating plum and apple jam to the light of a
single candle, of that man weeping a bucket of tears in the
factory, of Maurice without an arm, that this little man should be
pinned against the wall of the house in Eaton Place.

She saw that he was very frightened and she wanted to give him
something.  She gave him half a crown that she was saving to buy
something for Tom with.

He said 'Gawd bless yer, miss', and in another moment had opened
the hall door and slipped away, letting into the house a blast of
cold biting air before the door closed.  She stood there wondering.
What had he wanted?  Had he come to steal?  He looked very unhappy.
He was a piece of the War.  She had encountered the War.  She
continued quickly to grow up.



Her father, crossing a small snow-covered square in Petrograd,
heard a strange sound.  He was walking with a little black-bearded
Jew, Konrad Mathias.  Mathias had just said:  'It is between
personality and non-personality.  Everything comes down to that.
Am I, Konrad Mathias, an individual with a history, an important
history like no one else's, or am I a little gas, a little acid, a
little water, dissipated at the prick of a pin? . . .  Do you see?
Am I Konrad Mathias?  Am I?  Am I?'

'I should think you probably are,' Benjie had said, looking at a
church dome, a brilliant green against the burning blue of the sky.
The snow sparkled at his feet.  'I like this,' he said.  'The
green, the blue, the sparkling snow.  It stirs me--not the acid and
water in me, I think.  Or is it?'

'No, no!'  Little Mathias, in his black woolly fur cap, jumped on
the snow.

'Well, I don't know,' Benjie said.  'The individual can't be very
important.  If the world goes topsy-turvy the individual starves
and is very quickly gas and water again.  There's a revolution in
South America and Mr Smith in London loses his job.  His child dies
because it hasn't enough nourishment.  It's the revolution that
matters.  Certainly not Mr Smith.'

'Oh, you're wrong,' Mathias cried.  'What if he does lose his job?
He's losing it or gaining it all the time.  Everyone in a lifetime
meets his personal crisis whether there's a revolution or not.
Birth, love, death, economic struggle, falling out of love with
one's wife, seeing a pretty girl round the corner, having a
suspicion there's a God, then deciding there isn't.  Always the
same crisis turning up for everybody.  The hoops of the circus--you
must jump through them.  That's fate.  The way you jump.  That's
free will and is the only thing that matters.  It's the individual
who is always different.  How will you meet this?  A toothache,
syphilis, cancer, a sudden bit of success.  That's history.'

'Then you believe in God?'

'Of course I do.  Only He doesn't interfere.  He sets the scene.
You play your part.  I've been about the world a lot.  It's
everywhere the same.  Are you a realist or a romantic?  If you're
the first it will be the dates, the scientific facts, the large
movements, the cold truth that will seem to you to be important.
If you're the second it will be the things behind the facts--what
each man does with his soul.'

'You think man has a soul?'

'A spiritual life?  Of course.  It's the only thing that squares
the facts.'

'Is there a life after death, do you think?' Benjie asked more
eagerly than he had intended.

'Life?  Death?  There's always death.  Every man is living and
dying all the time.  But PHYSICAL death--that's not important.  Men
are so thoughtless.  And they worry about the wrong things.'

'So you think the old world is finished?'

'Of course it is.  And the new one will take a long while settling
itself.  But that doesn't matter.  Men will have their personal
histories just the same.  Why, take myself!  I'm fifty-five--a Jew
of no importance whatever.  But I was afraid for years, afraid of
everything and everyone.  Thought people despised me.  And I was
greedy too.  Now I'm not often afraid and not greedy.  That's more
important than a revolution.  Not because I am important, mind you--
no more and no less than the next man--but it's important to God
that I should get a move on.  More important than that Napoleon
should win Austerlitz or Rasputin be murdered.'

'But Rasputin's death has affected millions.'

'No.  Only provided situations for men to meet.  They'd meet them
in one fashion or another in any case.'

It was then that Benjie heard the noise.  It was like the sharp
cracking of twigs.  The scene was very peaceful.  At the end of the
square was the canal and along the side of it a cab was slowly
crawling, the isvostchik, in his fat clothes, bunched up on the
seat.  Some birds flew slowly across the blue.  Some church bells
were ringing.  It was about three in the afternoon.

A moment later it was as though the blue sky had burst and poured
confusion on to the earth.  Down the path by the canal a mob of
people, shouting, crying, came pouring, and on to the square from
the other end rolled a lorry, piled high with soldiers, bristling
with rifles.  The lorry stayed still.  A man came running from the
canal.  He ran a little way into the square, outlined very sharply
against the snow.  He stopped and looked back at the people.  Then
from the lorry there came a noise like the clearing of a throat,
and the man ran a step, stood, crumpled at the knees, fell, raised
himself, fell flat, wriggled like a worm and lay still.

Benjie had known many bad moments in his life but none so bad as
this one--for there he was, isolated, alone in all that gleaming,
glittering colour.  He must run for miles, it seemed, before he
could reach security.  But Mathias was already running.  An absurd
notion came to Benjie that it would be undignified to run.  He
walked slowly, his hand in his pocket.  But now many people were
running into the square, and as they did so a red light rose like a
fan above the houses and spread into the blue.

He walked slowly and as he went repeated to himself like a man in a
dream, aloud:  'This is Revolution.  This is Revolution.'  Then he
saw the square flooded with people.  They were shouting:  'To the
Nevski!'  'No, no, to the Duma!'

He was carried with the crowd . . .



And it was now September.  Tom on leave, walking down Piccadilly,
heard the air-raid warning.  Instinctively he hurried his step and
then slowed down again.  For what did it matter?

He had come from half an hour with the lovely Mary.  On his way
there he had thought:  'Well, now, tonight I'll ask her.  She will
be sorry for me, perhaps, moved because next week I return to
France.  She will think "Oh, poor boy".  And she will be kind.'  As
he had walked towards Eaton Place his love--that had been part of
him for so long now, that had gained so terribly in intensity out
there where every homeward vision shone with a mystical light--his
love had dried and constricted his heart so that it was a
shrivelling little ball in his body.  Away, beyond the houses, not
far distant, somewhere hanging in the pale September sky was his
hope.  He would say:

'Mary, I have loved you so long.  Let me go back with just this to
remember!  I may not return.  Be kind to me.'  A weak, cowardly
sort of prayer, but he was beyond all pride now.  He wanted her so.
His thoughts were lascivious and pure, of the body and the soul,
all things together.  Oh! if she would only be kind!

And she had been kind--kind and abstracted.  Her eyes had rested on
him without seeing him, and then she had been suddenly aware that
she must do something about this poor man who had loved her since
she was a child and was so good and patient and so tiresome.  And
next week he would return to France and would suffer horrors,
perhaps, would be frightened and tired and lonely.

Comprehension came into her eyes.  She saw Tom.  She wanted to be
good to him.  She asked him questions about the Front.

But he knew that it was only kindness.  He refused a second cup of
tea and went.

So he did not mind now if there were an air raid.  The omnibuses
seemed to hasten, and soon, as he neared the Circus, the streets
were quite empty.  This was the week when there were almost daily
air raids.  They said that people's nerves were beginning to go,
and Tom remembered how a friend had told him that, two nights ago,
he had walked down a street in Pimlico during a raid and that it
had been naked, empty, shining, but that behind every window people
were playing pianos.

No pianos here.  Nothing but the Circus, bare as though set for a
scene in a theatre.  The firing came nearer and flashes lit the
sky.  Light hit the Circus and sprang away.  But nothing happened.
The all-clear sounded.  He went on a bus back to Chelsea.

During the remaining days of his leave he found that he could
endure no one but Sally.  For the first time he was afraid that his
nerve was breaking.  He was so TIRED of it--sick to death of it
all, he was.  And worst was the chatter.  He lunched with Alfred
and listened to Gordon.  He lunched with Cynthia and listened to
poor old Peile.  He heard that Sir Henry Wilson was sold to the
French, that 100,000,000 had been spent on gas, that German
cruisers were lying off Harwich, that . . .  Oh, what did it
matter?  Everything was unreal now.  Life itself was unreal, the
physical processes of the body, the putting on of a collar,
brushing one's teeth . . .

He went to entertainments, heard Beecham conduct Figaro, saw a
farce, was made miserable by a musical comedy.  All these were
unreal.

But Sally was real.  He had always loved her with that patient,
unchanging, unfaltering devotion that was so especially his.  He
delighted in the growth that he saw in her.  Although she was so
young she had great common sense, courage and much humour.  And, in
one way or another, she constantly reminded him of Vanessa.  She
had Vanessa's integrity.

On the last evening before his return they talked.

'I wish I was going with you, Tom,' Sally said.

'Do you?' he laughed.  'You wouldn't like it.'

'No, of course I shouldn't.  The girls at school all wanted to go
once, were dying for the time when they'd be grown up enough to be
nurses or something, but now they're not so keen.  I don't want to
go for any adventurous reason.  Only to help.'

'You do help,' he said, 'by staying quietly here and being good-
humoured and patient.'

'How long do you think it will last, Tom?'

'Oh, I don't know.'  He was holding her small but strong hand in
his.  'I've given up prophesying.'

'Do you think that after all we may be beaten?'  Her voice sank
into an awed whisper.

'No.  The Germans won't last as long as we will--not now the
Americans have come in.'

'Yes--but the Russians won't fight any more now, will they?'  She
seemed to be looking into great distances.  'I wonder how Daddy
is?'

'Oh, he'll be all right wherever he is,' said Tom.

'When I grow up I hope I shan't forget all I feel now.  Don't you,
Tom?  It would be awful if when we're older we all forgot how
horrid it all is and let there be another war.'

She sat on the edge of his chair and put her arms round his neck.

She produced a present, a scarf that she had knitted.

'It isn't very good.  I'm not clever with my fingers and, to tell
you the truth, I'd have hated the bother if it had been for anyone
else.'

So he went back again, trying not to think of Mary.  But he didn't
think of anyone much.  He was terribly tired, not in the body but
in the head.  And he dreaded the noise.  It would be almost better
to be dead, because then at least there would be quiet.



And Maurice, the son of Alfred, the son of Amery (thin-legged,
dyspeptic, high-stocked, over-large Adam's apple), the son of
Durward (of Rocklington Hall; stout, plethoric, fine calves), the
son of Pelham (stubborn, hot-tempered), the son of Grandison
(exceedingly stout, dewlapped like a bull, intimate with St John),
son of Robert (stout, good-natured sot, gambler and humorist, a
friend of Charles II), son of Robert who first brought distinction
on the family by breeding bullocks in Wiltshire and marrying a
Scottish heiress--(he was son of the Herries who came to watch
German miners in Borrowdale in his Queen's service, that cross-
grained bitter fellow whose portrait hung in the Herries house in
Rosthwaite and later at the Fortress)--well, what of Maurice?

Not very much.  'A poor reward for all the trouble I've taken,' his
father would think, looking at him.  'What if he HAS lost an arm?
So have lots of other fellows, and worse, blinded, tubes in their
stomach, mice in the brain--and there he sits, doing nothing but
stare or read or listen to high-class music on the gramophone.  Can
hardly believe he's my son.  Rotten pessimist too.  No patriotism.
I believe he likes the Germans better than the English.'

So Alfred told him one day at lunch:

'My God, Maurice, I believe you'd rather be a German than an
Englishman.'

Maurice gave him a queer look.

'I'd rather be anything than a Herries,' he said.

For by this time in the spring of 1918 he was very, very tired of
his family.  It was May and the Billing-Maud Allan case was amusing
everyone at the Courts.  That the case was poisonously hysterical
startled nobody.  The Family--Alfred, Gordon, Cynthia--alluded
darkly to perversion.  'We must sweep these abnormalities from our
national life,' wheezed old Horace.  'It's a splendid thing for
England that this cancer should be revealed.'  But he confided
privately to Maurice:  'I know what you're feeling, my boy.  To
tell you the truth, I'm not as optimistic as I used to be.  But one
has to put a brave face on things.'

'Why?' asked Maurice.

Horace didn't exactly know.  He supposed that he had always been
determined to see the bright side of things.  All his life it had
been the same.  After all it wasn't life that was important but the
way that you dealt with it.  Some writer had said that somewhere,
and he thought that it was very true.  He wheezed in his chair (his
heart was bad) and looked bravely, through rheumy eyes, into
Maurice's face.

'I've been laughed at all my life,' he said.  'I've wanted people
to like me and they've only laughed at me.  I've thought I've done
my best, but I can see now that I've failed.  My sister went on the
streets and died there, and everyone's found me a bore.'  He sat
there; a thick heavy tear trickled on to his fat cheek and stayed
there.  He brushed it away.

'All the same,' he said, 'even if I've made a mess of things, what
I say is true all the same.  It's better to be cheerful and it
needs a lot of obstinacy.  Cheer up, Maurice.  You might have lost
both your legs, you know.'

But Maurice couldn't cheer up.  His father, his sister, all the
Herries save little Sally, drove him mad.  He thought perhaps that
he was going mad.  There were times when the guns sounded so loudly
in his ears that he could hear nothing else.  He would sit in his
bedroom and try to read Joyce or T. S. Eliot or D. H. Lawrence.
Beautiful, wonderful things their books had in them.  They told the
truth at last.  For centuries writers had been lying about life,
but now no honest writer need ever deceive again.  Lawrence seemed
to him a kind of young god, fighting all the hypocrisies, the
prejudices, the falsities of mankind, and fighting all alone, his
back to the wall.  He had been persecuted by the damned interfering
authorities simply because he protested against this bloody war.
And then, when Maurice thought of the authorities (he saw them as a
fat, red-tabbed crimson-faced officer screaming at some trembling
private . . .), he would get up and walk about his room, and the
stump of his arm would ache and the guns would sound in his ears
and strange fierce lights would flash over the dressing-table and
crimson the eiderdown on his bed.

There came a night when he thought that he would end it.  He woke
at an early hour of grey dawn and a voice said, quite clearly, in
his ear:  'Come on.  Put an end to this.  You've had enough of it.
You're never going to be any good at anything.  Never.  Life is
endless.'

So, as though obedient to a command, he got out of bed and wondered
what he would do.  Should he go down to the kitchen and turn on the
gas?  That seemed a long business and would need a lot of
arranging.  He had a penknife.  Should he cut an artery?  A messy
affair.  Should he throw himself from his bedroom window?  That
might not finish him.  He walked up and down, followed, it seemed
to him, by this persuasive voice.

'Go on, you're no good.  You're spoilt and finished.  Better get
out of it . . .'

At last he sat down in the chair by the ash-strewn fire and burst
into tears.  He cried and cried as though he never would stop.
Then he fell asleep in the chair where he was.

A poor affair.  Nothing fine about it anywhere.  He had a job those
last months in the Ministry of Information and so he walked, alone
and unattended save by his private demon, from one place to
another . . .



About half past ten on Monday morning, November 11th, Benjie went
into Hatchard's bookshop.  While waiting there he was accosted by a
stout pale-faced gentleman who said to him:  'I say--the Armistice
is signed.'

'Oh, is it?' said Benjie, bought his book and walked into
Piccadilly.  There was no sign anywhere of excitement--the buses
rolled along, people passed on their business, a young man stood
with his eyes seriously fixed on Mr Jackson's appetizing window.

Benjie had moved from Chelsea after his return from Russia and had
rooms now in Ryder Street.  As he was about to turn into Jermyn
Street he spoke to an old man with newspapers.

'Is it true,' he asked, 'that the Armistice is signed?'

'Can't say, sir, I'm sure,' the old man answered, rubbing his nose
with the back of his hand.

'Very strange,' Benjie thought.  'This is the moment for which we
have all been passionately waiting and no one cares, no one cares
at all.'

Entering his flat he saw Sally and Tom sitting together on the
sofa.

'Hullo!' he said.  'What are you two doing here?'

'Tom found me in Piccadilly,' Sally explained.

'Why aren't you at school?'

'There's mumps.  We were all sent off this morning.'  Then she
added:  'Tom says the Armistice is signed.'

The valet of the flats came out of Benjie's bedroom with a suit
over his arm.

'Bailey,' Benjie said, 'the Armistice is signed.'

'Indeed, sir,' said Bailey.  'I'm very glad, I'm sure.  A great
relief to everyone.  Will you be in to luncheon?'

'Yes--no.  Look here, we'll go and celebrate somewhere.'

He looked at both of them.

'Are you sure it's true?' he asked Tom.

'Oh yes--quite sure.  The paper had it in an hour ago.'

'This is all wrong,' Benjie thought.  He went to the window and
glanced down into Ryder Street.  No one was stirring.

He looked back at them.  'One day in Russia,' he said, 'about a
week after the March Revolution, I got caught in the crowd.  We all
marched singing through the streets.  Everybody was singing.  It
was the most marvellous thing . . .  Well, why aren't we singing?
The greatest and most horrible war in history is over.'

'I suppose we can't realize it,' said Tom.  'And we're all rather
tired.'

'Yes, we're all rather tired,' Benjie thought, 'and we're going to
be tired for years and years.  Perhaps nobody will have the energy
to sing again.'

'All the same,' he added aloud, 'it's something that men aren't
going to be killed any more.  That's something.'

At that moment they heard the maroons going off and the silver
clock on the mantelpiece struck in its thin surprised tone eleven
o'clock.  They all went to the window and saw people pouring into
the street.  From every door they seemed to be coming.  Men,
without hats, rushed out, waving their arms.  Flinging the window
open, Benjie could hear distant shouting.

'Come on,' he said.  'Let's go out and see the sights.'

After that they were part of a vast, wild, cheering and yet oddly
unexcited crowd.  That at least was what Benjie felt, as though all
these people said to him with one voice (not a loud voice--almost a
whisper):  'It is right for us to be excited.  We've won a great
war, but life is changed.  We can never be quite so light-hearted
and careless again.  Once, not so very long ago, on Mafeking night,
we all went mad.  But we shan't go mad now.  We have to behave as
though we were gloriously happy.  But we are not.  By tonight we
may be drunk a little and make a noise, but it doesn't mean
anything.'

Nevertheless, with Sally close at his side, he could not but feel
that something was accomplished.  Another phase of history, another
phase of his own life, was closed.  His adventurous days were over
and so too, maybe, were the adventurous days of the world.  It
would be all cold mechanism now--mechanism, science, a remorseless
progress.

He had a sudden longing for Vanessa and at that same moment Sally
said:  'How I wish that Mother was here!'  He pressed her arm close
to him.  So long as Sally was alive things would not be mechanical.
She was too individual for that.

They had pushed their way to Trafalgar Square, but here they were
brought to a standstill.  A thick unbroken mass of humanity.  Men
were shouting and singing, girls waving.  But Benjie felt that
everyone was waiting for something.  That moment of singing in
Petrograd would not be recovered here.  It would never be
recovered.  It had been a moment of extravagant idealistic hope.

'There should be a Triumphal Arch,' he thought.  'Here in front of
the lions.  And everyone should march away under it, swearing as
they passed beneath it that never again would men hate, plunder, be
greedy . . .  Never again!'  He smiled.  Not bad nonsense for an
old cynic like himself.  That was the sort of thing that old Horace
would say.  Alfred and Gordon and the others would have a fine time
tonight.  They at least would be happy, for they had won the War
and were Lords of the Earth.

But not perhaps for long.  The battle was not over yet between the
Maurices and the Gordons, the Cynthias and the Vanessas.

'Come on,' he said.  'We'll go to the Berkeley and have a feed.'

A thin rain had begun to fall.  There was no Triumphal Arch.  As
they pushed their way slowly Benjie saw a soldier, motionless,
staring, unshifted by the crowd.  'Perhaps he's thinking that now
he won't be killed.  He won't have to go back to that hell.  That's
something anyway.'

He thought constantly of Vanessa.  If she were here how happy she
would be that he was safe now, and that Tom was safe.  She would be
happy for all the women all over the world.

All the women!  Yes, that was something.

But there was no Triumphal Arch.



SALLY AND TOM


Cynthia gave Gordon Newmark a theatre party on his thirtieth
birthday (he was thirty on February 4th, 1925) and Sally and old
Horace Ormerod and Rosalind and Adrian came too.  Cynthia (who was
now over sixty, although you would never think it unless you looked
at her neck), had a weakness for Gordon and hoped that, with
judicious management, he might be induced to marry her daughter
Rosalind.  Rosalind was a good girl, had the best character in the
world, and, although she was on the plain side and was now over
thirty, would make a good wife for Gordon.  Gordon once might have
married her, for he was just the kind of man to appreciate good
solid wearing qualities in a wife, but after the deaths of old
Sidney and Mary Newmark (they died within a week or two of one
another) it was discovered that their children, Gordon and Ada,
would have large fortunes.  Gordon was, of course, in his
grandfather's business but made his headquarters in London.  He was
of another generation from old Horace Newmark, who thought that
there was no city in the world to equal Manchester.  Gordon was
good-looking, with clear-cut features (a little too clear-cut
perhaps) and that fashion that cropped up again and again in
Herries businessmen of wearing clothes that looked too immaculate
to be human.  He was an agreeable well-mannered fellow, proud of
his own looks, his D S O, his business ability, his family and his
'I like a man with no nonsense about him'--one of his favourite
sayings.  He intended a little later to go into politics and he
would have a peerage before he finished.  But first he must marry,
and Cynthia hoped that in spite of his money, his profile and his
self-confidence he might marry Rosalind.

For alas, neither Mary nor Rosalind was yet married.  It was too
extraordinary!  Mary was still lovely, but for some reason young
men didn't propose to her.  They came up to her, looked at her with
wonder in their eyes and went away again.  The fact was that,
thirty years earlier, when Vanessa ruled Hill Street, Mary would
have been exactly what everyone wanted--beautiful, dignified,
graceful, and not too clever.  Now the young men (who after all had
served their country) wanted something more lively.

So Cynthia had her troubles.  Peile was aged and, although his
figure was still good, this new post-War world appeared to have
struck him dumb with amazement.  It had been, at one time, the
middle classes that had seemed to him astonishing.  He had appealed
to his Herries relations to save the country.  But the job had
been, it seemed, altogether too much for his relatives.  So now,
standing on his thin aristocratic legs, looking at the Income Tax
and the closing of the great houses of England and the young women
who looked like boys and the young men who looked like girls, he
could only stare and stutter and gasp.

So he was not of very much use to Cynthia, who, from the house in
Eaton Place, did what she could, looking now like a rather pretty
little pig, with her hair a little too yellow, her cheeks a little
too pink, her skirts a little too short, and her neck (in spite of
all she could do) a little too wrinkled.

She had invited Sally to the theatre party because she had invited
old Horace.  She had had no intention of asking Horace, but one
afternoon when he had called on her and had sat there looking so
old and pathetic, her heart (which was still kindly when she gave
it an opportunity) was moved to say:  'Well, Horace, you must come
to the theatre with us.  Come next week.  We are going to that play
that everyone is talking about--by a new young man whose name I
forget.  They say he's extraordinarily clever and only left school
last year.'  Horace, who was now nearing seventy, had purple
streaks on either side of his nose, an unwieldy stomach, and a
cheery smile that was habit rather than intention (and so seemed to
Cynthia terribly pathetic), said eagerly that he'd love to come.
He was free practically any night next week.

('What a bore!' thought Cynthia.  'Whatever did I ask him for?')

Having done so she must also invite Sally, for the strange thing
was (one of the many strange things about Sally) that she was
attached to Horace; she was kind to him and never showed him that
sharp tongue and penetrating criticism only too apparent with
others.  Sally would look after Horace.  It was a pity that Gordon
did not like Sally.  That, however, would throw Gordon all the more
into Rosalind's company, and she, Cynthia, could be amused by
Adrian, who was elegant, witty, drily cynical, and knew the private
behaviour of everyone.

So they went to The Vortex.  They met at the theatre because the
play began early, and instead of dinner before they would have
supper at the Savoy Grill afterwards.  Sally was the first to
arrive and Gordon the second.  Each was annoyed at seeing the
other.

'Who else is coming?' asked Gordon.

'Horace.'

'Horace?  Oh Lord, what a bore!'

'Why?' said Sally.

'Oh, well, he's a bit comic,' said Gordon.

'Comic?' said Sally.  'So's everyone.  I am--you are.'

Gordon said nothing but he was greatly annoyed.  HE comic?  You
might call him anything you like--everyone with personality has
detractors--but comic?  He looked at Sally with great distaste.
Her hair, which had now lost its carroty shade and was a plain dark
brown, was bobbed in the new fashion.  With a few more inches and a
little more colour she would not have been so bad.  She was slim,
her eyes and mouth were bright, alive--too alive, perhaps, for he
hated young girls to look sarcastic.  She was unlike other girls
and that he also disliked.  The height of good form, he thought,
was that you should not attract attention in a crowd.  Of course if
you were a BEAUTIFUL woman, that was another matter.  No one could
call Sally Herries beautiful, and there she was, thinking no end of
herself, secretary to some old Jew (she worked because she liked
it, not because she had to), living in the most independent manner
with another girl, illegitimate (although of course in these days
no one minded that) and, worst of all, Benjie Herries' daughter.
Now that Gordon considered himself the head of the Herries family
and responsible for its good behaviour, he greatly regretted
Benjie, who, in spite of his being seventy and having only one arm,
often behaved outrageously and had some dreadful friends.

So Gordon ('Who IS that handsome man?' someone, standing near him
in the foyer, asked her companion.  'What splendid features!  He
looks like an actor.') and Sally stood there disliking one another
exceedingly.  The others arrived and they all went in.  Soon the
curtain went up, and the young author of the play, himself playing
the lead, began to tell the other characters exactly what he
thought of them.

Cynthia, as she listened, became more and more uncomfortable.  What
a VERY queer collection of people!  The mother, with her cropped
hair, her painted face, her passion for cigarettes and cocktails,
was of course nothing like Cynthia, and it made it all the queerer
that the part should be acted by nice Miss Lilian Braithwaite, whom
Cynthia knew well, a charming woman with nothing very modern about
her.  No, the mother on the stage was nothing like Cynthia, who was
received everywhere, and by the young people especially, with the
greatest warmth.  She so often said:  'I don't feel a day more than
thirty', and it was true, she did not, unless her neuritis
bothered, or chance had forced upon her a succession of late
nights.  No, she did not resemble this woman in any way nor did any
of the friends of Mary or Rosalind resemble the girl with the Eton
crop, played by Miss Molly Kerr, or the dreadful young man whom
Noel Coward presented so vigorously.  When the curtain went down
she turned to Adrian.

'Well I never--what an extraordinary lot of people!'

Adrian, whose eyelids were always a little weary like Mr Pater's
Monna Lisa's, said:  'Oh, do you think so?  There are lots like
them nowadays!'

'Surely not!'

He waited a little.  Then he said:

'When I see this sort of thing, I think of Vanessa.  I never forget
her as I saw her first at a ball.  She was dressed in white, with
her dark hair piled on the top of her head.  I have never seen
anything so beautiful before or since.'

'Poor Vanessa!' said Cynthia.  'How terrible she would think all of
this!'

'Not at all,' Adrian said sharply.  'She was too simple to be
frightened off by external differences.  She would be shy, of
course, and think that she was being stupid, but she would make
friends with that boy and girl in no time.  There's been nobody
like her since she died.'

'Oh, do you think so?  Well, if you come to that, nobody's like
anybody, are they?  But I can't agree with you, Adrian.  Vanessa
would be miserable in a world like this.  She wouldn't know how to
adapt herself.'

'She wouldn't try to,' said Adrian rather crossly.  'She'd just be
natural.  Of course some people would find her dull.  Some people
always did.  But others--she'd be just what they are always looking
for now and can't find.'

('Adrian's getting a bore,' Cynthia thought.  'And old--a fussy old
Foreign Office bachelor.')

Sally took Horace for a stroll.

'Are you enjoying yourself, Horace dear?' she asked him.

'Oh, I should just think I am!' he answered her in his full
philanthropic voice.  'I enjoy everything.  When you get to my age,
my dear, you'll realize how true it is what Stevenson once said:
"We all ought to be as happy as kings."'

'Your tie's up at the back of your collar,' Sally said critically.
'What a whacking lie if Stevenson ever did say that.  And you know
you don't mean it, Horace.  Even though you've been pretending to
be jolly all your life you needn't pretend it now with me.'

'But I AM enjoying the play,' he said a little sheepishly.  'I
don't go so often to the theatre nowadays, you know.  I like a
jaunt.  I'm a lonely old widower and a bit of fun does me good.'

Behind his red cheeks and large round glasses and protruding chin
there was fear: fear of illness, fear of being laughed at, fear of
solitude at the last and, above all, fear of being left behind.
Sally knew that it was true, that the world found Horace a dreadful
bore, that men at the Club slipped away as he approached, that
young men laughed at him and that all his relations despised him.
She was fond of him because she knew all these things.

'Lonely!  Of course you're not!' she said cheerfully.  'Look here,
come and have tea with Margaret and me tomorrow afternoon.  I've
got an afternoon off.  My old Jew's going down to Brighton.'

'Oh, thank you, my dear.'  Horace's glasses beamed.  'I should
enjoy it immensely.  I like your friend Margaret.'

'Margaret's a pet,' said Sally.

'And when is your father returning from South Africa?'

'Oh, any day now.'

'And Tom--how's Tom getting on?'

'Very well indeed.  He writes some of the leaders now.'

That's fine,' said Horace, looking proudly about him.  Here he was
with a splendid girl--a true representative of the young generation--
and she had asked him to tea, and Cynthia, one of the smartest
women in London, had invited him to the theatre, and he belonged to
one of the most prominent families in England.  He forgot, in his
sudden exuberance, the faded gloom of his rooms in Jermyn Street,
the surly indifference of his manservant, and the rude manner with
which Alfred had turned his back on him a few days ago.

He had always said:  'I don't know what it is, but there's a sort
of inner happiness in me which nothing can destroy.'  It wasn't
quite true any longer and he had never realized that his
consciousness of it had been, in the past, one of the principal
reasons for his unpopularity, but it was true enough at the moment
for him to look at all the men near him with a certain kindly
condescension as though they had all just fallen into the water and
he was there, with a strong manly hand, ready to pull them out
again.

Cynthia and Adrian joined them.

('Why is it,' Sally had once asked Tom, 'that all the members of
our family move about as though they had just opened public
buildings?')

'I think the play's absurd,' said Cynthia.  'I never saw such
people!'

'Oh, do you?' said Sally.  'There are lots of them about.  I'm
rather like it myself.'

She wasn't and she knew that she wasn't, but it pleased her to
irritate Cynthia.

At that moment Adrian brought up a man.  'Cynthia, this is a friend
of mine at the Foreign Office--Arnold Young.'

The man was perhaps about five-and-twenty, slim, tall, fair-haired.
He had a weak chin, a mouth with humour and bright blue eyes.  He
looked weak and amiable, as though he needed caring for and would
be charming if you cared for him.

Sally looked at him and her heart was moved.  He instantly smiled.
'You were rather like a choir boy,' he told her afterwards, 'who
was bored to death with the sermon.'

The bell rang and they turned into the passage.

'Do you like this play?' the young man asked Sally.

'Oh, frightfully!'

'Isn't Noel Coward marvellous?'

'Simply marvellous.'

And just as they reached the stalls he said to her:

'I say--I hope we meet again somewhere.'

They must have met somewhere again very shortly after this,
because, about a week later, Sally had this conversation with Tom.

Tom, who was a concrete Conservative, still inhabited the rooms in
Tite Street.

Tom was now forty-one years of age.  He was heavily built but not
stout, short and square-shouldered, with a pale, anxious, extremely
kindly face.  Many years of journalism had not changed him.  He was
dressed in a black coat, black tie, striped dark trousers always.
He played golf a little, and in the summer tennis a little.  He
liked his work but was not enthusiastic about it.  He had only two
passions--Cumberland and the few people he loved--Vanessa, his
father, Mary and Sally.  Over these four (Vanessa's ghost was
certainly one of them) he watched and worried until they would
sometimes scream with annoyance.  He knew this and now did all he
could to hide his care for them.  He pretended to be quite
indifferent as to whether they came or went.  He was even a little
afraid of letting Vanessa's ghost know how often he thought of her!
Because he cared for his father less than for the others he
irritated him the least.  Besides, in these days, Benjie was often
abroad.  But Mary and Sally were simply his whole world.  When they
snapped at him, as they frequently did, he would slowly flush and
blame himself for being so tiresome.  Curiously, in relation to the
rest of the world he was rather indifferent.  Men in Fleet Street
both respected and liked him.  He was not clever enough to rouse
their jealousy and he was always ready to do someone a turn, not
from sentiment but simply because he was good-natured.

But that world hardly existed for him.  He would have been a better
journalist if it had.  When he could snatch a night or two he would
hurry up to Cumberland.  There was a farm between Grange and Cat
Bells where he always had a bedroom.  Then he would walk, generally
alone.  He knew the Tops like his London bedroom wallpaper.

Sally loved him and bullied him.  It exasperated her that year
after year he should long for Mary Worcester who would never marry
him.  With glee she told him one day that people said that she was
going to marry the young Duke of Wrexe.

'Funny, isn't it?  History repeats itself.  Our great-grandmother
was engaged for a while to the Duke of Wrexe of her day.  The
lovely Jennifer--lovely and stupid like Mary.'

However, the young Duke of Wrexe married an American girl.

'Why do you tease me about Mary, Sally?' Tom asked her once.  'I
never mention her.'

'Why do you go on year after year when it's hopeless!  I want you
to marry a nice good girl and make me an aunt.'

'You wouldn't like it if I did,' he said truthfully.

On this particular day when Sally had tea with him in Tite Street
she did not tease him.  She was very affectionate.  He loved her
dearly when she was kind.  All the best in her came out.  Her
eternal qualities of courage and honesty were transmuted when she
was kind into a true nobility.  When she was not kind she seemed
sometimes hard and selfish.

But today she looked at him with eyes of love.  She sat on the edge
of his armchair, swinging her legs, his arm round her.

'When's Father coming home?'

'Any time now.'

'I wonder what he's been doing in South Africa.  I hope he's been
behaving himself.  Every year I think he's getting too old to
misbehave any more, but he doesn't.  Vanessa managed him, but no
one else ever has.'  She waved her arms.  'I love him!  He's such a
pet with his little ruddy face and his sharp eyes and his one arm
and his eagerness to fall into any scrap that's coming!  He'll
startle us all yet and shock the family once again before he's
done.'

She looked at Tom meditatively.

'Tom, I'm going to tell you something.  You'll probably hate it.
I'm in love--for the first time in my life.'

His arm clutched her a little more tightly.  His heart began to
hammer and he told himself:  'Now be careful.  Don't show her that
you mind.  Don't show her that you're anxious.  She's a modern
girl.  She won't stand being warned or advised.'  He was able to
say very quietly:

'Who with, Sally darling?'

She stroked his head.

'That's right, my pet.  You're taking it well.  He's a man in the
Foreign Office.  He's a friend of Adrian's and his name is Arnold
Young.'

'Oh yes?  I don't think I've met him.'

(Inside he was saying to himself:  'Now I shall have to protect
Sally without her knowing it and see that he treats her right.  She
thinks she knows everything about life, like all girls now, but she
doesn't.')

'No, you wouldn't have.  Well, he's tall and got a lovely figure
and he's very fair with blue eyes.  On the other hand, he has no
chin and wants looking after.  He has a mother who plays bridge,
morning, noon and night.'

'Does he know you're in love with him?  Where did you meet him?'

'I met him when I went to The Vortex with Cynthia.  I don't think
he knows I'm in love with him.  We've only met twice.  I'm very
rude to him.  I've never been in love before and it's a funny
feeling.'

'Would you like to marry him?'

'Yes, I think so--if he asked me.  Of course all Margaret's friends
think marriage is rot nowadays.  As long as you don't have a baby
there's no point about marriage, they say.  But I don't quite
agree.  It's all very well going away with a man for a weekend, but
I think it would be nice to LOOK AFTER Arnold, run his home for him
and everything.  I expect I'm old-fashioned.  Margaret says I am.'

'Is he a decent fellow?' Tom asked.  'I mean has he got a mistress
somewhere or anything like that?'

'Oh no,' said Sally.  'He doesn't seem to care for girls.  He's
terribly under his mother's influence.  That's the worst thing
about him.  But he isn't one of those, you know, or anything like
that.  Not a bit nancy.  I don't say he's very fine or grand or
wonderful.  I'm just in love with him, that's all--here in the pit
of the stomach!'

Then to Tom's astonishment she put her arms round his neck, kissed
him and laid her cheek against his.  She hardly ever kissed him.

'Do you know,' she said, 'we're all by ourselves--Vanessa, Father,
you and I.  Misfits.  Still, we don't have a bad time.'

She began to roam round the room.  Looking up, on a shelf above her
head she saw an old green book.  She stood on her toes and brought
it down.  She looked into it.  It was a large fat book filled with
rather faded writing in an old-fashioned