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Title:      The Joyful Delaneys (1938)
Author:     Hugh Walpole
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Title:      The Joyful Delaneys (1938)
Author:     Hugh Walpole






When the Stranger says:  'What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?'
What will you answer?  'We all dwell together
To make money from each other'?  or 'This is a community'?
And the Stranger will depart and return to the desert.
O my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger,
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.





I.  How Fred Delaney talked to Mr. Munden, a Poet--and then had
Breakfast with his Family

II.  Brocket's

III.  Mother and Daughter: Two Meetings

IV.  Figures in Rain

V.  The Ground trembles under his Feet

VI.  Family Foster

VII.  Portrait of a Lady

VIII.  The Thunderstorm



I.  Women are Motherly

II.  The House

III.  April in the Painted Room

IV.  Closing In

V.  Tower Idyll

VI.  Time Piece: Young Man on Paper

VII.  Time Piece: Death of Anybody

VIII.  Time Piece: Duchess of Wrexe's Ball



I.  We Meet because We Must

II.  Life of Fred Delaney

III.  The Things

IV.  Bullock and Kitty

V.  Meg

VI.  Fred

VII.  This Dark November Day

VIII.  The Happy Moment





'Happy New Year!' Fred Delaney said, standing in the doorway and
smiling at the in-no-way beautiful person of Mr. Munden.

He had switched on the electric light, and the illumination
revealed Patrick Munden lying half in, half out of the bedclothes.
No, he was not beautiful, his thin pointed face unshaven, his black
hair spread about the pillow, his lean body protected from the cold
by pyjamas, grey with blood-red stripes, by no means so fresh as
they should be.  The light pressed on Munden's eyes and he opened
them, stared wildly about him, then, cursing, buried his face in
the pillow.

'Happy New Year!' Delaney said again.

'What the hell--'

'Eight-thirty.  You asked me as a special favour to call you.'

Munden raised his head and stared at Delaney.  It was not a bad-
looking face.  The blue eyes were good, the forehead broad and
clear, the chin finely pointed.  He looked clever and peevish and
hungry.  He stretched himself, his open pyjama jacket showing a
chest skeletonic and hairy.  He rubbed his eyes with a hairy wrist.

'Oh, it's you, is it?  Let me sleep, can't you?'

Delaney watched him with genial good temper.

'I'm doing you a favour.  You said last night it would be the
greatest of your life.  You have to see the editor of something or
other at ten sharp.'

'He can go to hell.  Turn the light off and let me sleep.'

'You said I was to drag you out of bed if necessary--that your
whole life depended on your getting there at ten.'

'Well, it doesn't.  Let me sleep, can't you?'

'All right.  But I'll leave the light on . . .'

'No, don't go.'  Munden sat up, blinking.  'How damnably fresh you
look!  It's revolting.  You were up till three, I don't doubt--'

'I was,' Delaney said cheerfully.  'I don't need a lot of sleep.'

'Well, I do. . . .  Oh, blast!  Why did I ever tell you anything
about it?'

'You were very serious.  Most earnest.  You said you must begin the
New Year properly.'

'Speaking of which, can you lend me a fiver?' Munden asked.  'Only
for a week.'

'Afraid I haven't got such a thing,' Delaney said, laughing.

'Hang it all, I paid you the rent only a week ago--'

'Thanks very much.  But those are the terms, you know.  If you
don't pay you go.  Although we'd hate to lose you.'

Munden sighed.

'Look in the trousers, old man, will you?  They're hanging over the
chair.  See if there's anything there.'

Delaney looked in the trousers and found half a crown, some
coppers, a lipstick and a half-filled packet of cigarettes.  He
laid these things on the dressing-table.

'You don't use lipstick, I hope, Patrick?'

'No, of course not.  What do you think I am?  How much is there?'

'Two and ninepence halfpenny.'

'I'll make them advance something on the two articles.  You
wouldn't like to buy a Chrysler, would you?'

'A Chrysler?  Whatever for?'

'It's a marvellous bargain.  Ponsonby's only had it a year and
simply not used it at all.  He'd let you have it for one-fifty and
I'd get a commission.'

Delaney laughed.  'We go round in our Morris--just as we always
have--same old family, same old Morris.'

Munden looked at him with curiosity.  'I don't understand you,
Fred.  You own this house; every bit of it is let to people who pay
their rent.  You're none of you what I'd call extravagant and yet
you never have any cash.'  He stared resentfully.  He went on:
'You're a horrid sight--so cheerful and clean and bright.  You're
all like that.  I ought to hate the lot of you.  So unintellectual
too.  You never read a book, have horrible bourgeois politics,
believe in things, in England, beautiful virginal girls, Dickens,
cricket, football. . . .  Oh, God!  You're vile!  I don't know why
I go on living here.'

'You live here, Patrick,' Delaney said, 'because you get this room
damn cheap, it's a first-class address, and you like us--you can
have breakfast with us if you want to.'

'I don't need your charity,' Munden said.  'What I really want to
know is why you look so disgustingly happy, all of you?  What is
there to be happy about?'

'Oh, the usual things.  Little things mostly.  For instance, I'm
hungry and I'm going down to a good breakfast.'

'No.  Wait a minute.  I really want to know . . .'

'Want to know what?'

'Why you Delaneys are so cheerful and why I don't hate you for it.'

'Why should you hate us for being cheerful?'

'How CAN you be cheerful with the state the world's in?'

Delaney turned to the door.  'Here, I've really got to go.  You're
properly awake now.  I've done my job.  Anyway,' he went on, 'the
world's been in a mess plenty of times before and will be again.
As a family we're just like anybody else.  I've got the hell of a
temper, and you should see Meg when I come back at three in the
morning, and Kitty can raise the deuce--'

'Kitty's a darling,' Munden said morosely.  'Whenever I make love
to her she laughs.'

'Yes, Kitty can look after herself,' Delaney said, smiling.

'No.  But don't you understand?'  Munden began to get excited.
'You're going against the whole trend of the world.  We shall all
be Communists soon.  Those of us who are left.  The next war--'

'All right,' Delaney said.  'You go on talking to yourself.  I've
heard all this so many times.  Meanwhile there's my breakfast . . .'

Munden got up and leaned his long bony legs over the bed.  He
stretched his long bony arms and yawned.  His hair stood up on end.
Some of it tickled his eyes.

'You're wonderful for your years,' he said to Delaney.

'I'm only fifty-two.'

'You look about forty.'

He was right.  Delaney was fine for his years.  He still had plenty
of hair, brown and curly.  His eyes were bright blue, his cheeks
ruddy, his body tall, straight, muscular, non-corpulent.  He had
beautiful hands, and when he smiled he wrinkled at the corners of
his eyes.  His nose was straight and his mouth soft-lined but not
weak.  His clothes were excellent--easy, well-fitting, fresh as
flowers in the spring, but, beyond all things, comfortable.  He
looked what he was, an active, care-free, good-natured Irish
gentleman, who might have the devil of a temper, whose heart was
good, conscience easy, sentimental a bit, quarrelsome a bit,
honest, careless, and of an excellent digestion.

'It's a funny thing,' Munden said peevishly.  'I might get my
clothes from your tailor, be shaved by the best barber in London,
have a bath twice a day, walk for miles.  I'd never look straight
from the canvas as you do. . . .  Not that I want to,' he added.
'You're the type--good healthy Englishman--that to-day is an absurd
anachronism.  In another fifty years your type will be extinct,
thank God.  You're loathed by the whole world.  Americans detest
you, Germans spit on you, Italians despise you--'

'I'm not English.  I'm Irish,' Delaney said mildly.

'You were born in London, your father was born in London, your
grandfather was born in London.'

'Yes, London's my city, thank God.  And this house is my house.
One more year of battle, beginning this minute.  Do you know,
Patrick, we never thought we'd keep her this last year, Meg and I?'

'Keep her--keep who?'

'Why, the house.  Everyone wants her, Dollinger and Druitt are just
aching to tear her down and build filthy flats over her corpse.
Margraves would give us almost anything for her.  Wunder and
Thompson are at us every week--'

'Well, why don't you sell her?  You and Meg torture yourselves
making both ends meet, so you tell me.  Get a nice fat cheque for
her and live in the country where you belong.  She's bound to go
sooner or later.  Everything's going.  Nothing but shops here soon.
You can hear Shepherd Market's dying groans now if you listen.'

'We'll keep her, we'll keep her!' Delaney cried.  'Do you know
Delaneys have lived in this house for two hundred and fifty years?
Do you know the William and Mary clock in our dining-room has been
on that same Adam fireplace for nearly two hundred years?'

'Well, what of it?' said Munden contemptuously.  'Isn't that just
what's wrong with you?  You and your clocks!  Your William and Mary
world is done for, completely finished, and the sooner it's buried
the better.  There's no British aristocracy any more, thank God.
There's no leisure, no money, no old culture, no beautiful England.
There's a new raw world, with every man for himself and all of us
living under the shadow of imminent death.  That tickles a man's
vitals, THAT'S something to watch and share in--the whole of
civilization going down together with a crash-bang.  That's truth,
that's reality, THAT'S POETRY!'

Munden was quite excited now and was walking about the room,
tossing his head and hugging his meagre body with his long arms.

'I've got you out of bed anyway,' said Delaney.  He turned at the
door for one last word.  'As to the end of civilization, what rot
you poor fellows talk!  Civilization doesn't end like that.  There
are changes, of course, but nothing that's ever happened in a place
dies.  The history in this house is deathless.  Anyway, Meg and I
are going to keep it, save it for another year of its lovely life
if we ourselves die in the process.'

'Yes, you stuff it with decaying bodies and call that life.
"Going, going, gone, gentlemen!"  The British aristocracy!  Who
wants to watch the last agonies, catch the final groan, the wheezy
whimper, the faint whistle through the air as the life expires!  By
God, that's good!'

Munden wheeled round.  'There's stuff for a poem there!'

'There's stuff for a poem,' Delaney said, 'in every inch of the
ground from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner.  Isn't it
pleasant to think, Patrick, of how, not very long ago as time is,
the Anglo-Saxons knew this very place where we are as Bulinga-Fen,
a horrible marshy swamp?  Do you know that round Buckingham Palace
the ground is still water-logged?'  As Delaney worked himself up a
faint touch of brogue could be caught.  Munden had moved into the
bathroom, and Delaney came to the other side of the bed and began
to shout.  'Yes, and think of Hay Hill where the Prince Regent was
robbed once--Aye Hill it is really--the Aye Bourne, and so you get
Tyburn.  Well, there was a stream ran all the way down from
Hampstead through Marylebone, across Oxford Street, Stratford
Place, lower part of Brook Street, Bruton Mews to the foot of Hay
Hill.  It ran through May Fair and entered the Green Park in the
hollow of Piccadilly (there was a stone bridge over it).  Then on,
under Buckingham Palace to the Thames.  All the way from Hampstead
heights to the Thames.  It's still running.  The Early Britons
bathed in it and you can still see a trickle of it under the
ventilators of Green Park.  The Aye Bourne, the meadowlands of
Mayfair, the milkmaids' song where the Ritz is, the reaper
whistling in Half Moon Street, hares coursed down Bond Street--'

'Oh, damn and blast!' Munden said.  'What did I use a new razor-
blade for?'

'And then,' continued Delaney, who, his bright eyes shining, had
advanced to the bathroom door (he must raise his voice now against
the running bath-water), 'what about Old Q?  He would sit with his
muffs and his stockings from Paris and his three-cornered hat in
his Piccadilly window ogling the women, his head shaded by a
parasol, held by a powdered footman--or old General Blcher,
sitting in an armchair on the top of a flight of steps at the hall
door, smoking a pipe and acknowledging the salutations of the
passer-by?  Or the crowd breaking the windows of Apsley House and
learning that Wellington's Duchess lay dead inside and going
quietly away, or Palmerston riding his horse every morning down
Piccadilly to the House of Commons . . . and who started it all?
Do you know that, Pat?  Ever heard of Robert Baker?  He was a
tailor, my lad, who in 1615 was rated at twenty pence for ten acres
of agricultural land behind the King's Mews at the Town's End.
That started it all round here, for the King's Mews went from
Trafalgar Square to the Haymarket, and Mr. Baker, tailor, built
many houses and one of them was called "Piccadilly."  There his
residence was at the corner of Windmill Street, and perhaps they
were mocking the tailor for setting himself up in the world and his
house was a nickname after a ruff or collar called "Pickadel" . . .'

Munden raised his face from the bath in which he was now lying.
'My dear Fred, you may be my landlord, but that's no reason at all
why you should also be my schoolmaster. . . .'

'And then there's Baroness Burdett-Coutts' white cockatoo which my
father used to see hanging every day inside the window overlooking
Green Park.  A mob of rioters stopped in the street once to argue
whether it was real or sham and, having stopped, they raised a
cheer for the Baroness and forgot the riot.'

'And was it real?' asked Munden.

'No.  It was sham.'

'Well, that's enough.  If you won't lend me five quid, clear out.
Only a week, mind.'

'Afraid not,' Delaney sighed.  'Meg will be thinking I've
overslept.  Cheer up, Patrick.  The editor will take your articles,
I don't doubt.  I read one of them somewhere last week saying that
any writers to-day who are not Communists should be ashamed of
themselves.  Why shouldn't writers be what they happen to be?  Why
this sheep and goat division by politics?'

'Don't you begin to talk about literature, Fred.  I suppose there's
no one in London knows less about it than you do.'

'Well, I can't read your poetry, if that's what you mean,' said

'It isn't written for you.'

'Who is it written for?'

Munden grinned.  'Damned if I know,' he said.

Fred Delaney went on down to his breakfast.

Patrick Munden's attic rooms were at the top of the house, then
came the flat of Lady Helen Pake and Lady Millie Pake, then the
flat of the Honourable 'Smoke' Pullet and 'Dodie' Pullet, his wife.
Lastly, on the ground floor, was the abiding-place of the Delaneys

So he must, to reach his breakfast, descend from the top to the
bottom of the house--must descend, after leaving Munden's attic, by
the great staircase itself.  It always amused them to call it that,
although in fact it was not so very large--only 'quite, quite too
beautiful,' as Millie Pake, sighing gently, used to murmur.  They
had cleverly--when, in 1930, the great 'conversion' had taken place--
managed without disturbing the staircase.  'Like a piece of
music,' their friend Connie Beaminster always said it was.  Perhaps
it was.  As, from below, you looked upwards and saw it turn the
corner the rhythm of its movement was musical, and the dark deep
patina of the wood, exquisitely simple, profoundly right, was like
a Palestrina tune that repeats itself and repeats, but never too
often.  'Rather rot,' Fred Delaney thought, 'comparing all these
things with one another.  A staircase is a staircase.'

But, although he was almost running down, he yet had time to
reflect that he was glad (and proud too) that they had been able to
keep it as it was.  That 'conversion' time had been terrible,
dividing the big rooms into little ones without destroying too
fearfully their character, putting in the baths, the kitchenettes.
Poor house, poor house!  It had seemed, when the work was in
progress, as though a blow had been struck at its very heart; but
that young architect, Mortimer, how clever he had been! and how
tremendous his bill had been too!  Well, no matter--it was all paid
for by now, and so long as Munden and the dear old Pakes and the
Pullets paid up at the proper time, ends were just met and the
house was saved.  The day would come when, his ship sailing into
port, he would turn them out and restore the house to its own true
life again; then Bullock should be master, and to his sons in their
turn the house should be handed on. . . .

Whistling, he had reached the door of his own particular dining-

Before we go inside with him a word ought to be said about the
Delaneys; Margaret--Meg--Mrs. Delaney, her son Bullock, her
daughter Kitty.

Meg Delaney was at this time a tall, rather stout, magnificent
middle-aged lady who looked, in her more dishevelled moments, like
a gipsy fortuneteller at the Derby.  Sometimes her raven-black hair
was beautifully dressed and her clothes superb.  Because of her
black hair and high colouring she could wear clothes of gold and
orange and crimson.  When, altogether at her grandest, she entered
a ballroom or was a late guest at a fine party (she was always
unpunctual) everyone gasped.  She was better than the Queen of
Sheba.  Her uncle, Lord Renys, a little horsy man, full of oaths,
had, when alive, been so proud of her that, if he had had any
money, he would have showered her with gifts.  But most people
adored her even when they were most enraged with her.

She had always had in her a burning fire of happiness--happiness
often enough without rhyme or reason.  Sometimes this fire died
down very low and then she would cry:  'My God, why, oh, why was I
ever born!'  Her tempers were as prodigious as evanescent, her
generosities absurdly lavish and sometimes disastrous.  She was
altogether honest, loyal, courageous and indiscreet.  Her behaviour
was extravagant and vexing.

But this happiness that she felt and was quite unable to account
for, gave her a kind of radiance; it was a happiness entirely
without selfishness.  She made friends on the instant with anybody--
on buses, trains, in shops.  Beggars in the street always caught
her.  You might tell her again and again that they were rolling in
riches and, anyway, drank what she gave them--it made no
difference.  She had always been as poor as a rat herself: her
father, Captain Wendover, 'Mumps' Wendover, had lived by precarious
gambling on the Continent, attended by a succession of beautiful
ladies.  Her mother having died when Meg Wendover was six, Meg
Wendover had kicked herself up into life rather than grown into it.
She adored Delaney her husband and her two children, but preserved,
with all her impetuosity, warmth of heart, friendliness, a curious,
unstained independence.

They were perhaps rather nave and unsophisticated, these Delaneys;
many people thought so and patronized them heartily.  Kitty and
Bullock had something of this same navet.

Kitty, nineteen years of age, was, everyone said, 'very sweet.'
She disliked intensely this description of herself.  What she
wanted to be was strange, austere, remote, but gaiety would keep
breaking in.  She was tall and slight, dark in colouring like her
mother, with very bright eyes, but not really beautiful, because
her nose was snub.  Unlike her mother, she was neat and quietly
dressed.  She was not clever, read but little, cared nothing for
music or painting or (the craze at this time in her set) current
politics or social economy.  She was neither Communist nor Fascist,
but tried to listen seriously when her friends ardently discussed
these things.  She had hosts of friends and was constantly made
love to.  She was as free in speech and knowledge sexually as were
all her friends, but remained virginal, apart, in such matters.
One thing about her that her friends thought odd was that she was
rigidly teetotal, not from any principles but because she detested
the taste of liquor.  When a man kissed her she did not resist,
but, in some fashion, conveyed to him that he would find someone
else more amusing.

She had, of course, very little money but managed cleverly.  At
present the strongest instinct developed in her was the maternal.
She was passionately interested in people, and anyone who was in
trouble came to her chiefly because she was never bored and had a
practical mind.  She was always on the side of the underdog, often
very unwisely.  She could be impetuous like her mother and then,
quite unexpectedly, calm, practical, reserved.  She supposed she
would have to find a job, but WHICH job was the question.  Her only
real gifts lay in her relations with people.  Some of her friends
thought that she would be excellent at Girls' Clubs and such.  But
she knew that she would not be good, because as soon as anything
was organized she lost her interest in it.

Behind her gaiety, love of life, busy days, devotion to her family,
was a private never-expressed wonder and expectation--something was
coming, something MUST be coming, a great event that would, in one
instant, change everything.  What this event would be she had no

Her brother, Bullock, was in one particular a great disappointment.
He had been a small stocky boy, a useful scrum-half at King's
School, Canterbury, where he had received his nickname of Bullock.
(His real name was Stephen.)  He had then gone to Oxford, been cox
in his College's first boat, and, to everyone's surprise, had not
grown an inch.  He had never grown any more and was so short that
it would have been ludicrous had he not been broad-shouldered and
sturdy-legged.  He had a round merry face and was immaculate in his

He had a deep voice rather like his mother's and the blue eyes of
his father.

He made a very small and precarious income by writing 'funny bits'
for Punch and other publications.  He had two gods at whose shrine
he worshipped: Surtees and Mr P. G. Wodehouse.  He liked almost
every girl in sight but no girl in particular.  He would sit, with
his short legs crossed, thinking, then suddenly slap his knee, cry
aloud 'By Jove, that's good!' whip out a pocket-book and write
something down.  He worshipped his sister, owned a dachshund called
Endless to whom he confided many of his best witticisms; he found
most people extraordinarily funny.  Especially poets like Munden
seemed to him excruciating, but he had learned that to laugh in
people's faces hurt their feelings, so he would stare, his face
very grave, his eyes puckered up, struggling to be polite.  He had
beautiful manners.  To old ladies especially he was quite old-world
in his courtesy.  Like all the Delaneys he was very happy-go-lucky
and refused to be excited when Mussolini was rude to his country or
Hitler talked about gun-fodder.  He kept his small bedroom as neat
as a pin and was apt to be indignant if anyone touched his
possessions.  He was always busy from morning to night and would
comment in an exaggerated way on quite ordinary things like the
state of the weather, an accident with the Morris or an incident at
his Club.

When Delaney stood inside the room and looked at his family he
felt, as he always did on such occasions, a deep affection.  The
room itself with its cream-coloured walls, the fireplace, the
William and Mary clock, the pictures, two Rowlandsons, a large
portrait over the fireplace of his grandfather, a fine merry
gentleman in a very decorative uniform, his grandmother, an old
lady with twinkling eyes, her black corkscrew curls hanging from
under a lace cap, a Wilson landscape, the very good Chippendale
chairs, the sideboard with the silver breakfast dishes, the dark
plum-coloured window curtains, the fire leaping with a kind of
eagerness as though it had never been a fire before and had had no
idea what an amusing thing it would prove to be, Endless the
dachshund, his black beady eyes fixed in a kind of trance on his
master; his family--Kitty, as always officiating, pouring out the
coffee, laughing at something her mother had just said; Bullock at
the sideboard lifting up the silver covers to see what was there;
and Meg--Meg herself--in a loose morning-gown of some dark purple
with gold braid at the neck and wrists, a costume that would have
seemed tawdry on most women but looked exactly right on her, her
black hair piled high on her head (she would not dream of cutting,
clipping, bobbing, waving, cropping), her long white hands with the
rings that she loved, examining her letters, talking, laughing,
swearing, reminiscing, despairing, exulting. . . .  He looked at
her and thought how, early that same morning, she had lain in his
arms and been like a little child, rubbing her cheek against his,
enchanting him with those long slow kisses that were so peculiarly
hers.  For he had known many, many women in his time and there had
never been any one like Meg--no one like Meg for comradeship,
gaiety, sensuality, honesty, humour, and that final necessity in
life, freedom of soul both given and taken when life demanded it.

She heard the door close and looked up.  'You're late,
disgracefully late.  We are all finished.  Here's a letter from
Barty Perrin and he has the cheek to ask for a meal next Friday.
He doesn't like us, but he'd go anywhere rather than pay for his
own food. . . .'

Delaney went over and kissed his daughter.  'Darling, how are you?
Did you sleep beautifully? . . .  Oh, Barty isn't a bad sort but he
hasn't a bean.  He worships you, but you're so unkind to him.  Yes,
I'm late.  I went up to get Patrick out of bed and he kept me
talking. . . .'

'And,' Meg went on, 'here's a letter from old Alice Pomery.  Why,
she must be ninety if she's a day!  I can remember her perfectly
well at Nice, that time Father won such a lot at the tables and
rented that absurd house in the Rue de--Rue de WHAT was its name?
Never mind.  It was a house like a pair of pink stays set up on end--
all ribs.  We had the most enormous parties.  I used to come down
for dessert and old men covered with scent used to pinch my legs.
I remember Alice perfectly well.  She was a little woman with a
face like a pretty pig and she had a French poodle that I adored.
She was married then to old Lord Worgan and when he tried to kiss
her she'd hold her head back and say "Non.  Non.  Pas aujourd'hui."
She liked to talk the most excruciating French and no one knew why,
and he ran away with a Salvation Army girl from Liverpool or
somewhere.  Extraordinary how I remember that house.  I was
supposed to share a room right at the top with a French governess
whom Father had engaged, but she was always sleeping with some man
or other, so I'd be alone and--terrified!  My God, but I was
terrified!  The house used to shake as though it had an ague, and
there were rats.  I saw one once, nibbling at the wood of one of
the chairs.  You didn't know rats did that, did you, darling?  And
the whole place smelt of patchouli.  There was dust everywhere and
plants in pots, dead as anything. . . .'

She stopped quite suddenly and stared at her husband.

'How beautiful you are, Fred!  So fresh and cool.  Give me a kiss,

Fred kissed her.  Her warm arm lay against his cheek.

Then he remarked:  'It's New Year's Day.'  No one said anything, so
he repeated it:  'It's New Year's Day.'

Kitty smiled at him over the coffee.  'Of course, darling, we know
that.  I was with the Whartons at Quaglino's and we drank the New
Year in over and over again.'  She wrinkled her forehead.  'Nice
place.  Nice people--but I don't know.  I agree with Endless.
Breakfast's better than supper.'

'Why, if that's ALL you've got to say about the New Year!  Don't
you realize?  We've kept the house for another year--and now we've
got to keep it for a year more!  Caesar asked for a rise last night--
I'm afraid he'll have to go.'

Bullock lifted his face from his plate.  'Caesar GO, Father?  Oh,
impossible!  We'll never get anyone as good again!  Why, I'd rather
give him what I make out of my writing.  I would really.'

Delaney shook his head.  'It's all very well.  Give Caesar more and
then the General will want more, and then everything topples over!'

Meg tore off her two diamond rings and pushed them beside Delaney's

'Sell these, darling,' she said in her richest contralto.  This was
a gesture she'd often made before.  They all laughed, and Endless,
who realized that excitement was in the air, gave a series of short
staccato barks.

'No, it's all very well,' Fred Delaney went on.  'Patrick says
we're fools to hold on to the house as we do when we could get a
nice fat sum and live comfortably in Sussex or somewhere.  But he
doesn't understand.  He knows nothing about the past.  He's no
feeling for London or any place.  He's as detached as a bird in the
air.  All he thinks of is his beastly unintelligible poetry. . . .'

Meg caught her husband's hand and held it fast.

'It's all right, darling.  You shall have your London.  You shall
have your house--even though I have to sell my body to keep it for
you.  That's what Bridget is always saying:  "I'd sell my body to
give Harry what he wants."  So silly--no one would give her a penny
for her old body.  But what _I_ want to know'--here she leaned her
firm bosom right over the table, her purple robe floating about her--
'is--what does Caesar want a rise for?  We pay him nobly--nobly!
DON'T we pay him nobly, Fred?  You have all those things in your
head.  WHAT do we pay him and why does he want a rise?'

'We pay him,' Delaney said, 'well, I don't know about nobly.  But
quite enough.  Of course he says he will stay with us even if we
pay him nothing at all.  But it's his mother.  She can't ever
forget she was lodge-keeper at Wintersmoon.  She's the greatest old
boor the world has ever known, and Caesar says she has neuritis and
he has to buy a lot of things for her.'

'Pay him!  Pay him!' Meg cried.  'Raise his wages.  We'll raise the
rent on the Pullets.'

'You know we can't, darling.  It's a miracle they pay us as it is.
HOW they live I can't imagine.'

'They were at Quaglino's last night,' Kitty remarked.  'Looking as
swell as anything.  Dodie was as near nude as not to matter, but
what she DID have on was lovely.  Must have cost her a fortune.
Two wisps of something and a silver band.  They danced together all
the evening.'

'Raise their rent,' Meg said.  'Then they'll go and we'll get
somebody else.  "Smoke" Pullet always frightens me.  One day he'll
be desperate.  I can see it growing behind his eyes.  They're nice.
I like them.  But I don't want their climax here.  You know,
children, this is a happy house.  It is really.  There isn't a soul
inside it's got a farthing--all the same it's a DARLING house, a
DARLING house.  I never was so happy anywhere.'

Bullock, who had finished his breakfast, came from the fire and
laid his cheek for a moment against his mother's.

'Sweetheart, it isn't the house that's happy, it's you.  You really
are a radiant woman.'

'I know.'  Delaney looked at them all.  'Patrick says we're
revolting.  He says we're selfish, self-centred, behind the times.
The world is falling, falling.  Civilization is going out with a
bang.  And here we are happy, contented.'

'And what did YOU say?' Kitty asked.

'_I_ said that yes, we WERE happy.  We had small minds and were
pleased with small things.  I said, too, that the world has often
fallen to pieces before but nevertheless the seasons returned
punctually and were charming at each return, that our digestions
were good, and we couldn't be called the rich mocking the poor
because there was probably no one in all London poorer than we
were.  All the same, perhaps we're smug.'  He looked at Meg and
laughed.  'Darling, are you smug?'

She was slipping her diamond rings on and off her fingers.  She
looked up aimlessly.

'Am I?  I don't know what I am.  Who knows what they are anyway?'

And then the door opened.

First there was Caesar.  Caesar's real name was Rudge and he was
butler, footman, messenger boy, shoe-cleaner, gossip and friend to
the Delaney family.  He was known also as the Dickens character,
being a remarkable combination of Weller, Pickwick, Poor Joe,
Traddles, Mark Tapley and now and again (Delaney said) Silas Wegg,
all these raised on a basis of Cockney.  He had been in service
from birth, his mother being lodge-keeper at Wintersmoon in the
days of the old Duke of Romney.  He had been simply no age at all
when he had helped in the pantry, and then in cocked hat and
gaiters sat in the back of the trap that went to the station for
luggage, and then (wonderful promotion) had been the Duke's own
body-servant under Sellars (how deeply he had loathed Sellars! how
truly he had worshipped the old white-haired Duke!).

Then had come changed times and Wildherne Poole had married, the
old Duke had died, hard days had followed.  Wintersmoon had been
closed for a long while and was only open again in part.  Then THAT
Duke had died and his son, still a boy, reigned in his stead, or
rather his mother, the Duchess (a fine good woman surely), reigned
in his stead.

All this Caesar had constantly from his old mother with whom he
lived in two rooms above the news-vendor's in Shepherd Market.
Caesar was short, bony, but very cheerful-featured.  No beauty with
his large mouth and sharp little Cockney eyes, but he was a
faithful devoted soul, feeling proud--even in these days--of his
place as a family servant.  There were still many of his kind in
London, born into service and proud of it, thinking it no
degradation, hating more than anything else 'the bloody Bolshies.'
'WHAT nonsense!' Caesar would say to Mrs. Ganter, the cook, known
as The General.  'Men's born to be different.  Start 'em all level,
and in no time at all one's up, one's down.  Share and share alike!
I'd like to see Ma share anything she's got with anyone else.'

He liked all four Delaneys and would work himself to the bone for
them, but finances were a terrible problem with him.  His old
mother was always 'fancying something'--food, drink, a book or a
trinket.  And if she didn't get it she'd cry and say that no one
loved her any more and it would be better if she'd died long
before.  Her whims and fancies cost money.  Moreover Caesar wasn't
sure, but he fancied that for the first time in his life he was
really in love . . . no, he couldn't be sure, but it looked a
little like it.

Dressed in his official black suit, his funny ugly grinning face
glitteringly shaved, he looked a respectable retainer.  He
introduced the visitors without a word, as well he might, for they
were part of the family.  There were three of them--Larry Delaney,
Fred's brother, Phyllis his wife, and an exceedingly pretty, slim,
shy-looking girl.  Larry Delaney resembled his brother in his fair
curly hair, rosy countenance, general freshness, but he was stouter
and coarser.  You could see at once, however, that he had all his
elder brother's cheerful indifference to the dangers of to-morrow
and enjoyment of the present hour.  He looked a little less of a
person than Fred, shallower, less important.  He earned a
precarious living by acting as a sort of middle-man in Society.
That is he went, with Phyllis his wife, everywhere, discovered that
someone wanted to sell something, persuaded someone else that that
was exactly what he or she wanted to purchase, and then brought
buyer and seller together.  He then received a commission.
Practically EVERYTHING in Mayfair was for sale--pictures,
furniture, silver--you could enter no house or flat in Mayfair
nowadays without someone saying to you, 'Don't you love that Turner
water-colour?  I happen to know you could have it for almost a
song.  It's a damned shame, but Dodo's being forced to sell almost
ALL her lovely old things.'  So that it was positively dangerous
now in any house or flat to look at anything with too personal an
appreciation because AT ONCE someone said, 'Do you like that?
Rather lovely, don't you think?  I'll have a word with Doris after
lunch and see if I can't persuade her. . . .'

Things being as they are, Larry Delaney's job should have been a
lucrative one.  There were, however, a number of drawbacks to it as
a career, one of the principal being that people were curious about
payment.  Also a sort of Exchange and Mart went on, so that he
would receive a note:

DARLING LARRY--I'm sure Sophy won't mind if I delay in paying for
the bit of tapestry which really isn't as nice as I first thought
it.  I have by the way a really LOVELY Charles II musical box which
has been in the family ever since Charles gave it HIMSELF to my
great-great (ever so many greats) Aunt who was his Mistress you
know for quite a while.  Don't you think Sophy would like the
musical box?  I'm sure it's worth a lot more than the tapestry.
After all, it was a GIFT from a King!  Do see what you can do about
it, darling Larry.

And then, of course, he was as likely as not to get no commission
at all.  However, Phyllis and he worked very hard and went about
everywhere and, perhaps, didn't do so badly.

Lastly there was the exquisite silent girl with the white face, red
lips and wide-open startled eyes.  She was a Miss Alice Van Renn,
whose old mother was an energetic silly snobbish widow.  Mother and
daughter had two rooms in Half Moon Street.  The old lady was
aristocratic and poor.  The girl Alice had a kind aunt who had paid
for her 'finishing' in Paris.  Thence she had but lately returned.
Fred Delaney, in fact, had never seen her before, and now he stared
at this lovely thing in his doorway as though he had been struck
from heaven.

Alice Van Renn had such perfect features that she was almost
unreal.  Although her colouring was pale, yet it was exquisite.  To
stroke her cheek was the first natural desire of any natural male,
and Delaney was a very natural male indeed.  No one knew whether
Alice was brilliantly clever or exquisitely stupid, for she spoke
but little.  What was heavenly, maddening, to every man was that
she appeared to be in a kind of trance; she was as yet unawakened.
To be the first to achieve that awakening, there was an ambition!

In any case at this particular moment Fred Delaney stood with his
mouth a little open, staring, and Meg Delaney saw that it was so.

'Happy New Year!' said everybody.

And so, with that ancient greeting, new events in the Delaney
family began.



On that same New Year morning, not very far from the Delaneys'
breakfast table, at the precise moment when Fred Delaney gazed for
the first time, open-mouthed, at Miss Alice Van Renn, Mr. Claude
St. John Willoughby woke up in his bed at Number Twenty-three White
Horse Street, Shepherd Market, to find Brocket standing in his
doorway looking at him, even as Patrick Munden had found Fred

A very different greeting this, however, from the other: not at all
friendly--quite the contrary.

Claude St. John Willoughby sat up and rubbed his eyes.

Mr. Brocket in his shirt-sleeves and only-too-familiar brown apron
said in a voice intended to be elegantly and even classically
ironic, but, in reality, thick, beery and brutal:

'I was only wondering WHEN your lordship intended to rise and allow
'is room to be done--no offence, but it's past nine o'clock.'

These last words were said with a tang like the slap of a wave on a
rock.  Mr. Willoughby looked at Brocket and thought how loathsome
he was.  Brocket had the build of a prize-fighter, but instead of
the jolly purple countenance set about with a crooked nose and a
cauliflower ear that you might expect, his skin had the thick grey-
white consistency of dough, and his head was especially unpleasant,
being bald like a tonsured priest's, with a fringe of grey hair
round a faintly yellow poll, grey hair that appeared, unless you
looked at it very steadily, to be always a trifle on the move.

He was clean-shaven, and the end of his wide-nostrilled nose, his
lips, and his hands were always damp.  He appeared during most of
the day in his shirt-sleeves and a grey waistcoat on which there
were yellow stains.  His sleeves were rolled up and revealed brawny
but unhealthy-pallored arms.  On these also grey hairs crawled.
His vast middle was always bound around with a faded brown apron.
He wore in the morning slippers that gave him the appearance of
webbed-feet, for they were sliced at the toes because of his corns.
His slippers could be heard flap-flapping all over the house.

He was a bachelor but was reputed a devil with the women and
immensely rich.  This last was, in all probability, untrue, but he
did own Number Twenty-three and let it out to bachelor gentlemen.
Within Number Twenty-three he ruled like the God of the Israelites.
Everyone trembled at his approach, more especially if he had had a
drop or two.  The bachelor gentlemen at present his tenants were:
on the ground floor, Colonel Badget; on the second floor, Mr. Best;
on the third floor, Major Pierson; and on the top floor, Mr.

Brocket behaved like a self-indulgent sensualist to his tenants.
Of some he made favourites, others he tortured.  At this present
time Mr. Best was his favourite and Mr. Willoughby he tortured.

You may ask then--Why did Mr. Willoughby remain there?  He remained
because, in the first place, he was growing old (he had passed his
seventieth birthday) and to change quarters now was an alarming
business; secondly, because he was poor and his room was cheap;
thirdly, because Brocket had a sort of terrible fascination for
him; fourthly, because he could not conceive of saying:  'Mr.
Brocket, I think I will go away now.'

His room was cheap, but it was not very pleasant.  It possessed
only one small window and, being immediately under the roof, was
very hot in summer, very cold in winter.  He had to share the bath
with Major Pierson on the third floor, and although Major Pierson
had known this when he engaged his rooms, he was sometimes
unagreeable about it.

There was not a great deal of space.  There was a wash-stand, a
table, an easy chair, two straight chairs, a glass cabinet behind
which Claude Willoughby kept his treasures, and a wardrobe.  On the
mantelpiece were photographs of his mother, a girl to whom he had
once been engaged, and a setter dog that he had once loved.  Over
the mantelpiece was an old engraving of Longton Hall in Derbyshire,
once the family place, the house where he had been born.
Everything was extremely neat and tidy.  He himself sitting up in
bed, his Adam's-apple moving nervously within his bony neck, his
few grey hairs still tidy on his head, his faint brown eyes anxious
and concerned, was very neat and orderly.  His thin bony hands were
almost bloodless against the dark rug with which he covered the bed
on cold nights.  He raised one hand now to stroke nervously his
short grey brush-moustache.

'I'm sorry,' he said.  'Something must have happened to the alarm-

'Something MUST,' said Brocket bitterly.  'Didn't you 'ear the girl
come in?  There's your breakfast been on the table a hour if a
minute--and stone cold by now.'

'No, I didn't hear the girl,' Mr. Willoughby said with dignity.
'Happy New Year!' he added courteously.

Brocket studied him.  'Marvellous how these old boys go on living,'
he thought.  'You'd have thought HE'D have been dead long ago.'

However, he didn't want Mr. Willoughby to die.  He paid the rent
regularly; moreover Brocket felt a kind of sadistic affection for
the old boy.  He loved to see the look of timorous uncertainty
creep into those brown eyes, he liked to raise his voice suddenly
so that the old boy jumped, he liked to begin a complaint slowly,
cumulatively, and then listen, with a glowering brow, to Mr.
Willoughby's slow, stammering explanations.  Yes, he almost loved
him.  Mr. Willoughby was one of his principal daily entertainments.

However, this morning he had work to do, so with a grunt he
departed and his slippers flip-flappered down the stairs.

Claude was delighted when he was gone.  He raised his thin arms and
yawned.  Then, very carefully, for he had always, when he woke in
the morning, a touch of lumbago, he got out of bed, felt for his
brown dressing-gown, his faded green slippers, brushed his few grey
locks with his old silver brushes, washed his face and hands and
brushed his teeth, and then, humming a little tune (as though in
pleasure at the departure of Brocket) sat down to his breakfast.
It was not, of course, very agreeable: the tea was lukewarm, the
toast was tough, and the two pieces of bacon had congealed round
the one egg so that the dish looked like a very unappetizing
surrealist painting.  Nevertheless he was hungry and there was the
Oxford Marmalade which oversleeping could not affect.

All the same how very odd that he had NOT heard the girl enter!
She made always such a clatter!  The way that she breathed through
her nose was enough alone to waken him.  And, being an old man, he
was wide awake and staring at six o'clock as a rule.  He had,
however, gone to bed rather late last night.  He had found at the
newsvendor's in Shepherd Market (they maintained a Lending Library;
so obliging and kind they always were!) the reminiscences of old
Colonel Blake called Random Shots and Tender Memories, and had sat
up reading the book.  It had brought the old delightful past so
vividly back to him that his eyes had filled with tears as he read.
He had known so many of the places and people that Reggie Blake had
known.  He remembered, as though it were yesterday, Ernest Cassell
calling Reggie 'a Tom Cat with a Hundred Tails,' because Reggie had
been an indefatigable raconteur--bit of a bore that way!

But there it was.  He had sat up remembering old times, and so his
breakfast was cold!  There were, however, many pleasant things and
one of the pleasantest was his Daily Telegraph.  An extravagance,
perhaps; but if so, his only one.

He drew to the fire the old armchair with the tear in the right arm
that always greatly distressed him because he thought that it must
distress the chair who had been for so long a good and faithful
friend to him.  He said 'the fire,' but that was a title by
courtesy, for the girl who had lit it an hour and a half ago had
used the coal extravagantly, and now, when there were but embers
and a piece of vexed-looking charred stick, he did not wish to put
on more coal because in that case his allowance for the day would
soon be exhausted.

So he drew his dressing-gown about him and, smiling at one winking
coal as though it were his best friend, stretched out his legs and
read his paper.  He read about how terrible had been the fog and
darkness over most of England, how the Codex Sinaiticus had arrived
from Russia in charge of a special courier, of a terrible railway
accident in France on the Paris-Strasbourg line, and of New Year's
Honours conferred on a number of gentlemen whose names were quite
unknown to him.  He read, too, with a rather twisted smile under
his little moustache, of distressed areas and starving multitudes.
They can't be really starving, he thought, because there is always
the dole; I wonder if any of them are quite as poor as I am.
Obviously if you were living at Number Twenty-three White Horse
Street, Mayfair, you couldn't be quite as poor as if you were
living at Number Twenty-three Fish Street, Old Kent Road.  And yet
not quite so obviously!

He put down his Telegraph and got out from the drawer under the
cabinet the dark red book where he with extremely neat accuracy
kept his accounts.  For once they were on the cheerful side, for
the dividends he had received last week had gone up a little.  As a
rule when he had paid Brocket the rent and the bill for breakfasts
and extras, there was almost nothing left at all.  Still, so long
as he kept well, he could manage.

It was the thought of possible sickness that truly terrified him.
You might say (and Claude said it to himself sometimes) that he had
no right to live under so high a rent.  But Brocket's was as cheap
as he would find in Mayfair, and the whole happiness and colour of
his life came from these streets around him.  From Piccadilly
Circus to Hyde Park Corner had been, from the beginning of
conscious things, his world.  For sixty years he had known it,
loved it, cherished it, consoled it, thanked it, congratulated it.
For thirty years he had had rooms, very fine ones too, in Berkeley
Street.  When Devonshire House had gone it was as though he himself
had lost a rib or a kidney.  Nevertheless he had accommodated
himself to the changes.  He had not been foolish about that, for he
had known that changes must occur as they had always occurred.
And, at this very moment of time, January 1st, 1934, the changes at
the south end of Berkeley Square in course of construction were
devastating, frightful, appalling; but he intended, on this very
afternoon or possibly to-morrow afternoon, to walk along there and
survey them, bravely, with his head up as though, in the process of
nature, they were inevitable.

Take him their way, remove his little feet (his feet and hands were
remarkably small) from this piece of ground and he would die.
Simply die.  Not that it mattered to anyone but himself whether he
lived or died, but to himself it still mattered a great deal.  He
loved to be alive and the little things, the very, very little
things, were quite enough to make his days exciting and sometimes
even melodramatic. . . .

A door, in the dim distance, banged.  His bath!  Unless he took it
soon, Pierson would be indignant at his having one so late in the
morning and would bark at him like a seal.  He hoped that, by
taking one now, he might avoid Pierson altogether.

So he gathered his soap in its talc case, his sponge-bag and his
bath-towel together and proceeded forth.  At the bottom of the
short flight of stairs was a long shivering passage, and down this
he must go, passing the doors of Pierson's bedroom and sitting-
room.  He always walked tiptoe, tiptoe, and if he reached the
bathroom without arousing anyone he would close the door behind him
and then stand for a moment, smiling, his hand pressed on his

To-day he was not so fortunate.  He was almost in safety when a
door opened and Pierson's voice was heard.

'Hullo, Willoughby!  You're late, aren't you?'

Claude turned and felt, as always, that he was taken at a
disadvantage with his old dressing-gown and faded slippers.
However, he answered gallantly.

'Hullo, Pierson!  Happy New Year!'

Major Pierson was short, stout, and red of face.  He wore a toupee
and was always dressed as though about to lead a charge against the
enemy.  His clothes were in themselves ordinary, but tingling with
a kind of combativeness.  He was, however, in reality an amiable
man so long as one wasn't a foreigner and had nothing to say
against the British Army, the virtue of English womanhood and the
English climate.  A familiar type made plain to us in many a work
of fiction.  His INDIVIDUALITY (for we all have souls) lay perhaps
in his extreme prudery.  He could not endure a bawdy story nor any
light allusion to sex.  In spite of a varied life in India, China
and Africa, he still believed that women were angels, and if an
angel strayed, then it was some vile man's intolerable fault.  He
had never married, perhaps because he had never dared to test his
beliefs too severely.  He regarded Claude Willoughby as an old
woman and therefore pure of heart and conduct.  But he felt a vast
superiority to him and treated him rather as the Squire in the good
old days treated a faithful village dependent.  Willoughby never
interfered with Pierson's bathing plans and was scrupulously neat
in his behaviour; nevertheless the sight of Willoughby on the way
to the bath always annoyed him.

'Don't expect you'll find the bath water very hot.'

'Oh, that doesn't matter in the least, thank you.'

'What happened--oversleep yourself?'

'Well, as a matter of fact I did; most unusual--sat up late

'Reading, eh?  Seen in the paper about these damned Bolshies?'

'No, as a matter of fact . . . what have they been doing?'

'What have they been doing?  What are they always doing?  Plotting
against the peace of the world.  That's what THEY'RE doing.'

'Yes, I suppose so.  It's really terrible.'

'You'd better get in there.  Damned draughty this passage.'

'Yes, I suppose so.  Thanks very much.'  Lying flat in the bath,
Claude was happy.  The water was NOT very warm, but warmer than it
might have been.  He reflected:  'Why am I always so nervous when
Pierson speaks to me?  He's a very kind man and means nothing but
good.  He looks down on me, of course, because he's an Army man and
I'm not.  All Army men look down on civilians.  But he's nearly as
poor as I am.  He has only his Army pension and has to support, I
believe, a very aged mother and an invalid sister.  He is also, I
fancy, extremely lonely.  He has a Club, which I haven't, but from
what I hear, he's not at all popular.  Why, then, be nervous when
he speaks to me?  We ought to be friends.  I ought to go down and
visit him of an evening.  But the mere thought of visiting him
fills me with terror.  Besides we should have nothing to say to one
another.  He's more agreeable than Badget, who has money and lets
you know it, and less of a bore than Best, who never stops talking.
How charming it would be if someone lodged in this house who was a
real friend and companion!  But you must not, I suppose, expect
friends after seventy.  I've had a lot of friends in my time.'  And
that made him think of Helen and Millie Pake, very old friends of
his.  What a good idea!  He would go and have tea with them this
afternoon and wish them a Happy New Year.  They were always at home
at tea-time and enjoyed a chat.  What an EXCELLENT idea!  Filled
with pleasure, he finished his bath, dried his little shivering
body, and hurried up to his room again.

He clung to his intention although the scruples, now so constant
with him, that he might bore them, that they would have other
visitors, that he might suffer once more that unpleasant experience
of people looking right through him as though he didn't exist,
crowded about him.  He MUST go out, he MUST pay visits.  He had
noticed in himself lately a tendency to stay in his room as though
there only was to be really safe.  That was dangerous.  That way
madness lay.

At length in his blue suit with the dark tie and grey gloves and
cane with the ivory head of a dog, and his soft black hat, he was
ready to venture.  All he hoped was that he would not encounter
Brocket.  One moment's experience of Brocket scowling at him and
the dangers of facing the outside world were greatly increased.
But there was no Brocket to-day and, as he walked into Shepherd
Market, happiness returned to him as it so easily did at the
slightest excuse in the world.  Although it was half-past three in
the afternoon there was still a faint sun-stained fog about.  He
liked that sun-stained fog almost beyond any other weather that
London provided, and it seemed especially kindly and reassuring
now, for London had been so very dark of late.  Lights were burning
in the newsvendor's and, as always, he stopped to look at the rows
of books behind the glass on the opposite side of the narrow
passage.  How very many books there were in the world to be sure!
It must take so much energy and trouble to write a book!  He
admired authors greatly so long as no one forced him to read their

In Curzon Street there was an orange light in the air and the
Christian Science Church loomed behind the fog almost like a mystic
temple, and the steel and chromium of the new cinema up the street
gleamed like the silver lines of a ship.  How greatly vexed and
hurt he had been at the first appearance of that cinema.  It had
seemed to him not only an insult to all the past history and
characters of this sacred ground, but a personal insult to himself
as well.  He had become, however, not only accustomed to it but he
even liked it.  He wished it well.  He enjoyed the photographs of
the pictures, the uniformed figure on guard, the cars that
assembled outside it.  This after all was life; it meant happiness
to many people, and, because he could not himself possibly afford
to enter it, there was a quality of mystery there that stirred and
excited him.

So, through the orange fog he walked to the home of his friends.

Outside the door of the handsome house were the names of the
tenants and under each name a little bell: Patrick Munden, Lady
Helen Pake, the Hon. Mark Pullet, Frederick Delaney.  He touched
the Pake bell, gave the big door a push and was inside the hall,
then up the beautiful staircase, past the Pullets', challenging the
Pake door.  Now, while he waited, once more fears attacked him.
The house was so VERY silent; everyone within it might be dead.
Suppose they WERE dead, those two old ladies, the young girl who
looked after them during the day out on her shopping; dead, the two
poor old things, and nobody knew it!  Or suppose, on the other
hand, they were entertaining their friends, as they well might be
on New Year's Day, and he would find himself in a circle of cold,
indifferent strangers.  THAT he would not be able to endure, and
so, after a quarter of an hour, he would depart and return to his
lonely room with nothing to do for the rest of the day but sit and
miserably reflect on his wretched isolation?  Or Helen might be in
one of her grand tantrums and sit there, like a tragedy queen,
making life horrible for everybody?  Oh, it were better that he had
not come, far, far better, and he was about to turn away and slip
down the stairs again when the door opened and the little maid was
there and, yes, Lady Helen and Lady Mildred were at home and would
he come in, please?

Inside the little hall he listened and was comforted because there
were no gay and raucous voices.  There was no New Year's party at
least.  And then when he saw his old friends sitting one on each
side of the fire as he had so often seen them before, his heart
beat with happiness.  Here was sanctuary, here safety!

The sitting-room was small, as it was bound to be when you
considered that out of the two original rooms there had been
created two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette and a sitting-room.
But the ceilings were high, the fireplace noble, there were flowers
and old family silver, an oil painting of Twyden Hall, the family
place, now in the possession of Lord Rocklyn their brother, and a
very fine portrait of Helen and Mildred painted in the 'Nineties by
Sargent.  The room was a little over-full perhaps and you had to
walk carefully to avoid tables and chairs, but it was of a warm and
cosy friendliness.

The ladies themselves were exactly what Claude considered that
ladies ought to be.

Helen was now seventy-five years of age, Millie some five years
younger.  Helen was sitting up in her chair, stiff as a poker, her
body thin as a divining-rod.  She was pale of cheek, hawk-like
nose, pouches of dark under her eyes, her silver-grey hair tight
about her head.  She had long thin hands, so thin that the light
seemed to shine through them.  She had a long bony neck like a
hen's and held her head so high that you watched to see the neck-
bones crack.  Her magnificent flashing, tempestuous eyes were her
finest feature.  This she knew very well, for they had been called
flashing and tempestuous often enough.  She had never been
beautiful, but always regal, and now at seventy-five was more regal
than ever.  All her life she had been the victim of fits of
imperious temper, but now those fires were dying and she was
slipping into the dusk of evening.  She had always behaved like a
queen, for no very adequate reason save that she had been the
eldest daughter of the Earl of Rocklyn.  That had mattered once;
alas, it mattered nothing now.  That she should be sister of the
present Earl, who, poor Tommy, had wasted and rioted away in
earlier days all the family patrimony and was now a withered
skeleton living in a semi-closed Twyden with a housekeeper and a
pack of dogs, martyred by gout and rheumatism.  No, Helen had no
longer any reason for grandeur, but that did not mean that she was
not grand.  Although her faculties were still sharp and acute, she
lived in a kind of dream-world, not the Past only, the Past shot
through with the Present (which she loathed and despised), then
finally transmuted into a place of colours, rhythms, voices that
had little relation to the reality of other people.

Millie, her sister, had worshipped and served her all her life
long.  In appearance Millie was short, plump, with snow-white hair
and a most amiable behaviour.  She too had her dignities and could
rebuke a presumer most effectively, but she loved gossip and the
small transactions of human nature and could not therefore hate the
modern world as her sister did.  She was the practical one, managed
the small income of herself and her sister; it was the great
business of her life to save her sister every possible discomfort
and inconvenience.  She worshipped her, was sometimes terrified of
her, loved her and spoilt her.  In spite of their smallness of
means, confined existence and occasional aches and pains, Millie
got much pleasure from life, although she considered that the way
the world was going was appalling.  Appalling and exciting.  At the
back of her mind was always the fear that they would wake up one
morning and discover that they had no money.  The investments, once
so fat and satisfying, appeared with every year to dwindle.  Of
course, come the worst, they could always go to Twyden and make
their home with Tommy, the dogs, and Mrs. Hardcastle, the
housekeeper.  Anything more appalling Millie could not conceive.

They were both delighted to welcome dear Claude Willoughby.  He was
exactly their contemporary, and though, in younger days, they had
patronized him and thought him a good little man to run messages
for them, he was now one of the few holders of the fort remaining.
Moreover he had known everyone they had known and was an excellent
gossip: he held identically their views about the present
disgraceful state of the world; and, best of all, he had even less
money than they had.

Helen received him as Queen Elizabeth might have greeted an
ambassador from a foreign country, but her beautiful eyes mellowed
nevertheless.  Millie showed her pleasure without any dignity and
told him to draw his chair to the fire and that tea would be there
in a minute.  They had rung for it just before he came in.  Then
Millie began at once, without a moment's pause, to ask him whether
he had heard of the latest horrible behaviour of Princess Corleone.

Very briefly, Princess Corleone was the villain of the piece in the
lives of the members of the Pake world.  Princess Corleone was an
American, and there was nothing against being that, because some of
the most charming women in the Edwardian world had been American.
She had arrived in London before the War as a Mrs Peter Twine, the
wife of an American steel man.  She had attempted then a little
social advancement.  She had been at once checked on all sides.
There had been nothing whatever to recommend her as she had been
ugly, vulgar, with a voice like a pea-hen, and had never stopped
talking.  However, Mr. Peter Twine had died, leaving her a large
fortune, and she had married an Italian, Prince Corleone.  He had
been killed at Caporetto and she had returned to London, finding in
the new post-war world all that she had needed.  To her house in
Grosvenor Street she had gradually lured politicians, painters,
authors, younger nobilities, and finally Royalty itself.

Paula Corleone haunted the Pakes and their friends and fascinated
them as well.  In the old days they would not have considered her
at all, and would have scorned to gossip about her.  But now from
their little fastness, with the wild savage new world roaring about
them, they saw her as a kind of witch directing the storm.  They
saw her with her little restless body, her sharp eyes, they heard
her shrill never-ceasing monotone, they could not learn sufficient
detail of her personal life, her 'affairs,' her parties, her social
indiscretions.  They thought of her continually because they were
baffled by her power.  In the only world that they had actively
realized she would not have been permitted for a moment.  But she
had money, and money now was everything.  Birth, tradition, taste,
morals, decent behaviour, charming manners, all these counted for
nothing now beside money.  They had been brought up never to
consider money, never to mention it, never to think of it.  In the
old days there had been plenty.  The parties at Twyden had been
famous, and when there had not been parties at Twyden there had
been parties everywhere else: house-parties in enormous houses,
with vast rooms, icy passages, lawns dripping under the rain, the
shrill cry of peacocks, frosty mornings and the Hunt assembled
before the drawing-room windows, beautiful September mornings on
Scottish moors and the ladies at luncheon-time driving out to join
the gentlemen, endless, endless dinner parties, endless, endless
balls--and always plenty of money.

Now no one stayed a minute over anything; off they went in a motor-
car or an aeroplane.  No one goes to church, no one goes to bed, no
one goes to stay with anyone for more than a night.  The noise
about one's ears is a frenzy; all the world is preparing for the
last War that is to exterminate everything--and, above all this
horror, riding her broomstick, directing proceedings in her shrill
vulgar accents, is Paula Corleone.

Very quiet, though, is it now in this little room, the lights
shaded, the tea in front of the fire, Helen sitting bolt upright,
half in a reality that applauds the little macaroons (she has
always loved sweet things) and enjoying the detail of Paula
Corleone poking the Minister for War (or was it Agriculture?) in
the ribs and screaming at him like a parrot about a new laxative
that she had been trying.  Yes, and watching, as Helen loved to do,
the Chinese cabinet with the red dragons that had been among her
very earliest perceptions at Twyden, there near the great stone
fireplace in the Twyden drawing-room, when as a small infant she
had been brought down for an hour with her mother and, on some
especial occasion, like a birthday, had been permitted to turn back
the panels and open the musk-scented little drawers, black with
gold carvings of trees and pagodas. . . .

The Chinese cabinet was theirs now--Tommy had allowed them to keep
it--and Helen had but to gaze at it and all the past came swimming
up, the great country-houses, the gardens, the long line or the
downs, the tinkling Sunday reiteration of the bell in the village
church.  So, nibbling her macaroon, she heard but little of what
Millie and Claude were saying.

Claude was happy and thankful too.  For really this visit had
turned out delightfully and he would have plenty, in his room at
evening, to think over.  They were talking about the new Duchess of
Wrexe, who, only eighteen, had just married the Duke, a bachelor of
forty.  She was, they said, exceedingly beautiful and the daughter
of a Devonshire farmer.

'What the old Duchess would have said!' Millie exclaimed.  'You
remember her of course?'

'I should think I do,' said Claude.  'Time of the Boer War--
Rossiter's portrait of her is in the Tate.  Did you know that?  I
went with Connie Beaminster the other day to see it.  A silly
woman, Connie, don't you think?  But she means well.'

'She's a great friend of the Delaneys. . . .  Dear, dear!  What an
autocrat the old Duchess was!  And now see what her grandson is

'There are some farmers of quite good family,' Claude said
reflectively.  'But I hear that this girl's mother's father had a
shop in Taunton or somewhere. . . .'

'Oh, well,' said Millie briskly.  'No one cares any more about such
things.  They'd call us dreadful snobs, Claude, if they heard us,
and so I suppose--'

'Snobs!' Helen suddenly broke in, to their astonishment.  'If you
tell me, Millie, that good blood doesn't matter and decent manners
and bringing children up to know their betters--'

'I'm not sure,' said Millie, shaking her head.  'After all, Helen,
our childhood wasn't REALLY very happy.  You know we were terrified
of Papa and never dared open our mouths and always had chilblains
and had to wear boards down our backs at lessons and could never
read an interesting book on Sundays.  I DO think children are much
happier nowadays, and as to birth, Charles the Second made an
orange-girl a Duchess, and look at the way the Prince Regent used
to go on!  It was only Queen Victoria who altered everything, and
although I wouldn't say a word against her, she did fill England
with hypocrites, and no one can say that we're THAT any more.
After all, in the light of history sixty years is a very short
time.  Until Victoria, England was quite a ROUGH country, and now
she's gone back to being ROUGH again!'

Helen said, 'You've been READING something, Millie.'

'Not particularly.  Only Lytton Strachey, and Mrs. Pullet tells me
he's QUITE old-fashioned now.'

'You'd better go to one of Paula Corleone's luncheon-parties.'

'Oh no, of course not.  I should be MOST uncomfortable!  But of
course we ARE very old-fashioned, living all by ourselves shut up
in here, and we may as well recognize it.  Why, do you know,
Claude, there's one of the most modern young poets living at the
top of this house now.  I passed him on the stairs the other day--
such a wild-looking young man, but he gave me quite a nice
frightened sort of smile.  Fancy MY frightening a modern young

Millie laughed.  'Now if it had been HELEN . . .!'

Helen smiled a grim smile.  'Millie's getting so light-headed,
Claude, that I don't know what'll become of her!'

'Oh no, I'm not, but after all it isn't any use to pretend we're
living in the old world.  Two old ladies, buried away and forgotten--
that's what we are!'

Her voice shook a little.  She moved over and gave her sister a

'Put some coal on the fire, Claude, will you?'

Claude did so--not too much, for he could not help thinking of the
economy that his own coal demanded.

The flames leapt up, they talked on cosily, as though Claude were
their brother.  The watcher on the threshold, looking at the
figures, bent like ghosts about the fire, might have thought that
they were seeking one another's protection and comfort. . . .

'And what about you, Claude?  How are things going with you?'

'Very well indeed, thank you . . . oh, very well.'

'No more of that lumbago?  I remember you were bothered . . .'

'Oh, ever so slight.  There's a new embrocation I've been
recommended . . .'

'And that horrible man, your landlord?  He hasn't been offensive?
If you have any trouble I'll come along and tell him what I think
of him.'

'Oh no.  I don't LIKE him, you know--couldn't possibly LIKE him.
It's only his manner.  I can't believe that he means to be as rude
as he seems.  But he can't DO anything, you know.  Only make it a
little uncomfortable.'

Helen is half asleep.  Her back is as straight as ever, but she is
young, SO young, and although not beautiful still striking.  Even
Aunt Milchester allows that she is STRIKING.  She is kneeling in
front of the Chinese cabinet.  She is old enough now; she need not
ask permission any longer.  She turns back the crimson panels,
fingers with her thumb the raised gold on the smooth black surface
of the drawers.  Someone is practising the piano--Millie in the
schoolroom.  She hears the voice of Bannister, the butler--'I will
go and see, my lady'--and then her mother's thin, rather languid
voice:  'Ah, there you are, Helen!  We are going down to the Lodge.
I have to speak to Gummery about something'--and that sudden
glorious vista through the window as you raise your head from the
cabinet, of the sun behind the great oak and every leaf glittering.
A baby moon just fading from the pale blue-white sky, and the thick
bark-like scent of chrysanthemums.  Millie playing 'The Carnival of
Venice' in the schoolroom.  Bannister, so fat, so unctuous, so
devoted.  'I'll remember, my lady.  Certainly, my lady. . . .'

'I must be going now.'  Claude is going, going, gone. . . .

'Come again soon and see us.'

'I will.  I will.'

But in the hall downstairs there was still a little adventure.  As
he moved to the hall door another door opened and a young girl
stood there, all in dark red with a little fur cap on her very dark

She smiled.  What could he do but bow?  He knew her, of course--
Miss Delaney.  He felt that he must account for himself lest she
should think that he had been robbing the house.

'A little foggy, isn't it?'

Kitty Delaney came close to him.  There was a faint scent of--what?
Violets?  Who was this little man, so small, so dapper, but his
neat blue suit rather shiny?  Her heart was moved by the anxious
brown eyes, the mouth that trembled ever so slightly.

'I have been paying a New Year call on Lady Helen Pake.'

'Oh yes.  Aren't they darlings?  We are so glad they live here.'

Claude felt from her, as he felt from the girl's father and mother
when he met them in the hall or on the stairs, a renewal of his
ebbing vitality.  How charming a girl!  Something pleasant for him
to think over alone in his room that evening. . . .

'I live quite close by.'

'Oh, do you? . . .'  She took him, as it were, under her care and
protection.  'I'm so glad you do.  All of us here--just in these
few streets.  It's like living in a village, don't you think?  We
all ought to know one another.'

'My name's Willoughby.  Claude Willoughby, The Pakes will tell you
all about me.  They've known me all my life.'

'How do you do, Mr. Willoughby?'

Kitty held out her hand.  Claude held it a moment.  How warm it was
beneath the glove!  And was not the scent lilac?  At any rate he
could smell lilac, his favourite flower, white or purple, clusters
of it--against the old dark wood of the stair.

'Well, I must be going on.  Good afternoon, Miss Delaney.'

'Good-bye, Mr. Willoughby.  You must come and visit US one day as
you know the house so well.'

'Indeed I will, Miss Delaney.  Thank you so very much.'

He went tripping out into the fog, which by now had thickened.  But
he hummed a little tune as he felt his way.



Meg Delaney's nature was often childlike and even childish.
Indeed, as I have already said, the Delaneys WERE on occasion
childish and were sometimes patronized by persons who considered
themselves more mature.

Meg herself was never aware of being patronized; too many things
were always happening for her to notice patronage.  Certain people
alarmed her a little, like a friend of Kitty's called Joe Cardinal
who wrote for the paper Life and Leisure--a journal owned, edited
and written for by ladies who despised men and womenly women--but
then Meg was always alarmed by writers.  When Joe Cardinal came to
a meal in Charles Street, Meg talked a little too much, laughed a
little too gaily and agreed rather too eagerly that popular writers
like Messrs. Adrian and Rose were too awful for words; not that she
had ever read them.  She didn't read books, partly because there
seemed no time, but also because, as soon as she began to read,
things, people, memories, flashes of sun, a cry, a whirr of the
clock, the colour of a flower, a stiffness in the leg, a laugh, a
bell WOULD break in.  She was a little of a coward with all women
who did things for a living, because she thought they must despise
her who did nothing at all.  Also there was no doubt but that as
soon as a woman did something for a living she was changed a
little.  Something was added to her personality, something
detracted from it.  Add two waistcoat-buttons, subtract one blush
of the cheek.  Meg, like her daughter, was preoccupied almost
entirely with individuals.  She saw the world as peopled with
individuals and therefore she could never understand politics or
world causes.  She saw Mussolini as Mussolini--MR. Mussolini having
a bath, asking why his egg at breakfast wasn't fresh, chucking his
ferocious-looking daughter under the chin.  When she learned that
Hitler had been a house-painter, when she realized that he really
intended to keep that ridiculous-looking moustache, she could never
take him seriously again and thought of him as someone who needed
poultices, Kruschen salts and warm underclothing.  She learnt that
her views on politics seemed to her friends very silly, so she kept
silent about them as well as she could.  There were other things
about which she said as little as possible.  For example, that she
liked to go to church.  This seemed to all her friends a sign of
imbecility--because if she went to church she could have no brains
at all.  Queerly enough, had she been a Roman Catholic her
intelligence would not have been accused.  This she did not even
begin to try and understand.  The fact was that she liked to go to
church and so she went.  She did all the things that made her happy
and interfered with other people's happiness as little as possible,
but she did not think about anything very consciously.  She moved
and acted by instinct.

Now on this lovely afternoon, very early in the adventure-seeking
New Year, she was going with her daughter Kitty as far as Hanover
Square where Kitty had a dressmaker.  After this she would probably
walk in the Park.

She delighted to walk out with her daughter because she was so very
proud of her.  She knew of mothers, like Jessie Pinot for instance,
who would rather die than be seen out with their daughters because
of the age that it made them.  But she, Meg Delaney, did not care
of what age anything made her, and indeed looked forward quite
eagerly to being a very old lady still able to enjoy a theatre.
Herself and Kitty had almost exactly the same appreciation of small
events and unexpected persons, and this made a walk delightful.
Meg, of course, attracted attention in the streets because of her
gay colours and large size, but for some reason she was never
absurd.  She wore large hats, flowing cloaks of dark red, dull
gold, purple, and with her fine carriage, dark eyes and high
colouring looked what Princess Corleone ought to look--that
'miserable little scratching hen of a thing' as Millie Pake called
her.  Kitty was tall also, and the pair of them floating down Bond
Street was a fine sight.

Just at Agnew's door they encountered Marjorie Blandin.  Lady
Marjorie Blandin, related to all the best families and descended on
every side from Ethelred the Unready, was a stout, mottle-faced
lady whose work in life was to take out obscure girls in the
'Season' and be paid for it.  She hadn't herself a penny, but she
knew everybody and was physically indefatigable, so her prices were
high.  It was, however, a 'dog's life,' as she explained now
outside Agnew's, where there was very little room on the pavement.

'A dog's life, darling--how sweet you're looking, Kitty!  Well, I
think I've got those two Glowrie girls and a fat price too.  Mama
was all right.  She'd pay anything to get her little ones through
the hoops.  But Papa--what a man!  And the girls.  Plain!  Quite
frightful--and he insists on EVERYTHING--Ascot, Cowes, the
Beaminster Dance.  However, money's no object and--well, dear, I
must be moving.  Tell Larry when you see him that Gladys Dorington
has some Tang horses that are real treasures.  Hoopy would have a
fit if he knew she was selling them, but she's counting on his not
noticing they're gone.  Bring anyone to lunch any day, she says.
Just ring up.  Well, darling--'

'That reminds me,' Kitty said as they moved forward.  'I met the
dearest little man in our hall two or three days ago.  He'd been
visiting Millie and Helen.'

'Yes, dear.'

'WHY did Marjorie Blandin remind me? . . .  Oh yes, I know--because
she looks so very well fed.  This little man looked as though he
was half-starved.  His clothes were shabby too.  But he might have
been King of England, the dignity he had.  A very old friend of
Millie and Helen.  He lives in Shepherd Market.'

Her mother interrupted unexpectedly.

'Do you like Alice Van Renn, darling?'

'No, I don't.'

'Nor do I.  I was quite vexed with Larry for bringing her in on New
Year's morning.  I can't see with the best will in the world WHY
she appeals to men.'

They negotiated the traffic and turned aside up Conduit Street.

'It's because she never says anything.'

'Oh, do men like that?'

'Some men do.'

'Well, I've talked too much all my life and I've been liked by a
good many men one way and another.  Darling, are you going to be
EXTRAVAGANT at the dressmaker's?'

'Certainly not.'  Kitty laughed.  'But I'd LOVE to be.'

'I hope you're not, because I BELIEVE we're very poor at the
moment.  Your father woke up in the middle of last night and
laughed like anything.  When I asked what it was, he said that he
saw us engaging a barrel-organ and a monkey very shortly and
wouldn't we do it well?  I said I wouldn't mind in the least, and
neither I would.  I don't mind anything so long as we're all well.
But what I want to know'--Meg stopped for a while and gazed at the
shops--'is WHO has all the money?  Because a lot of money there is
somewhere.  Now, for instance, that woman Marjorie Blandin was
talking about will pay anything to get her daughters on, while we--'

'It's changed hands, I suppose,' Kitty said.  'It's always

'I've never had any,' Meg said cheerfully.  'Never my whole life
long.  And I must say I haven't minded.'

As they turned into Hanover Square they were both conscious of the
sky.  In the life of any Londoner the sky plays little part, but,
on occasion, it is as though the houses retire, as rocks draw back
when the ship moves out into the open sea.  Then buildings and
streets dwindle into nothingness, or a kind of wreckage that the
sky has flung down.  If clouds are flying, the surface of the
earth, with its scattering of bricks, mortar, and pigmy figures, is
scaled and bared as saucers and cups are tumbled off a table by the
dragging of a cloth.  Light flashes between clouds contemptuously
on to the huddle of rubbish men have gathered here.

But now, above the Square, although the wind drove the clouds there
was no anger nor contempt.  The clouds were small and light, misted
with an orange glow because there was fog about on this early
January afternoon; the mist was in the small fleecy rounded clouds
that drove forward like tufts blowing in the breeze from some
divine daisy.  But the fog did not touch the pale limpid blue of
the real sky-flood, which was clear and infinitely pure.

The orange light touched the chimney-pots and roofs with a
spreading thin gauze of shadow.  The light fell in ladders to the
street as it does when the sun shines on a dusty room.  The sky was
so alive with colour and movement that the town itself seemed to
crouch, as though watching on its knees, eyes staring upward at the
life and splendour.

Already dark shadows were clutching the knees of the buildings, so
that in the heavens all was glowing and on earth there was half-
obscurity.  The orange light became with every moment more intense
as the little clouds began to be hustled by the wind into a
gathered company as a shepherd hustles sheep.

Kitty, gazing for a moment upwards, felt, once more, that beating
excitement of expectation.  'Something is going to happen to
me. . . .  I have been waiting for years. . . .'

'What a lovely sky!' Meg said.  'I think I'll have an hour in the
Park.  It will be light there for a long time yet.'

'All right, darling.  Don't be picked up by a strange man.  And be
back for tea.  Connie Beaminster's bringing a friend.'

Meg laughed.  'You know, still, old as I am, I never take a walk
anywhere without thinking something MAY happen. . . .'

She started off, a ship in full sail.

Kitty looked round for her dressmaker.  As always the Church
dominated the Square.  So many absurd, wicked, greedy, snobbish,
idle, wasteful marriages!  And perhaps some good ones.  But now all
was very still there.  Some sparrows were hopping from one step to
another.  Light had been falling on the pillars, but even as Kitty
looked it was switched away as though by an impatient hand.  Her
dressmaker's was below the Church on the same side, near an Art
Gallery.  She stayed for a moment to look in the little window of
this, for there was a picture of the kind that she didn't
understand at all--a white curling thing with black edges in the
middle, two purple blobs that might be fruit or mightn't, something
brown that looked like a broken violin, and squares and slabs of
colour, silver, dark brown and black.  Fastened to the picture was
a label with the word 'Braque,' whether the title of the picture or
the name of the painter she didn't know.  'Now WHAT,' she thought,
'is the use of THAT?  Why shouldn't you paint fruit like fruit and
violins like violins?'--and yet as she looked she was aware that
the colours formed a pattern and that they were exquisitely
painted.  Such deep and glowing silver she had never seen, and, in
a mysterious fashion beyond her understanding, the picture bore a
closer relation to the shining sky and the dark walls of the Church
than it would have done had it been an exact reproduction.  Then
she saw, next to the little Gallery, an Art-shop over whose window
was painted in big silver letters:  'ZANTI LTD.'  She had been to
her dressmaker's often enough but had never before seen this name.
It was as though, in these moments, extra vision was given to her,
she was seeing everything with redoubled intensity, colours were
twice-times rich and the dusk was deep, like forest-dark, about

Set in the middle of Zanti's window was a rose-coloured bowl.
There were also some ivory-coloured figures, a triptych of Limoges
enamel and a piece of old rose and gold embroidered cloth.  She
stared at the bowl: its design was simple and the colour wavered
like sunset on water.  Of course it was absurd.  She could not
remotely afford such a thing.  But it would be pleasant to enquire.
She entered the shop.  The full glow of the sky, streaming in over
the short buildings on the other side of the street, illuminated
it.  It was a small shop but held, as Kitty perceived, a number of
beautiful things.

There was a young man behind the counter.

'I beg your pardon--'  He looked at her gravely.  He was a pale
young man with black hair, dark eyes.

Kitty, feeling very tall and as though she had no right to be there
when she knew that she could afford no purchase, said:

'No.  It's nothing.  I shouldn't trouble you.  But the rose-
coloured bowl in the window.  Might I look at it?'

'Of course, madam.  No trouble at all.'  He drew back the curtain
of the window, and while he leant forward she realized that he was
very thin and little more than a boy.  He returned with the bowl in
his hands.  'Do you mean this, madam?'

'Oh no.  It was--yes, I suppose I do.'  She was examining it.  All
the colour seemed to have gone from it.  'Why--now--it isn't rose-
coloured.  I thought--'

'Probably the sun was shining on it.  Things often look different
in the window.  It is a very old bowl.  We have had it in the shop
a great many years.  It is Italian fifteenth-century--Mr. Zanti was
very proud of it, I believe.  I don't know because I never saw Mr.

Kitty put down the bowl very carefully.

'Thank you very much.  I had no right to bother you, because I knew
I couldn't begin to afford anything so beautiful.'

She smiled and the young man smiled.  He had a smile so attractive,
so friendly, intelligent and shy, that Kitty herself continued to

'If you would only wait a minute or two, Mr. Zimmerman will be
back.  If there were anything else--'

'Mr. Zimmerman?'

'Yes.  Mr. Zimmerman owns the shop.  Mr. Zimmerman and his son.
They bought it from Mr. Zanti and kept the name because he was well
known.  I am only the assistant,' he added.  He was so very thin:
did he have enough to eat? she wondered.  'I haven't been here very
long,' he went on, 'and I always prefer it when Mr. Zimmerman is
in.  I might make a mistake.'

'You won't with me,' Kitty said cheerfully.  'Because I can't
afford to buy anything.'

They were staring into one another's faces as though they were
asking one another questions.  The Italian bowl lay between them.

'Then you haven't been doing this always?'

'Oh no.  I've been many different things.'

'Do you like this?'

'Mr. Zimmerman is very kind, but I'm so afraid of breaking
something or mistaking values.  Of course all the prices are
marked, but everything here is so precious.'

'Do you like beautiful things?' she asked.

'Oh, I LIKE things.  Anybody would.  But the world being what it
is!  If you only knew how much some of these cost!  And so many
people haven't enough to live on.'

'You'd rather do something else?'

'I'd like to be out of doors.  I'd rather garden than anything.  I
love flowers.'

'Yes, so do I.'

'And the mountains and the sea,' he added.

'Can't you go away, then?  Are you married?  Does anything prevent

It was nothing unusual for one of the Delaneys to enter into
conversation with a stranger; ask questions and be asked them.  At
the same time Kitty thought the young man's voice, eyes and smile
so very oddly personal to herself, as though she had asked for
someone with just that delicacy and friendliness to be found for
her.  And lo, he was there!

'I am tied rather,' he said, his eyes on her face.  'My father is
paralysed.  I have a sister who looks after him, but I have to make
what I can for us all.'

'Paralysed!  How terrible!'

'It isn't really.  My father is very happy, although moving his
head is about all he can do.  He was a builder and fell from a roof
and injured his spine.  But he's like no one else in the world--no
one anywhere.'

'Wouldn't it be better for him if you lived in the country?'

'Perhaps it would.'

'Would you think me impertinent?'  She paused, but, looking him in
the eyes again, realized that he would think nothing impertinent
from her.  'If you were to give me your name and address I might
hear of something.  One does sometimes.'  She felt in her case.
'Here is MY card.'

He said nothing, but out of a drawer produced one of the firm's
cards, wrote on it and gave it to her.

'That's my name--Alton Foster.  And my address.'  He took her card
and put it in his pocket without looking at it.  He was suddenly
formal.  But she held out her hand.  She felt the thin warm texture
of his hand through her glove.  She smiled.  'Good evening.'

'Good evening, madam.  And thank you.'  She turned near the door.
He was standing there staring at her.

'Please forgive me . . . if my questions . . .'

He went to the door and opened it for her.  'Don't lose the card,'
he said in an urgent, trembling whisper.

Meg Delaney engaged a taxi.  This was wrong of her when only last
night Fred had told her how poor they were.  She knew that it was
wrong, but she wanted to have all her time in that light, under
that sky, in the open freedom of Regent's Park.

She told the man to drive to the Botanical Gardens and then sat
straight up, looking out at the sky and feeling very happy.

She should NOT be happy, because in the first place she should have
walked to Oxford Street, only a step, and taken an omnibus
(although she could walk it ALL in NO time!), and secondly, Fred
had, she knew perfectly well, begun a flirtation with Alice Van
Renn.  However, poverty and Fred's flirtations were no new things,
which was possibly the reason why she did not feel as unhappy as
she should.  Hundreds and hundreds of times Fred had flirted, and
possibly hundreds and hundreds of times Fred had been unfaithful.
But HOW young had Meg been when for the first time she had learnt
that there was one law for the woman, quite another for the man!
About six years old, perhaps.  She had at least been very young
indeed when that hateful Mrs. Delias came and stayed so often in
that little Clarges Street house and gave her sweets and took her
into her bed with her.

She knew that she had with Fred a bond so strong and deep that no
woman born of man could disturb it.  And she wanted Fred to be
happy, as indeed she wanted everyone to be happy.  And healthy
strong men in their middle years had certain problems to solve.
She knew all this and allowed for it.  But she must be honest with
herself and would confess then that Alice Van Renn and her greedy
old mother gave her the creeps.

It was this creepiness that ought to cause Meg uneasiness, because
there was altogether something wrong in a fine healthy man like
Fred flirting with a beautiful young corpse like Alice.  Meg now
unexpectedly burst out laughing inside the cab because, in the very
middle of Oxford Street traffic, a Sealyham puppy on the end of a
lead had sat down four-square, refusing the urgent solicitations of
a stout man who held in the other hand a tissue-paper carton
containing flowers.  The man looked exquisitely absurd, being of
all things in the world the most ridiculous, an Englishman who
hated to be made a fool of in public.  Such a very small puppy,
such a very stout man!  It was always thus: at the moment when you
should be seriously upset about something life provided an
irresistible incongruity.  It was like dear Graham Pender, slipping
on the icy path at Strathpeffer and falling on his behind, just
when he was bending forward to kiss her.  Dear Graham!  How
adorable he had been all those years ago when she, nineteen and
divinely beautiful, had stayed that winter with Aunt Grace
Linklater in Scotland!  They had been engaged, Graham and she, for
four whole months, and no one had known it, and then off to China
he had gone, years had passed, she had married, HE had married. . . .
Well, well . . . to think of it, and that night after the dance
at the Wotherspoons' they had so nearly, so very, very nearly . . .
Only a miracle had saved her, a miracle and Graham's untimely sense
of the incongruous.  Meg's eyes were misted.  The Queen's Hall swam
in a vague of tenderness.  Dear Graham!  She had never loved anyone
in quite the same way again: Fred MORE, perhaps, but not in QUITE
the same way.  And if she had married Graham there would not have
been either Kitty or Bullock.  Where would THEY have been?  And
what would Graham's children have been like?  Tall and spare with
high cheekbones and very, very intelligent.

The taxi stopped at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens and Meg
got out, stepping at once into a blaze of light and colour made
personal and poignant by a touch of frosty air.

'Thank you very much,' she said to the driver.

He was an old man with a white powder-coloured nose, rheumy eyes
and a large grey woollen comforter.

'What a lovely afternoon!' she said.

'Yes, ma'am.'  He leaned towards her as though he would confide an
important secret.  'I've got a shocking cold,' he said.

'I'm so sorry.  What are you doing for it?'

'Five o'clock my time's up.  I'm going straight 'ome and put my
feet in mustard and water.'

'Yes, you do,' she said, nodding her head confidentially.  'That's
an excellent thing.'  As she walked along the Inner Circle she
wondered as to his home, his family and his general comforts.  Was
he as poor as they, the Delaneys, were?  He was sure, in all
probability, of his food and his bed.

In positive fact the Delaneys were sure of neither.  Forced out of
Charles Street, where would they go?  Oh! there were plenty who
would take them in!  But it wouldn't be their own beds or their own
food.  Fred would of course get work.  But what would he do, what
COULD he do in this new world where, if you were not efficient at
something, you were lost?  Why was the world so over-full of people
now?  It hadn't been in her younger days.  Ever since the Great
War, in which millions of people had been killed, the world had
been overcrowded.  How very odd!  She was walking on grass now and
before her rose a sloping green hill canopied with a sky of rose
and blue that the increasing cold seemed to crystallize.  Children
were running, dogs were barking, the bare tree-trunks gave off, as
it seemed to her, a kind of smoke, of faintly amber shadow.  Yes,
the sun was sinking.  She climbed the little hill, found two small
children crying because they refused to go home, and stood face to
face with Graham Pender.

She knew him at once.  Year melting into year had not changed him.
She could see him at this moment, here on this hill, bending
forward to kiss her, his feet slipping, his little cry of
dismay. . . .  He was standing very still, looking at the rosy sky.

'Well, Graham,' she said.

He turned as though he had been shot.  He stared.

'I beg your pardon.'

'I'm Meg Wendover.'

Colour flashed into his brown, thin and VERY distinguished face.


'Yes, I'm Meg.  I recognized you at once.'

He shot out his hand, caught hers, and then held it, staring and
staring.  His hand was trembling.

'Meg!  Meg!  Meg!' he said over and over.

She was herself so greatly excited that she put her other hand on
his shoulder.

'Dear Graham!  How enchanting!  Although I should of course really
be angry.  I wrote last--over twenty years ago.  Not a word since.'
She took both her hands back to herself and tried to be dignified.

'Often and often I've wanted to,' he began eagerly.  (His eyes were
as bright and blue as they had ever been, his height as commanding,
his forehead as noble!)  'But I saw in the paper that you married,
and I seemed destined for the East for ever and ever, and I . . . I
married too and--and--'

'Don't explain anything.'  They began to walk down the hill.  'Of
course you married.  What woman could resist you?  And I saw that
you had been knighted.  And your books are famous and so clever
that no one can understand them.  And you are just the same.  Years
haven't made the slightest difference to you.'

'My hair's white,' taking off his bowler hat.  Yes, it was, and
with his blue eyes, brown colour, tall, slim, erect body, made him
more beautiful than ever!

'Put on your hat.  You'll catch cold.  Tell me everything.'

He laughed.  It was plain that he was delighted indeed to see her.

'My wife and I have come to England to live.  Surbiton.  I'm up for
two days.  I want to see the English pictures at Burlington House.
We are going to Marie Tempest to-night--Old Folks At Home.'

He told her everything in exactly the direct boyish way that he had
done--when?--was it only yesterday?

'Oh dear, I'm so glad we met!  And I felt that something would
happen--I knew it!  I knew it!'

'And you?'

'I'm Mrs. Delaney.  We live in Charles Street and have two
children.  And I've got fat.'

'No.  No, you haven't.  You look superb--and somehow a child

A thin little woman wearing an ugly hat so that she reminded Meg of
a penwiper was coming across the grass toward them.

'This is my wife,' he said.  'I walked up the hill to look at the
sky.  Evie, this is an old friend of mine, Meg Delaney.  We knew
each other in Scotland when we were very, very young.'

(Evie, thought Meg.  What a ridiculous name for her!)

'How do you do, Lady Pender?' Meg said.  'How do you do?  An old
friend.  How very agreeable!'

They walked to the Inner Circle, talking about Marie Tempest.

'I don't care for the theatre,' Lady Pender said.  'But my husband
enjoys it.  It makes it so very late returning to Surbiton.'

'What does it matter!  We only live once!' said Graham.

'We do indeed,' said Meg joyfully, 'and must make the most of every
minute.'  She stopped a taxi.  'Now that is my address and--wait a
moment--that is our telephone number, although it IS in the book.'

'I think I have a card.'  He felt for his pocket-book.  'Yes, here
it is.'

They looked one another for an instant in the eyes.  Then he took
off his hat, gave a little bow and led Lady Pender away.



Half Moon Street on a rainy afternoon in January has little aspect
of beauty.  It is true that to-day it has respectability--more than
could be claimed for it even twenty years ago.  Mr. Dare and Mr.
Dolphin blaze and shimmer at the entrance as much as to say:  'Here
are shirts, ties and dressing-gowns so superb that, try as it may,
Half Moon Street won't, after you've looked into our window, be
able to disappoint you.'  And the tobacconist, opposite Mr. Dare
and Mr. Dolphin, shows you pipes so beautiful that, slender of
purse as you are, you wish that Sir Walter Raleigh had never been
born.  There are gay bachelors, too, in 90 Piccadilly--gay and at
the same time serious, responsible, knowing as they do that they
are under the benevolent but autocratic supervision of John Jones,
master of all gentlemen's servants; morals and patriotism go, at
this address, hand in hand with the rent.

Abutting on Number 90, moreover, there is a staid but elegant Club
whose members constantly place their cars at the very portals of
Number 90 to the aggravation of the aforesaid moral bachelors.  All
this is very well, and so far Half Moon Street has nothing to be
ashamed of.  Nor is there any very evident change as you advance.
Excellent landlords, admirable landladies, bright fires seen
between the curtains, cats, sleeker than the common or garden,
rubbing their backs against area railings, a geranium or so, a
glimpse of 'The Stag at Bay' above the friendly bookcase, a
gentleman's gentleman, bareheaded, wearing a stiff white collar and
side-whiskers as though he were even now in the service of Major
Pendennis, two bottles of milk, twin innocents, still on the
doorstep, two young men delivering a table, a bassinet and a
rocking-horse, a window high in the sky suddenly opening and a
gentleman with a teapot in his hand calling out 'Paper!', a stout
man in a bowler hat leading two Pekinese, authority, disgust, and a
simple touching kind of loneliness fighting for victory on his pale
and very unintelligent countenance; here is the life of Half Moon
Street on any afternoon in the week.  'On tiptoe for flight,' you
might imitate Mr. Keats by calling it, for it will not remain as it
is much longer.  There is ghostly scaffolding about the houses and
the smoky-dusty-carpet-geranium-smelling-iron-bedstead-basement-
toastmaking-damp-washing period is nearly over and ended.  It
doesn't matter in the least, the number of the house where Mrs. Van
Renn and her daughter Alice had their abode.  Their rooms were on
the middle floor--two bedrooms, bath- and sitting-room, meals sent
up to order, service and electric light and coal extra.

The house must not be numbered here because, to tell the truth, it
was a very poor, frowsty and uncomfortable house.  Mrs. Van Renn
took the rooms last year because the rent was low and the address
good.  It was one of her final desperate moves to get Alice off her
hands, because if Alice didn't marry money soon they'd be in the
poorhouse.  Mrs. Van Renn, it must be confessed, was very ugly,
being more like a monkey than most monkeys manage to be, nor was
she in any way an attractive character, but she adored her only
child, although she was desperately afraid of her.  If she DID
marry her off she would be so lonely an old woman that suicide
would be the only way out; on the other hand, if she DIDN'T marry
her off, why, then they would die in the gutter.  So there you

Alice herself expressed no opinion in the matter.  She didn't care
in the least what happened to her.  That men were fascinated by
her, her mother knew; that they never proposed marriage to her was
also a fact.

'Why don't they, Alice?'

'I've no idea, Mama.'

'You give in to them too readily.'

'I don't give in to them at all.'

'Well, perhaps you ought to.'

'I don't want to be married, Mama.'

'Then we starve.  That's all.  We positively starve.'

'I'd rather starve than be married.'

'Then what about me?'

'I'm sorry, Mama, but you should never have allowed Papa to put our
money in those mines.'

'I didn't know.  I never knew WHAT your father was doing.'

On an afternoon of driving rain Half Moon Street is really on the
shabby side.  Its resentment at bad weather is to be felt in all
its bones: rheumatism, a sentimental melancholy for the past, and a
waterproof that has known better days.  Half Moon Street aches from
head to toe; Mr. Dare and Mr. Dolphin give one look out of the
window and for that afternoon at least decide that their residence
is in Piccadilly.

Fred Delaney, seated on an uncomfortable chair in the Van Renn
sitting-room, wished that he had not come.  He had intended NOT to.
He would write some letters, go and talk to the Pakes, wait finally
for Meg to return from her visit to some old friends she had
discovered who lived, of all inaccessible rainy-day places, in

Then the flesh had pricked as it is given to doing on a rainy day
in London.  A vision of Alice Van Renn's exquisite white neck hung,
like a materialization of ectoplasm, right in front of the William
and Mary clock.  He didn't WANT it to be there.  He turned his eyes
away from it, but it followed him and in some mysterious way
affected his stomach.  It was exactly the same sensation as when, a
small boy with no pocket-money, he had gazed in at a pastry-cook's
window.  Not a very worthy reason for visiting Miss Van Renn; and,
through the rain, stopping to buy an evening paper from the newsman
who stood beside Miss Bonda's archway, he cursed himself for a weak
self-indulgent Irishman.

Inside the Van Renn castle, he decided, as he had already several
times decided, that the girl was a complete fool.  He tried her
with the theatre.  Did she like pantomimes?  Had she seen Babes in
the Wood and George Mozart?

'Oh, I never go to pantomimes.'

'No . . . well, not by yourself of course.  But it's fun to take

'Oh, do you think so?  Children always behave so badly when they
are with me.'

Yes, they would, of course.  They'd HATE her.  He was aware then,
as tea was being brought in by a girl who had plucked eyebrows and
was heavily powdered, he was aware, for the first time, that Mrs.
Van Renn didn't like him.  Fred was not vain, but he did think that
he was a big, jolly Irish gentleman and agreeable to most people.
He had set out from the beginning to be charming to Mrs. Van Renn
because of her beautiful daughter, and now all his efforts were

He didn't know, of course, that Mrs. Van Renn looked now on any
male admirer of Alice's who was unable to offer her marriage as a
danger.  He didn't realize either that Mrs. Van Renn found him
physically most attractive and that when she thought that of any
man a sense of isolation and misery attacked her; for she was an
ugly brown-faced old woman and she knew it.  Thirdly, he did not
know that Mrs. Van Renn realized that her daughter was attracted
also by this man, and that that was a rare and alarming portent.

He did know, however, that the tea was stewed, the madeira cake
something only fit for the laundry, and the bread and butter faded
and weary.

Alice got up and stood by the window, staring out at the rain.
Then she turned and looked at Delaney.  The faintest hint of colour
touched her cheek.  She was dressed in a very simple black frock.
She was so thin and so pale and her features were so lovely and her
body was so remote that he lowered his head and gazed at the
carpet.  For a wonder she spoke.

'On a day like this in a street like this, Mr. Delaney, don't you
long for a gas-oven?'

'Really, Alice!'

'Well, of course, Mama. . . .  It's the sensible thing.  Only I
haven't the courage.'

'No, I can't say that I do.'  Fred looked at her hands.  'After all
it won't rain for ever.'

The impulse to get up and take her in his arms, there, in front of
her old mother, was insane and almost irresistible.  It was then
that he was aware of the danger that he was in.  It was a sharp
warning, coming from within himself.  'Get up and go!  Go and never
come back.'  He did get up.

'I must be going, I'm afraid.'

He held out his hand and it enclosed Alice's.  She was drawn a
little closer to him.  Her hand was warm when he had expected it to
be cold.

Mrs. Van Renn said:  'Oh, must you go?  It's early yet.'  She had a
habit of bending and twisting her thin brown fingers together.

He said to Alice:  'You must come to a theatre some night.'

'Thanks.  I'd love to.'

The room was stifling and his heart was hammering.

Mrs. Van Renn said:  'So nice to have seen you.'

As he went downstairs he was aware that he was carrying the scent
of the room with him.  There must have been, he thought, gas
escaping somewhere; there was a smell of airlessness and as though
a trap had been set baited with cheese and a mouse had been caught
in it some while back.

He must walk.  He must clear his head of the mouse-trap, Alice's
white neck.  He must investigate this new and unaccustomed sense of

He started down the Green Park.  Just a short round to the Palace,
Hyde Park Corner and back.  The rain curled and coiled about him
like a great spider's-web.  On an afternoon like this the London
that he loved disappeared and became as indistinct as the blurred
film in a cinematograph.  It had no character, no place, no past
nor present.

In and out of the rain figures were constantly moving, but figures
like germs in a medical chart.  This was because, he often thought
(for he studied London and all its moods with constant delight),
under storm and rain London was not a city, but rather gladly
returned to its original marsh-world.  He had noticed how a bird
flying through the air on a rainy day in London seemed gigantic,
portentous, masterful, how men and women shrank to non-identity,
and the long stretch of Piccadilly covered with the motionless wet-
gleaming cars and omnibuses was like a river of mud and slime
between rocky barriers.  When the rain, as to-day, was clinging and
web-like, and the chill air wrapped you in damp underclothing, he
rushed to some interior, for once be within walls on a London wet
day and you were twice as comforted, consoled and reassured as you
would be in any other place.  It was as though on every side of you
fortresses had been planted against the enemy.  Once inside, you
could, from the warmth, light, security, look out and mock the
marshes and the gleaming dark-running river, the gigantic birds,
the quagmires and the prehistoric beasts.

To-day, however, he realized that his attraction to Alice Van Renn
belonged to the marshes and the gigantic bird.  There is a world of
physical passion which has no contact anywhere with common sense,
morality, thought for others, friendship, nobility of character.
All that you can say to a man is that he must keep out of it, for
once he has crossed the border and breathed its unnatural air he
will not listen to any warning voices, any threats of public
disgrace or private hell, any stern implication of the law.  That
is why one is so often astonished by bizarre, macabre, abnormal
occurrences revealed suddenly, planted there in the normal,
colourless life of man like bright exotic poisonous flowers.

Delaney's attraction to Alice Van Renn was not as yet mature enough
to seem so portentous, but, walking now in the rain, he realized
quite clearly that it might become so, that it belonged to that
crazy, dangerous world, that it was a sort of fever in the blood
that led to deliriums, sleep-walkings, and acts that were
destructive, without reward, comfortless.

This was not the first time that he had been beguiled by the flesh,
but he had hoped that these crazy, inevitably disappointing
episodes were beginning to fade from his life.  For he liked to be
kind, jolly, generous and honest, and he loved Meg with all his
heart and soul.

Then, with a flash, he realized that he was attracted to Alice Van
Renn partly because she was, in physical type, the exact opposite
of his wife.  He was attracted sensually by the spare, the
delicate, the remote, the silent.  He had loved Meg passionately,
he had passion for her still, but for some reason women of her type
had always been easy of conquest for him.  They had liked his
health and sturdiness and joyfulness as he had liked theirs.  He
looked on Alice Van Renn as a collector of Chinese pottery sees a
splendid horse in the Eumorfopoulos Collection.  Her power over him
lay in her remoteness from possession.  That was why this obsession
was so essentially foolish.  If he didn't get her he would be
exasperated, and if he did get her he would be disappointed.  To
all the other Figures in the Rain he cried out:  'There is nothing
in this but folly, bitterness and unhappiness to others.  Let's run
from the marshes to dry ground.'  He shook his shoulders with
relief when he found himself safely once again within the walls of
the Charles Street house.

There was a message that Captain Pullet would like to see him when
he came in.  He ran up the stairs, humming, feeling all the old
buoyancy, his physical fitness, his freedom from alarm.

'Well, Smoke, what's the trouble?'

'Have a drink.'

'Thanks, I will.  Not too much whisky.'

'What a filthy day!'

'Yes, isn't it?  I had a walk but it was nasty.  Not the right sort
of rain.  Glad to get in.'

'Smoke' Pullet was very trim, his face hollowed and sharp.  He
looked an Army officer and a discontented one.  Or rather the
puckered lines in his forehead stood for trouble more than
discontent.  He had lost a leg in the War.  The sitting-room of the
Pullets was furnished in the best modern fashion; the chairs had
arms of steel, the carpet had a design of black and white squares,
there was a Marie Laurencin lady in silver and pink over the
fireplace, the walls were white and the curtains black.  Fred
Delaney thought the place hideous, but that was not his business.
He liked Smoke and Dodie immensely.  He felt for them like a
father.  He thought Smoke one of the bravest and least intelligent
men he had ever known.  Dodie was clever, but Smoke had no brains
at all, only instincts.  He had therefore been a great success in
the War and had been awarded both the D.S.O. and the M.C.

He was so honest, so courageous and so stupid that he was not at
all fitted for the economic storms that he was trying to weather.

He looked at Delaney with great affection and said:  'I'm sorry,
old boy, but I'm afraid I have some bad news for you.'

'What's that?'

'It seems that Dodie and I will have to move.  We are planning to
sleep on the Embankment.  Dodie's out now seeing about a pitch.'

This was what Fred had feared, but he showed no disturbance.  His
cheerful countenance beamed on his friend.

'Stuff!  Leave here?  I should think not!'

'Oh, but it's so, old boy.  You know that Dodie's been helping
Hazel Groom in her dressmaking place.  Well, she's left.  They had
an awful row.  There's only my pension and we're up to our eyes in
debt.  We simply can't afford even this rent.'

Delaney said nothing.  He couldn't offer a lesser rent because one
penny less and the whole place went under.

'I think,' Smoke said slowly, 'that the best thing I can do is to
get out of this altogether.'

'Get out of it?'

'Yes.  Bung off.  Visit another world.  Make a call on old Saint

'My dear chap--'

'Yes, I know all about it.  I'm not very bright, you know, and
ideas move slowly.  All the same, I get there in the end.  Anyway,
lots of chaps are doing it.  You read about one or other of them
every morning in the paper . . . and Dodie would be a lot better
without me.  She'd marry again.  She's darned attractive and some
smart feller would want her.  Sure to.'

'You blithering fool,' Delaney said.  'She adores you.'

'Yes, she's fond of me.  She's a good girl.  She'd miss me a bit at
first and then she'd see what a good thing it was.  This isn't a
world, old boy, for a chap with a wooden leg, no cash and no
brains.'  Then he added slowly, staring in front of him:  'I've
tried for every sort of thing.  Nobody wants me.'

Delaney was silent.  He had a lot to think about.

'You've no idea, old boy, of the kind of life that Dodie and I've
been leading in the last year.  We've cadged deliberately on
everybody we know.  We've angled for meals, been everywhere and
anywhere with the chance of getting something for nothing.  We've
spent days and nights with the most awful people to be safe for
food and drink.  It can't go on for ever.  For one thing, WE can't
stand it.  For another, I bore nearly everybody.  There are only a
few old stupids like yourself can stand me.  Almost all the people
we really like are as poor as we are.  And that's another reason
I'd be better away.  Dodie amuses them.  She's bright and gay.
Without me she would have no end of a time.  If I ever did have any
ideas they are gone now because my brain goes round and round about
the Bank worrying us and the debts and the rent and the debts and
the Bank. . . .  So we must move out, old boy.  Sorry, but there's
nothing else for it.'

Fred stretched his thick legs out, patted his stomach, pulled at
his tie, looked in front of him.  Here was another Figure in the
Rain.  Unless something happened Smoke would do just as he said.
And perhaps it would be the best thing for him.  That was the real
problem at the heart of the trouble.  There was no place in this
present world for the Smoke Pullets unless there was a World War
again--then they would be admirable.

Before 1914 they had played a very necessary part; they were a real
need in English life and had been so for centuries.  They had been
the Squire and the Squire's son; some property, possibly a seat in
Parliament, beneficent, tyrannical, understanding in their country
community, conforming, traditional, safe and sound.  So it had been
since the Wars of the Roses; from Agincourt 1415, say, until
Serajevo 1914.  And now, within the space of twenty years, they had
become only a burden, and a wearisome burden at that.  There was no
future of any kind for Smoke and he without a leg which he had lost
in the service of his country.  Probably a nice gas-oven (who had
been talking of gas-ovens that very afternoon?--oh yes!  Miss Alice
Van Renn!) WOULD be the best thing.

And yet Delaney had only to look at Smoke to know that he would do
anything in his power to help him--save only to lower the rent.
That he must not do for the sake of the house.  The house!  The
house!  And then he heard Smoke saying:

'And the Pakes may have to do the same thing.  Their income's gone
down like anything.'

So there it was!  The battle had been joined!  Nineteen-thirty-four
was already showing what she could do, and January not ended!  He
realized from the start, however, that it was Smoke with whom he
had immediately to deal.  Let him think of the house afterwards!
Over Smoke's thin obstinate face there was a strange shadow as
though he were half-way towards Saint Peter already!

'Look here, Smoke--don't be a bloody fool.  No, I mean it.  Killing
yourself doesn't help anything.  I'll speak to Rex Bennet, in the
War Office.  He'll think of something.  Great friend of mine.  And
we'll manage about the rent.  I've got to get it in somehow because
we're running on a narrow margin as it is.  There are so many
things want doing to a house like this.  You're right, though, in
one thing.  Fellows like you and me who haven't been brought up to
doing anything particular aren't much use in this new world.
You've got to be EFFICIENT at something these days if you're to get
a job, and the public schools are still turning out heaps of young
chaps who aren't any more efficient than we are.  There are more
young men hanging round London doing nothing to their parents'
despair than ever before, and they don't want to do anything
either.  They've been to Eton or Harrow or Winchester and think
they're swell.  They look down on everybody, their parents first of
all--and yet they're quite incompetent.  They don't give a damn for
their country.  Patriotism is bunk, and so is religion and so is
hard work.  I don't like the Fascists and the Nazis, but I will say
they give their young men something to be keen about. . . .'

The door opened and Dodie Pullet stood there, as smart and thin and
straight as a wand cut from the willow.  Delaney, looking at her,
thought as he often thought:  'Where DO they put all their figure
to?  Nothing either in front or behind.  It must all be SOMEWHERE.'

But he was extremely fond of Dodie.  She came and kissed him,
ruffled his hair a little, and, in her mouse-grey frock with
carnation at the neck and wrist, stood, with her arm around her
husband's waist, looking very beautiful.

'Well, darling, have you told him?'

'Yes, I have.'

'And what does he say?'

'Oh, that it's all nonsense of course.'

'It isn't.  Fred, sweet, we've got to go.  That is unless I become
a woman of sin and spend a weekend with--oh, never mind who!  But
I've had a very good offer.'

She was joking, she was talking nonsense, and yet the trouble in
Smoke's eyes ever so slightly deepened.

'Now, you two children,' said Delaney, getting up and straddling on
his strong legs.  'Leave it all to your uncle.  He'll think of

'I don't know what it is about you Delaneys,' Dodie said.  'You
haven't any money yourselves and you none of you do anything for a
living and you aren't very intelligent and yet you ARE a comfort.
There's no denying it.  You ARE a comfort.  Someone was calling you
ironically the other night "the joyful Delaneys" and saying they
detested your good spirits.  But I don't know.  It's as though you
saw farther than the rest of us and knew there was a good place
SOMEWHERE.  I like you.  I must honestly confess I like you.  But
you're getting fat, Fred.  You must watch out for it.  The Hay
Diet.  That's the thing.'

Later in the evening, in the middle of his happiness, he thought of
the Pullets.  But they were different now.  Figures in the Rain,
but the rain was shut out, and all that marsh-world was unreal.
For, by an extraordinary piece of good fortune, all the Delaneys
were in that evening--Fred, Meg, Kitty and Bullock.  Not only did
they all have dinner together, but they stayed together AFTER
dinner, all of them, until they went up to bed.  Of how many
families of their class in London that evening could that be said?
They had one of Fred's favourite dinners, as Meg knew well--petite
marmite, sole, mutton with currant jelly and baked potatoes, and
apple pudding.

'Americans shudder at our food,' Fred said.  'And yet, how
beautiful, how natural, how full of flavour. . . .  Dodie Pullet
says I'm getting fat.'

He reflected that it was strange that they always seemed to gather
this happiness from one another.  Trouble was brewing for himself,
Meg had something on her mind, and Kitty--hadn't, in the last few
days, something been happening to Kitty? but inside this room,
close together, loving one another, they were conscious, perhaps,
as Dodie said, of a happiness not dependent on the events of the
day or material things. . . .  He didn't know.  Food and wine made
him sentimental.

'And how was Surbiton?' he asked Meg.

For an instant--so swift that no one but he in the whole world
would have noticed it--she pulled up her guard.  She looked at him
over the top of it with her large black eyes, as though she would
say:  'Are we moving into a new episode?  Have I got to be
careful?' for no marriage, however long-lived, however intimately
enjoyed, is ever static.  It changes colour, shape, balance of
strength and weakness with every striking of the hour.  No one
knows anyone else sufficiently ever to be CERTAIN of safety.

'Surbiton? . . .  Oh dear, such a wet day!  I walked up an endless
road.  Just imagine!  The house was called "Happy Nook".'

'Called WHAT?'

'"Happy Nook."  Really.  Of course my friend hadn't named it.  It
was like that when they took it.'

'Did you like them?'

'Of course it's funny after so long.  The wife's a dowdy.  He's so
very clever.'

'Ah, that must be a change after your own dear family.'

'And what have you been doing on this very wet day?'

'Oh, nothing . . . had a little walk in the rain . . . waited for
you to come back.'

Afterwards they sat in extreme comfort round the fire.  Once Kitty

'Anyone ever heard of a painter called Braque?'

'WHO, darling?'


'Lord, no!  What a funny name!'

'I have,' Bullock said.  'Play you at backgammon, Kitty.'

'All right.  What do you know about him?'

'Oh, he paints squares and cubes and nonsense like that.  You
aren't going highbrow, my darling sister, are you?'

'Of course not.  Why should I be highbrow just because I ask an
intelligent question?'

Bullock kissed her.

'You look very beautiful to-night, as though you were in love or

Meg tried to read a novel for a brief while.  She put the book
down.  'I know I'm not clever,' she said, 'but I can't read modern
novels.  If they're intelligent they're about the nastiest people
and take the gloomiest view of everything.  If they're about nice
people and end well, they're stupid.  What I want is an INTELLIGENT
happy novel.  It's not much to ask.'

Later, from his very small dressing-room off their bedroom, he
called out:


'Yes, dear.'

'What stage are you at?'

'I'm in bed.'

He came in, in a superb dressing-gown of black silk with a purple
collar and cuffs--a birthday present from Larry after he'd made a
lucky deal in some Waterford glass.  Fred called it his Waterford.
He sprawled over his bed and drew her into his arms.

'Meg, dear.'

'Yes.  What is it?'

'I think I'm a little in love with the Van Renn girl.'

'I know you are.'

'And the Pullets and the Pakes may be leaving.'

'Oh dear, oh dear!'

'Yes--altogether I feel as though things are going to happen.
You're not quite yourself either.'

'Of course I am, darling.'

'Not quite. . . .  Not quite.'  He leaned his cheek against hers.
'What I want to say is--dearest, are you listening?'

'Of course I'm listening.'

'Whatever happens, WHATEVER happens, we'll see one another through
everything.  We know, don't we, that no one, nothing, ever and ever
can mean to us what we mean to one another?'

'Yes, we do.'

'That's why we're happy if we have to beg in the streets.'

'I shan't mind begging in the least if we're together.'

He drew back from her a little.  He put his hand under her chin.

'Even your old flame--who's very very clever, isn't he?--won't take
you from me?'

Meg laughed quite hysterically.

'Fred, what an absurd idea!  Why, he's got white hair.'

'And you love me, love me, love me?'

'I adore you.'

Meg looked at him, smiling.  Then she said slowly:

'If--for a day, a night, a minute, a second I WERE unfaithful--how
would it be?'

'It would be as we said at the beginning it was to be.  We agreed
then that we should both be free--absolutely.'

'Yes, but you would love me less?'

'I don't know how it would feel.'

'People would think it disgusting if you didn't.'

'We've nothing to do with people,' Fred said, 'or anyone else's

But Meg was thinking:

'Yes--but I've a kind of wildness in me--always have had, and one
day perhaps before I'm an old woman and everything's over I might--
just to be kind, to smell a whiff of adventure--I might be TOO

'That would be up to you,' Fred answered.  'What I couldn't be
responsible for would be my own feelings.  But we'd be honest with
one another and _I_ think we'd go on loving one another whatever

'Yes,' Meg said.  'But not in the same way.  I think there's
nothing more horrible than for people to have RIGHTS over one
another.  Horrible, horrible!  We're free, as you say, you and I!
But, put laws and religion and tradition and what conventional
people think ALL aside, love between husband and wife follows the
same instincts as it did ten thousand years ago.  Love can be

'Has ours,' he asked quickly, 'by my--well--weaknesses?'

'Yes, I think it has--a little.  I love you just as much, but a
little differently and not quite so finely.  Of course,' she went
on rapidly, 'we aren't very fine people--not as fine people go.
We're HAPPY people, which is quite another thing.  If we were finer
we wouldn't be quite so happy maybe.  There's a little bit of the
guttersnipe in both of us, Fred.  In Larry, too.  In Kitty a
little.  But NOT in Bullock, I think.'

She got up, looking at him.

'All the same our love for one another is grand.  And it would be
silly--for some little quick sensation--to spoil it.  People do--
often.  But I'm not to be trusted--not for another while or so.  No
other man but you has made love to me for years and it IS so

He looked at her and then beyond her.  'We're free.  Our love's
based on that.'

'Perhaps we shouldn't BE free.  Maybe we're going to find that

But he was never any good at serious discussion.

'Wait a minute,' he said.  'I'll be back.'

He went into the dressing-room to clean his teeth.



Shepherd Market about ten of the morning when the sun has not, as
yet, broken through the wispy fog-mist, is like a little miniature
town under water.  Nothing is quite clear, yet nothing is really
indistinct.  If you enter under Miss Bonda's archway, with only a
step or two, you drop the whole of London behind you, or rather you
enter into the very nutshell of London, having within a few feet of
you everything that London can provide.

In Carrington House you can see the backside of all London's
present splendour: you may, by ringing a bell and murmuring a
sentence or two, be the possessor of a regal apartment at a regal
price and call the Green Park your own.  Indeed one of the
qualities of Shepherd Market is that it is not only a fortressed
town in itself, but from its windows you can look out on to the
whole campaign of the outer world.  You are, in fact, here and
now, the VERY CENTRE of the world and well does every citizen
of Shepherd Market know it.  It is the last stronghold of
mediaevalism, the supreme remaining quintessence of Victorian
Dickens England as the very sign of 'Ye Grapes' reminds you; in its
glistening blood-brown leather of boot and shoe there is the soul
of the English Squirearchy; the shops offish and game smell of
rivers running turbulently to sea, and green meadows fading before
the evening star; the window of old books and prints offers you
culture.  Beer and kippers and varnished leather and fresh spring
flowers, the evening newspaper, a cut off the joint and two veg.
for a shilling, Apartments for Gentlemen, strings of glass beads,
Chinese boxes, Elizabethan ivory in Philo's window, the butcher's
red harvest, two canaries in a cage for half a crown, 'All the
Winners' and sweet cakes and coffee at Caf No. I--you can live
within these walls for ever, need never step outside, and can have
all your mental, bodily, spiritual wants supplied till the coffin
is ready for you.

In this rose-mist cold-snap morning light this little square of
ground has more of the spiritual sense of London than any other
spot on this cinder of a star.  Be dropped here blindfold and
you'll smell in a second where you are.  It is not only the fish
and the leather and the fresh spring flowers, it is rather the way
that London has of living with intense quiet, its finger on its
nose, plunged so deep into the past that you cannot, if you are a
foreigner, conceive that there is any present life at all--a
mistake that foreigners have been given to making through all
England's past history.  If, dropped from an aeroplane, you stood
there blindfold, say in the very centre of Market Street, you would
hear people moving on every side of you and almost no sound coming
from them.  A dog would brush against your leg, you would scent the
rough fur of the cat as it moved toward the fish-and-game Paradise,
somewhere from a far distance beyond the walls there would be the
humming whirr of traffic.  You might fancy that you caught the echo
of Sam Weller's ghostly greeting or the ponderous dogmatism of
Samuel Johnson, Mrs. Gamp's husky endearments, the shrill cry, like
a call from the battlements, of King James' apprentice, the ghostly
song of Piers Plowman himself finding this soil still stream-
watered.  Time marches on, and yet there is no Time here.

And then, your bandage removed, you would stand there blinking, for
the thin fog has not cleared yet and it is as though under water
the figures are moving and it is under water that the voices are
hushed.  Nevertheless wait a little and you will find the life as
practical and workaday as in any one of the blessed Five Towns

Mr. Brocket is very practical indeed.  There is no poetry-nonsense
for him as he moves, hither and thither, engaged on his morning
shopping.  Mr. Brocket, in a decent dark suit and a bowler hat,
moved very cheerfully among his fellow-men.  Brocket was in no kind
of way a bad human being.  The only trouble with him was that he
was, like many thousands of others, still a child.  He wished
everyone well so long as his greed, his animal desires, his sense
of power were sufficiently fed.  He had not reached that stage of
maturity that demands consideration of others equal with goodwill
to oneself.  He was the type of whom all tyrants, and men who work
gladly for and under tyrants, are made.  But this was no sin in
him.  He had simply never developed from the stage when he seized
his little sister's liquorice-stick because he was stronger than
she, and twisted the arm of a boy smaller and more nervous than
himself.  He thought himself a very good man, as all tyrants think
themselves good men.  He had the utmost contempt for those who are
foolish enough to give anything away without hope of practical
return, who turn the other cheek or who believe in the virtues of
their friends.  He trusted, as he often said, 'in the strength of
his good right arm,' although if a right arm stronger than his own
appeared he was most polite, even sycophantic towards it.

He lied when there was no likelihood of being found out and called
it 'good business.'  He was often drunk and called it 'making merry
with his pals.'  He seduced any woman whom he could persuade or
force, and called it 'a weak spot for the fairer sex.'  He
considered, without thinking about it, that the whole universe
swung round himself.  There had been moments--of illness, of plain
speaking from someone too strong for him to defy, of money
difficulties--when it had seemed to him as though this might not be
so.  Then he had been very frightened indeed.  Under his jollity,
good comradeship, and fun with those weaker than himself, there ran
a tremor of apprehension.  If, for half an hour, he knew
indigestion he was certain that it was cancer.  If one of his
little financial adjustments were in danger of discovery he saw
prison gates opening in front of him; if a girl threatened trouble
he considered, for a moment, the gas-oven.  All this was because he
was still a child--a dirty-minded, ignorant, bullying child.  Not
his fault.  Only, in parenthesis, one may remark that it is
astonishing when you consider how long civilization has been at
work that there should still be so many children about.
Astonishing and a little disappointing perhaps.

Brocket was well liked, on the whole, in Shepherd Market.  He was
considered a big, jolly, friendly man.  He had but few intimates
and they knew well that, at heart, he was neither jolly nor
friendly.  Women liked him until they became intimate.  After that,
they were often too unpleasantly frightened to talk.

He moved about the Market, buying a thing here, a thing there.  He
knew the just price of everything.  He knew also the characters of
his fellow-citizens.  Some he threatened a little (for he was a
great repository of dirty and mean secrets), some he placated, with
a few he had a kind of secret understanding.  There was a young
girl, a servant in one of the flats near by, whose person he
considered favourably.  She was very young, rosy-faced, and, he
believed, ignorant of the world.  He had, as yet, only passed with
her the time of day; he hoped soon to know her better.  He watched
now, as he moved about, to see whether she too might not be engaged
on a bit of shopping.  She was nowhere to be seen.  Then he
remembered that he must have a word or two with his tenant, Mr.
Willoughby, and so he moved homeward.

Claude was in his room considering a far from agreeable post.  His
post that morning consisted of one letter only and that was from
Mr. Clive Markham, his solicitor, who managed his affairs.

Clive Markham also managed the affairs of the Pake ladies.  They
had introduced Claude to him, and very kind Mr. Markham had been,
for he managed Claude's few investments with all the care possible
and never charged him a penny for the service.  Being a man of good
heart he hated to have to write Claude this kind of letter--a
letter which informed him that the Toddington Waterworks were
unable to pay any dividend just now but hoped to be a little more
generous next time.  That meant that the twenty pounds upon which
Claude had calculated would not be forthcoming.  He had paid,
happily, his last quarter's rent, but on what would he live during
the present quarter?

He sat there, shivering, in his old dressing-gown, but the blood of
the Willoughbys which had often assisted him before came to his
rescue again.  He was not defeated.  He had no intention of being
defeated.  He must sell something.  So he went to the cabinet,
opened it and surveyed his treasures.  There they were--his silver
christening mug, a Jacobean dagger of chased silver, two gold
snuffboxes, the miniature of his mother as a child in a thin gold
frame, a small, very ancient Toby jug in black and brown, a gold
brooch with pearls that had belonged to his mother, and an
exquisite little cup and saucer out of which, his mother used to
tell him, Marie Antoinette had once drunk her morning coffee.

He looked at these, his thin little body shaking with cold, his
head shaking with sentiment.  He COULD not sell these things, not
one of them!  Something else must be done.  He must consult Millie
and Helen who, very nearly in his own condition, must have many
brilliant ideas.  He sat down again, picking up his Telegraph to
read about the dreadful hardships of the South Wales miners, when
the door quietly opened and Brocket, in his shirt-sleeves and brown
apron, presented himself.

'Mr. Willoughby, it isn't an agreeable thing to bring forward, as I
told Major Pierson, but the plain fact is that he's missing a
bottle of bath salts bought at Fortnum and Mason's only two days
back and he's wondering if you happen to have seen them when you
was down there 'aving your bath.'

Claude put by his paper.

'Is Major Pierson suggesting I stole them?' he asked.

The hairs on Brocket's head seemed, like the stars of God, to sing
together in glory.  How greatly he enjoyed a little scene like
this!  It was meat and drink and more to him.  Having been deprived
of a little conversation that morning with the rosy-cheeked
servant, he must take his pleasure some other way.  It was true
that Major Pierson had lost a bottle of bath salts or SAID he had
(silly old fool, what was HE wanting with bath salts!), but he had
certainly never suggested that Mr. Willoughby had taken them.  That
was all Brocket's bright idea.

'Why no, Mr. Willoughby, in course not, most certainly not.  Major
Pierson's a gentleman, and between gentlemen such things aren't
done, I DO 'ope.  He only suggested I might enquire about the
'ouse, the bottle being missing and being just new, practically
unopened, one might say.'

'Please search my room, Brocket, if that gives you any pleasure.'

Claude was trembling with rage at the insult, and he knew that
Brocket knew that he was trembling and was pleased thereat.  He was
trembling with rage and also with a kind of nausea at Brocket's
close physical presence.  This nausea had in it anger, disgust, and
also fear.  Fear, lest on some sudden occasion, Brocket should
touch him.  The thought of that touch haunted him.  It seemed to
him fantastically as though, at one touch from Brocket's horrible
hand, he, Claude, would crumble into dust as from the touch of
death itself.  These are tall words but they were not at all
exaggerated in Claude's consciousness.  He was old, not in very
good health, had never sufficient food; under such conditions the
walls of the physical material world are thinned, physical contacts
are more imminent and more deeply charged with significance.
Brocket had never, in real life, touched him, but Claude had known
dreams in which Brocket's hairy arms were around him and he was
drawn closer and closer to the thick breath, the evil panting
heart, to the very horrors of anticipated obscene death. . . .

Nevertheless he remarked very quietly:  'You know very well,
Brocket, that Major Pierson never even suggested that I took his
bath salts.  I have not seen them in the bathroom.  I'm afraid you
must look elsewhere.'

Brocket stepped further into the room, scratching one pale-grey arm
meditatively with a dirty fingernail.

'Now, Mr. Willoughby, that isn't very polite, if I may say.  That
is as much as suggesting that I'm a liar.  You're a gentleman, Mr.
Willoughby, and I'm sure don't wish to make such a suggestion.'

'I don't say you're a liar, Brocket.  I only repeat that I haven't
seen Major Pierson's bath salts.  That's what you came about, I

Brocket looked at him.  What a miserable, half-fed little weed this
was!  Had the Soviet Union been in command in London and Brocket a
Commissar (a job he would have discharged with a thorough and
genuine enthusiasm), the fun that he might have had with little Mr.
Willoughby.  As it was he continued broodingly to scratch his arm,
and suddenly Claude gave a jump in his chair and cried:  'Don't do
that!  Stop scratching your arm!'  There was a silence.  The two
men stared at one another.  Then Claude, his heart beating as
though it would strangle his words, said, 'I beg your pardon.  I
don't know what led me . . . I beg your pardon.'

Brocket coughed, rather as a delicately-minded lady might after she
had been affronted by some unexpected coarseness.  Then, his
slippers flip-flapping under him, he left the room.

Claude dressed and thought that he would take a little air.  The
sun was out by now, and in Market Street he recovered some of his
self-control.  He was known to numbers of persons who respected and
liked him.  'A proper old gentleman.'  'One of the old sort.'  'You
don't see many of his sort nowadays.'

So he walked delicately, swinging his cane which he always carried
in fine weather, and thinking how greatly he would enjoy breaking
it over Brocket's rump had he but the opportunity and a strong arm.
In reality, he was trying to force himself into the determination
to give Brocket notice.  He must find a room somewhere else in a
more modest quarter of London.  He must not any longer afford the
grandeur of the Market.

But that removal seemed to him like a sentence of death.  Once in a
dreadful little room in Bloomsbury or possibly even in Camden Town
(not that he had anything against either of those admirable
districts) he would be so utterly lost that he would die.  Lost.
Forgotten.  That's what he would be.  So long as he was citizen of
the Market and might walk about, as he did on this sunny morning,
with his head up and his friends around him, he lived, he had a
reason for living.  He was afraid of Brocket; he hated, even
detested him, but he would find a way to win a victory there.
Banished from the world that he had always known, whose air he had
always breathed, he would be strangled and die. . . .

'Good morning, Mr. Willoughby.  Nice day, isn't it?'

Claude turned, and there was young Bullock Delaney.  They had met,
once, twice, for brief moments in the Pake sitting-room.  And what
a nice young man young Delaney was!  He had such charming manners,
listened to what you had to say, smiled so often, was so anxious to
be kind.

This, alas, was what all lame dogs thought of young Bullock, and a
dreadful curse in young Bullock's life it was.  He was dedicated,
in the modern drama, to the rle of 'Charles, His Friend.'

He was invited to advise and arrange more domestic troubles than he
cared to count; not at all because he was especially wise, but
because his heart was kind and he was, above all, a good listener.
He differed from his sister Kitty in that he possessed a wider
sympathy than she.  Like all women she preferred to have all her
eggs in one basket, and once the basket was filled she concentrated
on it entirely.  But Bullock, having, in spite of his literary
intentions, not a great deal to do, being happy himself and very
trustful of others, believed the stories that were told him and
guilelessly tried to assist.  He was considered, therefore, a fool
by nine-tenths of his acquaintances, and a deep Machiavellian
plotter by the other tenth.  He was neither a fool nor a saint,
possessing good brains in certain directions, and all the regular
weaknesses.  He was for ever falling in love and had known one or
two successes in spite of his small stature.  A little drink made
him so heady and gay that he looked and behaved foolishly.  When he
played cards he played badly and lost more than he could afford.
Almost any scoundrel could take him in with a tall story.  He
believed in his friends quite foolishly.  He was exasperatingly
stupid at times.  But his heart was warm and generous, his sense of
honour immaculate, his courage undefeatable.

At the first sight of Claude he had been touched just as his sister
was, but this morning, in the Market, he caught before Claude
veiled it a look of troubled embarrassment, of a frightened
anxiety, that moved him deeply.  Brocket, looking out of the first-
floor window, thought them a comic little pair.  'They'd go well in
a midget show,' he commented to Mrs. Schneider, the cook, with whom
he was having a kind of rogues' interview.

'Can't all 'ave YOUR 'ight, Mr. Brocket,' said Mrs. Schneider,
deeply brooding over the best way to cheat Brocket without his
discovering it.

'Yes, it IS a nice day, isn't it?' said Claude cheerfully.

'Out for a stroll?' asked Bullock, wondering what the old boy's
trouble was.

'Only a little constitutional.  We don't get the sun such a lot
this time of year.'

'No, we don't, and that's a fact.'

'I live just here.  Rooms in White Horse Street.'

'Oh, do you?' said Bullock.  'Most romantic spot in London I always
think this is.'

'It IS romantic, isn't it?  I do hope they won't pull it down.
They're always threatening to.'

'We'll have to fight for it if they do.  You and I, Mr. Willoughby--
side by side.'

Then Bullock had an idea.  He had been considering.  He could not
bear to leave the man without some suggestion of friendliness.

'Doing anything to-night, Mr. Willoughby?'

Claude tried to look as though he COULD be doing a hundred
different things and had the greatest difficulty in choosing
between them.

Bullock went on.  'I'm going round to a little party in a friend's
rooms this evening.  Quite near here.  Back of Berkeley Square.
Care to come?'

'Oh, I--well, I think I COULD arrange . . .'

'That's fine.  A pal of mine is coming with me.  Has rooms in our
house.  A poet he is, named Munden.  Ever heard of him?'

'No.  I can't say I have.  But then I don't--'

'Don't suppose anyone else has ever heard of him, either, only HE
doesn't know it.'  Bullock became very businesslike.  'Right.  Meet
you outside the Christian Science Church this evening at eight-
thirty.  That suit you?'

'Oh, perfectly--perfectly.'

Claude took a great deal of trouble to be smart and handsome for
the occasion.  He had been invited once more to a party, not merely
to tea with the Pakes or a drink in somebody's Club, but a REAL
party.  Who knew what might come of it?  He realized, as he stroked
the creases out of his blue-and-white tie and examined the sleeves
of his blue coat with anxiety to see whether they were too shiny or
no, that, in his secret heart, he had been, during these last hard
years, hungering for a little of his old social life.  He loved a
party.  He had enjoyed, once, so many of them.

And now, through that kind young Delaney, he would enjoy another.
He saw the beautiful girls with their kind attention to himself.
He saw himself wagging his head with a roguish smile and heard
himself saying:  'Oh, but I'm an old buffer!  You won't find it any
fun dancing with me!' and then, almost as though it were in a play
by Barrie, the lovely young creature murmured:  'Mother has told me
that in her younger day you were the life and soul of the Town.  I
see you as that now.  To me you are not old, etc. etc.'  Nor was
he, for even as the lovely young creature spoke, at the word
'Mother' he was transformed, etc. etc.  Well, who knows?  This
might be, after all, his Indian Summer.

He was a trifle disconcerted when he saw young Delaney's friend.
He scarcely, in his appearance, promised the kind of party for
which Claude had been spiritually arranging.  A tall gaunt hungry-
looking young man in a pair of not overclean flannel trousers and a
waterproof.  But then, Claude remembered, Delaney had said that he
was a poet, and young poets were seldom clean or well-dressed--
although why that had to be so, Claude could not imagine.

As they walked along Claude wished that he had never left home,
because Mr. Munden pushed along, talking at the top of his voice
and striding so fast that Claude almost had to run to keep pace
with him.  Mr. Munden used many oaths and strong words and was,
once or twice, most distinctly indecent.  He inveighed against the
Nazis, which Claude was glad of because he didn't like the Nazis
himself, but, on the other hand, he seemed to be blood-brother to
Stalin, which Claude didn't at all approve of.  The main burden of
his song, however, was that 'money should be taken from those who
had it and given to those who hadn't.'  He suddenly turned quite
fiercely to Claude.

'You're nothing but a bloody plutocrat, I suppose?'

'I don't quite understand,' said Claude stiffly.  His Willoughby
blood was always up when anyone spoke to him rudely.

'Well, you're rolling in money, I fancy.  Don't you think that you
should give some of it to the workers?  Why should YOU have it?
What have YOU done to deserve comfort and luxury?'

Then Claude laughed.  He laughed very heartily indeed for an old
gentleman of seventy.  He laughed and laughed and laughed.  Then he
remembered his manners.

'I'm very sorry.  I'm afraid you'll think I'm extremely rude, but
the fact is--the fact is--well, to tell you the truth, I've got no
money at all.  I can't even afford a new suit.'

Bullock laughed too, as he always did at anything Munden had,
politically or economically, to say.

'That's one on you, old boy.'

Munden, who wouldn't hurt a fly if he could help it, was most

'Well, I say--no, but I didn't mean to intrude on your private
affairs--I thought from what Bullock said--I really am extremely

The laugh had done Claude a lot of good, although he thought it a
lapse of taste on his part to have spoken about money in public.

'Quite.  No harm done, I assure you.  Only that anyone should think
me well off . . . ah, here we are!'

And there they were, outside a forbidding-looking building with
some shabby steps and a very worm-eaten door.  Bullock pushed a
bell, the door opened, they climbed dark stairs.  Another bell was
pushed and at once they were in a room, filled with tobacco-smoke,
faces, arms, legs.  A voice was crying:  'Blood!  Blood!  Who ever
got anywhere without bloodshed?  You people all sit there so
comfortably when, at your very side, men and women are starving.
And AREN'T the rich men clever!  How do they keep the poor man
quiet?  By giving him just enough to keep alive on, but NOT enough
to have strength to fight.  Scarecrows!  Half-alive corpses!
That's what we're breeding in England!  If I had my way I'd hang
all the Baldwins, Edens, Duff Coopers, Nuffields and the rest down
Piccadilly!  Piccadilly should swim in the blood of the rich if
that means the poor are going to have fairer lives!'

'Bravo, Benny!'  'First class!'  'First blood to you, Benny!'
Applause, some of it derisive, echoed.

Claude was surprised to realize that the orator was a tall handsome
young man with a pullover and beautifully creased flannel trousers.
He had a charming voice and one of the mildest, most amiable faces
ever seen.  He looked at his gold wrist-watch as soon as he had
finished speaking.  'Time for food!' he cried.

Then he saw his new guests.

'Hullo, Patrick!  Why, Bullock, you young bastard, I haven't seen
you for weeks.'

'Hullo, Benny. . . .  THIS is a friend of mine, Claude Willoughby.'

'How do you do, Mr. Willoughby?  Come and have something to eat.'

Easy said.  There was a table at the end of the long, low room, and
everyone was pressing around it.  There were a great many people.
It seemed to Claude, with his old-fashioned eyes, that the women
looked like boys and the men like women.  Had he read any lighter
literature of the last ten years he would not have dared to think
anything so trite.  It was clear enough, however, that this was a
very different party from any that he had ever attended.  No one
was going to remember her mother here.  There was a terrible noise.
Everyone talked at once.

'Benny's right.  Sweep everything away.  That's what we've got to
do,' a plump young man near Claude was saying.

A plain girl in enormous spectacles replied in a steady voice, as
though she were breaking stones in the road:  'Well, I don't know.
It's easy to talk like that, but a friend of mine's just had three
months in Russia and she says it's MOST uncomfortable.  You can't
buy a thing and the streets are always up.  But the worst part of
it is it's so damned dull.'

The plump young man was most indignant.  'Oh, God!  I suppose you'd
rather have the bloody Nazis!'

'Not at all,' said the plain girl steadily.  'I don't see why we
need have either.  I think England's pretty good myself.  Anyway,
it's better than anywhere else except Scandinavia.  What do you
want to make a change for?'

'I see,' said the plump young man, and his voice rose into a shrill
treble.  'It means nothing to you that in the Distressed Areas
families haven't enough to eat, children are skeletons.  Why, I
heard the other day of a man in South Wales who had the same suit
for five years!'

'All the same,' said the plain girl, 'things are improving.  I
lived in Durham as a small child.  There were plenty of people
starving, but nobody bothered.  Sixty years ago half of England was
starving and nobody cared.'

'Yes,' said the plump young man, almost spitting in his scorn.
'And you won't mind if in another two years England is Fascist.'

'Fascism,' said the plain young woman, 'is a joke in England and
always will be.'

Claude listened to all this with a great deal of interest and
considered how very different it was from the conversation at pre-
War parties in London.

However, the real truth of the matter was that he was terrifically
hungry.  No one in the room knew it, but he had had nothing at all
to eat since breakfast, feeling that he had better lose no time in
starting new economies.  Munden and Bullock had discovered friends,
so he must fight for himself.  This he did most gallantly.  He was
a little man and wormed his way first here and then there, until at
last he found himself before the best-spread table he'd seen for
months.  There were sandwiches of every kind--foie gras, salmon,
tongue.  There were little sausages, and hot biscuits with cheese,
and salads, enormous cakes, and as fine a bowl of some extremely
intoxicating liquor as he'd ever tasted.

'They'd like this in South Wales,' he thought as he began to

Bullock had, for a moment, forgotten his friend, because, within
five minutes of entering the room, he had fallen in love.  This had
often happened to him before and as quickly, but this time he had
fallen in love with a child.  Or was she a child?

He had seen her almost directly after entering the room.  She was
sitting on a chair and holding a plate with a piece of cake on it.
She was, however, not eating the cake but looking gravely in front
of her.  She was dark, slight, a child perhaps of fourteen or
fifteen years, but what touched at once Bullock's tender heart was
that she appeared to be quite alone in this gay and noisy company.
She was speaking to no one, and no one was speaking to her.  He
touched a friend's arm.

'Look at that child.  What on earth is SHE doing here?'

His friend followed his gaze.

'Oh, that . . . that's Lizzie Coventry.'

'Lizzie Coventry?'

'Oh, she comes to parties quite often.  She's not a child really.
In years, yes.  She's going on sixteen, I believe.  But she knows a
lot about life.  You'd be surprised.'

'How very extraordinary!'  Bullock stared and stared.  'But WHO is

'WHO is she?  The daughter of Captain Nicholas Coventry.  He's that
good-looking, dissipated chap talking to Mona.'

'Well, who's HE, then?'

'Coventry?  Watch your step, my lad.  He's dangerous.'

'Dangerous?  Why?'

'He's charming--very charming--and most certainly will end in gaol.
He lives on his wits.  At present, I believe, he's running a little
friendly gambling establishment off Coventry Street somewhere.'

'My God!  And that child lives with him?'

'Certainly she does--and has always done.  But she can look after
herself, I fancy.  She's a nice kid really and has the hell of a

'Will you introduce me, Bellamy?'

'Why, of course, old chap.'

They threaded their way across.

'Lizzie, this is a friend of mine--Bullock Delaney.  He wants to
know you.  Miss Coventry--Mr. Delaney.'

She looked at him gravely and held out her hand.  There was a chair
vacant beside her and he sat down.

Bullock smiled and she smiled.

'Excuse my butting in like this.  I've no excuse.'

Miss Coventry gave him her plate.

'Would you put that away somewhere, please?  I'm not hungry.'

He took the plate and quickly returned.

'Awful noise they're all making, aren't they?'

'Yes.  There's always a noise at parties, isn't there?'

She was entirely at her ease, but not, he thought, in the least
interested.  He wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her--and
yet she did not appear to be at all in need of comfort.

'Do you go to parties often?'

'If my father takes me.'

'Do you like them?'

'Not very much.  But I don't care--'

'Aren't you--?  I mean--'

She laughed.

'You mean--I ought to be at school?  Not at parties?'

'Oh no--that is, if you liked parties.  But as you don't--'

'I've never been at school anywhere very long.  You see, we're
always moving about.'

'You travel a lot?'

'We HAVE travelled a lot, but we've been in England now for nearly
three years.  First we stayed with my aunt, Mrs. Carlisle, in
Westminster, and since then we've been with friends of my father's,
and now we live alone together.'

'Oh yes.'  He had never seen such dignity, such perfect poise in
anybody.  What would she say, he wondered, if he were to say to
her:  'I only saw you a moment ago, but I'd like already to take
you away and look after you.  I'm sure you're frightened often,
that you're unhappy . . .'

Instead he said, 'I suppose you've got heaps of friends in

'My father knows many people.  But one doesn't make friends often,
does one?'

'I'm afraid I do.  I'm very impulsive.'

She looked at him as though she were many years older than he.

'I don't think that's wise--to be very impulsive, I mean.  I love
my aunt and uncle and they have a nice boy, Edward.  Although I
never see them,' she added, and then, against her will it seemed, a
small sigh escaped her and she did appear, in that instant, a real
child.  He obeyed, torrentially, his impulse.

'Look here.  Tell me where you live, will you?  I'm perfectly
harmless.  Everyone will tell you that.  I'd like to see you

She gave him a grave look.  She was considering him.

'What did Mr. Bellamy say your name was?'

'Delaney.  They call me Bullock because I'm so short and, oh, well,
bullocky.'  He laughed and she laughed too.

'Yes.  If you like.  Our address is thirty-five Borden Street, off
Coventry Street.'

'I'll telephone.  Could I meet your father?'

'Of course.'  She got up, went a few paces, pulled at her father's
arm and said something to him.  Bullock got up.

'Father, this is Mr. Delaney.  He'd like to meet you.'

Captain Coventry was extremely friendly.  Bullock could see that he
had been very good-looking, but that now there was too coarse a
red, too stout a body, too thick a voice.  Nevertheless the Captain
was charming, and, although he had undoubtedly been drinking, could
command all the courtesies and amenities of social intercourse.

'Come and see us, old boy.  Ring up.  Name's in the book.  Any

'Thank you,' said Bullock.  'I will.'

The Captain turned away.

'You'll forgive me,' Bullock said, 'for being so abrupt?  Forcing
myself on you?'

She stood up.  They were exactly of a height.

'It was very agreeable,' she said.  'I am glad to know you,' and
dismissed him as though she had been royalty.

For Claude there came a horrible ten minutes.  A strange business.
He never afterwards could remember it quite clearly.  In truth, he
had drunk a number of glasses of the delicious liquor and, having
had but little to eat that day, and having also a certain weakness
in the head under spirituous potencies, he found that the floor
rocked ever so slightly under him, that he was very happy, ready to
talk to anybody, and that people moved in tantalizing rhythms.
Then, quite suddenly, his happiness was gone and his heart was
filled with fear.  For out of the confusion, the bright light, the
crush and murmur of sound, there came a cold, dominating voice.  He
could see the speaker quite clearly--a short, broad-shouldered man
who was addressing the party.  The other voices died.  This man
spoke, it seemed, into a listening waiting world.  Here, Claude
knew at once, was the real thing.  The man spoke politely, but it
was obvious that he was scornful of everyone present.  He spoke
with a certainty and a freezing assurance that chilled Claude's
blood.  He spoke of the new world that was most positively coming.
It was a world that would, it was clear, have no use at all for
anyone present in that room, a world in which the rulers would be
relentless, unsparing.  A world without tenderness or sentiment.  A
world without God, because God was a fable and belief in Him an
ancient exploded superstition.  A world in which everyone would
work for the State, in which there would be neither individuality
nor personal property.  A world in which no human being would own
anything, certainly not their own souls.  Not entirely an ugly
world--there were strong, shining, selfless qualities around and
through it like rods of shining steel. . . .

But, for Claude, a world from which his life would be snuffed out
as you snuff out a candle.  It seemed to him as though this little
man were speaking especially to him, as though the contempt in the
man's eyes were directed solely against him.  Claude felt himself
die.  The rocking floor caught him, swallowed him, buried him.  The
awful final thing was that in the man's voice there was a negation
of all personal life.  As Claude listened he ceased to be Claude.

The man stopped.

'Thanks for letting me say a word or two,' he ended.

'Let's dance!' someone cried.  'Come on, let's dance.'



Kitty, as she saw her mother bend over the crying child, lift her
up, brush her shabby little frock, give her a piece of money out of
her bag, thought that there could be no one, surely, in the world,
more charming.  Her charm lay, at the moment, in her complete
unselfconsciousness, for although they were in Curzon Street on
this gusty, gritty, unpleasant afternoon, with everyone in the
world to observe them, although Meg was in her best clothes (for
she was going ultimately with Larry to a grand cocktail party), she
had knelt down on the pavement and been as completely absorbed in
the dirty infant as though she were her own offspring.  The child,
running out of Shepherd Market, had slipped and fallen.  She howled
but was not damaged.  Then she had stood staring at this tall lady
in dark purple and a large hat; after that, with the piece of money
in her hand, joyfully she had run on.

Meg started forward with her daughter again, continuing her
conversation just where she had left off.

'. . . and so I think, darling, that Bullock's in love once again.
He's such a sweet boy, but knows nothing about women, I'm afraid--
nothing at all.  But then, I say to myself, who does?  Certainly
not writers.  Not politicians either, or they'd NEVER let women
have anything to do with politics.  Fred doesn't either, and _I_
don't and Larry doesn't.  The point about women is, can you ever be
sure that they won't do something on the spur of the moment?'

'Can you be sure that men won't either?' asked Kitty.

'Yes, I think you can, dear, because they're so much more selfish.
Once they're after something they want, NOTHING will change them or
turn them.  Although when they HAVE got it they usually don't want

But Kitty was thinking.  She seldom read novels, but by her bed
there had been a book, by a very clever young man, called Mud in
Your Eye, and, being awake from three to seven (most unusual for
her), she had read it.  Very clever the young man was, springing
from character to character like an acrobat, but very unpleasant
too.  Kitty didn't complain of that, because facts were facts, but
she was thinking now how very out-of-place her mother and father
would seem in such a book.  And yet they were surely quite as real
as the charwoman with the erysipelas (minutely described) or the
shop-girl who went to bed with so many different gentlemen.  The
end of the book had been occupied with a brilliant description of a
man spitting blood into a basin while his old mother, whose head
was scrofulous, alternately smacked and petted him.  Now if,
instead of this, there had been a description of Meg, picking up a
child and giving it sixpence, Meg a lady, happy, contented and
handsome, HOW unreal the book would appear!  How scornful the
brilliant young man was of happiness!  No one was happy in his
book, not a single soul.  No one was physically clean.  But wasn't,
even in these days, one part of life as true as the other?  There
WERE people who used soap and water, there WERE families happy and
devoted, there WAS beauty to be found . . .  Kitty pulled herself
up.  She was becoming platitudinous and complacent.

'But why do you think Bullock is in love, Mother?'

They were passing the bookshop whose window was always filled with
coloured illustrations of flowers and old maps with whales spouting
water in the corners.  Seen at a distance this window looked like a
page from an old missal (neither Meg nor Kitty had this thought:
old missals meant, I'm afraid, very little in their lives).

But the bookshop suggested something to Meg.

'What charming pictures of flowers!  I often go this way instead of
Piccadilly simply to see them.  I think dear Bullock is so like
those nasturtiums--aren't they beautiful?  Look at the colour!--and
now he's in love again all his tendrils are twisting.  Oh dear,
what nonsense I'm talking!  Just like that man who writes those
charming books about his country cottage.  But Bullock is very
strange.  He's asked whether I mind his bringing to tea one day a
little girl and her scoundrelly father.'

'A little girl and her scoundrelly father?'

'Yes--and when I said of course, but why did he want to, he said
because he was in love with the little girl, and when I said that
that was nasty and unnatural he became quite excited and cried out
that he wouldn't harm a hair of her head, but that she needed
protecting. . . .  And now I come to think of it, Kitty, you've
been odd yourself the last week or two.  I wish you'd tell me where
you are going now this afternoon.  At least no, I don't.  A mother
must never force a daughter's confidences.  And yet all the same I
DO want to know.  Do tell me, Kitty.'

And then Meg performed one of her more tiresome tricks.  She
stopped in the street where she was--just outside Cook's offices.
This she sometimes did when she was very serious about something.
She was altogether regardless of people, and there is nothing in
life more irritating to sensible and busy men than to find two
women planted in the middle of the pavement talking to one another.
Meg looked with her large and lovely eyes at her daughter.

'On my side, Mother,' Kitty said, laughing, 'I want to know why
within the last fortnight you have been twice to Surbiton.'

'Oh,' said Meg grandly, 'there's no secret about that--no secret at
all.  They are old friends of mine--at least HE is.'

'Yes, he is,' said Kitty.  'But Surbiton--it's unlike you to go to
Surbiton.  And twice in a fortnight.'

At this point an impatient gentleman, planning undoubtedly to go on
a World Cruise straight from Cook's door, gave Meg's arm a very
impolite knock.  She was not at all disturbed but smiled at his
angry face, wondering whether she'd met him perhaps at some
friend's house.

'We're blocking the pavement, Mother.'

'Oh, are we?  Well, if you won't tell me, darling, I won't ask you--
only will you be in to dinner?'

'Yes, I will--and Bullock and I will take you to a picture after.'

Meg was looking at her daughter as though for the first time.  She
could not bear to let her go.  She always felt about the people she
loved when she parted from them as though they were just off to the
South of France, and all she would get now would be letters and
possibly a telegram.

Kitty hailed a taxi, gave an address and was off.  Meg walked into
Piccadilly, smiling, although Fred had often told her not to smile
in the street when she was alone lest people should think her
insane.  But she could not help it.  She was really so very
fortunate to have so beautiful and charming a daughter.

'This is undoubtedly the house,' thought Kitty.  'Ah, yes.  Here's
his father's name--Albert Foster--on this dirty card above the
little bell.'

She paused before pushing the bell, looking up and down the sordid
paper-blown street.  It was indeed a very bold and probably foolish
thing that she had done.  She had simply written to the young man
and said that she had something to tell him about a job, and she
would, if he thought it sensible, speak to his father and himself
concerning it.  The awful thing was that what she had to tell him
about a job was that Lady Millie Temple, who had the big place
Rathesay in Rutlandshire, wanted an under-gardener.  The young man
had said that he loved flowers and liked to live in the country--
but did he know anything about gardening?  Almost certainly not.
Moreover he seemed altogether superior to the post of under-
gardener, except that in these days anyone took anything that he
could get.  Why was she doing this insane and foolish thing?  Even
for a Delaney it was insane and foolish.  She had put on her very
quietest frock, but the sight of this dirty street made her visit
officious, interfering and snobbish.  But she could not help it.
Her impulses always seemed to her like laws.  She was not
sentimental as Bullock was, that is, if sentimentality means
spreading your feelings loosely and lightly over a great many
things and people.  She had never done anything like this in her
life before.  She was amazed, even horrified, at herself, but she
never dreamed of turning back.

Alton Foster, in his answer to her letter, had said that she was
very kind, that he would have an afternoon off on such-and-such a
day and that his father would be proud.  Well, she was in for it
and would carry it out as handsomely as she could.

The door opened and she climbed some forlorn stairs.  There, in a
narrow grimy passage, was Alton Foster waiting for her.  He was
exceedingly nervous.  His hand was trembling.

'There are a great many stairs,' he said.

His nervousness moved her kindliness and made her perfectly at

'Will you come in, please?'

She entered and found it one of the most surprising rooms in her
experience; for unexpectedness it ranked with the bedroom of Rose
Colthorpe's which was filled with little tanks containing coloured
fish, and Joe Cardinal's bathroom which was all glass, black tiles
and scented soap.  For it was a broad room in shape like the large
waiting-room of a railway station.  It had a little that air of
ancient disrupted newspapers and a heavy grumbling fire that
refused to burn.  Nevertheless, in spite of a sense of almost
religious discomfort, the walls were painted with pictures in the
most lovely colours.  Well painted too.  Some of the paint had
flaked away, much of it was faded, but one could see clearly enough
a kind of Hoffmann world with witches, ghosts peering in at
windows, lovely battlements, forest glades and long stretches of
blue sea.  Beautiful sensitive feeling this artist had had, the
colours, soft rose, gold and amber, peacock purple, the silver-grey
of the bark of a birch-tree, the dead white of a vellum page--all
these colours, faint, still, toneless. . . .

But upon these painted walls were hung pictures in cheap gilt
frames, and pictures of a frantic and almost obscene crudity.  They
were in rude oils--valleys with autumn leaves, seas with sunsets,
streets with timbered buildings.  The drawing was crude, the colour
dreadfully bright.

The room itself was kitchen, bedroom, sitting-room.  There was a
cooking-stove; in the corner by the window a bed partly behind a
screen; there was a table spread with a cloth on which was laid one
of those teas provided by the hospitably eager for the unhungry
reluctant--cakes and cakes, scones and scones, dishes of jam and
dishes of jam, and all of it looking, through no fault of its own,
as though it had been exactly thus on this table for a month or

On a sofa near the fire was lying a man with an almost cherubic
face and snow-white hair--quite cherubic it would have been had the
nostrils not been unexpectedly pinched as though they had been held
tight with a pair of nippers while someone had carefully spread out
the rest of the face.  Under the rugs there lay what was clearly a
big and possibly corpulent body.

Standing with a nervous uncertain smile on her face was a stout
woman whose hair was waved so smartly that the rest of her looked
oddly old-fashioned.  She was, of course, the daughter of Mr.
Foster, the sister of Alton.  It was with her that Kitty first
shook hands.

'I'm afraid you'll think this a most impertinent visit on my part.'

'Why, no . . . SUCH a thing. . . .  Tee-hee-hee. . . .  This is my
father--Alton told you, I'm sure. . . .'

Whether Alton's sister had an impediment of speech, or ill-fitting
teeth, or was merely nervous, Kitty did not know and never would
know.  Lucy Foster was a repository of sounds that were always a
little different from your expectations.  When, for instance, you
were sure that she was about to sneeze, she surprisingly laughed,
and when you were preparing sympathy for a choking cough, she
merely yawned--very politely with her hand in front of her mouth.
She seemed herself often astonished at the sounds her body arranged
for her.  Otherwise she laughed, giggled, tee-heed extensively.
She was also in a perpetual state of surprise.  All this Kitty
discovered in the first ten minutes while she fought a determined
battle against eating more than a piece of bread and butter.

She never, she explained, ate anything at tea.  She was going on to
say something about slimming necessities when she realized just in
time that this might seem an affront to Lucy, whose figure was

'Well, I never!  Do you hear that, Dad? . . .  Miss Delaney never
eats with her tea.  Fancy that now!  What!  Not a piece of this
plum-cake?  It's ever so good.  Do try now, Miss Delaney.  Miss
Delaney should, shouldn't she, Dad?  She should really.  And so you
don't eat with your tea, Miss Delaney?'

Mr. Foster was Kitty's chief preoccupation.  WHAT a noble head,
what a cheery smiling face, what rosy cheeks, what beautiful
shining white hair!  How smart, how spotless he was, and there was
even a small Christmas-rose in his buttonhole.  He must, once on a
time, have been a magnificent man.  His neck and shoulders were
superb.  His bright blue eye had so courageous and friendly a

'Well, Miss Delaney, I call it kind indeed for you to have taken
all this trouble to visit a poor helpless creature like myself--not
that I'm so helpless as you'd think with my good Lucy here and
Alton working for us as he does.  Ah!  Miss Delaney, how much one
has to be thankful for!  To have such good children, to be near the
window here and see the clouds go by and think one's own thoughts,
simple as they are, but all moving God-ward, Miss Delaney.  HE
understands, He understands.  And the hours pass swiftly.  There is
the painting and the reading and the cup of tea now and again.
When one thinks of the many poor homeless souls in the world, how
fortunate, how very fortunate one is!'

He was making a most magnificent tea, Kitty was pleased to see.
Except for his paralysis he was evidently in excellent health, and
even his paralysis could not be as bad as Alton had described it,
for he moved his arms quite freely.

Kitty, sitting opposite to him, very straight-backed in her chair,
nibbling her piece of bread and butter, wondered at his serenity,
his happiness, and yet was not completely reassured by it.

For this room was not really a happy room.  She knew what a happy
room was, having lived in one all her life long.  This place was as
clean as though it had been sterilized.  On the walls these lovely
soft colours, this romantic world, with a long-ago touching
cadence, a Conder-Pater world of dim but exquisite beauty, was
severed, interrupted again and again by the monstrous glaring oils.
And below these walls it was a bare and empty world, in spite of
the potted hyacinth on the window-sill, the glowing fire, the
heated stove, the fine recumbent figure, the loaded tea-table.

'Ah, yes,' said Lucy Foster.  'You are looking at our walls, Miss
Delaney.  Everyone does, don't they, Dad?  Oh yes, indeed. . . .
The walls were painted by two young men years and years ago--
weren't they, Dad?  Oh yes, Miss Delaney, they were.  Isn't it
astonishing?  That's why Dad took the rooms; isn't it, Dad?
There's a little one as well--my bedroom, Miss Delaney.  Oh yes,
and a bathroom.  They painted them all, didn't they, Dad?  And Dad
thought they weren't half bad, so he took the rooms.  Most
astonishing they are, and of course they're fading, and most of our
friends think they're silly, don't they, Dad, and of course Dad's
paintings are much finer--brighter and all that.  People have said
he should show in the Academy, haven't they, Dad?  Try a bit of
this cake, Dad.  It's got cherries in.'

'Thank you, my dear, I think I will.  You mustn't listen to my
daughter about my painting, Miss Delaney.  She's partial of course.
And I'm self-taught.  God's hand guided me.  That's what I always
say.  God, seeing my helplessness, revealed to me a fragment of His
great beauty.  Thank you, my dear--I don't mind if I do have
another cup.'

Through all of this Alton had been busy looking after everyone.  He
had not said a word and Kitty at once suspected that, in the
company of his father and sister, he was very quiet and that they
dominated him.  He seemed very slight and even foreign beside their
hearty vitality.  He was like a bright-eyed bird hopping from twig
to twig, some alarm behind the flash of the eyes, on the watch, on
guard--against what?

But again, after a certain time, Kitty was conscious that Mr.
Foster and his daughter were vibrating with wonder and excitement
at her visit.  WHAT was she doing there?  WHY had she come?
Without any snobbery on her own part she was aware that she must
seem to them a creature from altogether another world, and she knew
that Lucy was taking in every detail of her little hat, her hair,
her simple frock, her shoes.  This led her to a further discovery,
namely that Alton had been quite other from these two in this, that
he had, from the first, had no sense of social differences, that he
was of her world, of anybody's world, that his mind and imagination
were busied with scenes, figures, surmises very different from
those of his father and sister.

Mr. Foster indeed could contain his curiosity no longer.

'My boy tells me, Miss Delaney, that you have most kindly
interested yourself in his welfare.  He is a good boy and his
father is proud of him.  My misfortune, Miss Delaney, has hampered
me so sadly, and the pension I received after my accident is so
meagre, that his sister and myself are dependent largely upon
Alton's earnings.  He works hard and I am proud of him.'

Nevertheless there was a tinge, Kitty thought, of patronage in his
mellow agreeable tones, and she was reminded for an instant of a
character in one of her favourite novels, one of the few that she
had read many times, Mr. Turveydrop in Bleak House.  She dismissed
the comparison as swiftly as it came because Mr. Foster was clearly
a person of generous and courageous goodness.  Nevertheless he was
NOT paralysed.  Of that she was certain.  Could Alton really
believe that he was?

'You see, Mr. Foster' (and, as she began her explanation, the soft
rather floating eyes of Lucy Foster seemed to swim towards hers
with an almost indecent curiosity), 'I went into Zanti's to enquire
about something I saw in the window and there was your son!  We
began to talk and I found that he loved the open air and gardens.
It was a strange coincidence that two days later I heard that a
friend of mine, Lady Millicent Temple, wanted an under-gardener at
her place in Rutlandshire.'  Kitty smiled.  'It would be an insult
in ordinary times to suggest such a thing to your son--but these
aren't ordinary times, are they?  A cousin of mine as a matter of
fact is working as a sort of under-gardener at a place in
Devonshire.'  (Isn't this, she suddenly thought, a very snobbish
thing to say?)  'And so, as it wouldn't be very good policy to talk
about this in the shop, and as writing about such things is always
so unsatisfactory, I thought I would come myself and see you.'

She realized at once that this innocent proposal horrified both Mr.
Foster and Lucy.  Why?  She looked at Alton.  For the first time on
that afternoon their eyes met.  With that exchanged glance they
were friends as they had not been before--quietly, but with a new
and hopeful assurance.

Mr. Foster took another and fat piece of cherry-cake, cleared his
throat, and with one of the cheeriest and brightest smiles Kitty
had ever seen, addressed her.

'If that isn't good of you, Miss Delaney!  I think that's one of
the kindest things I've ever known.  And I know Alton feels the
same.  He must answer you for himself, of course, but I am afraid,
I'm seriously afraid, that his experience of gardening is scarcely
sufficient.'  He looked quite unconsciously at a large cherry
embedded in his cake.  'What do you say, my son?'

Alton answered very quietly.

'It's extremely good of you, Miss Delaney, but I'm afraid Father's
right.  It's true that I do love the open air, but I don't know
enough to take a gardener's job.  I'm afraid I misled you by
talking about flowers as I did.'

'I'm afraid you did,' said Mr. Foster, licking one of his strong
brown fingers and speaking quite sharply.  'The truth is, Miss
Delaney, that Alton here is really a town boy.  He's seen very
little of the country and so fancies it a Paradise.  But in
reality. . . .  Well, well, God places us where we can be most
useful, I don't doubt, and Alton IS most useful in town, I am

They don't want him to leave London at any cost, Kitty thought.
He's too valuable to them.  He's their prisoner.

'No, I see,' Kitty said.  'The idea won't do.  But I thought I
ought to tell you.'

'That really IS kind of you,' Lucy broke in.  'It's astonishing
really--that you should take all that trouble, I mean.'

'Oh, but I've taken no trouble at all,' Kitty said.  Mr. Foster
raised his hand almost as though in blessing.

'If everyone showed the spirit of kindness there wouldn't be the
trouble in the world there is to-day, nor all those starving who
oughtn't to be.  When I think, Miss Delaney, of all those poor
fellows with not a rag to cover their back and no one doing a
thing to help them my blood boils.  It does indeed.  But your
goodness . . .'

There were all too many compliments flying about, Kitty thought,
and she rose to go.

Her small hand was held for too long a time in the strong firm one
of Mr. Foster, and she fancied that his eye was bold, gay and

She said good-bye to Lucy who, she was sure, disliked her

Alton went with her down to the street.  Standing there they
regarded one another once again as friends.  She knew now that, as
far as herself was concerned, she liked him, trusted him and quite
certainly would see him again.  On his side he was timid,
chivalrous, and clearly listening for some sound.

'When Father needs me, Lucy comes to the door and calls.'

'Oh, I see.'

'He's very helpless and is a big heavy man for Lucy to turn over
and so on.'

'I'm pleased, though,' said Kitty, 'to find that he isn't as bad as
I had expected.  He isn't altogether paralysed, is he?'

'No, not exactly.  Not physically, I mean.  His spine WAS damaged,
but I'm glad to say he can do a number of things for himself.  Only
it isn't good for him--to do too much, I mean.'

Then urgently, as though his whole life depended upon it:

'You'll let me see you again one day?'

'But of course,' Kitty said.  'We've made friends, haven't we?
Friendship isn't broken as soon as it's made.'

'Friends--you and I?'

'Why not?  I don't make a new friend so often.  Can I telephone to
the shop?'

'Yes, of course.'

'We might go for a walk in the Park or somewhere.'

'Oh yes . . . this is wonderful, miraculous for me.  I've been so
lonely.  If I may just talk to you sometimes. . . .  I've had no
one to whom I can talk.  I have ideas.  I'm greatly interested in
the theatre.  I'm trying to write a play, only I have so little
time.  If I could speak to you sometimes about my ideas. . . .  I
know they are all weak and immature.  I'm so inexperienced.  I've
seen so little of life. . . .'

'I'll tell you frankly,' said Kitty, laughing, 'that I'm anything
but clever.  I'm a perfect fool in fact.  But if you'll take me as
I am--'

'Take you as you are!'

Through the open door came the shrill cry of Lucy.

'Alton!  Alton!  Father wants you!'

He turned, caught her hand, pressed it.

'I must go.  Good-bye!  Good-bye!'

The door closed and, smiling to herself as her mother sometimes
did, Kitty walked on.

She climbed on to a bus and, during a stoppage in Shaftesbury
Avenue, she saw her father coming out of a shop, and with him was
Miss Van Renn.

Inside the house, within their own room, they forgot altogether
these disturbances from outside that were beginning to colour their
imaginations.  For now their imaginations were only for themselves.
There was a kind of mysticism in their relationship when they were
alone and unselfconsciously loving one another.  Perhaps there is
always more than one world created by love, which is why
immortality depends on love rather than faith.

'Oh, hell!' Bullock cried, looking in at them from the door.
'Someone's been in my room.  Everything's messed up on the table.'

'I did,' said Kitty.  'I wondered if you'd have a safety-pin.'

'Oh, damn you, Kitty!  Can't you leave me alone?  It's all I've
got. . . .'

And:  'IF you call this coffee, darling . . .' from Fred.

But their security was terrific.  They would love one another
perhaps more here in the heart of London than anywhere else, for
their love had elements in it of all that London indifferently was
creating--smoke like bats' wings, like torn paper, like the flutter
of a scarf, but seen through the smoke an animal of sluggish, self-
satisfied immortality.  The consciousness of that never-dying,
tower-topped, mud-based, smoke-veiled, conceited energy gives
strength to lovers because, although the moment in which they are
then believing may fail them, there is something here so real and
so strong that their moment has in it the fibre of stone and the
skeleton of iron.  Fred Delaney felt that.  He smelt the whiff of
coal-smoke in the air, saw the sun-filled cloud spill its colours
on Piccadilly, heard Big Ben strike across the Park, and knew that
the four of them, himself, Meg, Kitty and Bullock, were enclosed,
protected, as though in a magic circle.

'Come on!  Come on!' Bullock cried.  'The last programme begins at
nine-five.'  Then he went over and kissed his mother.  They all
knew that their strength, their unity radiated from Meg.

'It's one of those Viennese pictures,' she said delightedly.  'I DO
like them.  All waltzes and uniforms and great four-posters.'

They sallied forth, Meg with Bullock, Kitty with her father.

'And where have YOU been all the afternoon?' she asked him.

'In the Club, darling; played bridge and lost three shillings!'

'In the Club ALL the afternoon?'

'ALL the afternoon, darling.'



Lady Millie Pake is, without question, an impossible figure in any
story of modern life.  Did you begin anywhere, at any time in these
foreboding 'Thirties, a story introducing a perfect old
gentlewoman, you would soon be pausing, then clearing your throat,
then at last apologizing, for your audience would be restless,
their eyes cynical and sarcastic.

Nevertheless Lady Millie did and does exist, and she was, and is, a
lady against whom no fault can be found, in whom there is no
blemish.  How impossible it would be for any novelist then to make
her interesting were he to attempt the task!  He would be forced
back into her past.  She had had once the devil of a temper, had
been vain perhaps, and certainly proud of her family.  But time and
the long years had washed all these impurities out of her and she
was now clean and shining like a fine sea-shell--although that is a
poor simile indeed, because she had a great deal of life in her,
quite a grim humour at times, and a real intolerance of fools.  She
was anything but the 'sweet old lady' you might have supposed from
this preliminary.  She hadn't an atom of sentimentality in her and
bore down heavily on weak idealists.  Nor, astonishingly enough,
did she deprecate these modern times.  She saw that the world was
in disorder, but she could not remember a time when it was
otherwise.  In her old age she had been gifted with a sense of
Time.  The immediate moment had, it appeared to her, been always a
moment of alarms, and she was aware that present inventions had
provided every morning's breakfast-table with a full knowledge of
every single event that the world had created yesterday.  She was
not an optimist in the sense of things being right because God was
in His Heaven.  She was sure that God WAS there, and she thought
that if she were on God's level she would be able to argue with Him
on a number of things.  But she was not.  She had not been on her
dear father's level when, at the age of seven, she had questioned
him as to why the gardener had drowned a batch of kittens.

But, taking Time as a very large order, she did feel that things in
general improved.  She remembered when, as a little girl, she had
paid visits to her Aunt Horsborough, in the great rambling house
Templeton, where two of the maids had slept under the back-stairs
in what was little more than a cupboard.  She remembered her visits
with her aunt to Templeton village and the beautiful thatched
cottages down whose walls the wet dripped, and the icy cold of the
kitchen at the Vicarage had made her shiver.  She remembered the
sycophantic greetings of the postman's wife, crippled with
rheumatism, and the beneficent magnificence of Aunt Horsborough.

Instead of railing at young Communists like Patrick Munden, she
thought their anxiety for the poor, the helpless, and the
downtrodden very fine indeed.

For herself the constant anxiety about money meant very little.
She would be happy anywhere and she thought that she could manage
very nicely on almost nothing.  It was only for her sister that she
was anxious.  She disliked nobody except the Corleone woman.  She
considered that she and the set around her were hard, selfish and
empty-headed.  But she suspected that if she knew the Corleone
intimately she would find many things to like in her.  She felt
that all the hatred that there was in the world came from lack of
intimacy.  You would not, of course, like EVERYBODY even though you
knew them well, but you would in all probability understand why
they behaved as they did.

At the same time she had a keen eye for foibles, including her own.
She knew, for instance, that her hatred of 'litter' was almost a
disease, that she was given to speaking her mind too frankly, that
she was absurdly irritated by her friends' unpunctuality, and that
she disliked young women who made up their faces during meals, told
coarse stories, and bullied their husbands in public.  On the whole
she liked men better than women.  She was modern enough to feel
that the inequalities between rich and poor in England were out of
character with the new world.  A Scandinavian had once inveighed
for a long time and with feverish enthusiasm against what she had
called the 'Manor House' life and the London slums.  She had paused
at last for want of breath, and had then been greatly astonished
when Millie Pake admitted all of it.  'But it is,' said Millie,
'changing.  You should have seen England forty years ago.  We're
very slow always, but we're kind people really although we've very
little imagination.'  She envied working-women she knew, they
hadn't to keep up appearances.  They had a husband and children.
She would like to have had children.

But Millie Pake's outstanding quality was her cheerfulness.  Now
cheerfulness is quite widely condemned in these times.  If a man is
cheerful he is either stupid and therefore intolerable, or his
cheerfulness is a pose, or he is cheerful on principle.
Fortunately Millie was so old that she could excuse herself by
saying that she was pre-War, became cheerful when she was young and
had never been able to get out of the habit.  She was not, however,
so self-conscious as that.  She didn't realize that she was
cheerful, and if she irritated anybody by it she never knew it.
The truth was that nothing could dismay or frighten her very badly
because she was quite certain that when her body died her soul
would go to Heaven.  This, of course, was, in the light of modern
science, so ridiculous that one can only call her a foolish old
woman.  But, foolish or no, this belief gave her such indifference
to danger, and, because she hadn't to worry about herself, enabled
her to think so much about other people, that it was undoubtedly a
help--an unfair help, many people would say.

It is true that she liked to have cheerful persons about her; that
was why she enjoyed the Delaneys so much.  They were really
cheerful and laughed at quite ridiculous little things just as she
did.  She did hope, for that reason among others, that they would
not be forced to leave the Charles Street house.

She was cheerful partly because she enjoyed on the whole very good
health.  She really did enjoy it.  As far as her body went, she
had, when she was very young, wanted to be beautiful.  Now she only
wanted to be well.  She was aware, naturally, of the strange little
aches and pains that accompany anybody who is over seventy, but she
was, as a rule, too busy to consider them.  She had no fear
whatever of death, but she WAS afraid, when she thought about it,
of a long physical illness which would have prevented her caring
for her sister.  She was, however, certain that if that trial were
allotted to her the Lord would help her to manage.  She never spoke
to anyone about her religion, but in fact her companionship with
the Lord was not like a religion at all.  It was like a

She got a great pleasure out of the tiniest things: the taste of
buttered toast at tea, the sound of Big Ben across the Park, the
pictures in the Daily Sketch and the leaders in the Daily Telegraph
(always so sound and honest: the Delaneys sent these papers every
day up to the Pake ladies when they themselves had read them), a
new novel lent them by some kind friend, every sort of shop, the
'look' of the sitting-room when the sun shone in through the
window, the 'feel' of her grey silk dress when she prepared for
some little festivity, the singing of the hymns in St. James's,
Piccadilly, demon patience when it came out (she would clap her
hands and cry aloud, saluting its rarity), the flower-stands
outside the Christian Science Church, a drive in a motor-car (kind
friends sometimes offered her one), almost anybody's dog (she had
always longed for a dog, but Helen didn't like dogs), a visit to
one of her old friends and a chat about old times, and, best of all
(but this was VERY rare because she couldn't leave Helen in the
evening), a visit to the cinema.  The cinema she regarded as quite
miraculous, and especially were miraculous the lovely faces of the
young women in these pictures.

She was in fact thoroughly urban.  She regarded this little section
of London in which she lived as her own especial village.  She
still enjoyed a wonderful strength for walking.  Her legs were as
sturdy as they had been at thirty.  When someone said to her once
that he hated London because it was so huge, she said:  'Huge!
Nonsense!  Why, in our village we can cover everything in about
five minutes.'

'Village?' he answered.  'I was talking about London.'

'So was I,' she said.  'I was talking about Curzon Street village.'

'Oh . . .' he said.  'But I live in Bloomsbury.'

'Well, there's Bloomsbury village and Inns of Court village and
Chelsea village and Camden Town village and Hampstead village and--
heaps more.  The best is, you can go out any evening and do what
you like in another village, and no one in your own village will
know where you are or what you are doing.'

Every stone, window-curtain, piece of glass, doorknob in Shepherd
Market was known to her, or so she liked to think.  She did all the
shopping herself.  Nearly every man, woman and child in the place
knew her, and although she wore funny outdoor hats, tweed skirts,
and her nose was often shiny, everyone respected and liked her.
Her nickname in Shepherd Market was Aunt Sally, but when she spoke
to them you would think, by their deference, that she was Queen of

Late in February on an early afternoon she was eating a little cold
chicken and potato salad on a tray near the fire (for Helen, who
had a little cold, was in bed for the day) when the bell rang and
the little maid introduced Dodie Pullet.  The girl was a great
friend of Millie's, who confided to her all her troubles and told
her often frank stories which Millie took with the calm of a
veteran life-studier.

To-day Dodie did not pause and smile, as she might have done, at
the odd little figure with her skirts pulled up, her feet on the
fender, enjoying a chicken-bone in her fingers.

'Come in, dear.  It's all right.  Queen Victoria did it.'  Then
quickly as it were from her sharp, intelligent eyes:  'Is anything
the matter, dear?'

'It's only--'  Dodie was catching her breath as though she had been
running.  'Smoke hasn't been here, has he?'

'No. . . .  Have some coffee.'

'Thanks.'  She drew a chair to the fire.  'Where's Helen?'

'Got a bit of a cold, so I kept her in bed.  Why SHOULD Smoke be

'Oh, no reason.  Thanks, dear.  It's nice and warm in here.  Our
room's so cold somehow.  Only we had a word or two before he went
out and--well, the truth is, whenever we've had a word and he goes
out I get frightened.  He's so fearfully depressed and it goes on
week after week.  And now I'm out of a job too.  We shall HAVE to
leave here, which Smoke hates, and it's hard luck on Fred too,
because even if he's a month or two without a let it will tell on
him heavily.  Besides, we're all so happy here as we are.  We'll
never find another place like it; and then the Delaneys are so
cheerful, and you're so sweet, and even Patrick upstairs . . .'
Then Dodie did what Millie Pake had never seen her do before; she
burst into tears.  She put her thin arm against her face like a
little child.  She was wearing such a beautiful smart frock too,
black with white wings across the breasts, and her make-up would
certainly be ruined. . . .

Millie put down her coffee-cup, took her feet off the fender, drew
her chair to Dodie's and put her arm around the girl's slender

'There, there, my dear!  Smoke's all right and you'll get a job
with the greatest of ease.'

Dodie looked up, felt for her case, discovered a minute pocket-
handkerchief, groaned with horror at her face in the little mirror.

'Oh, damn!  I haven't cried for years!  Only it IS getting awful
with Smoke.  He's jealous, suspicious, sore with me about anything,
with himself about everything.  Poor Smoke!  But I tell you,
Millie, it's hell having no money.  Hell.  He's got it into his
head that I will be sleeping with somebody for cash.  Well, I
won't.  He needn't worry.  And then he's jealous of Patrick Munden.
He hates him because he says he's a Bolshie and doesn't wash.  But
there's a lot to be said for Bolshevism anyway, and if you're
clever and have got ideas what does it matter whether you wash or
no?  But money's the real trouble.  We'll HAVE to move, but this
address is so useful. . . .  Oh, blast! isn't life bloody?  Sorry,
Millie, I know you hate my swearing.'

Millie was holding Dodie's cold hand in her warm one.

'Swear if it helps you, my dear.  Have you talked to Meg?'

'No.  She'd want to give me some money.  They haven't got any too
much themselves.  Besides, Meg--'  She stopped.  'You know how she
is.  She's the kindest, most generous creature in the world, but
she's happy however miserable you are.  I don't mean that she
doesn't sympathize, but I don't think she's ever been unhappy
herself.  She lives in this world plus another one.  I don't mean
spiritual.  They are BOTH material.  She's out-size, and one's shy
of bringing one's ordinary made-to-pattern size in comparison.
You're not out-size, Millie darling.'

'No, I'm not--certainly not.'

Dodie got up.

'I must go and see if Smoke's back.  If only he'd sleep--'

'Doesn't he?'

'He's very bad just now.  He says he's afraid he'll dream.'  She
turned, smiling.  'You always do me good.  I don't quite know why.
But it's a beastly world, isn't it?  Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin.  So
much hatred.  Money and food not distributed properly.  No one
knowing where they're going.'

'I think,' said Millie, 'we all know too much.  And hear too much
too.  It's like Blind Man's Buff--someone always touching you, and
you turn round, stretch your hands out, and there's no one there.
Also I shouldn't wonder if we aren't being made less stout than we
used to be.  Pepys went out to see half London burning and then
went home and added up his accounts.  And I think we all expect
happiness as our right.  We usen't to.'

'Good-bye.  I expect things will be fine soon.'

After she had gone, Millie sat there thinking.  Strange how
difficult it was to help anybody else!  Strange, too, how money was
everyone's trouble.  After these thousands of years human beings
should have discovered a plan whereby everyone had enough, and then
they could all put the money problem aside and consider many more
important things.

She went into the little bedroom to see how Helen was and found her
fast asleep, so she called the maid and told her to keep her eyes
and ears open, put on her hat and a strange green mantle for which
she had a great affection, took her stout umbrella with which she
always walked, and started downstairs.

She had suddenly the idea that she would go and visit 'poor' Claude
Willoughby.  Herself and Helen always thought of him as 'poor'
Claude, not because he WAS poor, but because they felt a kindness
for him that had a touch of patronage about it--or perhaps it was
only the pitying kindness that all women feel for their bachelor
friends.  She had never before visited Claude in his rooms and she
was surprised at herself for doing so now.  Dodie's visit had
touched her and made her want to be of some use.  As she left the
house she felt as though all the inhabitants there were advancing
towards some sort of drama.  The mild February day that suggested
swollen streams, snowdrops and a crocus or two in the country, made
Shepherd Market a little shabby and muffled.  Everything in the
shops looked rather second-rate and there were more slinking cats
than usual.  It seemed therefore quite in the nature of things that
the door in White Horse Street should be opened to her by quite the
most unpleasant-looking man she had ever seen in her life.  She
knew who it was--Claude had often mentioned his landlord.  She
loathed Brocket on sight, and disliked him all the more that he
could rouse such violent feeling in her.

'Is Mr. Claude Willoughby at home, please?'

Although her clothes were old-fashioned there was something in
Millie Pake's voice that Brocket instantly recognized.  He hadn't
been a gentleman's servant all his days without knowing a lady when
he saw one, and among his many characteristics was snobbery of a
very violent kind.

'Step inside and I'll see,' he said.  The hall was dark, stuffy,
and smelt of onions and dead geraniums.  ''Oo shall I say?' he

'Lady Mildred Pake, if you please.'

'Yes, m'lady.'

He was the eager, obliging, die-for-you-if-you-ask-it English
servant.  Very like, Millie thought, that butler we once had who
had a mania for stealing Helen's clothes.

Brocket seized a trumpet hanging on the wall and shouted, 'Lady
Mildred Pake, sir,' then, after a pause, breathing like an eager
retriever, he said:

'Mr. Willoughby's in.  'E'll be delighted to see you, m'lady.  I'll
show you 'is room.  Pardon me.'  He led the way, and Millie
followed the flapping slippers.

'Well, Claude,' she said in her rather hoarse voice.

He was standing, expecting her, and she noticed that he had a
little egg on his upper lip and that his scanty hair was ruffled
over his thin pate.  Brocket had shut the door and vanished.  'What
a horrible man!'

'Who?  Brocket? . . .  Oh yes, he isn't nice at all.  Millie, I'm
so glad to see you.  I was snoozing in that chair and you're my
dream . . . really you are!'

She tapped his cheek.

'Come to pay you a little visit.  Sit down where you were and let's
be cosy. . . .  No, I won't take your chair!  Here, let me do your
fire up a bit.'

Her old knees cracked a little as she bent forward, but she was
full of energy as she took the coal off the scuttle, piled it high,
broke it up with the poker and made a bright blaze.

Claude watched her in an agony.  How could she know that that coal
in the scuttle was all that he had for the rest of the day and that
now he must go shivering to bed?  He was, however, too much of a
gentleman to say anything.

'There!' said Millie, giving the last lump a vigorous smack.
'That's better!  I don't know what you have such a miserable fire
for on a day like this!'

She drew the little cane-bottomed chair forward and sat there with
her broad-toed shoes on the fender in her favourite attitude.

She looked at Claude.  Poor little man, he didn't look at all well.
How she wished she could tell him about the egg on his lip!  But
she couldn't, of course she couldn't.  And she would like some tea.
It was early--a quarter past three--nevertheless on an afternoon
like this. . . .  But she realized that tea would be difficult for
Claude and would involve, probably, the summoning of that horrible
man again.  But he would be expecting that she would demand it, so
she said, rubbing her hands together, her rings flashing their
diamonds in the blaze:  'I've only looked in for a moment.  Helen's
got a bit of a cold, so I've kept her in bed, and I said to myself,
"I'll go and see how Claude is!"  Most unmaidenly of me' (Millie
had a charming laugh--melodious and rich, with a rather quizzing
humour), 'but we're old enough, Claude, aren't we, not to need a
chaperon?  Now you're not to suggest tea.  I've only just had lunch
and I shall probably drop in for a cup with Meg Delaney.  The days
when Helen is in bed are visiting days.'

He, on his side, thought what a funny old thing SHE was with her
ugly hat a little askew, her rough old face so innocent of
cosmetics, that queer green cape, her thick legs, her broad-toed
shoes--yet if she walked into the middle of a hostile African
tribe, they would know her at once for someone important.

The rings on her rather stubby red fingers were old and magnificent
but looked absolutely right on her and not at all incongruous with
her queer clothes.  He looked at the rings rather enviously.  After
all, she and Helen could never be really 'up against it' while she
had those rings, and he expected that there were plenty of other
old family treasures as well.  But he was delighted to see her.
While she was there, sitting opposite to him, looking so thoroughly
at home, his world was more secure and he need not fear the enemy.

They chatted for a while very amiably on world affairs, wondering
about the Saar and whether Germany was to be trusted and what
Hitler was like really, and then something about the Codex
Sinaiticus and wouldn't it be better for the money to be spent on
the poor, and so to the 'pictures,' and Millie had seen some
photographs of Little Women which she had read over and over again
as a girl, and had Claude read A Rose in June, which of course he'd
never heard of, and so to more personal things--Princess Corleone,
Helen's cold, and was Claude comfortable where he was?

'As I've said, that's a horrid man who brought me up here.'

'Yes.'  Claude dropped his voice and looked about the room.  'As a
matter of fact something very unpleasant is happening.'

'Tell me about it.  Perhaps I can help,' said Millie.

'Well--he's accusing me of stealing things.'

'Accusing YOU?  My dear Claude!'

'Yes, really.  A little while ago it was some bath salts belonging
to a man called Pierson.  You see, we share a bathroom--a very
uncomfortable situation, but there it is.  And one day Brocket came
up here and said Pierson had missed some bath salts.  He didn't
actually ACCUSE me, of course, but I was the only other person who
shared the bathroom.  And then only yesterday he brought up some
coals and said that two library books had been left by Best,
another tenant, down in the hall and had vanished.'

'But do you mean to say that he insinuated that you--?'

'Oh, of course he said nothing directly.  But you don't know how he
looks at me, Millie, and every day he seems to come nearer.  I'm
afraid of his touching me.'

'Touching you?'

'Oh, not assaulting me or doing anything violent, but just simply
touching me.  I couldn't bear it.  I dream of it at night.  If he
laid a finger on me I'd be sick.'

'Poor Claude,' she thought, 'he certainly doesn't look well.  I
don't believe he has enough to eat.  He's so very thin.'

'You've been too much alone here, Claude.  That's been the trouble.
You must come and see Helen and me more.  And the Delaneys.  I'm
sure they'd be delighted to see you.'

'Yes.  Young Delaney's been very kind to me already.  He took me to
a party the other night.'

'That was nice for you.'

'Well, it wasn't really.  I didn't know anybody, and towards the
end a man spoke who frightened me out of my life.'

'Frightened you?'

'Yes.  He said about what the world was going to be very shortly--
Communism, you know.  Of course I'd heard people talk like that
before, but this man was different.  He really made you feel that
it was true what he said.  It was most unpleasant.  No personal
freedom.  No marriages.  But it wasn't the details.  It was the way
he looked.  I felt as though I were being stood up against the wall
and ordered to be shot there and then.'  He smiled.  'Not that it
would matter--an old man like me.'

There was something very sweet and touching about Claude, Millie
decided.  He had a kind of heroism somewhere although he wasn't
very brave.  But how could you be brave when you were over seventy
and had no money and not enough to eat?  But she realized that he
was, even in these hard times, one of those who cared more for
others than himself.

'Now, Claude, listen.'  She got up and stood looking at him,
menacing him with her finger.  'You've been much too much alone.
Don't you think you haven't got any friends, because you've got
plenty.  And don't worry about the future.  Take things day by day.
Because the War was so bad, people think the future must be bad
too.  It doesn't follow at all.  The Lord does things in His own
way and His own time.'

I wish the Lord had told her not to use all my coal, he couldn't
help thinking; nevertheless he was delighted with her visit, felt
ever so much better for it.  He wished he could ask her to stay a
little longer, but he didn't dare.

Millie did then a thing she had never done before.  She went and
kissed Claude on the cheek.

He was tremendously affected, and they stood for a moment together,
his hand on her arm.

He didn't speak, and she just nodded and went away.



There may be one or two who remember a very curious thunderstorm on
an early March London afternoon in this year 1934.

Why should a thunderstorm that did not last longer than twenty
minutes remain in anyone's memory?  Well, in part because it sprang
out of the bluest, most springlike of afternoon skies.  Few people
look upwards in London, and perhaps there was no one who saw a
cloud, like a blot of ink on a blue tablecloth, spread out of the
chimney-pots of Lambeth, throw a cold grey patch over the Thames,
turn like a flat crab on to its back and spread out its claws over
the Houses of Parliament.  The day was March in that there was a
wind, but out of the wind, in Shepherd Market, for instance, or
under the eaves of the new Curzon Picture-house it was almost as
hot as summer.  In the Strand the traffic suddenly piled up to an
obstinate halt.  The Town just here seemed for a moment to stand
quite still, as though all the newspapers in Fleet Street were
listening for news.  High up in the National Portrait Gallery, all
amongst the Elizabethans, an old gentleman in a chair went fast
asleep and a beam of sun struck Mary of Scots on the mouth so that
she seemed to smile at him.  Very pretty.  But in the Old Kent
Road, coming up the steps of the lavatory, were two gentlemen
arguing about the Royal Family.  'Bloomin' waste of the people's
money, that's wot it is.  Wot good does it do?  That's wot I'm
askin' you.'

'It's a symbol,' said the other gentleman, wiping his mouth with
the back of his hand.  'It's a symbol.  That's what it is.  Look at
the ruddy sun.  Warm as summer.'

A novelist can go on with this sort of thing, of course, for ever
and ever.  There are the two dogs in Battersea Park, for instance;
and the Princess Corleone coming out of Claridge's and feeling an
ache under her left arm and wondering about it; and then the
soldier on duty outside St. James's Palace, stamping his feet as he
turns and thinking of the new friend he's just made with the posh
rooms in Jermyn Street; and there's the chauffeur of Lord
Pondicherry who's hoping to persuade his master to get a new Alvis
instead of his ancient Daimler, and there'd be a commission too,
wouldn't there?  Well, as I mean to say, there are a great many
people in London, and it's all very easy, as so many writers, nice
agreeable men and women, have found in the last ten years.  There's
the stream of consciousness too.  THAT'S very easy because one
thought DOES lead to another, as Mr. Sterne discovered ever so many
years ago. . . .  Well, the thing is to cover a lot of paper--that
is, if you want to pay your income tax.  But what do you do if you
happen to be dealing with real people?  Real to oneself, that is.
The people are the thing.  For instance, Kitty and Alton truly WERE
there on that afternoon of the thunderstorm.  You can't dislodge
them, walking down the slope of the Green Park in the warm
sunshine.  That wilderness of walls, towers and chimneys hems them

If you are very modern you will hold them to be no more than two
fish swimming at the bottom of a green tank.  But they are, in my
opinion, much more.  They have a passionate wonder, a glittering
expectation.  Alton, at least, is happy as he has never been in his
life before, because he is telling Kitty about his play.  It isn't
only a play, of course.  It is filled with all the things that his
soul has collected during the years of his soul's experience.  They
are not as yet very original things, except the bit about the young
man facing the six old men in the Library and discovering that they
are all himself.  Kitty thought THAT original although it was
probably in Shaw somewhere.  He had brought a penny exercise-book
and read her some dialogue from it.  She wondered that, with the
little experience he had had, the dialogue should be so real.

But of course she was absorbed by the young man himself.  She was
not at all intellectual and always preferred people to literature.
And he was quite a new person to her.  She had never, for one
thing, given anyone such shining, unspoilt pleasure before, and all
her life it had been her wish to give people pleasure.  She walked
along, her tall slim body strong and free, feeling the warm sun on
her face and knowing that sense of independent co-ordinated
joyousness that is the grandest thing in life.  At that moment she
bore no one in the world a grudge, had no inhibitions nor regrets.

'The old man blows his nose.  The curtain falls,' cried Alton

'Is that the end of the first act?'

'Oh no.  The third scene.'

'Is it wise to bring the curtain down in the middle of the act?'

'It's always done now.  Cinema technique.'

'I see.'

Strange how very different he was now, consumed by this Art and
therefore confident, strong, vibrating with ambition.

'Of course it will only appeal to special people.  I mean that I'm
interested in it because I'm interested in YOU, but if someone said
quite casually, "Let's go to the play to-night," and we went to
your play, and the first thing we saw was an attic with a girl
feeding a mouse just out of its hole--by the way, what would you do
about the mouse?  Will you have a real one?'

'Oh, the mouse is only symbolic.'

'Yes, but it has to be there.  Some mouse has to be.'

What she liked about him was that he was not at all sulky at
criticism, as she believed so many artists were.  He smiled

'You think the play's rotten?'

'No, no.  Of course I don't.  Only I told you at the beginning I
had no brains--about the Arts, I mean.  I hate poems that I can't
understand at the very first look, and novels where there's no
story and no one you can like, and pictures made of fur and pieces
of string.  I don't apologize for that.  VERY modern movements
always appeal to a small group.  If everyone liked them at once
there'd be no one for the new artists to fight.'

'What DO you like in the Arts, then?'

'Let me see.  In the theatre I go as far as Tchekov, but I must say
I like a good farce or revue better.  In novels I like Dickens and
the Old Wives' Tale and Stella Benson.  In poetry Keats and Robert
Bridges and Housman.  But I like life much better than books.  That
sounds priggish, doesn't it? but it's true.  For instance, what do
you feel like when an old woman comes into your shop and wastes
half an hour of your time and doesn't buy anything?'

'Oh, that's part of my job.'

'With your love for the country, don't you get mad with impatience
and want to rush off and marry a nice girl and live in the

'I've never thought of marriage.  I've never been in love.'

'Nor have I.  Not for more than a minute.  Look at that cloud!  How
sudden!  There wasn't a sign of it a minute ago.'

Then he asked her a question.

'What do YOU want to do with YOUR life?  I mean--what do you think
it's all FOR?'

'What a terrible question!  I don't know.  I love being alive, but
then I'm healthy and have friends.  I think that I expect that
something will happen that will change everything--all in a

'Here IS something!' he cried.  'It's caught us!'

For there was a flash that flung the grass, the trees, the sheep,
into a frenzy of unreal light, then a peal of thunder that seemed
to roar at themselves personally as though announcing to them some
fearful news; then the rain, shattering down, gates of water

'Oh, run, run! . . .  You'll be soaked!  This tree--'

'A tree's the worst place!  That's where people are killed. . . .'

But they stood there nevertheless although the tree had no leaves.
They stood there, both together.  The storm took the Park into his
hands and worried at it as a dog worries a rag.

'It doesn't matter.'  She put her hand on his shoulder.  'I was
soaked through in the first moment.  Home isn't far.  I like

Their faces were stung with the rain.

He turned and kissed her wet cheek.

He began incoherently to speak.

'That settles it.  I can never speak to you again.  I've done it.
I knew I would.  Before I came out I saw the danger.  I've seen it
for weeks.  And I'd have managed if it hadn't been for this. . . .
The rain, the rain. . . .  Good-bye.  Good-bye.  You'll never
forgive me.  But I'm not what you think.  I'm better--far better.
I'll prove myself. . . .  You'll see. . . .  You'll see. . . .'

And waving his arms like a madman, he started running across the
Park.  The rain whirled all about him as though he were at the
heart of a waterspout travelling with him.  He ran.  He ran.  He
was gone.

Millie had often noticed that when her sister Helen lived very
vividly in the past, their room seemed to sink back with her,
throwing off any modernity (it never had very much) and rising, as
a transformation scene does in a pantomime, with all the feeling,
colour and sentiment of King Edward VII.  The very chairs and
tables seemed to alter.  One old woman's spoken words were enough.
No wonder the Witch of Endor had had so lasting a reputation.

'It's so lovely a day you might almost go out, Helen.'

'You go out, dear.  You sit in here with me far too much.  When the
sun shines like this I'm walking on the lawns at Longleat.  Do you
remember that house-party when Kitto Baines shot the peacock at two
in the morning?  Poor peacock--and you thought I was going to marry
Kitto.  You were quite frightened.  As though I'd have dreamt of
such a thing. . . .  Or did I?'

She got up slowly from her chair and walked, leaning on her stick,
to the window.  How handsome she was, Millie thought, even now!
That carriage of the head was superb and that straight back, a back
famous through England once.  Millie remembered how miserably
jealous she had been in the old days.  Why could she also not have
had a straight back, and then Kitto Baines . . .?  Following her
sister to the window, she shook her head and then laughed.

'How absurd!' she said aloud.

'What's absurd?' said Helen, not turning her head but staring at
the sun as though she could not have enough of it.

'I was thinking of Kitto.  I was in love with him once, and
dreadfully jealous of you, Helen darling.  How silly it seems now!
And poor Kitto . . .'

Faintly they heard a peal of thunder.

'Was that thunder?'

'It couldn't be.  A fine day like this.'

'It was.  There it is again.  Nearer now.'

'Come away from the window, Helen.  You never know.'

'Never know what?'

'Oh, lightning or something.'

'Nonsense.  What a goose you are, Millie!  How dark the room is

'I'll turn the lights on.'

'No.  No.  I like it like this.'

Millie gave a little scream.  'Oh, what a flash!  Do come away from
the window, Helen.'

'No.  I should think not.  I love it.  Something's happening.
Nature shows her scorn of us.  That's what I like about a
thunderstorm always.  Contempt.  That's what thunder is.  I'd like
to die standing at a window in a thunderstorm.'

Millie put her arm through her sister's.

'We'll die together, then.'

'Listen to the rain!  Do you remember, Millie, being caught in the
rain on the moors near Glencoe?  Do you remember sheltering in the
hut like King Lear, and Kitto saying "Poor Tom's a-cold"?  That was
the day I was near to accepting him.  If the storm had lasted a
minute longer . . .  But you were there.  You saved me that
afternoon.  As you've saved me again and again.  Oh, what grand
rain!  What grand, grand rain!  It brings me back to my senses,
Millie.  Sitting there by the fire day after day I don't know where
I am half the time.  I'm going, going . . . and soon I'll be gone.
But standing up to the weather like this I'm all alive again.
Listen!  It's passing.  That peal was more distant.  But how dark
the room is!  I can only just see your face.'  She turned towards
Millie, leaned down a little, and they stood cheek to cheek.  Then
slowly together they moved back to the fire.

'Shall I turn the lights on?'

'No.  No.'  Helen sank slowly into her chair.  'There.  It will
soon be over.  Perhaps my last thunderstorm.  "Poor Tom's a-cold."
Do you remember how Kitto said it, looking at me?'

Millie smiled.  'That's better.  The room's lighter already.  And
now we'll have some tea.'

'Help yourself.'

It was clear that Captain Coventry had been already helping HIMSELF
and now was charming, a little unsteady on his feet and clearly
amused at Bullock's diminutive stature.  Or so Bullock thought.
But it didn't matter what the Captain thought.  Lizzie, his
daughter, sat in the shabby armchair by the window.  It was a
dreary room and smelt of tobacco and spirits.

The Captain stood there and entertained his guest.  'Very glad to
see you, Delaney.  Lovely day, isn't it?'

When Bullock had arrived, ten minutes ago, there had been a most
unpleasant woman leaning with one arm on the mantelpiece.  She was
handsome in a kind of violent insolent way.  She was heavy under
the eyes, over-painted, running to seed.  She had been introduced
to Bullock as Mrs. Agar.  And there had been a queer, brown-faced,
black-haired little fellow who, looking like a half-caste, brought
in the drinks.  Coventry called him Abel.  Bullock noticed all
these things because the child in the window was his own.  That was
what he had now the certainty of!  He had met her three times--at
the party and twice here.  On the first occasion in this room it
had been but for a moment, for they were just going out, she and
her father.  Coventry had apologized but had made no pretence of
staying in.  The child had said not a word.  So, with these very
brief encounters, Bullock was absurdly certain that he had rights
over her, that he must care for and protect her, when she had given
no sign whatever that she wanted to be protected.

And this was a horrid place.  It was here that Coventry held his
gambling parties.  There were copies of French prints on the walls,
an attempt, in the curtains, the fireplace, the sofa, at gay
colours; but over everything a film of staleness.  Coventry was
laughing at him.  Well, it didn't matter.

'It's very kind of you, Mr. Delaney, to call on us.  Liz
appreciates it.  Don't you, Liz?'

'Yes,' she said.

Bullock went over to her.

'I wondered whether you'd let me take you out for a drive, Miss
Coventry.  It's a lovely day.'

'You go, Liz.  It will do you good.'

She looked up at Bullock and smiled--a ghost of a smile.

'We have some friends coming . . . haven't we, Father?'

'Oh, they don't matter.  Go along now.'

At that instant the light disappeared from the room as though it
had been shut off by a dropped curtain.

Coventry went to the window.

'It's going to rain, by Jove!  That's sudden.  Thunder!  Did you
hear that, Lizzie?'

Lightning flashed and the room was for a fragment of time really
revealed.  Bullock would never forget that.  The white paste of
Coventry's cheek with the red patches, the furniture as though it
were of papier mch.  Coventry said:

'I must close the window in the other room.  It will rain like hell
in a minute.'

Lizzie Coventry had sprung up and, with the strangest gesture of
helplessness, she had flung out her hands.  Bullock caught her arm.
She trembled.

'Thunder!  I hate it!  I'm silly, but once in Venice--'

He put his arm round her.

'Look here.  Don't be frightened.  I don't mean only the thunder.
I'll look after you.  You're only a kid.  You oughtn't to be here.
I'm your friend now and always.  Don't be angry.'

The thunder crashed as though it were in the very middle of the
room.  He saw her face, a child's, terrified, her eyes large and

And she had been frightened before.  It was as though he had seen
her standing like this in some other room.  As though he saw it in
a crystal or a mirror.

The thunder crashed again and, without knowing what she was doing,
she pressed her little body against his.  Bullock heard Coventry's
voice and found that he was standing close to them.

'Liz is always like that when there's thunder about.  It's all
right, darling.  It will be over in a minute.  God, listen to the
rain.  Who'd have thought it five minutes ago!'

The room was dark.  The rain lashed the panes.  Lizzie bent down
and picked up her book.  Without a word she sat down in the chair
and began to read.

'I remember once, Mr. Delaney,' Coventry began, and Bullock thought
how charming his voice was--'Lizzie and I were in Vienna--know
Vienna?--anyway it was a summer's day and we were sitting outside a
caf, when there was a cloudburst very like this one.  It was the
time when they had no money--you carried your cash about in a bag.
Well, as I was saying . . .'

'Oh, I don't hold with it!' Lady Pender urged the passionate words
between her tight lips as though they were weighted with gold.
'No, indeed I don't.'

'She's a terribly stupid woman,' Meg thought, 'and she detests me.'
Also the family were behaving very badly, for Meg had made them all
promise that they would be there--this the first occasion on which
the Penders had come to tea.  Bullock had said that he would see a
publisher and hurry then straight home.  Kitty was meeting a
friend.  ('Bring them back to tea,' Meg had said.  'Oh no, Mother,
I don't think they'd mix with the Penders.'  'How do you know?  You
haven't seen the Penders.'  'Oh, but I do know.'  'Very well, dear,
have it your own way.')  Well, but who WOULD mix with Lady Pender?
WHAT a stupid woman!  She was called Evelyn.  She was dressed too
in a kind of black-and-yellow snakeskin, something quite unsuited
to her sallow complexion.  'Of course, being out in the East so
long you DO get sallow,' Meg thought.

'They'll be in.  They'll be in any minute,' Meg cried joyfully,
looking at her beloved Graham.  She couldn't help it.  He was her
beloved now as he had been all those years ago.  It was quite
possible to love two people at one and the same time.

She would tell Fred all about it.  She would say:  'He's so clever,
Fred.  There's simply NOTHING he doesn't know, AND he's so sweet.
He always had the sweetest nature.  He talks in the voice of all
the poets, soft, gentle, with every word distinct and full of
meaning.  Now YOU, Fred, often don't know WHAT the words you
mispronounce really do mean.'

Graham was thin, brown and exceedingly distinguished, while Fred
was burly, florid, and would be too fat if he didn't look out.  Not
that she was making comparisons between the two men.

She loved them both, that was all, and how splendid to have TWO men
to love at her time of life!  She knew too that Graham was in love
with HER again.  He was saying to himself, 'Why ever did I marry
that thin, grumpy . . .?' or wasn't he?

Here Meg pulled herself up, yes, just as she was persuading Evelyn
Pender to the little paste sandwiches.  She mustn't harm anyone.
She mustn't do an unkindness to anyone.  Everyone must be happy.
With the sun pouring in through the window and dear Graham sitting
there, so gently, so comfortably, how could one NOT be happy?

'Oh, I don't hold with it!' Lady Pender had cried.  'Let the
natives once get out of hand and it's good-bye to the British
Empire!'  Saying this she tossed her head, clicked her teeth almost
as though they were little castanets, and, with a wave of her
sandwich, commanded all the natives of India back into their

'It's too bad,' said Meg, who was always bored with the British
Empire.  (The trouble was, she never could see it!  She tried to
sometimes, shutting her eyes very tight, but all she collected were
rolling brown rivers, miles of forest and a missionary.)  'They
promised me.  Fred is good about keeping his word too.  Isn't the
sun lovely?  Graham, do you remember the sun that day on the
Thames?  That summer day when Margery Thawe fell into the river--on
purpose, of course, because it was young Elton rescuing her that
made him propose.  Dear me, dear me, what a LONG time ago!'

She wasn't, she reflected, being very tactful to Evelyn, and at
once, knowing that she had done her a wrong, felt warmth towards
her, would have given her anything she possessed, longed to tell
her that that black-and-yellow snakeskin was the very worst kind of
colour.  So she laid her hand for a moment on Lady Pender's
shoulder, saying:

'You'll call me Meg, won't you?  Everyone does.'

Lady Pender smiled a tight shoe-pinching smile.  'Yes.  Of course.
My real friends call ME Evie.'

Graham had been very silent.  Only now, looking up at Meg's very
simple friendly gaze, seeing her bathed in sunlight, he remarked.

'I like this room.  It's happy somehow.'

'Yes.  It is happy,' Meg said.  'It's the house.  Fred loves this
house as though it were a live thing--Delaneys have lived in it for
years and years.  We're always afraid we may have to sell it.  They
want it for flats and are offering a splendid price.  As it is we
let all the floors and to such nice people.  They're all friends of
ours.  But if one flat were empty we wouldn't be able to manage it.
It's a tight squeeze as it is.  Try one of those marzipan things,
Evie.  They're so good.  Yes, we hope for the best though.  We're
an optimistic lot, we Delaneys.  Why--where's the sun gone to?'

She moved to the window, and a moment later a flash cut the room as
a knife cuts paper.

Lady Pender was quite unmoved.  She took another marzipan cake and
began to nibble at it, giving it a little careful look between each
nibble.  Meg went to Graham's side.  They stood close together,
looking out into the darkness, hearing the peals of thunder, then
watching the sheets of determined rain.  They did not speak.

Lady Pender finished her cake and looked at them.  She stared at
the broad back and the thin one.  Then, finding her handkerchief,
she carefully wiped her lips, looked into a small mirror in her
heavy black bag, patted her hair.  Then, once again, she stared.

Fred Delaney was a little drunk.  He had lunched with three old
friends at the Beef Tub, a small hostelry near Apple Tree Yard, and
he now saw life gloriously.  He was quite steady on his legs, knew
just what he was saying, and if life were a trifle intensified, a
little more than real, wasn't that a splendid thing?  He KNEW that
he was a little drunk.  That was the GOOD thing.  The trouble with
drinking began when you didn't know.  His big body was vibrating
with health and strength.  With one push of his big arm he could
knock this whole shop to pieces, and WOULDN'T it look a mess?
Pushing his hat straight, smiling with his fine Irish joviality
into the respectable tradesman's face, he handled the 'shirtings,'
pressing them between finger and thumb, finding them, one and all,

Inside his brain one or two notions were running about and he found
it difficult to catch and hold them.  Dear old Meg, for example,
had asked him to be back for tea.  Some people were coming.  He had
promised.  Well, he would keep his promise, although he HAD stayed
at the Beef Tub a bit later than he had intended.  Then he knew
quite well that he had no right to be ordering shirts in an
expensive shop in Jermyn Street.  In the first place, he had enough
shirts, and, in the second, he had no right to buy in a shop like
this.  He simply hadn't the money.  Lastly, the mirrors in the shop
annoyed him.  There were so many of them and, from where he was
standing, however he turned, he saw this big carroty-haired, blue-
eyed familiar laughing at him.  The mirrors suggested that there
were many more worlds than one, and that was a suggestion he didn't
care for.  One was quite enough for one man to manage!  But was he
only one man?  Seen side-face, his red cheek, his rounded chin, the
broad shoulder, the stout leg, here was a complete stranger!  He
swung about and there was the familiar old Fred, reassuring him
again, but that stranger was still there.  He must be there, hiding
in another mirror.  And if there were many Freds, there were many
shops and many Londons.  There were STRANGE Londons and behind them
STRANGE worlds.  These mirrors were doors and one of them might at
any moment open.  What would it then disclose?  Some brand-new
world where, possibly, men walked about on their heads and all the
windows of the houses were flat to the street!  He laughed at this
funny idea and went back to the counter to finger the beautiful
silk 'shirtings' again.  He looked at the decorous assistant very

'I was thinking,' he said, 'how funny it would be if windows were
flat with the street.  If you walked on them and they splintered.
What a noise there'd be!'

'Yes, sir,' said the assistant gravely.  'This blue and grey is
very handsome.  It makes up beautifully.'

'Like a film star,' said Fred, laughing heartily at his little
joke.  Then, because his legs WERE a trifle unsteady, he sat down
on the hard round chair.

At that moment the door of the shop opened and a big heavy tub-
faced man entered.  Fred knew him at once.  It was Mr. Bartlett,
Mrs. Van Renn's young friend.  Fred had met him twice at the Van
Renns' lately, and a duller ox of a man you wouldn't find in a
day's march through London.  There he sat in the Van Renns' little
room, his legs spread, staring in front of him and saying:  'By
Jove, yes,' or 'You don't mean it!' or 'That's a good one!'  He
appeared not to have an idea in his head, and his only virtue to
Mrs. Van Renn must be, Fred supposed, that he had money and was
generous with it.  That the lovely Miss Van Renn was bored with him
was probable, although what Miss Van Renn thought about anything
was never very clear.

However, Fred was feeling friendly to all the world, so from his
little chair he said very heartily, 'Hullo, Bartlett!'

Bartlett's heavy eyes regarded him with somnolent recognition.
'Hullo, Delaney!'  Then he turned at once to the assistant and
said:  'Want some braces.  Red and black stripes.'  Then
apologetically to Fred:  'Hope I'm not butting in.  You go ahead.'

'No, old boy, of course not.  Only having some shirts made up.
Grand day, isn't it?'

'Grand day it is.'

Bartlett leaned on the counter, as though he would smash it to

'You're looking well, old man,' Fred said genially.

'Not so bad,' said Bartlett.

'Seen the Van Renns lately?'

'Yesterday.  Was there yesterday.'

'Was it the dark red or the crimson you were wanting?' asked the

'Hell!  I don't know.  Let's see them both,' said Bartlett.

Delaney studied genially that enormous back and thought to himself:
'I've got a pretty figure beside this fellow.'  He got up,
stretched himself and yawned.

'I'll be toddling.'

Bartlett didn't turn from the counter.

'So long, old man.'

'I'll be in again,' Fred said to the assistant and went gaily out,
leaving, thank God, all those disturbing mirrors behind him.

He was disturbed nevertheless a trifle about Bartlett.  DID Alice
Van Renn see anything in the oaf?  She might.  You couldn't tell
with her, and Fred was sore to confess that Bartlett had most
certainly spent more time with her than he, Fred Delaney, had.
For, to be honest, his times with her were extremely brief, always
broken into by something.  She was for ever going out or coming in
when they were alone.  Only when others were there did she sit like
an image, frozen to her chair.

It seemed to him that he almost sailed along Piccadilly.  His hat a
trifle on one side, his brown overcoat gaily open, humming a tune,
it was as though the world were his ship and he commander.

And then, just as he passed the door of the Berkeley, where the
door-attendant, known to him, touched his cap ('A nice fellow,'
Delaney thought, 'I never saw anyone help ladies out of taxis
better'), there was a rumble as though a lion had growled.  He
stopped at the crossing and looked up.  Why, the sky was black!  An
instant before and it had been a dancing shining blue.  Never mind.
He had no umbrella and only a light overcoat, but he would be home
in no time.  The lights changed, he hurried across, bought a Star
from the newspaper man, stood a moment looking at the racing and
seeing that the small-printed lines danced a little before his
eyes, when the very ground cracked at his feet.  He had not noticed
the lightning and so the crash caught him the more with surprise.
He really looked at the pillars of the Ritz as though he expected
to see them topple forward.  He was curiously excited, with the
sort of realization that one has sometimes under an anaesthetic.
'By Jove, this IS the explanation of the Universe.  I've got it at
last!'--only Fred said, and aloud:  'By Jove, the windows ARE all
flat, and I'm trampling on them!'

No one heard him, because now, with another peal, the rain came
down in torrents, with a glassy sound, his slightly intoxicated
brain thought, as though those mirrors were crashing about him.

And he ran, a thing that a Londoner hates to do in public.  But he
thought, 'I can be home in a minute if I run.'  At the end of Half
Moon Street the rain was so torrential that he stood in the portico
of Number 90 for shelter.  'I'll wait,' he thought.  'It will soon
be over.'  He stood there and, very composedly, opened his paper.
He saw a headline:  'London's Danger.'  It was a leader in the
paper's centre.  It began:

There could have been no doubt, we imagine, in the mind of anyone
who heard the speeches made in the House of Commons last night that
the safety of London, in the advent of another war, is far from
secure.  It may be that we are witnessing the final moments of the
London that we love.  One Air Raid and, so far as our present Air
Protection goes, London will, perhaps, lie in ruins.  London, with
her history, her art, her beauty . . .

He had read so far to the sound of thundering waters.  It was as
though the sky had opened up and, in a frenzy of energy, the Minor
Gods were playing the game of the Deluge.

But he saw and felt more than the rain.  Removed ever so slightly
from actual reality, he saw his beloved City lying, like her
windows, flat with the earth.  A glittering moon filled his eyes
with ironic light, and into the heart of that glitter London rose,
her towers white like snow, softly grey like pigeons' wings; the
river stood on end spouting a column of water at the cold moon's
grin; walls were split and into the air poured the dbris of
mankind, pictures and coal-scuttles, curtains and fire-arms,
'Tobias and Sarah in Bed' from the Victoria and Albert, Michael
Angelo's 'Entombment' from the National Gallery, Mr. Cochran's
walking-stick, one of the lions from Trafalgar Square, the air dark
with shoes, hats, knives and forks, and the wooden toy horses of a
thousand nurseries.

London has fallen!  And, after its fall, a great silence.  Years of
silence--and at last, on a moonlight night so still in comparison
with the other, a bird's sleepy song, before with a faint whirr of
its wings it flies to the trees that envelop Selfridge's bargain
basement, where it folds itself to slumber.

London!  His London in peril!  Of course.  Of course.  Why had he
not seen this before?  Its loveliness, its pathos, its roughness
and ugliness and tragedy, its gaiety and humanity, its inconsequence,
its great multitude of ghosts, the very spirit of its independence,
the very helplessness of its appeal to be loved, seemed to come to
him as he stood there, and, being a little drunk, he stretched out
his arms and enfolded it.

'Come to me, my darling.'  (And was it not perhaps wearing the
semblance of the lovely delicate body of Alice Van Renn?)  'I will
care for you, protect you, hide you from the invader.'

And then, for the rain was less severe, he almost tiptoed the few
steps home.






Meg Delaney, as soon as she recognized that something had to be
done, immediately did it.

People who knew her moderately rather than well were often
surprised at the suddenness with which, out of what seemed a cloud
of absent-mindedness, she became, all in a moment, practical and
efficient.  Only her own family knew that this was so, and admired
her for it.

She had realized for some time that something must be done about
Rudge, that Caesar, the family Ganymede.  He was unhappy, poor boy,
and that she could not endure, because she was fond of him.

But there was more in it than personal feeling.  The family's ease
of mind depended very greatly upon Caesar.  Without that boy
everything would be at sixes and sevens, because he was tireless,
methodical, devoted.  Because he was devoted it seemed strange that
he should ask so obstinately for his wages to be raised.  But Meg
did not make the mistake so often made by masters and mistresses
about those who work for them.  She knew that Caesar had a life of
his own with many things in it that had nothing at all to do with
the Delaney lives.  She knew above all that he was demanding a rise
because his old mother never let him alone on this subject.

She knew too that Fred could not afford to give him a rise--no rise
at least that would satisfy old Mrs. Rudge.  And she knew that
Caesar was so good and efficient a boy that he could easily find a
job elsewhere with better wages.

She knew that the boy loved the Delaneys, that his heart was torn,
and that, with a torn heart, you sleep badly, work inefficiently
and lose your temper.  She did NOT know that, to add to poor
Caesar's burdens, he was, for the first time in his life, most
desperately in love.  Meg was further aware that this problem of
Caesar was only one of many problems now beginning to approach the
Delaney happiness.  It might be the smallest of the problems or it
might be the largest.  In any case she would at once attack it.
She would go to the fountain-head, and the fountain-head was old
Mrs. Rudge.

She disliked Mrs. Rudge extremely, and it always upset her to be
with someone she disliked.  She shared with Millie Pake the belief
that if you knew anyone very well you could not really dislike
them.  Old Mrs. Rudge shook this belief, for the more often that
Meg saw her the more she disliked her.  Mrs. Rudge was often
unwell.  She possessed a mysterious Thing that she called her Pain.
No one knew quite what it was, for it moved about and no doctor was
able to put his finger on it.  Meg privately considered that its
origins were in eating too much and never taking any exercise.
Mrs. Rudge also belonged to that Merry Old England that regarded
fresh air as a poison.  Now, sitting in the small room over the
little shop in Shepherd Market, Meg felt stifled as though she were
living inside a camphor ball.  She felt also enormous physically,
but spiritually inferior to Mrs. Rudge.

Mrs. Rudge was a small woman wrapped in shawls.  Her face was
covered with wrinkles, and out of the wrinkles there gleamed two
little eyes as sharp as pins.  But for the eyes you would fancy
that she was a poor, weak, crumpled-up little woman whom life,
dealing in a series of mean revenges, had reduced to helplessness.
It was only her eyes and her voice, which had the sharpness of a
drill-instructor's, that showed that there was life in the old girl
yet.  The room had in it many large sea-shells, the model of a
ship, and the dried skin of a baby alligator, for her husband had
been a sailor who had found distant seas preferable to matrimony.

She watched her maritime possessions as though any and every
visitor had only one purpose in life, namely to rob her of them.
But then she watched everything.  She resembled a detective in a
murder story who may, from the slightest clue, a shoe-lace, a tea-
spoon, a cigarette-end, discover the murderer.  That the murderer
was somewhere about, Mrs. Rudge was always sure.

This suspicion made Meg horribly aware of her own bright colours,
her conversation, her spreading proportions.  To-day she was
wearing quiet clothes, a black dress with silver bands at the neck
and wrists, and a black hat.  But she had taken off her gloves, and
her rings glittered on her fingers.  Mrs. Rudge's eyes were
fastened on the rings.

'Well, Mrs. Rudge, how are you?  Pretty well, I hope.'

'No, mum, I can't say as I feel very well.'

'Oh, I'm sorry.  What's the matter?'

'It's my Pain, mum.'

'Oh, I AM sorry!  What kind of a pain?'

'Round my 'eart--then the back of my neck, and then lower, much

'How horrid for you!  It sounds a little like indigestion.'

'Indigestion!'  Mrs. Rudge was as scornful as though Meg had
suggested that she was a millionairess.  'Ah, well.  Them that
'asn't got can't feel.  That's what I always say.  It's a burden to
be borne, and them's lucky that don't 'ave to bear it.'

'Well, I'm very sorry.'  Meg knew that the preliminaries were now
over and that real conversation must begin.  'I think you're very
brave, Mrs. Rudge.  Caesar tells me how brave you are.  It's about
Caesar I looked in for a moment.'

The old lady seemed to stiffen as though she were suddenly all

'Caesar, mum?  'E's giving satisfaction, I hope?'

'Of course he is--a very good boy.'

'Well, I 'opes he is.  That's all.  I'll tell you something, Mrs.
Belaney.'  (It was one of Mrs. Rudge's characteristics that she
took a refined pleasure in never knowing anyone's name correctly.)
'If that boy isn't giving satisfaction I don't know any boy in the
country 'oo would.  That's all I 'ave to say.'

'Of course he is.  Perfect satisfaction.'  Meg laughed.  'The
trouble is that I'm afraid it's we who are not giving HIM
satisfaction.  He's asking us to raise his wages.'

'Oh, 'e is, is 'e?  First I've 'eard of it.'

(Horrible old liar, Meg thought.)

'We think,' Meg went on, 'that he is worth all he can get, of
course.  He's a very good boy, VERY good boy indeed.  The sad thing
is that we can't afford to pay him any more.  As it is we run the
house with no margin, no margin at all.'

Now indeed Mrs. Rudge's little eyes did seem to flash fire.  There
appeared even an ironical twist to the thin dried lips.  THIS woman
with her fine black dress and diamond rings saying she couldn't
afford it!  That was a good one.  Oh, a very good one indeed!  She,
Mrs. Rudge, hadn't once been lodge-keeper at Wintersmoon for

'You know best, mum, of course. . . .'

'No, of course not.  Caesar knows best what's right for his own
future.  Only I came because I know the influence you have on him,
and perhaps you could show him that it would be wise to wait a
little and then we'll see what we can do.'

Mrs. Rudge's voice shook.  She was in one of her famous tempers.

'Excuse me, mum, but it don't seem right for a lady like you to
come 'ere be'ind the poor boy's back and suggest things to 'is

'I'm not suggesting anything.'

'Oh yes, you are, mum, excuse me.  You knows well enough that my
poor boy works 'is fingers to skin and bone in your service and 'as
done ever since 'e was a little nipper.  "Mother," 'e says to me,
"Mother, I'm that tired I could just lay me down and die.  Don't
tell them, Mother," 'e says.  "I don't want THEM to know 'ow tired
I am.  They mean well," 'e says, "but they don't think," 'e says,
"they don't think of the long hours and the poor food--"'

'He DOESN'T have poor food!' Meg broke in wildly.

'Ah, not as YOU sees it, mum.  YOU mean well, no doubt, but YOU
don't see what goes on with that there cook, Mrs. Banter--'

'Ganter!' Meg said.  'Ganter!'

'Ganter or Banter, it's all one as far as my poor boy and 'is food
goes.  "Mother," 'e says when 'e comes 'ome, "Mother," 'e says, "I
may be the son of a sailor, Mother, but that ain't no reason why I
should eat what that Mrs. Banter gives me."  And then I cooks 'im a
nice boiled egg and a 'ot cup of tea--'

This picture was so far removed from the true and cheerfully happy
Caesar that Meg could listen no longer.

'I'm sorry, Mrs. Rudge.  That really isn't true.  Caesar is very
happy with us and has PLENTY to eat.  He wants to stay with us, we
want to keep him, but we CAN'T afford to raise his wages, not just
now at least--'

But Mrs. Rudge had her head raised as though she were listening to
a call from above.  Her neck that had before scarcely existed was
now a long and skinny one.  She beat the air with a dry and
withered hand.

'It's my Pain,' she whispered.  'It's my Pain.'

Meg rose.  'Oh dear, I AM so sorry.  Where is it?  What can I do
for it?'

Mrs. Rudge beat the air quite frantically.

'It's there--in the stummick.  And now it's going up.  Oh, it's in
MY chest fearful!'

But Meg had been there before.  She put some money on the table.

'Shall I fetch someone?'

'Oh no, mum, thank you.  It's a bit better.  It's going down again.
It's settling in its proper place.  I'm very grateful to you, mum,
I'm sure.'

'Well, talk it over with Caesar, will you?  I daresay he COULD get
more somewhere else, but we don't want to lose him and he doesn't
want to go.  We're very fond of him, you know.'

'Yes, mum, I'm sure . . .'

'Good-bye, Mrs. Rudge.'

'Good-bye, mum.'

Walking slowly homewards, Meg Delaney suffered one of her sharp
moments of depression.  Mrs. Rudge was REAL, and in all probability
the world contained a great number of just such selfish, ruthless
tyrants.  Mrs. Rudge to Mussolini . . .

At certain intervals Meg had the experience that all optimists and
idealists have.  A person encountered, a passage read, a word
caught and remembered, and the World of Light is suddenly curtained
in darkness.  It IS true, then, this that cynics, destroyers,
disillusionists are for ever repeating: human nature is grim,
snakes and monkeys we are, no progress has been made.  We see
ourselves, in those bitter moments, as our detractors see us--weak,
complacent, blinded, ever-trusting optimists.  We are ashamed.  We
hang our heads.  The bitter moment does not endure.  Whether it is
our glands, our digestions, or merely the fact that we were so
unhappy as children that we must needs be happy now, the pendulum
swings back--we cannot deny the love of our friends, the coming of
spring, the succulence of a new potato, the rising of the theatre-
curtain, the glass-green heart of the turning wave, the tread of
the springing mountain turf.  A bruised and mangled world, rich
with beauty and terror-veined promise. . . .

All the same, Mrs. Rudge stuck in Meg's nostrils.  And her own sad
weaknesses too!  For had she not in this very month taken at least
three taxis when omnibuses would have done?  And here they were,
Fred and herself, refusing to raise Caesar's wages by ten shillings
a week!  But raise Caesar and Mrs. Ganter too must be raised.
Fifty pounds a year more! and the Pullets and the Pakes threatening
to leave!  Very shortly another attack on the house would be made,
and the raising of the servants' wages might be the last little
feather added to the already bursting pillow!  Fred would yield.
He would sign the house's destruction!  And then, as Meg knew, he
would never again forgive himself, his rectitude would crumble, he
would drink and embrace a hundred Van Renns, Kitty and Bullock
would vanish into air. . . .  What of the Joyful Delaneys then?

Seen thus Mrs. Rudge appeared as an old witch riding her broomstick
through the thick night air above Shepherd Market, screaming
destruction to the Delaneys.

'I was weak to give her money,' Meg thought.  'How ridiculous to
give the old wretch ten shillings when I have to hesitate before
buying myself a pair of gloves!  It's a kind of blackmail really.
I give her money every time I go there, just to stop her going on
about her Pain.  And well she knows it.  Why am I so silly and so
weak?  There's a lot of real pain in the world.  Mrs. Rudge is a
sham and I encourage her in her shamming.'

But in the very middle of her self-condemning she was compelled to
stop, just outside her door, and buy some daffodils from a little
man with a withered leg.

He coughed and thanked her.

'You are sure they're quite fresh,' she said, knowing they were

'They are that, ma'am.  Picked this morning.'  He looked at her

'There isn't any sort of a job--' he began.

'I'm afraid not.'

'You see, my lady, my wife's got the bronchitis and there's the
rent due--only five shillings--'

She gave him five shillings.

He looked at her quite angrily.

'I 'ates flowers,' he said, most unexpectedly.

'Oh no, you shouldn't--'

''Eartless things.  Don't care what you're suffering.  Flowers--and
your wife with bronchitis and a kid a month old.  Sure there ain't
any kind of job needed?  I'm clever with my 'ands--'

Then something in her face charmed him.  He smiled.  He spoke to
her like a father to his child.

'Never you mind, lady.  I'll manage . . .' and went on down the
street flourishing his daffodils.

'I must speak to Caesar,' Meg thought.  She must see him at once,
partly because he would improve the nasty taste of his mother,
partly because she could never bear to leave anything suspended.
She must come to the crisis.  She must finish the thing.  And often
enough she had spoiled what she was after by her impetuosity.

The room that she loved so much was warm and protected against the
outside March rawness.  She looked at the William and Mary clock.
Three-thirty.  That man and his little girl, Bullock's new friends,
were coming to tea at four-fifteen.

She took off her hat and gloves and threw them into a chair; in her
furs she stood before the fire, warming herself, and looking with
delighted happiness at the room just as though she had never seen
it before, and especially at the Rowlandson water-colour she liked
best, the one where they were drinking outside an alehouse and the
coach was arriving and a little boy was flying a kite, the figures
with round rosy faces and stout posteriors, the colours blue and
pink and brown--soft, English, contented.

She had rung the bell and now Caesar appeared, small, anxious, his
large mouth grinning, rubbing his hand on his black trousers.

'Yes, ma'am.'

'Oh, Caesar, come in.  I want to talk to you about something.'

'Yes, ma'am.'

He came forward and stood close to her, looking at her, as he
always did, with the greatest admiration.  To him she was simply
the finest lady in existence.  There was no one worth a gold watch
compared with her.  Which was the way he thought because he wanted
a gold watch more than any other thing in the world.

She looked at him and smiled.  This lovely friendly room and Caesar
inside it--how happy they made her!

'The fact is, Caesar, I've just been to see your mother.'

'Yes, ma'am.'  His eyes withdrew a little, his forehead wrinkled,
his mouth was serious.

'It's this business of raising your wages.  It's troubling Mr.
Delaney and myself a good deal.  You see, we both want to do it.
We know you're not really getting enough for all you do and that
you could get more elsewhere.  We couldn't bear to lose you.
Everything depends on you.  The trouble is, if we give you another
ten shillings a week, then Mrs. Ganter will want it too.  That
means another fifty pounds a year, and that would bust us.  Mr.
Delaney might have to sell the house.  I'm not a very good manager,
I'm afraid, but I'm going to try and economize.  The fact is that
the rents of the flats in this house are very small, but if we
raise them everyone will go and then we'll be worse off than ever.
That's the way it is.'

Caesar looked up at her with so sweet and bewitching a smile that
it was all she could do not to put her arms round him and kiss him.
There was always something to her especially touching in his small-
boyish stature and his grown-up official garments.  He was like a
boy dressed up for a party.  He had rather a hoarse voice.

'What does Mother say?' he asked, watching her with his eyes very

She would have liked to say that his nasty old mother had denied
all knowledge of the affair, but that would have put him in the
uncomfortable position of proving his mother a liar.  So she
refrained.  And HE would have liked to say that every night now his
mother made his life a burden by demanding whether he'd brought it
off, whether he'd got the rise, and if not why not, and did he know
that he was killing her by his cowardice, and why had she so
ungrateful a son who, after all she had done for him, etc. etc.
But that would have been unkind to his mother, so HE refrained.

'Well, ma'am, I hardly know rightly what to say.  You've been so
good to me, you and Mr. Delaney and Miss Kitty and Mr. Stephen,
that I'm sure I'm willing enough to work for nothing, seeing as how
I'd rather be working for you and Mr. Delaney and Miss Kitty and
Mr. Stephen than the King AND Queen . . . only . . . only . . . the
way it is I sort of feel--'  He stopped.  He looked at her dumbly.
He didn't feel anything of the kind.  He was perfectly contented
here.  It was his mother.  This nag, nag, nag, this complaining,
these tears--and there WAS something else!

He dropped his eyes, then looked up again full into Meg Delaney's
glorious ones.

'You see, ma'am.  There IS something else.  There's a girl--I--'

'Oh, Caesar!'  Meg was enchanted.  'You're in love with someone?'

'Yes, ma'am.  First time.  She's working in one of those flats back
of the Market.  She spoke to me one morning.  There's a man spoke
to her and she didn't like it.  I know him, name of Brocket, owns a
house in White Horse Street.  Bad lot HE is, and I told her if she
was ever in any sort of trouble she was to come to me, and so we
got talking and now--well, now we're going out together.  I never
was in love with anyone before, but now I am proper.  And if Mother
hears of it she'll carry on simply awful.  That's what she's always
been afraid of, me marrying--and so I thought if I had a bit more
money, that would keep Mother quiet and so--'

Meg caught Caesar's grubby hand and shook it.

'Now that's splendid.  Are you sure she's a nice girl?'

'A NICE girl!  Oh, ma'am!'  His rather wistful Cockney face seemed
to be lit up with a kind of glory.  Glory was also expressed by the
tips of his ears and his nose, which were all in an instant rosy.
He spoke breathlessly as though he'd been running.  'She's from the
country, Mrs. Delaney.  Only been in London a month or two.  She's
beautiful, she is truly.  All the men are after her.  She's as
fresh-looking as the place she come from.  And innocent!  Why, Mrs.
Delaney, she don't know a thing and she's got a voice with an
accent in it that's lovely.  It IS truly.  But she does want
looking after and it was lucky for her she told me about Brocket,
because I've got HIS number all right, I have.  And if he starts
bothering her there'll be murder done in the Market.'

He drew a deep sigh and then said in a sort of holy whisper:

'Her name's Margaret Dundee.'

'Why!' cried Meg.  'It's the same as mine!  But isn't the surname

Then Caesar looked at her with so fatherly a gaze that she felt
quite young.  But his paternal feelings were not for her.

'She's called Dundee,' he said, as though he were confiding a most
tremendous secret, 'because she don't know her parents.  Never did.
She was found on a doorstep in the town of Dundee.  Brought up in
an orphanage.'  His eyes opened yet wider.  'It's my belief she's
of very high blood.  You'd think so yourself, Mrs. Delaney, ma'am,
when you see her walking.  Like a princess . . . !'

The glory faded.  His brow puckered again like a monkey's.

'I can't tell Mother,' he said huskily.  'I just don't dare.'

They were now two conspirators.

'You tell your mother,' said Meg, 'that we're going to do something
about the wages.  You might tell her, too, that you're looking
round for another job, although you won't be, of course.  Can your
Margaret cook?'

'That was just what I was going to tell you,' Caesar said
ecstatically.  'I haven't had more than one of her cakes and some
biscuits, but the people she's working for, they've got rid of
their cook and made Margaret do it, raising her wages, of course,
and she says THEY say they never knew such a cook.  Not that she's
one for praising herself.  You have to drag it out of her.'

'Well, who knows what the future may bring?  Anyway, for the
present don't you say a word to anybody, Caesar, and keep it dark
from your mother.  Just come and tell me if anything happens.'

'Oh, I will, ma'am.  Thank you very much.  You're ever so kind.'
Then, backing a little towards the door, he said:  'I'd do anything
for you, Mrs. Delaney.'

'More than for Margaret?'

That confused him.  Then he grinned.

'That's different,' he said.

She went into her bedroom and changed her black dress for a rich
purple that she dearly loved, brushed her black hair, put on a pair
of long ear-rings of purple and silver, then returned to sit in
front of the fire and dream for a moment before her guests arrived.
'I'm motherly, that's true.  And yet I'm not motherly at all.  I
want to take everyone under my purple wing and do for them, and yet
I don't want to take any of them under my wing really.  I want to
be rid of them, to have no cares, no responsibilities.  I love
Fred, Kitty, Bullock.  How dearly I love Fred, every inch of him!
I love him so that I must believe in immortality, some kind of
continuing relation with him that nothing can break.  And dear
Kitty!  How sweet she is and how proud of her I am!  And Bullock,
what a dear boy, how good and gentle-hearted!  Yes, HOW I love
them!  And yet I want to be rid of them all!  I want no ties.  I
want to go out into the street and do just as I please, speak to
strange men, find out how people live, take a boat and go to
Bangkok, bury myself in China, ride for ever through Persia.
Nevertheless, if I COULD do these things I would be homesick,
worried about Fred, hoping Kitty was safe and Bullock free from
colds!  How tiresome it is!  And how exciting too!  And how
foolish!  Here am I an ageing woman happy as a child because I love
to be alive!  I CANNOT learn sense!  I CANNOT be quiet and wise and
wear grey clothes and put away my ear-rings.' . . .

'Captain Coventry and Miss Coventry.'

Meg knew, as soon as she touched his hand, that this man was
dangerous.  A bad man, no, for she was wise enough in her own
generation to know that bad men and women do not exist.  Only we
are destructive or creative; in greater or lesser degree there is
always that distinction.  Creative or destructive of course only,
for certain, at the moment of contact; but that which we are
frequently we become finally.  Nicholas Coventry was destructive.
Coarsely handsome now, running to disintegration, his clothes
excellent, his eyes hard, inquisitive, active, gay although often
apprehensive.  She knew at once that he would amuse her, but she
was sorry for him, and that she did not want him to be Bullock's
friend.  She caught the reflection in the round mirror by the
window of his tall, straight, thickening body, his too-ruddy cheek,
the back of his head (his hair-cut was almost too excellent), and
felt an instant addition to the dangers that were accumulating
against the Delaneys.

He undoubtedly had not expected so opulent, so brilliantly glowing
a lady.  He liked opulence and his sensual taste was for middle-
age.  He held her hand a trifle longer than he would have done had
she been younger and slighter.

Then the child caught and absorbed Meg's attention.  What a queer
creature with that child's body, the beautiful quiet face (for it
was beautiful even though a year ago it might not have been), the
pallor, the dark hair, the rather shabby grey dress, the quiet

'Won't you sit down?  Bullock will be here in a minute.  AND tea.'

The child sat down, on the edge of her chair, very straight-backed,
her hands folded.  Coventry, entirely at ease, began to produce his
charm.  'He's been charming for years,' she thought.  'It's become
mechanical.  He's thinking of something else.'

She knew immediately that, whereas once he had been able to control
his every thought and movement, he was reaching now a decadence
when subconscious desires and thoughts begin to have control.  Soon
his acts also would astonish him by leaping like animals into the
arena before he had given the word.  She knew that he was stripping
her in his mind while he talked of Paris and the open-air play in
Verona and robbers at Toledo and a special kind of pastry to be
found only at Avignon.

The child said not a word but with her eyes took in everything.
Indeed, Lizzie Coventry was astonished by Mrs. Delaney.  It was
seldom now, poor dear, that she was astonished at anything, but she
had never in all her troubles and adventures seen a lady like this
lady before.  She thought that if you were a woman and middle-aged
and English, you were either a good woman like Aunt Fanny, or
a horribly cheap bad one like Mrs. Agar.  But here was an
Englishwoman in brilliant colours, flashing rings and chains like
an actress, and yet a fine English lady beyond doubt or question.
And not only fine but of a grand size like one of the women in
history.  Kind, too, for at the moment of Bullock's entrance Mrs.
Delaney flashed at Lizzie a smile so generous, understanding and
comforting, that the child--who was cold, weary and almost at the
end of her endurance--had all that she could do to prevent tears
from filling her eyes.

Bullock came in with Endless at his heels.  That dachshund took an
instant and fawning liking to Captain Coventry.  This was strange
because Coventry kept no dog, had no scent about his trousers that
suggested dogs, food, or sport, and made no canine effort for
politeness' sake.  But it seemed that Endless recognized an old
friend, and even when Caesar brought in the tea, an event that as a
rule commanded instantly the whole of dog, soul and spirit, he
never removed his liquid brown eyes from Coventry's face.  As with
all dachshunds his intelligence was a little ironical, a trifle
cruel.  To surmount the irony of his ludicrous body he had achieved
a humorous criticism of men and women that made them themselves
self-conscious.  He greeted Coventry instantly as a fellow-ironist,
which in fact he was.

Bullock's anxiety caused his mother to love him.  Because of it she
was more amiable to Coventry than she intended to be, and so they
all soon became very gay.  What was Captain Coventry doing?  Was
his work in London?

He looked the serious man of affairs.

'You know what it is--a little business in the City, sometimes not
so bad, sometimes damnable.  We've been going up and down for
years, haven't we, Liz?'

'Yes, Papa.'

'It seems so difficult now,' Meg said, 'to know where the money IS.
You used to be able to say:  "There's money.  I'll go for it."  Now
you don't know--no one knows.'

'That suits me,' Coventry said, laughing.  'I'm an adventurer, you
know.  Always have been.  As long as there's bread and butter for
myself and my little girl, that's all I worry about.  I'm afraid
I'm a rolling stone, Mrs. Delaney, and that's a fact.'

'How I'd love to be a rolling stone!' Meg cried.  'Only even
nowadays when women can go anywhere and do anything it's difficult.
So here I am settled down with a family.'

Coventry gave her a gay buccaneer look as much as to say:  'If
you'd like a little jaunt with me I'm sure I could manage it.'

Meg felt she disliked him very much.  There was a strain of
commonness there which offended her.  There was no commonness in
the child, however.  Meg took her over to a Chinese cabinet that
stood in the far corner and opened some of the drawers.  In them
there were pieces of silk, some fans, a small lacquer tray or two,
odds and ends that Meg had picked up at one time or another.
Lizzie was fascinated.  She had a piece of orange silk marked with
little silver figures in her hand and stroked it.

'I love beautiful things.'

'Do you?  So do I.  In fact my husband is always scolding me for
buying things that I shouldn't.  What beautiful things do you like

Lizzie drew a little breath, gave Meg a serious look as though to
see whether she could be trusted, decided that it was safe, and
went on in a low voice that was almost a whisper:

'In Venice once Papa bought me a little painting.  It was very old
and there was the Madonna and the Child sitting under a tree and
St. Joseph watching them.  Behind them was such a lovely landscape,
tiny trees and a river and a little town all green and blue except
there was a tower that was pink.  It was the most beautiful thing I
ever had.'

'Have you still got it?'

'No.  We sold it once to pay a hotel bill.'

'Oh, what a shame!'

Lizzie looked, with an odd contraction of her brows, about forty.

'Oh, we have to do that sometimes, when we haven't any money, you

'Do you like London?'

'It's as good as another place.'

'Have you plenty of friends?'

'Oh no--not FRIENDS.  We lived with my Aunt Fanny for a time in
Westminster.  THAT was nice.  She had a boy, Edward, who goes to
Westminster School.  We were friends, but I haven't seen him for a
long time.'

'What do you like doing best?'

'I like to go walks by myself and see the people in the streets.
And I like reading.'

'What do you read?'

'French books mostly.  I like Proust and Andr Gide.  Paul Morand's
good too sometimes.  The English don't write as well as the

Good heavens!  Meg didn't know.  She vaguely was aware of the name
of Proust as of a Frenchman who wrote long and difficult books,
mostly about homosexuality.  What kind of a child WAS this?

'Will you come and see me sometimes?'

'Yes, if you'd like me to.'

'I'd like you to very much.  I love walking and riding on omnibuses
and seeing the town.'  Then she added:  'Would you like that piece
of orange silk?  I'd love to give it to you.'

Lizzie's hand trembled.  'Oh no, I mustn't . . .'

'Yes, you must.  There--slip it into your dress.  It's OUR secret.'

The child looked at her, took the piece of silk and looked at it.

'I must tell Father,' she said.  Then, after a little pause, added:
'You are very kind, thank you.'  She went and showed it to her

'Well, really, Mrs. Delaney.  That's too good of you.  You'll spoil
my little girl.'

Five minutes later they departed.  All that Meg said to Bullock

'I don't trust that man, Bullock.'

'No--nor do I.'

'But the child's a darling.'

'Yes, she is.'

'What are you going to do about her?'

'See that she's safe.'

'Yes,' said Meg, kissing him on the forehead.  'You're right.
She's worth saving.'



Fred Delaney stood in the hall of the Charles Street house hiding
an annoyance with his brother Larry which was by no means new to
him.  He had experienced it first when, at the age of two or so,
Larry, crawling under the table beside him, had pinched his leg to
draw his attention from dreaming to something practical.  Larry had
been doing the same thing ever since.  He stood now, very smart in
his deep-blue overcoat, his faintly yellow gloves, his soft dark-
blue hat, advising him about the house.

'Sell it, old boy!  Don't be such a bloody fool.  The strain's
simply killing you.  You're getting to look like old Ma Plunket who
can't make up her mind whether to sell her shell-backed chairs to
Corleone or not.  One day she thinks she will, another day she
won't, and that's after my getting Corleone to lunch in her house,
which is a thing she's longed for all her life, and I had to work
like the devil to bring it about, I can tell you.  Old Plunket's
been in her bed for a week with a sort of nervous breakdown, and
you'll be the same if you don't look out.'

Larry's voice, which had all the decisive pressure belonging to a
man who was ever selling things to people who didn't want to buy,
went echoing up the stairs, and the whole house shivered with

It was unfortunate, but Larry was just the kind of man the house
couldn't endure.  It was for the house Fred Delaney was annoyed; he
never minded Larry half so much in the street.  But, as often
before, it was Larry's implication that he, Fred, was a dreaming
ass that irritated him so especially.  A dreaming ass when he had
kept the house together all these years, when he had managed all
these difficult people with tact and adroitness--a thing that Larry
could never have done, for he had tact with people only when he was
intent on making a bargain.

He had certainly no tact now.  He struck Fred on the shoulder with
a horrible brotherly patronizing geniality.

'You're sentimental, that's what you are, old lad.  You and Meg are
two of the most sentimental people I know.'

To be sentimental, to have no humour, to believe in God, to dislike
cruel sports, to have trust in whatever Government may be in at the
moment, these are the charges that any decent person in these days
must rightly resent.

'Sentimental, am I?' cried Fred.  'Just because I want to keep the
house we were born in and our fathers lived in before us.  Pity
more people haven't sentiment if that's what sentiment is.  Now you
get out, Larry, before I kick you out.'

'All right,' said Larry.  'Don't lose your temper, old boy.  What I
say is true though.  You can't keep the house unless you raise the
rent, and if you raise the rent you won't get the tenants.  There
you are--in a nutshell.'

'Why shouldn't people pay higher rents?  Look what they are asking
for flats all round here.  Twice as much as WE'RE asking.'

'Exactly.  That's just it.  Flats, yes.  Poky rotten flats, many of
them, but they're modern with modern gadgets.  1934.  That's what
THEY are.  People are afraid of old houses these days.  Think
they're full of rats and ancient privies.  _I_ know.  I go about
and hear things.'  He caught his brother's arm.  'By the way, you
don't want to sell that old clock of yours?  If you're hard up, I
mean.  I'm sure I could get a pretty penny for it.  I know just the
party.  Old Lord Ragadoon.  He's mad as a hatter, but he's got
lovely things.  I know I could persuade him.'

That was the last insult.

'Go on, Larry, get out.  You don't understand me and you never
have.  I wouldn't be you for all the gold in America.'

'All right, old boy.  I'm going.  See you soon.'

And Larry went.

After the door was closed Fred stood there in the dim morning
sunlight, looking up the stairs as though he were asking a
question.  In actual fact he didn't know what he was doing except
cursing Larry.  He always felt a small boy when Larry had been at
him, and he felt that now.

But in some respects he was one--the kind of twopence-coloured
strain that hinders maturity was in him as it had been in Robert
Louis Stevenson, Scott, Tom Moore, Goldsmith, in almost every
Irishman and Scotsman perhaps.  Not that maturity isn't there, but
through it there runs the silver skein of playing at life as
Stevenson played at his toy theatre.  This Fred Delaney had, a
strain neither in his wife nor children.  For Meg did not PLAY at
life--she embraced it with both arms--and Kitty and Bullock were,
like all their generation, in many ways, mature before their time.
Fred Delaney was the only child in the family and the only poet.

His visions of Ireland, London, this house, his wife, women, were
all poetical: that is, filled with music, colour, fantasy, twice as
deep as they looked and gone before they were grasped, but leaving
in their wake some lasting tune, some permanent colour.

But his trouble was that he could not communicate any of this.  He
might burst out, as he had done on that New Year's morning to
Munden concerning London, but those outbursts were rare.  He had a
true positive belief in things: stone and mortar and brick and clay
and oil and steel and silk and cotton--these materials and the
shapes man made of them--as being sentient, responsive, depending
for their life a little on the human souls with whom they were.
And he reconciled this new machine age in which he was placed
absolutely with the world of truth and beauty.  Man would subdue it
and transform it as, so often before, man had subdued and
transformed its ancestors.  His beloved London in which now so many
lovely buildings were tumbling down had, he believed, an inner
spirit that would conquer all that it absorbed.  But destruction--
real total destruction--that he had not counted on!

Ever since, on the afternoon of the thunderstorm, he had read in
the evening paper that casual article about raids, fire bombs,
poison gases, a fresh and most poignant anxiety had grown round his
heart.  This could not harm his fundamental happiness, but it made
him something of a man-at-arms guarding with his life the treasure-
house of the King.  It had increased the poignancy and tenderness
of his love of London.  She might, like any and every human soul,
have evil in her--wicked ways and filthy slums and crooked
politics, noise and stench and confusion, but these things were
only because she was alive and composite and real.  And as with
London so, in the heart of her, was this house.  She also was
threatened with destruction.  With something more imminent and

As now he looked up at that old staircase, dimly laced with
sunlight, his heart ached with love for her.  That might, as Larry
had said, be sentimental, but everyone was sentimental about

He ran up the stairs and, as he had so often done before, hastened
to the very top of the house.  Here, up some little wooden stairs
above Patrick Munden's flat, was a grimy little attic room with one
small window looking right over the town.  He flung it open and
leaned out.  Spring was in the air, the sun bathed benignantly the
roofs and chimneys that lay now in a sea of glitter from which
rocks and monolithic creatures and helmeted warriors and extended
blackened arms uprose to the blue sky.  Higher, higher, in flying
ship he might go and from that clear sky look down on this black
glittering sea and discern perhaps in some pale line on those
waters minute bodies moving as germs move in a doctor's chart.
Detach one of those germs, and from its miniature life proceed the
Mozart Violin Concerto, the 'Hailstone Chorus,' the dark self-
portrait of Rembrandt, King Lear's heath, and the revelations of
Einstein.  Miraculous miracle!  Wonder of the stars! . . .  The
murmur of all life came to his ears.  He dropped, he dropped, and
there was once again the faint pain in his left temple, the slight
occasional stiffness of his right leg, the steady friendly beating
of his heart.  He closed the window and thought of Mrs. Elizabeth
Montagu.  Why that Queen of Blue Stockings?  For no reason except,
of course, that she had been in that house, and the Mrs. Pasket
Delaney of that time whose journal in a salmon-coloured cotton-
cover manuscript book Delaney possessed (it was dry and dull;
otherwise he would have published it) recorded numbers of times:
'Mrs. Montagu came. . . .  Mrs. Montagu present. . . .  Mrs.
Montagu held forth to my thinking far too frequent.'  That was
after her marriage, when she moved to the house in Hill Street,
where, as Hannah More said, 'She lives in the highest state of
magnificence,' which meant Chinese taste and a whole room painted
by the brothers Adam.  Mrs. Delany too--no ancestress; only one E--
she was in the house, and that always brought Swift into it, the
Duchess of Portland and Lord Chesterfield.  However, now his back
was aching, for the attic roof forced him to stoop and the sun was
hot on his forehead.

But he was cheerful again now.  London, Mrs. Montagu, the brothers
Adam--how insignificant and unimportant Larry was beside these!
Once again, as so often before, the house itself had taken him and
consoled him and whispered that Time was not and Beauty could not

He stepped down the little wooden stairs, humming a tune, and
knocked on Patrick Munden's door.  This was the humblest and
cheapest of the flats, and indeed was not a flat at all but just
two rooms, and Munden, being a careless young Communist to whom all
things were in common, never locked his door.  Fred knocked again,
then, getting no answer, poked his head in.  The room was in fairly
decent order although books were piled on a chair and one boot,
lonely and gaping for company, stood in the middle of the floor.
Fred wandered about, calling 'Patrick!  Patrick!' for who knew but
Patrick might yet be asleep after a night's Communistic
celebrations?  No answer, and Fred was about to go when a single
sheet of paper stirred, by his movement, from the table, tumbled to
the floor.  Delaney, thinking it might be one of Patrick's poems,
stooped, picked it up, realized that it was Dodie Pullet's
handwriting and unavoidably read the first line:  'Patrick, my
sweet, I can't manage five o'clock because Smoke . . .'

He read no more and was ashamed that he had read any.  He was
ashamed for himself, for Dodie Pullet, for Smoke, for Munden. . . .
There was, of course, nothing in it at all: girls wrote like that
in these days to the merest acquaintance, but it fitted, fitted too
damnably with his own uneasiness.  Munden was the sort of young
intellectual with whom girls like Dodie--nice girls, clever girls,
unsatisfied girls--did fancy for a moment that they were in love.
Munden, like any other young man, let his brains be what they may,
was attracted by physical beauty.  Smoke could be no pleasant, easy
companion just now.  Figures in the Rain!  Figures in the Rain!
Delaney, from the superior vantage of his added years, felt a great
kindness, sympathy, tenderness for all of them!  The stinging,
unsatisfied, melancholy loneliness of the lust of the flesh!  Did
he not, like every other vigorous man, only too desperately know

But behind the sentimental kindliness there were stern facts.  If
Smoke, in his present state, knew of this, to what tragedy might it
not urge him!  It seemed to Fred, listening there in that empty
room and staring at that empty boot, that the house, his friend and
companion, was pressing upon him, urging him to take some step, to
move forward and halt some danger.  But could he?  He was the
friend of all of them and yet he had never before, perhaps,
realized with such vivid acuteness the remoteness of one human
being from another.

He felt as though his love for this house in which they were all
living together should give them some sort of common bond.  And yet
it did not.  If he went to Munden and said, 'Look here, old man,
because we are living under the same roof don't make Smoke Pullet
unhappy!' he would be committing some interfering impertinence.  To
Smoke, of course, he could say nothing.  And to Dodie?  A word,
perhaps--a very, very careful word.  Useless.  And yet the house
was on every side of him, urging, pressing upon him, pleading.

He shook off the fantasy, went out, closing the door softly behind
him.  He wasn't much use, he concluded; sentimental, Larry had
said, weak as he well knew, happy with only selfish reasons for
happiness.  God help us poor men all!--In spite of the Mozart
Concerto, we're a feeble lot!

Outside the Pake door he paused again.  Should he go in and give
them the glory of the morning?  He often visited them and he knew
that they liked to see him.  Something now prevented him.  For one
thing, he did not want, now when he was already distressed about
the Pullets, to hear Millie say to him that she was afraid--that
she was so very much afraid--that they would not be able to
afford . . .

He had a sharp sense that, behind that closed door, drama was
developing.  The drama of old age.  Twenty years ago those two old
ladies would have seemed infinitely removed from him, he was so
young and lusty, they already fifty or more, their lives, their
REAL lives, already behind them!  But now he was himself through
two-thirds of his life, and already for him past, present and
future were so confusedly mixed that he was one with these old
ladies, at the verge of death, as he was with that infant realizing
for the first time that smother of apple-blossom in his uncle's
garden in Wiltshire.

With Time or without it the old Pake ladies had brought their own
lives, every fragment of their experience, to enrich the house.
They had added their gifts to the decoration of that edifice of
beauty.  He remembered one afternoon when, going in unexpectedly,
finding Lady Helen alone except for the little maid, he had found
her lost in the past as though she had been under a spell.

She had not been bemused or bewildered.  She had said to him at
once:  'Sit down there, Fred, and keep me company.'  Keep her
company he had and passed with her into a world where it was always
afternoon--the carriage, the horses straining, had risen to the top
of the hill, and there, sunlit in the evening hush, the whole map
of the country, coloured orange and dark umber, silver-grey and
purple, lay in tranquillity beneath them.  There had been no sound
until someone had said:  'Time to go back.  The Laceys are coming
for dinner.'  (The Laceys or whoever.)  So down the hill they had
gone, rolled under the old grey arches, blinked a little in the
fire-lit dusk of the stone hall, gone slowly up the wide staircase
to see the clothes laid out on the bed, to hear the clock ticking
and the fire murmuring and the last twitter of the evening bird
beyond the window.

Now there was poverty and pain and a foreign world.  But there was
no sadness.  Beauty once caught could not be lost.  Helen was brave
and would take what came with no whining grumble.  So also he.
Experience of life was enough, even at its bitterest, for any bold

So down the stairs he went, softly, humming his little tune.  And
then once again he paused.  For now he was outside the Pullet door.
Should he knock and enter?  It was nearing lunch-time and, more
than likely, they would both be out.  But Smoke might be there.  He
might say to him a cheery word or, on the other hand, he might stir
that unhappiness to some violent suspicion.  Should he venture?
Should he leave it alone?  Something told him, as though the house
were answering his question, to let it go.  He felt deeply
sympathetic with Smoke.  Here the feminine strain that is in all
sensitive men made him long to comfort and reassure.  But, at the
moment, it was wiser to be silent.

He would find Meg waiting for him in the room below, for the
children were out and they were to have luncheon alone.  Meg!  Meg!
How she assured and consoled and strengthened!  How deeply, how
deeply he loved her!

He ran down the last steps of the old staircase and, as he opened
the door, called out joyfully:

'Meg!  Meg!  Are you there?'



Kitty Delaney, on an early day in April, went to luncheon with
Sarah Grafton.  It was a very intellectual luncheon in Sarah's
lovely little house in Chelsea.  There were present among others
Lady Marble, Mr. Luke Armstrong, the brilliant essayist, Amelia
Gracie, the yet more brilliant novelist, a stout, smiling foreign
gentleman called, Kitty thought, Gramophone, or something very like
it, but everyone addressed him as Voltaire (she didn't, of course,
know the point of this), Mr. Pankhurst the famous critic, and
Garfield the painter.

Kitty was altogether unsuited to this company and was present only
because she liked Sarah Grafton so very much.  Last year at a
picture show whither an artistic friend had borne her, she had seen
a little painting of a lady looking at a mirror.  She had cried
aloud in the regular Delaney fashion, 'Oh, I do like that!' and a
tall, beautifully dressed woman with grey hair standing beside her
had said:  'I'm glad.  I painted it.'  They had talked and in five
minutes were friends.  Kitty liked Sarah Grafton for every possible
good reason.  Sarah was an excellent painter, influenced by
Sickert, Matisse, but not too much.  She was a wealthy American who
had lived in London for many years.  She entertained the very
clever people but was not herself supercilious or intolerant of
those who, like Kitty, knew nothing about Art.  She was kind and
generous and gay, over fifty but interested in everything.  When
Kitty went to her luncheons she didn't mind that she had no
artistic gifts or interests because Sarah did not mind and she
liked to listen.

These very clever people always seemed to her peculiar because they
were so kind and so cruel all at the same time.  They were kind
with their hearts and cruel with their brains.  For instance just
now, while the sole in an extraordinary brown sauce was proving so
lovely, they were admiring a novel which, although Kitty hadn't
read it, she nevertheless knew all about.  It was one of those
novels that for all she could see in them seemed to her to have
returned to the elemental style of 'The Cat was on the Mat.  This
is the Pen of my Aunt.'  She could herself, she thought, quote
sentences from it although she had not read it.

'The wind ruffled the hair of old gentlemen going to their Clubs.
As Myra poured the tea out of the silver tea-pot, asking the
Colonel from India whether he liked one lump or two, Mrs. Monks
grubbing in the dust-bin found a cigarette and a broken comb.  The
Queen was passing down Bond Street, and in spite of the wind the
gentlemen took off their hats.'

'I know as much about it as they do,' Kitty thought, feeling very
clever, but Luke Armstrong in his high piping tones was saying:
'You can only take the subconscious so far.  What we want in the
novel is to return to Giotto.'  Wasn't Giotto a painter?  But never
mind.  What Kitty really wondered was why Mr. Armstrong must be so
dirty?  She had wondered that often about Patrick Munden, but after
all, Patrick was a young poet with very little money and Communist
beliefs.  Not, of course, that all poets and Communists were dirty--
far from it--but Patrick had his excuses.  She couldn't see what
excuses Mr. Armstrong had, coming to luncheon in Sarah's beautiful
house, all gold and rose and the staircase lined with such
exquisite drawings.  She wondered, as she decided that she would
never taste sole as lovely as this again, how Mr. Armstrong could
succeed in always being HALF shaved, for she had met him in Sarah's
house before and that was always his condition.  And why he must
wear that soft collar of a dirty grey, and did he ever wash his
hands?  They all smiled and were ready to be generous to everyone
until someone mentioned poor Mr. Hacking, who was, it seemed, in
the Foreign Office and couldn't keep a wife.  He had apparently had
two and lost both.  They fell upon Mr. Hacking, rent him to pieces
and threw bleeding fragments of his body in the air.  He was, it
appeared, mean, tactless, vain, ignorant and timeserving.  Yet he
was also, she gathered, a friend of all of them.  Then Amelia
Gracie mentioned her little boy who had just gone away to school
for the first time, and, in spite of herself, tears filled her eyes
and she told them of his first letter home and his homesickness and
how she couldn't endure to be without him.  She spoke as the very
simplest of mothers, brilliant and devastating novelist though she
was, and they all took her as that, giving her advice and
consolation, surrounding her with comfort and kindliness.  Voltaire
was almost in tears and said:  'Ze poor little fellow.  Your
English public schools they make me very seeck!'  Only Mr.
Armstrong became a little restless under this domesticity and
murmured, 'All the same, Braque is beginning to be as old-fashioned
as a Christmas card,' which, although it had nothing to do with
Amelia's child, roused fury in the heart of Voltaire, who had
evidently known Braque well in Paris and had even sat as a violin
for the central motif in one of his most famous pictures.

At the word Braque Kitty pricked up her ears.  That was the name on
the painting in Hanover Square, and at once the world was
illuminated for her, a wonderful harmony seemed to reconcile her
with everyone in the room and, to her own surprise, she heard
herself saying:  'Braque's a beautiful painter.  I don't think
he'll ever be old-fashioned.'

Voltaire, who was sitting next to her, and had obviously, until
then, thought her a pretty but uninteresting girl, turned now a
kindly gaze upon her and said confidentially:

'You must come and see my little collection--yes?  I have a Picasso
of the blue period.  Exquis.  Also a Mir and a Dali.'

This stirred Mr. Garfield, who, in his mildness and look of rather
simple blind inattention, resembled a penguin, to burst into a
frenzy very unlike his innocent face.  He flapped his arms and
cried:  'Mir!  Dali! . . . Dali, Mir!  What are you talking
about?  Those impostors!  Don't you realize that you must paint
what you see?  Didn't Czanne do it?  Everyone from the Spanish
cavemen to Czanne--'

'Mir paints what he sees,' Luke Armstrong said in a voice which
was like that of a mosquito singing in space.

'Then Mir should be in a madhouse, and Dali--the whole damned

'But,' pursued Armstrong in a maddening manner and examining a
finger-nail that was blacker than it ought to be, 'Dali is
expressing WHAT he sees and then more than he sees.  What he sees
is a trifle compared with what he doesn't see. . . .'

'Oh, how boring!  How boring!' most unexpectedly cried old Lady
Marble.  'You're talking like the people in clever young men's
novels.  Why can't you all be real for once?  I have a garden, a
lovely garden, and there isn't a rose in it that wouldn't put you
all to shame.  Dear Sir Edward Burne-Jones, he was a delightful man
and no one has been able to draw like him since he died.  Then
there was Mr. Browning and Robertson of Brighton.  You should have
heard him preach.  And dear Sir Henry Irving.  He enjoyed his
supper more than anyone I've ever known.  And a beautiful luncheon
you've given us, Sarah dear.'

This was the signal for the ladies to go upstairs and to admire, as
they always did, the drawings on the staircase.

'Yes, it IS a beauty, isn't it?  Cotman.  And that's a Turner.
Very fine, isn't it?  No, dear.  I'm afraid Monday I am NOT free--
almost any other night.'

Safe in the beautiful drawing-room, Kitty had a word or two with

'I think I'm in love, Sarah, at last!'

'Oh no, dear, are you?  I AM so glad!'

'I'm not sure.  I may not be.  It may be only that I want to help
him so very much.'

'Help him?'

'Yes, he's a young man in a shop, with a dreadful father.  He's
very clever and he's writing a brilliant play.'

'Oh, darling, do be careful!'

Sarah laid her hand on Kitty's.

'I know that kind so well.  Nowadays when classes seem to be
vanishing it's so easy to make a mistake.  A man isn't better or
finer just because he's in another class.  So many women think so.'

'Sarah--if I'm in a difficulty--if I want help and advice--may I
come to you?'

'Of course, darling, you may.'  Sarah's hand tightened on Kitty's.
'I'm such years older than you, but we're alike in that, that we
both want to help people.  Only helping people isn't easy
especially if your own feelings are roused.  It's so hard sometimes
not to make them dependent on you, and then perhaps you suddenly
find you've come to the end of it.  It isn't your fault that you
have, but it IS your fault that you've made them taste a kind of
life that, without you, they'd be lost in.  You've spoilt them for
their own and given them no other.  I'm preaching but--moi qui
parle, I've been through all of it. . . .  Is he in love with you?'

'Yes, he is--or thinks he is.'

'Is he very young?'


'Well--be careful.'

'Yes.  I know.  But I rush on.  I see something ahead of me so

The men came in.  Kitty said good-bye.  Sarah looked after her
anxiously as she went out.

The Braque was not in the window and Kitty felt a pang of
disappointment.  It had been there for weeks and weeks.  Now the
colour seemed to have died out of the Square, which to-day was
trailing little webs of mist, and overhead there was a sky sulkily
on fire.  Kitty entered Zanti's to find Mr. Zimmerman AND Alton
Foster.  She had been twice to the shop lately and once Mr.
Zimmerman had been there.  He was a stout little man, with a grey
moustache and eyes slightly bloodshot.  He was immaculately clean
and his high collar creaked as he moved his neck about.  Kitty felt
extremely foolish because now he was seeing her for the second time
and most certainly would expect her to buy something.  Alton had
given her one glance and then buried himself behind the little desk
in the back of the shop.  Kitty was very unhappy.  She realized the
truth of all that Sarah had said to her, and yet the sight of
Alton, a slave to the stout, bloodshot Mr. Zimmerman, made her only
the more determined.  Never mind whether Alton loved her or she
Alton--he must be rescued from this.  Her heart was beating
quickly.  She felt with every meeting with Alton a nearer approach
of some possibly fatal climax.  What she really wanted was to put
her arms around him, comfort him and tell him that a millionaire
would produce his play Tuesday fortnight.  Meanwhile Mr. Zimmerman
was showing her things.  He was opening drawers and bringing out

'I can see that you care for beautiful things.  There is no
necessity to buy.  Mr. Zanti who founded this business, he always
said:  "Show things!  Show things!  Let the sun shine on them and
the air blow on them!  Don't keep them buried."  I have not his eye--
his taste, his sensibility.  No one will ever have again.  He was
a magician.  But see, madame.  Here are some beautiful things--is
it not so?  This is, of course, Chinese.  The head-dress of a
bride.  Silver gilt filigree openwork, with applied ornament in the
form of a temple, dragons and ho-hos.  Yes, that is a kingfisher
feather.  It is decorated, as you see, with pearls.  This is very
handsome.  A sixteenth-century cameo portrait cut in a dark onyx--
look at the enamelled setting, madame.  We know that as the
"Peapod" style.  The enamel, as you see, is green with little white
"peas" and has small diamonds set on each pod.  And here is a
beautiful thing--a brooch--ovate mounted in gold, the central
ornament, you will notice, is carried out in fine gold mixed with
tiny pearls, mounted on a ground of purple foil, the whole
surrounded with a ring of brilliants.  Eighteenth-century.  And
this--this is the most beautiful thing we have.  Cellini, madame.
Oh, undoubtedly.  A museum piece.  See how perfectly the gold-work
is modelled.  A mixture of repouss and chasing.  See how the stone
was chosen for its beauty of colour, never mind the form, and then
cut en cabochon--the diamond is backed with black, and the beauty
of the stone depends very largely on the shade of the black.  Ah!
he was an artist, Cellini was--and what happiness and joy a true
artist can give to the world so many hundreds of years after he
himself is gone!'

Kitty saw that Mr. Zimmerman was quite transformed while he was
handling his treasures.  A kind of beauty shone from his little fat
stiffly-clothed body.  The whole shop had a kind of glow, the same
glow and colour that the Braque had given to the Square.  And this
beauty too involved the bent, humble form of Alton Foster.  She
looked for an instant across the shop to him and she seemed to see
a genius there, a greater genius than Tchekov or Shaw.  It had been
given to her, it was her mission to rescue him from the Dragon!

Mr. Zimmerman was saying:  'If you will afford me, madame, one
moment.  I hear the telephone ringing from the other room.  It is a
message I am expecting.  Forgive me.  The young man will attend to

The stout little body scurried across the floor and disappeared.
The young man came quickly over to her.  He looked at her

'We have only a moment.  Tell me.  You are not angry with me?'

'Angry--of course not.'

The light of his genius still suffusing him, she thought he was

'But I haven't seen you--I haven't heard from you--I'm going mad.'

She was happily maternal.

'Now, Alton, you mustn't be like this.  We are friends.  Nothing
can change it.'

'No.  Nothing can change it,' he repeated, staring into her eyes.

'Then you mustn't worry.  You mustn't be upset.  I'm going to do
something to get you out of this.  Have you written any more of the

'Yes.  Another five scenes.'

'Good heavens!  It must be getting frightfully long.'

'No--one scene is only one line.  It is the most important scene in
the play.

'You must let me see it.  How is your father?'

'Just the same.'

'Yes, he always will be.  I'm sure of that.'

He began to be greatly agitated.

'The worst of it is, you are making me see everything differently.
Neither my father nor sister is the same to me as they were.  And
they realize it.  But I don't care.  If you'll only let me see you
sometimes, nothing else matters.  You are inspiring me.  My old
life, before I met you, is dead.'

Kitty felt a chill reminder of Sarah Grafton's warning.
Nevertheless, now she had begun she must go on.

'Please--tell me--how soon will I see you?' he said.

'I'll write.  Very soon.  Very soon--I must go.  Now, Alton, don't
be unhappy.  We are friends always--remember.'

She gave him her hand, and then before he realized it she was gone,
just as Mr. Zimmerman came hurrying back into the room.

In the Square again she was appalled by her weighty sense of
responsibility.  It should not be as Sarah had said.  Was she in
love with this man?  She did not know, but she felt an imperative,
protective necessity to do anything, everything for him.  And
suddenly she knew.  She would go now, at once, this very minute and
see his father.  She would tell Mr. Foster that Alton had genius,
was wasted where he was, must be given help, freedom. . . .

Almost before she knew she was doing it she had summoned a taxi.

She looked at once towards the painted walls.  It was impossible
not to do so, for now they seemed more intimate to her, a little
closer, and their tender soft colours more appealing.  She felt
this time an impulse of almost furious irritation at the vulgar
daubs that here and there concealed them.  There was one place in
especial where a horseman in silver armour riding along a path
under dim peach-blossom vanished into a violet crimson sunset
with blue waves like rolls of cloth tumbling on to papier-mch
rocks. . . .

Miss Foster had admitted her and was talking.  Mr. Foster had been
painting when she entered and had laid his canvas down on the
floor.  He looked as spruce as ever and there was a flower in his
buttonhole.  She knew that they were surprised and excited to see
her.  What had she come for?  What was her game?

'Tea--tea,' said Mr. Foster.  'Lucy--crumpets.  Miss Delaney must
test our crumpets!'

'Oh no!' she cried out almost in horror.  The thought of another
vast tea was simply appalling to her.  'On no account.  Last time--
you remember?--I said I never had tea.'  She laughed, and Lucy
Foster choked when Kitty had expected her to giggle.  She choked as
though she would die.  Mr. Foster paid no attention whatever, but
regarding Kitty with the utmost blandness said:

'You wouldn't insult our hospitality, Miss Delaney.  I am sure you
are far too kind and generous for that.  Only--you have taken us by
surprise.  Had we had warning--But, as it is, the little baker's
shop down the road--only a door or two.  Lucy won't be a moment.
Not a moment.'

Kitty noticed that when he mentioned crumpets there was a certain
unctuousness and realized that her visit had given him an
opportunity for food that he could not without her have had.  He
was determined on his tea.  Lucy should go for the crumpets.  She
did, hurrying away with little chatting noises and wearing a hat
like a small coal-scuttle.

They were alone and Kitty did not care about it.  It was not that
she was frightened, for what could an invalid do?  Even though he
were but partially paralysed she could deal with him, and Lucy, in
any case, would be but a few moments.  She was wondering whither
her Delaney impetuosity was leading her.  She had no right to busy
herself about Alton.  He himself was so naf that in all
probability both his father and his sister knew that he was in love
with her.  They must, of course, suppose that SHE had some interest
in HIM.  It was, however, the gaze that Mr. Foster now fixed on her
that made her uncomfortable.  It was kindly, beneficent, and quite
frankly aware of her pleasant appearance.  She was wearing her
luncheon-party frock, her colour was high, her head erect.  She
knew that he was admiring her.  But he was also ironical, even,
could it be a little patronizing?  Oh! what a foolish thing she had
done, in coming thus impetuously!  And how truly paralysed was he?
Could he, for instance, raise to its full extent one of his strong
stout arms?  The fact that his face and neck and thick brown hands
alone were visible, and that these seemed to pulsate with superb
health, made the rest of him dangerous!  A double danger in its
invisibility.  Her chair was decidedly close to his couch.  She got
up, examined the paintings on the walls, then, turning to him with
a charming smile, said:

'I came on an impulse, Mr. Foster.  I wanted to speak to you about
your son.'

'Yes.  Of course.'

His whole body, under the rug, made a movement.  She wondered
whether she ought to offer to assist him.  But of course not.  That
would be most dangerous.  There was an implication of helplessness
in his effort which touched her.  However slight the paralysis, it
must be terrible for so strongly built and otherwise healthy a man
to lie there, day after day, at the mercy of that imbecile, his
daughter.  Why should she fear him?  She had never been afraid of
anyone her life long.  She came and sat down in the chair again.

'I think Alton has great talent.  I have read part of the play that
he's writing and I think he's being wasted where he is.'  Before he
could speak she went on.  'I'm afraid I must seem dreadfully
interfering to you, Mr. Foster.  I'm afraid, too, that I've made
Alton restless by being interested.  That means that I feel
responsible a little.  I want to help.'

His reply was utterly surprising.  He leaned his whole body over,
moving it, as it seemed to her, in one rigid piece, and his hand,
touching the floor, raised the canvas.  Moving his hand very
stiffly he turned the picture towards her.  He said:

'What do you think of this?'

She was honest and fearless, so she said:

'I don't like it.'

'You think I'm a bad painter?'

'I know nothing about painting.  I'm quite inartistic.  You mustn't
pay any attention to MY opinion.'  He was staring at her and
breathing heavily.

'You're the first person--the first from the outside world, Miss
Delaney.  I can move my hands very little.  I cannot sit up
properly.  It's a miracle I can paint at all.  God's miracle.  What
do you say to that?'

'If it makes you happy--'

'It doesn't make me happy.  I know this seems bad to you because
you're used to old-fashioned painting.  You like that milk-and-
sugary stuff on the walls.  You do, don't you?'

'Yes, I do.'

'I thought so.'  He sank right back flat on his back, his mouth
scornfully grinning.  'It doesn't matter what you say--what anyone
says. . . .'  Then his voice changed.  It was soft and friendly.
'So there we are, Miss Delaney.  You think I'm no painter and I
know I have genius.  You think Alton has genius and I know the
boy's a damned fool.'

'He isn't a fool,' she broke in hotly.

'Oh yes, he is.  Do you think his own father doesn't know?  He's a
weak, silly, sentimental fool and I don't want a beautiful woman
like you to waste your time over him.'  His body moved again.
'Listen, Miss Delaney.  I'll tell you something.  I'm getting
better.  There's improvement every day.  I'm getting stronger.
Soon I'll be on my feet.  Soon my arms will be strong and then I'll
show them the painter I am!'  He grinned all over his face like an
excited schoolboy.

'Don't you think I speak well for my station in life?  Do you know
what my father was?  A farmhand down in Glebeshire.  There were ten
of us and we lived in a pigsty.  But I was the handsome one AND the
clever one and there was a lady in the village, a charming lady,
SHE taught me--'

'How long is it since--?'

'My accident?  Twenty cursed years.  I'm forty-five.  My white hair
makes me look older, doesn't it?--and I've got stout lying here.
My dear wife, under God's governance, died five years ago.'

Kitty said, 'It must have been terribly hard for you.'

He grinned again like a naughty boy.

'God's been looking after me.  God gave me the accident so that I
should have a chance to show what a strong man can do.  Do you
believe that God looks after each one of us?'

'I don't know.'  She had no idea as to whether he was sincere about
God or was scornfully mocking.  She could not tell at all.  Also,
being of her generation, she was sceptical about God.

'A bit roundabout way of doing it, though, don't you think?  I was
the strongest lad in Glebeshire.  When they heard I was bathing
all the girls would come closer to have a peep.  Bit vulgar,
aren't I? I'm everything, Miss Delaney--vulgar and refined,
religious and pagan, clever and stupid, artist and Philistine, weak
and strong. . . .  But you want to be talking about Alton, not me.
Are you in love with Alton?'

She looked him straight in the eyes.

'I don't know.  What do you mean by being in love, Mr. Foster?'

'Why, wanting to sleep with someone, of course.  There, I'm vulgar.
One thing with one person, another with another.  And that's why
I've changed with you, Miss Delaney.  It's a compliment really.  I
was all manners the other day, wasn't I?  But as soon as I saw you
were a real person I had to be real too.  It's because you're real
that it's silly of you to fall in love with Alton.  Go to bed with
HIM and you'd find he wasn't real at all.  Now if I'D been fit and

Kitty got up.  He said:

'Now don't you be shocked.'

'I'm not going,' she said, 'because I'm shocked, but because I see
we can never agree about Alton.  You don't understand him in the

Mr. Foster laughed joyfully and she saw his whole big body quiver
under the rug.  Then to her own surprise, and even horror, Kitty
found that she was laughing too.  It was one of the troubles of the
Delaneys that they found themselves laughing at the very moment
when they least wished to.  Meg and Bullock were especially victims
of this unfortunate habit.

'Don't understand my own son--that's a good one!  I understand both
my son and daughter, and how it came to be MY seed created them I'm
at a loss to understand.  I am indeed.  Lucy's a fool and Alton's a

'He's only a weakling because he's given up his life to keep YOU in

'Don't I know it?  Would anyone but a weakling stay at home looking
after a crippled father?  Sloppy sentimentality--and the more that
he hates the sight of me!'

'And what would you have done if he HAD gone away?' Kitty cried.

'Oh, I'd have cursed him and told the world what an ungrateful
child I had.  But I'd have managed and admired him the more.  Here
now--sit down again.  Stay a while yet.  It does me good to look at

Kitty sat down.

'Your daughter's a long time with the crumpets.'

'She'll be back soon.'

'I believe you told her to stay away.'

'I did say to her that when you came again she was to see and stay
away so that we could have a talk together.'

'WHEN I came again!  How did you know that I would?'

'Oh, I knew you would--to see me just as much as to see Alton.'

He smiled a really charming smile.

'Draw your chair closer.  You needn't be frightened of me.  I
haven't the strength of a child.  There!  You're putting the chair
on the painting!  Not that it matters!  Take my hand for a moment!
Do you feel how strong it is!  Now put your hand on my arm!  Weak
as a baby's.  I'm in your power entirely, dear Miss Delaney.'

The flesh of his hand was firm and strong, but there was no
resistance in the bones of it.  She touched his arm, then she took
her gloves, her furs from the table and moved to the door.

'Now I'm really going.'

'And when will you come again?'

'I'll come again if you'll promise to do something about Alton.'

'Do?  What do you expect me to do?'

'Let him have his chance with his play.'

'Of course he can have his chance with his play.  What's to stop

'Not while he has to work in that shop.'

'Do you want him to give up a safe job, then?'

'I'll find something.'

'You can do what you like if you'll only come and see me again.
I'll paint something like the pictures on the wall.  Just to please

He looked at her, as she stood by the door, every inch of her, from
head to foot.  Then, with that same strange resolute urging of his
whole body, he turned himself and lay with his face away from her.

She thought for a moment that she would pick up his painting for
him.  Then, deciding against it, she went without another word.

Meg was out.  Bullock was out.  Fred Delaney was fast asleep in
front of the fire.  She bent over and kissed him, once, twice,
thrice.  At the third kiss he awoke.  He grinned.

She stood in front of the fire, for the April afternoon was cold.

'What were you dreaming?  You were giving little moans.'

'Yes--of pleasure, darling.  For I was flying through the air, an
angel in each arm.  At least I think they were angels.  And I
kissed first one, then the other, slowly, melodiously.  They were
wearing only the thinnest of draperies.  What have you been
doing? . . .  Oh, Lord, see how late it is!  I must go and dress.'

She took a round fat-cushioned stool and sat at her father's feet.
She leant her head against his thigh.  He rested his hand against
her cheek.  They were blissfully happy.  He bent forward and kissed
her cheek.

'Darling . . . I've told you I must go.'

'No.  Wait a minute.  It isn't six yet.  Yes.  I think I'll tell

'Tell me what?'

'I've been engaged in an adventure for several weeks--even months.'

'I know you have.'

'It's very simple.  I went into an art-shop in Hanover Square.
There was a young man behind the counter.  I liked him somehow.  I
paid a call on his family.  He has a sister, a father, no mother.
The father is very peculiar.'

'How, peculiar?'

'He's a big stout man of forty-five, with white hair and a
buttonhole.  He is paralysed--or partly--and paints dreadfully bad
pictures.  The young man has talent and is writing a very clever

Fred spoke lightly, but he strengthened his hold round his
daughter's neck.

'It all sounds most unreal.'

'It is--and it isn't.'

'Are you in love with the young man?'

'No--I don't know.  But it's an adventure.  I want to help him--in
fact I MUST help him.  His father says he's no good.'

'Then he probably isn't.'

Kitty went on, looking into the fire.

'You know I've never known anything about pictures.  Well, this
adventure is surrounded by beautiful things.  First there was a
picture in a shop in Hanover Square, then in the shop where Alton
works his master showed me the loveliest jewels, then in the room
where they live, these people, the walls are painted all over--by
two young men who had the place once.  That's why this adventure is
new to me.  I seem to be moving into a new world.'

Delaney watched her with loving tenderness, and anyone seeing him
now for the first time would have thought him a good wise man.

'Darling, I've been moving into new worlds once a week all my life.
At least I always THINK they're new.  But no--same old game, same
old faces, same old result.'

Kitty caught his hand and kissed it.

'I think this IS perhaps new for me.  I don't think I'm in love
exactly, but I want to help as I've never wanted to help anyone
before.  But it seems so difficult to help without doing harm.'

'You're right.  It is.'

She twisted round and looked in his face.

'My generation--because we have no rules, because we can go
anywhere and do anything--it's hard for us to know where we're
going.  Now you and mother and Alton's father and Sarah Grafton and
Millie Pake--you all seem quite definite.  You may do the wrong
thing, but you see where you are.  We have nothing to guide us. . . .
I don't know.  I wouldn't BE your generation for anything, but
sometimes--your advice isn't so bad.'

Fred Delaney shook his head.

'I'm no good at advising.  I'm always getting into a mess.  But I
love my wife, my children, this house, London, beautiful women.  I
try not to hurt other people--'  Then he caught her close to him.

'But don't YOU get into a mess, darling.  I'm so fond of you.  So's
Meg.  We're all of us so happy together.  Don't lose your heart to
someone who isn't worth it.  Be proud.  Not CONCEITED but proud.
I've had no education.  I'm as ignorant as I can be, but I believe
in other people being swells--fine characters, I mean.  They tell
you in these days that nothing matters, it's a sort of wolfish
world.  But it isn't.  Cervantes and Raleigh and Sidney and Sam
Johnson didn't think so.  I can see what fine conduct is, even if I
miss it myself--'

She kissed him on the eyes gently.  Then she got up.

'I don't think you need worry.  Only it's INTERESTING.  People are
INTERESTING.  I've shut myself up, watching, never sharing in
anyone's life, except ours at home.  Does it matter, do you think,
if one IS damaged a bit?  I'm not a lily in a vase, you know.'

He looked at her for a long time.  She returned his gaze.

'You mustn't ask me that.  I love you too much.  I don't think you
CAN be damaged.  I've often wondered when the time would come for
something to happen to you.  Of course, you've got to take risks.
Only--looking back--I'd give a lot now not to have done some of the
shabby things I have done.  You'll never be shabby, Kate Delaney--

They went together to the door, his arm around her neck.

'I've got to have the bath first,' he said.  'I'm in a greater
hurry than you are.'

'Where are you going, sweetheart?'

He hummed a little tune.  Then burst out laughing.

'Wouldn't you like to know?'

Then as he turned into his tiny dressing-room, taking off his coat
as he went, he threw back over his shoulder:

'Yes--shabby.  That's what I am!'



And what had been happening to Claude Willoughby during these last

To the episodes of the bath salts and the library book one more had
been added--Colonel Badget's gold-topped walking-stick.  THIS no
one had accused Claude of stealing.  Brocket, standing in the
doorway, had simply said:

'Colonel Badget has lost his walking-stick.  Funny what goes on in
this house.'

He had cast a sombre eye on Claude, who had snapped:

'Yes, it is.  Why don't you look after things better, Brocket?'

This spirit on his part surprised Brocket, who answered:

'There's more in this than meets the eye, Mr. Willoughby.'

'Badget probably left it somewhere.'

'He says not.'

Then Claude took a resolution.  He went downstairs and called on
Badget.  He did this to clear the air.  Everything now was so
mysterious in this house.  It seemed to Claude, who was sleeping
very badly and not eating enough, that there was always someone
hiding round the corner.  He would wake up in the middle of the
night and feel certain that there was someone in the room.  He did
not switch on the light, because he would lie there in order to
hear that someone moving.  And it seemed to him that he did--
someone moving very carefully so as not to knock into the chair or
the table.

Claude lay there in the dark, the sweat gathering on his forehead
and his heart thumping.  At last he turned on the light and there
was nobody there.  There was never anybody there.

He fancied that everyone in the house now regarded him as a thief.
He almost overheard, it seemed to him, the conversations of Badget,
Best and Pierson.  He fancied that, on his daily morning encounters
with Pierson, there was a hinting, a suggestion, a curious
suspicious glance from those bottled eyes under the toupee.  It did
not seem to him impossible that one fine morning he would wake to
find a police-officer standing inside his room.  For a gentleman of
high family and absolute rectitude these imaginings were torture.

So one morning he went, on a sudden impulse, down to visit Badget.
Badget was the king of this castle.  He was the man with the money,
the only tenant to whom Brocket paid deference.  Claude had the
fear of him that anyone who is penniless and helpless has of anyone
who needs not to consider money.  It is a peculiar fear that shames
the possessor of it.

Claude knocked on Badget's door and heard the shrill, rather
whistling voice from within cry:

'Come in!  Come in!'

He went in and found Badget, his long thin legs stretched out in
front of him, comfortable in his armchair, reading the newspaper.

Colonel Badget was long and thin, with the high bony face of a
complacent giraffe.  He was not at all a bad man.  He was even a
good one, for he supported a ne'er-do-well brother-in-law, the
unhappy wife of the same, their children, his own fearfully ancient
mother, in the most noble fashion with never a murmur.  He did no
one in the world any harm.  He was, in his own way, religious and
extremely proud of his country.  So he may be called a good man.
He was, however, encased and enveloped by an overwhelming
unquestioning self-satisfaction.  He not only thought himself a
good man, but a man quite perfect in every way.  It would not be
true to say that he despised other people.  He did not.  Scorn
implies some sort of comparison.  He was religious because it was
agreeable for God to have such a man as himself to believe in Him.
Here his really kindly nature was involved.  He was patriotic,
because, having been born English, it was natural for him to
believe in the country that had given him birth.  He had never
married because, unlike Sir Willoughby Patterne, he needed no
admirers.  He was himself sufficient for that pleasure.  And in any
case sexual emotion was outside his dignity because it implied a
certain levelling.

It would be wrong to call him arrogant.  With his staring, slightly
surprised eyes, protruding chin, long neck that contained a fine
Adam's-apple, shrill tones of voice, immaculate but inhuman
clothing, he was incapable of patronage because that involved a
considered relationship.

You might have thought that he would be lonely, but he was not so,
because, having for consideration and constant observance an
absolutely perfect person, the minutest happenings to that person
were of importance and interest.  Physical ailments were for him a
constant preoccupation.  It was, for example, a piece of high and
curious impertinence for the common or garden cold to make itself
felt in so immaculate a nose or throat.  He felt a humorous, almost
friendly indulgence towards such a cold, rather as Napoleon would
have considered an urchin who took his handkerchief.  Further
intrusion than this upon his person, however, was, on the part of
an ailment, indecency.  He had of late been conscious of certain
rheumatic pains in the right groin.  At first he addressed the
rheumatism with such disdain as to be practically inaudible.  The
rheumatism remained.  His disdain changed to anger.  Still the
rheumatism lingered.  He paid a visit to his doctor, Sir Hector
Firebrace, who was almost as arrogant as himself.  Together they
addressed the rheumatism in such terms that it should have shrunk
trembling away.  Instead of that it awoke him in the middle of the
night and bit his left elbow.

He was quite aghast with astonishment--the same surprise with which
he contemplated, from a vast distance, the London County Council,
shop assistants, crooners on the radio, Communists, and indeed all
foreigners, including the Scotch, the Irish and the Welsh.

It must be emphasized again, however, that he was not an unfriendly
man any more than Alexander the Great was unfriendly.  He greeted
Claude Willoughby now with a kindly welcome.  He did not get up
from his chair, but he did lay his newspaper on his bony knees.  He
had seen Claude before on several occasions but had never enjoyed a
real conversation with him.  Not that he ever enjoyed a real
conversation with anybody, because he considered his words precious
and was sparing in his use of them.

To Claude the room seemed very rich indeed but rather over-burdened
with large heavily carved pieces of furniture.  There was a vast
sideboard, a massive table, a towering chimney-piece, and great
beetling bookcases filled with heavy gilt volumes that all looked
like Burke's Peerage.

Badget, when he was reading, wore spectacles (he considered his
eyesight distinctly impertinent in its more recent behaviour).
These spectacles now slid to the end of his long nose, waiting
deferentially until they should be in demand again.

'Ah, Willoughby, come in.  How are you?'  And then, as he extended
his long, cold, bony hand, 'What can I do for you?'

Claude hesitated.  He felt oddly like the small boy he had once
been at Harrow when, summoned by his housemaster, his small hands
pressed with nervous anticipation his thighs.  He had acted on
impulse in coming.  He had not realized that the room (which was
papered with a stiff, dark, bronze-coloured wallpaper), the
furniture and, of course, Badget himself, would appear so
altogether overwhelming.  However, he had come about the walking-
stick, so he would begin about that.

'I was very sorry to hear from Brocket yesterday about your walking-

'My walking-stick?'

'Yes--that it had been stolen.'

'Ah, certainly--I had forgotten.'

(This had the double effect of making it appear that Badget had
dozens of gold-headed walking-sticks, and that Claude was a fool to
have come on such a business.)

Claude thought--have I the courage to sit down?  Certainly he
should ask me to do so, but of that there seems no sign.  Have I
the courage?  Yes, I have.  He sat down on one of those dining-room
chairs that are so ugly and uncomfortable that only excellent food
and drink can help one to forget them.

'Well,' he said with nervous cheerfulness, 'I'm delighted--I mean
it's agreeable that it's a loss of no importance.  I understood
from Brocket that it was rather an important stick--'

'Not at all.  Not at all.'

'Of course, we can't tell for certain that it was stolen, can we?'

'Stolen?  Stolen?'

'Yes--I understood from Brocket that you thought it had been

'Who said that?'


'He did, did he?'

'Yes, he did.'

'Damned impertinence.'  Badget sat up in his chair, felt his
shoulder tweak, and gave a little cry, rather like that of a
chicken just emerged from the egg.

'Brocket said that?'  He pushed his spectacles back on to his eyes
and stared as though he were seeing Claude for the first time and
were wondering why, in heaven's name, he was sitting on that chair
without having been first asked to do so.  However, Claude stood,
or rather sat, his ground.

'Yes, he did.  Distinctly.  "Colonel Badget thinks his walking-
stick's been stolen."  That's what he said.'

'Damned cheek!  Mentioning it.'

'That's why I came in to see you,' Claude said.  'It isn't the only
thing that's been lost in this house.  There's been quite an

'Epidemic!' Badget cried, startled.

'What I mean is a number of things have been missed--Pierson's bath
salts, some library books, and now your walking-stick.'

Badget began to feel a sort of disgusted annoyance creeping up his
spine.  What was this miserable-looking, shrivelled-up nonentity
doing in his room at all, and further than that, how did the
miserable little nonentity have the cheek to sit on HIS chairs and
talk about HIS walking-stick?

Further than that again, how dared the miserable little nonentity
have the insufferable impertinence to compare Pierson's bath salts
with HIS walking-stick?

All this made his neck rise and his Adam's-apple agitate.  On the
other hand he was a kind man and realized that Claude was a poor
little pitiful, a sort of beggar at the gates--so he bent his long
neck over the side of the chair, blinked behind his glasses and
said benignantly, 'It's nothing--kind of you, Willoughby, to

He might have been referring to his rheumatism, of which, at the
moment, he was actually thinking, but Claude burst out:

'The point is, Badget, we must discover the thief.  The point is
that until the thief is discovered, everyone in this house is under
suspicion.  Now where did you see your walking-stick last?'

This direct attack was very disconcerting to Badget, who was not
accustomed to this kind of Scotland Yard question, so, quite feebly
and mildly, he answered:

'I don't know.  I may have given it away.'

'Given it away!'  Claude was staggered by Badget's reply.

'Little things, you know.'  Badget waved his hand.  'Little
personal things.  One gives them without thinking.  I knew a man
once who made a list, and after his death, his small odds and ends,
trifles, his friends had them, cherished them--'

'But,' said Claude, 'if you gave a walking-stick away wouldn't you
remember it?'

'Might not,' said Badget.

Claude fancied then that Badget was looking at him with a stare of
cold suspicion.  He couldn't tell, of course, that Badget was at
the moment not thinking of him at all but was holding a little
earnest, one-sided conversation with his rheumatism, as thus:

'How dare you bite my shoulder? . . .  If you don't go soon I shall
have to take serious steps. . . .  Do you REALIZE what you're doing
and where you are?'

But Claude, seeing that haughty, cold stare behind the spectacles,
and the thin, arrogant lips and the pointed, hat-hanging chin,
thought to himself:  'He is sure that _I_ took his walking-stick
just as Pierson is sure that I took his bath salts.  This is awful.
They are closing in on me--'  His agitation drove him to his feet.
He began, stammering:

'It's all very well.  You may take it calmly yourself, Badget.  But
it's very unpleasant for me.  Very unpleasant indeed--unpleasant
for all of us.  It must be cleared up.'

'WHAT must be cleared up?' Badget, leaving reluctantly his
rheumatism, enquired.

But before the question could be answered there was a knock on his
door, the door was opened, and rosy-faced little Mr. Best stood

Mr. Best was short, square-shouldered, stumpy-legged, rubicund,
with bright-blue excited eyes, and he wore gay colours; a Club tie
and sometimes a canary-coloured waistcoat.  He was cheerful,
insensitive, ceaselessly talkative, one of the supreme bores of
London Clubland.  He belonged to four Clubs and was in one or other
of them all day and half the night.  Members melted before his
approach like the snow before the sun.  He always gave them
warning, because he began to speak, at a distant sight of a member,
in a loud, echoing voice.  He was happy, insensitive, good-natured,
always in excellent health.  He liked to tell a bawdy story and so
Pierson simply detested him.  He came often to visit Badget because
Badget never ran away.  This, Best thought, was because Badget was
interested.  It was, in reality, because Badget was thinking of
himself and heard scarcely a word that Best said.

He began the moment he was in the room.

'Hullo, Badget, old boy!  How's yourself?  Top of the morning to
you.  Slept like a top, I did, and wasn't in till three.  Jolly
evening at the Club with Bicester and one or two more.  You know
Bicester?  Chap shot all that game in Africa.  Masses of buffalo,
herds of rhinoceros--'  Then he saw Claude and was buoyantly
surprised to find him in Badget's room.  'Hullo, Willoughby!  How's
yourself?  Hope I'm not interrupting.  Tell me if I'm in the way.'

Badget nodded his head, which Best could take for acceptance or
dismissal just as he pleased.  Best took it happily for an
invitation, strode to the window, whistling, looked out with his
hands in his pockets, then turned and regarded Claude Willoughby.
Poor old devil!  What a thin scrap of a miserable old boy it was,
with his anxious expression, his wisps of grey hair, his worn and
faded suit!

Claude felt that he must explain his presence.

'Good morning, Best,' he said with dignity.  'The fact is I came in
to see Badget because of the things that have been stolen here

'Stolen!' Best cried.  'Stolen!  By God, you don't mean it?  What's
been stolen?'

'Well,' said Claude, hesitating before Best's energy as he always
did, 'we don't actually know that they've been stolen.  That's
perhaps going too far.  Anyway they're missing.  Some bath salts of
Pierson's, your library books, and now Badget's walking-stick.'

'I say, Badget, your walking-stick been stolen?  I'm most awfully
sorry.  Rotten luck.  Rotten luck.  Hope it wasn't valuable.  I had
a walking-stick once, ivory, you know, and all that, thought no end
of it, given me by an old uncle of mine, had it in the family for
hundreds of years.  I valued that stick, I can tell you, and one

'I don't know,' said Badget, with a wrinkling of his nose, a
favourite gesture of his, expressing a kind of bored remoteness,
'that it has been stolen.  May have given it to somebody.'

'Oh, that's all right then.  I thought Willoughby said--'

Claude felt that both men were regarding him with dislike.  He
began to stammer.

'I only said . . . I thought that as Pierson's bath salts--'

'But, by God,' Best broke in, 'it may be right--there MAY be a
thief in the house.  I shouldn't wonder.  Now I come to think of
it, there's a tin of Bath Olivers I was looking for the other
night, couldn't find it anywhere.  I rang for Brocket and said,
"Brocket, there was a tin of Bath Olivers," and Brocket looked a
bit green about the gills.  I remember thinking so at the time, now
you remind me, and Brocket--'

'Brocket,' Badget interrupted judiciously, 'is quite above
suspicion.  It's to his own interests to see that nothing in the
place goes wrong.  I can't say that Brocket is ideal in every
respect, but he's honest.  I have always found him so.'

'Oh, quite, quite,' said Best.  'But if it isn't Brocket, who--?'
He broke off and stared with his bright blue eyes at Willoughby.
'Whom do YOU suspect, Willoughby?'

'Oh, I shouldn't like to say that I suspect anybody,' Claude said
hurriedly.  'I only thought that it's unpleasant, these things
happening, and that perhaps we ought to do something about it.  But
if Badget thinks that he gave away his walking-stick--'

Badget slowly rose, his long legs following his long body in a kind
of dignified procession.

'Ever had rheumatism, Best?' he asked.

'No.  Can't say that I have.  Wonderfully fit for my age.  Fifty-
eight last birthday, and see me stripped you wouldn't think a thing
wrong with me.  As a matter of fact there isn't.  Not a thing.  I
put it down to my morning exercises and two rounds of golf every
Saturday.  Morning exercises in front of an open window, stripped
to the buff.  You try it, Badget.'

A faint look of disgust spread over Badget's features.

'Well,' said Claude, 'I'm glad everything's all right.  I really
am.  Yes--well--thank you very much.  I must be going.'  And out of
the door he slipped without a word from anybody.

Safe in his room again he thought:  WHAT a fool you've been!  What
did you think you were gaining by going down to Badget like that?
Didn't you know Badget well enough anyway to realize that you'd get
nothing at all by making any sort of appeal to him? . . . and then
that fool Best. . . .  Claude stood there and his thin cheeks
slowly flushed.  How they'd LOOKED!  And Best, when he had talked
about his ridiculous Bath Oliver biscuits, hadn't he suddenly
turned to Claude and fixed his unpleasant blue eyes on to him?  Oh,
they suspected something!  No doubt of it.  And soon Pierson with
his ridiculous toupee and bombast would join them and they would
put their three silly heads together.  Afterwards Brocket would be
called in and of course HE'D have nothing good to say about Claude.
They would perhaps search his room while he was out.  They had
perhaps already done so.  And they would be spying on his every
movement.  Oh, he must go, he must go!  He must pack up and leave
at once!  But whither?  And he could not go until he had paid this
present quarter's rent which Brocket had most surprisingly allowed
him to suspend.  He had even, it seemed, been glad to do so.  Was
it, Claude thought, because now he, Brocket, would have a hold over
him?  He hadn't thought of that.  He was held, a prisoner, unless
he could pay that rent, a prisoner in this house where everyone
thought him a thief.

Distracted, he began to walk up and down his small room with
nervous, agitated steps.  What was he to do?  Oh, WHAT was he to
do?  He thought of Millie and Helen and those kind jolly people the
Delaneys, but his natural pride and dignity prevented him from
applying to anyone for money.  It HADN'T prevented him from saying
to Brocket, when that stout unpleasantness had remarked, 'Well, Mr.
Willoughby, I don't mind for this once.  Leave it over to next
month, if it's easier for you.'  'Thanks very much indeed'--a
horrible memory, and the more horrible now when he realized the
true reason of Brocket's complacency.  But he couldn't speak to the
Delaneys about it, not that lovely young girl with whom he had
shaken hands, nor that kind young boy who had taken him to the

He went yet once again and looked at his beloved things in their
cupboard.  No, he would NOT sell them--not the gold snuff-boxes nor
the silver christening mug, nor the miniature of his mother, nor
the gold brooch with pearls, nor the Marie Antoinette cup and

There were other less important things there too, but they--
although precious to himself--were quite valueless to anyone else.
Then, like a flash, thinking of these things and having also Best
and Badget in his mind, there illuminated his brain and being
something that Badget had said to him about a friend of his who had
left all his odds and ends to be selected by his friends after his
death.  Now, thinking about it, Claude did not find it foolish at
all.  He would leave these precious possessions one by one to his
individual friends.  He hadn't very many--Millie and Helen Pake,
the nice Delaney boy--oh yes, and old Hare down in Winchester whom
he hadn't seen for years but cherished the memory of, and Cluttock
who went flower-hunting in the Andes, and--

He began to grow greatly excited, waving his hands about, talking
to himself.  Oh, really, what a BEAUTIFUL idea!  He had something
to live for, or rather to die for.  And these things that he loved
so.  They would not, after he was gone, be neglected or despised--
years later someone would be saying:  'Yes, that's the very cup and
saucer Marie Antoinette drank her coffee out of.  An old friend of
my father's, Claude Willoughby--'

He heard a sound, looked up, and saw Brocket standing there.

He placed on the table one of those unappetizing envelopes that
consist of a window of celluloid apparently surrounded by a wall of
dirty whitewash.  Why does the clothing of a bill always have the
appearance of a pawnshop furtiveness?

'Post,' Brocket said laconically, then, turning to the door:

'Have a nice talk with Colonel Badget?'

'That'll do, Brocket, thank you.'

'All right then.  I'm NOT interfering.'  Then his body stiffened.
'Only you look here, Mr. Willoughby.  It's MY house and I'm not
going to have one of my tenants sneaking round complaining to the
other tenants and hinting that if someone's been taking things in
this house it's someone's proper place to find out 'oo's done it.'

The dirty apron above the unwieldy stomach quivered with agitation.
'It may be my place or it may not--but when a gentleman's behind
with the rent it's not for HIM to complain--'

He had advanced again into the middle of the room and now was
staring at the little collection of things in the cupboard.  The
glass door was open.

'Pretty lot of things you've got there, Mr. Willoughby, I must
say.'  He began to scratch one of his arms.  'Old, some of them, I
shouldn't wonder.'  He moved forward.

Claude stepped in between Brocket and the cupboard.

'You'd better leave those things alone, Brocket,' he said.  'If you
touch one of them with your dirty hands I'll--I'll murder you.'

The two bodies were almost touching, the one so fragile that a
twist from Brocket's grey arm would surely snap it, the other
stout, heavy with the imponderability of a feather bolster.  Claude
caught very strongly the aroma of Brocket's breath--beer, bad
tobacco, ill-conditioned stomach.

The room tilted and rocked.  For an absurdly conscious moment he
thought that he would faint and nothing could be more humiliating
than to subside into the arms of Brocket!  The blood of the
Willoughbys came to his rescue.  He closed, with trembling hand,
the cupboard.  He moved away and took a deep breath of fresher air.

'While I'm tenant here,' he said, 'this is my room and I'll trouble
you not to come in here another time without knocking.  You shall
have the rent in a day or two, and after that'--he drew a deep
breath--'you can find another lodger.'

Brocket had been really, for a moment, frightened.  He was not, as
life went, a very courageous man, and there had been something
about old Willoughby's face, something.  'Why, you'd have thought,'
he said afterwards downstairs, 'he'd have stuck a knife into me if
he'd had one, the old bastard.'

But now he had recovered and, arms akimbo, he said:

'Easy enough to find another tenant, Mr. Willoughby.  But I don't
know as I want to.  And somehow--I'm thinking--I don't know as how
I'd be leaving too quick--not until this funny stealing business
has been cleared up.'

He was gone, but the room seemed still to contain his presence.
How hard is it in this world of so many dimensions to be rid of a
haunting presence--for we live in imagination quite as truly as in
physical fact.  The murdered are not quiet in their graves, for as
you close down the soil on one, like a worm, the twister is coiling
above-sod there by the graveyard wall!  Claude had never murdered
anyone, but the very thoughts that he had had about Brocket gave
that fellow a worm-like quality.

And there was a stench in the room.  Claude went out.

Quite late in that same day he was in Charles Street.  He had heard
the echo of Big Ben strike across the Park ten o'clock.  He had
come out because of a crazy mad notion that he would pay a call on
the Delaneys.  Now, at this hour!  But just as he was beginning to
fear the Shepherd Market house, beginning to feel that it was
closing in on him and threatening him with some horrible disaster,
a disaster now linked in his mind with the cold atheistic
prophecies of that man at the party, so the house in Charles Street
was standing to him as a symbol more and more of warmth, friendship
and understanding.  An old man's fears are grim, because he is half
a ghost already.  He sniffs the windy spaces of the immortal world
into which he is stepping.

Now he looked at the Charles Street door and did not dare to push
the bell.  He walked about.  There was a thin early April air
blowing and not a soul in the street.  All the doors were dead, the
steps cold.  The street was as chill as though with the blas
indifference of brick-and-mortar history it was callous about all
the blood and bones that had passed its way.  Little cries of
laughter, a jest or two, a love spasm, a prayer for help, the clink
of a coin . . .

Claude passed, hesitated, passed again, a thin old man in a cold
bare street.



'Let's all go to the Tower!' Meg cried.  So very deceitful did she
feel that she wondered that they could not all see her blackened
and corrupted heart.  She said 'The Tower!' because only the day
before, looking at a Picasso drawing in Tooth's window in Bond
Street, Graham Pender had said to her:  'You'll laugh at me, but
Wednesday afternoon I'm going to visit the Tower all by myself.
Haven't been there since I was a kid.  I've been meaning to go for
years.'  Then, looking at the Picasso, which was of an enormous
bearded Hercules carrying a struggling pink-bosomed lady in his
arms; 'Funny that should give one pleasure.  It's very ugly

Temptation is for ever coming our way.  It isn't as though we asked
for it.  Meg had had not the slightest intention of finding her
path to the Tower on that Wednesday afternoon.  The Tower!  What a
place!  Most certainly not.  And then on the Tuesday evening Fred
Delaney had cried out to them all:  'We're free to-morrow
afternoon.  I know we are.  Anyway we've got to be.  It's time for
a Family Expedition.  Where to is the question.'

All self-respecting families in these days do all they can to stay
apart.  And perfectly right.  Because you have sprung from the same
loins and sinews is no reason for liking.  Two dusty old people who
have paid your school bills and hindered your enjoyments have
obviously no real claim on you.  The Delaneys, however, loved one
another and, better than anything else, enjoyed being alone
together.  This was difficult to achieve in these modern restless
days.  Someone was for ever breaking in!

So, at certain times, they almost guiltily arranged together that
they would creep off somewhere and have an afternoon to themselves.
When they were in the country it was easy enough, but in Town not
so.  They had generally found that museums and collections of
things saved them from their friends.  They knew the London Museum,
the Victoria and Albert, the Wallace, the gallery at Dulwich, the
Science Museum very intimately.  They had even been up to the top
of the Monument together and stayed there for quite an hour or so.
They always pretended on these excursions that they were visiting
London for the first time, and were very friendly and inquisitive
with the guides and attendants, whom Fred always surprised at the
end with the largeness of his tip.  They always dressed on such
occasions very quietly and told one another how greatly astonished
the Vicar would be at all they had to tell him.  They always bought
a lot of postcards.

On this Tuesday evening they had been discussing this, that and the
other.  Kitty was reading a new novel called Matador and was
wondering aloud whether horses had the same sense of fun when they
were torn apart by the bull as foxes were confidently supposed to
have when torn apart by the hounds.  Fred had been looking at a
picture of Miss Paget's Golden Miller winning the National, and
Bullock had been reading about Mussolini's scorn of the League of

When Fred suggested a family expedition they all at once agreed.
Behind their current topics had been lurking their especial
personal problems, and, as always when the hard world was driving
from without upon them too severely, their impulse was to move
inwards towards one another.  One afternoon alone and they would go
forward with renewed confidence.

That was why Meg Delaney had an awful sense of treachery when she
cried out, 'The Tower!'  She knew, better than any of them, what
these family expeditions really meant, and for the first time in
her married life she was planning to betray them.  And yet--what
nonsense!  In all probability Graham would not be there; in further
probability they would not see him if he WERE there!  The Tower was
a very large place and there were many, many suits of armour.  And
if she did see Graham, what of it?  She felt no real treachery to
Fred in her heart.  She loved Fred more than twenty Grahams.  It
was only--it was only--Graham was different from anyone else with
his shyness, his romantic sensibility, his modesty, his vast
knowledge.  He had once been in love with her.  He was in love with
her still.  Was there any harm in that?  The point about being in
love was that you should NOT hurt anyone else.  It would not hurt
Fred if Meg were to tell him this very night:  'Graham Pender, who
has white hair and has been married for years, to whom I was once
engaged, is in love with me.  You don't mind my seeing him
sometimes, do you?'  Fred, laughing, would certainly reply:  'See
him!  See him!  As often as ever you like!'

It was all this everlasting search for something.  Everyone for
ever searching!  Here was Meg, middle-aged, deeply in love with her
husband, perhaps the happiest woman in England. . . .  Yes, and
what then?  Only the glamour, the colour, the light that never was
on sea or land.  Fred did not possess it for her--how could he when
he was now part of herself?  Moments in life provided it--the
distant swirl of music, first crocuses on a garden lawn, the sea on
a fine afternoon just before dusk.  Oh, a thousand things in life
and nature, but there shifting, intangible.  It stayed with you
only in a piece of work or a human being.  And there too it stayed
only so long as you did not realize it.  The piece of work ends and
the light dies, the beloved is secured and the spell is over!  She
knew that well enough.  Married to Graham it would never do.  Fred,
dear, dear Fred was the permanent joy of her life.  But Graham--
just now, for this moving vanishing summer--had the glamour!

And yet there WAS something wrong, something traitorous at the
heart of it.  No one cared any longer for stuffy laws or
conventions.  Yet doing away with them had not really made any
human relations easier!  How odd that was!  There was, as Fred
always said, a world BELOW the world, a world whose laws did NOT
change; human beings, by their habits, fashions, half-discoveries,
conceits, patronages, fears, try as they might, could not affect

Meg looked at them--Fred, Kitty, Bullock--sitting around, close
together, and loved them with an almost tigerish love.  Nothing
must imperil them, nothing must hurt them--they must be happy for
ever and ever!  She got up and went round kissing each one of them
solemnly on the forehead.

'What's up?' Bullock asked.  'Feeling sentimental?'

'I suppose I am.  I'm a woman of sentiment.'  She looked Fred
straight in the eyes.  'No.  Don't let's go to the Tower.  It's a
stupid place.  I don't know WHAT made me suggest it.'

'On the contrary,' Fred said.  'An excellent suggestion.  I haven't
been there since I was six, when I hid behind a Beefeater and made
my governess cry with anxiety.  The very place.  We shan't see a
soul we know there.'

'Oh, but we may!' Meg said wildly.  'You never know.  Everyone may
suddenly decide to go to the Tower.'

'What nonsense!' Fred cried.  'Look here, Meg--I'll make you a bet.
I'll give you five pounds for a new hat if we see a single soul
there we know.'

'YOU know or _I_ know?' asked Meg, who adored a bet.

'Whom we BOTH know.  And who do you know anyway I don't know?'

'Lots of people.'

'Well, you oughtn't to.'  He stretched his legs and yawned.  'Boys
and girls, I am going to bed.  To-morrow you're all for the Tower.'

The three of them sat cosily in front of the fire after Fred was
gone.  Kitty was reading her novel, Meg staring in front of her
smiling at the fire.  She was thinking to herself:  'I shall soon
be old and I don't mind that in the least, but let's have all the
harmless fun we can.'  And then a thought struck her like a coal
leaping out of the fire and burning her cheek.  'What about Lady
Pender?  Does she like you, do you think? . . .  No, she doesn't.
There's no doubt.  She doesn't like me at all.'

Bullock, his tongue protruding between his teeth, was writing in a
little notebook.  He wrote, then looked up and beamed at the fire.

'Is it good, darling?' she asked.  'As good as Mr. Wodehouse?'

But he wouldn't tell her.  He grinned at her with love and
confidence, but he kept his secret.  For he was, for the first time
in his life, planning a novel.  This Lizzie Coventry had done to
him.  She had said:  'Why don't you write a novel?  I'm sure you

'Why do you think I could?' he had asked her.

She had given him a comprehensive answer.

'Because you are interested in people.  Because you see things in a
funny way.  Because you can tell stories.'  She had explained her
views on the English novel.  'English writers don't know how to be
serious and funny at the same time.  That's why I like French
writers better.'

There was perhaps no one in the whole world LESS French than
Bullock, but he read Lizzie a description of two ladies lunching at
the Ritz and she had laughed.  She laughed very seldom, but when
she did she was suddenly so care-free and happy that his heart
ached.  He had presented to him then, out of the air, the subject
for a novel, a serious, almost tragic subject.  He was quite
overwhelmed as he contemplated it, but all the tenderness and
brotherly care he felt for Lizzie Coventry was at the heart OF it.

'Only you will have to take much trouble not to be sentimental,'
Lizzie had said.  'The English are so very sentimental.'

'I suppose they are,' Bullock said.  'But our novels now are very
brutal.  Everyone in them is very savage to everyone else.'

'That's another kind of sentimentality,' Lizzie had said.

He loved her, but he ought not to tell her that for another two
years at least, so he thought that he would sublimate this emotion
by putting it into a novel and he would disguise his emotion with
his sense of humour.  Characters were already crowding in upon him.
He felt all the exuberant happiness and confidence of the creator
before he has begun his creation.

Meg, staring into the dying fire, said, 'If I were granted a wish
now I know what I'd have--a long and painless old age.  I'd like to
live on and on, seeing what is going to happen--'

'You'd be lonely without us,' Kitty said.

'Oh, you'd all have to live on too.'

'And all have painless old ages?'

'Of course.'

'Then that would be at least six wishes.  And suppose we had no
money, as would be more than likely?'

'We'd HAVE to have money.'

'And suppose there was a World War, an awful one as it would be?'

'That would be all right if we knew WE were going to have painless
old ages!'

'Mother--how selfish!' Bullock said, closing his little book.

Meg sighed.  'Yes, I suppose it is.'  She jumped up.  'I'll have
six wishes!  One--no more war.  Two--the Delaney family ALL to have
long painless old ages.  Three--the Delaney family all to be rich.
Four--everyone in the world to have enough to live on.  Five--a
cottage in the country.  Six--universal tolerance and understanding.
There!  I think I've accounted for everything!'

Kitty laughed.  'How dull it would be!'

'What do YOU want, then?' Meg asked.

'I want--I want--I don't know.  Love.  Discomfort.  Unexpected
rewards.  Understanding.  More understanding.'  She stood up and
put her arm round her mother's broad waist.  'I want to grow, and I
expect one does that best in difficulty.  Am I priggish?'

Meg kissed her.

'No, dear.  I don't think so.  It's so hard to say what one is.  At
this moment I'm happy and wicked and greedy.  I'm off to bed with
your father.'

They went down to the Tower in the family car, which they placed
under the watery eye of a little purple-faced man with a game leg
and a stiff arm, in company with other family cars.

All the cars rested there together under the brow of the Tower and
seemed not very comfortable about it.  The combined grey-piled
authority of Tower, sky and river was too strong for them.  In
fact, under the beetling frown of unperturbed history they ceased
to exist.

The Delaney family, dressed, they hoped, as though they were just
up for the day from the country, moved towards the entrance.  The
effect of that mass of frowning menace upon them was strengthened
by the fact that excavations were going on in the moat.  On the
other side of the parapet there were numbers of young men with
cameras, little boys, a brooding Alsatian, and men digging in slimy
mud.  Curious how sinister this appeared to the Delaneys!  At any
moment skulls might be discovered!

At the entrance a Beefeater, a little the worse for wear, showed
them that they must purchase tickets on the other side of the road.
The entrance to the ticket-office was filled with a stout lady and
two fat little girls.  One little girl was sobbing bitterly.  It
seemed that she did not wish to go to the Tower.  Quite suddenly
she broke into a tempest of rage and beat upon the stout lady with
her fists, screaming:  'I hate you, Miss Franks!  I hate you, Miss

Miss Franks was imperturbable.

'I want tickets for everything,' she said to the ticket-vendor.

'The Armouries?'

'The Armouries.'

'The Regalia?'

'The Regalia.'

Only then, with the grey and red slips in her hand, she turned to
the screaming child and said:  'Hilda, remember the snails and

The Delaneys were fascinated by this mysterious reply.  The
incident had this importance, that for many a day thereafter any
rebellion on the part of a Delaney would be checked by the threat:
'Remember the snails and oysters!'

'Do you want to see everything?' the pale, anxious-eyed lady behind
the counter asked.

'Everything!' Fred Delaney said firmly.  'You see, we're up on an
excursion--only three-and-six return, but bringing the children IS
expensive and we don't know when we'll be up again, so we do want
to see everything, including the Little Princes AND the Block. . . .'

But, through the entrance and walking towards the Traitors' Gate,
all his gaiety left him, for standing to the left with Byward Tower
behind her was the beautiful Miss Alice Van Renn.  He concluded
that his Irish blood was mastering him.  She was a lovely spook; he
had but time to realize that she was wearing a cherry-coloured
dress and that a jewel of some sort sparkled in her little hat,
before she was gone.

Many people were hurrying about; the sun for the first time pierced
the grey and threw a faint primrose glow over walls and towers.  He
stared.  He shrugged his shoulders.  He caught his daughter by the

'Kitty, don't leave me.  I'm frightened.'  He grinned at her.  'It
may be that once we are inside this place we shall never get out

'It will be all right if we are together.'

'YOU'RE all right, aren't you?  You don't see anything?'

'See anything?'  Kitty stared about her.

'Yes.  Not Lady Jane Grey nor Anne Boleyn nor Henry the Eighth nor
Colonel Blood.'

She had forgotten him.  She was staring at the Traitors' Gate.

He stared also.  'We ought not to have come,' he thought.
'Everything I have done this year is leading inevitably to some
catastrophe.  And this is the centre of the world--the evil, spell-
binding centre.  This place stinks of death, torture and the
savagery of man.  This is the den of the London monster and I am
betraying my innocent family. . . .  Good God, WAS that Alice Van
Renn?  Is she beginning to obsess me so that I see her everywhere?
Has it become so evil with me that I can only rid myself of this
wretched obsession by sleeping with her?'

But there they were, all four of them together, his arm through
Kitty's, and he was happy for the most ridiculous reasons, that the
primrose sun was shining, that Bullock's round face was so
charming, and that his own heart, not yet impeded by any foretaste
of destruction, was beating with such strong regularity in his
breast.  HAD that been Alice Van Renn?  But Meg was talking to the
kindly Beefeater.

'And THIS is the Traitors' Gate?'

'Yes, ma'am.  Here passed on their way to prison or execution
Edward Duke of Buckingham, Sir Thomas More, Queen Anne Boleyn,
Thomas Cromwell, the Earl of Essex, Queen Katherine Howard, Jane
Seymour . . .'

He was reeling off his piece like a child at school, his round
chubby face and white walrus moustache giving him so innocent an
expression that Meg interrupted:  'That's enough.  I hate to think
of it.  And were you a soldier once?  What made you become a

'Well, you see, ma'am, it's a permanent job, and being a bachelor--'

'What!  Do you mean to say you're not married?'

He clicked his uncertain teeth together with great satisfaction.
'No, and I reckon I'm safe now, being sixty-seven next birthday.'

'Don't you approve of marriage, then?' she asked, greatly

'No man in his senses would ever marry, ma'am, but he isn't IN his
senses half the time, and it's just those unfortunate lapses--'

She was interrupted by Fred, who wanted to move forward, but she
hated to leave the dear old man, with whom she would willingly have
talked all the afternoon.

'So extraordinary,' she said, putting her arm through Bullock's as
they moved forward.  'He talked like a Professor.  He's SO right.
I can't think what men ever marry for.'

'I can,' said Bullock.  'If you love someone . . .'

He sighed and she pressed his arm close to her side.  She was aware
with a moment of acute surprising jealousy that in a little HE
would be married and Kitty would be married and she would be
old. . . .  Life moved so swiftly that, with the flick of action,
just as the sun now moved behind a cloud, all would be over.
This Tower would remain.  Long, long after she, so alive, so
vigorous, was forgotten, these walls would stand and another
Beefeater would be repeating, 'Here passed on their way to prison
or execution . . .'

But now they were looking at the line of the old Roman wall, and
now climbing steps into the White Tower, and here is the Axe, the
Execution Block, the horrible little waxen figure upon the rack,
the thumbscrew. . . .  Here too were children, mothers, fathers,
loving couples, raucous young men, Miss Franks and her charges, two
old ladies with large umbrellas, a bearded guide with a group that
clung to him like ducklings to their mother, and a long thin
Beefeater looking at them all with so grave a distaste that Meg's
heart ached for him.  Over all was a pale shadowed light and the
air was chill.  The Execution Block!  The Delaneys were fascinated
by it.  Deep in its greasy shining oak were grooves wherein the axe
had dug.  It seemed, as they stared at it, to move.  It had an
unctuous satisfaction as though it said to them:  'I at least have
performed efficiently my duty in a world where everything is always

'You know,' Fred said, turning from the model of the rack to the
block and back again, 'at the very first threat I would have
confessed anything, given ANYONE away.  Yes, all and every one of
you.  At the first stretch I would have condemned you all to the
flames.  That's the kind of man I am.'

Meg nodded.  'We wouldn't have blamed you.  We would have
understood, I'm sure.'  Then she saw that the fat child who had
turned crying on Miss Franks was close beside her and staring at
the Block with wide-eyed, white-faced terror.  Its lips were

She touched the child's arm.  'Don't trouble, dear,' she said.
'They don't do things like that any more and never will again.'
(Don't they?  Won't they?  Are we any better?)

'They cut off your hair first,' the child said, staring up at her.
'And sometimes the axe missed the first time.  It was like that
with the Duke of Monmouth.  He asked the executioner to take care
to do it the first time.  But he missed.  He did it four times.  I
know because I've read it.'

She broke off.  She was still staring into Meg's handsome kindly
eyes.  Meg saw that she was trembling.  Meg kissed her.

'No one's ever going to do that to you, darling.  Nor to anyone.
We're so much kinder . . .'

Miss Franks had hurried up.

'Well, I'm sure.  Hilda, what did I tell you?  I beg your pardon.
She's been told a thousand times not to talk to strangers.'

'Take her up and show her the armour,' Meg said cheerfully.  'I can
see she's an imaginative child.'  She stopped, for there, starting
up the staircase to the next floor, was Graham Pender.

Then he HAD come, and he was alone.  Her heart began frantically to
beat and she was reminded most absurdly of a day long ago when, as
a child of fourteen or so, she had been lost in Monte Carlo and had
wandered through some gardens with a yellow-faced, shining-haired
young man who had said he loved her and would feed her with fried
snails in a little place he knew.  Snails!  Snails and oysters!
But now they were climbing the little staircase and, most
unexpectedly, were gazing at a gigantic model of the Battle of
Waterloo.  A guide with spectacles and black bushy eyebrows became
one of their family in a second of time.  Eagerly he said to Kitty:
'You look through this glass, Miss.  There!  Now don't it come out
clear?  Yes, sir--move along this way.  That's Wellington--next to
him riding on the silver horse!'

'Well, this WILL be something to tell the Vicar,' Fred said.  'He's
so especially interested in Napoleon--our Vicar at Little
Frampton,' he explained to the guide.  'We've come up on an
excursion and the last thing the Vicar said at tea yesterday was--
"I don't suppose there'll be anything about Napoleon in the Tower.
I hardly see how there can be."  Little he knew!  Look, Hilda,' he
cried to Kitty, 'at all the soldiers--thousands of them.  Why,
Waterloo must have covered the whole of Belgium practically.'

So Meg had slipped away on the other side of the gigantic model and
found Graham in an alcove studying some helmets.  They were
miraculously hidden from view.

'Well, Graham,' she said.

He was vastly astonished.

'Meg!  You--'

'You told me.  You said you were coming to-day, so when the family
decided on an expedition I suggested the Tower.  They're all over
there looking at Waterloo.'

His thin distinguished face (so very much more distinguished than
any face that she had seen since Forbes-Robertson's) flushed.  He

'Then this is the place and this is the moment to tell you that I
love you, Meg.  That I have always loved you and will always love
you.  What am I to do about it?'

'And I love you too, Graham.  But I also love my husband better
than anyone else on earth.  I'm happily married and I adore my
children.  So there is nothing to be done about it.'

The bearded guide, his flock close about him, arrived at that
moment, and began:  'Nothing here is worthy of especial attention,
but we shall see in a moment two curious figures, "Gin" and "Beer,"
brought from the buttery of the Royal Palace of Greenwich at the
end of the seventeenth century, also the cloak on which General
Wolfe died at Quebec. . . .'

Graham looked into her face like a child asking for comfort.  'No,
Meg, I suppose nothing.  But if I could have you in my arms only
once.  Just one night.  After that I wouldn't mind, I think.  After
all it ought to be my right, I think.  It was MEANT to be--'

Meg shook her head.

'But not now.  You see, Graham, we're old.  We would hurt people
even though they didn't know of it.'

'Isn't that rather conventional?  What harm can it do to anybody?
You won't love anyone less because you love me a little.  You'll be
enriched and so will I.  You're right.  We'll soon be old and this
is the last chance of our lives.  Listen, Meg.  Come away for a
night.  I have to lecture in Oxford in June.  We could stay near
there.  Somewhere like Evesham.  Some little place where no one
would see us.'

She put her hand on his arm.

'You'd be disappointed.  It wouldn't be what you think.'

'It would be better than I think--far, far better.  I'd have
something to remember and cherish.  You too.  It would give us a

'We have a bond.  Nothing can break it.  Being together for a night
wouldn't strengthen it.'

She heard Fred's voice.  'That's MOST interesting.  Now for the
armour.  Where's Meg got to?'

She slipped away.  She caught Fred's arm.  'All the armour's
upstairs, I think.'

'Weren't you interested in Waterloo?'

'I hate battles.'  As they all moved to the staircase she caught a
swift glimpse of Graham's passionate beseeching gaze.

In the Horse Armoury they collected, for use in Little Frampton,
some really splendid things.  There was, for instance, the case
with the richly ornamented helmets of the sixteenth century.

'I think,' said Fred, 'we'll have THAT one for the centre of the
dining-room mantelpiece.  My idea is that we line it with glass and
then grow ferns in it.  And THAT one shall have Meg's odds and
ends, the things she leaves all over the room.  And THAT one will
do splendidly for snails and oysters.'  He asked the mild learned
custodian:  'Do you think you could steal a helmet for me?'

The custodian solemnly giggled.

'A heap of people make that joke, sir,' he said.

'Oh, but I'm quite serious,' Fred answered, and looked it.  He
spoke in low confidential tones.  'I'll pay you an excellent price.
If you're caught I'll buy your ticket to Australia.'

The custodian shook his head sadly.

'You'd be disappointed, sir.  Even if you got away with it safely,
what would you do with it?'

'Plant ferns in it,' Fred said.  'In Little Frampton we have about
forty varieties of ferns.  They say that people come from all over
the world fern-hunting at Little Frampton.'

Kitty expected the custodian suddenly to turn upon her father that
hullo-here's-a-lunatic look that she had seen before in the eyes of
guides and custodians.  But not so.  There were so many queer
visitors every day that he thought nothing of this one.

'I expect you're right, sir,' he observed mildly.  'I collect
cigarette-cards myself--for my little boy.'

They had seen, however, at the end of the room the gilt armour of
Charles I on his horse, and he surrounded by figures of cuirassiers
and pikemen.  The bearded guide was proclaiming:  'Face of king and
horse carved by Grinling Gibbons, and at the base you will observe
nine small cannon made for Charles II when a boy.'

But what Fred Delaney observed, half hidden behind the large case
of armour to the left, was the lovely cheek and nose surmounted by
the little hat with the sparkling jewel of Miss Alice Van Renn.  He
threw a quick look about him.  Meg, her arm through Bullock's, had
wandered off to see the armour of James II.  Kitty was talking to
the custodian.

'I thought you were a spook,' he said to Miss Van Renn.

She was dove-grey and silver and moth's wing and moonlight on
water.  Chastity whose purity was lit with fire.  As naked to him
as though she had risen from the waters of the armoured and brutal
past, the Venus of all cruelty and indifference.  Fragile, created
out of foam, flower petals, silver web.  And a lot more nonsense.
A bitch.  He longed for her with such sexual desire that the top of
his head stuck to his hat, or it felt like it.  He knew why men
strangled ladies who resisted them.  He knew why men spent
thousands of pounds which they hadn't got in a jeweller's shop.  He
knew why Troy fell.  He knew what sailors felt on reaching port
after being at sea for three months.  He knew why Antony threw
empires away.  He understood thoroughly Don Juan, Christina of
Sweden, the Walrus and the Carpenter, and Rasputin.  And, his
imagination running ahead of the event, he was aware of the chill
disappointment of all the gentlemen through history who have
escaped out of the window at three in the morning in their shirts.
All this he saw while the armour of the kings of England swam,
reeled, swung into curtains of swaying gold and silver and resolved
finally into the nine little cannons of the small boy, Charles II.

'I'm not a spook,' Miss Van Renn said.  'How are you, Fred?'

'You're a spook to me,' Fred said, putting his hand inside his
collar to push it forward a little.  'Always.  I never get more
than a minute with you anywhere.'

'Oh, I don't know,' she said, appraising him quietly with her most
lovely eyes (and he felt his stoutness rising within him, a shame
and a derision).  'We see one another fairly often, I think.  Tea,
luncheon, a walk or two--'

'Yes, and I don't know why it is, but there's always someone
interrupting.  It's a sort of fate.  I've got my family with me

'Yes, and I've got Mr. Bartlett.  He's examining the helmets.'

'Oh, damn Bartlett!  I can't see what you find in him.  He's the
most crushing bore--'  He pulled himself up and said quite
piteously:  'Can't you see, Alice?  Can't you understand?  I want
to be alone with you.  I want to take you out one evening--
somewhere quiet--I want--I want--'

He came beside her, pressing his stomach against the glass case,
catching her hand.  'You know what I want--'

'Yes,' she said, letting him hold her hand.  'I do.'

'Well, then--'


'Let me see you--'

'You can see me--whenever you want.'

'No--but alone.'

'And then--what?'

'I want to tell you.'  He was choking.  It was as though all the
armour in the room were closing in upon him.  'I love you.  I HAVE
loved you--'

'Here IS Mr. Bartlett,' she said.

That irritating, stout bovine figure advanced happily towards them.

'Hullo, Delaney!'

'Hullo, Bartlett!'

'Fancy finding YOU here!'

'Yes.  Never thought I'd see anyone I know.'

'No.  Nor did we.  Did we, Alice?'

'Didn't we?  I never thought about it.'

Fred moved away.  'So long, Alice.  See you soon.'

'Why, of course.'

'So long, Bartlett.'

'Oh, darling,' Meg greeted him.  'We must hurry.  They close at
five.  It's the dungeons next.'

It was first the dungeons in which, as the bearded guide explained
to his devoted flock, 'No prisoners have EVER been drowned at high
tide.  Romantic idea I WILL acknowledge and popular because, ladies
and gentlemen, we are all partial to horrors, and rightly so, but
facts are facts and these dungeons in which you are now standing
are more than ten feet above high-water mark.'

'The guide-book calls them the basement,' Fred said disconsolately.
'There's romance for you!'

Followed the Beauchamp Tower where pathetically 'Jane' is cut into
the wall, followed the Regalia where jewels, looking more like
paste than any paste, blazed to the memory of Colonel Blood, and so--
there they all were--on Tower Green.

It had become, while they were tumbling through history, a lovely
serene and mellowed April day.  The Green, with its small square
plot, paved with granite, gazed mutely into a sky of shriven blue,
mild, temperate with the shadows of a primrose dusk stealing in
veiled light behind the Tower.  Here, on this spot, suffered

          Lord Hastings
          Queen Anne Boleyn
          Margaret Countess of Salisbury
          Queen Katherine Howard
          Jane Viscountess Rochford
          Lady Jane Grey
          Robert Devereux Earl of Essex

Fred took off his hat.

'Let us pray for the souls of all departed,' he said.

There were two gigantic ravens, their wings clipped, hopping on the
grass.  One of them, a really enormous bird, fixed Delaney with a
cocked, inquisitive eye.  Fred bowed.

'Henry, Eighth of that name, receive my condolences.  You were
evilly entreated by women--more sinned against than sinning.'

Henry VIII winked at him in agreement, then pecked at a feather.
The scene was now of the deepest tranquillity.  Miss Franks and her
charges, the bearded guide and his flock, all had vanished.  The
little houses, like the discreet and decorous homes of a Cathedral
precincts, sat in a row of daffodils and primroses against their
walls.  A white-wing-flamed seagull swooped against the Tower's
grey.  The sky grew ever more primrose.  The granite slab was
warmed in the gathering light.  The four moved down the hill, up
the steps to the parapet outside the Beauchamp Tower looking to the
river.  So tranquilly flowed the Thames, a barge slowly slipping
by; a faint ruffle of wind threw multitudes of tiny grey feathers
on to the waters.  There was a scent of flowers.  Also of tar.

They leaned on the parapet, their bodies close together.

'You know,' Fred said, 'it is charming when we're alone together.
Better than ANYTHING else.'

'Much better,' said Meg.

'However delightful other people may be.'

'However delightful.'

'You know,' Kitty said, 'when we're by ourselves like this every
problem seems to be solved.'

'The cruelty of the past doesn't matter.'

'Nor the blindness of the present.'

'Nor the hazards of the future.'  Fred Delaney's hand was on Meg's
shoulder.  Very lightly he kissed the lobe of her ear.  'Darling

As they moved away Fred said:

'Well, I won my bet.  There wasn't a soul we knew.  I said there
wouldn't be.'

'Not a soul,' said Meg.

'Only Henry the Eighth,' said Kitty.



Fragments from a Journal

. . . Until now, it is sad to reflect, I have written nothing in
this Journal worth a tinker's curse.  That is perhaps not very
surprising when one considers what punk most Journals are, and that
Pepys is the only amusing one and Barbellion's is interesting
mostly because we know he's going to die very shortly.  Evelyn's
is good in places, there are one or two French ones, and I read
all of Arnold Bennett's, and he must have been a jolly good
fellow, I think, although he cared more for hotels than they are
generally worth.  Then there are the egotistical ones like Marie
Bashkirtseff's, but undoubtedly it's the hardest thing in the world
to write a good Journal without being self-conscious and yet be
interesting to other people.  But one oughtn't to write with other
people in mind and I'm certain I shall never show this to anyone
else except perhaps Lizzie.  It's Lizzie who now makes the whole
difference.  I see I began this about five years ago, and there are
now about five exercise-books full, but it's all the most awful
rot--Aug. 5, 1932.  Boulogne.  Bathed.  Saw dark girl with
beautiful legs.  Lost twenty francs Casino. . . .  That sort of

But this is different.  I want to be absolutely as honest as I can
so that I may know myself better for Lizzie's sake.  Also it will
help my novel.  Because I've never really tried to write before, I
can see that quite clearly now.  Trying to make jokes for Punch
isn't really writing, although Punch is awfully good if you like
that sort of thing.  Of course people like Munden simply hate it.
Then there was a time when I thought I'd write like Wodehouse, but
I see now it's no use trying to write LIKE anyone.  What you've got
to be is yourself, but then is there any real self for me to be?
Lizzie says there is, and that's why I'm going to try and write a
novel that, however bad, is mine and mine only.

But first I'm going to be utterly honest to myself on paper to see
where I am.

I'm not in any way remarkable, of course.  That's the first thing.
I'm just like thousands and thousands of other men of my own age.
But I'm going to put one thing down right away.  I'm awfully happy.
That would sicken almost anybody if they were to read it, because
undoubtedly it's wrong for anyone to be happy to-day with the awful
state the world's in, so many unemployed and probably a World War
in a month or two.  All the same I said I was going to be honest
and so I must be.  I'm happy, I suppose, for three reasons.  The
first is that I've got in father, mother and Kitty the three
grandest relations in the world.  Secondly, I'm in love with
Lizzie, who is only a child at present but simply beautiful in
every way; and thirdly, I'm in excellent health--there's nothing
the matter with me physically in any way whatever.  I'm making a
bit of money too--I made 136: 4: 3 last year, and this year so far
I've made 83--35 from Punch, 15 from a short story, and the rest
odds and ends.

Do I feel it wrong to be happy?  I honestly don't.  Of course I
have my worries like anyone else.  We may have to sell the house,
which would be frightful after its being in the family so long, and
I hate the world to be in the mess it is.  Ought I to do something
about it?  People like Munden feel that I ought.  He's working away
all the time.  The trouble is I don't know what I'd work for if I
DID begin.  I don't like Stalin any better than Mussolini or
Hitler, and I feel we've got the best sort of government here in
England.  It isn't perfect, of course, but at any rate we're free
in England to say and think what we like, and that's worth
everything else.

The next thing is that perhaps father, mother, Kitty and I are much
too satisfied with ourselves.  But then father and mother are
really remarkable.  I don't see how you can think them anything
else if you really know them.  They are entirely free of all the
worst faults--meanness and jealousy and cruelty and spitefulness.
And when you live with people like that all the year round it's a
great piece of luck undoubtedly.

But I must say I believe in families like anything.  I know most
people think them rot these days, and in my generation lots of
people laugh at their parents because they seem to them slow and
sticky.  But this must be the parents' fault partly.  And another
thing is that my generation will be parents soon themselves and
then THEY'LL be laughed at.  But with us it's never been like
parents and children.  Almost the first thing I can remember is
bathing at Eastbourne or somewhere and my being carried into the
water by my father and my not being frightened because he was
laughing, and I knew he wouldn't be laughing if it was dangerous.
It seems to me he's always told me everything from the very first,
about money troubles which we've always been in, about the women
he's in love with, and he explained to me all about sex in the
simplest way before I went to my Private.  I remember he told me
I'd find I got in a mess sometimes because beautiful women were
beautiful women and there was no use pretending they weren't.  But
then he's always been more passionate than I shall ever be.  He's a
bit of a poet, I think, which I'm certainly not, and the Irish is
stronger in him than it is in me.  Then I'm afraid women will laugh
at me because I'm so small.  I've fancied myself in love heaps of
times, but I've only had a woman once and that was beastly.  And I
never was REALLY in love until I saw Lizzie.  All I want now is for
her to grow a bit and then we'll marry and then we'll have
children, which is the grandest thing I can imagine.

Then I must say a word about my mother because I simply don't know
what my life would have been if she hadn't been there.  She's most
unusual.  There's no doubt about that.  You'd think from the way
she talks and behaves that she's all over the place, but as a
matter of fact she isn't.  She seems careless and to say the first
thing that comes in her head, and always to be rushing about.

The truth is that more than most people she knows just what she's
doing.  She's always throwing herself into other people's lives and
helping them, not because she wants to do good but because she's
made that way.  Then, although she never says anything about it,
she's really religious.  She thinks there's a God and that Jesus
Christ is alive and is with her wherever she is.  I don't believe
that myself, but it makes her happy, and she's so happy that
perhaps she's right after all.  What I say about religion is that
each man must go by his own experience and it's silly rot to laugh
at someone because he doesn't think as you do.  And anyway I know
I'm not just chemicals as Munden thinks, or I couldn't love Lizzie
as I do.

Well, now about Lizzie.  You couldn't call her beautiful, I
suppose, although she's beautiful to me, and she can look beautiful
sometimes when she's thinking of something she can't see.  She's
just my height, which is very pleasant for me.  Although she's only
sixteen she's very old for her age because she's travelled all over
the world with her father and seen everything--many things it's
terrible for a child to have seen.  And because she's seen
everything and knows exactly how cruel and wicked people can be,
she's reached a kind of calm although she's often very unhappy.
Her father's the worst man I've ever known in my life, and yet he
can be very charming and amusing.  He's bad because he's got no
sense of right and wrong at all and doesn't mind how much he hurts
anybody if he can get what he wants.  The funny thing is, I think
he loves Lizzie in a sort of a way.  She's the only human being he
does care for at all.  He's going downhill all the time, and I
expect that once he was most charming and very handsome and really
did want to be a decent sort.  But now he's past caring and hasn't
any strength of will at all, and soon, I'm sure, there'll be some
dreadful crash.  When that comes I must be there to keep Lizzie
safe and see she comes to no harm.  Can I honestly say that Lizzie
loves me as I love her?  No, of course I can't.  She doesn't trust
anyone in the world except her aunt with whom she lived for a while
in Westminster.  She's seen so much to do with sex that's horrible
that she hates it all and tries to keep herself from contact with
anybody.  But I think she is BEGINNING to trust me, and she liked
mother very much when she went to our place to tea.

An illustration of the unexpected, unusual person Lizzie is I will
give here because it is still very much in my mind.  On an
afternoon last week we were in the National Gallery.  We go there
quite often because we are sure we won't see anyone there we know.
Also, in the first place, because Lizzie really loves pictures and
knows a great deal about them, and now I'm beginning to know
something too because of what she's told me.  We had sat down in
the long Italian room and I had just asked her if she would write
down for me the six pictures she liked best in the Gallery.  I have
the bit of paper in front of me now.

She wrote:

For young Mr. Delaney--

I, Lizzie Coventry, solemnly declare that, in all the National
Gallery in London, England, the six pictures I like best are:

     Christ and the Magdalene . . . Titian
     The Entombment . . . . . . . . Michael Angelo
     The Painter's Daughters. . . . Gainsborough
     Death of Procris . . . . . . . Piero di Cosimo
     Windmill on Mousehold Heath  . Crome
     Baptism of Christ. . . . . . . Piero della Francesca
     The Graham Children. . . . . . Hogarth

I know this is seven but I couldn't leave the Graham Children out.

N.B.--I don't say these are the BEST pictures.  They're the ones
I'd like to have if I had a house.

I'd just told her where I agreed and didn't agree when we saw the
oddest figure coming towards us.  This was an old man with an
untidy grey beard, an old grey felt hat shoved down on his head, a
plaid shawl over his shoulders, and brown velveteen trousers.  He
carried a heavy knobbly stick and was shuffling along as though he
couldn't lift a foot from the ground.  He was muttering to himself
as he went, and yet I must say he didn't give one any notion of
senility.  When he came nearer I saw that he had the sharpest,
brightest blue eyes I'd ever seen.

Well, when he was just opposite us his stick slipped on the surface
of the floor and I thought he was going to fall, so I jumped up and
caught him by the arm.

He turned on me quite savagely and snapped:  'I'm all right, young
man.  Think I can't look after myself?'  I'll confess I was pretty
aggravated and was for telling the old fool he could drown for all
I cared, but it was Lizzie who said with the utmost sweetness:

'The floor is slippery, isn't it?'

He said:  'Yes.  That's why I'm allowed to keep this stick.'

Lizzie, when she lets her real self come out, is like no one else I
have ever known.  She is so compassionate that, although she is
herself only a child, she is like a mother to anyone in distress.
People might often think her hard if they hadn't seen her on one of
these occasions.  She seems so cold and indifferent to so many
people.  But this old man roused her tenderness.  She looked at him
so sweetly that he was conquered at once and came and sat down on
the seat beside us.  He talked then like anything.  He never
stopped.  He said his name was Lord Ragadoon and I knew then at
once who he was, an eccentric old man, very rich, a collector of
fine pictures and furniture, many of which he stored away in an old
castle in Ireland while he himself lived all alone in some messy
untidy rooms in London.  People of course said he was mad; but he
wasn't at all mad, it seemed, in the auction room.  Well, he sat
there talking to us about one thing after another--pictures, with
stories about Velasquez and El Greco (he said he was the greatest
painter who had ever lived), and the best A.B.C. shops for toasted
buns, and the iniquity and ignorance of doctors, and a cure for
rheumatics, and two cats he had called Hore and Belisha.  And he
laughed a great deal, or rather shook and rumbled in his beard.  He
had taken, it was clear, a great liking to Lizzie, and he took her
hand in his gnarled hairy one and patted it.  She talked away and
laughed and was simply adorable.  He made us both give him our
names and addresses, and when he found I was partly Irish he was

As I sat there, next to the funny old man with the grand pictures
around us, I can't explain why it all seemed so Londony.  It was
somehow like Dickens with a smell of smoke and tobacco (which came
from old Ragadoon's clothes) and it had the STILLNESS of London.
You felt as though this grand Gallery was planted there in the very
centre of crooked chimneys and narrow twisted streets and fish-
shops, and the river with its mud and old ships and the Houses of
Parliament dusky on a winter afternoon although the lights were on.
I seemed to hear Big Ben striking right along the Gallery floor.  I
have put this down just as I felt it.  It was so quiet and homely,
and I loved Lizzie twice as much as ever before.  At last he got up
and, nodding and smiling back at us, went shuffling away.

Then, strangely enough, this little incident led to another--a
rather bold one on my part.  Lizzie told her father about Ragadoon
and at once that rascally parent began to lick his lips over the
prospect of getting some of that old eccentric's money.  He tried
to persuade Lizzie to bring the old boy to their place, and of
course this Lizzie refused to do.  Then he had a violent scene with
her.  What exactly happened I don't know, for she refused to tell
me, but there was a slight bruise above her left eye.  She seemed
to be indifferent, almost contemptuous.  I know her well enough now
to realize that that was her pride.

She lived alone, all to herself.  She had seen that life was so
dangerous and that it could be so humiliating if you allowed it
that she had created a self-defence, self-remoteness that no one
was going to penetrate.  I could discover two persons only in the
whole world for whom, in her secret heart, she longed, her aunt
Fanny, Mrs. Carlisle, and Mrs. Carlisle's son Edward.  If she spoke
of them her voice shook a little; there was longing in her eyes,
poor darling Lizzie . . . darling, darling Lizzie. . . .

Anyway I was sure in my own mind that a crisis in Coventry's
affairs wasn't far away.  He was for ever drinking and day after
day having the most horrible rows with that beastly woman, Mrs.
Agar, who was calm enough herself and used to let him storm, but I
never knew a nastier woman.  When you are going downhill and are
becoming seriously frightened of consequences your eyes get a funny
half-open look as though you were half-closing them so that you
might see some object in the distance more clearly.  Coventry had
that look now, and sometimes he would draw his breath sharply as
though he were out of breath from running.  I saw too that Lizzie
was herself beginning to be apprehensive as she had not been
before.  In fact, half an hour before I wrote these words I was
with her and I realized fully that she is expecting something
dreadful to happen.  May it not be long before I can protect her
and watch over her and see that she is happy and safe!

But now I must write something down about Fanny Carlisle, because
she is, I think, going to be important both in Lizzie's life and
mine.  I decided that I must go and see her, so without giving
myself time to think of the cheek of what I was doing, one fine
afternoon about four down to Westminster I went, rang the bell of
the Carlisle house, and, to a stiff-faced old-family-servant kind
of woman, said I wanted to see Mrs. Carlisle.  She of course asked
me my reasons, so I gave her my card and said she was to tell Mrs.
Carlisle that I was a friend of Miss Lizzie Coventry's.  The old
family servant's brow darkened at that and she gave me the stiffest
kind of look, but she disappeared with the card and a minute or two
later said Mrs. Carlisle would see me.  She showed me upstairs to a
jolly drawing-room rather full with things, but then I don't like a
room to be quite empty except for an unintelligible picture and a
vase with flowers made of white linen.  There was a grand Japanese
screen and some good pictures, and everything as bright as the sun.
These details, I suppose, have nothing to do with it except that
the brightness and freshness were all part of my idea of Fanny
Carlisle.  I'll acknowledge quite frankly that she and I took to
one another at once.  She is a lady getting on for fifty, I should
think, and reminded me a little of a smaller edition of mother.
She wasn't modern in dress or hair or anything; just a rather
stout, middle-aged, cheerful English lady who probably was
forbidden to read Rhoda Broughton's novels when she was a girl.
But I've never seen anyone look more honest or kind, and she had a
sort of gentleness that comes from understanding people and being
tolerant.  I know she was awfully surprised to see anyone as small
and boyish-looking as I am.  I'm accustomed by now to people having
that impression when they first see me, so I always try to be quiet
and sensible.  It is much more dangerous for someone of my
appearance to say anything without thinking first than it is for
someone like Patrick Munden.  I always have to remember that and
try to see myself as others see me.

I sat down, and Mrs. Carlisle asked me what I had come about; I
told her at once that I loved Lizzie and hoped in two years' time
to marry her.  I said that I thought that she trusted and liked me
but didn't love me.  I said that she cared more for her father,
Mrs. Carlisle, and her cousin Edward than for anyone else.  Mrs.
Carlisle was very much moved by this and seemed at once to trust
me, because she told me something of what had happened when Captain
Coventry, her brother, and Lizzie had stayed in their house.  She
said that he had behaved badly, they had had a quarrel and he had
left, taking Lizzie with him; that since then they had never seen
him or Lizzie and that they had always loved Lizzie very much.  I
said then that I was sure that Captain Coventry would soon be in
some very bad trouble, and if that happened would they help Lizzie?
Mrs. Carlisle said at once that of course they would love to.  I
told her something about my family so as to reassure her, and said
that I thought that she and my mother would get on like anything.
Afterwards she said, smiling, she hoped I wouldn't mind but I DID
look very young, upon which I said I wasn't as young as I looked
and practically earned my living by writing.  I said 'practically'
so as to be quite truthful.  She asked me what I wrote, and I said
I wrote for Punch and when she saw anything with the initials
'S.D.' that was me; and she said that they took Punch every week
and she'd look out for those initials.  That was practically all, I
think, and I must say I liked her very much.

Afterwards I told Lizzie that I had been and I thought she might be
angry.  But she wasn't at all.  Only she was more moved than I'd
ever seen her.  She asked ever so many questions, saying the
servant at the door was Janet and I hadn't seen Edward, had I, and
about things in the room.  She remembered every detail.  Then she
looked at me very gravely and said:  'Why do you do these things
for me?'

'Because I love you,' I said.  'And whether you love me or not I am
always going to look after you unless you ask me not to.'

She said then for the first time that she would be very fond of me,
but she was afraid to because life was very cruel, and as soon as
you liked someone or something it was taken away.  She said, too,
as though she were a hundred years old, that it wasn't worth while
for anyone to be fond of her because she had been damaged, spoilt.
Everything, she said, had come to her much too early and she had
lost all her trust and belief in things too soon.  Everyone lost it
in the end, she said, but there were generally some happy years
first.  So I laughed at her and said that wasn't true, that my
father and mother were well on in life and hadn't lost their trust
in anyone or anything.  Lizzie said that that was because they
didn't see life as it was.  It was like romantic novels which tried
to end everything up happily.

I said there were lots of happy people, people who loved one
another all their lives, and that I should love her always,
whatever happened.  She looked at me and suddenly laughed.  'I
think we're both very silly,' she said, and for the rest of that
time she was happier than I'd ever seen her before, and I kissed
her before I went home.  I think the knowledge that I had been to
the Carlisles and the knowledge that her Aunt Fanny still loved her
meant a tremendous lot to her--so I really had done a good deed for

Meanwhile Coventry lately has really seemed to accept me as one of
the family.  His behaviour would seem to me very extraordinary if
it were not that I believe that he is becoming drawn into his own
troubles and difficulties so far that he has ceased to bother about
anything outside them.  He allows me to take Lizzie out where and
when I please.  Sometimes when I bring her back in the evening,
after we have been to the theatre or the pictures, I find play in
his rooms at its height.  Their sitting-room is not large, but it
is wonderful how many people Coventry manages to squeeze into it.
The place is thick with smoke and everyone is so intent on what is
happening that no one pays any attention to us.  Once the brown-
faced half-caste at the door has admitted us, that is enough.
Lizzie slips at once away to her own little room and there she
stays.  What fears and terrors she must have then, although she
tells me nothing--only that there is quarrelling sometimes and a
scuffle, some drunkard thrown out or some argument about the cards.
Well, this can't last for long!  That's one good thing.

Meanwhile this has become the centre, the object of my life.  When
I return to my room in Charles Street I feel as though here in this
quiet street is the heart of the real world.  I'm neither very
clever nor very wise--in no way exceptional at all--but I do know
that the kind of love we have for one another here and the love
that I feel for Lizzie, this love is the one certain fact that I
know about life.  No one can explain it away or give it the easy
explanation of sensuality or self-interest.  Every kind of trouble
and cruelty and uncomfortable change can bluster and blow on every
side of it, but in itself it is sufficient reason and explanation
of life and, I am sure, is a promise of much greater, finer and
wiser things to come.  Thousands upon thousands of people alive to-
day love one another as we love one another.  Life must be a
battle, I suppose, otherwise where would growth come from?  I don't
put these things very well, or in any new way, but when I think of
Lizzie in her little room and all that robbery, greed, cruelty
going on in the room next to her, I seem to understand why there
are these opposites, two worlds at war.  If there were nothing to
fight for, what would happen to one's muscles?

I'm much too shy about these things to say them aloud to anyone.
When I am older I shall understand more--or perhaps less?  At any
rate this is what I understand now.  Here in Charles Street where,
as I write, late, everyone else in bed except Kitty, who is at a
party, there is not a sound, only the clock ticking and saying,



Windsor Lad had won the Derby, and Mrs. Bathorne, who had put her
money on Colombo, gave a light-hearted laugh and told Meg that it
didn't matter in the least.  'My little all,' she said.  'Gone.  I
start, once again, from the gutter.'  Old Mrs. Van Renn said,
'Nonsense, Violet.  You've always your diamonds.'  Mrs. Bathorne
smiled complacently at the large glittering ring on her finger and
answered, 'Stuff, darling.  They're all pawned.  This is paste.'

It was a hot afternoon in June, and Meg, who was in some queer way
apprehensive, wished that the Three Witches would get up and go.

They sat about the room, rather close together as though summoned
from the vasty deeps by Shakespeare himself--Mrs. Van Renn, Mrs.
Bathorne and Lady Perivale-Hawder.  Meg had not invited them.  Mrs.
Van Renn had called (WHY? Meg asked herself), and Violet Bathorne
and Muriel Hawder had come together.  They were the type of old
ladies common enough in our perverse generation.  In Millie Pake's
youth they would have been REAL old ladies, secure in lace cap,
footstool, and wise sayings.  They would go to bed at ten and have
a long sleep.  They would be wise about life, knowing everything,
severe on folly, tickled by scandal, generous and helpful in
trouble that approached them personally, fond of their food,
strong, equable, living to ninety.

But Mrs. Bathorne and Muriel Hawder, seen from the rear, walking
along almost any street, appeared like girls of twenty.  Front
view, their eyelids lifted in cold and perpetual surprise, their
hard red mouths, the powder lingering in the crevices of their
salmon-pink cheeks, their smart hats, stockings and shoes, they
looked older and deader than Time.  Naked their bodies were a
litter of bones.  Clad so smartly they had slim figures.  Every
inch of their persons demanded an unwavering vigilance.  Very
costly too.  Mrs. Van Renn was poor, but the other two won at
bridge, struggled for inside tips on the Stock Exchange, had a man
or two to wheedle, sold their possessions, ate nothing, lived on a
cocktail a day.  What WAS miraculous about them was their energy,
for Mrs. Van Renn was all but seventy, Mrs. Bathorne sixty-five or
-six, and Muriel Hawder a trifle more.

Practically they never slept.  They pushed, urged, fought their way
into parties, and could be seen at two in the morning at the
Ruritanian Ministry listening, with half-closed eyes, to M.
Dimanchenko working his way through all the Hungarian Rhapsodies.
By eight-thirty of the morning they were telephoning vigorously,
and by ten o'clock they were in Miss Sheepshanks' Beauty Parlour.

This lack of repose led to a half-crazy, half-brooding glint in the
eye under the perpetually astonished eyebrow.  A look of
apprehension too.  And then quite suddenly they vanished.  Someone
said at breakfast, 'Oh, Muriel Hawder's dead'--and that was that.

But Meg, now, surveying them, wished--oh, how she wished!--that
they would get up and go.  The afternoon was close, but that would
not altogether account for the apprehensive brooding of this room
and house.  She felt as though something terrible were happening or
about to happen.  It might be, of course, in part, her own sense of
guilt.  Since that meeting in the Tower she had had half a dozen
encounters with Graham Pender, and at the last, in this room, they
had embraced with a passion that had in it nothing either spiritual
or philosophical.  Fred, had he been present, would have knocked
Graham down.  There would have been no complacency or tolerance.
She could not cheat herself any longer.  She had detachment enough
also to realize several other things: that there was nothing
aesthetically beautiful in the physical eagerness of a stout woman
of middle age, that such embraces led inevitably to one issue only,
that modern scorn for religion and marriage made adultery no
prettier than it had ever been, and that she in fact scorned
neither religion NOR marriage, that she was grievously unfair to
Evie Pender, who might be a fool but nevertheless loved Graham,
that she herself, Meg Delaney, loved her husband Fred Delaney more
than ever before, that the possibility that Fred Delaney had
already spent the night with Alice Van Renn (and old Mrs. Van Renn
was paying a call, perhaps, BECAUSE it had been so) excused nothing--
her realization of all these things did not prevent her extreme
boredom with these old ladies, nor her conviction both of sin and
of the exciting drama that life, even when you were over forty,

She was forced now to attend to Violet Bathorne, who was insisting
that she should share in her grievances:

'I know, darling, you LOOK contented enough.  I always think both
you and Fred are MADDENING as far as looks go--but you must realize
what I feel--to be pushed out of the door, practically PUSHED out,
and only because Clara has had this money left her.  No other
reason whatever.  And now she's taking up all these Bolshevik young
men and going to suppers in coal-cellars, and she's written a
letter to Hitler saying that she is of the purest Aryan blood, but
she wants him to understand all the same that she sympathizes with
the Jews and hates anyone so narrow-minded . . . and ONLY because
she had this money left her, and WHY that old man DID leave her the
money no one can understand.  Everyone thinks it VERY fishy, and
I'm really one of her best friends, if she only knew it, always
defending her, and so I told her this morning, and yet she simply
PUSHED me through the door. . . .'

Meg had to pull her mind back as one pulls one's dog when it
has seen another dog.  Clara?  Who was Clara?  Oh, of course,
Clara Merlin who had been left all that money by old Colonel
Woodhouse. . . .

But when at last she answered, 'I haven't seen Clara since . . .'
she found she was confronted with Muriel Hawder.

'But tell me, dear.  I'm sure you went to the first night.  Didn't
you think it STUPID?  All about people at a holiday resort--as
though one cared.  I certainly thought the Hyson girl pretty
sitting on that rock, but Freddie Carlyon was so stupid.  I was
DETERMINED to go on to the "Al Fresco" afterwards, but he said he
had to be in bed early because of polo or something the next
day. . . .  Yes, Touch Wood, that's the play.  Who WANTS to know
how people like that live, although I suppose they do run the
country now and we've GOT to get used to it. . . .'

Meg was used to Muriel Hawder's gabble.  Muriel modelled herself on
the Corleone and had acquired a pitch of voice as ugly and rasping
as a creaking weather-vane.  She spent her days in arranging to be
taken to the theatre and opera by reluctant males.  She would
telephone like the wind through the wallpaper and say:  'Any time
in the next fortnight.  I hear it's SUCH a good play.  You get
seats and we might have supper at the Cosmopolitan after.'

But Meg knew that Mrs. Van Renn was her immediate business.  And
she was.  She said:

'I was so glad to see Fred yesterday afternoon.  He came in for a
cup of tea.  He was looking superb.'

Meg realized several things: that Fred had lied to her, because,
last evening, he had said he had been all day at Epsom, where he
had had a tiresome piece of business.  'Came straight back,' he had
said, kissing her.  She realized also that old Mrs. Van Renn
admired Fred greatly and, had she been a little younger, would have
entered into competition with her own dear Alice.  The battle that,
months ago, on that New Year's Day, had first been joined, was now
all about her ears.  NOT a battle between herself and Fred--she was
sure that nothing could injure THEIR relationship.  But a battle
for her own integrity and purity of soul, for Fred's, for the
possession of this house, for the safety and well-being of the
house, London, England, all that was right and good in the world.
She was not at all dismayed by her sense of peril and apprehension.
She rose to it gladly.  But, all the same, her alarm was real, and
the first thing she would do would be to rid herself of the Three
Witches.  So she rose and pushed the bell.  'Only,' she said,
smiling, 'I've forgotten.  I HAVE to send Caesar with a message.'
It was enough for them.

They all departed.  Muriel Hawder began to Mrs. Van Renn, as she
went out, 'It's a Cochran first night.  The twenty-fourth, I think.
I'm going to see if . . .'  She was already deep in her next

Caesar didn't come, which was as well, for Meg had nothing to tell
him.  He could clear the tea away.  He had been depressed lately.
She must go and see his horrible old mother again.  She sighed.
The house weighed on her head like a ton of coal.  She could
scarcely breathe.  Something was the matter.  And in this house.
It gave her no surprise at all when the door opened and Millie Pake
stood there.

Meg cried out:  'What's the matter?  What is it, Millie?'

'Yes.  Something terrible has happened,' Millie Pake answered.

Millie Pake, earlier on that afternoon, had been turning some
clothes over.  Helen had stayed in bed that day because--well,
because she had not wanted to get up.  More and more now she stayed
in bed, and it was as well, for more and more she lived in the past
(or was it in truth the present if she thought it was?).  Living
thus in one room or another, bed or chair--what did it matter?  In
bed she was warm, for, although now it was June, Helen shivered in
the sitting-room.

She was about to die, as Millie well knew.  A few months more and
she would be gone and Millie would be alone.  Millie had always
been one to face facts, and the one that she faced now was that she
was in excellent bodily health, that she would have two pounds a
week to live on, that she would NEVER live with her brother, that
no one would want her, and that she would miss Helen every minute
of her waking day, that she would probably, thus poor, hungry and
unwanted, live for years.

She was neither sentimental nor despondent at this prospect, but
she WAS a little frightened.  Try as she might she could not
altogether calm her fears.  Suppose the little dividends that still
trickled into her lap ceased altogether?  Suppose her health did
suddenly fail?  After Helen was gone she could not, she knew,
afford to go on living in this flat, although she would like to,
because Helen would be nearer to her here than anywhere else.
Where would she go?  Nothing in the world is such a bore to even
the kindliest people as a very poor, single old lady!  She knew
that there were societies for aiding old gentlepeople, and very
good things they were; but she thought, with an ironic shudder, of
herself receiving some coals or a nice warm blanket at Christmas.

Well, what of it?  She had had really a lovely life, and Jesus
Christ would remain in company with her however poor and tiresome
she was.  She had no patience with the old people in novels who
whined and lamented.  Jesus Christ was often so close to her that
she heard His voice, and it had, often enough, a touch of irony
about it.  He had never had, she fancied, a great deal of use for
lame dogs, nor had she herself.  He would dislike it very much if
she showed any sign of becoming a lame dog, and certainly that was
not what she was going to be.  She had had an Aunt Sybella once
who, in spite of arthritis, a weak heart, and losing all the hair
off her head in a fire, had been, to her ninetieth year, full of
spirit, wit, and scorn for her fellows.  Millie did not scorn her
fellows, but where Aunt Sybella had gone she could follow.

Sitting there now, turning over her dresses, listening for a second
lest Helen should wake and want her, she did wish that she could
buy some new clothes.  She was old and no beauty, but a dark wine-
coloured evening frock she had seen in a Hanover Square window had
filled her with longing and desire.  She had turned these old
dresses again and again, and the grey silk was so familiar that it
was ashamed to look her in the eye.  She stroked it affectionately.
Poor old dress!  Surely one gave the clothes, the furniture of
which one had been for a long time fond, some kind of living,
sentient personality?  No.  That was nonsensical sentiment.  She
was sick of the old dress, and that was the truth.

The mad notion came to her of stealing the wine-coloured dress.  No
good.  She didn't know how to set about it.  How DID you steal
things?  That was the worst of an honourable upbringing, the sort
that she and Helen had received.

Her mouth full of pins, she grinned.  Then she stole to the bedroom
door and saw that Helen was quietly sleeping.  Then she heard a

She had been sitting with the door into the passage, and the door
beyond that, open because the afternoon was close.  Now she fancied
that from the flat below, from the Pullets' flat, there came a

She went into the passage and stood at the hall-door listening.
Imagination.  On an oppressive afternoon like this you fancied
things.  There was no further sound.  All the same she was uneasy.
She could hear the beating of her heart.  The house, in the silence
of the oppressive June afternoon, seemed nevertheless to be full of
noises.  Around and about her beating heart and mingling with it
were rustles and whispers as though boards were creaking, plants
rustling, clocks ticking.  But when she forced herself to hear
BEYOND her heart there was no sound at all.

Nothing had happened.  And yet, as though she had been commanded by
someone stronger than herself, she moved down the stairs.

On the next landing she saw that the flat-door of the Pullets was
ajar.  This was so unusual that her earlier fears were now
confirmed and came running back to her, whispering as they came 'I
told you so.'  Well, it was no affair of hers.  No doubt one or
other of them had but just come in and forgotten to close the door.
At a moment Smoke or Dodie would be there.  (She could hear Dodie's
pleasant warm voice crying, 'Smoke, you idiot, you forgot to close
the door.')  He, or she, would look out into the hall before
closing the door, and then how foolish she, Millie Pake, would
seem, standing there without any reason.

She went back to the stairs, but then no one came.  She waited and
now heard quite clearly, from within the flat, the sharp meticulous
ticking of a clock.  It was, at least, careless of them to leave
the door open.  She went back and knocked on it timidly.  There was
no answer and she knocked again.  Then she rang the bell.  She
heard the bell ring, the clock tick.  For the rest the silence was
intense.  She pushed the door wider.  Suddenly into the outer hall
came the pale Siamese cat that Dodie Pullet had possessed for some
two years--possessed, as she often said laughing, in pretence only.
There was never a cat more unpossessable.  Aloof, unperturbed, this
creature moved like an ironical spirit to the head of the stairs.
Then it turned and looked at Millie with eyes of cold ironical
disdain.  But Millie was not looking at the cat.  On the surface of
the carpet over which the cat had stepped were tiny paw-marks of

Millie did not, if life gave her a crisis to deal with, fear or
hesitate, but for a moment the lower staircase swung up at her,
suspending the cat as though it would hurl it into space.  A second
later all was solid and material.  She walked into the sitting-
room.  The bedroom door was wide open.  First she saw the
reflection in the long deep mirror that stood opposite the bed.  In
the mirror was the bed's width, the fresh piled pillows, and Smoke
in his pyjamas, sloping over the bed, the upper part of his body
hanging towards the floor.  From his chest blood was dripping, and
she saw quite clearly in the mirror the tiny cat-marks proceeding
from the blood-pool on the carpet to the door.

She turned to the reality, saw the revolver on the floor, the
crimson bedroom slippers on his feet, and the signet ring on his
finger shining in the sunlight that poured in from the bedroom

'Oh, poor, poor Smoke!' she said aloud, facing her own reflection
in the mirror.  Instinctively she made no movement.  She knew that
he was dead.  She knew at once that she must disturb nothing
because of the police.  She saw that there was a letter on the
table beside the bed.

Where was Dodie and what must she, Millie, immediately do?  It
might be hours before Dodie returned; she must find out at once
where Dodie was so that she might telephone to her.  She went back
into the sitting-room and discovered then that her legs were weak
beneath her.  She sat down on the sofa and looked about her at the
metallic furniture, the black and white decoration, and a large
cluster of silver-tinsel branches and leaves in a high white vase.

'Oh, poor, poor Smoke!' she thought again and found that she was
crying, tears rolling down her dry cheeks.  She did not attempt to
stay them but only sat there, clasping and unclasping her hands.
Where was Dodie?  She MUST be found.  She got up then and moved
about, looking if she might find some engagement-book or pad.  But
the room was icily bare.  Not a thing about, only in a corner near
the window a very modern basket made of twisted white wood,
cushioned in black--the home of the Siamese cat.  Then, like a
knife cutting paper, there were voices.  A moment later Dodie and
Patrick Munden stood in the room.

'Why, Millie--'  Dodie stopped.  'But where's--'

Millie said, 'Wait.'  She rubbed her wet cheek with the knuckles of
her hand.

'But where's--' Dodie said, and moved towards the open bedroom

Millie put her hand on her sleeve.

'No, don't. . . .  Smoke's hurt.  Don't go in for a moment.'

But Munden strode past them both.  For a moment he disappeared.
Then he returned, closed the bedroom door and stood with his back
to it.  He looked Dodie straight in the face.

'Smoke has shot himself.  He's dead.'

Dodie moved towards the door.

'No, you're not to go in.  Not yet.'

She was furious.  'Of course I am!  Do you think I'm a child?'
Then she said what Millie had said:  'Oh, poor, poor Smoke!'

But Munden didn't move.

'No. . . .  Wait . . . until the doctor's been.'

'Oh, the doctor!' Millie cried.  'Doctor Roach. . . .'  She went
across to the telephone.

Dodie spoke like a man.  'Get out of it,' she said to Munden.
'This isn't YOUR affair.'

Munden let her pass.  He stood looking in front of him while Millie

'Yes, Doctor Roach, please. . . .  This is Lady Mildred Pake. . . .
Oh, is that you, Doctor Roach?  Could you come at once to . . .'
She moved away from the telephone, saying to no one in particular:
'He will be here almost at once.'

Dodie was in the room again and said:  'No one is to touch
anything.  The police will have to come.'  Then looking at Munden
she said (she was holding in her hand a sheet of notepaper):  'This
is what he says:

'DARLING--For a long time I've thought I would be better out of
your way.  I know you're fond of me and I thank God for it.  I know
you're in love with someone else too.  And I know I'm useless and
an encumbrance.  I'm perfectly sane as I write this and quite happy--
sane enough to fancy I may be given a chance somewhere else.  If
I'd had some brains I might have got somewhere, but in this new
world you're quite useless without brains.  Perhaps where I'm going
they'll give me some brains.  Remember, darling, I'm quite sane and
quite happy.

                                        'Your devoted


'They'd like to read this at the Coroner's inquest,' Dodie said.
'But they won't.  And no one's to tell them.  Do you understand?'
she said, looking at Munden.  She tore the paper into tiny pieces.

'I shan't tell them,' Munden said.

She bent down and picked up the fragments of paper.  She went back
into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

'We're in love, but we're not lovers,' Munden said in a dull,
almost sullen voice to Millie.  Millie said:  'I ought to go in
there to her.'

'No.  Leave her alone.  Poor Smoke!  What a hell of a life!'

'It's not my business,' Millie said.  'Why didn't you--'

'Why didn't I leave her alone?  Because life's a mess, a silly
blasted mess.  My love for her is the only decent thing I've got.
And it wouldn't have made any difference.  Smoke's better dead, and
so would millions alive to-day be.'

Millie shook her head.  'Of course I don't think so.  But I DO
think Smoke will be happier where he is.'

Munden glared at her.  'That rot!'  Then he lowered his head almost
as though he were praying.  He raised it again.  'Please forgive
me.  I don't mean to be rude.  All that seems nonsense to me. . . .'

Millie said:  'I think you don't see far enough.  You must see a
very long way.  I don't think death's very important, and perhaps
you'll find that out now you're in love. . . .'  She gave a little
anxious movement.  'I don't like her being alone in there.'

He answered:  'She's wise.  She's sane.  She'll let no one help her
either now or ever.  Smoke was the weak one.  Men ARE, these days,
compared with women.'

Millie turned her head away.  In spite of herself she was crying
again and she didn't want this fierce young man to see her
weakness.  To her great surprise he put his arm around her and led
her back to the sofa.

'Sit down.  It must have been an awful shock to you.  I was fond of
Smoke too, you know, and yet I can't help loving Dodie.'  He patted
her shoulder as though he were her mother.

Doctor Roach came in.  They told him what had happened and he went
into the bedroom.

Millie thought, 'I must tell Meg.'



Little Brun was one of those who dined with the Corleone before the
Duchess of Wrexe's ball.  'Little' was indeed the word for him now,
poor man.  The neat, dapper, inquisitive recorder of 1900 was now
in 1934 shrivelled, meagre and wan.  Only his sharp little eyes and
the Legion of Honour in his buttonhole had colour.  What was his
age now?  Anything from seventy to ninety.  No one cared.  His own
world was gone, shrivelled like himself to nothing.  He detested
and despised this present one.  His old weaknesses, that he loved
good food, good wine, malicious gossip, were in evidence to-day as
forty years ago, for he disliked and despised his hostess and
should not therefore be accepting her hospitality.  But he was
present once more to assure himself of the end of all things and
especially of England.  NOT of English Society--THAT had gone long
ago--but of England herself as a power and a glory.  This might
once have saddened him, for he had always loved England, but he was
now altogether beyond any emotion save a rather greedy bitterness.
His stomach was still in good order and so he could enjoy
Corleone's excellent food.  But the conversation!  As he sat there
he thought of the great ladies of the London pre-War world--Lady
Ripon, Mrs. Keppel, Lady St. Helier, Mrs. Willie James--and he
blushed for this yellow-haired chattering monkey, and the world
that tolerated her.  Corleone, the widow of an Italian nobleman,
talked much of her adopted country.  She had still a palace in
Venice, with a Veronese, a Tintoretto, and a handsome gondolier.
She screamed, she laughed, and once and again her small pale eyes
had a look of frightened appeal.  Some young friend of hers had
written a wonderful novel about the miners in Wales.

Brun interrupted.  'You should read Germinal.  Oh, I know no one
ever THINKS of Zola now.  All the same it's a great work, terrible,
dark, underground.  A marvellous prophecy, too.  These young men,
what do they know about miners?'

But no one paid him any kind of attention.  The ladies on either
side of him talked across him.  They were laughing at the young
Duchess, whose Ball they were attending.  The girl's old mother,
they said, was a terror.  Brun thought of HIS old Duchess all those
years ago!  Had she entered the room at this moment!  Oh, but
didn't he wish she could!

At one remove from him was sitting Larry Delaney, an amusing fellow
whom he had known idly for years in London.  Delaney seemed to Brun
prophetic of a coming return to absolute barter--'Give me shoes; I
give you shaving-cream.'  Only, while the world still had a real
possession or two, Delaney dealt in Louis XIV beds and Tang horses
and Venetian shell-back chairs.  Delaney was a common coarse
fellow, but Brun liked him for his irony and good spirits.  He was
vulgar, greedy, selfish, but he was perceptive.  His voice was
raised a little now and he was talking about his brother:

'Fred? . . .  Why, yes, Princess, you can see him to-night if you
wish to.  He'll be there WITH all the family.'

'You always speak contemptuously of your brother,' Corleone said.
'_I_ think he's charming.  He doesn't rob us as you do.  I wish I
saw him more often!'

'Rob you!  No!' Larry said, laughing.  He regarded his hostess with
bold impudent eyes.  He had no respect for her.  He knew her
greediness too well.  'Fred would rob nobody.  He is altogether
honest.  Perhaps that's why we patronize him, for we all do.  That
and his happiness.  His whole family are happy always.'

'Impossible,' said Captain Merivale Basting, a pink-faced, good-
natured imbecile whom Larry despised because he insisted on his War
courtesy-title.  'No one is happy always.'

'Ah,' said Corleone.  'That is his wife--the big fat blowzy woman--
forgive me, Delaney--your sister-in-law--but of COURSE she is
happy.  She is religious and does not think about diet.  She talked
to me at some cocktails somewhere once about Jesus Christ--as
though He were in the room, I mean.'

Delaney was irritated.  After all, Meg WAS his sister-in-law and a
damned fine woman.  But he grinned friendlily, for always, one must
remember, there were things to buy and sell.  He had drunk good
wine, however, and was impatient with the stupid women on either
side of him (also he detested the rosy cheeks of the 'Captain'), so
he lost some of his caution.  He leaned forward, turning his
smiling buccaneer face upon all of them.  'But they ARE happy, my
brother's family,' he said.  'And it isn't only Freudian or a kind
of clever hypocrisy either.  It's quite real and comes from real
causes.  I'd say it's because they all four of them take long views
and are devoted to one another--really love one another, you know.
What I mean is that they aren't frightened by every little thing
that turns up, as most people are these days.  They take a long
view.  After all, if they do lose their money or get cancer or a
war comes--well, history's a long time making!'

'It's all very well if you've plenty of money,' Miss Nancy Mohun, a
girl as beautiful as she was sincere, as sincere as she was stupid,

'But they haven't,' Delaney went on.  'They have very little
indeed.  They take in lodgers.'

'Family love,' Corleone said.  'How appalling!'

'Yes, I know,' Delaney answered good-humouredly.  'That's why we
all patronize them.  I myself think them very tiresome often
enough.  All the same, they're the best people I know anywhere.'
And so much for you, you old bitch, he thought, enjoying the bombe
surprise, and wondering whether Miss Mohun were really a virgin, as
gossip sarcastically reported.

'All very old and stale,' Brun thought.  'Stale and old.  Old and

The dining-room was, in the fashion of that year, entirely white:
white curtains, white table and chairs, flowers made of white silk
in the white vases.  The women moved and their sheathed bodies,
crimson, gold, silver, white, black, were like echoes from the
movements of a dance that had once been fresh and exciting.

'It's all lost its spring,' Brun said, as though to himself.

Delaney answered.  'There's still a lot of fun going.'

'I suppose so.  I'm very, very old.  Never felt older than to-

'Wait till we move on.'

'Ah, move on!  I've seen some balls in my time.  This one--'

'Different, of course,' Delaney said.  'Not so grand.  Possibly
more lively.  Grand in its own way too.  As I see it, this is a
more real world, this new one.'

'There IS a new one, then--not only the pale corpse of the old?'

'Why, of course.'  Delaney laughed.  'Only it's rough, hazardous,
cynical like all new worlds.'

'I thought new worlds were young, idealistic, full of hope.'

Delaney grinned.  'Don't you believe it.  New Athens, the
Renaissance in Florence, Elizabethan England, America in 1790.
Fierce, vulgar, scornful.'

'I'm tired,' was all Brun said.  'I've seen so many new worlds in
the last twenty years.'

They all moved on, crowding into the motors, slipping away through
a flare of light, cries and voices, pools of darkness, and at last
into the wide, rather pathetic emptiness of Portland Place.

There was a broad red carpet and a crowd of feminine faces, hoping
that from one car at least some film star would emerge.  No, but to-
night there would be Royalty, so the crowd grew and grew.  A sleek
black cat ran, furtively, before the policeman could prevent it,
across the strip of red carpet.

Brun moved up the steps into the hall.  He waited for their party
to assemble and, looking back through the open door, saw the London
night sky pale blue and tender like a beneficence.  He was very
soon to die and, once again as so often before, asked himself why
these moments of such perfect beauty should occur, or rather why
he, nothing, the child of nothing, destined for nothing, as he so
firmly believed, should have so deep a perception of beauty.  There
had been perhaps no period in the world's history so altogether
pagan as this present one--and yet religion would undoubtedly
return in one form or another.  Man could not live without it--
childish, brave, pathetic man.  One intensely brilliant star
glittered above where Broadcasting House so confidently had planted
itself, and the London hush, ancient gentleness, ran like a sleepy
flood about men's feet.

'There they are,' Larry Delaney's voice said at his side.  'My
family, I mean'--and little Brun, for some no-reason, remembered
how, in this same house, all those years ago, he had greeted Rachel
Beaminster and wondered what her life would be.

Meg Delaney, radiant, excited as a child at a circus, came sailing
up the steps, followed by Fred, Kitty, Bullock and little Lizzie
Coventry.  Through Connie Beaminster she had obtained invitations
for Lizzie and the Graham Penders.  The great question had been--
could Lizzie be made to look old enough?  But Lizzie had reassured
them.  Her hair had been pulled back and fell to a little roll of
curls that crowned her pale thin neck and shoulders.  She wore a
white dress with a rather long skirt, and over her bosom a thin
gold chain of coins curiously cut.  This, she said, had been given
her father by a lady in Dubrovnik for some service he had rendered.

She looked young, certainly, but not a child.  Her face was as
serious, Bullock told her, as though she were going to be married.

Larry introduced them all to Brun.  Brun looked at Meg with
curiosity.  So this was the happy blowzy lady who was so frankly a
Christian!  She was certainly not blowzy to-night.  She carried
herself magnificently.  In her black hair was a small tiara of
diamonds.  Her dress, he thought, was of a rich deep purple with a
short train.  She reminded him, yes, more than anyone he had seen
for a long time, of the ladies of his youth.  Not that she was old-
fashioned; her gaze was clear, unhypocritical, courageous.  Her
large dark eyes sparkled with the anticipation of pleasure.

'I came as a child here once,' she told him, 'with my father to tea
with the old Duchess--and wasn't I frightened!  I'll never forget
that old woman sitting by the fire at the end of the long drawing-
room, and we had to walk all that long way.  I thought my drawers
were coming down.  There was a big grey Persian cat, I remember,
and little marzipan cakes.'

Little Brun asked her about her father.  He had known him well.
'This is the child of that old scoundrel,' he thought.

'And poor Rachel Breton.  Of course she was years older than me.
But how I used to admire her!  It was her Russian blood, I suppose,
made her seem so romantic.  Ah, dear me--I was dreadfully
sentimental then--am still for that matter!'

As usual Meg had been standing there talking in people's way when
they should have been moving like sheep and goats, men one way,
women another.  Kitty felt one of those momentary impulses of
wishing her mother were different, MORE conscious of what other
people were doing.

'Come along, Mother.  We're holding everything up.'

'Are we, dear? . . .  Well, Mr. Brun, we'll be having a talk later,
won't we?  Where are we all?  Lizzie, come with me, dear.'

Two minutes later they all met again and began, with so many
others, to climb the great stairs.

The young Duchess knew well enough what everyone was thinking.  She
had not been married long enough to make many friends.  In her own
country town there had always been a plentiful supply of cats and
monkeys.  After all, London was only a larger town.  In any case
she could not be unhappy nor alarmed, because her husband, who
loved her so much, was standing beside her and seeing her through
everything.  Looking down the staircase at the figures pressing up
towards her, the men magnificent with their orders, the women as
beautiful as once, in Cherry Minton, her small town, she had
imagined that in fairyland they would be, it had the quality of
dream, of nowhereness, of perception and touch and hearing being
all at the mercy of the stroke from a clock as Cinderella once
found it. . . .  She was shaking hands with the Prime Minister, who
was exactly like the Cherry Minton doctor, and, in spite of the
decorations and evening clothes he was wearing, there was surely a
pipe in his mouth and the clothes covering his sturdy body were of
the rather faded pepper-and-salt that old Doctor Warnsley never
varied for twenty years.  Looking into one of the kindest, most
trustworthy faces in the world, she grinned, just as once she had
done when Doctor Warnsley asked her to put out her tongue.

'Balls in general,' Mr. Baldwin said to her, 'are a weariness of
the flesh to me.  But not this one. . . .  How are you, Wrexe?'

Mrs. Baldwin gave her a very motherly look, taking everything in
and deciding immediately what to do about it.

People are saying, the Duchess thought to herself:  'She's not bad-
looking.  Holds herself quite well.  Must seem funny to her after
the life she's led.'

She remembered how her husband, kissing her in his dressing-room
that evening, had said to her:  'One day we'll go to Cettinje.
That Dalmatian coast's lovely.  In Cettinje there's the old
Montenegrin palace, shown to tourists, ten dinars a time.  Most
melancholy place you ever saw--hideous furniture, and hundreds and
hundreds of family photos, Victoria's family--all of them, German,
Italian, Greek, Russian, Montenegrin.  Lots of the two poor
Russians.  All so grand, in groups, in every kind of uniform, the
ladies in immense hats--all so grand, so commanding, so powerful.
Now all dead--many of them murdered.  None of them mattering a
damn.  There are some nice people in London you'll make friends
with.  We'll laugh at the others--together.'

But she didn't feel inclined to laugh as she saw them coming up the
staircase.  She felt a great tenderness--but then she was very
young and, as yet, not at all cynical.

Meg, with her husband, sailed into the grand ballroom like the
queen of some gipsy kingdom that despised its neighbour, Ruritania,
for insipidity.  She would indeed have made the late lamented
Flavia look like one of those white silk flowers in Corleone's
dining-room.  Meg sometimes read books by very clever men who
poured contempt upon parties.  This she always thought MUST be a
pose.  For who could but adore parties?  And a ball like this one?
She was ageing.  Her vitality would go, her zest, her sense of fun.
This might be her last great ball.  So--she would savour every
slightest tang of it!  But, more than this, she was in her own
absolute world.  Were Fred, poor dear, a millionaire, instead of
penniless, she--Meg--could give a ball that would astonish London.
And yet there was something here that the house itself, so
triumphantly aware of its own past history, gave, something that no
one could imitate.  It was not the portraits of dead Beaminsters--
Lely and Van Dyck and Reynolds and Gainsborough--gazing perhaps
rather apprehensively from the walls--apprehensive because
ancestors to-day were worth nothing except for the prices they
might fetch at Christie's--nor the superb crystal chandeliers, nor
the splendid Adam fireplace--possessions, however beautiful, do not
give England and London their quality--but rather the certainty,
arrogance, defiance of time, that the building and the human beings
moving with it asserted.

All sailed along together.  The quality that made Englishmen so
rightly hated, but that should also have made them trusted--the
simple, childlike certainty of permanent survival and unchallenged
superiority.  Was that great quality to end now?  Was England's
contribution to the little adventures of this pigmy star concluded?
Meg at least did not think so, for to her it was like coming home
to a family gathering after a long exile.  Whatever form the future
world might take, there would still surely somewhere be this
English calm, this English arrogance of common sense.  She and Fred
and Kitty knew everyone, and danced, laughed, chattered almost, as
Larry ironically observed, as though it were a Delaney party.
Bullock never left Lizzie's side.  But there was one thing that
didn't occur to Larry, something that, behind the scene, never left
the Delaney consciousness for a moment--Smoke Pullet's suicide.

We are all aware of those events that bring us quite suddenly into
a new reality, a world of experience that makes our everyday world
as thin as a Japanese wall.  Before the new experience we alter our
scale of values and climb into a fresh comprehension of existence.
For the moment only.  The force of the event slackens.  It is not,
unless there is a world catastrophe, repeated.  It thins to the
shadow of a skeleton on the ceiling.  But we are changed.

Smoke's death had so affected the Delaneys.  For Meg at least it
was something towards which she had for a long time been moving.
There had always been something 'fatal' about Smoke, and with that
ill-omen of his personality the house too had been stained.  She
believed, being simple and old-fashioned, very definitely in the
powers of evil, and in fact welcomed the conviction that life was a
battle.  She had been sure, ever since that New Year's Day when her
brother-in-law and Alice Van Renn had appeared in the doorway, that
this year 1934 would be 'the very devil of a battle'--for herself,
for Fred, for the house.  Through the spring she had been preparing
to meet it; now, with Smoke's pistol-shot, the fight was really
engaged.  She was sensible.  She did not feel it a great tragedy
either for Smoke or Dodie.  But she had liked him, been deeply
sorry for him.  His death had thrown an atmosphere of ill-omen over
the house, the flat was empty, she fancied that people looked at
herself and Fred as though they might have prevented it--and there
was, she was certain, worse to come.

So that, perversely, she intended to enjoy this ball with all her
might.  Who knew but that, within a month or two, she and Fred
might be out on the street?'  Who knows but the world may end to-

She was sorry for poor Smoke, for Dodie, for Patrick Munden, for
all and everybody, but life was larger and longer than personal
misfortune, and God meant you to enjoy the delightful things as
they turned up.  This was one of the delightful things.

She had a word with Royalty and talked and danced with all sorts.
In spite of her weight and size she danced beautifully and with so
great a spirit of enjoyment that it was a delight to watch her.
Young Rawdon Temple languidly commended her:  'You know, Mrs.
Delaney, you look as though you hadn't a trouble in the world.'

'Do I?  That's odd--because I have a number.'

Temple was a tall, very thin young man, in the best society because
he had married a scion of the house of Wintersmoon, but famous in
certain circles too because he wrote the longest possible poems on
the tiniest possible objects.  There was his epic, 'The Snail's
Journey,' and a vast unfinished poem, 'The Flea's Chronicle.'  He
took himself as Munden took himself, very seriously, but they
represented the two opposed worlds.  Meanwhile, perhaps because he
wrote so much, he spoke as little as possible, and when he did
speak it was with the air of despatching from Heaven a few grains
of manna upon the starving Israelites.  Meg found him exquisitely

'How's your poem about the frog getting on, Mr. Temple?' she asked
him.  He looked at her, but there was no mockery in her innocent
gaze.  So she was just a fool.

'Very well,' he answered her kindly.

Her next partner gave her one of the real shocks of her life.  This
was Colonel Robert Beaminster, first cousin of the present Duke, a
handsome kindly man, some forty years of age, more than a
distinguished soldier because he was interested in the arts and had
a little house, filled with beautiful things, in Wiltshire near
Wintersmoon.  When they had danced a little while, he said:  'Mrs.
Delaney, do you think Fred and yourself would object if I asked
Kitty to marry me?'

'Kitty!'  Meg stopped where she was.  He gently urged her on again.

'Yes--why not?'

'But you scarcely know her!'

'Oh, but I do.  I've met her numbers of times, especially lately.
Of course I'm old.  I know that.  Nearly twenty years too old.
I've been in love before, of course, but never like this.  I fancy
myself young for my years.  I--'

'But has SHE any idea?'

'Not the slightest.  We're friends though, I think.  I've money
enough and, so far as I know, no ruinous habits.  I'm not terribly
set in my ways although I've been a bachelor so long.  I'm old
enough to be sure.  I love her, body and soul, as they used to say
in the old romances.'

Meg smiled, a divine, maternal, infantile smile.  Oh! if Kitty
could or would!  It would be the loveliest, most perfect thing!  Of
course he WAS older, but Kitty was mature, not one of these chicken-
headed, idiotic girl-babies.

'Object?  No, of course not.  But it's absolutely for Kitty to

'Yes, of course.'

Meg stopped.

'Wait a minute.  I can't dance any more.  Let's sit here.'

They sat down.

'Since when have you thought of this?'

'Oh, for some time.  I loved her at sight, I think--about a year
ago.  Do you . . . does she like me, do you think?'

'I can't tell, of course.  To be quite honest, she's never
mentioned you to me.'

'No--she'll have to get used to the idea.  I don't mind how long I
wait.'  He jumped up.  'As a matter of fact, since you say it's all
right I'm going to ask her now.  She said that the next dance
should be mine.'

Kitty was approaching them.  Beaminster said to her:  'Do you mind
if we don't dance this, Kitty?'

'No, of course not.  I've been dancing a lot.  Are you all right,

'Perfectly all right, darling.'

Beaminster led her off.  He took her out of the ballroom, up some
stairs, into a little quiet room that contained only one picture.
Beaminster closed the door and they sat down.  The music came to
them faintly like the refrain of a river.

'Look at that,' Beaminster said.  'It's my favourite picture in the
house.  It's by Tintoretto and is a study for the big Manna picture
in Venice.'

'Yes.  It's beautiful,' said Kitty.

'I should think it is.  Look at those blues and silvers and the
deep red of that woman's dress.  And see how active everyone is.
In Tintoretto's pictures everyone is doing something urgently.
That woman bending down to pick up the manna, holding the baby
by one hand. . . .  The interesting thing is that El Greco came
to Italy as a very young man and was greatly influenced by
Tintoretto.  You can see it--the long extended bodies, the opulence
of some of the figures, a sense of light and thunder, the dramatic
intensity . . .'

He suddenly took her hand.

'Kitty, I want you to marry me.'

She sat there staring in front of her.  Then she turned and looked
at him incredulously.

His hand trembled on hers.

'Yes.  Don't be surprised.  Although of course you must be.  Think
it over.  Get used to it.'  Then, holding her hand more tightly, he
went on urgently.  'It's a new idea to you, but I think I fell in
love with you a year ago.  The very first meeting.  There was a
kind of quiet happiness about you. . . .  I've been in love before,
but never like this.  I was engaged once, but we both found it
wouldn't do, and so this time I've waited a year.  Of course I'm
forty.  You may think that makes it impossible.  But it doesn't.
I'm very strong, perfectly healthy.  Our children would be thirty
or more before I'd be anything like an old man.'  His voice

She was incredibly touched when she saw that his eyes were full of
tears.  She looked at him gravely as though she wanted him to
realize how greatly she felt honoured.  But she shook her head.

'How kind you are and good!  I like you so much.  But it's
impossible, I'm afraid--and must always be.'

'I expected you to say that.  I knew you must.  You must think it
over.  See me a little.  Get to know me.  I don't mind how long I

It had never remotely approached her--the idea that he loved her.
He had been only one of a number of nice men she knew in London.
Thrice before men had asked her to marry them, but on each occasion
she had known that the proposal was coming.

But the queerest thing of all, she thought, as she stared at the
woman in the red dress bending down to pick up the manna, is that,
six months ago, I might have accepted him.  He is charming.  I
might have grown to love him.  Mother and father would be
delighted.  Everything is right about it except possibly his age,
but I had always, until lately, liked men older than he is.  And
now what prevents me?  It could not be a young man in a curiosity
shop, nor that shop itself (the strange name Zanti going on through
the years--Spain, Cornwall, London, although of course she knew
nothing of this), nor a picture in a shop window, nor a wall
beautifully decorated, nor the crude paintings of a man laughing
up at her from his couch--none of these things, all of these
things . . . simply a new world of which she was now citizen, a
world to which Robert Beaminster could never, never belong.

He went on:  'I don't want to pay compliments, but you are
different from anyone I've ever known.  Life is such a mix-up,
isn't it?  The kind of confusion that Shakespeare and Keats felt.
So much nastiness--our bodies, our thoughts, our mean shabby acts.
I don't understand any of it.  Who does?  The moment I saw you I
felt that there was no confusion--you were someone to live by.  You
moved so quietly and honestly--'

She broke in:  'Please!  You're altogether wrong about me.  I'm
terribly ordinary--not even HALF educated.  I'm nothing yet at all--
I've got everything to do, to learn.'

'We'd learn together.'

She shook her head again.

'No.  I want you to realize WHY it's impossible.  Six months ago I
had no idea of anything.  I had my home and my friends.  I went
about like any other un-ideaed girl.  I'd read nothing, seen
nothing, thought nothing.  Then little things happened, apparently
unconnected.  I met someone, I saw a picture somewhere . . .'  She
smiled at the question in his eyes.  'No.  I'm not in love.  Or I
think not.  But I do realize now, as I didn't a little time ago,
that there's a world of experience waiting for me that I must
accept.  If I don't I miss everything.  I suppose that's true of
everyone--only perhaps I shall never see it so clearly again.
Things cloud over, I expect, as one gets older.'

'And I'm not in that world of experience?  I could never be?'

'So it seems to me now.'

He took his hand from hers and got up.  He stood, looking down at
her with a gaze of great wisdom and tenderness.

'I know what you mean.  You've been very honest with me--only--as
you go on, this world may merge into another.  That's what happens.
I'll wait.'

'You know,' she said, half between laughter and tears, 'in old
novels they always said:  "But we can be friends, can't we?"  I
mean that I want a good friend very badly.'

He gave her his hand and pulled her to her feet.

'Friends always.  There's nothing I won't do.'

They went out and down the stairs.  At the end of the ballroom she
found her uncle Larry.  Beaminster left them together.

'Let's sit down here and watch everybody,' Larry said.  'He's been
showing you the Tintoretto.  I don't think it's genuine.  Probably
by a pupil.  Lots of his big pictures are only partly by himself.
He worked at such a pace.  "Last Suppers," you know, for Venetian
churches at extravagant prices.  Old Beaminster's a good sort but
an awful sentimentalist.  Wonder why he's never married.'

Kitty liked her uncle but didn't, at that moment, wish him to throw
his cynical regard on either Tintoretto or Robert Beaminster.  She
wanted him to talk, so that, under the protection of it, she might
recover her own proper self-control.  It had been her self-
discovery, not Beaminster's proposal, that had excited her so
strangely.  She WAS moving into a new world.  What HADN'T life now
to offer her?  It was as though she were seeing things with a
double vision--intensified realization and intensified imagination
both together.

'Now--tell me things about people.'

The Three Witches were quite close to them: Mrs. Van Renn, Mrs.
Bathorne, Lady Perivale-Hawder.  They were sitting on a little gilt
sofa, their heads close together as though they were muttering
spells.  The great room now, under a haze of soft light, magically
formed the colours, the decorations of the men, the dark-light
intermingling of rose and black, white and silver and malachite,
into a ballet symmetry moving, it seemed, to some inevitable
climax.  Larry went on talking.

'It's perhaps the LAST great London ball.  No, of course it ISN'T,
but one has a kind of Brussels-before-Waterloo feeling, hasn't one?
England's being so fine and noble.  She doesn't want ANYTHING from
ANYBODY.  Why WILL other countries be so selfish and grasping?
Well, of course, she doesn't because she's GOT everything.  For
years and years she's had the world in her pocket.  But the world's
in her pocket no longer.  Everyone thinks now they'll have a little
bit of what England's got.  How's she going to deal with it?  Give
up a bit here and a bit there or try to keep the lot?  Don't you
think the bright young things of the 'Twenties look a bit silly now
we're in the 'Thirties?  There's Bertie Colton still thinking he's
a bright young thing.  He gave a grand party last week in the
country and everyone had to come as a vegetable.  Nancy Eldon he's
dancing with, went as a cauliflower and was a huge success.
There's young Brinsley--he's run through twenty thousand in five
years.  Funny thing is he's a very nice chap.  Who's that elderly
elegant your mother's dancing with?'

'That's Sir Graham Pender,' Kitty said.

'Never heard of him.'

'No.  He was a flame of mother's when they were young.  He's been
abroad all his life.'

'They've stopped.  They are coming towards us.  Who's the
missionary female they're talking to?'

'That's Lady Pender, Sir Graham's wife.'

'Meg looks as though she's up to some mischief.  I know that look.'

Some young man was approaching Kitty with a proprietary air.  Larry
got up.

'I must be moving.  I've some business to do--to persuade Lucile
Mounsey to sell those tapestries of hers.'

Kitty agreed to have the next dance with the elegant young man who,
looking at her with appreciation, said:  'Thought I'd only look in
for a moment.  Never stay at a dance long, you know.  Have
something to drink and then move on.  But this is a bit different,
don't you think?  Glamour and all that sort of thing.'

Kitty suddenly thought of Smoke Pullet.  Why?  She saw him as at
the last time she had spoken to him--Smoke coming down the stairs
of the Charles Street house.

'How are you, Smoke?' she had asked him gaily.

He had smiled, his charming, lonely, friendly smile.

'You know what, Kitty,' he had said.  'For the first time in my
life I've got a job I like.'

She was delighted.  'Oh, I'm SO glad, Smoke.  That's grand.'

He had paused at the door.

'It's not a job anyone else would like much, though,' he had said
and went out into the street.  Next day he had killed himself.

But Smoke's death, after she had recovered from the first shock,
hadn't saddened her.  That was strange because she had been fond of
him.  Her own death--if she knew, for certain, that within three
hours from now she would be dead--would neither sadden nor frighten
her.  She knew, as she moved off with the elegant young man, that
she was too profoundly sure at this moment of her vitality for
death to be anything but the ghost of an event.  REAL events had
quite another shape and form.

'Quite a decent band, don't you think?' the young man said.

It would be absurd to pretend that Meg Delaney had not often in
life acted foolishly.  She knew very well her own danger-point.
Her recklessness was roused always by something that her father's
blood gave her.  'If I don't have this piece of fun now I may never
have it.'  Life was for her at times translated into a kind of
fairy-tale, she was the fairy princess hitherto disguised as a
beggar maid, and the fairy prince had just asked her to marry him.
Would she not be an idiot indeed if she did not accept?  So it had
been when at the age of fifteen she had run away from Cannes and
spent the night quite innocently with the young son of the Bishop
of Dorlinton.  So it had been when, aged twenty or so, after dinner
at Madame de Florac's, she had gambled all her jewels, her dog
Gisel and her maid Eva away to Mrs. La Tone.  So it had been when,
after Graham Pender had gone to China and she was feeling very
lonely, she had engaged herself to an acrobat at the Tivoli music-
hall, resisted his attempts on her virtue, and was only saved by
his arrest on the Saturday evening for the attempted knifing of
another acrobat.

To-night she quite suddenly threw all her bonnets over all the
windmills.  She said to Graham Pender, as they were finishing their

'Yes, Graham, I will. . . .  I'll come for a weekend somewhere.
It's wrong.  It's wicked.  We are both too old for it to be
anything but ludicrous.  And yet it isn't. . . .  I shall tell Fred

She was looking lovely and incredibly young.  It was her colour
that was so perfect, the colour still of a girl, the darkness of
her hair lit by the diamonds, her carriage superb.

He only said, 'I'm in luck to-night, Meg--the happiest of my life,'
left her with a little bow, and they did not meet again that

She had immediately afterwards the strangest conversation with Lady
Pender, a conversation that should have shamed her dreadfully, but,
as this is a truthful story, it has to be confessed that it did
not.  She had detested all her life to hurt or distress anybody.
In all her escapades it had only been herself that she had ever
harmed.  She was now contemplating something cruel and unkind, but
her recklessness, caused partly by Smoke's death, partly by a
desperate sense that she was in for trouble anyhow, partly by the
force and maternal tenderness of her feeling for Graham, partly by
the excitement of this night and the sense that there was intrigue
going on everywhere up and down, in and out of this Ball, and
partly by her old child-persisting complex of loving to climb a
dangerous tree because some other child had dared her to do it, her
recklessness made the world about her seem iridescent, a little
drunken, a little mad, a great deal doomed:  'Who knows but the
world may end to-night?'

And so, because she was intending to do Evelyn Pender the greatest
hurt in the world, Meg felt towards her a kindness, beneficence,
generosity, that was altogether a new element in her relation to
the Penders.

They sat down together and watched the scene.  Really, HOW queer a
creature was Evelyn Pender!  Was there no one to tell her ANYTHING
about clothes?  What had induced her to wear that queer green
turban-like thing on her head, that Venetian coral necklace?  Too
much make-up was bad, but how powerfully a little rouge and powder
rightly applied would help that tight pale mouth and those bony

Meg said:  'It's a lovely ball, isn't it?'

Evelyn Pender looked straight in front of her, her long, stiff,
slightly freckled hands clasped together on her lap.

'You know,' she unexpectedly said, 'it's you that ought to have
married Graham, not I.  Why didn't you?'

'He went away and left me,' Meg said, laughing.

'Are you sorry now?'

'Lord, no!  I wouldn't be married to anyone but Fred in the world.'

'You love him very much?'

'I adore him.'

'Then,' Evelyn Pender said, turning round and fixing her with her
grey eyes, 'he doesn't mind your flirting with Graham?'

'Do YOU mind?' Meg asked her.

'I don't know.  I can see that it's perfectly natural.  Graham's
terribly in love with you.  I do hope you won't make him unhappy.'

Meg nodded her head.  'We mustn't be unhappy, any of us.  We
needn't be if we're sensible.  I love my husband first, last and
all the time.  No one counts for me beside him.  Graham knows that.
Do you hate me, Evelyn?  Am I making you unhappy?'

Lady Pender was a long time answering.

'No.  As long as Graham is happy.  He was never in love with me,
but he has come to rely on me, to like to have me there--and I
think that, plain and unattractive as I am, I'm lucky to have been
given a man as attractive as Graham to feel like that about me.
I've always thought that some other woman would turn up.  No one
has until now, and it may be it's as well that it's someone who HAS
other ties as strong as yours are.  I don't trust you, but somehow
I'm not afraid of you.  I rather like you.  I can't help it.  But
don't make him unhappy.  Don't go a long way with Graham and then
drop him.'

'I don't trust myself,' Meg said.  'I never have.  But I promise
you that if things get difficult I'll come and ask your help and
advice.  And I won't hurt Graham--I promise that too.'

Then Evelyn Pender looked quite sentimental.  But it wasn't Meg
that caused it.

'There's only one thing I'd like to-night,' she said.  'And that is
to look at Mr. Baldwin.  I do admire him so.  Do you think, if he's
still here, we could . . .?'

'We'll go and find him,' Meg said.

This night was a great stage in her development for Lizzie
Coventry.  It was, for one thing, by far the happiest moment of her
life until now.  For a brief while she threw off entirely her
distrust of man, and when later, as was inevitable, she resumed it,
it was not quite the same distrust.  There was a rent in the nasty
fabric.  It was wonderful to her that these Delaneys had taken her
to this great ball.  They were not, then, ashamed of her!--for she
bore always around with her, night and day, bore it with proud
defiance, this sense of shame.  There was no indecency, meanness,
cruelty of which she was not aware, and it seemed to her that all
the world must know that SHE knew!  Moreover, with the exception of
her aunt and the family in Westminster, Lizzie had never known
anyone whose word she could believe, who would not desert her,
betray her, instantly forget her.  It seemed to her the rule of
life.  And now once more, in these Delaneys, she had encountered a
family who seemed to mean well by her.  They were quite different
from her relations in Westminster--much more gay, adventurous, of
altogether bolder colours, but now, by taking this trouble about
her, by dressing her up to look older and then publicly before all
the world presenting her at one of the most famous of London balls
as their friend, they had done her honour.  Her gratitude was warm,
moving, stirring about her heart, although outwardly her small pale
face, resolutely set, gave no sign of emotion.

But, most of all, she was grateful to Bullock.  She was not sure,
as she looked at his sturdy little body and round kindly face,
whether her liking were not changing to something warmer.  He
reminded her of St. George in the Bellini picture (how awful had
been that year in Venice when Mrs. Egret had made that shocking
scene with her father in that old yellow-walled palace, accusing
him of stealing her diamond bracelet, and how they had hurried
afterwards in that gondola to the station, panting, perspiring on
that dreadful August afternoon!), his fidelity and modesty and rock-
of-Gibraltar reliability!  And then he had talent: Lizzie was sure
that soon he would write a very good book indeed.

But how strange the contrast!  Lizzie as she danced with Bullock
thought of that moment this evening in the rooms before she left,
when her father, in his pyjamas (for he had been sleeping all day),
smelling still of drink, his eyes half closed, had pinched her ear
and said:  'Darling--any of your grand friends--handsome young men
with fortunes--bring them along here--introduce them to your old
dad.  They'll be welcome.'  And now, in this splendid room, the
women so beautiful, the men so fine, the snarling rhythm of the
band, the great portraits on the wall, above all the young Duchess
who, although she had not known Lizzie in the least, had given her
so sweet and, as it seemed, so personal a smile.  Oh, this was
another world, a world that she had never known before, but from
which, it seemed, she was not absolutely excluded!

'Are you happy?' Bullock asked her, as they moved quite perfectly
together.  'There's Winston Churchill.'

'And there,' said Lizzie, 'is that old man we met in the Museum.'

And so he was.  When the music stopped they stayed quite close to
him and he recognized them instantly.  Old Lord Ragadoon looked
quite as eccentric as he had done at the National Gallery, but it
was to-night a kind of aristocratic eccentricity.  Why he looked
such a swell it would be hard to say.  It was not the Orders that
he wore nor the old shapeless evening clothes, nor the shaggy
untidy beard; and he stood bending forward with no fine presence.
It was his eyes, perhaps, which had the piercing fiery look of a
proud, contemptuous but exulting eagle.  Yes, it was his eyes,
Lizzie concluded, and his bony hands and the iron-ribbed neck above
the reluctant collar.

'So you're here, are you?  Very pleasant.  Dancing fun?'

'Yes, sir.  Great fun,' said Bullock.

'I was a good dancer in my day and women were handsome then.
Something to put your arm round--not these scraggy leg-of-mutton

Then abruptly, staring at Bullock under his shaggy brows, he said:

'Why don't you come to see me?  I gave you my address, didn't I?
Thirty Pelham Street--up three flight of stairs--no lift.  Any
afternoon after four.'

He patted Lizzie on the shoulder.

'You've grown up since I saw you.  Suits you.'

Then he shuffled away.

'You see,' Bullock said to her.  'You've grown up.  He said so.'

She put her hand through his arm and walked with him proudly.  Yes,
he was like the Bellini St. George.  Or, perhaps, St. George's son.
She was beginning to be, quite fiercely, proud of him.

There comes a moment in every function, great or small, when the
question that has been asked all the evening is answered:  'Is this
thing a success?'  It is just then that for the wife of the Vicar
of Portcullis, or the Bishop of Polchester, or the Hon. Stephen
Herries, M.P. for Rasselas, or His Grace the Duke of Wrexe, the
evening's fate is settled--at the moment when the coffee comes in
('I told you that girl would make a hopeless servant'), when the
Beethoven Sonata is ended.  'Everything went wrong from the first.
Cook has always made that fish souffl perfectly before.'  But it
wasn't so.  The thing was still in the balance.  One really funny
story from the Vicar and all might have been well.  'IN SPITE of
the fish it all went very well, I think.'

It was, at a certain moment, for Fred Delaney, as though fireworks
had exploded through the great windows into the hearts of the
dancers, changing them, with whirling colours of blue and crimson--
stars and rockets and Catherine-wheels--into the Italian
Harlequinade of Longhi, Pantaloon and Harlequin--or moving from
that towards a huge Veronese canvas, a superb decoration without
heart, the noble Duke in green splendour raising his arm while the
Fool plays in his corner, the cat is under the table, and up the
stairs climb the servants holding the golden goblets and the
peacock on its lordly dish.  So it was decoration now spread
against the wall of the night sky, fronting the dark battlements of
the sleeping city.  The Ball was the success of the year.  That
bunch of idle young men, passing derisively from ball to ball, the
terror of the indignant hostess, they had all stayed.  Royalty
itself had stayed to an astonishingly late hour, and there, in the
little room papered with the old maps of the counties of England,
Fred Delaney had held Alice Van Renn in his arms and at last, at
last, had kissed her again and again, had heard her say:

'Yes.  Why not?  I'll come with you somewhere sometime.'

It was settled then.  The conquest was made.  When he had taken her
back and left her to one of her admirers, he vanished (to be for a
moment alone) up the stairs again and found himself, without
intention, in the room with the Tintoretto painting.  'Damned fine
painting,' he thought.  (He was still breathing fiercely, the palms
of his hands were hot, his heart was racing.)  'Wonder who it's by?
What's its subject?'  He bent (although his mind was so absolutely
elsewhere) forward to see the name on the little gilt plate--
'Tintoretto.  Ah, yes, the "Bacchus and Ariadne" man.'  Then he
saw, lying almost at his feet, a woman's handkerchief.  He picked
it up.  It made him think of Meg.  Beloved, adorable Meg!  And he
was intending once again to be physically unfaithful to her!
Perhaps for the last time.  Physically only.  He turned towards the
door, stopped as though hit in the chest by the vision of the
lovely Alice, so quiet, so well-disciplined, so sensuous.  And he
would not hurt Meg for the world.  Oh, not for all the world and
all the women in it!  But this little pleasure he must have, and
then--'who knows but the world may end to-night?'

The little handkerchief was crushed in his hand.  Was it from that
small square of lace there came to him the thought:  And if Meg
were unfaithful to you--only, you know, physically?  A little joy
for her before she settles, as you too are going to do, into a
faithful domestic tranquillity?  Would you mind?  Would you care?
Oh, but Meg--she COULD not!  Meg unfaithful!  But WHY not?  She's
still a fine woman with passions, desires, a longing, as all women
have, for the unknown?  No REAL infidelity, Fred Delaney.  No more
real than yours will be.  Different for the woman . . . but in
these wise tolerant days haven't we exploded that nonsense?  Are
not women doing everything that men can do?  Why not this freedom
as well?  But then Meg is religious.  She believes in God.  Yes,
but is she not gipsy as well, has she not her father's blood in
her?  Lightly he ran down the little staircase again.  He stood at
the corner of the passage whence, from a small balcony, he could
see down on to the ballroom.

Oh, but he was happy!  Life was fine!  There was a doom hanging
over them all.  Smoke's shadow was at his elbow.  The great ceiling
of the ballroom split and the sky with a myriad of stars shone
through.  Under this brilliant fire the Town shrank, as the little
handkerchief was shrunken in his hand, into a crumpled heap.  The
machines roared across the sky.  Flame tore the cupped canopy and a
great cry arose.  Then there was silence and over the ruined plain
the waters slowly climbed, reflecting the stars in their whirling
torrent.  He shook himself.  The torrent was the band.  A trumpet
cried and the dance stopped.

His shoulder was touched and he found that Larry was at his side.

'I've been having a drink.'

Fred grinned.  'Come on.  The night is young.  I'm dancing this
next one with my lovely daughter.'

Passing through the ante-room they saw in a gilt and velvet chair a
little old man fast asleep.

'Who the devil's that?' Fred asked.

Larry looked.

'It's poor little Brun.  You met him.  He was dining with me at
Corleone's.  A little old Frenchman--rather a swell once--in his

They went on into the ballroom.






As the light-years run at this present instant the river breaks
through the Green Park and the blue-painted citizens are hunting
the slimy eel-snake in its marshes, the countryfolk are chasing the
wild boar in its woods, the citizens of Westminster are picnicking
in its glades, and Claude Willoughby is taking the air and
listening to the band and arranging in his head the disposal of his
treasures after his death.

At this, our 1934 conviction of time, the Green Park is dusty, for
it is the first week in September and we are blind to the marshes,
the river, and the pleasant country dances.  Behind Claude, out of
his view, but present to his consciousness, are the Devonshire
Gates, and early this morning the cheery, plump bachelor with the
front windows of a 90 Piccadilly flat, awake and thirsty, has moved
into the sitting-room, drawn back his curtains, and seen, under a
trembling grey sky, the old man wrapped entirely in newspapers
asleep under the gates, and on the bench three derelicts huddled
together for comfort until the policeman arrives to move them on.
The old boy, in his silk pyjamas, gives himself a whisky and soda,
watches the light stir behind the thin skeleton of grey, salutes
Westminster tower, the Victoria Memorial, glances down the sleepy
nakedness of Piccadilly, and toddles back to his sheets.  Five
o'clock strikes from Westminster.  For the Green Park is democratic
if it is anything.  The splendid avenue of trees from the Gates to
the Memorial could be a Triumphal Way for armies, but in actual
truth it is a pathway of liberations--liberations for clerks,
shopkeepers, lovers, athletes, and, most especially, the dogs of
Mayfair.  These last pass, all day, across the dangerous rushing
waters of Piccadilly traffic, straining at their leashes, cockers
and airedales, dachshunds and fox-terriers, one purple-tongued chow
who walks by himself, scornfully picking his way through the
dangers, and one cat on a silken string, its mistress also cat-
like.  On the dusty surface of the grass the dogs break into
ecstasy, the children throw balls and kites into the air, the weary
cast themselves on to their backs and stomachs, the lovers press
close together, and the grimy sheep play sulkily at a directed

All London presses in upon these trees and this grass.  It is, if
you like, the very centre of the world, and the spokes of the wheel
radiate out to the green icy silences of the Poles, the dusty
mysteries of Tibet, and Lenin mummified in Moscow.  But this centre
of the world is also the backyard of the universe.  Nothing is real
here but the trivialities of the meanest human, and out of these
trivialities the great works of art must come--a lovers' quarrel, a
worker's dream of idleness, a dog's realization of ecstatic joy, a
child's wondering contemplation of a cloud sailing into a tree.
When, with a bang rather than a whimper, the life of this star is
ended, those cries, murmurs, petitions, ecstasies, slumbers, are
not ended with it, but are immortal because everything created is
immortal--even, it is to be feared, the Victoria Memorial.

So now Claude Willoughby, nodding his head to the school-girl
lushness of Madame Butterfly, is immortal, and his present
discontents are no more, in his unending history, than the drifting
of the dusty air into the band-conductor's nostrils.  Butterfly is
completed.  The band-conductor blows his nose, and Claude thinks to
himself:  'Very pleasant.  Very pleasant indeed.  I do like
something with a tune in it.'

He is looking pale and worn, for throughout a breathless August he
has been under Brocket's eye, sleeping very little, eating very
little, the rumble of Time's chariot in his ear ever more loudly.

It is better, however, in the summer in many ways.  You need not
shiver over a sulky grumbling fire, you can sit outside on Park
benches, and watch the fountains play in Trafalgar Square, and see
the evening sun slant with loving fingers across the faces of the
Charles Street houses.

For Claude has been very much in Charles Street of late, walking up
and down, looking up at the windows--for who knows?  At any moment
he may see the pleasant faces of that nice girl and that nice boy,
and so life become at that instant the safer.  But, strangely
enough, he never has.  Nevertheless Charles Street seems the safest
place.  Almost everywhere else is dangerous and his own room the
most dangerous of all.  He would have left it all long ago, but now
he is three weeks behind with the quarter's rent--and doesn't
Brocket know it?  Brocket comes even more often to his room.  He
never dreams of knocking now.  He stands there, his stomach
heaving, the hairs crawling on his arms, not saying anything until
at last quietly he murmurs:

'If you can't pay your rent soon you'll have to sell those things
of yours, you know.'

Those things!  Sell those things!  That would be indeed the end of
Claude's life.  Not that THAT would matter much, but it would be
the end also of the Things!  They would be sold, would be broken
and ill-treated and soiled.  Whereas at his death, if only he could
satisfy his landlord first, there his Things would be on a table
for his friends to choose, and each friend would come (Claude had
long ago made out a list including, I fear, some VERY slender
acquaintances), regard the Things tenderly, and, for years after,
someone would be saying somewhere:  'Look out!  Don't touch that
cup and saucer.  That belonged to poor old Willoughby.'  It had
indeed become an obsession with him, this dispersal of his things!
He hugged his secret.  He had told nobody save only, one day,
little Best--wanting, I'm afraid, to impress him.  And Best had
guffawed and chattered and had been, after all, perhaps awed a bit.

'Not going to kick the bucket yet, old boy?' he had cried.

'Oh no,' said Claude feebly.  'Oh, dear me, no'--although at times
he felt very like 'kicking the bucket'--very like indeed.

There was no harm in Best; nevertheless Claude wished that he had
not told him.  He had sworn Best to secrecy, of course, and Best
had cried:  'Cross my heart, old boy--never tell a soul!'--and
then Best had added:  'Those things--has anyone ever found them?'

'What things?' asked Claude.

'Why--the things that were stolen.'

'I've heard nothing about them.'

'No.  Of course not.  Of course not.'

But Brocket thought that Claude had taken them--the bath salts, the
walking-stick, the library books.  Brocket, standing in the
doorway, would say one morning:

'See that in the paper?  Feller got six months for stealing a cake
of soap.  Quite a gentleman too.  Been at a public school, the
paper said.'

And with every day Brocket seemed to come physically nearer.  With
every day the catastrophe hanging over the world, the catastrophe
prophesied by that terrible little man at the evening party, seemed
to come nearer.  The ground did indeed now tremble under Claude's
feet.  He had no one to whom he could speak of it.  Even the Pake
ladies were now cut off from him, for Helen Pake was dying: at any
moment now she might be gone.  The fact was that Claude was
starving.  He no longer had breakfast in his room, for he had not
money to pay for it.  One meal a day at the little coffee-house in
the Market.  Old men of course do not need very much to eat, nor do
they need much sleep.  Nevertheless . . . nevertheless . . .

He had, however, an unconquerable cheerfulness, and this free, gay
splendour of the band delighted him.  Music was almost as good as a
meal, and while he listened the ground seemed to steady itself and
this green-golden hazy soil of the Park was firm beneath him.  The
people, too, seated in their chairs, standing when they could not
afford the chairs, seemed happy and unafraid.  He was reassured in
their company.  It was as though they whispered to him that no ill
should come to him while he was in this company.  He looked at them
one by one, and--suddenly, miraculously--close, near to him was the
lovely Miss Delaney with a large handsome woman, undoubtedly Mrs.
Delaney herself.

Yes, it was truly Meg standing there, her hand lightly on Kitty's
arm.  They had come to take the air and keep up their spirits by
listening to the band.  For the Charles Street house was very
silent: Patrick Munden's flat was empty, the Pullet flat was empty,
Helen Pake was dying.  Things were nearly as bad as they could be.
The battle for the life of the house was in fact at its height, and
only that morning Frank Frobisher, head pontiff of Gay and
Tallent's, had been shut up with Fred for more than two hours
offering him money so that the Charles Street house might be pulled

'You can't, my dear boy, stick to it,' Frobisher had been saying.
'You were lucky to have the place filled so long.  It has after all
been only a makeshift.  Have you SEEN these modern flats?  Every
possible contrivance.  Why, you haven't even central heating.  And
by the way no one else is going to offer you half the price we're
suggesting.  Even if you refuse you're safe only for a year or two.
Look at the way the district's changing.  The Market will be gone
in another three years.'

Fred had come from that interview straight into Meg's arms.  The
two of them had clung together like a couple of babies.

'Of course,' Fred said, 'he's telling lies about Charles Street.
Even if they do build a flat or two . . .  But it's the money, Meg.
Where are we to get the money?'

'Tenants!' Meg cried, as though she were Queen Elizabeth mustering
her forces.  'Tenants!  That's what we've got to find.'

Nevertheless she knew, and they all knew, that they must summon all
their cheerfulness.  It was for Fred's sake that they needed it,
for between Fred and the house there was something deep and
poignant.  Take the house away and you take some of Fred's spirit
with it.  'He'll never,' Meg thought, 'be quite the same again, and
the Alice Van Renns of this world will multiply. . . .  We must all
save Fred.  We must love him and cheer him and console him without
his knowing that we are doing anything of the kind.'

So they came out to take the air and listen to the band.  'Tum-te-
ta . . . tum-te-ta . . .' hummed Meg--and then she saw Claude.  As
her eyes rested on him so also did Kitty's.

'Why,' Kitty cried, 'that's my nice Shepherd Market man.  I told
you about him.  His name is Claude something.  I can only think of
him as Claude . . . oh yes, Willoughby.  Claude Willoughby.
Bullock knows him.  He comes to see the Pakes.  He's all by
himself, Mother.  Let's speak to him.'

Kitty was happy.  She didn't know why.  The grass smelt of
gunpowder and a light haze like sprinkled barley-sugar powdered the
trees.  She was happy.  She didn't know why.  There was no reason
at all except that the band was now playing variations on the
'Londonderry Air,' the most beautiful tune since the birds sang,
unselfconsciously, in the Garden of Eden.

But Meg was looking at Claude Willoughby for quite another reason.
She had known instantly that this very thin, shabbily dressed,
wrinkled-browed old gentleman would play an important part in one
of her life's crises.  How did she know?  What nonsense!  Of course
she didn't.  Not one of us knows anything at all.  However, this
wasn't the first time that Meg had felt such things.  When she was
quite a child a fruit-seller in Nice had sold her green figs and
afterwards picked up her purse with five pounds in it.  Hadn't she
foretold something of the sort the moment she looked at him?
Again, during the first week of her honeymoon with Fred, in Venice,
an attendant in the Accademia had looked at her so strangely and
the very next day had thrown himself into the Grand Canal and been
drowned.  They had told her when she went three days later to see
the Carpaccios again.  And so now.  This old man would have
something to do with her life.  He stood there like a prophecy
while the band played the 'Londonderry Air' and Big Ben boomed like
a beetle out of the very heart of the sky.

They moved up to him.

'Mr. Willoughby, you don't remember me,' said Kitty.

His pleasure was a handsome thing to witness.

'This is my mother.'

'How do you do?'  Claude's hand was shaking.

'He looks as though he doesn't have enough to eat,' Meg thought,
and at once her eagerness to help him swallowed up every other
possible notion or idea.  The world was blotted out: only Claude
Willoughby, pale and emaciated, existed for her.

'I come to your house quite often,' Claude explained, 'to see
Millie and Helen Pake.'  He looked anxious.  His brow was
dreadfully wrinkled and his nose longer than ever.  'I fear Helen--'

'Yes,' said Meg gently.  'But she is in no pain.  Only lies there
in a dream.  The past has been her only reality for a long time.'

He straightened himself, looked dignified, symbolic, representing
in his person a complete vanished society.

'When you are my age and Lady Helen's the past is all that you
have.  The present--oh dear, I'm afraid I dislike the present very
much indeed.'

'There you are!' Meg cried.  'I'm afraid I'm all for the present: I
wouldn't want to live in any time but this one.  And Kitty,' she
went on, laughing, 'Kitty thinks only of the future.  Don't you,
Kitty?  She doesn't know there IS a present.'

'Oh, the future!' Claude said, shaking his head.  'I'm terrified of
the future.  We are all to be blown sky-high.  However, I shan't be
here.  That's one comfort.'

He was cheering up immensely.  It needed only that some pleasant
person should be kind to him for Claude to take a very rosy view.
It was as though nowadays he was only one skin thick.  He felt any
treatment of himself, even the mildest, as a blow or a caress.  His
whole heart went out to this Mrs. Delaney.  Her splendid figure,
her dress of rose and grey, her merriness and vigour and spirit of
hospitality--these warmed him like a fire.  But he was afraid that
he would lose her.  For weeks he had haunted Charles Street and the
doors had been closed, but now Charles Street had come to him; here
it was with this large merry lady and this lovely girl.  Oh, he
must keep them for a moment or two longer!  And he did.  For the
band played 'God Save the King' and everyone was on the move.  They
started, the three of them, to walk back across the Park.  What IS
it, thought Meg, that makes this old man important to me?  It isn't
only that I am sure that he is half-starved and lonely.  It is
rather that he is going to do something for ME.  He is to be my
benefactor, not I his.

They talked about the Green Park.

'You know,' Meg said, 'if I were one of those men in white hats and
white trousers, always drinking whisky in Africa and longing for
home--you're always seeing them in plays--it's the Green Park I'd
be longing for.  I'd see the dry grass and the dirty sheep and the
Victoria Memorial and the heavy-leafed trees and the dogs running
like mad, and I'd be so homesick I wouldn't know what to do.'

Claude agreed, but thought it was cruel to keep dogs in London.

'My son's got a dachshund,' Meg said.  'And I'm sure he's very

'Just fancy!' Claude said, talking to Meg as though he had known
her the whole of his life.  'On this very spot, or hereabouts,
there was a very famous duel fought.  I forget the names, but I
never can go past these trees without thinking of them.  One of
them, I KNOW, wore mulberry breeches--I know he did.  And the light
was so clear--very early morning--no smoke--and perhaps a cart
rumbling up Piccadilly--'

'Was it pistols or swords?'

'I don't know.  Swords, I think.  A great sensation.  People talked
of it for weeks.'

He stopped for a moment.  Was he going to faint?  What a horrible
idea--now, in front of these new great friends!  But the trees were
bowing before him, the path rocking under his feet and a noise like
the hissing of a great kettle in his ear.  He had had for luncheon
two fish-cakes in the Shepherd's Pie Caf in the Market.  Two fish-
cakes were perhaps not enough.

Meg had taken his arm.  He saw, out of the rocking, tree-filled
mist, her eyes, large and full of kindness, comforting him.

'Now--let us sit on these chairs for a moment.'

'It's the excitement.'  Claude, sitting down, closed his eyes.

'The excitement?'

'Yes.  You'll think me very foolish.  But suddenly, unexpectedly,
making new friends.  I hope you don't think me impertinent, but
now, at my age--I don't see many new people--'

He was talking, to beat down the nausea.  To be sick in front of
these ladies.  How terrible!

'It's natural enough.  Why should people bother?  But I often think--
if we weren't so frightened of strangers!  There must be so many
lonely people in London.  Not that I'm lonely really, you know, but
after seventy--of course so many of one's friends are gone.'

Ah! that was better!  Nature was pulling herself straight again.
The golden soil was steady and the dark leaves did not fan the sky.

Meg's hand was on his.

'You must come and see us in Charles Street.  I know you've been
there often, visiting Helen and Millie.  But you must come to see
US.  Any time you feel like it.'

Meg was thinking:  'He's starved.  That's what the trouble is.
It's too late to ask him in to tea.  And we're all out to dinner.'

But Claude, now recovered, was his proud self again.

'Thank you,' he said with great stateliness.  'I shall like very
much to call if I may.'

Kitty said:  'And if you don't come, Mr. Willoughby, _I_ shall call
and fetch YOU.  We shan't let you off.'

But oh no, Claude thought, these charming ladies must never see my
room.  It was bad enough Millie Pake coming in and looking round.
But after all Millie is an old friend and she's poor too.

'I shall come and call.  Don't you fear,' he said gaily.  He must
show them that he had engagements and friends and everything he
wanted.  He despised himself for his recent admission of
loneliness.  'I must be getting back,' he said, rising with
dignity.  'I have an engagement.'  They walked along to the Gates.
'When I said that just now about being lonely I was thinking of
others rather than myself.  I am really very fortunate at my age--
very fortunate indeed.'

His brow wrinkled more deeply.  What if they should expect to be
invited for a cocktail, perhaps, or a glass of sherry?  They seemed
to be determined to see him home.  Half Moon Street slept in the
evening sun.  Fleming's Hotel was newly painted.  Two young men in
a silver sports car stared at the two splendid ladies.  Meg went

'We'll just come with you into the Market, Mr. Willoughby.  We must
see where you live, you know.  Before long we may have to come and
beg your hospitality.  We may have to sell the Charles Street
house.  Oh dear!  I hope not!  But we've been looking round for a
nice organ to grind; haven't we, Kitty?  Although you never see an
organ now, do you?  I hope you'll be kind to us when we're on the
street.  We shall need friends.'

It was strange to him to hear her talking of poverty when she
looked so fine and strong and rich.  But she conveyed to him in
some mysterious way that she would be happy whatever misfortunes
occurred to her, and this gave him a new courage and hope.  While
she was there he was protected and secure.  They passed beneath the
friendly sign of Miss Bonda.

The Market had surrendered to a golden quiescence.  On the front
slab of the fish-shop the stout form of a gentleman in a bowler hat
and shirtsleeves was perched, his hat half tilted, while beside him
was a notice, 'Fish kept fresh inside during hot weather.'  A
minute kitten outside the leather-shop played languidly with the
wheel of a bicycle.  Ladies in summer clothing hung out of windows,
and a small boy with a minute crimson watering-can was pretending
to spurt water at the black woolly dog lazing in front of the book-
shop.  A young policeman with the earnest gaze of a philosopher
said to the seller of carnations, 'Now you know quite well, I won't
have flowers sold on the pavement.'  From behind the open door of
the news-shop (in whose window are entrancing little china dogs)
came the happy music of Henry Hall . . . the life of the whole
world in miniature played itself lazily through the dusty gold of
the evening light.

'That,' said Claude, rather nervously (for they might insist on an
inspection), 'is where I live.'  He pointed to a window.  And then,
as in a Goldoni comedy, the figures began to move, for there was
Caesar, turning the corner with a young girl in a lilac-coloured
dress, and there was Mrs. Rudge looking out of window.  And for
Claude there was Brocket, moving towards the girl and stopping,
Caesar squaring his shoulders, old Mrs. Rudge staring, Caesar
suddenly catching sight of Meg, the girl turning and slipping away,
Brocket standing, his arms akimbo, the dance-music saluting them
with a quick rush of sound, Meg exclaiming, 'Why, it's Caesar!'

'Yes, mum.  I was only gone a minute to get some air,' and then, in
a whisper of despair to Meg before he hurried back to Charles
Street:  'Mother knows, mum, about my young lady.  She's been
carrying on something dreadful.'  The man with the carnations, now
that the policeman was gone, hoarsely whispering to Kitty:
'Beautiful flowers, lady--'alf a crown for the lot.'

Lastly Brocket, at Claude's elbow now, disregarding the ladies:
'Wait a minute, Mr. Willoughby.  Something's happened at the house.
Half an hour ago.  Mr. Best's gone.  Heart attack.'  Brocket moved

'So that's where you live, Mr. Willoughby,' Meg said cheerfully.
(Poor Caesar!  What a lucky thing that they were all out to-night!
He would be so badly upset, poor boy.)

Claude was trembling.  He wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.

'Unfortunate thing. . . .  That's the man at our flats who spoke to
me.  Poor Best--one of the tenants--died half an hour ago of a
heart attack.'

And without another word, with a funny, stiff little bow, he left
them.  He walked, his head up, as though leading an army.  He was
thinking:  'Poor Best!  Poor fellow!'  And once again the ground
shook beneath his feet.  Death, tall and very thin, with ears
pricked like a listening hound, was waiting inside the house to
touch him on the arm.

Word was passing round the Market that someone had just died.



Heat had gone from the Green Park.  The trees were turning and,
once and again, a little amber mist of twirling leaves would
trouble the grey sky.  The Park lay desolate, the little chairs
unoccupied and the grand avenue from Gates to Memorial occupied
only by hurrying figures too busy for a glance.  Only for the dogs
was it the same unaltered Paradise.  Now, as ever, they strained
the leash across the Piccadilly traffic, pausing at midway safety,
their tongues out, panting, wild-eyed, at last within the Gates,
looking upwards with frantic appeal for release, then running,
checking at a scent, running again, recovering all the promises,
suspicions, wild hopes, present confirmations they had left behind
them yesterday.

Above them the trees deepen in metallic gold, in paper-thin russet,
while above them again the clouds smoke and tremble and shred into
tatters of ragged grey.

Late in this September Helen Pake died.  She was buried in the
country and Millie went to stay with her brother.

The house, then, was empty save for the Delaneys.  Patrick Munden
was in Paris and it was said that Dodie Pullet was there with him.
The house was empty and the fantastic, outrageous thing was that
the Delaneys were delighted.  Fantastic, outrageous, for very
shortly the Delaneys must starve.

After the 1st of October there would be no more rents coming in and
what would the Delaneys do then?  Everywhere, all over England, for
the last twenty years this same absurd catastrophe had been
suddenly breaking into English family lives.  The English middle
and upper classes had for generations understood that starvation
was for them a grotesque impossibility.  Until the War of 1914 it
had been so.  There had always been land, a house with a garden, a
bundle of relations, a fortunate marriage, a vacancy in a
relation's business, a safe investment--and eternal, affectionate
credit from the deserving but keep-him-in-his-place shopkeeper.
Now, in 1934, there was no land, there were no ready-money
relations, no jobs for young men, no obliging shopkeepers, no
friendly overdraft bankers, and always dwindling diminishing
investments.  No one was safe, no one was secure, the pound was
worth about thirteen shillings.  Gentlemen like Signor Mussolini
and Herr Hitler had apparently no money but got on splendidly
without it; indeed the less they had the more they spent.  This
happy behaviour was, however, impossible for English ladies and
gentlemen.  'But we MUST live!' cried the English ladies and
gentlemen.  No one but themselves, alas! saw the necessity for
this.  'But we CANNOT starve!' they cried.  No one, alas! saw why
they should not.  Every expedient was tried; friends were stayed
with, bills were not paid, camp was continually moved, jobs
constantly applied for, jobs once considered too humiliating for
words.  Lady Constance Belwether was a housemaid with a wealthy
Newcastle family (she called herself Miss Allen).  The Hon.
Frederick Cochran was an assistant in Belfrage's great stores.
'Bunty' Milne was a chauffeur.  And so, of course, all jobs were
overcrowded, employers pestered with incompetents.  The pedlars of
toys by St. Paul's numbered in their ranks several members of the
British aristocracy.

With every separate family the shock of surprise was equally
staggering and incredible.  'There is not a penny in the bank,
which refuses an overdraft.  There is not one single friend or
acquaintance who can help.  I am fifty years of age and worth
nothing to anyone.  My two dear boys, so handsome, so athletic, so
charming, have been to Harrow and Oxford and are not exceptional
enough to be worth anyone's while.  My beautiful daughters can
cook, use a typewriter, know all about dogs and horses.  They can
do none of these things, however, as well as thousands of other
young women.'

The Delaneys were happy, healthy, strong, altogether most excellent
people, but not Fred nor Bullock nor Kitty had ever been trained to
compete with the present incredibly efficient workers of the world.
They simply were not worth anyone's pay anywhere.  Such a crisis,
so poignant and terrible, should have filled them with terror and
despair.  It did nothing of the sort.  'In actual fact,' a cold,
cynical observer might have remarked, 'you are, of course, not
worrying--for to-morrow you can sell the house and so assure
yourselves against starving for the rest of your days.'

But the remarkable thing was that, as soon as the house was empty,
the Delaney family loved it twice as much as before, and vowed that
only over their dead bodies should anyone take it from them.
Without a word spoken they banded together and faced the outside
invader.  They were constantly wandering up and down the stairs and
in and out of the empty rooms.  The house was theirs again and the
house knew it.  They made fantastic plans of how Bullock and Kitty
would marry.  Bullock should live in the Pake flat, Kitty in the
Pullet.  So all would be for ever under one roof.  When children
came they would manage somehow.  They laughed and shouted and sang,
played ridiculous games of hide-and-seek, and the house responded,
not behaving, as most empty houses do, like a grumbling and dusty-
faced ghost, but rather catching glints of sunlight and mantling
corners and fireplaces with light and shadow, making friendly
gestures with dusk and dawn and the reflections of the September
evening city lights, catching clouds in the window-panes and
letting the wind whisper merrily in the fireplaces.

Nevertheless the crisis was there and Fred knew it.  He had all
kinds of extravagant ideas about jobs.  He spoke gaily to all his
friends:  'Here's a poor fellow out of work.  Can't you do
something for him?'  And everyone clapped him on the shoulder and
promised and, behind his back, said:  'What's Delaney fussing for?
He's only got to sell the house.'

Bullock had written nearly half of his novel but ran round
suggesting himself to people.  'I'll do anything,' he said.
'Anything for a living wage.'  He was a jolly little fellow and
everyone liked him, but unfortunately he had no TECHNICAL knowledge
of anything.  He was not a trained journalist; he knew nothing
about mechanics except that he could drive a car.  He was willing
and eager and ignorant.  All the same he didn't REALLY worry, for
he saw Lizzie every day and his novel was coming along nicely.

They were, in fact, all of them incapable of worrying.  Somehow
they would manage.  They would camp in the house, live on apples
and occasional eggs and bacon.  They did not, as many of their
contemporaries did, calculate the friends upon whom they could
sponge.  Both Bullock and Kitty knew numbers of young men and women
whose lives were simply miraculous, the way that they invited
themselves and stayed on and on, joined unsuspecting luncheon
parties, left suddenly so that their drinks had to be paid for,
vanished to the Riviera where they needed only two suits and a
bathing dress, and then, when things were really bad, surrendered
themselves, their souls and bodies, to anyone who thought them
worth buying.  The Delaneys were not of THAT world nor ever would

Fred Delaney had, however, hours of surprising foreboding and
anxiety.  He had, for one thing, never loved his family so much as
now, and it was for them rather than for himself that he lay awake
and sighed in his bath and shook his head over his newspaper.  He
did not lie awake nor sigh nor shake his head for very long.  The
sense of apprehension that had been with him now for several months
could not conquer his natural happiness, his consciousness of his
body and its many delightful activities, his love for his wife and
children, for London and the house, his lusty desire to possess
Alice Van Renn, and the daily excitements of seeing the shops, the
changing trees in the Park, his many friends, and especially the
constant procession of beautiful women.

His desire for Alice Van Renn seemed only to increase his love of
Meg and of Kitty.  Especially he was seeing his daughter just now
in a fresh and wonderful light.  She seemed to him radiant and
lovely.  Her sweetness, good-temper, unselfishness, all sprang, it
appeared to him, from her now mature virginity.  She was something
untouched, with a wonderful spiritual security, and the more he
desired and intended to spend a week-end with Miss Van Renn, the
more he loved Meg because she was his dear friend, companion and
wife, the more he adored his daughter because she was pure and
unassailed and above the vulgar clutch of men like himself.

And so, in the untidy sitting-room that somehow smelt of chocolate
fudge and dried everlastings--the little Half Moon Street rooms--he
told Alice Van Renn.  He had been lucky enough to catch her alone
on that last day of September.  He was feeling reckless and so
buoyantly conscious of his health, his sexual energy, his physical
challenge to fate, that Alice herself responded to it.

He knelt beside her, his arms around her, and enjoyed with her a
kiss that was as long and as deep as Besnard's search for Atlantis.

'And now--which week-end is it going to be?'

'The last one in October.'

He had risen now to his feet, and looking up at him she stretched
out her hands; he bent towards her, she touched his cheeks, then,
sighing, she said:

'Mother has settled it all. . . .  I am to marry Monsieur de

'Old--'  Fred paused.  Little M. de Florac's nickname in the best
male society was a very coarse one.  'But he has only--'  He broke

'Yes,' Alice said.  'He is appalling, but it is a very, very old
story.  As you know, he is enormously rich, he makes no marital
demands on me, he thinks I will look lovely at the head of his
table at his beautiful chteau near Blois.  He is right.  I shall.'

Fred laughed.

'Strangely enough, although I have been in love with you so long, I
don't know you very well.  But I DO know you well enough to be sure
that you are not going to marry old--'  He broke off again.

'No.  I am not,' Alice answered.  'But mother thinks that I am.
She is determined that I shall.  It suits her exactly--plenty of
money, she can be near me always.  Moreover, she likes old de
Florac.  They murmur obscene jokes together.  And because she is
set on this she detests yourself and Bartlett.  You are the two
dangers. . . .'

'Myself?  Why, I am married and adore my wife.  Who could be

'Yes, but she's a wise old bird.  She knows that you might give me
just enough--what shall I call it?--well, enough anyway to make old
de Florac impossible.  She hasn't yet realized that he is
impossible in any case.'

Fred knelt down again.  The worn carpet was hard and dusty.  He
took her in his arms and then, after hearing the bells of Atlantis
once more, said:  'And Bartlett--my God, what a fool!'

Alice Van Renn gently kissed his hair, then rose and, looking out
on to the one-legged street singer in Half Moon Street, said:

'I am a fool too, remember.  Monday morning, that last Monday in
October, as we get into the train, you will be saying:  "This woman
is duller than an ox."  I shan't blame you.  It will be true.  I
like Bartlett's stupidity.'  She swung round, looking at him with
more intensity, a deeper and more genuine feeling than he had ever
seen in her.  'Of YOU I'm afraid, Fred Delaney.  I MIGHT become
fond of you.  Then, at the very moment when you realize that flight
is the only cure for such boredom, I might be longing for you to
remain.  That would hurt, you know.  And ever since mother beat me
with a hairbrush because I stole her sham-pearl necklace--I was
five and a bit--I have determined to avoid pain.  Bartlett and I
suit one another exactly.'

She came close to him and put both her hands on his shoulders.

'I am afraid of your high spirits, and although you are kind you
are restless.  Your family is the only thing I can imagine your
being faithful to.  Where you are concerned I am NOT such a fool.
Yes, perhaps the week-end will be the greatest misfortune for me--
will spoil hopelessly all the wiser, safer things.'

Fred's behaviour then was very bad indeed.  He was the complete
fool he could often be.  Fortunately old Mrs. Van Renn's wrinkled
hand fumbled at the door-knob.  When she entered he was throwing
some pennies down to the one-legged street singer.

Her fury at having inadvertently assisted him to be alone with
Alice had its comic aspect, for when she was angry she was
speechless.  She could only mutter like an old monkey deprived of
its banana-skin.

He was very charming and very gay and very kind.  He was only at
the top stair when he heard her voice, like the scream of a wounded
bird, upbraiding Alice.

He went home through Half Moon Street, past the Christian Science
Church and round the corner, humming a mixture of Tosca and
Butterfly, for his physical being was now sure of its definite
reward.  This certainty made him cock of the walk and also at great
ease with himself because one part of himself was entirely
satisfied.  This is where men have so marked an advantage over
women, that they lodge their different selves so easily in quite
separate apartments.  Women never.  Few women understand this.
This non-comprehension makes marriage very difficult.

So, humming, thinking of those coming last days of October and of
Alice in his arms, he entered his house loving Meg with a new kind
of charity.  Because he would be shortly unfaithful to her he
longed to do her every possible kindness.

And there, having tea with Meg, were those tiresome Penders.  He
stopped on the threshold, loving, at the sight of Graham's long,
brown, white-haired neck, Meg just a little less.  What had bitten
her over this tiresome pair?  True that once, years ago, she had
been engaged to Graham Pender, but now, with his white locks and
museum expression, she surely could not be sentimental!  And that,
standing there in the doorway, he suddenly saw that she was, and,
himself straight from his visits to Atlantis with Alice Van Renn,
it roused in him an intolerable irritation.  For he intercepted a
look between Meg and Pender--on Pender's side a long dog-like gaze,
a devoted please-take-me-for-a-walk-or-do-anything-you-like-with-me-
only-love-me look, and on Meg's side a tenderness, a sweetness that
really staggered him.

'Hullo, Pender . . . Lady Pender, how do you do?'  (But she, Meg,
couldn't really be falling in love with this long-legged sad-eyed
professor?  Meg . . .)

'Yes . . . it's quite chilly. . . .  Autumn is upon us, I'm

'Here's your tea, Fred.  You look quite flushed.'

'Yes.  I've been walking all the way from Trafalgar Square.  How
are you, Lady Pender?'  (What an appalling old scarecrow, and with
that blue thistle sort of thing stuck in her hat!)

Lady Pender moistened her lips with her tongue.

'Not so very well, Mr. Delaney, I fear.'

'Oh, I AM sorry.  What's the trouble?'  (There Pender was again,
looking at Meg as though he would like to lay his head in her broad
lap.  And Lady Pender had seen it.  Her eyes narrowed.  She sipped
at her tea, her gaze sharp as a hatpin over the rim of her cup, as
she said:)

'Oh, I don't know.  Anno Domini, I expect.  We're neither of us as
young as we were, are we, Graham?'

Pender laughed.  'I'm certainly not.  One last little fling and I'm
laid on the shelf.'

Fred stood over Meg for another cup of tea, swinging his broad body
a little, straddling his legs as though to show Pender what a REAL
body was like!

'Oh, surely not, Pender.  You've years ahead of you.  And what is
the last little fling to be?'

'Oh, I don't know. . . .  Egypt, perhaps. . . .  Egypt suits my
wife's health; doesn't it, dear?'

'You know we can't afford it, dear.  And what does MY health
matter?  Talking of which, you look so VERY well, Mr. Delaney.'

'Yes, I am. . . .  Splendid.  Ready for anything.'

'So's Graham really.  Aren't you, dear?  Men'--Lady Pender smiled
like a coy death-mask--'never grow up.'

Meg smiled in return.  'I'm glad they don't.  It's the only
compensation women have--that they don't grow up, I mean.'

'Yes,' said Lady Pender.  'And it's fun sharing in their games.
Women never know how to play together.'

Fred, who could think of several ladies of his acquaintance who
knew very well, broke in with:

'Been to any of the new plays?'

'Well--it's rather a nuisance from Surbiton.  It's so late getting

'You must come with us one night.'  (He was thinking:  We shan't
have a bean in the world unless we sell the house.)

'We should love to.  Wouldn't we, Graham?'

'Delighted.  I do enjoy a good play.'

They got up to go.  Lady Pender said:

'Meg finds her way out to Surbiton quite often, but you've never
been, Mr. Delaney.  You're too busy, I expect.'

'Busy!'  Fred threw his head back and laughed.  'I wish I were.
I'm out of a job, Lady Pender.  If you know of anyone who wants a
chauffeur or someone to wait at table . . .'

There was much laughter.  They were gone.

Back by the fireplace Meg said:

'Had a good afternoon, darling?'

'Delightful.  Splendid walk.'  He kissed her.  Then, by an
association of ideas, he said:  'By the way, last week-end in
October, I shall be away, going to shoot with a fellow in Norfolk.'

'That's lucky,' Meg answered.  'I shall be away myself that same

Later on Fred Delaney walked with his beautiful daughter across the
Green Park.  He was dining with two friends at the Argonauts' Club,
and at nine o'clock Bullock was picking him up there and they were
going to pay a call on that funny old bastard, Lord Ragadoon.
Fred, like everyone else, had known the old ruffian by sight for
years and years, but it had been an immense surprise to him when he
heard from Bullock of this queer friendship.

'But HOWEVER did you get to know him?'

'We met in the National Gallery.  He took a liking to Lizzie.'

'The National Gallery!  Of all places!'

'Yes, and he wants to meet you, Father.  He wants you to see his

'Of course I'll see his things.  I believe they're marvellous.'

So that was what, this evening, he was going to do.  Kitty was
bound on some mysterious adventure of her own.  He recognized that
something was happening to her, and he was proud, both of her and
himself, as he realized his supreme confidence in her.  She was a
child in actual experience, but her spirit was as strong and
shining as a sword-blade.

Poetry was alive in him as, Kitty's arm tucked in his, they passed
through the Gates and started down the Avenue at whose other end
there was a smoky bee-swarm of orange light about the Memorial,
while high in the air above the black tree-tops hung the silver-
illuminated tower.  There was a faint crackling spark of frost in
the air.

'Let's walk on the grass, darling.  Look out for the chairs.  How
the houses shine upon this mysterious place--as though they were
ringing it round with guardianship.  Stand still a moment.  Big
Ben's striking.  You can almost hear the river running under our
feet, and the Piccadilly traffic is like a man strumming on his
guitar before he hits the tune.'

They walked on, body close to body, very happy, very tranquil-

'What are you up to, darling?  Never mind.  Don't tell me.  We're
all up to something, your mother as well. . . .  What an amorous
place this Park is!  So many lives here under the trees coming to
one of their many crises.  How can anyone say life is dull, or even
frightening?  Because after all it is over so quickly.  When the
crash comes, Kitty, when the planes overhead are raining down their
bombs and everyone is cowering below ground, this Park will wait
with silent contempt.  Yes, contempt, because it has already seen
so much and WILL see so much more.  The trees will come crashing
down.  That illuminated tower will waver in the air, then crumble.
Big Ben will cry its last hour.  The river will rise and flow, the
shops will submerge, the sky will be dark with light shifting
smoke.  And then, Kitty, there will be SUCH a silence!  Strange
birds will fly over and hover on the ruins of the Ritz.  Down
Piccadilly will float the blurred soaking canvas of the "Bacchus
and Ariadne" and over Westminster there will hang the stinking
fiery pall from the smouldering Abbey.  Round and round the Poets'
Corner the ducks will go squawking.  Only the Victoria Memorial
will survive, immune, indestructible, virtuous, Imperial.'

Kitty laughed and pressed his arm.

'It's lovely to have a real poet in the family,' she said.

They paused near the bandstand and fancied for a moment, because
the shadows beguiled them, that a ghostly orchestra was at play.
Very faintly Cavaradossi with his absurdly unreal canvas and
elegant painter's blouse rose before the marble pillars of the
Roman church.  It was a huddle of sheep, moving into the light from
the near-by houses, drifting along like the ghosts of Caesar's
murderers.  A cry of some bird cut the beautiful stillness.

'Yes,' said Fred Delaney.  'It's a darling Park, a DARLING Park.
My ghost will join all the other ghosts, and we'll go wandering,
wandering, seeking our favourite little chairs and the young typist
with the china-blue eyes against whose warm body we lay when the
sun parched the grass, or looking perhaps up and down the paths for
the cigar-ends and the cast-off sandwich and, who knows, a dropped
enchanting sixpence!'  He swung his umbrella round and round.  'I
love to be alone with you, Kitty, just the two of us.  You're a
darling child, a DARLING child. . . .  And now I suppose my time
with you is short.  Soon a man will take you away.  I shall see you
once and again and then I shall be a grandfather, and the day after
that, who knows?--a great-grandfather, for I feel to-night as
though I am going to live for ever, perched, like an old stork, on
one leg, surveying the ruined world and hiding your babies under
the shadow of my wing.'

'I don't suppose I shall ever marry,' Kitty said.

'Never marry?  Why, of course you will!  I thought you were
engaging in a love affair at this very minute.'

'Oh no . . . I'm only perceiving a number of things quite for the
first time.'

There occurred then one of those coincidences that God allows
Himself once and again when He is too lazy to invent something more

Out from the shadows there emerged upon the light circle of grass
two persons.  Bodies almost collided.  There was a pause, a stare.
Kitty gave a little cry.  The young man, who was Alton Foster,
raised his hat.

He stopped as though he would speak, but the stout lady hanging on
his arm urged him forward.  Kitty heard her say in a voice as
odious and monotonous as a bath-water tap:  'People you know,

The woman was wearing red and green, was handsome in a kind of
florid extravagance, very full-breasted.  She was hanging on
Alton's arm.  She was years older.  Alton had run from the
thunderstorm across this Park crying:  'I'll prove myself. . . .
You'll see . . .  You'll see . . .'

They were turning along the Mall, up the Duke of York's steps, and
so immediately to Carlton House Terrace and the Argonauts.  Fred,
intent on his own flood of oratory, had not even noticed the pair.

'What a horrid vulgar woman!' Kitty said, five minutes after they
had encountered them.

'Where, dear?'

'Oh, gone--long ago--nobody.'  (Over the jewels in Zanti's shop the
young, pale, eager face hangs.  'I must see you . . . I MUST . . .
I must!')

Fred was happily talking.

'Don't think it fantastic, darling.  Or you can if you like.  Life
IS fantastic.  But I feel that if we let this house go, everything
goes.  Everything for us, I mean.  You see, I think we're so happy
because we have the luck to make a perfect combination, the house
and our four selves.  It happens sometimes.  Once and again you
meet absolutely joyful people, REAL joy, independent of
circumstances.  And it's always because they are fortunate enough
to have made a perfect union with something or someone.  You see it
in married people, in friends, in brother and sister, in two
brothers, in an organization, in a saint.  I believe that's the
point of life--to find the thing or person or persons that will
prevent you living for yourself alone.  And there's a power--an
evil power if you like--that will upset that combination if it can.
It's always at work, doing its best to destroy, to tear things and
people apart.  I believe it's at work on us now, darling, trying to
take the house from us, to take us from one another.  It's nonsense
to say there isn't free will.  Of COURSE there is.  Plenty of it.
We're all being tempted at this moment, all four of us, and if we
yield or lose the house we'll never come together again--never,
never.  Never as we are now, joyful and free.  Joyful and free!
Tum-te-tum-te-tum.  The Evil One is at our throats.  The fight is
on.  United we stand, divided we bloody well fall.  We fall and are
never put together again.  Lost for ever.  We groan, scramble in
the dark, curse the Deity.  But it isn't the Deity.  It is
ourselves.  We've yielded to our snorty, greedy, guzzling, pig-
troughing selves, and so we're lost, separated for ever.  Our joy
is over, our laughter silenced, our . . .'

'Hush, darling.  You are making a terrible noise.  Of course we
won't let the house go.'

'No, we won't--but perhaps we will.  Who can tell where the
victory's going?  What do you think your mother's up to?'


'Yes.  She's up to something.  Didn't you know?  Perhaps it's SHE
who'll lose the battle for us.  Or perhaps it is I--just for an
ankle and the white curve of a shoulder.  Ashes and worms.  Worms
and ashes.  Or perhaps it's YOU.  For we're all in it together.
What is it YOU'RE up to, darling?'

'I?'  Kitty pressed his arm and looked so lovely and so kind
glancing up at him in the lamplight that he had lightly to kiss her
forehead and so disturb a young straight-from-the-egg-Hendon
policeman who blushed and looked passionately down the Mall.  'I'm
up to nothing.  Nothing whatever.  If you'd noticed that vulgar
woman in red and green you'd have known why.'

'Would I?  How mysterious you are!  Well, try and behave well in
the next week or two.  It's like the fairy stories.  You're not to
ask the Princess who she REALLY is until the cock crows. . . .
Lord, I'm weak.  Weak as water.  It's I who will ruin the lot of
us, separate us and destroy us.  God forgive me.  God pardon me.
Here we are.  Up the steps.  Into the decorous.  Straight to the
mausoleum of respectability.  Good night, sweetheart. . . .  Good
night, good night.'

When Bullock, looking very babyish in a bowler hat cocked to one
side of his head, called for him he had drunk enough to be quite
sober and sensible.  He stood for a moment, admiring his son's
sturdy little frame.  'I have indeed two of the SWEETEST children
in all the world,' and then, stamping on his sentimentality,
scolded Bullock all the way up Lower Regent Street for wearing a
bowler hat.

'They are altogether out of fashion.  You look like a travelling

'I wish I were,' Bullock said.  'Father, I MUST get a job
somewhere.  It's disgraceful.  It seems I'm no good at anything.'

'Myself likewise,' said Fred.

'Yes, but you're of an age and I'm just beginning.  Lizzie agrees
with me that somehow I've got to save the family.'

'What about your novel?  Won't that bring you a heap of money?'

'I don't know.  For one thing, it isn't finished.  For another,
writing never seems as good the day after as it does the day
before, if you understand what I mean.'

But Fred was worrying about the house again.

'Of course we could mortgage.  But that would be just the same as
selling it.  I could BORROW money on it, but that would be selling
it again.  No, we MUST find tenants or jobs.  Jobs or tenants.  You
see, Bullock, I can't think of ANYTHING I can do.  I'm too old and
too heavy to be a gigolo, too fond of liquor to be a butler, too
fond of your mother to be away from the house.  I might help my
brother sell things.  I can be charming when I like.  But I don't
know the value of anything.  I could cheat people, I suppose, in
one way or another.  There are all SORTS of ways, I believe--but
I'm not really bad enough.  I don't like hurting people.  Neither
does your mother.  That's one of our weaknesses in this hard,
relentless world.'

'Never mind,' said Bullock consolingly.  'We'll live on eggs and
cook them ourselves.'

'Yes, but you have to BUY the eggs.  And then there are rates and
light and coal and clothes and soap.'

'Soap's VERY cheap.'

'Yes, but the water has to be hot and your Mother and Kitty have
GOT to look handsome.  You're beginning to look shabby already with
that bowler hat.'

'Here we are,' said Bullock.  'Take care you don't stub your toes
on the staircase.'

They had pushed a bell in the old dingy house and the door had
silently opened.  After three flights of stairs that smelt of mice
and cheese there was old Ragadoon standing on the landing awaiting
them.  He had a tartan shawl over his shoulders, a shabby pair of
blue trousers and large, soft grey slippers.  He was smoking a

'This is my father,' Bullock said.

Ragadoon grunted, shook hands, motioned them into the room.  There
were three rooms, one a sitting-room, one a bedroom, and one a
storeroom.  There was also a little bathroom.  There was a kettle
on the fire.  The room was infernally hot.  In the course of the
next hour and a half Fred saw many miraculous things.  The walls
were a dusty faded red, a saffron yellow, a dirty grey, and on
these walls hung incredible masterpieces.  Over the bed was a
Giovanni Bellini, a landscape with a charming girl Madonna and a
fat kicking Bambino.  Over the wash-stand, hanging crooked on its
wire, was a Rembrandt--'Susanna and the Elders.'  Over the
mantelpiece was a Lorenzo di Credi--an Italian landscape with
figures.  Every inch of every wall was plastered with oils and
drawings: drawings by Leonardo, Rembrandt, Titian, Tiepolo, Greco;
there were Byzantine ikons, a triptych by Lorenzo Veneziano.  There
were cases packed with drawings and etchings.  In the small and
dirty bathroom were a number of Hogarths and Rowlandsons, coarse
and vigorous and merry.  They didn't talk very much.  Ragadoon
shuffled about, puffing at his pipe, muttering:  'Look at this.
Fine, isn't it?  What do you say to this?  Here's a Degas worth
looking at.  Beautiful Longhis, aren't they?  Genuine too.  Only
one Longhi in ten is to-day.  Tell me when you've had enough.'

But Fred Delaney never had enough.  He had no connoisseur's
knowledge of painting, but he didn't pretend to have.  He did what
any collector loves to have his visitor do--showed, by the light in
his eyes and the smile on his lips, that he was heavenly-happy.

It was indeed the perfect end to a perfect day.  Ragadoon and he
liked one another.

'Have some tea,' said Ragadoon.  'The kettle's boiling.'

'No, thanks,' said Fred.  'I've got to get back.  Doesn't anyone
look after you here?'

'I have a man,' Ragadoon said grimly.  'I hate him so much that
he's now out somewhere getting drunk.  A char comes mornings.'

He patted Bullock on the shoulder.

'I like your boy.  He's got a good girl too.  Well, good-day to ye,
if you must go.  Come again.'

In the street Fred Delaney said, 'Glory be to God!'



The Park threw poor Claude out of its misty securities as Big Ben
struck five.  He was so sharply sensitive now to every kind of
rebuff that he was well aware when the Park had had enough of him.

It had been an afternoon of thin floating mist with a smell of
bacon and fried sausage in the air.  That at least was how Claude
had felt it, for he was in a state of perpetual hunger.  Also the
sun had looked, through the mist, like a large poached egg, and
rather foolishly he had stood on the damp grass watching it descend
behind the trees and fancying that it came swimming towards him,
and a gigantic footman handed it on a piece of toast made out of a
brown sun-edged cloud that was hanging over the Memorial.  'Here
you are, sir!' said the Celestial Footman, and didn't Claude tuck
in!  Then--plop!--the sun had gone and the Park turned distinctly
nasty.  The trees flung their leaves at him, the mist came sweeping
like damp dishcloths flicking his face, and the houses closed in.
Very nasty the Green Park can be!  You can hear the underground
stream running, and eyes, that may be lamps or may not, look from
between the trees, and the long avenue is like the one Lady Dedlock
once hurried down to poor Mr. Tulkinghorn's ultimate disadvantage.

But no, the Green Park never has anything to do with the country,
and especially in autumn and winter it is urban.  Claude knows now,
as he hurries through the Gates, that messages are pouring into the
Park from little streets that smell of beer and strong tobacco,
from rooms up three flights of stairs with unmade beds in them and
tradesmen's calendars crooked on the wall and soot falling down the
chimney, and dark corners with some property-for-sale notice and an
iron urinal and a tobacco-shop with coarse postcards--and all the
cheap cinemas and all the dart-boards in all the pubs, and all the
area steps with all the cats, and all the broad thoroughfares with
the motor-cars panting and the changing lights, and all the City
churchyards with the mist groping over the forgotten graves, and
all the 'meat with two veg. shops' with their cubicles and steaming
hot cups of coffee, and all the pedlars in Holborn winding up their
dancing bears and jumping niggers and little men turning
somersaults, and all the old curiosity shops with netsukes and 'oil-
painting of Lady Hamilton' and chessmen of ivory, and bronze images
of 'The Dying Gladiator,' and all the men and all the women and all
the scarecrows and all the policemen and all the ladies of the
Town--the Green Park is aware of them all and is busy collecting
messages and sending them out again.  For here is the very heart of
London, and under the thin grass, if you put your ear to the
ground, you can hear the heart beating.

One more flap of the dishcloth mist and Claude is gone, hastening,
as though the assassin is at his heels, across Piccadilly, down
Half Moon Street, under the arch into the Market, through the door
and up the stairs, into his room where his Things are waiting for
him, his only friends, his only comfort, his only security against
the enemy.

He took off his coat, put on his dressing-gown, brushed his hair,
washed his hands.  Then opened the glass doors of the cabinet so
that he could see the better.  Then found his faded old writing-
case, opened it and drew from it two sheets of paper.  At the head
of the first of these he had written (the first letter of each word
in red ink)--

                    GIFTS FOR MY FRIENDS

Under the title it was stated:

After my decease I wish the undermentioned persons to be notified
that, in gratitude for their good-will towards me, I would wish
them to have some little possession of mine in memory of me.
Therefore on a certain day to be named by those in charge of my
affairs they will, I hope, come and choose something as a gift from

It had taken him much time and trouble to make this statement.  He
had written it again and again, loving indeed the labour that he
had expended over it.  Now, reading it over, he disliked the
ambiguity of 'they will, I hope, come,' etc.  Did not that mean
that the persons 'in charge of his affairs' should come?  That was
not at all what he intended.  He was, in fact, very uncertain as to
the names of 'those in charge.'  The natural thing would be to
appoint an executor, but that would surely be very ridiculous in
the case of someone whose 'leavings' were so very slender.  There
might indeed be no 'leavings' at all unless in some fashion he
managed to pay Brocket his rent.  Plans for doing this now obsessed
him night and day.  It was of this he had been thinking in the
Park, and it was there that it had suddenly come to him that he
would go to that delightful lady in Charles Street who had been so
very friendly to him, and explain to her the whole affair.  He
would tell her that except for the things named on this second
sheet of paper everything must be sold--his furniture, clothes,
everything.  This would not amount to a great sale, but it would be
sufficient, he thought, to cover the rent.  Then he would ask her,
as a great favour, to see that his list of bequests was not
interfered with.  He would explain to her that this little scheme
of his was now the only wish he had on earth.  He would not tell
her (what secretly he confessed to himself) that his great pride in
it rose from its novelty.  It was NEW.  No one, he had by this time
persuaded himself, had ever done it before; no one, in the wide
world, had ever thought of it before himself.  People would say:
'Well, he's gone.  Not an ordinary man really.  That was a charming
thought of his,' and for years after they would remember him for
his lovely little idea.  This was not, of course, his ONLY motive.

He had been always a sentimental, idealistic lover of his kind,
longing for love in return.  But, in that strange misty confusion
of old age, solitude, poverty and hunger, his plan had grown beyond
all its natural absolute bounds into a sort of fantastic poetic
creation.  Something NEW in the world like the Odyssey or the
Eroica. . . .

He surveyed his list of friends.  He had calculated that in all
there were nineteen Things and he had put on to paper twenty-two
friends.  But of five of these he was not certain.  They might be
dead; he could not be sure.  He had had some difficulty in
summoning twenty-two friends, and, if the truth were known, they
were not all very GREAT friends.  He did not, for example, know MR.
Delaney at all, but he thought that it would seem invidious indeed
to include his wife and children and leave him out of it.  One name
troubled him considerably--Mr. Walter Cavendish.  Walter Cavendish
was a young man, son of his old friend Colonel Bertie Cavendish,
some time deceased.  He had known Walter only as a very small boy,
quite a baby in fact, when in the enchanted days before the War he
had gone to stay with Bertie at his place in Somerset.  (Walter
Cavendish must be now forty if a day, but Claude saw him still as a
baby rolling under the table and crying because he had bumped his
head against the table-leg.)  Claude did know, however, that Walter
was now gossip-writer for the Daily Globe.  He detested gossip-
writers, but when he could afford it purchased the Daily Globe just
to see what his old friend's boy was saying.  Now, quite frankly,
he invited young Walter because he hoped that he might say a word
or two in his column.  This was disgraceful and pandering to all
the vilest tendencies of this modern world.  But he could not help
himself.  This one concession to vulgarity he must be allowed: and,
after all, he had once given Walter Cavendish a rocking-horse.

His brow corrugated with the most serious attention, he went once
more through the list of his friends.  WAS Charlie Knight alive?
Hadn't 'Buzzard' Taylor gone to South Africa years ago?  So, his
pencil poised, looking about the room, he saw what he had failed to
notice when he came in, two letters on his table.  TWO letters!
Most unusual!  The first was an ironic missive, an intimation from
a fashionable tailor in Burlington Street that he had in his
possession at this moment a most remarkable stock of suitings, etc.
etc.  He opened the other.  It contained a card with black edges,
and on the card he read that, Mr. Frederick Best having expressed,
before his decease, a wish that he might show in some fashion his
gratitude for the good-will that his friends had, for so many
years, shown towards him, he had thought to manifest his
thankfulness by arranging a collection of small possessions dear to
him.  This collection would be at the service of those same
friends.  These were invited, on October 5th instant, to attend at
No. 23 White Horse Street, between the hours of 2.30 and 5 p.m.,
that they might choose some small thing for themselves and keep it
as a memory of him.

Claude read this three times through.  The third time he read it
aloud as though the words were so incredible that he must test
their truth by sounding them.  Then the card dropped from his hands
and he sat staring in front of him.

His first violent emotion was of hatred and detestation of Best.
In his bewildered fancy it seemed to him that Best was standing in
front of him.  Best, short, stumpy-legged, red of face, blue of
eye, wearing his Club tie and canary-coloured waistcoat.  Best was
grinning at him malevolently.

'You've betrayed me, basely, cruelly, wickedly!'

'Well, you silly old fool, what did you tell me for?  I thought it
a damned good idea.  I had as much right to it as you.'

'You had not!  You had not!  It was MY idea!'

'Pooh--YOUR idea.  Your little idea.  It's nothing at all.  Why do
you get so excited about it?  You'd think you'd discovered the
North Pole.'

'It's all I had.  It was my one comfort.  You promised you'd tell

'How could I tell you'd take it so seriously?  You always were an
old woman.  Many a laugh Badget and I've had . . .'

Yes, that was the way Best would talk were he alive.  But he was
not.  He was dead.  When Claude had first heard of Best's sudden
death he had been most genuinely sorry.  He had never liked Best
and he was sure that Best had suspected him of stealing those
things, but there was something infinitely pathetic in the sudden
taking-off of a man who had been so sure of his own health.  He
could hear Best saying to Badget:  'In the pink of condition, old
man.  You should see me, stripped to the buff, doing my morning
exercises!  Never dream I was fifty-eight!'  And there he was, gone
in a moment!  Poor old Best!  An awful bore, but he meant well, his
heart was kind!

Meant well?  His heart was kind?  He meant ill.  His heart was
devilish, as were the hearts of all men in this foul, dangerous,
malevolent world!  With shaking hands Claude tore up the two sheets
of paper.  They lay in fragments about the table.

Then his ferocity changed to a dismal, miserable dejection.  After
all it had been his own fault.  He had told Best and Best had
thought it a good idea.  Best with his light mind and gay
loquacious character could not understand how much it would mean to
Claude.  And, after all, had it not been a kind of madness?  Was
not Claude perhaps going a little crazy in his loneliness?  At this
thought Claude began to tremble, his head to shake, his legs to
quiver.  For suppose they really did think him mad, and Brocket,
with his malicious wickedness, complained to the authorities and
they shut him up?  This horrible thought made him cry out aloud and
soon he was walking about his little room calling:  'No.  No.  They
can't do that.  They can't do that.'

Then, so doing, his eyes fell on the Things and he was filled with
a sentimental pity for them.  They must share in his own
disappointment, for it would have been a glorious future for them,
and now, when he was gone, they would have no future.

After all he could make a will and leave them, each by name, to a
friend.  But that would not be at all the same thing.  They were
too small, too unimportant to be left severally in a will.  And how
could he make a will when he had nothing to leave but these?  He
would not confess to himself that what he had wanted to do was to
make a little show, to assert himself, even for a moment, before
the callous, ungrateful world.  And it had been not only his
personal vanity, but also a desire for the glory of the Things
themselves.  He had seen them all set out on the table, and friends
regarding them with loving admiration. . . .  Oh, well, it had been
a childish, senile notion, something that only an old man, very
lonely, could conceive.  Best had taken it from him.  He was
welcome to it.

But now there was nothing left.  He sat down and stared in front of
him.  There was nothing left at all, except the unpaid rent, and
Brocket was drawing closer and closer. . . .  He blew his nose.  He
went to the cabinet and closed the doors.  The room now was growing
very dark.

He told himself that he would not go.  Of course he went.  It was
half-past three of a stormy, yellow-faced afternoon.  In Best's
dining-room the electric light blazed down upon a strange,
struggling, noisy crowd.

At the door stood a sleepy-eyed housemaid who received the cards
from the invited.  At the far corner near the sideboard on which
drinks were arranged stood Brocket in a shabby blue suit directing
a fat boy with his tie above his collar to serve everyone with
cocktails and sandwiches.  The crowd seemed large because the
dining-room table on which the gifts were arranged took up so much
of the room; nevertheless Best's executors had most certainly
invited too MANY friends.  It seemed to Claude, as he stood just
inside the door, that they surged round the table like animals,
talking, laughing, pushing.  Constantly someone made a stretch with
an arm towards the table.  A lady--there were many ladies--cried
out:  'That's mine.  Most certainly that's mine.'

When Claude, moving a little closer, saw the table and its
contents, any resentment against poor Best instantly died.  For
they were extremely pathetic.  Claude (for he was tall) beheld a
pencil, a ruler and an indiarubber, a plate with the arms of
Emmanuel College, Cambridge, a volume of poems by Lindsay Gordon
(shabby this), a photograph of the donor in flannels holding a
cricket-bat, a green inkbottle in the shape of a negro's head, two
blue vases stamped with red flowers, a copy of Decline and Fall by
Evelyn Waugh, a copy of Sorrell and Son by Warwick Deeping, a
photograph in a gilt frame of the Victoria Falls, a blotter of
purple leather, a water-colour of sea coming in under a large
yellow and inquisitive-looking moon, a cigar-case, a pair of silver
cuff-links . . . these things he saw.  There were others.

He was aware of a curious trait in the human character.  He felt it
rising in himself.  Nothing so far as he could see on the table was
of any value at all, and yet so strong is the passion in the human
breast for obtaining something for nothing that the crowd around
the table was beginning to be very troublesome.

When he first came in it seemed that everyone was politely social.
Glasses were held in the air, sandwiches nibbled, affairs of the
day discussed.  Oh, wasn't it splendid about Prince George and
Princess Marina!  Would it be a really Royal Wedding, one of those
GRAND affairs, nothing hole-and-corner?  Yes, and wasn't she truly
lovely?  Yes, again and again, and wasn't poor Noel Coward's
misadventure in Corsica too unfortunate?  He had lost fourteen
suits of clothes--and Ivor Novello--not very good, Murder in
Mayfair, do you think?  But The Shining Hour.  You should see how
naturally Raymond Massey plays the piano when all the time his barn
is burning over his head!  Dated!  Dated!  Even as the words rise
and fall in the air Time is passing.  In another moment it will be
another play, another actor, another marriage, another music . . .
but NOT yet is there any period to that sudden cry (for the Ice Age
Man cried it) 'It's mine!  I saw it first!'--and at that shrill
voice social amenities are forgotten, there is a surge towards the
table.  'Doesn't look bad, that razor-strop and blade,' a long thin
man, craning his neck beside Claude, murmured.  'If I could only
get to the table, blast it.'

A stout lady in bright blue, pushing with her arms right and left,
broke right through to the table.  She stretched her fat arm and
secured a bronze copy of Hercules strangling a serpent.  She held
it aloft and cried:  'Fred always wanted me to have this.  He said
so again and again.  It was always on his writing-table and he knew
I admired it.'

'If you DON'T mind,' one furious gentleman said to another.  'If
you'd kindly keep your arm out of my stomach . . .'

Then someone laughed and then everyone began to roar with laughter.
It became, in a moment, the jolliest affair possible.  Everyone
shoved together.  There were screams and cries and triumphant 'I've
got it,' and 'Look out--that's mine!' but no hostility now; just a
jolly friendly scramble.

And Claude joined in too.  He found himself, with arms and legs and
shoulders and chests and bosoms, struggling, pushing, until at last
he was beside the table, had snatched at a hideous little ash-tray
in beaten metal, had triumphantly, his tie hanging out over his
waistcoat, secured it!

In the twinkling of Brocket's eye the whole table was cleared.  Not
a thing remained.  Every face was flushed with pleasure, cocktails
were demanded. . . .

Claude, in his room, opened his cabinet, took out the Things one
after another, dusted each one with his handkerchief. . . .

The cabinet closed, he sat down and gazed at it.  For the first
time that day a gratified, benignant smile stole across his thin
anxious countenance.  His things were safe!

That was, however, a brief moment of respite.  The wheezy
asthmatical clock on the stairs had struck nine-thirty.  Claude's
room was dark save for the reflection that always came from the
lamp below in the Market.  This reflection was like an old
gentleman with a hooked nose.  If the curtains were not drawn it
settled itself, like one of the grotesques of Leonardo, on the
faded wallpaper, and there it clung--an old gentleman with hooked
nose and protruding chin and out of his left ear a banner of
wavering light. . . .

Claude lay back in his chair, his mouth open, a thin whistling
noise from between his lips, and on his fallen eyelids that damp
sheen that seems to speak of infinite weariness.  The old
gentleman's head on the wall becked and nodded.  Up from the Market
came faintly the sound of someone blowing a horn.

Brocket stood there, watching.  He was in an evil temper.  The girl
he had marked as his own resisted impertinently, said she was
engaged to a boy who worked in Charles Street.  A set of rooms was
vacant and he did not know how long it might be before he found a
tenant.  And he had scooped in no profits from Mr. Best.  That
mangy sister of his, Mrs. Fotheringay, and his brother-in-law,
Major Fotheringay, they had stood like gaolers over Mr. Best's
effects.  He'd give them gaolers!

And now he was looking at the sleeping Mr. Willoughby with absolute
loathing and with a virtuous sadism too.  Cruelty has its own
foundation of morality.  Brocket felt a very genuine disgust at
this old sleep-whistling failure.  And he felt his own virtuous
power.  One word from him, one lift of the finger, and the old man
would leap from his slumber, his eyes would stare with half-
awakened terror.  He would stare like an old madman.  Well, perhaps
he was by now a madman--half out of his wits--ought to be put away
by the authorities.  That was a new idea.

'Mr. Willoughby!  Mr. Willoughby!' he said softly.  He stood with
his belly jutting out from the wall, his head a little forward.
'Mr. Willoughby!'

Claude had been standing before the long windows of a glorious
room, a room hung with tapestries with a painted ceiling of nymphs
and cupids.  Breakfast was just over.  They were going for a ride.
You could hear the horses now on the gravel. . . .  'Mr.
Willoughby!'  Claude opened his eyes and saw the shabby room veiled
in a sort of smoky dusk, the reflection stirring like water on the
wall, and then Brocket's belly and the dark form of his thick body
in the half-light.

'Mr. Willoughby!'

'Well. . . .  What is it?'

'I came to see if you were all right.  I was on the stairs and you
were crying out.'  (He was not, but that didn't matter.)

'I was asleep. . . .'  Claude sat up.  'All right.  What are you
standing there for?'

'Are you quite well?  You haven't been looking yourself.'

'Of course I'm quite well.  What business is it of yours?'

'Oh, nothing.'  Brocket came forward and bent a little as though he
would see clearly into Claude's face.  'Bit peculiar you've been
behaving.  Don't know it yourself, I expect.'

Claude sat back in the chair.  'Don't come near me.  You know I
can't bear it.'

'No--and that's another peculiar thing.  If you told someone about
it they'd think it VERY peculiar.'

'What do you mean--told someone?'

'Oh, well--I have to see everything's right with my tenants, you
know.  The authorities trust me for that.'

'But of course I'm all right.  There's nothing peculiar in not
wanting to be touched by YOU!'

'Now that's rude, Mr. Willoughby, positively rude.  But you HAVE
been talking wild lately.  Several people have noticed it.  Very
wild at times.  And the way you have of talking to yourself. . . .
Well, well . . . good night.  Good night.'



The Park has seen so many lovers in its time that it cannot be
expected to pay any very particular attention to Bullock and Lizzie
seated on two little chairs on a late October afternoon.  It is,
however, a scientific fact, and not merely a sentimental whimsy,
that lovers are always assured that clouds, grass, flashes of
sunlight, sudden storms and dust blowing in the eyes have their
origin in the emotions of the heart.

Little Bullock Delaney was never an idle sentimentalist, but he was
convinced on this especial afternoon that the thin October sun, the
faint scent of chrysanthemums from somewhere or other, the idle,
twirling fall of an orange-amber leaf or two--these things were
beautifully operating because he loved Lizzie Coventry so very

No relation between any two human beings ever stands still.
Bullock and Lizzie were not where they had been even a month ago.
The great change had occurred during a railway journey from London
to Yarmouth.  One fine morning they suddenly thought that they
would pay Yarmouth a visit.  Lizzie, to whom Dickens was one of the
few delightful English novelists, wished to salute the ghosts of
the Peggottys.  Bullock, monstrously extravagant, bought first-
class tickets, and they were, throughout the journey, alone in
their compartment.

Bullock lay with his head in Lizzie's lap and her thin hand was on
his breast.  The morning was exquisite and beautifully silent.
They talked very little.  As is the way in life, there occurred for
Bullock one of those moments of perfect experience when life seems
to say:  'For this hour I have decided to deprive myself of all the
irritations, disappointments, colds, malaises, bad tempers and
incongruities with which it generally amuses me to cloud the scene.
For once (and I may never be in the mood again) I allow you to look
right through into the clarity of absolute experience.  This is
what I REALLY am; it wouldn't be good for you to see me like this
very often.  Moreover it would be very dull for ME.'

Lizzie said once, as though to herself:  'Yes--I know now that I
love you, Bullock dear.'

Yarmouth, afterwards, was good enough and they had great fun; on
the journey back Lizzie slept, her head on Bullock's shoulder.  But
it was the journey THITHER that had this great quality of

She trusted him now entirely and, in many ways, this made things
more difficult for him.  In years she was still a child, but she
had, he now knew, a deep horror of all sexual experience.  She
might have this always.  As a baby she had witnessed the naked
wranglings, infidelities, cruelties of mature men and women.  As a
little child she had heard and seen terrible things.  She had saved
herself only by a savage and determined resolve to protect herself
always from all physical experience.  Two persons only in her life,
her Aunt Fanny and her cousin Edward, had won her trust.  Now a
third, Bullock, and possibly Bullock's mother.

Bullock knew well that at the slightest evidence on his part of any
sexual feeling she would withdraw immediately, and while he had
thought of her as a child in his care there had been no danger.
But he loved her; she was very mature for her age; he must guard
his every thought and action.

Intellectually their constant companionship had developed him with
remarkable effect.  He read as she suggested, argued, fought and
now often won a battle.  On this very afternoon they battled with
energy over Gide's Les Faux-Monnayeurs.

'Well, of course,' Lizzie said, her small face tilted into
patronage, 'you have to read a great deal of French fiction before

'Nonsense,' Bullock said.  'I'm perfectly able to tell whether I
like a novel in French or any other language.  Gide in his
dedication calls it his first NOVEL.  It isn't his first because it
isn't a novel.  It's simply another of his eternal autobiographies.'

'You're prejudiced against him because of his morals.'

'Certainly I'm not.  Who cares nowadays anyway?  But as a matter of
fact in this case it DOES matter because it makes him lop-sided.
Edouard is simply himself, and Edouard's ideas about the novel are
so very old-fashioned, getting down to reality and all the rest of
it.  As though that isn't what everybody's been doing for years ad
nauseam.  Besides if you're a true creator you don't talk about
your creation as he's always doing.  You just go along and create.'

Lizzie smiled.  She was very pale, and her clothes now had a worn,
almost shabby look.  The effect of them, if you did not see her
face, was to make her seem a little old woman, beautifully neat and
clean, but a little rusty.  And then, when she turned and you saw
her face, you saw that she was a child, delicate, anxious, proud.
She refused to allow Bullock to do anything for her except pay for
meals and transit, a cinema or a cheap seat in the theatre when
they were together.  Her father now never gave her anything at all.
Sometimes she saw money lying about and took some of it and told
him.  Then he would be furious or humorous or indifferent.  She
hardly ever saw him now alone.  He seemed to be glad that Bullock
had taken her off his hands.

Once, in his own curious way, he had loved her.  Now his personal
life was so desperate that he had no time nor ease to think of her.
On her side something remained of the love that SHE had had, but
she hated his surroundings and his companions so intensely that she
could not bear to be in that place.

Bullock knew that she was now in terror although she would not
confess to it.  Catastrophe had been down the street; now it was
there down their chimney.

Bullock took her hand in his.

'Don't let's talk about silly books.  We must go along now because
I want a word with your father.'

Her hand jumped in his.

'Oh no--why?'

'Because he's got to answer me certain questions.'

'What questions?'  Her eyes devoured his face and he was proud to
see how truly now she trusted him.

'He's in an awful mess.  It gets worse every day.  You know that.
If anything happens what does he do about you?'

'I go with him, I suppose,' she said simply.  'I always have.'

'Oh no, you don't.  Everything's different now.  You belong to me
for ever and ever.  You know that perfectly well.'

'Yes, I suppose so.  But you haven't any money either.'

'No, but somehow I shall always have enough to look after you.  And
then there's your aunt in Westminster.  But the point is that if
your father has to leave England--well, in a hurry--I want to make
it perfectly plain that he can't just go and send for you whenever
he pleases.  You don't belong to HIM any more.'

She sat there, looking in front of her, her small anxious face
concentrated on a vision of the past.  What a life it had been!
What adventures and escapes and shabby intrigues!  What lovely
places and LOVELY people abandoned so often just when they were
especially lovely!  And what VILE people and disgraceful words
spoken and horrible things seen!  And through it all, that handsome
figure of her father, often so merry, kind, generous, loving her,
she knew, when he cared for no one else in the world.  And now that
man was gone, gone for ever.  There was no kindness, no generosity,
no love.  She knew, young as she was, that it had been by his own
fault, and by no hardship or injustice of fate, that he had fallen.
She drew no moral, made no accusation; only her hands closed
tightly on her lap, and she bowed her head for a moment as she bade
her father an eternal farewell.

Captain Nicholas Coventry was wearing dark-blue pyjamas and a
dressing-gown of white and blue squares.  His pyjama jacket was
open and revealed his pink chest, and a line above the navel, where
his belly began.  He was running badly to fat.  His ruddy chin wore
a thin white stubble.  On his feet were soiled red-leather
slippers.  He was broad, almost feminine, in the beam.  His hair
was too long above his ears.

But his eyes were wide open.  He was not at all bleary-eyed; all
his senses were alert.  On the table were the dirty remains of a
cold-ham-and-beer breakfast.  He sat, his legs spread, holding on
to the back of a chair, and he was quite clearly at bay, his ears
cocked back for the slightest clink of a danger.

Although it was late in the afternoon Bullock could see, through
the half-open door, that his bed was still unmade.  It seemed from
the appearance of the pillows that two persons had been sleeping in
it, but there was no sign of anyone about the place.  Lizzie had
told him that the half-caste had disappeared some two or three days
before.  'The first time he has left us for years.  He was always
FOLLOWING Father, but now I don't think he'll come back.  He smells
it's all over.'

Lizzie went into her little room to take off her hat.

'What do you want?' Captain Nicholas asked.  He didn't draw his
pyjama jacket together in regard for his daughter.  He didn't
recognize her in any way.

Then he said:  'Look here, have a drink. . . .  I'm going to have a
bath.  I was up all night so I've been sleeping all day.'

'Did we wake you?  Sorry,' Bullock said ironically.  He had come to
hate Captain Nicholas Coventry.  'No, I don't want a drink.'

'You can talk to me in my bath,' Captain Nicholas said, hitching up
his pyjama trousers.

'No, I can't,' Bullock said firmly, 'because Lizzie has to be here.
Come here, Lizzie.'

'What the hell do you want Lizzie for?'

'Because she must hear what I have to say.'

She stood near him.  He put out his arm and drew her close to him.

'Lizzie is still a child in years, but she isn't a child all the
same.  You know I love her and she loves me.'

'Well?' said Captain Nicholas.  'Get on.  I want my bath.'

'What a beast you are!' Bullock said, his round face flushing, his
hand trembling ever so slightly on Lizzie's shoulder.  'Here's your
only child who's stood every kind of horror and unkindness from
you, and you don't give a hang what happens to her.'

Captain Nicholas scratched his left breast.  'My dear boy, I don't
care, just now, what happens to anyone but myself.  I'm in the hell
of a mess if you want to know, and Lizzie will shortly have to look
out for herself.'  He looked at Bullock, and for a fleeting moment
there came into his face the old humorous charm that had once been
so persuasive.  'You're writing a novel, aren't you?  My daughter
tells me so.'

'I am,' Bullock said briefly.

'It'll be a damned bad one.  I can tell you that.  You're much too
penny-plain twopence-coloured about human nature.  You think people
are either good or bad.  You're the hero and I'm the villain.  I
assure you it isn't so.  I'm WEAK if you like.  Deliberately so.  I
think it more amusing to yield to every temptation that comes
along.  But I'm ever so much better a fellow than you are.  Now you
don't do anything at all except try to write a novel.  I keep ever
so many people employed and occupied, including, it seems, the
London police.  I make young men, who would otherwise be lazy, want
to earn money that they may play cards with me.  Then I'm
infinitely more amusing than you are, know more about life than you
will ever know, and make all kinds of women believe that they are
handsome and witty.'

'Never mind paying yourself compliments,' Bullock said.  'What I've
come here to find out is, if you have to leave the country
suddenly, what do you intend to do about Lizzie?'

'Oh, I leave her to you, dear boy, I leave her to you.'

'Yes.  That's what I wanted to know.  When you go I shall take her
to her aunt's in Westminster.  In two years' time from now I shall
marry her.'

'She's a lucky girl,' said Captain Nicholas, grinning.  'Aren't
you, Liz?'

Lizzie said, 'If you want me, Father, I'll come with you.'

'No.  I don't want you.  It's got beyond that.  It's come to a time
when it's all I can do to look after myself.'  He moved into the
little bathroom.  Behind the door he was turning on the water,
which made a tremendous noise.  He appeared through the door,
stripped to the waist, red and grinning.  'But we're safe for a day
or two, I think.  Be happy, my children.'

Then he shut the door.

'And so he's still unhappy--and wants to see me.  Although it's
weeks now. . . .'

Kitty looked at the brief letter which said:  'I have been
inexcusable.  I am in despair.  Please give me a quarter of an
hour.  I can be in the Park by the bandstand to-morrow, Wednesday,
about five.  I shall be there in any case.  Alton.'

They made assignations in the commonest way--although why not?
They were not lovers.  She had not seen the boy since she had met
him with the florid woman in the Park on the last day of September.

Kitty had, however, paid four visits to Alton's father.  She liked
him.  She was not in the least afraid of him.  He was like his
paintings on the wall in his room--bad taste, strength and honesty
and, behind them, real and authentic beauty.  He was the strangest
man she had ever known, but through contact with him she was
awaking to a kinship with reality that would give life an
additional dimension.  But Alton?  He was weak, hysterical,
foolish, but she felt for him a great tenderness.  He was the first
person who had ever roused in her the feelings that she might have
for her own child.

She went to the Park.  There was thin, slightly aromatic mist as
though she were in a windy lighted hall slightly dimmed with
cigarette smoke.  He was waiting there, the collar of his overcoat
turned up, his hands jammed in its pockets.

'I wonder you've come. . . .  You must hate me.'

'Hate you!  No.  Of course not.  Let's walk a little.  It's

'I didn't think you'd see me again.'

'But why on earth not?'

'I've let you down so horribly.  And when you passed me the other
night . . .'

She said gently:  'I'm only sorry we haven't seen more of one

Words poured from him.  'I wasn't going to see you again.  I'm no
good, no good at all.  I'm still just as I was when I first saw
you.  Just the same.  But it's all no good.  I can't write.  My
play's hopeless and you knew it from the first.  But you gave me a
sort of hope.  There are millions like me who think they have
talent, who, when they read a thing, say:  "I can do better than
that."  But they can't really.  And when they hear a woman like you
and who seems to be interested in them say: "Well, why not?  What
does class matter these days?  We're all the same now."  But we're
not.  There's a great gulf fixed between men like me and women like
you.  When I kissed you that day of the storm I thought I'd be a
new man, different, wonderful.  The world would recognize me as a
genius and then I could claim you.  But of course I'm not a genius,
and just because you've been kind to me and visited us it only
makes the gulf seem wider.'

'Of course there's no gulf,' Kitty said.  'I told you I'd be your
friend and I will be always.'

'How can you be my friend?  You can't take me into your world--only
if I were a wonderful artist or if you loved me so passionately
that you didn't care what happened or what people said.'

'I don't care what people say.'

'No, I don't believe you do.  But all the same I haven't the kind
of character to make it worth your while.  And you're not in love
with me.'  He paused.

'I'm not in love with anybody,' she said.

'No.  It was a new experience for you and you were sorry for me.
And then soon you saw how ordinary I was.  Why, my father is more
interesting to you than I am!'

He paused again.

'He is, isn't he?'

'I like your father.  I think he's a very unusual man.'

'I hate my father.  He's a beast.'


'No.  What do you know about it?  You haven't lived with him for
years and years as I have--he pretending he's crippled so that he
can be lazy and get us to slave for him, and he do his horrible
paintings.'  He looked up at her beseechingly.  'I don't know what
I'm saying.  It isn't true that there's nothing the matter with
him.  He did have a fall and hurt his spine.  But he's been getting
better and better.  Ever since you first came.  Did you know he's
sitting up now and he can walk round the room?  Well, never mind.
What does it matter?  I only wanted to tell you that I'm grateful
to you for being kind and I mustn't see you again.  There's another
lady.  She's not like you.  There couldn't be anyone more
different.  But she's what I'm meant for.  She's my sort.'

'Are you going to be married?' Kitty asked.

'No.  Of course not.  She's older, years older.  Don't ask me about
her.  Not a word.  She's nothing to do with us.  I'm no good.  I
had a dream.  I've woken up.'

She put her hand on his arm.

'Now, Alton, listen to me for a minute.  I don't think you know
much about life yet and I don't either.  We're both alike in that.
But what I said before is true.  I'm your friend now and always.
What you do with your life isn't my affair, but at any time--years
from now if you like--I'll be your friend just the same, help you
if I can, perhaps ask you to help ME--'

She broke off.  She wanted so dreadfully to help him and she hadn't
the least idea how to do it.  Standing there under the misted trees
she realized that she knew nothing about men, nothing about life,
nothing about Alton.  She had everything, absolutely everything, to

He stood and held out his hand.

'Well, good-bye.  You'll be always a kind of miracle to me.  A
moment's miracle.'

He touched her hand and went.

Kitty Delaney felt anything but a 'miracle' as she walked through
the thickening mist homewards.  She was very unhappy.  In the first
place, she was a really nice girl and, like most of the young women
of her generation, hated that anyone should be miserable.  They are
reputed, her generation, to be hard and fast and selfish.  On the
contrary they are practical, tender-hearted, and think less about
sex than the general state of the world.  This last thing they find
rotten and they have, for the most part, learnt how in this way or
that to ameliorate it a little.  But this Foster affair was
actually Kitty's very first effort at ameliorating something, and
she had done, it seemed, nothing but harm to the Fosters.

She had heard, from time to time, the epithet applied to the
Delaneys, generally in scorn--the 'joyful' Delaneys--and had always
resented it.  Now she saw the reason for that resentment.  Their
family happiness had kept them all from knowing anything about real
life.  They were all playboys, and to be that at this terrible time
of world crisis was dreadful indeed.

They had been happy because they had been living in a kind of fairy-
tale, but NOW, Kitty reflected more cheerfully, everything was
about to change.  Soon, very soon, they would either be penniless
or have sold the house.  Either event would plunge them beyond
question into reality and would surely check their good spirits.
But would it be so?  She and her father and mother had, during the
last week or two, suffered intolerable hardships.  That is--there
had been, in answer to advertisements in The Times and the Daily
Telegraph, a constant succession of ladies and gentlemen wondering
whether they would take 'a flat.'  Old gentlemen, young gentlemen,
ladies who were so ancient that they had to be carried from room to
room, young women brisk, practical, full of sex, without any sex at
all.  The would-be tenants had apparently only one thing in common--
they wanted something for nothing.  When they heard what the rent
was they all exclaimed alike; and yet Fred Delaney had thought the
rent moderate.  They said the flats were not modern enough.  The
water-closets were especially unsatisfactory, although Fred could
not discover why.  And, of course, there was no central heating.
It came to this: that for those who had the money the flats were
not good enough, and those for whom the flats WERE good enough had
no money.  The RUDENESS of those who had the money!  Their
patronage, conceit, laziness!  And those who had NOT the money, how
friendly they were, how obsequious, how anxious to move in AT ONCE!

One lady, carrying a Pekinese dog, smoking a cigarette from a
holder as long as her pedigree (she gave Fred reels and reels of
this), with a little squashed face creased with powder, irregular
eyebrows and lips so bloodily red that it was like reading a murder
case in the paper to look at them, wanted, in a high shrill baby
voice (the sound that comes from a poke-me-in-the-stomach doll), to
move in at once, at once!  'Why should I wait?' she screamed.  'Why
should Po-Ko and I wait?  They suit me perfectly.  I can send for
my things.  All that I really need is a saucer of milk for Po-Ko!'
It was quickly discovered, alas! that Mrs. Lane Fosby Featherstone
had not a bean in the world and owed mountains and mountains of
beans to unfortunate, trusting shopkeepers.  Then one slim lady,
suddenly flashing her eye like a lighthouse beam on to Meg's
innocent countenance, said:  'A young man committed suicide in
these rooms, did he not?'  After that, everyone seemed to know it,
always enquired ghoulishly to behold exactly the spot where the
deed had been committed, and then, after a thrilled and exhaustive
examination, declared that it wouldn't be possible to live in a
house where there had been a suicide.

'Statistics,' Fred Delaney said cheerfully, 'show that there has
been, at one time or another, a suicide in every house in London.'

'But this is so recent.'

'That means that there won't be another here for at least a
century.  The average is--one a century.'

Beastly of them, Kitty thought, to behave thus about poor Smoke;
but then they hadn't known him.  It did make such a difference if
you knew somebody!

Very shortly a decision must be come to--sale, mortgage, or
tenants.  Kitty loved both her parents, but especially, perhaps,
her father, and she did realize that leaving the house would be
appalling for them and would separate all the family for the first
time in their lives.

Bullock would HAVE to get a job somewhere and would marry one day,
she supposed, that funny pale silent child of his.  And she--would
she marry Colonel Beaminster?

Oh no, no, no!  Never, never!  At that she realized, standing now
in Charles Street, just outside the beloved house, why it was that
she was happy in spite of her dreadful failure with Alton Foster,
and Colonel Beaminster's ardent desire for her.  It was because she
was free!  Alton's father had in some mysterious, coarse, but vital
fashion, given her a sense of the positive EXPERIENCE of life--
hurting, wounding, scorning, maiming, slaughtering, but LIFE!  She
was free, she was alive, she was in love with no one.  But she
would be, she would be!  She was on the verge!  She was about to
plunge into a miraculous, tossing, spuming, thundering sea!

All very well.  But what she found when she entered the firelit,
friendly, gaily-coloured room was little Millie Pake looking so
old, so wan and so fragile that it was heartbreaking to behold.

'Millie!  You darling!  At last!  We thought we were never going to
see you again!'

Millie was greatly touched by her love and sympathy; indeed for a
moment Kitty thought that Millie was going to cry.  She was made of
sterner stuff.  She sat down in her rather faded black dress and

'But where's Mother?  Does she know you're here?'

'Oh yes, dear.  We were having a nice talk when someone arrived to
see the flats.'

'Poor Mother. . . .  But tell me--where are you living and why
haven't you been to see us before?'

'I've been in the country with my brother.  I didn't want to come
and see you until I was settled.'

'And where ARE you settled?'

'In Bloomsbury, dear.  A very nice room quite close to the Ivanhoe

'Why,' Kitty thought, 'I don't believe she's having enough to eat.
I'm sure she isn't.'

'Bloomsbury--but do you like it there?'

'Not so much as here, dear, of course.  But one must go where one
can afford.'

'Oh dear--how I wish you could come back here!  But I'm afraid we
shall have to sell the house.'

'So your mother's been telling me.  It seems SUCH a pity, such a
terrible pity.'

'Of course it is.  I don't know what poor Father will do.  But it's
money.  Everything's money nowadays.'

Meg came in.  'Thank heaven THEY'RE gone! . . .  Oh, there you are,
dear.  Now, Millie darling, we'll have some tea.'

'There's something up with Mother,' Kitty thought.  'She's in a
very odd state of excitement.'

Caesar brought in the tea and there seemed something strange about
him too.

'What's the matter with Caesar?' Kitty asked.

'He's having a dreadful time with his old mother.  She's found out
he's got a girl and he won't give her up.'

'I should think not indeed.'

Millie got up to go.  There was a slight fog and the bus would be
slow.  Kitty felt a sense of acute discomfort at the thought of the
dreary lonely room to which she must be returning.

'Look here, dear.  Mother and I will come and take you out to lunch

'Very soon, dear, we will,' Meg said, kissing Millie.  'I'm afraid
I can't to-morrow.  I'm going away for the week-end.'

Kitty turned on her.

'You are?  First I've heard of it.  Why, wherever to?'

'To some friends, dear.'

'What--you and Father?'

'No.  Father IS going away, I believe--but somewhere else.  To some
shooting, I think.'

'Well--what do you think of that!' Kitty cried.

'Very nice,' Millie Pake said at the door.  'Going away for the
week-ends.  I used to think it the greatest fun.'

'I'll come and take you out to lunch by myself, then.  What's the

'I think we'd better meet somewhere,' Millie said.

'All right, then.  Let's meet at Oxford Circus outside the Tube.
One o'clock.  Good-bye, darling.  Look after yourself.'

Back in the room again Kitty looked at her mother.

'Where on earth are you off to to-morrow?'

'I'm going to stay with friends.'

'And that's all I'm to know?'

'That's all you're to know.'

Kitty kissed her.

'Oh, well, you deserve a bit of fun.'

'Yes,' said Meg.  'I think I do.'



'Crossing the Park is like crossing the Rubicon,' Fred Delaney had
once said.  Meg was not quite sure of anything about the Rubicon
except that it was a river, but she did wake very early in the
morning from a strange dream in which a schoolmistress in a gown
and mortar-board had cried out:  'Now, Meg Delaney, if you can't
jump the Park you've failed.  It ought to be quite easy after all
the exercise you've been taking.'

She looked at the Park and it was a broad brown piece of soil with
trees on the other side.  The trees were crowded with birds, all
squawking at once.  She jumped--and woke to the thin grey light
behind the curtains and Fred's stout body in the next bed huddled
and sleep-soaked, his gentle comfortable breathing speaking its
usual reassurance and safety.

Safety!  That was all very well.  THIS was the day!  She did not
sleep another wink.

At about a quarter to twelve Fred Delaney, looking very smart and
debonair, kissed her and patted her on the shoulder.

'Well, old dear, I'm off.'

'What time's your train?'

'Oh, somewhere round one.  I shall look in at the Club.'

She kissed him.

'Good-bye, darling.  Sure you've packed everything?'

'I think so.'

'Look after yourself.  Mind you shoot well.  Don't disgrace the

There was a little pause at that.

'And you look after YOURSELF.'

'Oh, of course.  What time will you be back on Monday?'

'Oh, I don't know.  Some time in the morning.'

'I'll expect you for lunch, then.'

Fred was gone.  And then there was Bullock.

'I say, darling--it's such a lovely day.  Why don't you come to Kew
this afternoon with Lizzie and me?'

Meg sat down in a corner of the sofa with her book.

'Didn't you know, dear?  I'm going away for the week-end.'

Bullock stared.

'Oh, are you?  Wherever to?'

'Just to some friends.  People you don't know, dear.'

'Oh, Lord! . . . and Father's going away too, isn't he?'

'Yes, dear. . . .  He's gone.'

'How extremely rum!  Who's going to look after the prospective

'Oh, Caesar will show them round if you and Kitty are out.  They
don't come much at week-ends.'

'No.  I suppose they don't.'

Bullock stared at his mother speculatively for a moment, kissed her
on the forehead.

'So long, darling.  I hope you have a lovely time.  Back Monday

'I expect so.'

'Right-ho.' Bullock went out, whistling.

Meg sat there with the very clever novel on her knee.  She was
holding it upside-down.  The house was silent about her, the sun
pouring joyfully into the room.

She was to meet Graham Pender at Paddington Station at four
o'clock.  Caesar would bring her in a little something to eat on a
tray.  Her face was hot, as though someone had slapped her.  She
was in a state of thrilling anticipation, dismay, self-disapproval,
self-glorification, vanity and tenderness.  She felt as though she
were sitting in the middle of the sofa, one arm round Fred, the
other round Graham.  No--NOT round Fred, for he had gone to spend a
week-end of sin with Alice Van Renn.  She hated Alice Van Renn!
Oh, how she hated her!--and this week-end of hers that was to be
spent near Oxford was in a way a slap in the face of Alice Van
Renn.  Not that Alice would care.  But Fred would and did.

He had come out of his dressing-room that morning and said, as she
sat at the looking-glass brushing her beautiful hair:

'Where are you going, Meg?  This week-end, I mean?'

'I'll tell you,' she had answered, 'if you'll tell me where YOU'RE

'I think we're a pair of bloody fools,' he had answered.

And so perhaps they were.  Meg had, of course, never been
unfaithful to him before.  She did not KNOW that she was going to
be unfaithful to him now.  She was hoping to give poor Graham a
little happiness for an hour or two, so that, as he said, he 'would
have something to remember.'  She was doing, she said to herself
over and over again, 'no one any sort of harm.'  She was sure, by
this time, that that strange woman, Evelyn Pender, knew all about
it and was quite agreeable to Graham's 'having a little adventure.'
She was as sure of Graham as Meg was of Fred.  Or was she?  Was
anyone ever sure of anyone?  Well, then, suppose no one was.  This
was a definitely WICKED thing that Meg was going to do--and Meg
didn't care!  It was her last, her very last fling!  And how many
middle-aged, happily married women there were who would adore to
have a last fling and would be all the better for it if they did!
How many virtuous married women there were, who saw old age
stealthily approaching and DID have a last fling--if only the whole
truth were known!

But it was no use at all to think of other women!  Other women
might commit their sins their own way.  Everyone's history was his
or her own history.

She remembered a dear old priest to whom she had listened once as
he talked on the wireless about Chastity.  It was clear that he had
a most charming personality; it was also clear that he knew nothing
whatever about the perils and sins and urgencies of the flesh.
Here was Meg Delaney, middle-aged and handsome, happily married,
who yet had the devil in her and longed before she died that some
man, not her husband, should tell her that he loved her, should say
the pretty things and look at her as though she were the queen of
the earth and tell her that she was still beautiful.  Only this
once before she died!  And why was it so evil?  She was married to
a man who loved her, but who yet had been physically unfaithful to
her and would be again.  He did not love her the less for that
infidelity, and she, through long training, had learnt not to be
inquisitive and not to be jealous.  The fires in him were already
dying down.  Already he almost never left her side.  Had she been
the other sort of wife, tiresome, nagging, resentful, reminding,
would he not have fled from her long ago?  From her babyhood almost
she had learnt that men must be patiently borne with by women.
Even the best of them would stray at times.  No.  NOT the best of
them!  There WERE men whose fidelity, self-sacrifice, chastity,
made them miracles.  She had met one or two.  But then she had
always noticed that their chaste marital fidelity gave them a kind
of thin, unhumorous, greedy air.  They sat over their wives as a
hen sits brooding on an egg!

Ah! it was a difficult, difficult world, and women who loved life
and knew that soon--ah! so soon! so soon!--they would wither and
decay--poor women--God be merciful to them!

And--at that moment's thought of the God in Whom she believed--she
pushed her mind away and turned her novel right side up and walked
about the room and sat down again and said:  'Ah, Caesar, here's
the lunch--that's good!' because she knew that it was a wicked
thing that she was about to do and that the less she thought about
God (until the thing was over) the better.

Caesar was looking extremely lugubrious.  There were heavy lines
about his eyes as though he had not been sleeping.

'Here are the soup and the fish.  I'll bring in the cutlet

'You don't look very well, Caesar.  What's the matter?'

He stood before her, in his black suit, a mere unhappy child.

'It's my mother, Mrs. Delaney.  She's been carrying on something

'I shouldn't live with her, then.'

'I can't very well help it.  She'd be all alone by herself.'

'It's ridiculous.  No mother can stop her son marrying.  It's right
and fair he should.'

'What's all wrong, Mrs. Delaney, is that she won't see the girl.
She's ever so nice and sweet.  If Mother saw her she'd HAVE to like

'I shouldn't count on that,' said Meg.

'No, perhaps you're right, Mrs. Delaney.  And there's something
else.  There's this man in the Market won't leave her alone.'
Caesar's brow darkened.  He looked really formidable.  'I'm a bit
of a boxer,' Caesar said.  'And if I catch him at his games
there'll be murder done.  My girl hates him and slapped his face
night before last.'

'Who is the man?'

'His name's Brocket.  He's a beast, that's what he is.'

'Don't you worry, Caesar.  It'll all come right.'  She sighed.
'The only sad thing is that it really looks as though we shall have
to sell the house.  We CAN'T get anyone to take the rooms.'

'No.  I know,' said Caesar, looking even more lugubrious.  'Aren't
they awful?  The people that come, I mean.  They don't know WHAT
they want.'

'They know only too well what they want.  They don't want to live
here--that's all.  However, you'll soon get another place.  And
better than this!'

'Oh, Mrs. Delaney, I don't want to leave you--I don't indeed.  And
my girl and me's been thinking.  If you've got to go to a smaller
place--well--she cooks beautiful.  She's an artist.  She really is.
And we were thinking--'  Then embarrassment suddenly took him, and
muttering something about 'cutlets' he retired.

It was half-past two.  She need not leave for the station until
half-past three.  In her state of agitation she could not remain
still.  She would walk a little.

She walked slowly and as she walked she thought:  'I'll have to go
now anyway.  It would be too awful to have the long Sunday in
London knowing all the time where Fred is.  Suppose Evelyn Pender
is planning some horrible trick, suddenly turns up or sets spies on
us or something!  Suppose she divorces Graham!  Oh, but she NEVER
would! . . .  I feel ridiculous--exactly as I used to in Nice when
I had fifty francs unexpectedly to spend, and as I did when I hurt
Mademoiselle's feelings by saying something rude and personal.  I
feel NOW as though already I had done some incalculable wrong to
someone. . . .  How ridiculous!  There are, I suppose, hundreds of
women--and not so young either--going off this week-end with men
they're not married to.  The curious thing is that I'm terribly
excited but NOT very happy.  Not my usual happiness.  But when I
see Graham waiting there at Paddington I shall forget everything
else in seeing HIS happiness!  But there must be no more of these
meetings--not after this one.  I must make that clear to him.
There must never be another.  Oh dear!  Here I am in Shepherd
Market. . . .'

It was strange, she thought, that as soon as you passed under Miss
Bonda's archway your standards of excitement, beauty, sensation,
seemed to alter.  There was, for example, nothing exceptional about
'Ye Grapes' at the corner of Market Street, and yet it would not at
all surprise you to see Shakespeare and Ben Jonson walking out of
it arm in arm, wiping their beards.  Nor was there anything out of
the ordinary handsome about the fish-shop, and yet it positively
REEKED of the sea as though you were enjoying a holiday at
Mevagissey, Penberth Cove, Bedruthan Steps and Bude all at the same

Meg had a curious sensation as though, when she stepped into Market
Street, something whispered to her:  'You've altered your life by
walking in here.  Everyone who walks in here at certain changes of
the moon does.'

She looked at her wrist-watch.  It was ten minutes to three.  She
would have started back to Charles Street, but a curious, cracked,
rather 'horsy' voice detained her.  She was standing, without
knowing it, outside the bookshop that had the shelf of 'sixpenny'
and 'twopenny' volumes; and very good value most of them were!

At her side was a middle-aged lady, short and square-shouldered,
wearing a black straw hat with a pin through it such as they wore
in the nineteen-hundreds.  She was searching rather short-sightedly
along the row of 'sixpennies.'

'If you see,' she said, without even looking at Meg, 'Red Pottage
anywhere, do let me know.'

'Red Pottage?' asked Meg.

'Yes.  By Mary Cholmondeley.  It's got a red cover and was
published by Edward Arnold.  It turns up in every sixpenny lot, as
fresh as a strawberry.  It was a best seller in its day--like The
Heavenly Twins and The School for Saints.  They turn up too all the
time, poor things.  Not the three-volume Heavenly Twins.  That's
rather rare, of course.  But The School for Saints.  I'm sure
there's one somewhere.  Yes, there it is.  You can't mistake it.
There must have been THOUSANDS of it.  Poor Pearl Craigie.  I knew
her very well.  Such a clever woman, but too sensitive.  Took
herself too seriously.  All women novelists do.  But it's Red
Pottage I'm after.  Such an exciting book!  The clergyman burns
Hester's manuscript in the fire because he thinks it immoral.  WHAT
a lot of manuscripts he'd have to burn nowadays, wouldn't he?  I'm
sure they MUST have Red Pottage somewhere.'  Then she looked up at
Meg and smiled.  She was one of those plain dowdy Englishwomen who,
because they are so plain and so dowdy, are so obviously ladies.

Meg would have been delighted to stop and talk to her, but she
said, looking at her watch again:  'No, I've never read Red
Pottage, I'm afraid.'  She smiled in her friendly easy way that had
led her so frequently into quick intimacy with the completest
strangers.  'I must be getting on.  I've got to catch a train.'

'Ah, going into the country for the week-end,' said the other lady,
nodding her head.  'Very pleasant in fine weather like this.  I've
got to go to a meeting of the Down-at-Heels Committee.  Such a

So they parted in the friendliest manner and Meg turned once again
to the Market exit.  But now she was stopped by a cat.  Cats, of
course, abound in the Market, but they are mostly of the secret-
purpose I've-no-time-to-waste-on-humans variety.  This cat was a
large yellow one and he came deliberately and rubbed himself
against Meg's dress.  This was more than Meg could resist and she
bent down and stroked him.  This enchanted the cat, who purred like
a giant tea-kettle, arched his back, walked a little like a
bandmaster in a royal procession, and looked up at Meg with large
green eyes full of love.  Meg was delighted.  The cat seemed in
some way to reassure her.  She walked a little way, the cat
following her.  Then, as though the cat had directed her, she
looked upwards.  There was White Horse Street, in no way remarkable
or beautiful.  A window on the top floor of one of the buildings
was open.  As Meg gazed, in it appeared the terrified, agonized
face of Claude Willoughby.

The face stared at her without seeing her.  Yes, it was terrified
and agonized--an old, worn, seamed countenance, of an old, old man
crazy with fright.  Meg thought that he would call out but he did
not.  He was there and was gone.

Without a moment's hesitation Meg crossed to the building whose
window it was.  As she arrived, a tall, very complacent elegant
gentleman came out.  He looked seriously in front of him as though
he were recognizing that God had truly been made in his image and
should be grateful for His good fortune.  This, although Meg did
not know it, was Colonel Badget going for his afternoon walk.
Letting Badget out let Meg in.  Inside the dark and fusty hall was
the traditional serving-maid of the music-hall, grimy, sniffing,
and looking surreptitiously through the 'gentlemen's letters' just
arrived by post.  On to her Meg seized.

'Tell me, please, which is Mr. Willoughby's room.'

The girl, startled, dropped the letters, looked down at them
stupidly, then said as though speaking in her sleep:  'Upstairs.
Top floor.'

And up the stairs Meg went.  The sunlight struck the top landing,
illuminating a rickety hat-stand, a mildewed print of Frith's
'Railway Station,' and a pail with a dirty cloth.  There was also a
door, and on this Meg knocked.

There was no answer, so she turned the handle and went in.  She
will never forget every small detail of this afternoon.  Especially
not Claude's room--the shabby table with the worn silver brushes,
the cabinet with the Things, the grate with a fan of red paper, the
bed with the tear in the counterpane, the open window in whose air
the sun played like a water-misted firework.  She saw these things
later.  For the moment her attention was caught fixedly by the
actors in the little drama played here.

Claude Willoughby was stretched in the sunlight against the torn
wallpaper, almost as though he were crucified.  But his thin arms
were bent forward as though he were protecting himself against
something.  Almost touching him was a man, his shirt-sleeves rolled
up, a dirty apron round his belly, his shabby back distended
towards the door.  This man's horrid nose was but the breadth of a
hair from Claude's nose.  His eyes stared into Claude's eyes.  One
dirty hand at the end of the naked hairy arm moved like an animal
in space.  Neither heard the door open.  The man was saying:  'It's
come to this, then.  You're not safe to be left.  You do what I
tell you, see, or I'll be handing you over to the authorities.
It's no sort of good your trying to throw yourself out of window.
That won't help you.  Anyhow, you haven't the pluck.  What YOU 'ave
to do, Mr. Claude Willoughby, from now on is to do as I tell you,
see?  When I says "Go" you go, and when I says "Come" you bloody
well come.  I says "Stand up" and you stand up.  Otherwise they'll
be taking you away, and do you know where they'll be taking you?'

'No,' whispered Claude.

'They'll be taking you to a lonely house, miles from anywhere, and
the windows will all have bars in front of them, and there you'll
be, shut up in a little room with padded walls, and all you'll
hear, night AND day, will be the screams of the other loonies--

'Oh no, no,' whispered Claude.

It seemed to Meg time to break in upon this monologue, so she said:

'I wish to speak to Mr. Willoughby.'

The man sprang round as though a hornet had stung him.  He stared
at Meg Delaney as though she had spectre-thickened straight out of
the dirty carpet.  He was, she thought, as nasty-looking a man as
she had ever set eyes on.

'And what the hell . . .' he began.  Then his voice changed.  As I
have said elsewhere, Brocket had been trained to recognize a lady
when he saw one.  Meg must have been a handsome sight, very smart
in her dark-blue travelling costume, wrath and indignation in her
splendid eyes, as tall and noble and commanding as Juno herself.
Brocket knew nothing about Juno, but he began:  'I beg your pardon,
madam.  You have mistaken, I think--'

However, he was interrupted by a little sigh--the sort of sigh that
a child gives when it turns over in its sleep, and he swerved to
find Claude Willoughby in an unconscious heap upon the floor.

Meg went at once and, picking him up, carried him like a baby to
the bed, upon which she laid him.

'Don't stand there gaping, you fool.  Get some water.'

Brocket went to the jug and basin and poured out some water.  He
handed her the basin and the towel.  She bent over Claude, bathing
his forehead, undoing his collar, chafing his hands and murmuring:
'There!  There . . . there's nothing to be frightened of.  No one
shall hurt you.  It's all right.  You're quite safe.'

Once she turned fiercely on Brocket.  'He looks half starved.  What
have you been doing to him?'

Brocket murmured:  'It's none of my business.  He's old.  He wants
looking after.'

She turned back to the bed.  She had taken off her hat, and her
glorious hair was revealed to the unworthy Brocket.  As she bent
forward he could not help thinking, in spite of the discomfort that
he was feeling, that she was as fine a woman as he'd ever seen.

Claude stirred.  He opened his eyes, saw Meg, smiled faintly and
closed them again.

'Soon,' Meg said, 'when he's recovered a little we must get him to

'Yes, ma'am,' said Brocket.  He had recovered his assurance.  After
all, this commanding woman had overheard, in all probability,
little of what he had been saying.  He was, however, instantly

She was sitting now on the bed's edge, rubbing Claude's wrists and
moistening his forehead.  He seemed to her, with his even-drawn
lips, sunken cheeks, dark heavy eyelids, like half a ghost already.
She turned to Brocket, who for her unpleasantly scented the air.

'What have you been doing to let him get into this state?'

'It's none of my business.  He's only my tenant.'

'Of course it's your business.'  Meg's eyes seemed to swallow him
into their angry dark depths and he turned his head away.  'In any
case what were you saying to him when I came in?'

'I was saying nothing, ma'am.'

'Oh yes, you were.  I was standing there several minutes before you
knew it.  You were threatening him with an asylum.'

'Not threatening, ma'am.  Only saying that he oughtn't to be left
alone by himself.'

Meg broke in furiously.  She lost her temper at times with royal

'I've had enough of your lying.  One's only got to look at you to
see what lies you tell.  You've been bullying Mr. Willoughby for
ever so long.  I can see you're the sort of person that loves to

Brocket's body gave a sort of squirm.

'You'd better be careful,' he said.  'That's libellous.'

'What the hell do I care for libel?'  Meg got up and stood over him
like an avenging demon.  She gave her hair a tug as she always did
when she was in a fury.  Her long crystal ear-rings swung backwards
and forwards as though they were greatly enjoying the scene.

'Do you think I've lived so long and been thrown about anyhow ever
since I was born to worry myself at being threatened by a fat worm
like you?  You talk to me again like that and I'll go straight to
the window and call the police.  There's plenty you don't want THEM
to be interfering with, I'll be bound.  Here's this poor man,
starving to death in this cold bare room, and instead of kindness
you've been trying to drive him into madness.  Oh yes!  I heard
every word you said.  Another piece of impertinence from you and
straight to gaol you go.  And that's the bloody truth.  And if you
don't think that ladylike, you can just take it that "bloody" is
the only word that applies to men like you.  Do you hear?'

'Yes, ma'am,' said Brocket, frightened, of course, but thinking
that she'd be a grand piece to make love to if she'd been in
another walk of life.

Claude opened his eyes again.  He said very feebly:  'Don't let him
touch me.'

'No, of course he shan't,' Meg said.  'Nor myself either if I can
help it.'  She turned back again.  'Here, you.  What's your name?'

'Brocket, ma'am.'

'Tell them to get a hot-water bottle ready.  And to prepare some
good strong soup.  Is there a telephone anywhere?'

'In the passage there's a tube you blow down.'

'Go and blow down it, then.'

Brocket went.  Claude seemed to be sleeping.  He was breathing now
quietly and gently.  It was then that she suddenly thought of the
time.  She looked at her watch.  It was a quarter past three.  Good
God!  She could just do it now if she started at once back to the
house!  Of all inconceivable things she had entirely forgotten
Graham!  She stood up and in her agitation began to speak aloud.

'This is frightful.  I must go.  How COULD I forget?'

Brocket re-entered.

'The bottle and the soup are both ordered, ma'am.'

She had just time if she was very swift to get Claude into bed and
see him comfortable.

'Hurry now.  Help me.  Where are his pyjamas?  We must get him to

Brocket felt beneath the pillow without disturbing Claude and
produced some worn-threadbare pyjamas in white and brown stripes.

'Now I'll lift him.  Get his boots off.'  She put her broad arm
round Claude and his head rested on her comfortable bosom.  He
opened his eyes again and said once more:  'Don't let him touch
me.'  He stared into her face and was quite unaware, happily, of
Brocket's movements.

'He doesn't seem exactly in love with you,' Meg said grimly.

'These old gentlemen get funny ideas.'

'Yes, I daresay.  This will want looking into.'

Brocket, not ungently, had pulled off his boots and socks.  They
stripped him and put the pyjamas on.  What a skeleton he was!  How
white with that deadly whiteness of the starved and dying!  Meg
kissed his forehead, then, picking him up in her arms, holding him
for a moment against her breast, while Brocket turned back the
clothes and patted the pillows as though he had loved dear Mr.
Willoughby all his life long, they tucked the old man in.

'Now--keep away.  He'll have a fit if you touch him.  What have you
done to make him so frightened of you?'

'I haven't done anything.  In fact I've been good to him, letting
him off his rent and one thing and another.'

'I BET you've been good to him.  Anyone can see that.  Where's that
hot-water bottle?  Go and blow down that thing again!'

Brocket went.

She stroked Claude's forehead.  He seemed to be in a deep slumber.
Now she must really go.

But Claude had turned and laid his thin blue-veined hand on hers.
He was speaking and she bent towards him that she might hear him

'You won't go, will you?  Not for a minute.  That was foolish of me--
fainting like that.  That man frightens me.  Silly--very silly.'

'I'm afraid I must go,' she said gently.  'I have a train to

His hand tightened on hers.  'No, don't go.  Don't go,' he

She stared at the door.  Where WAS that oaf?  Had he gone himself
to fetch that water-bottle?  She looked again at her watch.  What
was she to do?  Now, even if there was a taxi in Curzon Street and
she rushed straight to the house and on to the station, it would be
a very near thing.

She saw very clearly a vivid picture of poor Graham pacing the
station.  There he was with his dear friendly face puckered and
anxious, staring at the entrance, gazing at the station clock,
knowing the crowding-in of all those fears that he must for days
and nights have confronted, that, after all, at the last moment she
would be frightened and not come.

'Yes,' he would be saying.  'I might have known it.  But she should
have warned me.  She should have telephoned.  It's cruel, it's
cruel. . . .'

'I must go,' she cried, springing up.  'It's all right.  I'll see
that someone comes to look after you.  I'll make it all right.
I'll make it all right.'

It was twenty to four.  In another five minutes it would be too
late unless she went straight to the station without luggage,
clothes, anything. . . .

Brocket entered, carrying the hot-water bottle.  'The soup's coming
up and this is Colonel Badget's bottle.  I don't know what he--'

She snatched it from him.

'Give it me!'  She put it into the bed, bent down and kissed
Claude's forehead once more.  'There.  I must go.  Indeed I must.
But now a nice sleep--'

Claude caught her arm with a hand astonishingly firm.  He
agonizedly whispered:  'Don't leave me.  Please don't leave me.
He's here.  When you've gone he'll send for them and they'll take
me to the asylum.  He said so.  He--'

'Nonsense.'  She tried to release her arm.  'He won't do anything.
I've talked to him.  He won't do a thing.'

Then she looked and in Claude's face was such burning naked terror
that she knew that she could not go.

'Very well, then,' she said, laying her hand on his forehead.
'Don't be frightened.  I'll stay.'

'Here's the soup, ma'am--and a little chicken.  I thought it could
do no harm.'

'Harm!  I should think not.'

She sat by the bed, taking the soup, leaving the chicken on the
table.  She spoke to Brocket:

'You needn't stay.  My name is Mrs. Delaney.  Here is my card with
my address.  You'd better be careful what you're up to.  I shall
come and see Mr. Willoughby every day.  I will leave a list of
things I want you to get before to-morrow.  Who's his doctor?'

'His doctor, ma'am.  Why, he hasn't got one.'

'Who's the best general doctor round here?'

'Doctor Thompson in Half Moon Street.  HE'S a good doctor.'

'I shall telephone to him in the morning.  If Mr. Willoughby is
worse in any way, you're at once to ring up Doctor Thompson and ask
him to come.  Do you understand?'

'Yes, ma'am.'

'Look in here later in the evening and see if he wants anything.
But don't stay.  He can't abide you.  Neither can I.'

'No, ma'am.'

'If I find you've been disagreeable to him in any way whatever I'll
have you instantly arrested.'

'Yes, ma'am.'  Then with a sudden unexpected sense of humour
Brocket added, grinning a dirty grin:  'You WOULD look foolish,

'Never mind what I'd look.  Now clear out.  I shall stay for a
short while until I see Mr. Willoughby is properly asleep.'

'Yes, ma'am.'  Brocket withdrew, his slippers flapping behind him.
He threw her one last surreptitious look.  He had really never seen
a finer, better built-up woman!

Claude took the soup and then the chicken.  He never said a word,
only smiled once and again.  When she had given him everything he
turned over, like a baby, and went to sleep.

Meg sat down in the old chair and looked at the red paper in the
grate.  The sun now did not shine directly into the room.
Everything was alive with a dancing light.  She got up and closed
the open window.  Now all was very still.

She sat there staring in front of her, and then, quite unexpectedly
to herself, began to cry--softly lest she should disturb Claude.

She could see and feel nothing now but Graham Pender's
disappointment.  There he was walking up and down the station!
There he was and there was the entrance, figures hurrying in and
out!  He would think that she might have mistaken the platform.  He
would enquire again its number.  He would have, under his arm, a
bundle of illustrated papers that he had bought for her.  He would
watch the clock now, in a kind of agony, for the thin greedy
fingers were eating up the minutes.  Something had delayed her.
She would arrive, breathless, full of apologies.  Ah! that was she!
At last!  At last!  He would move eagerly forward.  No. . . .
No. . . .  Five minutes to four.  He would speak to the porter.
'Take my things out of the carriage.  My friend may not be coming.'
Ah, now!  Surely there she was, the porter behind her carrying her
bags.  No. . . .  No. . . .  They were closing the doors.  He stood
on the platform, his two bags at his feet.  The whistle blew.  The
train moved out.

Oh, poor Graham, poor poor Graham!  Her tears stained her cheeks.
Furtively she blew her nose.  Poor, poor Graham!  For it would not
happen again.  She knew that with a sudden sure certainty, and
after that, came with a clarity as though someone had spoken to her--
she was glad that it had not happened!

Glad?  Yes: there was about her, around her, permeating the room, a
strong deep conviction of relief.

It was as though the air, which had clouded her senses for months,
was now unexpectedly clear.  It came, in a fashion that she could
not then explain, from the bare shabby room in which she was
sitting, from the old tired man asleep in the bed.  It had some
resemblance to the intense relief and happiness that one has when,
after a long meaningless quarrel with someone whom one loves, there
is a joyful reconciliation.

With whom was she reconciled?  With herself?

There was an element of roughness and violence in her that came,
perhaps, from her muddled and messy childhood.  How very vulgar she
had been, for instance, when she lost her temper with that man just
now!  And that same violence had played its part in her flirtation
with Graham.

She saw now quite clearly that it would never have done, that
however right and natural it might be, in these enlightened days,
for other married women to have affairs with men not their
husbands, it was not right and natural for her.

Her vision and comprehension moved swiftly forward.  It was as
though, in this stillness and removed from her own surroundings,
she saw twice as clearly as she had ever seen before.  Everyone
must judge his or her own individual case.  One must never judge
anyone else.  But for oneself there were rules and circumstances,
and if one did not follow them, decline and fall ensued.

She saw, with amazing sharpness, the relationship between herself
and Fred.  In their eagerness to give one another freedom and
liberty everything had been conceded.  'We love one another,' they
had said.  'NOTHING can touch that ever.  So we may have complete
liberty.'  But something, she saw, COULD touch it!  Had she gone
for that weekend with Graham, her relation to Fred would not
afterwards have been the same.  Nor her relation to Graham.  Nor
her relation to Evelyn Pender.  Nor her relation to her children.
The events of that week-end might be slight indeed.  Everyone
declared that the old morality was dead and that women especially
in these days must have the same freedom as men.  But never mind
about women!  THIS was the adventure of one woman, Margaret
Delaney, and for one woman such an act would be damaging,
destructive, and would undermine all the security of her married

There were laws and rules for herself which now she saw had to be
obeyed if the things that were important to her were to be safe.
Fred had said to her:  'I ask no questions.  I love you too much.'
But Fred himself did not know, although he had lived with her so
long, what were HER laws.

She was careless, excitable, passionate, impulsive: but beneath all
that she was something more.  She had something good in her
possession, and, almost, that good in her had been tarnished.

THIS was her link with God.  He had not said a word.  He had not
stirred a finger.  There had not been a whisper of His voice.  But
He had not forgotten her.

She bent forward and, with closed hands, prayed.

Claude was deeply asleep.  She stole away.  She let herself into
the house and gave a little shiver as she saw the room, the fire
out, the clever novel on the chair, silence and emptiness.

She took off her hat and sat down.  The weekend would be terrible.
During every minute of it she would be aware of what Fred was
doing.  Well, she must face it and must greet him on Monday morning
as though all was well.  Was she perhaps allowing HIM too much
freedom?  Were his gay adventures beginning to interfere with their
happy security?  When they left this house, as undoubtedly they
must, would they slip apart and lose one another?  She sighed.  How
difficult life was!  How cold and lonely was this room!

Then something moved.  It was Endless, who had been sleeping under
the chair.  He came and rubbed his cold nose against her hand with
that ironical attitude of friendly indifference especially his.
She stroked his sleek coat, and her cheerfulness began to return.
She could never, God help her, be depressed for very long!

She would steel herself to Fred's absence.  She would spend a gay
Sunday with Kitty and Bullock and a friend or two.  She would not
think of Fred--and of the detestable Alice: of Fred, of Fred--nor
hear his laugh, nor see his eyes, nor feel against her lips the
rough manliness of his cheek.  She got up.  She would bathe her
face, brush her hair, telephone to somebody.

She moved.  She stood still--for she could hear, through the half-
open door, the turn of a key in the lock.  Ah, thank heaven,
Bullock or Kitty was already back!

The door was pushed open, and there, staring in surprise, stood
Fred Delaney.



Fred Delaney threw a glance across at the Green Park while he
waited at the corner of Half Moon Street, hailing a taxi from the
rank opposite.

He had walked that far, carrying his bag, the sort of imbecile
thing that he was for ever doing.  He had simply gone straight out
of the house, his bag like a feather in his strength, virility,
happiness at the events in front of him.  Easily he could walk thus
all the way to Victoria.  The elegant page-boy, coming out of the
flats at No. 90 to run across the street and post a letter, stopped
for an instant and stared.

That brought Fred to his senses.  He must not, to-day, make himself
too conspicuous!  In any case he was not going to Victoria Station--
yet!  He engaged a cab and told it to drive to the Moonstone in
Apple Tree Yard.  The Moonstone was a small Bohemian club of which
he had been, for many years, a member.  He would lunch there, a
cosy place where he would be unlikely to meet anyone save a casual

The first person he DID meet was Patrick Munden.  He was delighted
and in his delight most genuine.  He had always been fond of
Munden, had missed him badly during these last months, and had felt
perhaps a certain guilt and responsibility with regard to him.  If
he had spoken earlier Smoke might have been saved.  But would it
have been better if Smoke HAD been saved?

Munden was arrogantly and amicably cheerful.  'You must come and
lunch with US, Fred.  Two writing fellows.  Rose and Pargiter.
You've heard of Rose, of course--an absolute ass and writes the
most awful tripe naturally, but Dodie likes him. . . .  Oh yes,
Dodie and I are living together in Paris.  Get on very well.  May
marry.  I don't know. . . .  Work?  Well, I AM on a poem--a long
one.  Title?  I think of calling it "Nails and Rust."  I'm not
sure.  Come on.  You'll like Pargiter.'

Fred didn't in fact like Pargiter very much; nevertheless it was an
agreeable luncheon.  As with all the heroes of history from Hector
to Landru, Fred felt the uncrushed grapes of conquered love
anticipated on his palate.  He had all the genial happiness and
tolerance of a male triumphant at the end of a long and difficult
chase.  He drank the very poor Burgundy Munden had ordered,
secretly toasting the lady to whom he hoped to give, that evening,
the best wine a certain resort provided.  So he found Rose, who had
all the anxious amiability of a popular traditional novelist fallen
among young highbrows, a pleasant, if rather talkative, fellow, and
although he couldn't say that he LIKED Pargiter he listened to him
with considerable sympathy.  For it seemed that Pargiter, who was
thin, pale, with a large faintly yellow nose and untidy corn-
coloured hair, was quite obsessed with his own injustices.  Delaney
noticed that he never, from beginning to end of the meal, paid the
slightest attention to Rose, behaved as though he were not there at
all, and that stout rubicund benevolence was clearly distressed by
his rudeness.  But perhaps it was not REALLY rudeness!  Pargiter
was too bitterly absorbed to notice irrelevancies.

'But it's damnable!' he cried.  'They say I'm the best short-story
writer in England--they all do--but then they compare me to
Tchekov.  "Finer than Tchekov."  Bunyan himself says it in the
Literary Observer only this week.  Well and good.  I AM finer in
many respects.  But can't they see they're destroying ALL my sales
by that comparison?  Simply ruining me!  After all I've got three
children even though I do live in the country.  But who wants to
read Tchekov?  The moment they mention him in connection with
myself, I'm dead.  I'm done.  No one will buy me.  And, after all,
what comparison is there?  My English prose is as good, I fancy,
without undue conceit, as any there's been.  Where's a better?  But
I'm English.  My scene is English.  My characters are English.
WHERE is the Tchekov comparison?  Nowhere.  But it stops my books

Rose beamed upon them all.

'Of course short stories DON'T sell.  In book form I mean.  Now my
last book of stories as compared with my last novel . . .'

But Pargiter behaved to him even as Betsy Trotwood to Miss
Murdstone.  He disregarded him completely.  He even addressed
himself to Fred in preference.

'You see,' he said very earnestly--'I'm afraid I didn't catch your

'Delaney,' Fred murmured.  Mr. Delaney.  I write novels too, as you
probably know, but they are another question altogether.  Tchekov
COULDN'T write novels and so the comparison doesn't apply.  But
doesn't it seem to you monstrous that someone in my position should
have to review rotten commercial fiction and read for publishers
and all the rest of it simply because people WILL compare me with

'I think it's MONSTROUS,' Fred said cheerfully.  Then he turned to
Munden.  'When are you coming to see us, Patrick, old boy?'

'I'm returning to Paris to-morrow.  Dodie has come into a bit of
money, you know.  Yes, from an old aunt.  Hard luck, isn't it, on
poor Smoke?  If this had happened earlier EVERYTHING might have
been different.  However, I expect it was all for the best.  Dodie
thinks so.'

'If you're coming to see us you'd better come soon,' Fred said.
'We'll have to sell the house, I'm afraid.'

'Will you?' said Munden quite indifferently.  'What rotten luck!'

But Fred did not mind his selfishness.  Quite natural!  Everyone
was selfish, except a few divine women like Meg.

But he was truly in that transcendental and disconnected state of
happiness that was a deeper drunkenness, in which there was a
spiritual as well as a physical element.

Munden's bad wine had not affected him at all, nor was he in any
actual truth of the word drunk: he was like a bird in a golden
cage, soaked in sun, and the golden cage was Alice Van Renn.

So, exactly as though he were drunk, he heard himself talking.

He knew nothing about literature but said a lot.  'Hope I haven't
hurt any feelings--'

'Oh, not at all,' said Pargiter, smiling in rather a sickly
fashion.  'I must be getting on, Munden, I'm afraid--'

And Rose didn't make things any better by saying in a very hearty

'I assure you, Mr. Delaney, Pargiter's stories are grand stuff.
Simply grand.  As good as any we have.'

But Fred didn't care.  After a brandy or two by himself in the
smoking-room he hailed a taxi again and started off for Victoria.

He had reached a condition now when he was soaked in nothing but
his Alice.  He had forgotten altogether his wife, his children, his
house, his nonexistent tenants, the terrible state of the world--
everything alive or dead.  Soon he would be in the train alone with
Alice.  Because he was so sure that in a short while he would have
her beautifully in his strong arms he need not now do anything but
look at her, seated opposite to her, enjoying to the very last
fragment of physical enjoyment her loveliness.  How he would feel
on Monday morning, or even on Sunday morning, did not now concern
him at all.  Nor any rules of equity or honour.  On the other hand,
although he was not at this moment ethical he WAS extraordinarily
benevolent.  There was nothing he would not give away (if he had
it) to anybody (except, of course, Alice).  'He loved every dog and
wished that every dog should love him.'  He sat back, one knee over
the other, his hat tilted to one side, humming a tune.

The taxi-man, looking at him through his little glass, reckoned on
a handsome tip, and his reckoning was not disappointed.

Arrived at Victoria he saw that he was a trifle early.  He knew
just where it was that Alice was to meet him--by the bookstall on
the Dover platform.  He looked at the bookstall and wondered, as he
had often wondered before, why it was that bookstalls never had
anything that anyone wanted to read.

He looked at the people around him and felt for them a loving and
tolerant benevolence.  A porter offered to carry his bag.  He told
him that he did not need him yet.  Why had he not hired a
magnificent Daimler and carried Alice away with him in that?  It
was Alice's suggestion that they should travel by train.  She said
that it seemed to her more romantic.  He had thought, when she said
that, that she had looked at him a little quizzically.  But then
she WAS an ironic woman--an ironic modern woman of the world who
knew just what she was about.  If she hadn't known he would have
felt a good deal of a cad.

He beamed upon the world.  The holiday season was well and truly
laid, but there were many anxious women and hustled men and one or
two casual indifferent beauties.  There was also one family that
made him, against all his will and intention, feel uncomfortable.

A stout father, a stout mother, two small boys, a smaller girl.
They were going on to the Continent and were crazily excited about
it.  The stout father produced at the barrier his packet of
tickets, and while the collector looked at them he marshalled his
two small boys and his smaller daughter as a hen its chickens.
They passed through the barrier, and at once, as though that
barrier had been a desperate danger before which they had had to
summon all their courage, now they broke into movements and noises
of joy and freedom.  The stout father, his daughter's hand tightly
held, moved along, his hat a little on the back of his head, as
though France would be irretrievably gone did he not hasten.  Fred
wished he hadn't seen them.  Oh, well . . . both mother and father
were well past the romantic age!

Then he saw Alice.  She was standing, a little beyond the
bookstall, looking at him.  For a moment he stared back at her,
lost in wonder at her beauty.  She was dressed in dove-grey like a
bride.  He had expected that she would be in good serviceable
tweeds.  He went up to her and held out his hand.

'Hullo, Alice,' he said, grinning all over his face.

'Hullo, Fred,' she said.

'I was afraid you might be late. . . .  But of course I knew you
wouldn't be really.'

She cleared her throat.

'No.  I'm a very punctual person.'

'I must get the tickets.  I won't be a minute.  Where are your
things?  I'll find a porter.'

He was so deliriously excited that he wasn't sure of his words.  So
insane was he that he had almost said 'Pargiter' instead of

She put her hand on his arm.

'No, Fred.  Wait a minute.'

He knew at once that something had happened.  He looked at her.

'What's the matter?'

'I'm not coming.'

He was furious.  The blood pounded into his face.

'By God, you are.'

'No, I'm not, Fred.  I can't.'

'What do you mean--you can't?'  He snorted and resembled, had he
but known it, an indignant and frustrated calf.

She didn't, for a moment, answer.

'Is your old mother ill?'

'No.  My old mother is NOT ill.'

'Are you ill yourself, then?'

'No--I'm not ill either.  I'm simply not coming.'

'But you are--even though I have to carry you.'  His voice was
suddenly soft, bewildered and touching.  'Listen.  You MUST come,
Alice.  You promised most faithfully.  You swore that you wouldn't
go back on it.  I know you're not that sort--the sort that plays
with a man.  We've been friends for so long--'

She looked at him as though she really loved him.  Her beautiful
eyes brimmed with tears.  She shook, gently, remorsefully, her

'I can't come with you, Fred.  I was married this morning.'

He stood staring, his tongue passing over his lips.  He took off
for a moment his hat and then put it on again.

'Good joke you've played on me,' he said at last.

'No, I haven't.'  She looked at him more kindly than she had ever
done.  'It certainly isn't a joke.  Come in here a minute.'  She
pointed to the Third Class Refreshment Room.  'If you'll let me

'Who's the happy husband?' he said at last.  He was glaring at her
and his fingers were moving as though he would really delight to
wring her neck.  This way murders are committed, but not by people
like Fred Delaney and Alice Van Renn in Victoria Station.  At any
rate not to-day.

'Harry Bartlett,' Alice said.

'Good God . . . Bartlett!  I might have guessed.'

'It's not as bad as you think,' she suggested.

'As bad as _I_ think?  All I know is you've tricked and teased and
made a blasted fool of me.'  He looked at her with a true schoolboy
savagery.  'I'll pay you out for this.'  Then he added (and she saw
that he was really not far from angry, frustrated, passionate,
shamefaced tears):  'No, I won't.  Of course not.  Men are always
being fooled by women.  It's no new thing.  Only I never thought
that YOU would--I thought that you were fond of me--in a sort of

'I AM fond of you,' she said.  'That's why I've done this.'

People were pushing past.  Some looked at them inquisitively.  It
was not a good place for so tender an interview.

'Come in here.  Please, Fred.  I can explain better.'

'Where's Bartlett?' Fred asked.

'Waiting--in the Jermyn Street flat.'

'Afraid to meet me, I suppose.'

'Not in the least.  He wanted to come.  I told him I'd manage
better without him.'

She led the way into the refreshment room.  Young men, one very
ancient clergyman and two elderly spidery women were standing at
the counter as though performing some ancient sacrificial rite, and
indeed the tea-urns and the glass pyramids guarding the sandwiches
looked like important Druidical survivals.

They sat down at a little table and ordered coffee for decency's

He was taking it more severely than she had expected.  She had
known him always gay, full of humour, buoyant.  He was now a man
she had never seen before.  His pride was desperately hurt, and
whereas a woman in such a situation would be thinking more of
revenge than of self-humiliation, Fred could see nothing but that
he'd been 'made a complete ass of.'

'You needn't have done it just to-day,' he said.  'You might have
let us have our week-end.'

'So I meant to.  Then, a few weeks ago, I found that I was falling
in love with you.  First time in my rotten life.  And what are YOU
to fall in love with, Fred?  Stout, middle-aged, a man who has
loved dozens of women before and will love dozens again.  But none
of that would have mattered perhaps, because I was beginning to
feel pretty reckless, if it hadn't been that you love your wife.
Love her?  I've never known a husband love a wife as you love Meg.
You're for ever talking about her, for ever thinking of her.  That
you want to sleep with other women means nothing.  So do all
healthy normal men.  Of course they WANT to!  Lots of them don't do
it because they are afraid of their wives or their neighbours or
their careers or something.  But they don't love their wives as you
love Meg.  So what chance is there for ME?  One week-end with you
and where might I not have been?  Would I lead that hellish life of
waiting for letters that don't come, listening to telephones that
don't ring, hearing a step that isn't there?  Not I.  Right up to a
week ago I thought I'd risk it.  I wobbled this way and that.
Mother was after me to marry, of course--neither of us has a penny-
farthing.  But she hates Bartlett and loves you, so she couldn't
bear me to have anything to do with either of you.  Harry has
money, of course, but he DETESTS Mama--simply loathes her.  So I
knew that if I went off with you for a night or two it might lead
to personal suffering, and I've suffered enough in my young life
already.  If I married Harry it would mean that I should have, more
or less, to desert Mother--on the other hand, she'd have enough to
live on for the rest of her days.  There were OTHER suitors.  One
old boy with money who unfortunately revolts me.  Two or three
young ones with nothing but debts.  Harry was really the only

'But you don't love him,' Fred said.  He was recovering ever so
slightly.  She had flattered him.  What she had said about Meg was

'Not in the least.  But he's got his points.  He's long-suffering,
which he needs to be with a girl like me.  He'll never change and,
what is best of all, he's incapable of suffering.  I don't MEAN to
treat him badly, but I'm really so rotten through and through that
you never can tell.  And it's a great comfort to me to know that
he's too stupid ever to be hurt.'

She looked at him.  She held out her hand.

'Forgive me.  I'm not worth your troubling about.  And I think
you're the luckiest man alive.'


'Yes, because you and your wife love one another as you do.  I
think she's swell--a lot sweller than you are--but YOU'RE not so

('Meg IS swell,' he thought, and began to his own surprise to
resent the thought of her weekend.)

'I'm forgiven,' Alice said.  'That's good.  And now you've got to
do something for me.  You're to go straight to Mama and tell her
that I'm married to Harry, and am not coming back.'

He stared at her.  All he wanted now was to get away.  It would be
horrible this week-end without Meg, but somehow it would have to be
endured.  He felt flat and tired and quite desperately Puritanical.
However, he would certainly NOT see old Mrs. Van Renn.

'See your mother!  I should think not!'

'Oh, please! . . .  You're the only person in the whole world who
possibly can.  She's always been secretly in love with you.  You're
exactly her ideal of what a real man should be.'

'She hates me.  Anyway, she's always very rude to me.'

'That's to hide her feelings,' Alice went on.  'Listen, Fred: if
you will do this it will be the first thing any man's ever done for
me.  Not that I'M anything, but I'll say to myself:  "Fred Delaney
has so magnificently played the game that it's the least I can do
to be decent to Harry."  Because it WILL be difficult sometimes,
you know.'

'What do you want me to do?' Fred growled.  He liked the idea of
his own nobility.  After all, what was a quarter of an hour with
that old woman compared with his own new sense of heroism?  It was
certainly many years since he had felt so virtuous.

'I want you to go straight to her now in Half Moon Street and to
tell her that I'm married to Harry.  I've brought a letter you can
give her.  It will make the whole difference if YOU tell her.'

'Yes.  She'll feel that we've BOTH been damnably treated.'


'And so we have.'

'Well--YOU have.  Mother's much better off really.  Harry will make
her a decent allowance and she won't have me always coming in and
out.  When you tell her you can pretend to be absolutely furious.'

'And so I AM furious!'

'Oh no, you're not.  Already you're relieved.  You're thinking of

They both got up.

'Pay for the coffee.  And here's the letter.'

As she got into the taxi-cab she turned round and said in a very
low sweet voice:

'All to-night I'll be thinking of you.'

He made his taxi drive about for a considerable time before he went
to see Mrs. Van Renn.

He sat there, seeing nothing and thinking of nothing.  He was
miserable, ashamed, forlorn, humiliated.  And somewhere, beneath
all this, a feeling of intense relief was stirring.

Mrs. Van Renn looked as usual like a sick monkey.  Her old fingers
were stained with nicotine.

'What do you want?' she said.  'Why are you here?  Alice is away
for the week-end.'

'She's not,' he said.  'She has asked me to give you this letter.'

The old woman took it and, huddled in her chair, read it.  Then she
looked up at him with a face of almost piteous dismay.

'Why didn't you stop her?'

'Stop her!  I hadn't the least idea of it.'

'Where did she give you this?'

'She asked me to meet her.  It was at Victoria Station, as a matter
of fact.'

Mrs. Van Renn gave him a sharp look.

'Oh, was it?'

Then he thought she was going to cry.  Her wrinkled lips moved and
twisted.  She threw up her head derisively, tried to speak and
could not.

'So that's over,' she said at last, and tore the letter into
fragments which fluttered to the floor.

'Well, can't you say something?  It's rather rough on YOU, isn't
it?'  Then she muttered:  'That idiot!'

'She asked me to tell you,' Fred began, 'that she was sure it was
the best thing.  She's fond of Bartlett.  The sort of life you were
both leading wasn't good enough.  You'll be free and independent.
She hopes you'll come and stay with them.  She's coming to see you
very soon.'

'She could have told me all this herself.'

'She thinks you'd have both lost your tempers.'

Mrs. Van Renn got up.

'All right. . . .  It can't have been pleasant for you either.  I
won't. . . .  It doesn't. . . .'  She turned on him quite
furiously.  'Can't you see I don't want anybody to . . .?  Don't
look at me like that.  To marry such a fool . . .  Good-bye.  Good-
bye.  Come again some time--although Alice won't be here now.'

He said something and went.

He walked in the Park.  He couldn't for the moment face the empty
house.  The week-end when he knew where Meg was. . . .  Why had he
been so tolerant, so lazy--about her, about himself?  He had never
before loved Meg so dearly as now when he walked under the bare
trees, kicking the leaves with his foot.

At last he walked slowly home, with a sigh let himself into the
house.  It was as still as a morgue.  He could feel all the rooms
above him pressing on his head with their undeserved emptiness.  He
would have a GHASTLY week-end!  He pushed the door back, then stood

Then, his face grinning with happiness, he rushed forward.

'Meg!  Meg, darling! . . .  By all that's marvellous!'



And now, early on this November afternoon, the little Park is
really forgotten, unseen, for the yellow fog has almost obscured
it.  Almost, not quite.  You can still walk with comparative safety
if you keep your eye on the railings which are visible like stakes
in a marsh.  The Piccadilly lights are shining, and quite suddenly,
outside Hatchett's and all the way to Burlington Arcade, the fog
vanishes, revealing a space of blue sunlit sky, some rakish
chimneys and the cakes and buns behind the windows at the end of
Old Bond Street.  Then, as though angry at its carelessness, the
fog sweeps down and is like wads of yellow flannel underclothing.
The road is coated with a thin filmy mud and the cars stagger and
hoot, hoot and stagger.  An old gentleman's pocket is picked just
outside Burlington House. . . .

Kitty Delaney is giving Millie Pake luncheon in Hatchett's
restaurant and is feeling very dejected indeed.  Her reasons for
dejection are--this fog, her father at breakfast has announced,
finally, definitely, that the house is to be sold, Millie Pake
looks shabby and hungry, and--last of all--she, Kitty, is this very
afternoon going to say farewell to the whole of the Foster episode.
She feels, in fact, very lonely.

Hatchett's, which is a kindly and human restaurant, has all its
lights on, but you cannot forget, all the same, that Piccadilly is
in the process of being villainously strangled by the fog just
above your head.

'When we were girls, Helen and I,' Millie said, 'I can remember
very well that a real London fog seemed the most exciting and
adventurous thing in the world.  Of course we were never allowed
out alone, but even to run for two minutes into the Square was
dreadfully exciting.  Dear, you won't think me disgraceful, will
you, but I'm afraid I simply can't eat any more of this delicious

'No, dear, of course not.'

Kitty was finding, once again, that it is very difficult to help
people who are proud.  She had also learnt by this time that it is
only too easy to help people who are not quite proud enough.

Millie Pake's rings were gone.  They had been such beautiful ones.
Millie's hands were beautiful but dreadfully thin.

'Millie, where are your rings?'

Millie, her old head trembling a little as it did sometimes, looked
Kitty full in the eye.

'I've pawned them.  I won't lie to you, and I won't take a penny
from you, dear.  Not a penny.  After all if things became really
bad I could always ask my brother, although I must admit he doesn't
like being asked very much.  There's no need to ask anybody.
There's some money coming in next week and really I ought to be
very happy in my bed-sitting-room.  It's very cosy indeed with my
pictures and a plant or two.  But the fact is, Kitty dear, I've
been spoilt by the Charles Street house.  No place will ever be to
me what that was, partly because I was there with Helen I suppose.
No, I can't pretend I'm happy where I am.  In Charles Street I
seemed to be protected.  I don't mean by God.  Of course He is
ALWAYS looking after me--but where I am now I seem to meet so many
old ladies who are in the same circumstances as myself or worse.
And I'll admit to you, Kitty, that it IS depressing.  What IS
depressing is that for most of them no one cares in the least
whether they live or die.  That is really dreadful to me.  When one
is old and poor one's a nuisance.  There's no doubt of it.  And I
don't think the old ladies would mind their poverty and aches and
pains one little bit if there was only someone who didn't think
them a nuisance.  Of course no one has any time, what with the
state the world's in and so on.  In Charles Street, Helen and I
were always perfectly happy because of you dear people and I'm
afraid we didn't think of anyone else much.  I think it was that
day that I found poor Smoke--that was the day I realized how wrong
Helen and I had been not thinking of others more.  And there was
poor Claude of course.  Do tell me more about Claude.'

'There isn't much more to tell.  Mother has been to see him every
day and he's quite well now.  I don't think that horrid man of his
will touch him again.  He's terrified of Mother.  But poor Claude's
so dreadfully frightened all the same.  He only seems to feel safe
when he's with us.'

Millie nodded her head.  'I know how it is.  That Charles Street
house is a kind of refuge.'

Kitty had said nothing to Millie about its sale.  That would be too
dreadful.  She looked now at the odd little figure in the funny hat
and old green cape and vowed that something SHOULD be done.  But
what?  They, the Delaneys, would themselves be soon on the street!

Millie, however, was immensely cheered up by the luncheon.  Kitty
took her back to her bed-sitting-room in a taxi.  She left her warm
and cosy, reading Middlemarch and laughing a great deal at the
jokes in the Punch that Kitty had given her.  Her eyes were as
bright as stars, and her little round, but now lined, aristocratic
countenance had that look of sweetness, irony and half-impertinence
that was especially hers.

'Good-bye, Kitty darling.  I've had a most lovely time!'

But, still, something HAD to be done!

She had written a line to the elder Foster saying that she would
come 'to say good-bye.'  She named a choice of days and received a
strange reply.  In a dreadfully common handwriting was a quotation
from one of the poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox to the effect that the
sun rises in the morning, sets at night, and that all the birds and
flowers rejoice thereat.  Underneath was written:  'Thursday 3.30
O.K. by me.'

Lucy Foster admitted her and she noticed at once several things.
First, that all the vulgar oil-paintings had vanished from the
walls.  The faint colours of the two young men were now beautifully
clear.  Secondly, that the couch and screen were gone and the room
seemed larger.  Thirdly, that instead of the horribly impressive
tea of her first visit there were now on the table only a teapot,
ONE teacup, milk and sugar and a plate of buttered toast.

Then she saw that Foster was standing leaning on a stick and
grinning at her.  This was the first time that she had seen him
from head to toe.  He was very impressive with his white hair, red
face, broad shoulders, strong stomach, heavy thighs.  He was
wearing a buttonhole and a country-looking suit of black and grey
stripes.  He looked cheerful, clean, healthy, vulgar.

Lucy Foster at once said, rather primly:  'You'll excuse me, Miss
Delaney, I'm sure.  I've a visit to make if you'll excuse me.'
Then she went out.  He shook hands with Kitty but didn't ask her to
sit down.

'Where's Alton?' she asked.

'Oh, didn't you know?'  His eyes never left her face.  'He's been
gone a fortnight.'


'Yes.  He's on the French Riviera now with Mrs. Bettison Stuart, a
lady twenty years older than himself, a widow, rich, who fell in
love with him at Zanti's.  He's her secretary.'

'Oh dear, oh dear,' said Kitty.

'Yes--oh dear, oh dear.  It's unromantic, isn't it?'  He went on:
'You'll have noticed several things, I expect.  My paintings have
gone from the wall.  You'll be glad of that.  No more painting for
me.  I've better things to do.  Also there's only one cup on the
table--that's symbolic.'

'Why?' she asked, smiling.

'I'm not asking you to tea.  You're to stay five--at most ten--

'Good-bye then,' she said, holding out her hand and laughing.

'Oh, not so quick as that,' he said, pushing a chair towards her
with one hand.  'We'll never meet again.  We may as well have our
five minutes.'

'Why will we never meet again?' Kitty asked, sitting down.

'Because I'm nearly well.  A bit stiff after lying down so long.
That's all.  You cured me.  Oh, I HAD my accident all right.  My
back was bad for a long time--but after that when I really WAS
better there didn't seem any reason for my getting up.  Alton
earned enough to feed and shelter me.  Lucy looked after me, I was
amused with my painting, I had a visitor or two--no trouble.  A
grand life.  But then YOU came in and the moment I saw you I cried
to myself:  "Why, there's women in the world, thousands, millions
of them, moving about, laughing, waiting to be made love to, old
though I am--and I wasting my time!"  And that's why YOU mustn't
stay--because I'll be making love to you.  And it won't do.  You
like me a bit.  You know you do.  In spite of my white hair.  And
you know nothing about men.  Nothing at all.  So it's good-bye once
and for ever--and thank you very much.'

'But I'm not frightened of you in the least,' she said, smiling at
him.  'And it's quite true I DO like you.'

He looked at her very fixedly.  Then he shook his head.

'You WOULD be frightened of me.  If there was another cup on that
table--about an hour from now you wouldn't like me at all.  No.
Get along, Miss Delaney.  You've brought me to life again.  That's
a good deed, I suppose.'

He held out his hand.  She took it.  They stood very close to one

'It's funny,' he said.  'All these years I've loathed those
paintings on the wall.  You've made me like them.  Another thing
that's funny.  You're in the grand world, have thousands of swell
friends.  It has needed the obscure Fosters in this obscure room to
start you on life.  And now you're started don't think life's
anything but coarse and strong and vulgar and a bit savage, because
that's what it is.  It doesn't care a damn about you, life doesn't,
but you can get from it some perfectly swell moments--and by God,
I'm going to have a few more before I go.  Look after yourself.
Give me a kiss for Alton's sake if not for mine.'

She kissed him and he held her tightly, kissing her eyes, her
mouth, her throat.

He murmured:  'It's grand to be on my feet again.'

Then he took her by the hand and led her to the door.

Before she took her hand from his she said:

'You know, if you're ever ill again or anything--'

He broke out:  'Oh, for God's sake!  I don't want you as a
NURSE. . . .  You can send me a photograph sometime if you like.'

Meanwhile Bullock was having HIS adventures.  In fact the climax of
his life, as he wrote in his Journal, jumped up at him in the very
middle of this twisting, turning, poke-saltpetre-up-your-nostrils
fog.  The climax of his life!  That shows how very young he still
is, but for anyone as quiet and humorous as Bullock was and is, it
means something.  At the very moment when Kitty Delaney was
embracing Alton Foster's father, Bullock Delaney was falling, his
head in a stranger's stomach--but this is how it happened.

First, on that foggy day Bullock went and had luncheon with--but
that, too, had better be kept as a surprise for later.  In any case
this luncheon was to make all the difference to the Delaney family.

Then, about half-past three he climbed into a taxi and told the man
to go to Borden Street.  This wasn't so easy, and they bumped and
blundered and stopped and hooted while the lamps looked at them
like the eyes of wild beasts out of a yellow jungle, a bell sounded
somewhere like a foghorn, and you could almost hear the waves of
the fog swish, swish against the flimsy barriers of the thread-
paper houses.

At last they were there, though, and Bullock ran up the narrow
smelly stairs eager to take his young beloved out to tea, although
they mustn't venture in this weather further than Shaftesbury
Avenue, that mingling of theatres, cheap shirts and collars, and
the Trocadero.  He found the door locked.  He banged the old
knocker that was in the shape of the west door of Canterbury
Cathedral.  He knocked furiously.  The fog crept up the stairs and
fingered in a stealing, inquisitive way the peeling wallpaper.  At
last Coventry's voice could be heard quite clearly from the other
side of the door:

'Who is it?'

'Delaney--Stephen Delaney.'

The door was opened cautiously and Captain Nicholas looked out.

'Come in then.  I was wanting to see you.'

Bullock entered and found the room in shapeless disorder--empty
whisky bottles, empty syphons, shirts and underclothes on the
floor, Lizzie kneeling packing, one of the sporting prints, its
glass shattered, on the carpet near the bathroom.  Another sporting
print crooked on its string, bedroom door open, and there in
complete disarray, most astonishing of all, tilting on a chair near
the window, a stout streaky-faced gentleman, his waistcoat
unbuttoned, bald-headed save for a few wet black hairs, his round
red loose mouth open.  He was apparently protesting at something.
Nicholas was standing in his shirtsleeves, in one hand a half-empty
glass, in the other a roll of soiled-looking collars.  Lizzie gave
one look upwards and when she saw who it was went on with her
packing again.  Captain Nicholas was a little drunk, but not very.
He went quickly to the door and locked it.

'Leaving?' asked Bullock.

'Leaving is right.  It's a bit of luck your coming in.  Lizzie said
you might.  I would have telephoned, only you don't know who's

'What's the matter?' asked Bullock, feeling that the room was
extraordinarily small.  He supposed that it was the stout gentleman
in the window that made it seem so thoroughly overcrowded.

'The matter?' asked Captain Nicholas gaily.  He seemed to be in
excellent spirits.  'The matter is that I shall be in gaol to-night
if I don't get a move on.'

The stout gentleman began to shout, 'You don't leave this room
until you pay . . .' and so on.

'Oh, I forgot,' said Nicholas.  'I ought to introduce you.  But why
should I?  Shut up, you son of a bitch, or I'll--'

The stout man rose and stood, swaying a little on both legs.  He
stared at Nicholas as though fascinated.

'You're not taking Lizzie?'

'No.  I'm NOT taking Lizzie.  This is where we bid one another an
eternal farewell.  Here.  Get up, Liz.  I mustn't wait another
second.  This fog is God's own gift to His erring son.  There.
Close that bag.  That's as much as I want.'

'If you don't pay me every farthing--' shouted the stout man.

'Every farthing!  That's good!' cried Captain Nicholas.  'When I've
just enough to get me across the Channel.'

'I'll inform--'

'You can jolly well inform whom you like,' said Nicholas

The stout man advanced and caught Bullock by the arm.

'I charge you, sir, whoever you may be, to assist me in calling the

'The devil you do!' cried Nicholas.

After that things happened swiftly.  Nicholas turned and caught the
stout man a splendid blow straight on the jaw.  The stout man
tumbled forward, embraced Bullock, and they both fell together,
catching the tablecloth as they fell.  On to the floor went the
stout man, Bullock, bottles and glasses.

When Bullock had disentangled himself from the stout man's
waistcoat and was on his feet again, he saw that Captain Nicholas,
his coat on, was standing there very calmly, bidding a long
farewell to his daughter.  His hands were on her shoulders.

'There.  Leave him.  He's all right.  And now, Liz, my darling,
good-bye.  Not au revoir.  Really good-bye.  You don't like me any
more, but you did once, and I may truly say that you're the only
human I've ever loved or ever will love.  I hand you over to this
young man, who's so good that he ought to be in a fairy story.  You
can trust him.  He has no imagination whatever.  Put me right out
of your mind.  We've had some good times together and seen the
world.  I don't regret a damned thing.'

And with that, snatching his bag, he was away into the fog, never
to be seen again by his once loving daughter.

She, Bullock saw, was now kneeling by the stout gentleman and
bathing his forehead with her handkerchief and water that dripped
from the tablecloth.  The gentleman opened his eyes and said:
'Another one, miss, please.  Just like the last.'  A furious
disgust for this filthy room and everything in it seized Bullock.
He caught Lizzie quite fiercely by the arm and dragged her to her

'Come.  Put on your hat and coat.  It's beastly here.  Disgusting.
He's all right. . . .  Leave him, leave him!'

In his impatience he shook her, and like someone in a dream she
obeyed him.  She went into her room, came out dressed for the

The stout man was now in a chair; he was feeling his jaw, while his
head swayed.  About him was all the dbris of a ruined adventurer.
His round eyes watched them.  He said not a word as they left the
room.  In the street the fog had miraculously cleared, as though
indeed Captain Nicholas had collected it all in his hand and
carried it off with him.

And, as often happens in London, instead of the fog there was a dim
sea-green mist.  London had suddenly, as it were, gone under water.
Borden Street is no beauty as streets go, but she was a beauty for
a moment now.  The sweet-shop with the heavy pile of chocolates, of
coconut icing, of white and pink sugar, the door of the 'Stag'
public-house, the three houses in a row with white steps and faint
pink window-curtains, the railings in front of the old, packed,
grey and green churchyard that might have sheltered the broom and
tatters of Poor Jo himself, the London mingling of stale beer and
evening papers and sliding gratings and stealing cats--all swam now
in this green under-sea mystery with some gay orange wisps of cloud
caught in the crooked chimneys and a man's voice singing from
inside the 'Stag.'

In Shaftesbury Avenue they found a cab and Bullock told it to drive
to Westminster.  Inside the cab he sat with his arm round her.  She
shivered once or twice but said nothing.

'You knew it was coming,' he said.  'We both did.  Don't worry
about him.  You couldn't be with him any more.  He knew that.'

At last she said:  'I'd have gone if he'd wanted me.'

'I'll be so good to you.  Did you hear what he said to you--that
I've no imagination?  Well, if that's true--and I don't think it is--
I can be faithful and love you for ever.'

'No one loves for ever,' Lizzie said.

'Oh yes, they do.  And they love one another more and more because
of all the things they've done together.'

'No one loves for ever,' she repeated.  He held her closer; she
leaned her cheek against his, then turned and kissed him.

At the Westminster house of Fanny Carlisle he rang the bell.  They
stood together on the steps hand in hand.  The woman who opened the
door was the woman Bullock had seen before.

'Miss Lizzie!  Oh, Miss Lizzie!' she cried.

'I've come back, Janet,' Lizzie said, then turned and kissed
Bullock and walked into the house.

'Just tell Mrs. Carlisle,' Bullock said, 'that I've done what I
said I'd do.'

Then he walked away.

The fog came back about six o'clock, having, we may suppose, seen
Captain Nicholas safe across the Channel.  With its wet slimy
tentacles writhing up and down, in and out, it settled down upon
London.  Outside the Charles Street house, about ten o'clock, it
was like a wall of thick, stifling grey-black ectoplasm.  Inside
the Charles Street house the Delaney family sat in no very gay
frame of mind.

Bullock, his little body curled up like a ball at the end of the
sofa, was reading The Hillyars and the Burtons.  Kitty, her long
legs stretched out in front of her, was looking into the fire.
Meg, with Endless asleep against her shoe, was reading Time and
Tide.  Fred, looking rather too stout and choleric, had his chair
tilted forward and he was staring in front of him.  The William and
Mary clock was ticking, Endless was snoring with that snore so
peculiarly human that it makes you stare at your dog with
discomfort and doubt the survival of personality after death, the
coals were tit-titting in the fire.

'Remember Snails and Oysters,' Fred Delaney said suddenly, and
then, as they all looked up, he remarked, yawning:  'I only wanted
to attract your different attentions.  I would remark that this is
one of the few evenings we've all been gathered together in one
room for months--and I'd like to say I'm wondering whether you're
aware that tomorrow morning as ever is I sign the agreement for the
final and absolute slaughter, destruction, murder of this house.
And that, once it is gone, we will be the Joyful Delaneys no
longer, but wanderers on the face of the earth.  And that not only
is the house going, but London too--very, very shortly--and after
that the British Empire, and after that the Planet, and after that--
well, the First Cause will have to start planning all over again.'
He stopped.  He loved, he had to admit it, the sound of his own
voice, for he was at heart a poet and all poets love the sound of
their own voices, even when they are very squeaky ones.

Fred Delaney had been pulling himself away from his dream, the
dream that he had in the Club that afternoon seated in one of those
big armchairs in front of the fire.  An extraordinary dream because
of the vividness of its detail.  He had been at some party and with
him had been his old friend Reeves, and Reeves had been drunk.
This in itself was absurd, because Reeves had never been drunk in
his life.  He had walked into the street with Reeves.  It was one
of the most horrid of London days, a wild freakish wind blowing,
gusts of rain, and the road slimy with mud.  The traffic, as it
does sometimes on a windy day, seemed to be moving at a furious,
almost insane rate.  Well, Reeves had said goodbye and started to
walk down the street.  Then, quite unexpectedly, he had fallen flat
on his face all amongst a group of playing children, and Fred had
seen how his mousy-grey-white mackintosh had been caught by the
wind and blown in little fantastic gusts above his recumbent body.
The children were jumping about him and beating him with little
spades.  Fred was about to start out to help him, but suddenly
Reeves got up and began to run again.  Fred could see him as he
reached the corner of the street, where there was a great deal of
traffic.  Suddenly Reeves stepped right into the middle of the road
and fell flat on to his face again, and there he lay while the
traffic roared past him, missing his body by a shadow's breadth,
and especially a bicyclist, a boy bending forward on his machine
and looking ahead with furious intensity, who flew round the corner
and made Reeves' mackintosh rise as though in protest.  It would
never do to let Reeves lie there--he would be killed at any moment--
so Fred ran madly down the street, crying out 'Snails and
Oysters!' 'Snails and Oysters!'--which words seem to contain some
most fearful warning.  But when he got to the corner of the street
there was no sign of Reeves anywhere; the wind caught Fred so
abominably that, filled with fear, he clung on to the wall close
behind him.  Then he woke up.

A silly, meaningless dream, but it had greatly oppressed him, so he
talked to forget it.

'So you see, this is really our last night in this house--the last
night anyway that it belongs to us.'

Bullock began to speak.  'All the same, Father--'

But Fred Delaney cut him short.

'I don't want any arguments.  The thing's done and settled.
There's nothing more to be said.'

'I saw Marjorie Blandin to-day,' Meg began rather dreamily, 'and
she said why don't _I_ start taking people from the country and
introducing them to Duchesses?  She says of course it's boring but
really IS paying, and with all the people Larry knows and my own
fine and handsome presence . . .'  She was thinking:  'I can see
quite clearly from his last letter that he will never forgive me
for keeping him waiting at the station like that.  NEVER.  It was
exactly the thing that in the old days he never could stand.  So
perhaps it's all for the best.  Because it's clear that he doesn't
believe my reasons either.  He thinks all that about poor Claude
made up, and if he doesn't believe me, what hope would there ever
have been?'

Aloud she said:

'The people really weighing on my mind are Claude Willoughby and
Millie Pake.  If only we could do something for THEM, get them out
of the awful places where they are!  If only we could afford to
have them here!  Oh, but I forgot.  There won't be any HERE after
to-morrow morning.  What ARE we going to do, Fred?'

'Of course we'll have enough to live on--in Surbiton or somewhere
like that.'

'Surbiton!' Meg cried before she could prevent herself.

Fred gave her a malicious grin.

'It needn't be ACTUALLY Surbiton, of course, but that sort of
place.  Kitty will marry.  Bullock will write for a living and not
merely for pleasure as he is doing at present.  The point is we
shall be a joyful family no longer.  We shall all be broken up.'

Bullock began:  'Wait a minute, Father.  I've got something--'

Fred trampled upon him ruthlessly.

'Yes, I know what you're going to say.  Your blessed novel--it's
just about finished.  I don't want to hear about it until it's sold
and you've got the money.  That will be time enough.'

'But I wasn't--' Bullock began.

'Oh yes, you were.  Now what I MEAN is that what this house has
given us we ought to keep.  It has looked after us for hundreds of
years and bound us all together.  We must keep that bond.  We must
be a family still.  I want--I want--'

And then an awful thing happened.  They all saw with horror that
Fred's lip was trembling, that he couldn't speak, that he was on
the edge of tears.  He got up and went to the mantelpiece and laid
his forehead against it, just under the William and Mary clock.

He saw with fearful distinctness Reeves' body lying in the road and
the young bicyclist flying round the corner with insane
determination in his eyes.

Then he felt Meg's hand against his cheek.

'Don't take on so, darling.  We'll stick together, we four, of
course we will--more than ever now, I think.'

He turned round, laughing, although his eyes were bright with

'Listen!' he cried.  'Here and now we'll make our procession up and
down the house, saying our farewell to it.  We'll light the
Georgian candlesticks and carry them to light our way.  We'll go
into every corner, every nook and cranny, saying goodbye to
everything.  We'll tell it we couldn't help ourselves, that a
mortgage or borrowing money on it would have been just as bad.  It
will understand.  They say you can't get fond of a house in London,
that one's only a bird of passage, that everything changes so
constantly.  But that's not true.  This house has all the love and
fidelity and tenderness of all the finest people who have lived in
it and loved it.  And now to-morrow I'm going to murder it.  With
my own hand and my fountain-pen I--'

'But, Father--' said Bullock.

'No, my boy.  I know what you're going to say.  It's no good.  We
must face facts.'  He lit the silver Georgian candlesticks, and
then in a little procession, Endless leading them, they marched

They started up the stairs.  It was as though the house was
listening to their footsteps, was waiting for them. . . .

The street-door bell rang.  They all turned on the steps and stared
down into the hall.

'Who CAN that be at this hour?'

'In this fog too,' said Meg.

The bell rang again, insistently, in a bad temper.

'I think I know who--' said Bullock.

'Caesar has gone home.'

'I'll open it.'  Bullock was down the stairs, the door swung open,
letting in thin gusts of fog as though a demon cow were breathing
outside in the street.

But it was not a demon cow.  It was old Lord Ragadoon.

He had on his head a cap with a peak and a button to it, over his
shoulders a striped plaid.  His bright old eyes peered from his
hairy old face like a robin's from a winter thicket.

He bowed very punctiliously.

'Excuse me,' he said in his rumbling, drumming emphasis.  'May I
have five minutes' business with you?'

The door was closed, they all shook hands.

'This is my wife,' said Fred, 'and this my daughter Kitty.'

They all trooped back into the drawing-room.  Fred still carried
the candles.

'Where's your young woman?' Ragadoon said to Bullock.

'In bed, I hope.'

'Yes, yes--of course.  She's only a child.'

Inside the room he looked about him.  'Nice clock you have.'  He
bent down and stroked Endless.  'Like dogs.'  Then he straightened
himself.  'It's a bit of business,' he said.

'Won't you sit down?' said Meg, showing him a chair.

'Thank ye.  Thank ye.'  He sat down and, leaning forward, holding
his cap in his hand, addressed them.

'I know it's late.  You must forgive that.  I'm an old man and have
my own habits.  Besides, there's the fog.  How I hate fogs!  Yes,
ma'am.  Fogs would be enough, if there weren't anything else, to
prove that the Deity doesn't know His job.  And they ruin pictures.
Let fog get into a decent water-colour drawing . . .  Well, as I
was saying, this is business.  Your boy Bullock' (he jerked his
thick stumpy finger towards him) 'was taking luncheon with me to-
day, and I expect he's told you although I asked him not to--'

'No, I haven't told them,' Bullock interrupted.  'I've been trying
to hint, but Father wouldn't listen.'

'Just as well.  Just as well,' said the old man.  'Mr. Delaney, I
want to rent the whole of this house, excepting, of course, your
own quarters.'

'You want--what?'

'I want to pay you the rent for this house you require--all the
flats in it except your own.  I want to move in immediately with
all my goods and chattels.  And when I say my goods and chattels I
say SOMETHING.  I shall live, of course, in my own flat myself.  I
propose that you should let the other two flats to any two friends
you may have who are decent, respectable, trustworthy bodies, but
too hard-up, maybe, to pay the rent themselves.  Your boy here told
me at luncheon to-day that you might have such friends.  The only
proviso I make is that I shall be wanting to hang my pictures and
drawings in every part of the house, except, of course, your own
quarters, and that therefore your friends who live in the other
flats must not object to having such pictures on their walls, must
to some extent indeed be guardians over them and must be willing at
certain times for visitors to be shown them.'  He looked round upon
them all, and then, as they appeared to be speechless, went on:  'I
have it in my mind that my collection of pictures may be left here,
under my will, in perpetuity, as a gift to the nation.  That would
ensure, of course, the permanence of this building.  But of that we
can speak later.'

He stopped.  He twirled his cap round.

Fred at last said:  'Well, I'm damned!'

'You like the idea, Mr. Delaney?' Ragadoon enquired politely.

'Like it!  Like it!  It's a dream, a miracle, a phantasmagoria, a
Cinderella Ball, an Elephant and Castle melodrama with the heroine
saved in the nick of time.'

The old man grinned, a peculiar phenomenon, Endless must have
thought, for without warning he barked twice.

'Call it what you like, Mr. Delaney.  You must thank your son and
his young woman for this.  I'm living in a pigsty and quite rightly
he told me so.  I like your son and could teach him something
useful about pictures if he'd learn. . . .  And now, Mrs. Delaney,
ma'am, with your very kind permission I'll bid you farewell.
Details can be settled later.  But I'm an impatient man and I'll be
moving in by the end of the week.'

He got up, went across to Bullock and laid his hand on his

'See me to the door, young man, and find me a cab.'



The Park, on this last day of the year, dripped water from the bare
trees, oozed water from the sodden soil and veiled its shabby
disgraces with trails of sulky mist.

But the fact that the Park was sulky had nothing to do with the
spirit of Shepherd Market.  Although they are always in close touch
with one another, these two, and realize a great deal more about
what is going on in the one or the other than matter-of-fact people
know.  (And it's sad, if you think of it, how very little of what
is really going on people who call themselves matter-of-fact DO

There's nothing more unpleasant than the truly whimsical or I-spy-
you're-a-fairy kind of writing, but it is not to be denied by
anybody who has watched life with any closeness that there are
moments, both with places and people, when everything goes very odd
indeed, as it does, for instance, at the end of the second act of
the Meistersinger, in the middle of the Flegeljahre, at the
Eatanswill Election, at that party in Barchester when the Signora
behaved so badly, or at that other grand private party in Illyria
when Malvolio was unable to stop the ballad-singing.

Some madness of this kind overtook the citizens of Shepherd Market
on that afternoon of the last day of the year of grace 1934.  Time
passes so swiftly that there are in all probability few people
alive to-day, only four years later, who remember the ludicrous and
whimsical and eccentric scenes of that brief half-hour.  They
occurred nevertheless.

It was not an afternoon to encourage end-of-the-year
eccentricities, warm and muggy and dark enough to have lights in
the shops quite early in the afternoon.  It was also a Monday, and
everyone knows what a poor day of the week that one is!

Nevertheless here was another year all but dead and gone, and who
knows what glorious things the next year is going to do?

Quite early in the afternoon people were moving about, having no
business apparently to bother with, and the sense of COMMUNITY,
always very strong in the Market, grew with every minute.
Someone's cat had had kittens, a lady had had twins, a gentleman
had won a surprising amount arranging the winners of football
matches, and somebody's daughter in the Manchester Pantomime had
sent word home to say she had engaged herself to a Manchester
business gentleman.

In the dusky lamp-lit afternoon the year seems a little unreal as
it fades towards its close, and men and women stand about as though
they are expecting something.  If, at the end of Market Street, two
angels suddenly appeared blowing triumphant trumpets of gold and
crying in ringing voices that the end of the world had arrived, no
one in the Market would be very greatly surprised.  There have been
so MANY strange things happening lately!

Caesar had come over from Charles Street to help Mr. Willoughby
move his things.  There was very little to move, for the furniture
had gone over to Charles Street in the morning, the bed, the
armchair, the pictures, the christening mug, the miniature of his
mother, the Jacobean dagger, the ancient Toby jug and the rest.  He
himself in his bowler hat and overcoat stood in the empty shabby
room and bade it a sentimental farewell.  He was exceedingly happy;
he could not yet believe his good fortune, but at the same time he
could not but realize all the years that he had spent here, the
thoughts, hopes, dreams.  Yes, that WAS sentimental, for the truth
was that he had been exceedingly unhappy here and gone almost crazy
with loneliness, insufficient food, and terror.

He was already great friends with Caesar.  It was wonderful that
someone should treat him with politeness again just as in the old

'I think we've got everything now, sir,' said Caesar, looking like
a bright, intelligent child masquerading as a mature man.

'Yes, I think we really have.  Dear me!  Do you think I ought to
say good-bye to anybody?'

'I shouldn't trouble, sir, if I were you.  Mrs. Delaney is
expecting you to take tea with her, I think, sir.'

'Oh, is she indeed?  Very charming of her.  Well, that settles it,
doesn't it?  We'll be moving, shall we?'

What he was really frightened of was a last meeting with Brocket.
He had paid him his rent--all relationship between them was over--
but he couldn't believe, even now, that the shadow of that grey-
fleshed, corpulent body was to hang over his waking and sleeping
moments never again!  However, he was to see Brocket once more and
in dramatic circumstances.  He had walked with Caesar as far as the
middle of Market Street when he saw him--and Caesar saw him too!

Brocket was there and standing in front of a girl, pushing his face
into hers, preventing her passing.

Caesar said:  'Excuse me, sir, will you?' and a moment later had
caught Brocket by the arm, crying, 'Leave her alone, you dirty

At that shrill cry all the Market seemed to stir into action,
windows opened, people turned and gazed, shop-doors filled, voices
were raised.  For Brocket had struck out at Caesar, and Caesar had
struck out at Brocket.

The girl cried, 'Don't, don't, Caesar!  He'll kill you!' a woman
ran into a doorway and screamed, 'Mrs. Rudge!  Mrs. Rudge!  They're
murdering your son,' and Caesar and Brocket were instantly an
indistinguishable confusion.

It was not a very handsome fight.  Caesar was a diminutive beside
his enemy, but he had been a boxer in his time.  The trouble was
that he found himself involved so desperately in the stuffings and
swellings and soft places of Brocket's ill-conditioned body that he
could never get himself clear to strike an honourable blow.
Brocket, who was altogether out of condition, believed in nothing
so tame as fair play.  He kicked, he bit, he tore at Caesar's
collar, coat, hair, or anything else in his way, and did achieve
one big scratch with his dirty finger-nails all down Caesar's left
cheek.  That was, however, his solitary success.

After losing his breath in Brocket's beastly belly and wriggling
within his indecent bear-like hug, Caesar succeeded in ducking his
head, breaking away, and, in one instant of glorious freedom and
vision, managed to deliver so successful a blow on Brocket's nose
that that undoubted villain of Claude's and Caesar's story fell
backwards, flung his arms in the air, shrieked aloud and lay, a
writhing monstrosity, on the Market Street pavement.

By this time the whole of the Market was calling aloud, singing,
shouting and, on the part of a number of small boys, skipping and
dancing.  It was a glorious end to the year.  There should have
been a policeman, but there wasn't one, and for a brief ecstatic
moment, in the lights and the mist and the flowers and leather and
fish and newspapers and antiques and cuts off the joint and rooms
for single gentlemen, the Market knew once again, as it had known
often enough in its historic past, what it was to assert its common
spirit and sense of fun and general light-heartedness.

The moment was quickly ended.  Caesar straightened himself.  He was
breathing hard, his cheek was bleeding, his collar was torn, his
trousers covered with mud.  He showed nevertheless a fine and
simple dignity.

'That'll teach him a lesson he won't soon forget.'

He attended then to his mother, who now that the fight was over was
remembering that she had once been lodge-keeper at Wintersmoon and
was at present surrounded by a crowd of common vulgar populace.
And there, the origin of all the trouble, was that horrid nasty

'Now, Mother,' said Caesar, 'you go along home.  I'll be visiting
you later.  And this,' he had his hand on the girl's arm, 'is Miss
Margaret Dundee, to whom I am engaged and hope shortly to marry.
Now let's have no more words.'

This he said in front of the assembled Market.

Mrs. Rudge gave him one look, then, recognizing for the first time
since she bore him that he was her master, without a word went
meekly to her home.

'Now, sir,' said Caesar, 'I'm ready if you please.  And you won't
mind, I hope, sir, if Miss Dundee, my fiance, comes as far as
Charles Street in our company.'

It was half an hour to midnight.  They had turned off the wireless
because of the noise that it was making.  They would turn it on
again just before Big Ben struck.

Very little was said.  It was clear enough that everyone was happy.
Fred Delaney looked at the three old people and was glad that he
was their host--Millie Pake, Claude Willoughby, old Ragadoon.  They
sat near to one another, all very straight-backed, for they were of
the generation that had been taught to sit up straight even though
you were tumbriling guillotine-wards.  The happiest of the three,
perhaps, was Claude Willoughby.  He sat there, a glass of something
in his hand, staring in front of him, not speaking, unable to
believe his luck.  When, that afternoon, a tattered and torn Caesar
had led him into the house, and dear, kind Mrs. Delaney had taken
him up to his flat, he had with trembling lips said:  'Thank you!
Oh, thank you very much!' and, after that, had lost all power of
speech for the rest of the year.  The good things are quite as true
as the bad things, and this was one of the good things.  His bed,
his table, his chair were there.  His Things had been laid out on
the table for him to arrange.  The Jacobean dagger glittered at
him, the Toby jug grinned, his christening mug, always protective,
was greatly relieved to see him again.  But when he saw the fresh
cream-coloured walls, and on the walls some of the pictures from
the great collection of Lord Ragadoon--in the bedroom drawings--a
Turner, a Cotman, a Caracci, an Ostade--and in the sitting-room an
oil sketch of an old man drinking by Frans Hals, a still life by
Manet of some roses in a silver dish, a small oil by Constable, and
the lovely head of a lovely lady by Alfred Stevens--when he saw
these things and understood that he was appointed as guardian of
them--then he sat down and his thin chest heaved and his hands rose
and fell again, and he knew the happiest moment of all his life.

He understood, too, that Lord Ragadoon, weary of his many years'
'piggery,' had brought servants to Charles Street with him, and
that one of these (an elderly kind-faced woman whose name was Mrs.
Mumble) would look after his wants, that the only expenses he would
have would be to pay for his food, that he had his own bathroom and
need dread no longer any Major Pierson.  Then, for the first time
for many, many years, his heart changed from its odd, leaping,
frightened beat to a steady, normal, friendly monotony.

So now he sat in the Delaney drawing-room waiting for the New Year.

Millie Pake was placidly looking into the fire and thinking of the
past.  She was very happy, of course, to be back in the old room,
and Helen seemed to be there with her.  It was true that the
Bloomsbury room had been horrid, but she was worried a little about
all the other old gentlewomen who hadn't encountered her good-
fortune, who were still wondering where the next meal would come
from, who were still eking out a miserable scuttle of slack
shrivelled coal, and, worst of all, had no one, at this end of
another dreary year, to give them a thought or care whether they
were alive or no.  'I shall speak to Meg about them,' she thought.
'She's sure to have an idea.'  She was thinking also of her Aunt
Sybella, who had lost all her hair in a fire and been racked with
pain and had yet never lost her cheerfulness.  'I'm afraid I lost
mine once or twice.  There's no doubt I might have behaved better.'

She was pleased that Lord Ragadoon trusted her to look after his
pictures, but in her heart she would have preferred to have a few
of her own--a nice water-colour or two and some photographs.

Of what old Ragadoon was thinking--he was quite smart to-night, his
beard combed, wearing a black velvet jacket and silver buckles on
his old-fashioned evening shoes--no one ever knew.  He appeared,
however, to be in excellent spirits.

Bullock and Lizzie were sitting together on the sofa, and THEIR
happy moment seemed to be extending itself indefinitely.

Kitty was sitting in a chair near the fire.  Whether she were happy
or not she did not know.  Happiness did not seem exactly the point
with her.  Perhaps it would never be.  Rather her spirit was
charged with the sense of expectation.  The Braque picture, Zanti's
shop, her friendship with dear Sarah Grafton, the adventure with
the Foster family, these things had, all of them together, opened a
door for her, promising her a life not of happiness but of active
developing experience.  Foster Senior had been right (how could she
ever have thought of him as Mr. Turveydrop?) when he had said that
life was rough and brutal and meant to be, and that from it you
extracted if you were truly alive great moments of experience, and
that, feeding on these, you must grow.  Painful, cruel moments fed
your growth perhaps more truly than happy ones.  He was right, too,
when he said that she knew nothing as yet about men and women.  To-
morrow, with the New Year, she would begin to learn.  Her capacity
for love--her greatest gift although she did not know it--spread
over all her friends--poor Alton, Sarah Grafton, Foster whom she
would like to see again but would never, Robert Beaminster who
would, she hoped, soon marry someone very nice indeed--and then
about everyone in this room and especially her own beloved family--
her father, her mother, Bullock.  She shaded her eyes with her hand
from the firelight. . . .  Whom else would the New Year bring?  All
her real experience had yet to begin.

Fred Delaney noticed that Meg was not there.  He went quietly into
the bedroom and found her brushing her hair.

'I want to be tidy for the New Year,' she said.

'It's ten minutes to.'

She leaned back against the chair and looked up at him.  He came
over to her and kissed her.

'You know,' she said, 'we've never discussed it.  Not a word.  That
day, I mean, when we didn't go away.'

He grinned.  'There wasn't anything to say.  We both made fools of

'I just didn't.  I don't know what happened to you.  I don't want
to know.'  She took a look at the glass.  'There!  I'm as right as
I shall ever be.  I only want to say this, Fred.  You need never
worry about me again.  THAT will never--'

'Here,' he said, interrupting, 'I don't want any discussion.
Haven't we always agreed that we trusted one another?'

'Perhaps we trusted one another too much.  What we agreed to really
was a kind of act of collusion--and now that seems to me somehow

'I don't really know what possessed me.  The funny thing was that I
saw him so little--Graham Pender, I mean--and almost always with
his wife.  It was the sight of my long-lost youth recovered so
unexpectedly that led me on, I think.  Affection for him--and then
something wild in me.  It will always be there--but it won't go
THAT way again.'

'All right, old girl,' Fred said.

'And I'll tell you why.  Not religion and not morality.  They've
got a lot to say, but oddly enough they were neither of them as
important as something else.  Am I being very solemn, Fred

'You are rather.'

'For once I want to be.  It was our relationship that would have
suffered.  If I'd gone with Graham for that week-end our
relationship--yours and mine--would never have been the same again.
You mayn't believe that, but it's true.  We've always believed in
giving one another absolute liberty, haven't we?'

'We have and do.'

'I see now that we ought to have fixed our eyes on something else.
Through years and years, trouble and fun and anxiety and relief--
through a million little things--we've built up a wonderful
relationship--a sort we can neither of us ever have again with any
human being.  And all the time something in life tries to pull it
down, to destroy it.  It's attacked ceaselessly.  Every action of
ours damages or improves it.  It's the same, I think, with every
friendship, passion, marriage, parents and children.  And so, when
it's the best thing you have, the grandest and greatest, what an
idiot you are if you do anything, say anything, think anything that
doesn't strengthen it.'  She stopped.

He was greatly moved and amused too.  He put his arms on her

'And I, Meg--what about MY damaging it?'

'That's for YOU to decide,' she said.

They stayed in a close embrace.

'Come,' he said.  'It's three minutes.'

As she turned back to her dressing-table again for a moment he

'Is it right for us to be so happy?'

'I think so--as long as we are not fools nor too selfish.'

'This crazy world--'

'We're part of it.'  She went toward the door, turned for a moment.
'Not now, not in our lifetime, Fred, dear, will the last word be
said.  Men are not mad for ever.  It's a long, long story.'  She
sighed, looked towards him with an absolute devotion.  'Meanwhile
let's love one another--and not be more afraid than we can help.'

He stood there for a moment after she had gone.  The house was
secure, for a while at least.  It had been a dangerous year, but at
the end of it they were all together.

He saw his beloved town, danger, destruction hanging over it, but
it seemed to him indestructible.  He remembered his conversation
with Patrick a year ago.  Aye Bourne and the stream running through
Marylebone across Oxford Street and May Fair . . . the meadowlands
of May Fair, the milkmaids' song where the Ritz is.  Old Q with his
muff, Robert Baker the tailor. . . .  And now it was on tiptoe to
welcome the New Year, the dance bands playing, the lights shining,
the wind blowing through the Park trees, the barges lying dark on
the river, the men and women kneeling in the churches, so many
stairs and rooms and roofs and chimneys--the spirit indestructible,
the soul eternal.

He went into the other room.  The wireless had been turned on
again.  The three old people were sitting straight in their chairs,
Lizzie and Bullock hand in hand, Meg and Kitty standing side by

Big Ben began to strike.

'Come on,' he cried.  'Join hands.  For Auld Lang Syne.'

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