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Title: Some Do Not... (1924)
       (Parade's End, Part 1)
Author: Ford Madox Ford
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0700171.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: February 2007
Date most recently updated: February 2007

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Title: Some Do Not... (1924)
       (Parade's End, Part 1)
Author: Ford Madox Ford






PART ONE



I


The two young men--they were of the English public official class--sat in
the perfectly appointed railway carriage. The leather straps to the
windows were of virgin newness; the mirrors beneath the new luggage racks
immaculate as if they had reflected very little; the bulging upholstery
in its luxuriant, regulated curves was scarlet and yellow in an
intricate, minute dragon pattern, the design of a geometrician in
Cologne. The compartment smelt faintly, hygienically of admirable
varnish; the train ran as smoothly--Tietjens remembered thinking--as
British gilt-edged securities. It travelled fast; yet had it swayed or
jolted over the rail joints, except at the curve before Tonbridge or over
the points at Ashford where these eccentricities are expected and allowed
for, Macmaster, Tietjens felt certain, would have written to the company.
Perhaps he would even have written to _The Times_.

Their class administered the world, not merely the newly created Imperial
Department of Statistics under Sir Reginald Ingleby. If they saw
policemen misbehave, railway porters lack civility, an insufficiency of
street lamps, defects in public services or in foreign countries, they
saw to it, either with nonchalant Balliol voices or with letters to
_The Times_, asking in regretful indignation: 'Has the British This
or That come to _this_?' Or they wrote, in the serious reviews of
which so many still survived, articles taking under their care, manners,
the Arts, diplomacy, inter-Imperial trade, or the personal reputations of
deceased statesmen and men of letters.

Macmaster, that is to say, would do all that: of himself Tietjens was not
so certain. There sat Macmaster; smallish; Whig; with a trimmed, pointed
black beard, such as a smallish man might wear to enhance his already
germinated distinction; black hair of a stubborn fibre, drilled down with
hard metal brushes; a sharp nose; strong, level teeth; a white, butterfly
collar of the smoothness of porcelain; a tie confined by a gold ring,
steel-blue speckled with black--to match his eyes, as Tietjens knew.

Tietjens, on the other hand, could not remember what coloured tie he had
on. He had taken a cab from the office to their rooms, had got himself
into a loose, tailored coat and trousers, and a soft shirt, had packed,
quickly, but still methodically, a great number of things in an immense
two-handled kit-bag, which you could throw into a guard's van if need be.
He disliked letting that 'man' touch his things; he had disliked letting
his wife's maid pack for him. He even disliked letting porters carry his
kit-bag. He was a Tory--and as he disliked changing his clothes, there he
sat, on the journey, already in large, brown, hugely welted and nailed
golf boots, leaning forward on the edge of the cushion, his legs apart,
on each knee an immense white hand--and thinking vaguely.

Macmaster, on the other hand, was leaning back, reading some small,
unbound printed sheets, rather stiff, frowning a little. Tietjens knew
that this was, for Macmaster, an impressive moment. He was correcting the
proofs of his first book.

To this affair, as Tietjens knew, there attached themselves many fine
shades. If, for instance, you had asked Macmaster whether he were a
writer, he would have replied with the merest suggestion of a deprecatory
shrug.

'No, dear lady!' for of course no man would ask the question of anyone so
obviously a man of the world. And he would continue with a smile:
'Nothing so fine! A mere trifle at odd moments. A critic, perhaps. Yes! A
little of critic.'

Nevertheless Macmaster moved in drawing rooms that, with long curtains,
blue china plates, large-patterned wallpapers and large, quiet mirrors,
sheltered the long-haired of the Arts. And, as near as possible to the
dear ladies who gave the At Homes, Macmaster could keep up the talk--a
little magisterially. He liked to be listened to with respect when he
spoke of Botticelli, Rossetti, and those early Italian artists whom he
called 'The Primitives.' Tietjens had seen him there. And he didn't
disapprove.

For, if they weren't, these gatherings, Society, they formed a stage on
the long and careful road to a career in a first-class Government office.
And, utterly careless as Tietjens imagined himself of careers or offices,
he was, if sardonically, quite sympathetic towards his friend's
ambitiousnesses. It was an odd friendship, but the oddnesses of
friendships are a frequent guarantee of their lasting texture.

The youngest son of a Yorkshire country gentleman, Tietjens himself was
entitled to the best--the best that first-class public offices and
first-class people could afford. He was without ambition, but these
things would come to him as they do in England. So he could afford to be
negligent of his attire, of the company he kept, of the opinions he
uttered. He had a little private income under his mother's settlement; a
little income from the Imperial Department of Statistics; he had married
a woman of means, and he was, in the Tory manner, sufficiently a master
of flouts and jeers to be listened to when he spoke. He was twenty-six;
but, very big, in a fair, untidy, Yorkshire way, he carried more weight
than his age warranted. His chief, Sir Reginald Ingleby, when Tietjens
chose to talk of public tendencies which influenced statistics, would
listen with attention. Sometimes Sir Reginald would say: 'You're a
perfect encyclopaedia of exact material knowledge, Tietjens,' and
Tietjens thought that that was his due, and he would accept the tribute
in silence.

At a word from Sir Reginald, Macmaster, on the other hand, would murmur:
'You're very good, Sir Reginald!' and Tietjens thought that perfectly
proper.

Macmaster was a little the senior in the service, as he was probably a
little the senior in age. For, as to his roommate's years, or as to his
exact origins, there was a certain blank in Tietjens' knowledge.
Macmaster was obviously Scotch by birth, and you accepted him as what was
called a son of the manse. No doubt he was really the son of a grocer in
Cupar or a railway porter in Edinburgh. It does not matter with the
Scotch, and as he was very properly reticent as to his ancestry, having
accepted him, you didn't, even mentally, make enquiries.

Tietjens always had accepted Macmaster--at Clifton, at Cambridge, in
Chancery Lane and in their rooms at Gray's Inn. So for Macmaster he had a
very deep affection--even a gratitude. And Macmaster might be considered
as returning these feelings. Certainly he had always done his best to be
of service to Tietjens. Already at the Treasury and attached as private
secretary to Sir Reginald Ingleby, whilst Tietjens was still at
Cambridge, Macmaster had brought to the notice of Sir Reginald Tietjens'
many great natural gifts, and Sir Reginald, being on the look-out for
young men for his ewe lamb, his newly founded department, had very
readily accepted Tietjens as his third in command. On the other hand, it
had been Tietjens' father who had recommended Macmaster to the notice of
Sir Thomas Block at the Treasury itself. And, indeed, the Tietjens family
had provided a little money--that was Tietjens' mother really--to get
Macmaster through Cambridge and install him in Town. He had repaid the
small sum--paying it partly by finding room in his chambers for Tietjens
when in turn he came to Town.

With a Scots young man such a position had been perfectly possible.
Tietjens had been able to go to his fair, ample, saintly mother in her
morning-room and say:

'Look here, mother, that fellow Macmaster! He'll need a little money to
get through the University,' and his mother would answer:

'Yes, my dear. How much?'

With an English young man of the lower orders that would have left a
sense of class obligation. With Macmaster it just didn't.

During Tietjens' late trouble--for four months before Tietjens' wife had
left him to go abroad with another man--Macmaster had filled a place that
no other mart could have filled. For the basis of Christopher Tietjens'
emotional existence was a complete taciturnity--at any rate as to his
emotions. As Tietjens saw the world, you didn't 'talk.' Perhaps you
didn't even think about how you felt.

And, indeed, his wife's flight had left him almost completely without
emotions that he could realize, and he had not spoken more than twenty
words at most about the event. Those had been mostly to his father, who,
very tall, very largely built, silver-haired and erect, had drifted, as
it were, into Macmaster's drawing-room in Gray's Inn, and after five
minutes of silence had said:

'You will divorce?'

Christopher had answered:

'No! No one but a blackguard would ever submit a woman to the ordeal of
divorce.'

Mr Tietjens had suggested that, and after an interval had asked:

'You will permit her to divorce you?'

He had answered:

'If she wishes it. There's the child to be considered.' Mr Tietjens said:

'You will get her settlement transferred to the child?' Christopher
answered:

'If it can be done without friction.'

Mr Tietjens had commented only:

'Ah!' Some minutes later he had said:

'Your mother's very well.' Then: 'That motor-plough didn't answer,' and
then: 'I shall be dining at the club.' Christopher said:

'May I bring Macmaster in, sir? You said you would put him up.'

Mr Tietjens answered:

'Yes, do. Old General ffolliot will be there. He'll second him. He'd
better make his acquaintance.' He had gone away.

Tietjens considered that his relationship with his father was an almost
perfect one. They were like two men in the club--the _only_ club;
thinking so alike that there was no need to talk. His father had spent a
great deal of time abroad before succeeding to the estate. When, over the
moors, he went into the industrial town that he owned, he drove always in
a coach-and-four. Tobacco smoke had never been known inside Groby Hall:
Mr Tietjens had twelve pipes filled every morning by his head gardener
and placed in rose bushes down the drive. These he smoked during the day.
He farmed a good deal of his own land; had sat for Holdernesse from 1876
to 1881, and had not presented himself for election after the
redistribution of seats; he was patron of eleven livings; rode to hounds
every now and then, and shot fairly regularly. He had three other sons
and two daughters, and was now sixty-one.

To his sister Effie, on the day after his wife's elopement, Christopher
had said over the telephone:

'Will you take Tommie for an indefinite period? Mar-chant will come with
him. She offers to take charge of your two youngest as well, so you'll
save a maid, and I'll pay their board and a bit over.'

The voice of his sister--from Yorkshire--had answered: 'Certainly,
Christopher.' She was the wife of a vicar, near Groby, and she had
several children.

To Macmaster Tietjens had said:

'Sylvia has left me with that fellow Perowne.' Macmaster had answered
only: 'Ah!'

Tietjens had continued:

'I'm letting the house and warehousing the furniture. Tommie is going to
my sister Effie. Marchant is going with him.'

Macmaster had said:

'Then you'll be wanting your old rooms.' Macmaster occupied a very large
storey of the Gray's Inn buildings. After Tietjens had left him on his
marriage he had continued to enjoy solitude, except that his man had
moved down from the attic to the bedroom formerly occupied by Tietjens.

Tietjens said:

'I'll come in to-morrow night if I may. That will give Ferens time to get
back into his attic.'

That morning, at breakfast, four months having passed, Tietjens had
received a letter from his wife. She asked, without any contrition at
all, to be taken back. She was fed-up with Perowne and Brittany.

Tietjens looked up at Macmaster. Macmaster was already half out of his
chair, looking at him with enlarged, steel-blue eyes, his beard
quivering. By the time Tietjens spoke Macmaster had his hand on the neck
of the cut-glass brandy decanter in the brown wood tantalus.

Tietjens said:

'Sylvia asks me to take her back.'

Macmaster said:

'Have a little of this!'

Tietjens was about to say: 'No,' automatically. He changed that to:

'Yes. Perhaps. A liqueur glass.'

He noticed that the lip of the decanter agitated, tinkling on the glass.
Macmaster must be trembling. Macmaster, with his back still turned, said:

'Shall you take her back?'

Tietjens answered:

'I imagine so.' The brandy warmed his chest in its descent. Macmaster
said:

'Better have another.'

Tietjens answered:

'Yes. Thanks.'

Macmaster went on with his breakfast and his letters. So did Tietjens.
Ferens came in, removed the bacon plates and set on the table a silver
water-heated dish that contained poached eggs and haddock. A long time
afterwards Tietjens said:

'Yes, in principle I'm determined to. But I shall take three days to
think out the details.'

He seemed to have no feelings about the matter. Certain insolent phrases
in Sylvia's letter hung in his mind. He preferred a letter like that. The
brandy made no difference to his mentality, but it seemed to keep him
from shivering.

Macmaster said:

'Suppose we go down to Rye by the 11.40. We could get a round after tea
now the days are long. I want to call on a parson near there. He has
helped me with my book.'

Tietjens said:

'Did your poet know parsons? But of course he did_ Duchemin is the name,
isn't it?

Macmaster said:

'We could call about two-thirty. That will be all right in the country.
We stay till four with a cab outside. We can be on the first tee at five.
If we like the course we'll stay next day: then Tuesday at Hythe and
Wednesday at Sandwich. Or we could stay at Rye all your three days.'

'It will probably suit me better to keep moving,' Tietjens said. 'There
are those British Columbia figures of yours. If we took a cab now I could
finish them for you in an hour and twelve minutes. Then British North
Africa can go to the printers. It's only 8.30 now.'

Macmaster said, with some concern:

'Oh, but you _couldn't_: I can make our going all right with Sir
Reginald.'

Tietjens said:

'Oh yes, I can. Ingleby will be pleased if you tell him they're finished.
I'll have them ready for you to give him when he comes at ten.'

Macmaster said:

'What an extraordinary fellow you are, Chrissie. Almost a genius!'

'Oh,' Tietjens answered: 'I was looking at your papers yesterday after
you'd left and I've got most of the totals in my head. I was thinking
about them before I went to sleep. I think you make a mistake in
over-estimating the pull of Klondyke this year on the population. The
passes are open, but relatively no one is going through. I'll add a note
to that effect.'

In the cab he said:

'I'm sorry to bother you with my beastly affairs. But how will it affect
you and the office?'

'The office,' Macmaster said, 'not at all. It is supposed that Sylvia is
nursing Mrs Satterthwaite abroad. As for me, I wish...'--he closed his
small, strong teeth--'I wish you would drag the woman through the mud. By
God I do! Why should she mangle you for the rest of your life? She's done
enough!'

Tietjens gazed out over the flap of the cab.

That explained a question. Some days before, a young man, a friend of his
wife's rather than of his own, had approached him in the club and had
said that he hoped Mrs Satterthwaite--his wife's mother--was better. He
said now:

'I see. Mrs Satterthwaite has probably gone abroad to cover up Sylvia's
retreat. She's a sensible woman, if a bitch.'

The hansom ran through nearly empty streets, it being very early for the
public official quarters. The hoofs of the horse clattered precipitately.
Tietjens preferred a hansom, horses being made for gentlefolk. He had
known nothing of how his fellows had viewed his affairs. It was breaking
up a great, numb inertia to enquire.

During the last few months he had employed himself in tabulating from
memory the errors in the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_, of which a new
edition had lately appeared. He had even written an article for a dull
monthly on the subject. It had been so caustic as to miss its mark,
rather. He despised people who used works of reference; but the point of
view had been so unfamiliar that his article had galled no one's withers,
except possibly Macmaster's. Actually it had pleased Sir Reginald
Ingleby, who had been glad to think that he had under him a young man
with a memory so tenacious and so encyclopaedic a knowledge...That had
been a congenial occupation, like a long drowse. Now he had to make
enquiries. He said:

'And my breaking up the establishment at twenty-nine? How's that viewed?
I'm not going to have a house again.'

'It's considered,' Macmaster answered, 'that Lowndes Street did not agree
with Mrs Satterthwaite. That accounted for her illness. Drains wrong. I
may say that Sir Reginald entirely--expressly--approves. He does not
think that young married men in Government offices should keep up
expensive establishments in the S.W. district.'

Tietjens said:

'Damn him.' He added: 'He's probably right though.' He then said:
'Thanks. That's all I want to know. A certain discredit has always
attached to cuckolds. Very properly. A man ought to be able to keep his
wife.'

Macmaster exclaimed anxiously:

'No! No! Chrissie.'

Tietjens continued:

'And a first-class public office is very like a public school. It might
very well object to having a man whose wife had bolted amongst its
members. I remember Clifton hated it when the Governors decided to admit
the first Jew and the first nigger.'

Macmaster said:

'I wish you wouldn't go on.'

'There was a fellow,' Tietjens continued, 'whose land was next to ours.
Conder his name was. His wife was habitually unfaithful to him. She used
to retire with some fellow for three months out of every year. Conder
never moved a finger. But we felt Groby and the neighbourhood were
unsafe. It was awkward introducing him--not to mention her--in your
drawing-room. All sorts of awkwardnesses. Everyone knew the younger
children weren't Conder's. A fellow married the youngest daughter and
took over the hounds. And not a soul called on her. It wasn't rational or
just. But that's why society distrusts the cuckold, really. It never
knows when it mayn't be driven into something irrational and unjust.'

'But you _aren't_,' Macmaster said with real anguish, 'going to let
Sylvia behave like that.'

'I don't know,' Tietjens said. 'How am I to stop it? Mind you, I think
Conder was quite right. Such calamities are the will of God. A gentleman
accepts them. If the woman won't divorce, he must accept them, and it
gets talked about. You seem to have made it all right this time. You and,
I suppose, Mrs Satterthwaite between you. But you won't be always there.
Or I might come across another woman.'

Macmaster said:

'Ah!' and after a moment:

'What then?'

Tietjens said:

'God knows...There's that poor little beggar to be considered. Marchant
says he's beginning to talk broad Yorkshire already.'

Macmaster said:

'If it wasn't for that...That would be a solution.'

Tietjens said: 'Ah!'

When he paid the cabman, in front of a grey cement portal with a gabled
arch, reaching up, he said:

'You've been giving the mare less liquorice in her mash. I told you she'd
go better.'

The cabman, with a scarlet, varnished face, a shiny hat, a drab box-cloth
coat and a gardenia in his buttonhole, said:

'Ah! Trust you to remember, sir.'

In the train, from beneath his pile of polished dressing and despatch
cases--Tietjens had thrown his immense kitbag with his own hands into the
guard's van--Macmaster looked across at his friend. It was, for him, a
great day. Across his face were the proof-sheets of his first, small,
delicate-looking volume...A small page, the type black and still odorous!
He had the agreeable smell of the printer's ink in his nostrils; the
fresh paper was still a little damp. In his white, rather spatulate,
always slightly cold fingers was the pressure of the small, flat, gold
pencil he had purchased especially for these corrections. He had found
none to make.

He had expected a wallowing of pleasure--almost the only sensuous
pleasure he had allowed himself for many months. Keeping up the
appearances of an English gentleman on an exiguous income was no mean
task. But to wallow in your own phrases, to be rejoiced by the savour of
your own shrewd pawkiness, to feel your rhythm balanced and yet
sober--that is a pleasure beyond most, and an inexpensive one at that. He
had had it from mere 'articles'--on the philosophies and domestic lives
of such great figures as Carlyle and Mill, or on the expansion of
inter-colonial trade. This was a book.

He relied upon it to consolidate his position. In the office they were
mostly 'born,' and not vastly sympathetic. There was a sprinkling,
too--it was beginning to be a large one--of young men who had obtained
their entry by merit or by sheer industry. These watched promotions
jealously, discerning nepotic increases of increment and clamouring
amongst themselves at favouritisms.

To these he had been able to turn a cold shoulder. His intimacy with
Tietjens permitted him to be rather on the 'born' side of the
institution, his agreeableness--he knew he was agreeable and useful!--to
Sir Reginald Ingleby protecting him in the main from unpleasantness. His
'articles' had given him a certain right to an austerity of demeanour;
his book he trusted to let him adopt an almost judicial attitude. He
would then be _the_ Mr Macmaster, the critic, the authority. And the
first-class departments are not averse to having distinguished men as
ornaments to their company; at any rate the promotions of the
distinguished are not objected to. So Macmaster saw--almost
physically--Sir Reginald Ingleby perceiving the _empressement_ with
which his valued subordinate was treated in the drawing-rooms of Mrs
Leamington, Mrs Cressy, the Hon. Mrs de Limoux; Sir Reginald would
perceive that, for he was not a reader himself of much else than
Government publications, and he would feel fairly safe in making easy the
path of his critically gifted and austere young helper. The son of a very
poor shipping clerk in an obscure Scotch harbour town, Macmaster had very
early decided on the career that he would make. As between the heroes of
Mr Smiles, an author enormously popular in Macmaster's boyhood, and the
more distinctly intellectual achievements open to the very poor Scot,
Macmaster had had no difficulty in choosing. A pit lad _may_ rise to
be a mine owner; a hard, gifted, unsleeping Scots youth, pursuing
unobtrusively and unobjectionably a course of study and of public
usefulness, _will_ certainly achieve distinction, security, and the
quiet admiration of those around him. It was the difference between the
_may_ and the _will_, and Macmaster had had no difficulty in
making his choice. He saw himself by now almost certain of a career that
should give him at fifty a knighthood, and long before that a competence,
a drawing-room of his own and a lady who should contribute to his
unobtrusive fame, she moving about, in that room, amongst the best of the
intellects of the day, gracious, devoted, a tribute at once to his
discernment and his achievements. Without some disaster he was sure of
himself. Disasters come to men through drink, bankruptcy, and women.
Against the first two he knew himself immune, though his expenses had a
tendency to outrun his income, and he was always a little in debt to
Tietj ens. Tietjens fortunately had means. As to the third, he was not so
certain. His life had necessarily been starved of women and, arrived at a
stage when the female element might, even with due respect to caution, be
considered as a legitimate feature of his life, he had to fear a rashness
of choice due to that very starvation. The type of woman he needed he
knew to exactitude: tall, graceful, dark, loose-gowned, passionate yet
circumspect, oval-featured, deliberate, gracious to everyone around her.
He could almost hear the very rustle of her garments.

And yet...He had had passages when a sort of blind unreason had attracted
him almost to speechlessness towards girls of the most giggling,
behind-the-counter order, big-bosomed, scarlet-cheeked. It was only
Tietjens who had saved him from the most questionable entanglements.

'Hang it,' Tietjens would say, 'don't get messing round that trollop. All
you could do with her would be to set her up in a tobacco shop, and she
would be tearing your beard out inside the quarter. Let alone you can't
afford it.'

And Macmaster, who would have sentimentalized the plump girl to the tune
of _Highland Mary_, would for a day damn Tietjens up and down for a
coarse brute. But at the moment he thanked God for Tietj ens. There he
sat, near to thirty, without an entanglement, a blemish on his health, or
a worry with regard to any woman.

With deep affection and concern he looked across at his brilliant junior,
who hadn't saved himself. Tietjens had fallen into the most barefaced
snare, into the cruellest snare, of the worst woman that could be
imagined.

And Macmaster suddenly realized that he wasn't wallowing, as he had
imagined that he would, in the sensuous current of his prose. He had
begun spiritedly with the first neat square of a paragraph...Certainly
his publishers had done well by him in the matter of print:

   'Whether we consider him as the imaginer of mysterious,
   sensuous and exact plastic beauty; as the manipulator of sonorous,
   rolling and full-mouthed lines; of words as full of colour as were his
   canvases; or whether we regard him as the deep philosopher, elucidating
   and drawing his illumination from the arcana of a mystic hardly greater
   than himself, to Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, the subject of this
   little monograph, must be accorded the name of one who has profoundly
   influenced the outward aspects, the human contacts, and all those things
   that go to make up the life of our higher civilization as we live it
   to-day...'

Macmaster realized that he had only got thus far with his prose, and had
got thus far without any of the relish that he had expected, and that
then he had turned to the middle paragraph of page three--after the end
of his exordium. His eyes wandered desultorily along the line:

   'The subject of these pages was born in the western central
   district of the metropolis in the year...'

The words conveyed nothing to him at all. He understood that that was
because he hadn't got over that morning. He had looked up from his
coffee-cup--over the rim--and had taken in a blue-grey sheet of notepaper
in Tietjens' fingers, shaking, inscribed in the large, broad-nibbed
writing of that detestable harridan. And Tietjens had been
staring--staring with the intentness of a maddened horse--at his,
Macmaster's, face! And grey! Shapeless! The nose like a pallid triangle
on a bladder of lard! That was Tietjens' face...

He could still feel the blow, physical, in the pit of his stomach! He had
thought Tietjens was going mad; that he was mad. It had passed. Tietjens
had assumed the mask of his indolent, insolent self. At the office, but
later, he had delivered an extraordinarily forceful--and quite
rude--lecture to Sir Reginald on his reasons for differing from the
official figures of population movement in the western territories. Sir
Reginald had been much impressed. The figures were wanted for a speech of
the Colonial Minister--or an answer to a question--and Sir Reginald had
promised to put Tietjens' views before the great man. That was the sort
of thing to do a young fellow good--because it got kudos for the office.
They had to work on figures provided by the Colonial Government, and if
they could correct those fellows by sheer brain work--that scored.

But there sat Tietjens, in his grey tweeds, his legs apart, lumpish,
clumsy, his tallowy, intelligent-looking hands drooping inert between his
legs, his eyes gazing at a coloured photograph of the port of Boulogne
beside the mirror beneath the luggage rack. Blond, high-coloured, vacant
apparently, you couldn't tell what in the world he was thinking of. The
mathematical theory of waves, very likely, or slips in someone's article
on Arminianism. For absurd as it seemed, Macmaster knew that he knew next
to nothing of his friend's feelings. As to them, practically no
confidences had passed between them. Just two:

On the night before his starting for his wedding in Paris Tietjens had
said to him:

'Vinny, old fellow, it's a back door way out of it. She's bitched
_me_.'

And once, rather lately, he had said:

'Damn it I I don't even know if the child's my own!'

This last confidence had shocked Macmaster so irremediably--the child had
been a seven months' child, rather ailing, and Tietjens' clumsy
tenderness towards it had been so marked that, even without this
nightmare, Macmaster had been affected by the sight of them
together--that confidence then had pained Macmaster so frightfully, it
was so appalling, that Macmaster had regarded it almost as an insult. It
was the sort of confidence a man didn't make to his equal, but only to
solicitors, doctors, or the clergy who are not quite men. Or, at any
rate, such confidences are not made between men without appeals for
sympathy, and Tietjens had made no appeal for sympathy He had just added
sardonically:

'She gives me the benefit of the agreeable doubt. And she's as good as
said as much to Marchant'--Marchant had been Tietjens' old nurse.



Suddenly--and as if in a sort of unconscious losing of his
head--Macmaster remarked:

'You can't say the man wasn't a poet!'

The remark had been, as it were, torn from him, because he had observed,
in the strong light of the compartment, that half of Tietjens' forelock
and a roundish patch behind it was silvery white. That might have been
going on for weeks: you live beside a man and notice his changes very
little. Yorkshire men of fresh colour and blondish hair often go speckled
with white very young; Tietjens had had a white hair or two at the age of
fourteen, very noticeable in the sunlight when he had taken his cap off
to bowl.

But Macmaster's mind, taking appalled charge, had felt assured that
Tietjens had gone white with the shock of his wife's letter: in four
hours! That meant that terrible things must be going on within him; his
thoughts, at all costs, must be distracted. The mental process in
Macmaster had been quite unconscious. He would not, advisedly, have
introduced the painter-poet as a topic.

Tietjens said:

'I haven't said anything at all that I can remember.' The obstinacy of
his hard race awakened in Macmaster:

'"Since",' he quoted,

   "when we stand side by side
    Only hands may meet,
   Better half this weary world
    Lay between us, sweet!
   Better far tho' hearts may break
    Bid farewell for aye!
   Lest thy sad eyes, meeting mine,
    Tempt my soul away!"

'You can't,' he continued, 'say that that isn't poetry Great poetry.'

'I can't say,' Tietjens answered contemptuously. 'I don't read poetry
except Byron. But it's a filthy picture...'

Macmaster said uncertainly:

'I don't know that I know the picture. Is it in Chicago?' 'It isn't
painted!' Tietjens said. 'But it's there!' He continued with sudden fury:

'Damn it. What's the sense of all these attempts to justify fornication?
England's mad about it. Well, you've got your John Stuart Mills and your
George Eliots for the high-class thing. Leave the furniture out! Or leave
me out at least. I tell you it revolts me to think of that obese, oily
man who never took a bath, in a grease-spotted dressing-gown and the
underclothes he's slept in, standing beside a five-shilling model with
crimped hair, or some Mrs. W. Three Stars, gazing into a mirror that
reflects their fetid selves and gilt sunfish and drop chandeliers and
plates sickening with cold bacon fat and gurgling about passion.'

Macmaster had gone chalk white, his short beard bristling:

'You daren't...you daren't talk like that,' he stuttered.

'I _dare_!' Tietjens answered; 'but I oughtn't to...to you! I admit
that. But you oughtn't, almost as much, to talk about that stuff to me,
either. It's an insult to my intelligence.'

'Certainly,' Macmaster said stiffly, 'the moment was not opportune.'

'I don't understand what you mean,' Tietjens answered. The moment can
never be opportune. Let's agree that making a career is a dirty
business--for me as for you! But decent augurs grin behind their masks.
They never preach to each other.'

'You're getting esoteric,' Macmaster said faintly.

'I'll underline,' Tietjens went on. 'I quite understand that the favour
of Mrs Cressy and Mrs de Limoux is essential to you! They have the ear of
that old don Ingleby.'

Macmaster said:

'Damn!'

'I quite agree,' Tietjens continued, 'I quite approve. It's the game as
it has always been played. It's the tradition, so it's right. It's been
sanctioned since the days of the _Précieuses Ridicules_.'

'You've a way of putting things,' Macmaster said.

'I haven't,' Tietjens answered. 'It's just because I haven't that what I
_do_ say sticks out in the minds of fellows like you who are always
fiddling about after literary expression. But what I do say is this: I
stand for monogamy.'


Macmaster uttered a '_You_!' of amazement.

Tietjens answered with a negligent '_I_!' He continued:

'I stand for monogamy and chastity. And for no talking about it. Of
course, if a man who's a man wants to have a woman, he has her. And
again, no talking about it. He'd no doubt be in the end better, and
better off, if he didn't. Just as it would probably be better for him if
he didn't have the second glass of whisky and soda...'

'You call that monogamy and chastity!' Macmaster interjected.

'I do,' Tietjens answered, 'and it probably is, at any rate it's clean.
What is loathsome is all your fumbling in placketholes and polysyllabic
Justification by Love. You stand for lachrymose polygamy. That's all
right if you can get your club to change its rules.'

'You're out of my depth,' Macmaster said. 'And being very disagreeable.
You appear to be justifying promiscuity. I don't like it.'

'I'm probably being disagreeable,' Tietjens said. 'Jeremiahs usually are.
But there ought to be a twenty years' close time for discussions of sham
sexual morality. Your Paolo and Francesca--and Dante's--went, very
properly to Hell, and no bones about it. You don't get Dante justifying
them. But your fellow whines about creeping into Heaven.'

'He _doesn't_!' Macmaster exclaimed. Tietjens continued with
equanimity:

'Now your novelist who writes a book to justify his every tenth or fifth
seduction of a commonplace young woman in the name of the rights of shop
boys...'

'I'll admit,' Macmaster coincided, 'that Briggs is going too far. I told
him only last Thursday at Mrs Limoux's...'

'I'm not talking of anyone in particular,' Tietjens said. 'I don't read
novels. I'm supposing a case. And it's a cleaner case than that of your
Pre-Raphaelite horrors! No! I don't read novels, but I follow tendencies.
And if a fellow chooses to justify his seductions of uninteresting and
viewy young females along the lines of freedom and the rights of man,
it's relatively respectable. It would, be better just to boast about his
conquests in a straightforward and exultant way. But...'

'You carry joking too far sometimes,' Macmaster said. 'I've warned you
about it.'

'I'm as solemn as an owl!' Tietjens rejoined. 'The lower classes are
becoming vocal. Why shouldn't they? They're the only people in this
country who are sound in wind and limb. They'll save the country if the
country's to be saved.'

'And you call yourself a Tory!' Macmaster said.

'The lower classes,' Tietjens continued equably, 'such of them as get
through the secondary schools, want irregular and very transitory unions.
During holidays they go together on personally conducted tours to
Switzerland and such places. Wet afternoons they pass in their tiled
bathrooms, slapping each other hilariously on the back and splashing
white enamel paint about.'

'You say you don't read novels,' Macmaster said, 'but I recognize the
quotation.'

'I don't _read_ novels,' Tietjens answered. 'I know what's in 'em.
There has been nothing worth reading written in England since the
eighteenth century except by a woman...But it's natural for your enamel
splashers to want to see themselves in a bright and variegated
literature. Why shouldn't they? It's a healthy, human desire, and now
that printing and paper are cheap they get it satisfied. It's healthy, I
tell you. Infinitely healthier than...' He paused.

'Than what?' Macmaster asked.

'I'm thinking,' Tietjens said, 'thinking how not to be too rude.'

'You want to be rude,' Macmaster said bitterly, 'to people who lead the
contemplative...the circumspect life.'

'It's precisely that,' Tietjens said. He quoted.

   '"She walks, the lady of my delight,
    A shepherdess of sheep;
   She is so circumspect and right:
    She has her thoughts to keep."'

Macmaster said:

'Confound you, Chrissie. You know everything.'

'Well, yes,' Tietjens said musingly, 'I think I should want to be rude to
her. I don't say I should be. Certainly I shouldn't if she were good
looking. Or if she were your soul's dimity. You can rely on that.'

Macmaster had a sudden vision of Tietjens' large and clumsy form walking
beside the lady of his, Macmaster's, delight, when ultimately she was
found--walking along the top of a cliff amongst tall grass and poppies
and making himself extremely agreeable with talk of Tasso and Cimabue.
All the same, Macmaster imagined, the lady wouldn't like Tietjens. Women
didn't, as a rule. His looks and his silences alarmed them. Or they hated
him...Or they liked him very much indeed. And Macmaster said
conciliatorily:

'Yes, I think I could rely on that!' He added: 'All the same I don't
wonder that...'

He had been about to say:

'I don't wonder that Sylvia calls you immoral.' For Tietjens' wife
alleged that Tietjens was detestable. He bored her, she said, by his
silences; when he did speak she hated him for the immorality of his
views...But he did not finish his sentence, and Tietjens went on:

'All the same, when the war comes it will be these little snobs who will
save England, because they've the courage to know what they want and to
say so.'

Macmaster said loftily:

'You're extraordinarily old-fashioned at times, Chrissie. You ought to
know as well as I do that a war is impossible--at any rate with this
country in it. Simply because...' He hesitated and then emboldened
himself: 'We--the circumspect--yes, the circumspect classes, will pilot
the nation through the tight places.'

'War, my good fellow,' Tietjens said--the train was slowing down
preparatorily to running into Ashford--'is inevitable, and with this
country plumb centre in the middle of it. Simply because you fellows are
such damn hypocrites. There's not a country in the world that trusts us.
We're always, as it were, committing adultery--like your fellow!--with
the name of Heaven on our lips.' He was jibing again at the subject of
Macmaster's monograph.

'He never!' Macmaster said in almost a stutter. 'He never whined about
Heaven.'

'He did,' Tietjens said. 'The beastly poem you quoted ends:

   "Better far though hearts may break,
    Since we dare not love,
   Part till we once more may meet
    In a Heaven above."'

And Macmaster, who had been dreading that shot--for he never knew how
much or how little of any given poem his friend would have by
heart--Macmaster collapsed, as it were, into fussily getting down his
dressing-cases and clubs from the rack, a task he usually left to a
porter. Tietjens who, however much a train might be running into a
station he was bound for, sat like a rock until it was dead-still, said:

'Yes, a war is inevitable. Firstly, there's you fellows who can't be
trusted. And then there's the multitude who mean to have bathrooms and
white enamel. Millions of them; all over the world. Not merely here. And
there aren't enough bathrooms and white enamel in the world to go round.
It's like you polygamists with women. There aren't enough women in the
world to go round to satisfy your insatiable appetites. And there aren't
enough men in the world to give each woman one. And most women want
several. So you have divorce cases. I suppose you won't say that because
you're so circumspect and right there shall be no more divorce? Well, war
is as inevitable as divorce...'

Macmaster had his head out of the carriage window and was calling for a
porter.



On the platform a number of women in lovely sable cloaks, with purple or
red jewel cases, with diaphanous silky scarves flying from motor hoods,
were drifting towards the branch train for Rye, under 'the shepherding
of erect, burdened footmen. Two of them nodded to Tietjens.

Macmaster considered that he was perfectly right to be tidy in his dress;
you never knew whom you mightn't meet on a railway journey. This
confirmed him as against Tietjens, who preferred to look like a navvy.

A tall, white-haired, white-moustached, red-cheeked fellow limped after
Tietjens, who was getting his immense bag out of the guard's van. He
clapped the young man on the shoulder and said:

'Hullo! How's your mother-in-law? Lady Claude wants to know. She says
come up and pick a bone tonight if you're going to Rye.' He had
extraordinarily blue, innocent eyes.

Tietjens said:

'Hullo, General,' and added: 'I believe she's much better. Quite
restored. This is Macmaster. I think I shall be going over to bring my
wife back in a day or two. They're both at Lobscheid...a German spa.'

The General said:

'Quite right. It isn't good for a young man to be alone. Kiss Sylvia's
finger-tips for me. She's the real thing, you lucky beggar.' He added, a
little anxiously: 'What about a foursome to-morrow? Paul Sandbach is
down. He's as crooked as me. We can't do a full round at singles.'

'It's your own fault,' Tietjens said. 'You ought to have gone to my
bone-setter. Settle it with Macmaster, will you?' He jumped into the
twilight of the guard's van.

The General looked at Macmaster, a quick penetrating scrutiny:

'You're _the_ Macmaster,' he said. 'You would be if you're with
Chrissie.'

A high voice called:

'General! General!'

'I want a word with you,' the General said, 'about the figures in that
article you wrote about Pondoland. Figures are all right. But we shall
lose the beastly country if...But we'll talk about it after dinner
to-night. You'll come up to Lady Claudine's...?



Macmaster congratulated himself again on his appearance. It was all very
well for Tietjens to look like a sweep; he was of these people. He,
Macmaster, wasn't. He had, if anything, to be an authority, and
authorities wear gold tie-rings and broadcloth. General Lord Edward
Campion had a son, a permanent head of the Treasury department that
regulated increases of salaries and promotions in all the public offices.
Tietjens only caught the Rye train by running alongside it, pitching his
enormous kit-bag through the carriage window and swinging on the
footboard. Macmaster reflected that if he had done that half the' station
would have been yelling, 'Stand away there.'

As it was Tietjens a stationmaster was galloping after him to open the
carriage door and grinningly to part:

'Well caught, sir!' for it was a cricketing county.

'Truly,' Macmaster quoted to himself.

   '"The gods to each ascribe a differing lot:
   Some enter at the portal. Some do not!"'



II


Mrs Satterthwaite with her French maid, her priest, and her disreputable
young man, Mr Bayliss, were at Lobscheid, an unknown and
little-frequented air resort amongst the pinewoods of the Taunus. Mrs
Satterthwaite was ultrafashionable and consummately indifferent--she only
really lost her temper if at her table and under her nose you consumed
her famous Black Hamburg grapes without taking their skin and all. Father
Consett was out to have an uproarious good time during his three weeks'
holiday from the slums of Liverpool; Mr Bayliss, thin like a skeleton in
tight blue serge, golden haired and pink, was so nearly dead of
tuberculosis, was so dead penniless, and of tastes so costly that he was
ready to keep stone quiet, drink six pints of milk a day and behave
himself. On the face of it, he was there to write the letters of Mrs
Satterthwaite, but the lady never let him enter her private rooms for
fear of infection. He had to content himself with nursing a growing
adoration for Father Consett. This priest, with an enormous mouth, high
cheek bones, untidy black hair, a broad face that never looked too clean
and waving hands that always looked too dirty, never kept still for a
moment, and had a brogue such as is seldom heard outside old-fashioned
English novels of Irish life. He had a perpetual laugh, like the noise
made by a steam round-about. He was, in short, a saint, and Mr Bayliss
knew it, though he didn't know how. Ultimately, and with the financial
assistance of Mrs Satterthwaite, Mr Bayliss became almoner to Father
Consett, adopted the rule of St. Vincent de Paul and wrote some very
admirable, if decorative, devotional verse.

They proved thus a very happy, innocent party. For Mrs Satterthwaite
interested herself--it was the only interest she had--in handsome, thin
and horribly disreputable young men. She would wait for them, or send her
car to wait for them, at the gaol gates. She would bring their usually
admirable wardrobes up to date and give them enough money to have a good
time. When contrary to all expectations--but it happened more often than
not!--they turned out well, she was lazily pleased. Sometimes she sent
them away to a gay spot with a priest who needed a holiday; sometimes she
had them down to her place in the west of England.

So they were a pleasant company and all very happy. Lobscheid contained
one empty hotel with large verandahs and several square farmhouses, white
with grey beams, painted in the gables with bouquets of blue and yellow
flowers or with scarlet huntsmen shooting at purple stags. They were like
gay cardboard boxes set down in fields of long grass; then the pinewoods
commenced and ran, solemn, brown and geometric for miles up and down
hill. The peasant girls wore black velvet waistcoats, white bodices,
innumerable petticoats and absurd parti-coloured headdresses of the shape
and size of halfpenny buns. They walked about in rows of four to six
abreast; with a slow step, protruding white-stockinged feet in dancing
pumps, their headdresses nodding solemnly; young men in blue blouses,
knee-breeches and, on Sundays, in three-cornered hats, followed behind
singing part-songs.

The French maid--whom Mrs Satterthwaite had borrowed from the Duchesse de
Carbon Château-Herault in exchange for her own maid--was at first
inclined to find the place _maussade_. But getting up a tremendous
love affair with a fine, tall, blond young fellow, who included a gun, a
gold-mounted hunting knife as long as his arm, a light, grey-green
uniform, with gilt badges and buttons, she was reconciled to her lot.
When the young Förster tried to shoot her--'_et pour cause_,' as she
said--she was ravished and Mrs Satterthwaite lazily amused.

They were sitting playing bridge in the large, shadowy dining-hall of the
hotel: Mrs Satterthwaite, Father Consett, Mr Bayliss. A young blond
sub-lieutenant of great obsequiousness who was there as a last chance for
his right lung and his career, and the bearded Kur-doctor cut in. Father
Consett, breathing heavily and looking frequently at his watch, played
very fast, exclaiming: 'Hurry up now; it's nearly twelve. Hurry up wid
ye.' Mr Bayliss being dummy, the Father exclaimed: 'Three no trumps; I've
to make. Get me a whisky and soda quick, and don't drown it as ye did the
last.' He played his hand with extreme rapidity, threw down his last
three cards, exclaimed: 'Ach! Botheranouns an' all; I'm two down and I've
revoked on the top av it,' swallowed down his whisky and soda, looked at
his watch and exclaimed: 'Done it to the minute! Here, doctor, take my
hand and finish the rubber.' He was to take the mass next day for the
local priest, and mass must be said fasting from midnight, and without
cards played. Bridge was his only passion; a fortnight every year was
what, in his worn-out life, he got of it. On his holiday he rose at ten.
At eleven it was: 'A four for the Father.' From two to four they walked
in the forest. At five it was: 'A four for the Father.' At nine it was:
'Father, aren't you coming to your bridge?' And Father Consett grinned
all over his face and said: 'It's good ye are to a poor ould soggart. It
will be paid back to you in Heaven.'

The other four played on solemnly. The Father sat himself down behind Mrs
Satterthwaite, his chin in the nape of her neck. At excruciating moments
he gripped her shoulders, exclaimed: 'Play the _queen_, woman!' and
breathed hard down her back. Mrs Satterthwaite would play the two of
diamonds, and the Father, throwing himself back, would groan. She said
over her shoulder:

'I want to talk to you to-night, Father,' took the last trick of the
rubber, collected 17 marks 50 from the doctor and 8 marks from the
unter-leutnant. The doctor exclaimed:

'You gan't dake that immense sum from us and then ko off. Now we shall pe
ropped py Herr Payliss at gutt-throat.'

She drifted, all shadowy black silk, across the shadows of the
dining-hall, dropping her winnings into her black satin vanity bag and
attended by the priest. Outside the door, beneath the antlers of a royal
stag, in an atmosphere of paraffin lamps and varnished pitch-pine, she
said:

'Come up to my sitting-room. The prodigal's returned. Sylvia's here.'

The Father said:

'I thought I saw her out of the corner of my eye in the bus after dinner.
She'll be going back to her husband. It's a poor world.'

'She's a wicked devil!' Mrs Satterthwaite said.

'I've known her myself since she was nine,' Father Consett said, 'and
it's little I've seen in her to hold up to the commendation of my flock.'
He added: 'But maybe I'm made unjust by the shock of it.'

They climbed the stairs slowly.

Mrs Satterthwaite sat herself on the edge of a cane chair. She said:

'Well!'

She wore a black hat like a cart-wheel and her dresses appeared always to
consist of a great many squares of silk that might have been thrown on to
her. Since she considered that her complexion, which was matt white, had
gone slightly violet from twenty years of make-up, when she was not
made-up--as she never was at Lobscheid--she wore bits of puce-coloured
satin ribbon stuck here and there, partly to counteract the violet of her
complexion, partly to show she was not in mourning. She was very tall and
extremely emaciated; her dark eyes that had beneath them dark brown
thumb-marks were very tired or very indifferent by turns.

Father Consett walked backwards and forwards, his hands behind his back,
his head bent, over the not too well-polished floor. There were two
candles, lit but dim, in imitation pewter _nouvel art_ candlesticks,
rather dingy; a sofa of cheap mahogany with red plush cushions and rests,
a table covered with a cheap carpet, and an American roll-top desk that
had thrown into it a great many papers in scrolls or flat. Mrs
Satterthwaite was extremely indifferent to her surroundings, but she
insisted on having a piece of furniture for her papers. She liked also to
have a profusion of hot-house, not garden, flowers, but as there were
none of these at Lobscheid she did without them. She insisted also, as a
rule, on a comfortable chaise longue which she rarely, if ever, used; but
the German Empire of those days did not contain a comfortable chair, so
she did without it, lying down on her bed when she was really tired. The
walls of the large room were completely covered with pictures of animals
in death agonies: capercailzies giving up the ghost with gouts of scarlet
blood on the snow; deer dying with their heads back and eyes glazing,
gouts of red blood on their necks; foxes dying with scarlet blood on
green grass. These pictures were frame to frame, representing sport, the
hotel having been a former Grand Ducal hunting-box, freshened to suit the
taste of the day with varnished pitch-pine, bath-rooms, verandahs, and
excessively modern but noisy lavatory arrangements which had been put in
for the delight of possible English guests.

Mrs Satterthwaite sat on the edge of her chair; she had always the air of
being just about to go out somewhere or of having just come in and being
on the point of going to take her things off. She said:

'There's been a telegram waiting for her all the afternoon. I knew she
was coming.'

Father Consett said:

'I saw it in the rack myself. I misdoubted it.' He added: 'Oh dear, oh
dear! After all we've talked about it; now it's come.'

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'I've been a wicked woman myself as these things are measured; but...

Father Consett said:

'Ye have! It's no doubt from you she gets it, for your husband was a good
man. But one wicked woman is enough for my contemplation at a time. I'm
no St Anthony...The young man says he will take her back?'

'On conditions,' Mrs Satterthwaite said. 'He is coming here to have an
interview.'

The priest said:

'Heaven knows, Mrs Satterthwaite, there are times when to a poor priest
the rule of the Church as regards marriage seems bitter hard and he
almost doubts her inscrutable wisdom. He doesn't mind you. But at times I
wish that that young man would take what advantage--it's all there
is!--that he can of being a Protestant and divorce Sylvia. For I tell you
there are bitter things to see amongst my flock over there...' He made a
vague gesture towards the infinite...'And bitter things I've seen, for
the heart of man is a wicked place. But never a bitterer than this young
man's lot.'

'As you say,' Mrs Satterthwaite said, 'my husband was a good man. I hated
him, but that was as much my fault as his. More! And the only reason I
don't wish Christopher to divorce Sylvia is that it would bring disgrace
on my husband's name. At the same time, Father...'

The priest said:

'I've heard near enough.'

'There's this to be said for Sylvia,' Mrs Satterthwaite went on. 'There
are times when a woman hates a man--as Sylvia hates her husband...I tell
you I've walked behind a man's back and nearly screamed because of the
desire to put my nails into the veins of his neck. It was a fascination.
And it's worse with Sylvia. It's a natural antipathy.'

'Woman!' Father Consett fulminated, 'I've no patience wid ye! If the
woman, as the Church directs, would have children by her husband and live
decent, she would have no such feelings. It's unnatural living and
unnatural practices that cause these complexes. Don't think I'm an
ignoramus, priest if I am.'

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'But Sylvia's had a child.'

Father Consett swung round like a man that has been shot at.

'Whose?' he asked, and he pointed a dirty finger at his interlocutress.
'It was that blackguard Drake's, wasn't it? I've long suspected that.'

'It was probably Drake's,' Mrs Satterthwaite said.

'Then,' the priest said, 'in the face of the pains of the hereafter how
could you let that decent lad in the hotness of his sin...?'

'Indeed,' Mrs Satterthwaite said, 'I shiver sometimes when I think of it.
Don't believe that I had anything to do with trepanning him. But I
couldn't hinder it. Sylvia's my daughter, and dog doesn't eat dog.'

'There are times when it should,' Father Consett said contemptuously.

'You don't seriously,' Mrs Satterthwaite said, 'say that I, a mother, if
an indifferent one, with my daughter appearing in trouble, as the
kitchenmaids say, by a married man--that I should step in and stop a
marriage that was a Godsend...'

'Don't,' the priest said, 'introduce the sacred name into an affair of
Piccadilly bad girls...' He stopped. 'Heaven help me,' he said again,
'don't ask me to answer the question of what you should or shouldn't have
done. You know I loved your husband like a brother, and you know I've
loved you and Sylvia ever since she was tiny. And I thank God that I am
not your spiritual adviser, but only your friend in God. For if I had to
answer your question I could answer it only in one way.' He broke off to
ask: 'Where is that woman?'

Mrs Satterthwaite called:

'Sylvia! Sylvia! Come here!'

A door in the shadows opened and light shone from another room behind a
tall figure leaning one hand on the handle of the door. A very deep voice
said:

'I can't understand, mother, why you live in rooms like a sergeants'
mess.' And Sylvia Tietjens wavered into the room. She added: 'I suppose
it doesn't matter. I'm bored.'

Father Consett groaned:

'Heaven help us, she's like a picture of Our Lady by Fra Angelico.'

Immensely tall, slight and slow in her movements, Sylvia Tietjens wore
her reddish, very fair hair in great bandeaux right down over her ears.
Her very oval, regular face had an expression of virginal lack of
interest such as used to be worn by fashionable Paris courtesans a decade
before that time. Sylvia Tietjens considered that, being privileged to go
everywhere where one went and to have all men at her feet, she had no
need to change her expression or to infuse into it the greater animation
that marked the more common beauties of the early twentieth century. She
moved slowly from the door and sat languidly on the sofa against the
wall.

'There you are, Father,' she said. 'I'll not ask you to shake hands with
me. You probably wouldn't.'

'As I am a priest,' Father Consett answered. 'I could not refuse. But I'd
rather not.'

'This,' Sylvia repeated, 'appears to be a boring place.'

'You won't say so to-morrow,' the priest said. 'There's two young
fellows...And a sort of policeman to trepan away from your mother's
maid!'

'That,' Sylvia answered, 'is meant to be bitter. But it doesn't hurt. I
am done with men.' She added suddenly: 'Mother, didn't you one day, while
you were still young, say that you had done with men? Firmly! And mean
it?'

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'I did.'

'And did you keep to it?' Sylvia asked.

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'I did.'

'And shall I, do you imagine?'

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'I imagine you will.'

Sylvia said:

'Oh dear!'

The priest said:

'I'd be willing to see your husband's telegram. It makes a difference to
see the words on paper.'

Sylvia rose effortlessly.

'I don't see why you shouldn't,' she said. 'It will give you no
pleasure.' She drifted towards the door.

'If it would give me pleasure,' the priest said, 'you would not show it
me.'

'I would not,' she said.

A silhouette in the doorway, she halted, drooping, and looked over her
shoulder.

'Both you and mother,' she said, 'sit there scheming to make life
bearable for the Ox. I call my husband the Ox. He's repulsive: like a
swollen animal. Well...you can't do it.' The lighted doorway was vacant.
Father Consett sighed.

'I told you this was an evil place,' he said. 'In the deep forests. She'd
not have such evil thoughts in another place.' Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'I'd rather you didn't say that, Father. Sylvia would have evil thoughts
in any place.'

'Sometimes,' the priest said, 'at night I think I hear the claws of evil
things scratching on the shutters. This was the last place in Europe to
be Christianised. Perhaps it wasn't ever even Christianised and they're
here yet.'

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'It's all very well to talk like that in the day-time. It makes the place
seem romantic. But it must be near one at night. And things are bad
enough as it is.'

'They are,' Father Consett said. 'The devil's at work.'

Sylvia drifted back into the room with a telegram of several sheets.
Father Consett held it close to one of the candles to read, for he was
short-sighted.

'All men are repulsive,' Sylvia said; 'don't you think so, mother?'

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'I do not. Only a heartless woman would say so.'

'Mrs Vanderdecken,' Sylvia went on, 'says all men are repulsive and it's
woman's disgusting task to live beside them.'

'You've been seeing that foul creature?' Mrs Satterthwaite said. 'She's a
Russian agent. And worse!'

'She was at Gosingeaux all the time we were,' Sylvia said. 'You needn't
groan. She won't split on us. She's the soul of honour.'

'It wasn't because of that I groaned, if I did,' Mrs Satterthwaite
answered.

The priest, from over his telegram, exclaimed: 'Mrs Vanderdecken! God
forbid.'

Sylvia's face, as she sat on the sofa, expressed languid and incredulous
amusement.

'What do you know of her?' she asked the Father.

'I know what you know,' he answered, 'and that's enough.'

'Father Consett,' Sylvia said to her mother, 'has been renewing his
social circle.'

'It's not,' Father Consett said, 'amongst the dregs of the people that
you must live if you don't want to hear of the dregs of society.'

Sylvia stood up. She said:

'You'll keep your tongue off my best friends if you want me to stop and
be lectured. But for Mrs. Vanderdecken I should not be here, returned to
the fold!'

Father Consett exclaimed:

'Don't say it, child. I'd rather, heaven help me, you had gone on living
in open sin.'

Sylvia sat down again, her hands listlessly in her lap. 'Have it your own
way,' she said, and the Father returned to the fourth sheet of the
telegram.

'What does this mean?' he asked. He had returned to the first sheet.
'This here: "_Accept resumption yoke_"?' he read, breathlessly.

'Sylvia,' Mrs Satterthwaite said, 'go and light the spirit lamp for some
tea. We shall want it.'

'You'd think I was a district messenger boy,' Sylvia said as she rose.
'Why don't you keep your maid up?...It's a way we had of referring to
our...union,' she explained to the Father.

'There was sympathy enough between you and him then,' he said, 'to have
bywords for things. It was that I wanted to know. I understood the
words.'

'They were pretty bitter bywords, as you call them,' Sylvia said. 'More
like curses than kisses.'

'It was you that used them then,' Mrs Satterthwaite said. 'Christopher
never said a bitter thing to you.'

An expression like a grin came slowly over Sylvia's face as she turned
back to the priest.

'That's mother's tragedy,' she said. 'My husband's one of her best boys.
She adores him. And he can't bear her.' She drifted behind the wall of
the next room and they heard her tinkling the tea-things as the Father
read on again beside the candle. His immense shadow began at the centre
and ran along the pitch-pine ceiling, down the wall and across the floor
to join his splay feet in their clumsy boots.

'It's bad,' he muttered. He made a sound like 'Umbleumbleumble...Worse
than I feared...umbleumble..."_accept resumption yoke but on rigid
conditions_." What's this: _esoecially_; it ought to be a "p,"
"_especially regards child reduce establishment ridiculous our position
remake settlements in child's sole interests flat not house entertaining
minimum am prepared resign office settle Yorkshire but imagine this not
suit you child remain sister Effie open visits both wire if this rough
outline provisionally acceptable in that case will express draft general
position Monday for you and mother reflect upon follow self Tuesday
arrive Thursday Lobscheid go Wiesbaden fortnight on social task
discussion Thursday limited solely, comma emphasized comma to
affairs_."'

'That means,' Mrs Satterthwaite said, 'that he doesn't mean to reproach
her. _Emphasized_ applies to the word solely...!'

'Why d'you take it...' Father Consett asked, 'did he spend an immense lot
of money on this telegram? Did he imagine you were in such
trepidation...?' He broke off. Walking slowly, her long arms extended to
carry the tea-tray, over which her wonderfully moving face had a rapt
expression of indescribable mystery, Sylvia was coming through the door.

'Oh, child,' the Father exclaimed, 'whether it's St Martha or that Mary
that made the bitter choice, not one of them ever looked more virtuous
than you. Why aren't ye born to be a good man's help-meet?'

A little tinkle sounded from the tea-tray and three pieces of sugar fell
on to the floor. Mrs Tietjens hissed with vexation.

'I _knew_ that damned thing would slide off the teacups,' she said.
She dropped the tray from an inch or so of height on to the carpeted
table. 'I'd made it a matter of luck between myself and myself,' she
said. Then she faced the priest.

'I'll tell you,' she said, 'why he sent the telegram. It's because of
that dull display of the English gentleman that I detested. He gives
himself the solemn airs of the Foreign Minister, but he's only a youngest
son at the best. That is why I loathe him.'

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'That isn't the reason why he sent the telegram.'

Her daughter had a gesture of amused, lazy tolerance.

'Of course it isn't,' she said. 'He sent it out of consideration: the
lordly, full-dress consideration that drives me distracted. As he would
say: "He'd imagine I'd find it convenient to have ample time for
reflection." It's like being addressed as if one were a monument and by a
herald according to protocol. And partly because he's the soul of truth
like a stiff Dutch doll. He wouldn't write a letter because he couldn't
without beginning it "Dear Sylvia" and ending it "Yours sincerely" or
"truly" or "affectionately."...He's that sort of precise imbecile. I tell
you he's so formal he can't do without all the conventions there are and
so truthful he can't use half of them.'

'Then,' Father Consett said, 'if ye know him so well, Sylvia
Satterthwaite, how is it ye can't get on with him better? They say:
_Tout savoir c'est tout pardonner_.'

'It isn't,' Sylvia said. 'To know everything about a person is to be
bored...bored...bored!'

'And how are you going to answer this telegram of his?' the Father asked.
'Or have ye answered it already?'

'I shall wait until Monday night to keep him as bothered as I can to know
whether he's to start on Tuesday. He fusses like a hen over his packings
and the exact hours of his movements.' On Monday I shall telegraph:
"Righto" and nothing else.'

'And why,' the Father asked, 'will ye telegraph him a vulgar word that
you never use, for your language is the one thing about you that isn't
vulgar?'

Sylvia said:

'Thanks!' She curled her legs up under her on the sofa and laid her head
back against the wall so that her Gothic arch of a chinbone pointed at
the ceiling. She admired her own neck, which was very long and white.

'I know!' Father Consett said. 'You're a beautiful woman. Some men would
say it was a lucky fellow that lived with you. I don't ignore the fact in
my cogitation. He'd imagine all sorts of delights to lurk in the shadow
of your beautiful hair. And they wouldn't.'

Sylvia brought her gaze down from the ceiling and fixed her brown eyes
for a moment on the priest, speculatively.

'It's a great handicap we suffer from,' he said.

'I don't know why I selected that word,' Sylvia said, 'it's one word, so
it costs only fifty pfennigs. I couldn't hope really to give a jerk to
his pompous self-sufficiency.'

'It's great handicaps we priests suffer from,' the Father repeated.
'However much a priest may be a man of the world--and he has to be to
fight the world...

Mrs Satterthwaite said:

'Have a cup of tea, Father, while it's just right. I believe Sylvia is
the only person in Germany who knows how to make tea.'

'There's always behind him the Roman collar and the silk bib, and you
don't believe in him,' Father Consett went on, 'yet he knows ten--a
thousand times!--more of human nature than ever you can.'

'I don't see,' Sylvia said placably, 'how you can learn in your slums
anything about the nature of Eunice Vanderdecken, or Elizabeth B. or
Queenie James, or any of my set.' She was on her feet pouring cream into
the Father's tea. 'I'll admit for the moment that you aren't giving me
pi-jaw.'

'I'm glad,' the priest said, 'that ye remember enough of yer schooldays
to use the old term.'

Sylvia wavered backwards to her sofa and sank down again.

'There you are,' she said, 'you can't really get away from preachments.
Me for the pyore young girl is always at the back of it.'

'It isn't,' the Father said. 'I'm not one to cry for the moon.'

'You don't want me to be a pure young girl,' Sylvia asked with lazy
incredulity.

'I do not!' the Father said, 'but I'd wish that at times ye'd remember
you once were.'

'I don't believe I ever was,' Sylvia said, if the nuns had known I'd have
been expelled from the Holy Child.'

'You would not,' the Father said. 'Do stop your boasting. The nuns have
too much sense...Anyhow, it isn't a pure young girl I'd have you or
behaving like a Protestant deaconess for the craven fear of hell. I'd
have ye be a physically healthy, decently honest-with-yourself young
devil of a married woman. It's them that are the plague and the salvation
of the world.'

'You admire mother?' Mrs. Tietjens asked suddenly. She added in
parenthesis: 'You see you can't get away from salvation.'

'I mean keeping bread and butter in their husbands' stomachs,' the priest
said. 'Of course I admire your mother.'

Mrs Satterthwaite moved a hand slightly.

'You're at any rate in league with her against me,' Sylvia said. She
asked with more interest: 'Then would you have me model myself on her and
do good works to escape hell fire? She wears a hair shirt in Lent.'

Mrs Satterthwaite started from her doze on the edge of her chair. She had
been trusting the Father's wit to give her daughter's insolence a run for
its money, and she imagined that if the priest hit hard enough he might,
at least, make Sylvia think a little about some of her ways.

'Hang it, no, Sylvia,' she exclaimed more suddenly. 'I may not be much,
but I'm a sportsman. I'm afraid of hellfire; horribly, I'll admit. But I
don't bargain with the Almighty. I hope He'll let me through; but I'd go
on trying to pick men out of the dirt--I suppose that's what you and
Father Consett mean--if I were as certain of going to hell as I am of
going to bed to-night. So that's that!'

'"And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!"' Sylvia jeered softly.
'All the same I bet you wouldn't bother to reclaim men if you could not
find the young, good-looking, interestingly vicious sort.'

'I wouldn't,' Mrs Satterthwaite said. 'If they didn't interest me, why
should I?'

Sylvia looked at Father Consett.

'If you're going to trounce me any more,' she said, 'get a move on. It's
late, I've been travelling for thirty-six hours.'

'I will,' Father Consett said. 'It's a good maxim that if you swat flies
enough some of them stick to the wall. I'm only trying to make a little
mark on your common sense. Don't you see what you're going to?'

'What?' Sylvia said indifferently. 'Hell?'

'No,' the Father said, 'I'm talking of this life. Your confessor must
talk to you about the next. But I'll not tell you what you're going to.
I've changed my mind. I'll tell your mother after you're gone.'

'Tell me,' Sylvia said.

'I'll not,' Father Consett answered. 'Go to the fortunetellers at the
Earl's Court exhibition; they'll tell ye all about the fair woman you're
to beware of.'

'There's some of them said to be rather good,' Sylvia said. 'Di Wilson's
told me about one. She said she was going to have a baby...You don't mean
that, Father? For I swear I never will...'

'I daresay not,' the priest said. 'But let's talk about men.' 'There's
nothing you can tell me I don't know,' Sylvia said.

'I daresay not,' the priest answered. 'But let's rehearse what you do
know. Now suppose you could elope with a new man every week and no
questions asked? Or how often would you want to?'

Sylvia said:

'Just a moment, Father,' and she addressed Mrs Satterthwaite: 'I suppose
I shall have to put myself to bed.'

'You will,' Mrs Satterthwaite said. 'I'll not have any maid kept up after
ten in a holiday resort. What's she to do in a place like this? Except
listen for the bogies it's full of?'

'Always considerate!' Mrs Tietjens gibed. 'And perhaps it's just as well.
I'd probably beat that Marie of yours' arms to pieces with a hair-brush
if she came near me.' She added: 'You were talking about men, Father...'
And then began with sudden animation to her mother:

'I've changed my mind about that telegram. The first thing to-morrow I
shall wire: "_Agreed entirely but arrange bring Hullo Central with
you_."'

She addressed the priest again.

'I call my maid Hullo Central because she's got a tinny voice like a
telephone. I say: "Hullo Central"--when she answers "Yes, modd'm," you'd
swear it was the Exchange speaking...But you were telling me about men.'

'I was reminding you!' the Father said. 'But I needn't go on. You've
caught the drift of my remarks. That is why you are pretending not to
listen.'

'I assure you, no,' Mrs Tietjens said. 'It is simply that if a thing
comes into my head I have to say it...You were saying that if one went
away with a different man for every week-end...'

'You've shortened the period already,' the priest said. 'I gave a full
week to every man.'

'But, of course, one would have to have a home,' Sylvia said, 'an
address. One would have to fill one's mid-week engagements. Really it
comes to it that one has to have a husband and a place to store one's
maid in. Hullo Central's been on board-wages all the time. But I don't
believe she likes it...Let's agree that if I had a different man every
week I'd be bored with the arrangement. That's what you're getting at,
isn't it?'

'You'd find,' the priest said, 'that it whittled down until the only
divvy moment was when you stood waiting in the booking-office for the
young man to take the tickets...And then gradually that wouldn't be divvy
any more...And you'd yawn and long to go back to your husband.'

'Look here,' Mrs Tietjens said, 'you're abusing the secrets of the
confessional. That's exactly what Tottie Charles said. She tried it for
three months while Freddie Charles was in Madeira. It's _exactly_
what she said down to the yawn and the booking-office. _And_ the
"divvy." It's only Tottie Charles who uses it every two words. Most of us
prefer ripping! It is more sensible.'

'Of course I haven't been abusing the secrets of the confessional,'
Father Consett said mildly.

'Of course you haven't,' Sylvia said with affection. 'You're a good old
stick and no end of a mimic, and you know us all to the bottom of our
hearts.'

'Not all that much,' the, priest said, 'there's probably a good deal of
good at the bottom of your hearts.' Sylvia said:

'Thanks.' She asked suddenly: 'Look here. _Was_ it what you saw of
us--the future mothers of England, you know, and all--at Miss
Lampeter's--that made you take to the slums? Out of disgust and despair?'

'Oh, let's not make melodrama out of it,' the priest answered. 'Let's say
I wanted a change. I couldn't see that I was doing any good.'

'You did us all the good there was done,' Sylvia said. 'What with Miss
Lampeter always drugged to the world, and all the French mistresses as
wicked as hell.'

'I've heard you say all this before,' Mrs Satterthwaite said. 'But it was
supposed to be the best finishing school in England. I know it cost
enough!'

'Well, say it was we who _were_ a rotten lot,' Sylvia concluded; and
then to the Father: 'We were a lot of rotters, weren't we?'

The priest answered:

'I don't know. I don't suppose you were--or are--any worse than your
mother or grandmother, or the patricianesses of Rome or the worshippers
of Ashtaroth. It seems we have to have a governing class and governing
classes are subject to special temptations.'

'Who's Ashtaroth?' Sylvia asked. 'Astarte?' and then: 'Now, Father, after
your experiences would you say the factory girls of Liverpool, or any
other slum, are any better women than us that you used to look after?'

'Astarte Syriaca,' the Father said, 'was a very powerful devil. There's
some that hold she's not dead yet. I don't know that I do myself.'

'Well, I've done with her,' Sylvia said.

The Father nodded:

'You've had dealings with Mrs Profumo?' he asked. 'And that loathsome
fellow...What's his name?'

'Does it shock you?' Sylvia asked. 'I'll admit it was a bit thick...But
I've done with it. I prefer to pin my faith to Mrs Vanderdecken. And, of
course, Freud.'

The priest nodded his head and said:

'Of course! Of course...'

But Mrs Satterthwaite exclaimed, with sudden energy:

'Sylvia Tietjens, I don't care what you do or what you read, but if you
ever speak another word to that woman, you never do to me!'

Sylvia stretched herself on her sofa. She opened her brown eyes wide and
let the lids slowly drop again.

'I've said once,' she said, 'that I don't like to hear my friends
miscalled. Eunice Vanderdecken is a bitterly misjudged woman. She's a
real good pal.'

'She's a Russian spy,' Mrs Satterthwaite said.

'Russian grandmother,' Sylvia answered. 'And if she is, who cares? She's
welcome for me...Listen now, you two. I said to myself when I came in: "I
daresay I've given them both a rotten time." I know you're both more nuts
on me than I deserve. And I said I'd sit and listen to all the pi-jaw you
wanted to give me if I sat till dawn. And I will. As a return. But I'd
rather you let my friends alone.'

Both the elder people were silent. There came from the shuttered windows
of the dark room a low, scratching rustle.

'You hear!' the priest said to Mrs Satterthwaite. 'It's the branches,'
Mrs Satterthwaite answered.

The Father answered: 'There's no tree within ten yards! Try bats as
an explanation.'

'I've said I wish you wouldn't, once,' Mrs Satterthwaite shivered. Sylvia
said:

'I don't know what you two are talking about. It sounds like
superstition. Mother's rotten with it.'

'I don't say that it's devils trying to get in,' the Father said. 'But
it's just as well to remember that devils _are_ always trying to get
in. And there are especial spots. These deep forests are noted among
others.' He suddenly turned his back and pointed at the shadowy wall.
'Who,' he asked, 'but a savage possessed by a devil could have conceived
of _that_ as a decoration?' He was pointing to a life-sized,
coarsely daubed picture of a wild boar dying, its throat cut, and gouts
of scarlet blood. Other agonies of animals went away into all the
shadows.

'_Sport_!' he hissed. 'It's devilry!'

'That's perhaps true,' Sylvia said. Mrs Satterthwaite was crossing
herself with great rapidity. The silence remained.

Sylvia said:

'Then if you're both done talking I'll say what I have to say. To begin
with...' She stopped and sat rather erect, listening to the rustling from
the shutters.

'To begin with,' she began again with impetus, 'you spared me the
catalogue of the defects of age; I know them. One grows skinny--my
sort--the complexion fades, the teeth stick out. And then there is the
boredom. I know it; one is bored...bored...bored! You can't tell me
anything I don't know about that. I'm thirty. I know what to expect.
You'd like to have told me, Father, only you were afraid of taking away
from your famous man of the world effect--you'd like to have told me that
one can insure against the boredom and the long, skinny teeth by love of
husband and child. The home stunt! I believe it!

I do quite believe it. Only I hate my husband...and I hate...I hate my
child.'

She paused, waiting for exclamations of dismay or disapprobation from the
priest. These did not come.

'Think,' she said, 'of all the ruin that child has meant for me; the pain
in bearing him and the fear of death.'

'Of course,' the priest said, 'child-bearing is for women a very terrible
thing.'

'I can't say,' Mrs Tietjens went on, 'that this has been a very decent
conversation. You get a girl...fresh from open sin, and make her talk
about it. Of course you're a priest and mother's mother; we're _en
famille_. But Sister Mary of the Cross at the convent had a maxim:
"Wear velvet gloves in family life." We seem to be going at it with
gloves off.'

Father Consett still didn't say anything.

'You're trying, of course, to draw me,' Sylvia said. 'I can see that with
half an eye...Very well then, you shall...'

She drew a breath.

'You want to know why I hate my husband. I'll tell you; it's because of
his simple, sheer immorality. I don't mean his actions; his views! Every
speech he utters about everything makes me--I swear it makes me--in spite
of myself, want to stick a knife into him, and I can't prove he's wrong,
not ever, about the simplest thing. But I can pain him. And I will...He
sits about in chairs that fit his back, clumsy, like a rock, not moving
for hours...And I can make him wince. Oh, without showing it...He's what
you call loyal...oh, loyal...There's an absurd little chit of a
fellow...oh, Macmaster...and his mother...whom he persists in a silly
mystical way in calling a saint...a Protestant saint!...And his old
nurse, who looks after the child...and the child itself...I tell you I've
only got to raise an eyelid...yes, cock an eyelid up a little when anyone
of them is mentioned...and it hurts him dreadfully. His eyes roll in a
sort of mute anguish...Of course he doesn't say anything. He's an English
country gentleman.'

Father Consett said:

'This immorality you talk about in your husband...I've never noticed it.
I saw a good deal of him when I stayed with you for the week before your
child was born. I talked with him a great deal. Except in the matter of
the two communions--and even in these I don't know that we differed so
much--I found him perfectly sound.'

'Sound.' Mrs Satterthwaite said with sudden emphasis; 'of course he's
sound. It isn't even the word. He's the best ever. There was your father,
for a good man...and him. That's an end of it.'

'Ah,' Sylvia said, 'you don't know...Look here. Try and be just. Suppose
I'm looking at _The Times_ at breakfast and say, not having spoken
to him for a week: "It's wonderful what the doctors are doing. Have you
seen the latest?" And at once he'll be on his high-horse--he knows
everything!--and he'll prove..._prove_...that all unhealthy children
must be lethal-chambered or the world will go to pieces. And it's like
being hypnotised; you can't think of what to answer him. Or he'll reduce
you to speechless rage by proving that murderers ought not to be
executed. And then I'll ask, casually, if children ought to be
lethal-chambered for being constipated. Because Marchant--that's the
nurse--is always whining that the child's bowels aren't regular and the
dreadful diseases that leads to. Of course _that_ hurts him. For
he's perfectly soppy about that child, though he half knows it isn't his
own...But that's what I mean by immorality. He'll profess that murderers
ought to be preserved in order to breed from because they're bold
fellows, and innocent little children executed because they're sick...And
he'll almost make you believe it, though you're on the point of retching
at the ideas.'

'You wouldn't now,' Father Consett began, and almost coaxingly, 'think of
going into retreat for a month or two.' 'I wouldn't,' Sylvia said. 'How
could I?'

'There's a convent of female Premonstratensians near Birkenhead, many
ladies go there,' the Father went on. 'They cook very well, and you can
have your own furniture and your own maid if ye don't like nuns to wait
on you.'

'It can't be done,' Sylvia said, 'you can see for yourself. It would make
people smell a rat at once. Christopher wouldn't hear of it...'

'No, I'm afraid it can't be done, Father,' Mrs Satterthwaite interrupted
finally. 'I've hidden here for four months to cover Sylvia's tracks. I've
got Wateman's to look after. My new land steward's coming in next week.'

'Still,' the Father urged, with a sort of tremulous eagerness, 'if only
for a month...If only for a fortnight...So many Catholic ladies do
it...Ye might think of it.'

'I see what you're aiming at,' Sylvia said with sudden anger; 'you're
revolted at the idea of my going straight from one man's arms to
another.'

'I'd be better pleased if there could be an interval,' the Father said.
'It's what's called bad form.'

Sylvia became electrically rigid on her sofa.

'Bad form!' she exclaimed. 'You accuse me of bad form.' The Father
slightly bowed his head like a man facing a wind.

'I do,' he said. 'It's disgraceful. It's unnatural. I'd travel a bit at
least.'

She placed her hand on her long throat.

'I know what you mean,' she said,' 'you want to spare Christopher...the
humiliation. The...the nausea. No doubt he'll feel nauseated. I've
reckoned on that. It will give me a little of my own back.'

The Father said:

'That's enough, woman. I'll hear no more.'

Sylvia said:

'You will then. Listen here...I've always got this to look forward to:
I'll settle down by that man's side. I'll be as virtuous as any woman.
I've made up my mind to it and I'll be it. And I'll be bored stiff for
the rest of my life. Except for one thing. I can torment that man. And
I'll do it. Do you understand how I'll do it? There are many ways. But if
the worst comes to the worst I can always drive him silly...by corrupting
the child!' She was panting a little, and round her brown eyes the whites
showed. 'I'll get even with him. I can. I know how, you see. And with
you, through him, for tormenting me. I've come all the way from Brittany
without stopping. I haven't slept...But I can...'

Father Consett put his hand beneath the tail of his coat.

'Sylvia Tietjens,' he said, 'in my pistol pocket I've a little bottle of
holy water which I carry for such occasions. What if I was to throw two
drops of it over you and cry: _Exorcizo to Ashtaroth in nomine_?...

She erected her body above her skirts on the sofa, stiffened like a
snake's neck above its coils. Her face was quite pallid, her eyes staring
out.

'You...you _daren't_,' she said. 'To me...an outrage!' Her feet slid
slowly to the floor; she measured the distance to the doorway with her
eyes. 'You _daren't_,' she said again; 'I'd denounce you to the
Bishop...'

'It's little the Bishop would help you with them burning into your skin,'
the priest said. 'Go away, I bid you, and say a Hail Mary or two. Ye need
them. Ye'll not talk of corrupting a little child before me again.'

'I won't,' Sylvia said. 'I shouldn't have...'

Her black figure showed in silhouette against the open doorway.



When the door was closed upon them, Mrs Satterthwaite said:

Was it necessary to threaten her with that? You know best, of course. It
seems rather strong to me.'

'It's a hair from the dog that's bit her,' the priest said. 'She's a
silly girl. She's been playing at black masses along with that Mrs
Profumo and the fellow whose name I can't remember. You could tell that.
They cut the throat of a white kid and splash its blood about...That was
at the back of her mind...It's not very serious. A parcel of silly, idle
girls. It's not much more than palmistry or fortune-telling to them if
one has to weigh it, for all its ugliness, as a sin. As far as their
volition goes, and it's volition that's the essence of prayer, black or
white...But it was at the back of her mind, and she won't forget
to-night.'

'Of course, that's your affair, Father,' Mrs Satterthwaite said lazily.
'You hit her pretty hard. I don't suppose she's ever been hit so hard.
What was it you wouldn't tell her?'

'Only,' the priest said, 'I wouldn't tell her because the thought's best
not put in her head...But her hell on earth will come when her husband
goes running, blind, head down, mad after another woman.'

Mrs Satterthwaite looked at nothing; then she nodded. 'Yes,' she said; 'I
hadn't thought of it...But will he? He is a very sound fellow, isn't he?'

'What's to stop it?' the priest asked. '_What_ in the world but the
grace of our blessed Lord, which he hasn't got and doesn't ask for? And
then...He's a young man, full-blooded, and they won't be
living..._maritalement_. Not if I know him. And then..._Then_
she'll tear the house down. The world will echo with her wrongs.'

'Do you mean to say,' Mrs Satterthwaite said, 'that Sylvia would do
anything vulgar?'

'Doesn't every woman who's had a man to torture for years when she loses
him?' the priest asked. 'The more she's made an occupation of torturing
him, the less right she thinks she has to lose him.'

Mrs Satterthwaite looked gloomily into the dusk.

'That poor devil...' she said. 'Will he get any peace anywhere?...What's
the matter, Father?'

The Father said:

'I've just remembered she gave me tea and cream and I drank it. Now I
can't take mass for Father Reinhardt. I'll have to go and knock up his
curate, who lives away in the forest.'

At the door, holding the candle, he said:

'I'd have you not get up to-day nor yet to-morrow, if ye can stand it.
Have a headache and let Sylvia nurse you...You'll have to tell how she
nursed you when you get back to London. And I'd rather ye didn't lie more
out and out than ye need, if it's to please me...Besides, if ye watch
Sylvia nursing you, you might hit on a characteristic touch to make it
seem more truthful...How her sleeves brushed the medicine bottles and
irritated you, maybe...or--_you'll_ know! If we can save scandal to
the congregation, we may as well.'

He ran downstairs.



III


At the slight creaking made by Macmaster in pushing open his door,
Tietjens started violently. He was sitting in a smoking-jacket, playing
patience engrossedly in a sort of garret bedroom. It had a sloping roof
outlined by black oak beams, which cut into squares the cream-coloured
patent distemper of the walls. The room contained also a four-post
bedstead, a corner cupboard in black oak, and many rush mats on a
polished oak floor of very irregular planking. Tietjens, who hated these
disinterred and waxed relics of the past, sat in the centre of the room
at a flimsy card-table beneath a white-shaded electric light of a
brilliance that, in these surroundings, appeared unreasonable. This was
one of those restored old groups of cottages that it was at that date the
fashion to convert into hostelries. To it Macmaster, who was in search of
the inspiration of the past, had preferred to come. Tietjens, not
desiring to interfere with his friend's culture, had accepted the
quarters, though he would have preferred to go to a comfortable modern
hotel as being less affected and cheaper. Accustomed to what he called
the grown-oldness of a morose, rambling Yorkshire manor house, he
disliked being among collected and rather pitiful bits which, he said,
made him feel ridiculous, as if he were trying to behave seriously at a
fancy-dress ball. Macmaster, on the other hand, with gratification and a
serious air, would run his finger tips along the bevellings of a darkened
piece of furniture, and would declare it 'genuine Chippendale' or
'Jacobean oak,' as the case might be. And he seemed to gain an added
seriousness and weight of manner with each piece of ancient furniture
that down the years he thus touched. But Tietj ens would declare that you
could tell the beastly thing was a fake by just cocking an eye at it and,
if the matter happened to fall under the test of professional dealers in
old furniture, Tietjens was the more often in the right of it, and
Macmaster, sighing slightly, would prepare to proceed still further along
the difficult road to connoisseurship. Eventually, by conscientious
study, he got so far as at times to be called in by Somerset House to
value great properties for probate--an occupation at once distinguished
and highly profitable.



Tietjens swore with the extreme vehemence of a man who has been made, but
who much dislikes being seen, to start.

Macmaster--in evening dress he looked extremely miniature!--said:

'I'm sorry, old man, I know how much you dislike being interrupted. But
the General is in a terrible temper.'

Tietjens rose stiffly, lurched over to an eighteenth-century rosewood
folding washstand, took from its top a glass of flat whisky and soda, and
gulped down a large quantity. He looked about uncertainly, perceived a
notebook on a 'Chippendale' bureau, made a short calculation in pencil
and looked at his friend momentarily.

Macmaster said again:

'I'm sorry, old man. I must have interrupted one of your immense
calculations.'

Tietjens said:

'You haven't. I was only thinking. I'm just as glad you've come. What did
you say?'

Macmaster repeated:

'I said, the General is in a terrible temper. It's just as well you
didn't come up to dinner.'

Tietjens said:

'He isn't...He isn't in a temper. He's as pleased as punch at not having
to have these women up before him.' Macmaster said:

'He says he's got the police scouring the whole county for them, and that
you'd better leave by the first train tomorrow.'

Tietjens said:

'I won't. I can't. I've got to wait here for a wire from Sylvia.'

Macmaster groaned:

'Oh dear! oh dear!' Then he said hopefully: 'But we could have it
forwarded to Hythe.'

Tietjens said with some vehemence:

'I tell you I won't leave here. I tell you I've settled it with the
police and that swine of a Cabinet Minister. I've mended the leg of the
canary of the wife of the police-constable. Sit down and be reasonable.
The police don't touch people like us.'

Macmaster said:

'I don't believe you realise the public feeling there is...'

'Of course I do, amongst people like Sandbach,' Tietjens said. 'Sit down
I tell you...Have some whisky...' He filled himself out another long
tumbler, and, holding it, dropped into a too low-seated, reddish wicker
armchair that had cretonne fixings. Beneath his weight the chair sagged a
good deal and his dress-shirt bulged up to his chin.

Macmaster said:

'What's the matter with you?' Tietjens' eyes were bloodshot.

'I tell you,' Tietjens said, 'I'm waiting for a wire from Sylvia.'

Macmaster said:

'Oh!' And then: 'It can't come to-night, it's getting on for one.'

'It can,' Tietjens said, 'I've fixed it up with the postmaster--all the
way up to Town! It probably won't come because Sylvia won't send it until
the last moment, to bother me. None the less, I'm waiting for a wire from
Sylvia and this is what I look like.'

Macmaster said:

'That woman's the cruellest beast...'

'You might,' Tietjens interrupted, 'remember that you're talking about my
wife.'

'I don't see,' Macmaster said, 'how one can talk about Sylvia without...'

'The line is a perfectly simple one to draw,' Tietjens said. 'You can
relate a lady's actions if you know them and are asked to. You mustn't
comment. In this case you don't know the lady's actions even, so you may
as well hold your tongue.' He sat looking straight in front of him.

Macmaster sighed from deep in his chest. He asked himself if this was
what sixteen hours' waiting had done for his friend, what were all the
remaining hours going to do?

Tietjens said:

'I shall be fit to talk about Sylvia after two more whiskies...Let's
settle your other perturbations first...The fair girl is called Wannop:
Valentine Wannop.'

'That's the Professor's name,' Macmaster said.

'She's the late Professor Wannop's daughter,' Tietjens said. 'She's also
the daughter of the novelist.'

Macmaster interjected:

'But...'

'She supported herself for a year after the Professor's death as a
domestic servant,' Tietjens said. 'Now she's housemaid for her mother,
the novelist, in an inexpensive cottage. I should imagine the two
experiences would make her desire to better the lot of her sex.'

Macmaster again interjected a 'But...'

'I got that information from the policeman whilst I was putting his
wife's canary's leg in splints.'

Macmaster said:

'The policeman you knocked down?' His eyes expressed unreasoning
surprise. He added: 'He knew Miss...eh...Wannop then!'

'You would not expect much intelligence from the police of Sussex,'
Tietjens said. 'But you would be wrong. P.C. Finn is clever enough to
recognise the young lady who for several years past has managed the
constabulary's wives' and children's annual tea and sports. He says Miss
Wannop holds the quarter-mile, half-mile, high jump, long jump and
putting the weight records for East Sussex. That explains how she went
over that dyke in such tidy style...And precious glad the good, simple
man was when I told him he was to leave the girl alone. He didn't know,
he said, how he'd ever a had the face to serve the warrant on Miss
Wannop. The other girl--the one that squeaked--is a stranger, a Londoner
probably.'

Macmaster said:

'_You_ told the policeman...'

'I gave him,' Tietjens said, 'the Rt. Hon. Stephen Fenick Waterhouse's
compliments, and he'd be much obliged if the P.C. would hand in a 'No Can
Do' report in the matter of those ladies every morning to his inspector.
I gave him also a brand new fi' pun note--from the Cabinet Minister--and
a couple of quid and the price of a new pair of trousers from myself. So
he's the happiest constable in Sussex. A very decent fellow; he told me
how to know a dog otter's spoor from a gravid bitch's...But that wouldn't
interest you.'

He began again:

'Don't look so inexpressibly foolish. I told you I'd been dining with
that swine...No, I oughtn't to call him a swine after eating his dinner.
Besides, he's a very decent fellow...

'You didn't tell me you'd been dining with Mr Waterhouse,' Macmaster
said. 'I hope you remembered that, as he's amongst other things the
President of the Funded Debt Commission he's the power of life and death
over the department and us.'

'You didn't think,' Tietjens answered, 'that you are the only one to dine
with the great ones of the earth! I wanted to talk to that fellow...about
those figures their cursed crowd make me fake. I meant to give him a bit
of my mind.'

'You _didn't_!' Macmaster said with an expression of panic.
'Besides, they didn't ask you to fake the calculation. They only asked
you to work it out on the basis of given figures.'

'Anyhow,' Tietjens said, 'I gave him a bit of my mind. I told him that,
at threepence, it must run the country--and certainly himself as a
politician!--to absolute ruin.'

Macmaster uttered a deep 'Good Lord!' and then: 'But won't you ever
remember you're a Government servant? He could...'

'Mr Waterhouse,' Tietjens said, 'asked me if I wouldn't consent to be
transferred to his secretary's department. And when I said: "Go to hell!"
he walked round the streets with me for two hours arguing...I was working
out the chances on a 4/½d. basis for him when you interrupted me. I've
promised to let him have the figures when he goes up by the 1.30 on
Monday.'

Macmaster said:

'You haven't...But by Jove you're the only man in England that could do
it.'

'That was what Mr Waterhouse said,' Tietjens commented. 'He said old
Ingleby had told him so.'

'I do hope,' Macmaster said, 'that you answered him politely!'

'I told him,' Tietjens answered, 'that there were a dozen men who could
do it as well as I, and I mentioned your name in particular.'

'But I _couldn't_,' Macmaster answered. 'Of course I could convert a
3_d_. rate into 4½_d_. But these are the actuarial variations;
they're infinite. I couldn't touch them.'

Tietjens said negligently: 'I don't want my name mixed up in the
unspeakable affair. When I give him the papers on Monday I shall tell him
you did most of the work.'

Again Macmaster groaned.

Nor was this distress mere altruism. Immensely ambitious for his
brilliant friend, Macmaster's ambition was one ingredient of his strong
desire for security. At Cambridge he had been perfectly content with a
moderate, quite respectable place on the list of mathematical postulants.
He knew that that made him safe, and he had still more satisfaction in
the thought that it would warrant him in never being brilliant in after
life. But when Tietjens, two years after, had come out as a mere Second
Wrangler, Macmaster had been bitterly and loudly disappointed. He knew
perfectly well that Tietjens simply hadn't taken trouble; and, ten
chances to one, it was on purpose that Tietjens hadn't taken trouble. For
the matter of that, for Tietjens it wouldn't have been trouble.

And, indeed, to Macmaster's upbraidings, which Macmaster hadn't spared
him, Tietjens had answered that he hadn't been able to think of going
through the rest of his life with a beastly placard like Senior Wrangler
hung round his neck.

But Macmaster had early made up his mind that life for him would be
safest if he could go about, not very much observed but still an
authority, in the midst of a body of men all labelled. He wanted to walk
down Pall Mall on the arm, precisely, of a largely lettered Senior
Wrangler; to return eastward on the arm of the youngest Lord Chancellor
England had ever seen; to stroll down Whitehall in familiar converse with
a world-famous novelist, saluting on the way a majority of My Lords
Commissioners of the Treasury. And, after tea, for an hour at the club
all these, in a little group, should treat him with the courtesy of men
who respected him for his soundness. Then he would be safe.

And he had no doubt that Tietjens was the most brilliant man in England
of that day, so that nothing caused him more anguish than the thought
that Tietjens might not make a brilliant and rapid career towards some
illustrious position in the public services. He would very willingly--he
desired, indeed, nothing better--have seen Tietjens pass over his own
head! It did not seem to him a condemnation of the public services that
this appeared to be unlikely.

Yet Macmaster was still not without hope. He was quite aware that there
are other techniques of careers than that which he had prescribed for
himself. He could not imagine himself, even in the most deferential way,
correcting a superior; yet he could see that, though Tietjens treated
almost every hierarch as if he were a born fool, no one very much
resented it. Of course Tietjens was a Tietjens of Groby; but was that
going to be enough to live on for ever? Times were changing, and
Macmaster imagined this to be a democratic age.

But Tietjens went on, with both hands as it were, throwing away
opportunity and committing outrage...

That day Macmaster could only consider to be one of disaster. He got up
from his chair and filled himself another drink; he felt himself to be
distressed and to need it. Slouching among his cretonnes, Tietjens was
gazing in front of him. He said:

'Here!' without looking at Macmaster, and held out his long glass. Into
it Macmaster poured whisky with a hesitating hand. Tietjens said: 'Go
on!'

Macmaster said:

'It's late; we're breakfasting at the Duchemins' at ten.' Tietjens
answered:

'Don't worry, sonny. We'll be there for your pretty lady.' He added:
'Wait another quarter of an hour. I want to talk to you.'

Macmaster sat down again and deliberately began to review the day. It had
begun with disaster, and in disaster it had continued.

And, with something like a bitter irony, Macmaster remembered and brought
up now for digestion the parting words of General Campion to himself. The
General had limped with him to the hall door up at Mountby and, standing
patting him on the shoulder, tall, slightly bent and very friendly, had
said:

'Look here, Christopher Tietjens is a splendid fellow. But he needs a
good woman to look after him. Get him back to Sylvia as quick as you can.
Had a little tiff, haven't they? Nothing serious? Chrissie hasn't been
running after the skirts? No? I daresay a little. No? Well then...'

Macmaster had stood like a gate-post, so appalled. He had stuttered:

'No! No!'

'We've known them both so long,' the General went on. 'Lady Claudine in
particular. And, believe me, Sylvia is a splendid girl. Straight as a
die; the soul of loyalty to her friends. And fearless--she'd face the
devil in his rage. You should have seen her out with the Belvoir! Of
course you know her...Well then!'

Macmaster had just managed to say that he knew Sylvia, of course.

'Well then...' the General had continued...'you'll agree with me that if
there is anything wrong between them he's to blame. And it will be
resented. Very bitterly. He wouldn't set foot in this house again. But he
says he's going out to her and Mrs Satterthwaite.

'I believe...' Macmaster had begun...'I believe he is...'

'Well then!' the General had said: 'It's all right...But Christopher
Tietjens needs a good woman's backing...He's a splendid fellow. There are
few young fellows for whom I have more...I could almost say respect...But
he needs that. To ballast him.'

In the car, running down the hill from Mountby, Macmaster had exhausted
himself in the effort to restrain his execrations of the General. He
wanted to shout that he was a pig-headed old fool: a meddlesome ass. But
he was in the car with the two secretaries of the Cabinet Minister: the
Rt. Hon. Edward Fenwick Waterhouse, who, being himself an advanced
Liberal down for a week-end of golf, preferred not to dine at the house
of the Conservative member. At that date there was, in politics, a phase
of bitter social feud between the parties: a condition that had not till
lately been characteristic of English political life. The prohibition had
not extended itself to the two younger men.

Macmaster was not unpleasurably aware that these two fellows treated him
with a certain deference. They had seen Macmaster being talked to
familiarly by General Lord Campion. Indeed, they and the car had been
kept waiting whilst the General patted their fellow guest on the
shoulder; held his upper arm and spoke in a low voice into his ear...

But that was the only pleasure that Macmaster got out of it.

Yes, the day had begun disastrously with Sylvia's letter; it ended--if it
was ended!--almost more disastrously with the General's eulogy of that
woman. During the day he had nerved himself to having an immensely
disagreeable scene with Tietjens. Tietjens _must_ divorce the woman;
it was necessary for the peace of mind of himself, of his friends, of his
family; for the sake of his career; in the very name of decency!

In the meantime Tietjens had rather forced his hand. It had been a most
disagreeable affair. They had arrived at Rye in time for lunch--at which
Tietjens had consumed the best part of a bottle of Burgundy. During lunch
Tietjens had given Macmaster Sylvia's letter to read, saying that, as he
should later consult his friend, his friend had better be made acquainted
with the document.

The letter had appeared extraordinary in its effrontery, for it said
nothing. Beyond the bare statement, 'I am now ready to return to you,' it
occupied itself simply with the fact that Mrs Tietjens wanted--could no
longer get on without--the services of her maid, whom she called Hullo
Central. If Tietjens wanted her, Mrs Tietjens, to return to him he was to
see that Hullo Central was waiting on the doorstep for her, and so on.
She added the detail that there was _no one else_, underlined, she
could bear round her while she was retiring for the night. On reflection
Macmaster could see that this was the best letter the woman could have
written if she wanted to be taken back; for, had she extended herself
into either excuses or explanations, it was ten chances to one Tietjens
would have taken the line that he couldn't go on living with a woman
capable of such a lapse in taste. But Macniaster had never thought of
Sylvia as wanting in _savoir faire_.

It had, none the less, hardened him in his determination to urge his
friend to divorce. He had intended to begin this campaign in the fly,
driving to pay his call on the Rev. Mr Duchemin, who; in early life, had
been a personal disciple of Mr Ruskin and a patron and acquaintance of
the poet-painter, the subject of Macmaster's monograph. On this drive
Tietjens preferred not to come. He said that he would loaf about the town
and meet Macmaster at the golf club towards four-thirty. He was not in
the mood for making new acquaintances. Macmaster, who knew the pressure
under which his friend must be suffering, thought this reasonable enough,
and drove off up Iden Hill by himself.



Few women had ever made so much impression on Macmaster as Mrs Duchemin.
He knew himself to be in a mood to be impressed by almost any woman, but
he considered that that was not enough to account for the very strong
influence she at once exercised over him. There had been two young girls
in the drawing-room when he had been ushered in, but they had disappeared
almost simultaneously, and although he had noticed them immediately
afterwards riding past the window on bicycles, he was aware that he would
not have recognized them again. From her first words on rising to greet
him: 'Not _the_ Mr Macmaster!' he had had eyes for no one else.

It was obvious that the Rev. Mr Duchemin must be one of those clergymen
of considerable wealth and cultured taste who not infrequently adorn the
Church of England. The rectory itself, a great, warm-looking manor house
of very old red brick, was abutted on to by one of the largest tithe
barns that Macmaster had ever seen; the church itself, with a primitive
roof of oak shingles, nestled in the corner formed by the ends of rectory
and tithe barn, and was by so much the smallest of the three and so
undecorated that but for its little belfry it might have been a good
cow-byre. All three buildings stood on the very edge of the little row of
hills that looks down on the Romney Marsh; they were sheltered from the
north wind by a great symmetrical fan of elms and from the south-west by
a very tall hedge and shrubbery, all of remarkable yews. It was, in
short, an ideal cure of souls for a wealthy clergyman of cultured tastes,
for there was not so much as a peasant's cottage within a mile of it.

To Macmaster, in short, this was the ideal English home. Of Mrs
Duchemin's drawing-room itself, contrary to his habit, for he was
sensitive and observant in such things, he could afterwards remember
little except that it was perfectly sympathetic. Three long windows gave
on to a perfect lawn, on which, isolated and grouped, stood standard rose
trees, symmetrical half globes of green foliage picked out with flowers
like bits of carved pink marble. Beyond the lawn was a low stone wall;
beyond that the quiet expanse of the marsh shimmered in the sunlight.

The furniture of the room was, as to its woodwork, brown, old, with the
rich softnesses of much polishing with beeswax. What pictures there were
Macmaster recognized at once as being by Simeon Solomon, one of the
weaker and more frail aesthetes--aureoled, palish heads of ladies
carrying lilies that were not very like lilies. They were in the
tradition--but not the best of the tradition. Macmaster understood--and
later Mrs Duchemin confirmed him in the idea--that Mr Duchemin kept his
more precious specimens of work in a sanctum, leaving to the relatively
public room, good-humouredly and with slight contempt, these weaker
specimens. That seemed to stamp Mr Duchemin at once as being of the
elect.

Mr Duchemin in person was, however, not present; and there seemed to be a
good deal of difficulty in arranging a meeting between the two men. Mr
Duchemin, his wife said, was much occupied at the week-ends. She added,
with a faint and rather absent smile, the word, 'Naturally.' Macmaster at
once saw that it was natural for a clergyman to be much occupied during
the week-ends. With a little hesitation Mrs Duchemin suggested that Mr
Macmaster and his friend might come to lunch on the next day--Saturday.
But Macmaster had made an engagement to play the foursome with General
Campion--half the round from twelve till one-thirty: half the round from
three to half-past four. And, as their then present arrangements stood,
Macmaster and Tietjens were to take the 6.30 train to Hythe; that ruled
out either tea or dinner next day.

With sufficient, but not too extravagant regret, Mrs Duchemin raised her
voice to say:

'Oh dear! Oh dear! But you must see my husband and the pictures after you
have come so far.'

A rather considerable volume of harsh sound was coming through the end
wall of the room--the barking of dogs, apparently the hurried removal of
pieces of furniture or perhaps of packing cases, guttural ejaculations.
Mrs Duchemin said, with her far-away air and deep voice:

'They are making a good deal of noise. Let us go into the garden and look
at my husband's roses, if you've a moment more to give us.'

Macmaster quoted to himself:

'"I looked and saw your eyes in the shadow of your hair..."'

There was no doubt that Mrs Duchemin's eyes, which were of a dark, pebble
blue, were actually in the shadow of her blue-black, very regularly waved
hair. The hair came down on the square, low forehead. It was a phenomenon
that Macmaster had never before really seen, and, he congratulated
himself, this was one more confirmation--if confirmation were needed!--of
the powers of observation of the subject of his monograph!

Mrs Duchemin bore the sunlight! Her dark complexion was clear; there was,
over the cheekbones, a delicate suffusion of light carmine. Her jawbone
was singularly clear-cut, to the pointed chin--like an alabaster,
mediaeval saint's.

She said:

'Of course you're Scotch. I'm from Auld Reekie myself.' Macmaster would
have known it. He said he was from the Port of Leith. He could not
imagine hiding anything from Mrs Duchemin. Mrs Duchemin said with renewed
insistence:

'Oh, but of _course_ you must see my husband and the pictures. Let
me see...We must think...Would breakfast now...?'

Macmaster said that he and his friend were Government servants and up to
rising early. He had a great desire to breakfast in that house. She said:

'At a quarter to ten, then, our car will be at the bottom of your street.
It's a matter of ten minutes only, so you won't go hungry long!'

She said, gradually gaining animation, that of course Macmaster would
bring his friend. He could tell Tietjens that he should meet a very
charming girl. She stopped and added suddenly: 'Probably, at any rate.'
She said the name which Macmaster caught as Wanstead.' And possibly
another girl. And Mr Horsted, or something like it, her husband's junior
curate. She said reflectively:

'Yes, we might try quite a party...' and added, 'quite noisy and gay. I
hope your friend's talkative!' Macmaster said something about trouble.

'Oh, it can't be too much trouble,' she said. 'Besides it might do my
husband good.' She went on: 'Mr Duchemin is apt to brood. It's perhaps
too lonely here.' And added the rather astonishing words: 'After all.'



And, driving back in the fly, Macmaster said to himself that you couldn't
call Mrs Duchemin ordinary, at least. Yet meeting her was like going into
a room that you had long left and never ceased to love. It felt good. It
was perhaps partly her Edinburgh-ness. Macmaster allowed himself to coin
that word. There was in Edinburgh a society--he himself had never been
privileged to move in it, but its annals are part of the literature of
Scotland!--where the ladies are all great ladies in tall drawing-rooms;
circumspect yet shrewd: still yet with a sense of the comic: frugal yet
warmly hospitable. It was perhaps just Edinburgh-ness that was wanting in
the drawing-rooms of his friends in London. Mrs Cressy, the Hon. Mrs
Limoux and Mrs Delawnay were all almost perfection in manner, in speech,
in composure. But, then they were not young, they weren't Edinburgh--and
they weren't strikingly elegant!

Mrs Duchemin was all three. Her assured, tranquil manner she would retain
to any age: it betokened the enigmatic soul of her sex, but, physically,
she couldn't be more than thirty. That was unimportant, for she would
never want to do anything in which physical youth counted. She would
never, for instance, have occasion to run: she would always just
'move'--floatingly! He tried to remember the details of her dress.

It had certainly been dark blue--and certainly of silk: that rather
coarsely woven, exquisite material that has on it folds as of a silvery
shimmer with minute knots. But very dark blue. And it contrived to be at
once artistic---absolutely in the tradition! And yet well cut! Very large
sleeves, of course, but still with a certain fit. She had worn an immense
necklace of yellow polished amber: on the dark blue! And Mrs Duchemin had
said, over her husband's roses, that the blossoms always reminded her of
little mouldings of pink cloud come down for the cooling of the earth...A
charming thought!

Suddenly he said to himself:

'What a mate for Tietjens I' And his mind added: 'Why should she not
become an Influence!'

A vista opened before him in time! He imagined Tietjens, in some way
proprietarily responsible for Mrs Duchemin: quite _pour le bon_,
tranquilly passionate and accepted, _motif_; and 'immensely
improved' by the association. And himself, in a year or two, bringing the
at last found Lady of his Delight to sit at the feet of Mrs Duchemin--the
Lady of his Delight whilst circumspect would be also young and
impressionable!--to learn the mysterious assuredness of manner, the gift
of dressing, the knack of wearing amber and bending over standard
roses--and the Edinburgh-ness!

Macmaster was thus not a little excited, and finding Tietjens at tea amid
the green-stained furnishings and illustrated papers of the large,
corrugated-iron golf-house, he could not help exclaiming:

'I've accepted the invitation to breakfast with the Duchemins to-morrow
for us both. I hope you won't mind,' although Tietjens was sitting at a
little table with General Campion and his brother-in-law, the Hon. Paul
Sandbach, Conservative member for the division and husband of Lady
Claudine. The General said pleasantly to Tietjens:

'Breakfast! With Duchemin! You go, my boy! You'll get the best breakfast
you ever had in your life.'

He added to his brother-in-law: 'Not the eternal mock kedgeree Claudine
gives us every morning.'

Sandbach grunted:

'It's not for want of trying to steal their cook. Claudine has a shy at
it every time we come down here.'

The General said pleasantly to Macmaster--he spoke always pleasantly,
with a half smile and a slight sibilance:

'My brother-in-law isn't serious, you understand. My sister wouldn't
think of stealing a cook. Let alone from Duchemin. She'd be frightened
to.'

Sandbach grunted:

'Who wouldn't?'

Both these gentlemen were very lame: Mr Sandbach from birth and the
General as the result of a slight but neglected motor accident. He had
practically only one vanity, the belief that he was qualified to act as
his own chauffeur, and since he was both inexpert and very careless, he
met with frequent accidents. Mr Sandbach had a dark, round, bull-dog face
and a violent manner. He had twice been suspended from his Parliamentary
duties for applying to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer the epithet
'lying attorney,' and he was at that moment still suspended.

Macmaster then became unpleasantly perturbed. With his sensitiveness he
was perfectly aware of an unpleasant chill in the air. There was also a
stiffness about Tietjens' eyes. He was looking straight before him; there
was a silence too. Behind Tietjens' back were two men with bright green
coats, red knitted waistcoats and florid faces. One was bald and blond,
the other had black hair, remarkably oiled and shiny; both were
forty-fivish. They were regarding the occupants of the Tietjens table
with both their mouths slightly open. They were undisguisedly listening.
In front of each were three empty sloe-gin glasses and one half-filled
tumbler of brandy and soda. Macmaster understood why the General had
explained that his sister had not tried to steal Mrs Duchemin's cook.

Tietjens said:

'Drink up your tea quickly and let's get started.' He was drawing from
his pocket a number of telegraph forms which he began arranging. The
General said:

'Don't burn your mouth. We can't start off before all...all these other
gentlemen. We're too slow.'

'No, we're beastly well stuck,' Sandbach said. Tietjens handed the
telegraph forms to Macmaster. 'You'd better take a look at these,' he
said. 'I mayn't see you again to-day after the match. You're dining up at
Mountby. The General will run you up. Lady Claude will excuse me. I've
got work to do.'

This was already matter for dismay for Macmaster. He was aware that
Tietjens would have disliked dining up at Mountby with the Sandbachs, who
would have a crowd, extremely smart but more than usually unintelligent.
Tietjens called this crowd, indeed, the plague-spot of the party--meaning
of Toryism. But Macmaster couldn't help thinking that a disagreeable
dinner would be better for his friend than brooding in solitude in the
black shadows of the huddled town. Then Tietjens said:

'I'm going to have a word with that swine!' He pointed his square chin
rather rigidly before him, and looking past the two brandy drinkers,
Macmaster saw one of those faces that frequent caricature made familiar
and yet strange. Macmaster couldn't, at the moment, put a name to it. It
must be a politician, probably a Minister. But which? His mind was
already in a dreadful state. In the glimpse he had caught of the
telegraph form now in his hand, he had perceived that it was addressed to
Sylvia Tietjens and began with the word 'agreed.' He said swiftly:

'Has that been sent or is it only a draft?'

Tietjens said:

'That fellow is the Rt. Hon. Stephen Fenwick Waterhouse. He's chairman of
the Funded Debt Commission. He's the swine who made us fake that return
in the office.'

That moment was the worst Macmaster had ever known. A worse came.
Tietjens said:

'I'm going to have a word with him. That's why I'm not dining at Mountby.
It's a duty to the country.'

Macmaster's mind simply stopped. He was in a space, all windows. There
was sunlight outside. And clouds. Pink and white. Woolly! Some ships. And
two men: one dark and oily, the other rather blotchy on a blond baldness.
They were talking, but their words made no impression on Macmaster. The
dark, oily man said that he was not going to take Gertie to. Budapest.
Not half! He winked like a nightmare. Beyond were two young men and a
preposterous face...It was all so like a nightmare that the Cabinet
Minister's features were distorted for Macmaster. Like an enormous mask
of pantomime: shiny, with an immense nose and elongated, Chinese eyes.

Yet not unpleasant! Macmaster was a Whig by conviction, by nature, by
temperament. He thought that public servants should abstain from
political activity. Nevertheless, he couldn't be expected to think a
Liberal Cabinet Minister ugly. On the contrary, Mr Waterhouse appeared to
have a frank, humorous, kindly expression. He listened deferentially to
one of his secretaries, resting his hand on the young man's shoulder,
smiling a little, rather sleepily. No doubt he was overworked. And then,
letting himself go in a side-shaking laugh. Putting on flesh!

What a pity! What a _pity_! Macmaster was reading a string of
incomprehensible words in Tietjens' heavily scored writing. _Not
entertain...flat not house...child remain at sister_...His eyes went
backwards and forwards over the phrases. He could not connect the words
without stops. The man with the oily hair said in a sickly voice that
Gertie was hot stuff, but not the one for Budapest with all the Gitana
girls you were telling me of! Why, he'd kept Gertie for five years now.
More like the real thing! His friend's voice was like a result of
indigestion. Tietjens, Sandbach and the General were stiff, like pokers.

What a pity! Macmaster thought.

He ought to have been sitting...It would have been pleasant and right to
be sitting with the pleasant Minister. In the ordinary course he,
Macmaster, would have been. The best golfer in the place was usually set
to play with distinguished visitors, and there was next to no one in the
south of England who ordinarily could beat him. He had begun at four,
playing with a miniature cleek and a found shilling ball over the
municipal links. Going to the poor school every morning and back to
dinner; and back to school and back to bed! Over the cold, rushy, sandy
links, beside the grey sea. Both shoes full of sand. The found shilling
ball had lasted him three years...

Macmaster exclaimed: 'Good God.' He had just gathered from the telegram
that Tietjens meant to go to Germany on Tuesday. As if at Macmaster's
ejaculation, Tietjens said:

'Yes. It is unbearable. If you don't stop those swine, General, I shall.'

The General sibilated low, between his teeth:

'Wait a minute...Wait a minute...Perhaps that other fellow will.'

The man with the black oily hair said:

'If Budapest's the place for the girls you say it is, old pal, with the
Turkish baths and all, we'll paint the old town red all right next
month,' and he winked at Tietjens. His friend, with his head down, seemed
to make internal rumblings, looking apprehensively beneath his blotched
forehead at the General.

'Not,' the other continued argumentatively, 'that I don't love my old
woman. She's all right. And then there's Gertie. 'Ot stuff, but the real
thing. But I say a man wants...' He ejaculated, 'Oh!'

The General, his hands in his pockets, very tall, thin, red-cheeked, his
white hair combed forward in a fringe, sauntered towards the other table.
It was not two yards, but it seemed a long saunter. He stood right over
them, they looking up, open-eyed, like schoolboys at a balloon. He said:

'I'm glad you're enjoying our links, gentlemen.'

The bald man said: 'We are! We are! First-class. A treat!'

'But,' the General said, 'it isn't wise to discuss one's...eh...domestic
circumstances...at...at mess, you know, or in a golf house. People might
hear.'

The gentleman with the oily hair half rose and exclaimed:

'Oo, the...' The other man mumbled: 'Shut up, Briggs.'

The General said:

'I'm the president of the club, you know. It's my duty to see that the
_majority_ of the club and its visitors are pleased. I hope you
don't mind.'

The General came back to his seat. He was trembling with vexation.

'It makes one as beastly a bounder as themselves,' he said. 'But what the
devil else was one to do?' The two city men had ambled hastily into the
dressing-rooms; the dire silence fell. Macmaster realised that, for these
Tories at least, this was really the end of the world. The last of
England! He returned, with panic in his heart, to Tietjens'
telegram...Tietjens was going to Germany on Tuesday. He offered to throw
over the department...These were unthinkable things. You couldn't imagine
them!

He began to read the telegram all over again. A shadow fell upon the
flimsy sheets. The Rt. Hon. Mr Waterhouse was between the head of the
table and the windows. He said:

'We're much obliged, General. It was impossible to hear ourselves speak
for those obscene fellows' smut. It's fellows like that make our friends
the suffragettes! That warrants them...' He added: 'Hullo! Sandbach!
Enjoying your rest?'

The General said:

'I was hoping you'd take on the job of telling these fellows off.'

Mr Sandbach, his bull-dog jaw sticking out, the short black hair on his
scalp appearing to rise, barked: 'Hullo, Waterslop! Enjoying your
plunder?'

Mr Waterhouse, tall, slouching and untidy-haired, lifted the flaps of his
coat. It was so ragged that it appeared as if straws stuck out of the
elbows.

'All that the suffragettes have left of me,' he said laughingly. 'Isn't
one of you fellows a genius called Tietjens?' He was looking at
Macmaster. The General said:

'Tietjens Macmaster...' The Minister went on very friendly:

'Oh, it's you?...I just wanted to take the opportunity of thanking you.'

Tietjens said:

'Good God! What for?'

'_You_ know!' the Minister said, 'we couldn't have got the Bill
before the House till next session without your figures...' He said
slyly: 'Could we, Sandbach?' and added to Tietjens: 'Ingleby told me...'

Tietjens was chalk-white and stiffened. He stuttered: 'I can't take any
credit...I consider...'

Macmaster exclaimed:

'Tietjens...you...' he didn't know what he was going to say.

'Oh, you're too modest,' Mr Waterhouse overwhelmed Tietjens. 'We know
whom we've to thank...' His eyes drifted to Sandbach a little absently.
Then his face lit up.

'Oh I Look here, Sandbach,' he said...'Come here, will you?' He walked a
pace or two away, calling to one of his young men: 'Oh, Sanderson, give
the bobbie a drink. A good stiff one.' Sandbach jerked himself awkwardly
out of his chair and limped to the Minister.

Tietjens burst out:

'Me too modest! _Me_!...The swine...The unspeakable swine!'

The General said:

'What's it all about, Chrissie? You probably are too modest.'

Tietjens said:

'Damn it. It's a serious matter. It's driving me out of the unspeakable
office I'm in.'

Macmaster said:

'No! No! You're wrong. It's a wrong view you take.' And with a good deal
of real passion he began to explain to the General. It was an affair that
had already given him a great deal of pain. The Government had asked the
statistical department for figures illuminating a number of schedules
that they desired to use in presenting their new Bill to the Commons. Mr
Waterhouse was to present it.

Mr Waterhouse at the moment was slapping Mr Sandbach on the back, tossing
the hair out of his eyes and laughing like an hysterical schoolgirl. He
looked suddenly tired. A police constable, his buttons shining, appeared,
drinking from a pewter-pot outside the glazed door. The two city men ran
across the angle from the dressing-room to the same door, buttoning their
clothes. The Minister said loudly:

'Make it guineas!'

It seemed to Macmaster painfully wrong that Tietjens should call anyone
so genial and unaffected an unspeakable swine. It was unjust. He went on
with his explanation to the General.

The Government had wanted a set of figures based on a calculation called
B7. Tietjens, who had been working on one called H19--for his own
instruction--had persuaded himself that H19 was the lowest figure that
was actuarially sound.

The General said pleasantly: 'All this is Greek to me.'

'Oh no, it needn't be,' Macmaster heard himself say. 'It amounts to this.
Chrissie was asked by the Government--by Sir Reginald Ingleby--to work
out what 3 x 3 comes to: it was that sort of thing in principle. He said
that the only figure that would not ruin the country was nine times
nine...'

'The Government wanted to shovel money into the working man's pockets, in
fact,' the General said. 'Money for nothing...or votes, I suppose.'

'But that isn't the point, sir,' Macmaster ventured to say. 'All that
Chrissie was asked to do was to say what 3 X 3 was.'

'Well, he appears to have done it and earned no end of kudos,' the
General said. 'That's all right. We've all, always, believed in
Chrissie's ability. But he's a strong-tempered beggar.'

'He was extraordinarily rude to Sir Reginald over it,' Macmaster went on.

The General said:

'Oh dear! Oh dear!' He shook his head at Tietjens and assumed with care
the blank, slightly disappointing air of the regular officer. 'I don't
like to hear of rudeness to a superior. In _any_ service.'

'I don't think,' Tietjens said with extreme mildness, 'that Macmaster is
quite fair to me. Of course he's a right to his opinion as to what the
discipline of a service demands. I certainly told Ingleby that I'd rather
resign than do that beastly job...'

'You shouldn't have,' the General said. 'What would become of the
services if everyone did as you did?'

Sandbach came back laughing and dropped painfully into his low arm-chair.

'That fellow...' he began.

The General slightly raised his hand.

'A minute!' he said. 'I was about to tell Chrissie, here, that if I am
offered the job--of course it's an order really--of suppressing the
Ulster Volunteers...I'd rather cut my throat than do it...'

Sandbach said:

'Of course you would, old chap. They're our brothers. You'd see the
beastly, lying Government damned first.'

'I was going to say that I should accept,' the General said, 'I shouldn't
resign my commission.'

Sandbach said:

'Good _God_!'

Tietjens said:

'Well, I didn't.'

Sandbach exclaimed:

'General! You! After all Claudine and I have said...' Tietjens
interrupted:

'Excuse me, Sandbach. I'm receiving this reprimand for the moment. I
wasn't, then, rude to Ingleby. If I'd expressed contempt for what he said
or for himself, that would have been rude. I didn't. He wasn't in the
least offended. He looked like a cockatoo, but he wasn't offended. And I
let him over-persuade me. He was right, really. He pointed out that, if I
didn't do the job, those swine would put on one of our little competition
wallah head clerks and get all the schedules faked, as well as starting
off with false premises!'

'That's the view I take,' the General said, 'if I don't take the Ulster
job the Government will put on a fellow who'll burn all the farm-houses
and rape all the women in the three counties. They've got him up their
sleeve. He only asks for the Connaught Rangers to go through the north
with. And you know what _that_ means. All the same...' He looked at
Tietjens: 'One should not be rude to one's superiors.'

'I tell you I wasn't rude,' Tietjens exclaimed. 'Damn your nice, paternal
old eyes. Get that into your mind!' The General shook his head:

'You brilliant fellows!' he said. 'The country, or the army, or anything,
could not be run by you. It takes stupid fools like me and Sandbach,
along with sound moderate heads like our friend here.' He indicated
Macmaster and, rising, went on: 'Come along. You're playing me,
Macmaster. They say you're hot stuff. Chrissie's no good. He can take
Sandbach on.'

He walked off with Macmaster towards the dressing-room.

Sandbach, wriggling awkwardly out of his chair, shouted:

'Save the country...Damn it...' He stood on his feet. 'I and
Campion...Look at what the country's come to...What with swine like these
two in our club houses! And policemen to go round the links with
Ministers to protect them from the wild women...By God! I'd like to have
the flaying of the skin off some of their backs I would. My God I would.'

He added:

'That fellow Waterslops is a bit of a sportsman. I haven't been able to
tell you about our bet, you've been making such a noise...Is your friend
really plus one at North Berwick? What are you like?'

'Macmaster is a good plus two anywhere when he's in practice.'

Sandbach said:

'Good Lord...A stout fellow...'

'As for me,' Tietjens said, 'I loathe the beastly game.' 'So do I,'
Sandbach answered. 'We'll just lollop along behind them.'



IV


They came out into the bright open where all the distances under the tall
sky showed with distinct prismatic outlines. They made a little group of
seven--for Tietjens would not have a caddy--waiting on the flat, first
teeing ground. Macmaster walked up to Tietjens and said under his voice:

'You've really _sent_ that wire?...'

Tietjens said:

'It'll be in Germany by now!'

Mr Sandbach hobbled from one to the other explaining the terms of his
wager with Mr Waterhouse. Mr Waterhouse had backed one of the young men
playing with him to drive into and hit twice in the eighteen holes the
two city men who would be playing ahead of them. As the Minister had
taken rather short odds, Mr Sandbach considered him a good sport.

A long way down the first hole Mr Waterhouse and his two companions were
approaching the first green. They had high sandhills to the right and, to
their left, a road that was fringed with rushes and a narrow dyke. Ahead
of the Cabinet Minister the two city men and their two caddies stood on
the edge of the dyke or poked downwards into the rushes. Two girls
appeared and disappeared on the tops of the sandhills. The policeman was
strolling along the road, level with Mr Waterhouse. The General said:

'I think we could go now.'

Sandbach said:

'Waterslops will get a hit at them from the next tee. They're in the
dyke.'

The General drove a straight, goodish ball. Just as Macmaster was in his
swing Sandbach shouted:

'By God! He nearly did it. See that fellow jump!' Macmaster looked round
over his shoulder and hissed with vexation between his teeth:

'Don't you know that you don't shout while a man is driving? Or haven't
you played golf?' He hurried fussily after his ball.

Sandbach said to Tietjens:

'Golly! That chap's got a temper!'

Tietjens said:

'Only over this game. You deserved what you got.' Sandbach said:

'I did...But I didn't spoil his shot. He's outdriven the General twenty
yards.'

Tietjens said:

'It would have been sixty but for you.'

They loitered about on the tee waiting for the others to get their
distance. Sandbach said:

'By Jove, your friend is on with his second...You wouldn't believe it of
such a _little_ beggar!' He added: 'He's not much class, is he?'

Tietjens looked down his nose.

'Oh, about _our_ class!' he said. 'He wouldn't take a bet about
driving into the couple ahead.'

Sandbach hated Tietjens for being a Tietjens of Groby: Tietjens was
enraged by the existence of Sandbach, who was the son of an ennobled
mayor of Middlesbrough, seven miles or so from Groby. The feuds between
the Cleveland landowners and the Cleveland plutocrats are very bitter.
Sandbach said:

'Ah, I suppose he gets you out of scrapes with girls and the Treasury,
and you take him about in return. It's a practical combination.'

'Like Pottle Mills and Stanton,' Tietjens said. The financial operations
connected with the amalgamating of these two steelworks had earned
Sandbach's father a good deal of odium in the Cleveland
district...Sandbach said:

'Look here, Tietjens...' But he changed his mind and said:

'We'd better go now.' He drove off with an awkward action but not without
skill. He certainly outplayed Tietjens.

Playing very slowly, for both were desultory and Sandbach very lame, they
lost sight of the others behind some coastguard cottages and dunes before
they had left the third tee. Because of his game leg Sandbach sliced a
good deal. On this occasion he sliced right into the gardens of the
cottages and went with his boy to look for his ball among potato-haulms,
beyond a low wall. Tietjens patted his own ball lazily up the fairway
and, dragging his bag behind him by the strap, he sauntered on.

Although Tietjens hated golf as he hated any occupation that was of a
competitive nature, he could engross himself in the mathematics of
trajectories when he accompanied Macmaster in one of his expeditions for
practice. He accompanied Macmaster because he liked there to be one
pursuit at which his friend undisputably excelled himself, for it was a
bore always brow-beating the fellow. But he stipulated that they should
visit three different and, if possible, unknown courses every week-end
when they golfed. He interested himself then in the way the courses were
laid out, acquiring thus an extraordinary connoisseurship in golf
architecture, and he made abstruse calculations as to the flight of balls
off sloped club-faces, as to the foot-poundals of energy exercised by one
muscle or the other, and as to theories of spin. As often as not he
palmed Macmaster off as a fair, average player on some other unfortunate
fair, average stranger. Then he passed the afternoon in the club-house
studying the pedigrees and forms of racehorses, for every club-house
contained a copy of Ruff's Guide. In the spring he would hunt for and
examine the nests of soft-billed birds, for he was interested in the
domestic affairs of the cuckoo, though he hated natural history and field
botany.

On this occasion he had just examined some notes of other mashie shots,
had put the notebook back in his pocket, and had addressed his ball with
a niblick that had an unusually roughened face and a head like a hatchet.
Meticulously, when he had taken his grip he removed his little and third
fingers from the leather of the shaft. He was thanking heaven that
Sandbach seemed to be accounted for for ten minutes at least, for
Sandbach was miserly over lost balls and, very slowly, he was raising his
mashie to half cock for a sighting shot.

He was aware that someone, breathing a little heavily from small lungs,
was standing close to him and watching him: he could indeed, beneath his
cap-rim, perceive the tips of a pair of boy's white sand-shoes. It in no
way perturbed him to be watched, since he was avid of no personal glory
when making his shots. A voice said:

'I say...' He continued to look at his ball.

'Sorry to spoil your shot,' the voice said. 'But...'

Tietjens dropped his club altogether and straightened his back. A fair
young woman with a fixed scowl was looking at him intently. She had a
short skirt and was panting a little.

'I say,' she said, 'go and see they don't hurt Gertie. I've lost her...'
She pointed back to the sandhills. 'There looked to be some beasts among
them.'

She seemed a perfectly negligible girl except for the frown: her eyes
blue, her hair no doubt fair under a white canvas hat. She had a striped
cotton blouse, but her fawn tweed skirt was well hung.

Tietjens said:

'You've been demonstrating.'

She said:

'Of course we have, and of course you object on principle. But you won't
let a girl be man-handled. Don't wait to tell me, I know it...'

Noises existed. Sandbach, from beyond the low garden wall fifty yards
away, was yelping, just like a dog: 'Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!' and gesticulating.
His little caddy, entangled in his golfbag, was trying to scramble over
the wall. On top of a high sandhill stood the policeman: he waved his
arms like a windmill and shouted. Beside him and behind, slowly rising,
were the heads of the General, Macmaster and their two boys. Farther
along, in completion, were appearing the figures of Mr Waterhouse, his
two companions and their three boys. The Minister was waving his driver
and shouting. They all shouted.

'A regular rat-hunt,' the girl said; she was counting. 'Eleven and two
more caddies!' She exhibited satisfaction. 'I headed them all off except
two beasts. They couldn't run. But neither can Genie...

She said urgently:

'Come along! You aren't going to leave Gertie to those beasts They're
drunk...'

Tietjens said:

'Cut away then. I'll look after Gertie.' He picked up his bag.

'No, I'll come with you,' the girl said.

Tietjens answered: 'Oh, you don't want to go to gaol. Clear out!'

She said:

'Nonsense. I've put up with worse than that. Nine months as a
slavey...Come _along_!'

Tietjens started to run--rather like a rhinoceros seeing purple. He had
been violently spurred, for he had been pierced by a shrill, faint
scream. The girl ran beside him.

'You...can...run!' she panted, 'put on a spurt.'

Screams protesting against physical violence were at that date rare
things in England. Tietjens had never heard the like. It upset him
frightfully, though he was aware only of an expanse of open country. The
policeman, whose buttons made him noteworthy, was descending his conical
sand-hill, diagonally, with caution. There is something grotesque about a
town policeman, silvered helmet and all, in the open country. It was so
clear and still in the air; Tietjens felt as if he were in a light museum
looking at specimens...

A little young woman, engrossed, like a hunted rat, came round the corner
of a green mound. 'This is an assaulted female!' the mind of Tietjens
said to him. She had a black skirt covered with sand, for she had just
rolled down the sandhill; she had a striped grey and black silk blouse,
one shoulder torn completely off, so that a white camisole showed. Over
the shoulder of the sandhill came the two city men, flushed with triumph
and panting; their red knitted waistcoats moved like bellows. The
black-haired one, his eyes lurid and obscene, brandished aloft a fragment
of black and grey stuff. He shouted hilariously:

'Strip the bitch naked!...Ugh...Strip the bitch stark naked!' and jumped
down the little hill. He cannoned into Tietjens, who roared at the top of
his voice:

'You infernal swine. I'll knock your head off if you move!'

Behind Tietjens' back the girl said:

'Come along, Gertie...It's only to there...'

A voice panted in answer:

'I...can't...My heart...'

Tietjens kept his eye upon the city man. His jaw had fallen down, his
eyes stared! It was as if the bottom of his assured world, where all men
desire in their hearts to bash women, had fallen out. He panted:

'Ergle! Ergle!'

Another scream, a little farther than the last voices from behind his
back, caused in Tietjens a feeling of intense weariness. What did beastly
women want to scream for? He swung round, bag and all. The policeman, his
face scarlet like a lobster just boiled, was lumbering unenthusiastically
towards the two girls who were trotting towards the dyke. One of his
hands, scarlet also, was extended. He was not a yard from Tietjens.

Tietjens was exhausted, beyond thinking or shouting. He slipped his clubs
off his shoulder and, as if he were pitching his kit-bag into a luggage
van, threw the whole lot between the policeman's running legs. The man,
who had no impetus to speak of, pitched forward on to his hands and
knees. His helmet over his eyes, he seemed to reflect for a moment; then
he removed his helmet and with great deliberation rolled round and sat on
the turf. His face was completely without emotion, long, sandy-moustached
and rather shrewd. He mopped his brow with a carmine handkerchief that
had white spots.

Tietjens walked up to him.

'Clumsy of me!' he said. 'I hope you're not hurt.' He drew from his
breast pocket a curved silver flask. The policeman said nothing. His
world, too, contained uncertainties, and he was profoundly glad to be
able to sit still without discredit. He muttered:

'Shaken. A bit! Anybody would be!'

That let him out and he fell to examining with attention the bayonet
catch of the flask top. Tietjens opened it for him. The two girls,
advancing at a fatigued trot, were near the dyke side. The fair girl, as
they trotted, was trying to adjust her companion's hat; attached by pins
to the back of her hair it flapped on her shoulder.

All the rest of the posse were advancing at a very slow walk, in a
converging semi-circle. Two little caddies were running, but Tietjens saw
them check, hesitate and stop. And there floated to Tietjens' ears the
words:

'Stop, you little devils. She'll knock your heads off.'

The Rt. Hon. Mr Waterhouse must have found an admirable voice trainer
somewhere. The drab girl was balancing tremulously over a plank on the
dyke; the other took it at a jump; up in the air--down on her feet;
perfectly business-like. And, as soon as the other girl was off the
plank, she was down on her knees before it, pulling it towards her, the
other girl trotting away over the vast marsh field.

The girl dropped the plank on the grass. Then she looked up and faced the
men and boys who stood in a row on the road. She called in a shrill, high
voice, like a young cockerel's:

'Seventeen to two! The usual male odds! You'll _have_ to go round by
Camber railway bridge, and we'll be in Folkestone by then. We've got
bicycles!' She was half going when she checked and, searching out
Tietjens to address, exclaimed: 'I'm sorry I said that. Because some of
you didn't want to catch us. But some of you _did_. And you
_were_ seventeen to two.' She addressed Mr Waterhouse:

'Why _don't_ you give women the vote?' she said. 'You'll find it
will interfere a good deal with your indispensable golf if you don't.
Then what becomes of the nation's health?'

Mr Waterhouse said:

'If you'll come and discuss it quietly...'

She said:

'Oh, tell that to the marines,' and turned away, the men in a row
watching her figure disappear into the distance of the flat land. Not one
of them was inclined to risk that jump: there was nine foot of mud in the
bottom of the dyke. It was quite true that, the plank being removed, to
go after the women they would have had to go several miles round. It had
been a well-thought-out raid. Mr Waterhouse said that girl was a ripping
girl: the others found her just ordinary. Mr Sandbach, who had only
lately ceased to shout: 'Hi!' wanted to know what they were going to do
about catching the women, but Mr Waterhouse said: 'Oh, chuck it, Sandy,'
and went off.

Mr Sandbach refused to continue his match with Tietjens. He said that
Tietjens was the sort of fellow who was the ruin of England. He said he
had a good mind to issue a warrant for the arrest of Tietjens--for
obstructing the course of justice. Tietjens pointed out that Sandbach
wasn't a borough magistrate and so couldn't. And Sandbach went off, dot
and carry one, and began a furious row with the two city men who had
retreated to a distance. He said they were the sort of men who were the
ruin of England. They bleated like rams...

Tietjens wandered slowly up the course, found his ball, made his shot
with care and found that the ball deviated several feet less to the right
of a straight line than he had expected. He tried the shot again,
obtained the same result and tabulated his observations in his notebook.
He sauntered slowly back towards the club-house. He was content.

He felt himself to be content for the first time in four months. His
pulse beat calmly; the heat of the sun all over him appeared to be a
beneficent flood. On the flanks of the older and larger sandhills he
observed the minute herbage, mixed with little purple aromatic plants. To
these the constant nibbling of sheep had imparted a protective tininess.
He wandered, content, round the sand-hills to the small, silted harbour
mouth. After reflecting for some time on the wave-curves in the sloping
mud of the water sides, he had a long conversation, mostly in signs, with
a Finn who hung over the side of a tarred, stump-masted, battered vessel
that had a gaping, splintered hole where the anchor should have hung. She
came from Archangel; was of several hundred tons burthen, was knocked
together anyhow, of soft wood, for about ninety pounds, and launched,
sink or swim, in the timber trade. Beside her, taut, glistening with
brasswork, was a new fishing boat, just built here for the Lowestoft
fleet. Ascertaining her price from a man who was finishing her painting,
Tietjens reckoned that you could have built three of the Archangel timber
ships for the cost of that boat, and that the Archangel vessel would earn
about twice as much per hour per ton....

It was in that way his mind worked when he was fit: it picked up little
pieces of definite, workmanlike information. When it had enough it
classified them: not for any purpose, but because to know things was
agreeable and gave a feeling of strength, of having in reserve something
that the other fellow would not suspect...He passed a long, quiet,
abstracted afternoon.

In the dressing-room he found the General, among lockers, old coats and
stoneware washing-basins set in scrubbed wood. The General leaned back
against a row of these things.

'You are the ruddy _limit_!' he exclaimed.

Tietjens said:

'Where's Macmaster?'

The General said he had sent Macmaster off with Sandbach in the
two-seater. Macmaster had to dress before going up to Mountby. He added:
'The ruddy _limit_!' again.

Because I knocked the bobbie over?' Tietjens asked. 'He liked it.'

The General said:

'Knocked the bobble over...I didn't see that.'

'He didn't want to catch the girls,' Tietjens said, 'you could see
him--oh, yearning not to.'

'I don't want to know anything about that,' the General said. 'I shall
hear enough about it from Paul Sandbach. Give the bobbie a quid and let's
hear no more of it. I'm a magistrate.'

'Then what have I done?' Tietjens said. 'I helped those girls to get off.
_You_ didn't want to catch them; Waterhouse didn't, the policeman
didn't. No one did except the swine. Then what's the matter?'

'Damn it all!' the General said, 'don't you remember that you're a young
married man?'

With the respect for the General's superior age and achievements,
Tietjens stopped himself laughing.

'If you're really serious, sir,' he said, 'I always remember it very
carefully. I don't suppose you're suggesting that I've ever shown want of
respect for Sylvia.'

The General shook his head.

'I don't know,' he said. 'And, damn it all, I'm worried. I'm...Hang it
all, I'm your father's oldest friend.' The General looked indeed worn and
saddened in the light of the sand-drifted, ground-glass windows. He said:
'Was that skirt a...a friend of yours? Had you arranged it with her?'

Tietjens said:

'Wouldn't it be better, sir, if you said what you had on your mind?...'

The old General blushed a little.

'I don't like to,' he said straightforwardly. 'You brilliant fellow...I
only want, my dear boy, to hint that...'

Tietjens said, a little more stiffly:

'I'd prefer you to get it out, sir...I acknowledge your right as my
father's oldest friend.'

'Then,' the General burst out, 'who was the skirt you were lolloping up
Pall Mall with? On the last day they Trooped the Colour?...I didn't see
her myself...Was it this same one? Paul said she looked like a cook
maid.'

Tietjens made himself a little more rigid.

'She was, as a matter of fact, a bookmaker's secretary,' Tietjens said.
'I imagine I have the right to walk where I like, with whom I like. And
no one has the right to question it...I don't mean you, sir. But no one
else.'

The General said puzzledly:

'It's you _brilliant_ fellows...They all say you're brilliant...'

Tietjens said:

'You might let your rooted distrust of intelligence...It's natural of
course; but you might let it allow you to be just to me. I assure you
there was nothing discreditable.'

The General interrupted:

'If you were a stupid young subaltern and told me you were showing your
mother's new cook the way to the Piccadilly tube, I'd believe you...But,
then, no young subaltern would do such a damn, blasted, tomfool thing!
Paul said you walked beside her like the king in his glory! Through the
crush outside the Haymarket, of all places in the world!'

'I'm obliged to Sandbach for his commendation...' Tietjens said. He
thought for a moment. Then he said:

'I was trying to get that young woman...I was taking her out to lunch
from her office at the bottom of the Haymarket...To get her off a
friend's back. That is, of course, between ourselves.'

He said this with great reluctance because he didn't want to cast
reflection on Macmaster's taste, for the young lady had been by no means
one to be seen walking with a really circumspect public official. But he
had said nothing to indicate. Macmaster, and he had other friends.

The General choked.

'Upon my soul,' he said, 'what do you take me for?' He repeated the words
as if he were amazed. 'If,' he said, 'my G.S.O. II--who's the stupidest
ass I know--told me such a damn-fool lie as that I'd have him broke
to-morrow.' He went on expostulatorily: 'Damn it all, it's the first duty
of a soldier--it's the first duty of all Englishmen--to be able to tell a
good lie in answer to a charge. But a lie like that..:

He broke off breathless, then he began again:

'Hang it all, I told that lie to my grandmother and my grandfather told
it to _his_ grandfather. And they call you brilliant!...' He paused
and then asked reproachfully: 'Or do you think I'm in a state of-senile
decay?'

Tietjens said:

'I know you, sir, to be the smartest general of division in the British
Army. I leave you to draw your own conclusions as to why I said what I
did...' He had told the exact truth, but he was not sorry to be
disbelieved.

The General said:

'Then I'll take it that you tell me a lie meaning me to know that it's a
lie. That's quite proper. I take it you mean to keep the woman officially
out of it. But look here, Chrissie'--his tone took a deeper
seriousness--If the woman that's come between you and Sylvia--that's
broken up your home, damn it, for that's what it is!--is little Miss
Wannop...'

'Her name was Julia Mandelstein,' Tietjens said.

The General said:

'Yes! Yes! Of course!...But if it is the little Wannop girl and it's not
gone too far...Put her back...Put her back, as you used to be a good boy!
It would be too hard on the mother...'

Tietjens, said:

'General! I give you my word...'

The General said:

'I'm not asking any questions, my boy; I'm talking now. You've told me
the story you want told and it's the story I'll tell for you! But that
little piece is...she used to be!...as straight as a die. I daresay you
know better than I. Of course when they get among the wild women there's
no knowing what happens to them. They say they're all whores...I beg your
pardon, if you like the girl...'

'Is Miss Wannop,' Tietjens asked, 'the girl who demonstrates?'

'Sandbach said,' the General went on, 'that he couldn't see from where he
was whether that girl was the same as the one in the Haymarket. But he
thought it was...He was pretty certain.'

'As he's married your sister,' Tietjens said, 'one can't impugn his taste
in women.'

'I say again, I'm not asking,' the General said. 'But I do say again too:
put her back. Her father was a great friend of your father's: or your
father was a great admirer of his. They say he was the most brilliant
brain of the party.'

'Of course I know who Professor Wannop was,' Tietjens said. 'There's
nothing you could tell me about him.'

'I daresay not,' the General said drily. 'Then you know that he didn't
leave a farthing when he died and the rotten Liberal Government wouldn't
put his wife and children on the Civil List because he'd sometimes
written for a Tory paper. And you know that the mother has had a deuced
hard row to hoe and has only just turned the corner. If she can be said
to have turned it. I know Claudine takes them all the peaches she can
cadge out of Paul's gardener.'

Tietjens was about to say that Mrs Wannop, the mother, had written the
only novel worth reading since the eighteenth century...But the General
went on:

'Listen to me, my boy...If you can't get on without women...I should have
thought Sylvia was good enough. But I know what we men are...I don't set
up to be a saint. I heard a woman in the promenade of the Empire say once
that it was the likes of them that saved the lives and figures of all the
virtuous women of the country. And I daresay it's true...But choose a
girl that you can set up in a tobacco shop and do your courting in the
back parlour. Not in the Haymarket...Heaven knows if you can afford it.
That's your affair. You appear to have been sold up. And from what
Sylvia's let drop to Claudine...'

'I don't believe,' Tietjens said, 'that Sylvia's said anything to Lady
Claudine...She's too straight.'

'I didn't say "said,"' the General exclaimed, 'I particularly said "let
drop." And perhaps I oughtn't to have said as much as that, but you know
what devils for ferreting out women are. And Claudine's worse than any
woman I ever knew...'

'And, of course, she's had Sandbach to help,' Tietjens said.

'Oh, that fellow's worse than any woman,' the General exclaimed.

'Then what does the whole indictment amount to?' Tietj ens asked.

'Oh, hang it,' the General brought out, 'I'm not a beastly detective, I
only want a plausible story to tell Claudine. Or not even plausible. An
obvious lie as long as it shows you're not flying in the face of
society--as walking up the Haymarket with the little Wannop when your
wife's left you because of her would be.'

'What does it amount to?' Tietjens said patiently: 'What Sylvia "let
drop"?'

'Only,' the General answered, 'that you are--that your views
are--immoral. Of course they often puzzle me. And, of course, if you have
views that aren't the same as other people's, and don't keep them to
yourself, other people will suspect you of immorality. That's what put
Paul Sandbach on your track!...and that you're extravagant...Oh, hang
it...Eternal hansoms, and taxis and telegrams...You know, my boy, times
aren't what they were when your father and I married. We used to say you
could do it on five hundred a year as a younger son...And then this girl
too...' His voice took on a more agitated note of shyness--pain...'It
probably hadn't occurred to you...But, of course, Sylvia has an income of
her own...And, don't you see...if you outrun the constable and...In
short, you're spending Sylvia's money on the other girl, and that's what
people can't stand.' He added quickly: 'I'm bound to say that Mrs
Satterthwaite backs you through thick and thin. Thick and thin! Claudine
wrote to her. But you know what women are with a handsome son-in-law
that's always polite to them. But I may tell you that but for your
mother-in-law, Claudine would have cut you out of her visiting list
months ago. And you'd have been cut out of some others too...

Tietjens said:

'Thanks. I think that's enough to go on with...Give me a couple of
minutes to reflect on what you've said...'

'I'll wash my hands and change my coat,' the General said with intense
relief.

At the end of two minutes Tietjens said:

'No; I don't see that there is anything I want to say.' The General
exclaimed with enthusiasm:

'That's my good lad! Open confession is next to reform...And...and try to
be more respectful to your superiors...Damn it; they say you're
brilliant. But I thank heaven I haven't got you in my command...Though I
believe you're a good lad. But you're the sort of fellow to set a whole
division by the ears...A regular...what's 'is name? A regular Dreyfus!'

'Did you think Dreyfus was guilty?' Tietjens asked.

'Hang it,' the General said, 'he was worse than guilty--the sort of
fellow you couldn't believe in and yet couldn't prove anything against.
The curse of the world...

Tietjens said:

'Ah.'

'Well, they are,' the General said: 'fellows like that _unsettle_
society. You don't know where you are. You can't judge. They make you
uncomfortable...A brilliant fellow too! I believe he's a
brigadier-general by now...' He put his arm round Tietjens' shoulders.

'There, there, my dear boy,' he said, 'come and have a sloe gin. That's
the real answer to all beastly problems.'

It was some time before Tietjens could get to think of his own problems.
The fly that took them back went with the slow pomp of a procession over
the winding marsh road in front of the absurdly picturesque red pyramid
of the very old town. Tietjens had to listen to the General suggesting
that it would be better if he didn't come to the golf-club till Monday.
He would get Macmaster some good games. A good, sound fellow that
Macmaster now. It was a pity Tietjens hadn't some of his soundness!

Two city men had approached the General on the course and had used some
violent invectives against Tietjens: they had objected to being called
ruddy swine to their faces: they were going to the police. The General
said that he had told them himself, slowly and guiltily, that they
_were_ ruddy swine and that they would never get another ticket at
that club after Monday. But till Monday, apparently, they had the right
to be there and the club wouldn't want scenes. Sandbach, too, was
infuriated about Tietjens.

Tietjens said that the fault lay with the times that permitted the
introduction into gentlemen's company of such social swipes as Sandbach.
One acted perfectly correctly, and then a dirty little beggar like that
put dirty little constructions on it and ran about and bleated. He added
that he knew Sandbach was the General's brother-in-law, but he couldn't
help it. That was the truth...The General said: 'I know, my boy: I
know...' But one had to take society as one found it. Claudine had to be
provided for and Sandbach made a very good husband, careful, sober, and
on the right side in politics. A bit of a rip; but they couldn't ask for
everything! And Claudine was using all the influence she had with the
other side--which was not a little, women were so wonderful!--to get him
a diplomatic job in Turkey, so as to get him out of the way of Mrs
Crundall! Mrs Crundall was the leading Anti-Suffragette of the little
town. That was what made Sandbach so bitter against Tietjens. He told
Tietjens so that Tietjens might understand.

Tietjens had hitherto flattered himself that he could examine a subject
swiftly and put it away in his mind. To the General he hardly listened.
The allegations against himself were beastly; but he could usually ignore
allegations against himself, and he imagined that if he said no more
about them he would himself hear no more. And, if there were, in clubs
and places where men talk, unpleasant rumours as to himself he preferred
it to be thought that he was the rip, not his wife the strumpet. That was
normal, male vanity: the preference of the English gentleman! Had it been
a matter of Sylvia spotless and himself as spotless as he was--for in all
these things he knew himself to be spotless!--he would certainly have
defended himself, at least, to the General. But he had acted practically
in not defending himself more vigorously. For he imagined that, had he
really tried, he could have made the General believe him. But he had
behaved rightly! It was not mere vanity. There was the child up at his
sister Effie's. It was better for a boy to have a rip of a father than a
whore for mother!

The General was expatiating on the solidity of a squat castle, like a
pile of draughts, away to the left, in the sun, on the flatness. He was
saying that we didn't build like that nowadays.

Tietjens said:

'You're perfectly wrong, General. All the castles that Henry VIII built
in 1543 along this coast are mere monuments of jerry-building..."_In
1543 jactat castra Delis, Sandgatto, Reia, Hastingas Henricus
Rex_"...That means he chucked them down...'

The General laughed:

'You are an incorrigible fellow...If ever there's any known, certain
fact...'

'But go and _look_ at the beastly things,' Tietjens said. 'You'll
see they've got just a facing of Caen stone that the tide floated here,
and the fillings-up are just rubble, any rubbish...Look here! It's a
known certain fact, isn't it, that your eighteen-pounders are better than
the French seventy-fives. They tell us so in the House, on the hustings,
in the papers: the public believes it...But would you put one of your
tiny pet things firing--what is it?--four shells a minute?--with the
little bent pins in their tails to stop the recoil--against their
seventy-fives with the compressed-air cylinders...'

The General sat stiffly upon his cushion:

'That's different,' he said. 'How the devil do you get to know these
things?'

'It isn't different,' Tietjens said, 'it's the same muddleheaded frame of
mind that sees good building in Henry VIII as lets us into wars with
hopelessly antiquated field guns and rottenly inferior ammunition. You'd
fire any fellow on your staff who said we could stand up for a minute
against the French.'

'Well, anyhow,' the General said, 'I thank heaven you're not on my staff,
for you'd talk my hind leg off in a week. It's perfectly true that the
public...'

But Tietjens was not listening. He was considering that it was natural
for an unborn fellow like Sandbach to betray the solidarity that should
exist between men. And it was natural for a childless woman like Lady
Claudine Sandbach, with a notoriously, a flagrantly unfaithful husband,
to believe in the unfaithfulness of the husbands of other women!

The General was saying:

'Who did you hear that stuff from about the French field gun?'

Tietjens said:

'From you. Three weeks ago!'

And all the other society women with unfaithful husbands...They must do
their best to down and out a man. They would cut him off their visiting
lists! Let them. The barren harlots mated to faithless eunuchs...Suddenly
he thought that he didn't know for certain that he was the father of his
child and he groaned.

'Well, what have I said wrong now?' the General asked. 'Surely you don't
maintain that pheasants do eat man-golds...'

Tietjen proved his reputation for sanity with:

'No! I was just groaning at the thought of the Chancellor! That's sound
enough for you, isn't it?' But it gave him a nasty turn. He hadn't been
able to pigeon-hole and padlock his disagreeable reflections. He had been
as good as talking to himself...

In the bow-window of another hostelry than his own he caught the eye of
Mr Waterhouse, who was looking at the view over the marshes. The great
man beckoned to him and he went in. Mr Waterhouse was aware that
Tietjenswhom he assumed to be a man of sense--should get any pursuit of
the two girls stopped off. He couldn't move in the matter himself, but a
five pound note and possibly a police promotion or so might be handed
round if no advertisement were given to the mad women on account of their
raid of that afternoon.

It was not a very difficult matter: for where the great man was to be
found in the club lounge, there, in the bar, the major, the town clerk,
the local head of the police, the doctors and solicitors would be found
drinking together. And after it was arranged the great man himself came
into the bar, had a drink and pleased them all immensely by his
affability...

Tietjens himself, dining alone with the Minister to whom he wanted to
talk about his Labour Finance Act, didn't find him a disagreeable fellow:
not really foolish, not sly except in his humour, tired obviously, but
livening up after a couple of whiskys, and certainly not as yet
plutocratic; with tastes for apple-pie and cream of a fourteen-year-old
boy. And, even as regards his famous Act, which was then shaking the
country to its political foundations, once you accepted its fundamental
unsuitedness to the temperament and needs of the English working-class,
you could see that Mr Waterhouse didn't want to be dishonest. He accepted
with gratitude several of Tietjens' emendations in the actuarial
schedules...And over their port they agreed on two fundamental
legislative ideals: every working man to have a minimum of four hundred a
year and every beastly manufacturer who wanted to pay less to be hung.
That, it appeared, was the High Toryism of Tietjens as it was the extreme
Radicalism of the extreme Left of the Left...

And Tietjens, who hated no man, in face of this simpleminded and
agreeable schoolboy type of fellow, fell to wondering why it was that
humanity that was next to always agreeable in its units was, as a mass, a
phenomenon so hideous. You look at a dozen men, each of them not by any
means detestable and not uninteresting: for each of them would have
technical details of their affairs to impart: you formed them into a
Government or a club, and at once, with oppressions, inaccuracies,
gossip, backbiting, lying, corruption and vileness, you had the
combination of wolf, tiger, weasel, and louse-covered ape that was human
society. And he remembered the words of some Russian: 'Cats and monkeys.
Monkeys and cats. All humanity is there.'

Tietjens and Mr Waterhouse spent the rest of the evening together.

Whilst Tietjens was interviewing the policeman, the Minister sat on the
front steps of the cottage and smoked cheap cigarettes, and when Tietjens
went to bed, Mr Waterhouse insisted on sending by him kindly messages to
Miss Wannop, asking her to come and discuss female suffrage any afternoon
she liked in his private room at the House of Commons. Mr Waterhouse
flatly refused to believe that Tietjens hadn't arranged the raid with
Miss Wannop. He said it had been too neatly planned for any woman, and he
said Tietjens was a lucky fellow, for she was a ripping girl.

Back in his room under the rafters, Tietj ens fell, nevertheless, at once
a prey to real agitation. For a long time he pounded from wall to wall
and, since he could not shake off the train of thought, he got out at
last his patience cards, and devoted himself seriously to thinking out
the conditions of his life with Sylvia. He wanted to stop scandal if he
could; he wanted them to live within his income, he wanted to subtract
that child from the influence of its mother. These were all definite but
difficult things...Then one half of his mind lost itself in the
rearrangement of schedules, and on his brilliant table his hands set
queens on kings and checked their recurrences.

In that way the sudden entrance of Macmaster gave him a really terrible
physical shock. He nearly vomited: his brain reeled and the room fell
about. He drank a great quantity of whisky in front of Macmaster's
goggling eyes; but even at that he couldn't talk, and he dropped into his
bed faintly aware of his friend's efforts to loosen his clothes. He had,
he knew, carried the suppression of thought in his conscious mind so far
that his unconscious self had taken command and had, for the time,
paralysed both his body and his mind.



V


'It doesn't seem quite fair, Valentine,' Mrs Duchemin said. She was
rearranging in a glass bowl some minute flowers that floated on water.
They made there, on the breakfast-table, a patch, as it were, of mosaic
amongst silver chafing dishes, silver epergnes piled with peaches in
pyramids and great silver rose-bowls filled with roses, that drooped to
the damask cloth, a congeries of silver largenesses made as if a
fortification for the head of the table; two huge silver urns, a great
silver kettle on a tripod, and a couple of silver vases filled with the
extremely tall blue spikes of delphiniums that, spreading out, made as if
a fan. The eighteenth-century room was very tall and long; panelled in
darkish wood. In the centre of each of four of the panels, facing the
light, hung pictures, a mellowed orange in tone, representing mists and
the cordage of ships in mists at sunrise. On the bottom of each large
gold frame was a tablet bearing the ascription: 'J. M. W. Turner.' The
chairs, arranged along the long table that was set for eight people, had
the delicate, spidery, mahogany backs of Chippendale; on the golden
mahogany sideboard that had behind it green silk curtains on a brass-rail
were displayed an immense, crumbed ham, more peaches on an epergne, a
large meat-pie with a varnished crust, another epergne that supported the
large pale globes of grapefruit; a galantine, a cube of inlaid meats,
encased in thick jelly.

'Oh, women have to back each other up in these days,' Valentine Wannop
said. 'I couldn't let you go through this alone after breakfasting with
you every Saturday since I don't know when.'

'I do feel,' Mrs Duchemin said, 'immensely grateful to you for your moral
support. I ought not, perhaps, to have risked this morning. But I've told
Parry to keep him out till 10.15.'

'It's, at any rate, tremendously sporting of you,' the girl said. 'I
think it was worth trying.'

Mrs Duchemin, wavering round the table, slightly changed the position of
the delphiniums.

'I think they make a good screen,' Mrs Duchemin said.

'Oh, nobody will be able to see him,' the girl answered reassuringly. She
added with a sudden resolution, 'Look here, Edie. Stop worrying about my
mind. If you think that anything I hear at your table after nine months
as an ash-cat at Ealing, with three men in the house, an invalid wife and
a drunken cook, can corrupt my mind, you're simply mistaken. You can let
your conscience be at rest, and let's say no more about it.'

Mrs Duchemin said, 'Oh, Valentine! How could your mother let you?'

'She didn't know,' the girl said. 'She was out of her mind for grief. She
sat for most of the whole nine months with her hands folded before her in
a board and lodging house at twenty-five shillings a week, and it took
the five shillings a week that I earned to make up the money.' She added,
'Gilbert had to be kept at school of course. And in the holidays, too.'

'I don't understand!' Mrs Duchemin said. 'I simply don't understand.'

'Of course you wouldn't,' the girl answered. 'You're like the kindly
people who subscribed at the sale to buy my father's library back and
present it to my mother. That cost us five shillings a week for
warehousing, and at Ealing they were always nagging at me for the state
of my print dresses...'

She broke off and said:

'Let's not talk about it any more, if you don't mind. You have me in your
house, so I suppose you've a right to references, as the mistresses call
them. But you've been very good to me and never asked. Still, it's come
up; do you know I told a man on the links yesterday that I'd been a
slavey for nine months. I was trying to explain why I was a suffragette;
and, as I was asking him a favour, I suppose I felt I needed to give him
references too.'

Mrs Duchemin, beginning to advance towards the girl impulsively,
exclaimed:

'You darling!'

Miss Wannop said:

'Wait a minute. I haven't finished. I want to say this: I never talk
about that stage of my career because I'm ashamed of it. I'm ashamed
because I think I did the wrong thing, not for any other reason. I did it
on impulse and I stuck to it out of obstinacy. I mean it would probably
have been more sensible to go round with the hat to benevolent people,
for the keep of mother and to complete my education. But if we've
inherited the Wannop ill-luck, we've inherited the Wannop pride. And I
_couldn't_ do it. Besides I was only seventeen, and I gave out we
were going into the country after the sale. I'm not educated at all, as
you know, or only half, because father, being a brilliant man, had ideas.
And one of them was that I was to be an athlete, not a classical don at
Cambridge, or I might have been, I believe. I don't know why he had that
tic...But I'd like you to understand two things. One I've said already:
what I hear in this house won't ever shock or corrupt me; that it's said
in Latin is neither here nor there. I understand Latin almost as well as
English because father used to talk it to me and Gilbert as soon as we
talked at all...And, oh yes: I'm a suffragette because I've been a
slavey. But I'd like you to understand that, though I was a slavey and am
a suffragette--you're an old-fashioned woman and queer things are thought
about these two things--then I'd like you to understand that in spite of
it all I'm pure! Chaste, you know...Perfectly virtuous.'

Mrs Duchemin said:

'Oh, Valentine! Did you wear a cap and apron? You! In a cap and apron.'

Miss Wannop replied:

'Yes! I wore a cap and apron and sniffled "M'm" to the mistress; and
slept under the stairs, too. Because I woud not sleep with the beast of a
cook.'

Mrs Duchemin now ran forward and, catching Miss Wannop by both hands,
kissed her first on the left and then on the right cheek.

'Oh, Valentine,' she said, 'you're a heroine. And you only
twenty-two!...Isn't that the motor coining?' But it wasn't the motor
coming and Miss Wannop said: 'Oh, no! I'm not a heroine. When I tried to
speak to that Minister yesterday, I just couldn't. It was Gertie who went
for him. As for me, I just hopped from one leg to the other and
stuttered: "V...V...Votes for W...W...W...omen!" If I'd been decently
brave I shouldn't have been too shy to speak to a strange man...For that
was what it really came to.'

'But that surely,' Mrs Duchemin said--she continued to hold both the
girl's hands--'makes you all the braver...It's the person who does the
thing he's afraid of who's the real hero, isn't it?'

'Oh, we used to argue that old thing over with father when we were ten.
You can't tell. You've got to define the term brave. I was just
abject...I could harangue the whole crowd when I got them together. But
speak to one man in cold blood I couldn't...Of course I _did_ speak
to a fat golfing idiot with bulging eyes, to get him to save Gertie. But
that was different.'

Mrs Duchemin moved both the girl's hands up and down in her own.

'As you know, Valentine,' she said, 'I'm an old-fashioned woman. I
believe that woman's true place is at her husband's side. At the same
time...'

Miss Wannop moved away.

'Now, don't, Edie, don't!' she said. 'If you believe that, you're an
anti. Don't run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. It's your defect
really...I tell you I'm _not_ a heroine. I _dread_ prison: I
_hate_ rows. I'm thankful to goodness that it's my duty to stop and
housemaid-typewrite for mother, so that I can't really _do_
things...Look at that miserable, adenoidy little Gertie, hiding upstairs
in our garret. She was crying all last night--but that's just nerves. Yet
she's been in prison five times, stomach-pumped and all. Not a moment of
funk about her!...But as for me, a girl as hard as a rock that prison
wouldn't touch...Why, I'm all of a jump now. That's why I'm talking
nonsense like a pert schoolgirl. I just dread that every sound may be the
police coming for me.'

Mrs Duchemin stroked the girl's fair hair and tucked a loose strand
behind her ear.

'I wish you'd let me show you how to do your hair,' she said. 'The right
man might come along at any moment.'

'Oh, the right man!' Miss Wannop said. 'Thanks for tactfully changing the
subject. The right man for me, when he comes along, will be a married
man. That's the Wannop luck!'

Mrs Duchemin said, with deep concern:

'Don't talk like that...Why should you regard yourself as being less
lucky than other people? Surely your mother's done well. She has a
position; she makes money...'

'Ah, but mother isn't a Wannop,' the girl said, 'only by marriage. The
real Wannops...they've been executed, and attaindered, and falsely
accused and killed in carriage accidents and married adventurers or died
penniless like father. Ever since the dawn of history. And then, mother's
got her mascot...'

'Oh, what's that?' Mrs Duchemin asked, almost with animation, 'a
relic...?

'Don't you know mother's mascot?' the girl asked. 'She tells
everybody...Don't you know the story of the man with the champagne? How
mother was sitting contemplating suicide in her bed-sitting-room and
there came in a man with a name like Tea-tray; she always calls him the
mascot and asks us to remember him as such in our prayers...He was a man
who'd been at a German university with father years before and loved him
very dearly; but had not kept touch with him. And he'd been out of
England for nine months when father died and round about it. And he said:
"Now, Mrs Wannop, what's this?" And she told him. And he said, "What you
want is champagne!" And he sent the slavey out with a sovereign for a
bottle of Veuve Clicquot. And he broke the neck of the bottle off against
the mantelpiece because they were slow in bringing an opener. And he
stood over her while she drank half the bottle out of her toothglass. And
he took her out to lunch...o...o...oh, it's cold!...And lectured
her...And got her a job to write leaders on a paper he had shares in...'

Mrs Duchemin said:

'You're shivering!'

'I know I am,' the girl said. She went on very fast. 'And of course,
mother always _wrote_ father's articles for him. He found the ideas,
but couldn't write, and she's a splendid style...And, since then, he--the
mascot--Teatray--has always turned up when she's been in tight places.
Then the paper blew her up and threatened to dismiss her for
inaccuracies! She's frightfully inaccurate. And he wrote her out a table
of things every leader-writer must know, such as that "A. Ebor" is the
Archbishop of York, and that the Government is Liberal. And one day he
turned up and said: "Why don't you write a novel on that story you told
me?" And he lent her the money to buy the cottage we're in now, to be
quiet and write in...Oh, I can't go on!'

Miss Wannop burst into tears.

'It's thinking of those _beastly_ days,' she said. 'And that
beastly, beastly yesterday!' She ran the knuckles of both her hands
fiercely into her eyes, and determinedly eluded Mrs Duchemin's
handkerchief and embraces. She said almost contemptuously:

'A nice, considerate person I am. And you with this ordeal hanging over
you! Do you suppose I don't appreciate all your silent heroism of the
home, while we're marching about with flags and shouting? But it's just
to stop women like you being tortured, body and soul, week in, week out,
that we...'

Mrs Duchemin had sat down on a chair near one of the windows; she had her
handkerchief hiding her face.

'Why women in your position don't take lovers...' the girl said hotly.
'Or that women in your position do take lovers...'

Mrs Duchemin looked up; in spite of its tears her white face had an air
of serious dignity:

'Oh, _no_, Valentine,' she said, using her deeper tones. 'There's
something beautiful, there's something _thrilling_ about chastity.
I'm not narrow-minded. Censorious! I don't _condemn_! But to
preserve in word, thought and action a lifelong fidelity...It's no mean
achievement...'

'You mean like an egg and spoon race,' Miss Wannop said.

'It isn't,' Mrs Duchemin replied gently, 'the way I should have put it.
Isn't the real symbol Atalanta, running fast and not turning aside for
the golden apple? That always seemed to me the real truth hidden in the
beautiful old legend...'

'I don't know,' Miss Wannop said, 'when I read what Ruskin says about it
in the _Crown of Wild Olive_. Or no! It's the _Queen of the
Air_. That's his Greek rubbish, isn't it? I always think it seems like
an egg-race in which the young woman didn't keep her eyes in the boat.
But I suppose it comes to the same thing.'

Mrs Duchemin said:

'My _dear_! Not a word against John Ruskin in _this_ house!'

Miss Wannop screamed.

An immense voice had shouted:

'This way! This way...The ladies will be here!'

Of Mr Duchemin's curates--he had three of them, for he had three
marshland parishes almost without stipend, so that no one but a very rich
clergyman could have held them--it was observed that they were all very
large men with the physiques rather of prize-fighters than of clergy. So
that when by any chance at dusk, Mr Duchemin, who himself was of
exceptional stature, and his three assistants went together along a road
the hearts of any malefactors whom in the mist they chanced to encounter
went pit-apat.

Mr Horsley--the number two--had in addition an enormous voice. He shouted
four or five words, interjected tee-hee, shouted four or five words more
and again interjected tee-hee. He had enormous wrist-bones that protruded
from his clerical cuffs, an enormous Adam's apple, a large, thin,
close-cropped, colourless face like a skull, with very sunken eyes, and
when he was once started speaking it was impossible to stop him, because
his own voice in his ears drowned every possible form of interruption.

This morning, as an inmate of the house, introducing to the
breakfast-room Messrs Tietj ens and Macmaster, who had driven up to the
steps just as he was mounting them, he had a story to tell. The
introduction was, therefore, not, as such, a success...

'A STATE OF SIEGE, LADIES! Tee-hee!' he alternately roared and giggled.
'We're living in a regular state of siege...What with...' It appeared
that the night before, after dinner, Mr Sandbach and rather more than
half a dozen of the young bloods who had dined at Mountby, had gone
scouring the country lanes, mounted on motor bicycles and armed with
loaded canes...for suffragettes! Every woman they had come across in the
darkness they had stopped, abused, threatened with their loaded canes and
subjected to cross-examination. The countryside was up in arms.

As a story this took, with the appropriate reflections and repetitions, a
long time in telling, and afforded Tietjens and Miss Wannop the
opportunity of gazing at each other. Miss Wannop was frankly afraid that
this large, clumsy, unusual-looking man, now that he had found her again,
might hand her over to the police whom she imagined to be searching for
herself and her friend Gertie, Miss Wilson, at that moment in bed, under
the care, as she also imagined, of Mrs Wannop. On the links he had seemed
to her natural and in place; here, with his loosely hung clothes and
immense hands, the white patch on the side of his rather cropped head and
his masked, rather shapeless features, he affected her queerly as being
both in and out of place. He seemed to go with the ham, the meat-pie, the
galantine and even at a pinch with the roses; but the Turner pictures,
the aesthetic curtain and Mrs Duchemin's flowing robes, amber and rose in
the hair, did not go with him at all. Even the Chippendale chairs hardly
did. And she felt herself thinking oddly, beneath her perturbations, of a
criminal and the voice of the Rev. Mr Horsley that his Harris tweeds went
all right with her skirt, and she was glad that she had on a clean,
cream-coloured silk blouse, not a striped pink cotton.

She was right as to that.

In every man there are two minds that work side by side, the one checking
the other; thus emotion stands against reason, intellect corrects passion
and first impressions act just a little, but very little, before quick
reflection. Yet first impressions have always a bias in their favour, and
even quiet reflection has often a job to efface them.

The night before, Tietjens had given several thoughts to this young
woman. General Campion had assigned her to him as _maîtresse du
titre_. He was said to have ruined himself, broken up his home and
spent his wife's money on her. Those were lies. On the other hand they
were not inherent impossibilities. Upon occasion and given the right
woman, quite sound men have done such things. He might, heaven knows,
himself be so caught. But that he should have ruined himself over an
unnoticeable young female who had announced herself as having been a
domestic servant, and wore a pink cotton blouse...that had seemed to go
beyond the bounds of even the unreason of club gossip!

That was the strong, first impression! It was all very well for his
surface mind to say that the girl was not by birth a tweeny maid; she was
the daughter of Professor Wannop and she could jump! For Tietjens held
very strongly the theory that what finally separated the classes was that
the upper could lift its feet from the ground whilst common people
couldn't.

...But the strong impression remained. Miss Wannop was a tweeny maid. Say
a lady's help, by nature. She was of good family, for the Wannops were
first heard of at Birdlip in Gloucestershire in the year 1417--no doubt
enriched after Agincourt. But even brilliant men of good family will now
and then throw daughters who are lady helps by nature. That was one of
the queernesses of heredity...And, though Tietjens had even got as far as
to realize that Miss. Wannop must be a heroine who had sacrificed her
young years to her mother's gifts, and no doubt to a brother at
school--for he had guessed as far as that--even then Tietjens couldn't
make her out as more than a lady help. Heroines are all very well;
admirable, they may even be saints; but if they let themselves get
careworn in face and go shabby...Well, they must wait for the gold that
shall be amply stored for them in heaven. On this earth you could hardly
accept them as wives for men of your own set. Certainly you wouldn't
spend your own wife's money on them. That was what it really came to.

But, brightened up as he now suddenly saw her, with silk for the pink
cotton, shining coiled hair for the white canvas hat, a charming young
neck, good shoes beneath neat ankles, a healthy flush taking the place of
yesterday's pallor of fear for her comrade; an obvious equal in the
surroundings of quite good people; small, but well-shaped and healthy;
immense blue eyes fixed without embarrassment on his own...

'By Jove...' he said to himself: 'It's true! What a jolly little mistress
she'd make!'

He blamed Campion, Sandbach and the club gossips for the form the thought
had taken. For the cruel, bitter and stupid pressure of the world has yet
about it something selective; if it couples male and female in its
inexorable rings of talk, it will be because there is something
harmonious in the union. And there exists then the pressure of
suggestion!

He took a look at Mrs Duchemin and considered her infinitely commonplace
and probably a bore. He disliked her large-shouldered, many-yarded style
of blue dress and considered that no woman should wear clouded amber, for
which the proper function was the provision of cigarette holders for
bounders. He looked back at Miss Wannop, and considered that she would
make a good wife for Macmaster; Macmaster liked bouncing girls and this
girl was quite lady enough.

He heard Miss Wannop shout against the gale to Mrs Duchemin:

'Do I sit beside the head of the table and pour out?' Mrs Duchemin
answered:

'No! I've asked Miss Fox to pour out. She's nearly stone deaf.' Miss Fox
was the penniless sister of a curate deceased. 'You're to amuse Mr
Tietjens.'

Tietjens noticed that Mrs Duchemin had an agreeable turret voice; it
penetrated the noises of Mr Horsley as the missel-thrush's note a gale.
It was rather agreeable. He noticed that Miss Wannop made a little
grimace.

Mr Horsley, like a megaphone addressing a crowd, was turning from side to
side, addressing his hearers by rotation. At the moment he was bawling at
Macmaster; it would be Tietjens' turn again in a moment to hear a
description of the heart attacks of old Mrs Haglen at Nobeys. But
Tietjens' turn did not come...

A high-complexioned, round-cheeked, forty-fivish lady, with agreeable
eyes, dressed rather well in the black of the not-very-lately widowed,
entered the room with precipitation. She patted Mr Horsley on his
declamatory right arm and, since he went on talking, she caught him by
the hand and shook it. She exclaimed in high, commanding tones:

'Which is Mr Macmaster, the critic?' and then, in the dead lull to
Tietjens: 'Are you Mr Macmaster, the critic? No!...Then _you_ must
be.'

Her turning to Macmaster and the extinction of her interest in himself
had been one of the rudest things Tietjens had ever experienced, but it
was an affair so strictly businesslike that he took it without any
offence. She was remarking to Macmaster:

'Oh, Mr Macmaster, my new book will be out on Thursday week,' and she had
begun to lead him towards a window at the other end of the room.

Miss Wannop said:

'What have you done with Genie?'

'Genie Mrs Wannop exclaimed with the surprise of one coming out of a
dream. 'Oh yes! She's fast asleep. She'll sleep till four. I told Hannah
to give a look at her now and then.'

Miss Wannop's hands fell open at her side.

'Oh, _mother_!' forced itself from her.

'Oh, yes,' Mrs Wannop said, 'we'd agreed to tell old Hannah we didn't
want her to-day. So we had!' She said to Macmaster: 'Old Hannah is our
charwoman,' wavered a little and then went on brightly: 'Of course it
will be of use to you to hear about my new book. To you journalists a
little bit of previous explanation...' and she dragged off Macmaster, who
seemed to bleat faintly...

That had come about because just as she had got into the dog-cart to be
driven to the rectory--for she herself could not drive a horse--Miss
Wannop had told her mother that there would be two men at breakfast, one
whose name she didn't know; the other, a Mr Macmaster, a celebrated
critic. Mrs Wannop had called up to her:

'A critic? Of what?' her whole sleepy being electrified.

'I don't know,' her daughter had answered. 'Books, I daresay...'

A second or so after, when the horse, a large black animal that wouldn't
stand, had made twenty yards or so at several bounds, the handy man who
drove had said:

Yer mother's 'owlin' after yer.' But Miss Wannop had answered that it
didn't matter. She was confident that she had arranged for everything.
She was to be back to get lunch; her mother was to give an occasional
look at Genie Wilson in the garret; Hannah, the daily help, was to be
told she could go for the day. It was of the highest importance that
Hannah should not know that a completely strange young woman was asleep
in the garret at eleven in the morning. If she did the news would be all
over the neighbourhood at once, and the police instantly down on them.

But Mrs Wannop was a woman of business. If she heard of a reviewer within
driving distance she called on him with eggs as a present. The moment the
daily help had arrived, she had set out and walked to the rectory. No
consideration of danger from the police would have stopped her; besides,
she had forgotten all about the police.

Her arrival worried Mrs Duchemin a good deal, because she wished all her
guests, to be seated and the breakfast well begun before the entrance of
her husband. And this was not easy. Mrs Wannop, who was uninvited,
refused to be separated from Mr Macmaster. Mr Macmaster had told her that
he never wrote reviews in the daily papers, only articles for the heavy
quarterlies, and it had occurred to Mrs Wannop that an article on her new
book in one of the quarterlies was just what was needed. She was,
therefore, engaged in telling Mr Macmaster how to write about herself,
and twice after Mrs Duchemin had succeeded in shepherding Mr Macmaster
nearly to his seat, Mrs Wannop had conducted him back to the embrasure of
the window. It was only by sitting herself firmly in her chair next to
Macmaster that Mrs Duchemin was able to retain for herself this
all-essential, strategic position. And it was only by calling out:

'Mr Horsley, _do_ take Mrs Wannop to the seat beside you and feed
her,' that Mrs Duchemin got Mrs Wannop out of Mr Duchemin's own seat at
the head of the table, for Mrs Wannop, having perceived this seat to be
vacant next to Mr Macmaster, had pulled out the Chippendale armchair and
had prepared to sit down in it. This could only have spelt disaster, for
it would have meant turning Mrs Duchemin's husband loose amongst the
other guests.

Mr Horsley, however, accomplished his duty of leading away this lady with
such firmness that Mrs Wannop conceived of him as a very disagreeable and
awkward person. Mr. Horsley's seat was next to Miss Fox, a grey spinster,
who sat, as it were, within the fortification of silver urns and deftly
occupied herself with the ivory taps of these machines. This seat, too,
Mrs Wannop tried to occupy, imagining that, by moving the silver vases
that upheld the tall delphiniums, she would be able to get a diagonal
view of Macmaster and so to shout to him. She found, however, that she
couldn't, and so resigned herself to taking the chair that had been
reserved for Miss Genie Wilson, who was to have been the eighth guest.
Once there she sat in distracted gloom, occasionally saying to her
daughter:

'I think it's very bad management. I think this party's very badly
arranged.' Mr Horsley she hardly thanked for the sole that he placed
before her; Tietjens she did not even look at.

Sitting beside Macmaster, her eyes fixed on a small door in the corner of
the panelled wall, Mrs Duchemin became a prey to a sudden and
overwhelming fit of apprehension. It forced her to say to her guest,
though she had resolved to chance it and say nothing:

'It wasn't perhaps fair to ask you to come all this way. You may get
nothing out of my husband. He's apt...especially on Saturdays...'

She trailed off into indecision. It was possible that nothing might
occur. On two Saturdays out of seven nothing _did_ occur. Then an
admission would be wasted; this sympathetic being would go out of her
life with a knowledge that he needn't have had--to be a slur on her
memory in his mind...But then, overwhelmingly, there came over her the
feeling that, if he knew of her sufferings, he might feel impelled to
remain and comfort her. She cast about for words with which to finish her
sentence. But Macmaster said:

'Oh, dear lady!' (And it seemed to her to be charming to be addressed
thus!) 'One understands...One is surely trained and adapted to
understand...that these great scholars, these abstracted cognoscenti...'

Mrs Duchemin breathed a great 'Ah!' of relief. Macmaster had used the
exactly right words.

'And,' Macmaster was going on, 'merely to spend a short hour; a swallow
flight..."As when the swallow gliding from lofty portal to lofty
portal!"...You know the lines...in these, your perfect surroundings...'

Blissful waves seemed to pass from him to her. It was in this way that
men should speak; in that way--steel-blue tie, true-looking gold ring,
steel-blue eyes beneath black brows!--that men should look. She was
half-conscious of warmth; this suggested the bliss of falling asleep,
truly, in perfect surroundings. The roses on the table were lovely; their
scent came to her.

A voice came to her:

'You _do_ do the thing in style, I must say.'

The large, clumsy but otherwise unnoticeable being that this fascinating
man had brought in his train was setting up pretensions to her notice. He
had just placed before her a small blue china plate that contained a
little black caviare and a round of lemon; a small Sevres, pinkish,
delicate plate that held the pinkest peach in the room. She had said to
him: 'Oh...a little caviare! A peach!' a long time before, with the vague
underfeeling that the names of such comestibles must convey to her person
a charm in the eyes of Caliban.

She buckled about her her armour of charm; Tietjens was gazing with
large, fishy eyes at the caviare before her. 'How do you get _that_,
for instance?' he asked.

'Oh!' she answered: 'If it wasn't my husband's doing it would look like
ostentation. I'd find it ostentatious for myself.' She found a smile,
radiant, yet muted. 'He's trained Simpkins of New Bond Street. For a
telephone message overnight special messengers go to Billingsgate at dawn
for salmon, and red mullet, this, in ice, and great blocks of ice too.
It's such pretty stuff...and then by seven the car goes to Ashford
Junction...All the same, it's difficult to give a breakfast before ten.'

She didn't want to waste her careful sentences on this grey fellow; she
couldn't, however, turn back, as she yearned to do, to the kindredly
running phrases--as if out of books she had read!--of the smaller man.

'Ah, but it isn't,' Tietjens said, 'ostentation. It's the great
Tradition. You mustn't ever forget that your husband's Breakfast Duchemin
of Magdalen.'

He seemed to be gazing, inscrutably, deep into her eyes. But no doubt he
meant to be agreeable.

'Sometimes I wish I could,' she said. 'He doesn't get anything out of it
himself. He's ascetic to unreasonableness. On Fridays he eats nothing at
all. It makes me quite anxious...for Saturdays.'

Tietjens said:

'I know.'

She exclaimed--and almost with sharpness:

'You know!'

He continued to gaze straight into her eyes:

'Oh, of course one knows all about Breakfast Duchemin!' he said. 'He was
one of Ruskin's road-builders. He was said to be the most Ruskin-like of
them all!'

Mrs Duchemin cried out: 'Oh!' Fragments of the worst stories that in his
worst moods her husband had told her of his old preceptor went through
her mind. She imagined that the shameful parts of her intimate life must
be known to this nebulous monster. For Tietjens, turned sideways and
facing her, had seemed to grow monstrous, and as if with undefined
outlines. He was the male, threatening, clumsily odious and external! She
felt herself say to herself: 'I will do you an injury, if ever--' For
already she had felt herself swaying the preferences, the thoughts and
the future of the man on her other side. He was the male, tender,
in-fitting; the complement of the harmony, the meat for consumption, like
the sweet pulp of figs...It was inevitable; it was essential to the
nature of her relationship with her husband that Mrs Duchemin should have
these feelings...

She heard, almost without emotion, so great was her disturbance, from
behind her back the dreaded, high, rasping tones:

'_Post coitum triste_! Ha! Ha! That's what it is?' The voice
repeated the words and added sardonically: 'You know what _that_
means?' But the problem of her husband had become secondary; the real
problem was: 'What was this monstrous and hateful man going to say of her
to his friend, when, for long hours, they were away?'

He was still gazing into her eyes. He said nonchalantly, rather low.

'I wouldn't look round if I were you. Vincent Macmaster is quite up to
dealing with the situation.'

His voice had the familiarity of an elder brother's. And at once Mrs
Duchemin knew--that _he_ knew that already close ties were
developing between herself and Macmaster. He was speaking as a man speaks
in emergencies to the mistress of his dearest friend. He was then one of
those formidable and to be feared males who possess the gift of right
intuitions.

Tietjens said: 'You heard!'

To the gloating, cruel tones that had asked:

'You know what that means?' Macmaster had answered clearly, but with the
snappy intonation of a reproving Don:

'Of course I know what it means. It's no discovery!' That was exactly the
right note. Tietjens--and Mrs Duchemin too--could hear Mr Duchemin,
invisible behind his rampart of blue spikes and silver, give the
answering snuffle of a reproved schoolboy. A hard-faced, small man, in
grey tweed that buttoned, collar-like, tight round his throat, standing
behind the invisible chair, gazed straight forward into infinity.

Tietjens said to himself:

'By God! Parry! the Bermondsey light middle-weight! He's there to carry
Duchemin off if he becomes violent!'

During the quick look that Tietjens took round the table, Mrs Duchemin
gave, sinking lower in her chair, a short gasp of utter relief. Whatever
Macmaster was going to think of her, he thought now. He knew the worst!
It was settled, for good or ill. In a minute she would look round at
him.

Tietjens said:

'It's all right, Macmaster will be splendid. We had a friend up at
Cambridge with your husband's tendencies, and Macmaster could get him
through any social occasion...Besides, we're all gentlefolk here!'

He had seen the Rev. Mr Horsley and Mrs Wannop both interested in their
plates. Of Miss Wannop he was not so certain. He had caught, bent
obviously on himself, from large, blue eyes, a glance that was evidently
appealing. He said to himself: 'She must be in the secret. She's
appealing to me not to show emotion and upset the applecart I It is a
shame that she should be here: a girl!' and into his answering glance he
threw the message: 'It's all right as far as this end of the table is
concerned.'

But Mrs Duchemin had felt come into herself a little stiffening of
morale. Macmaster by now knew the worst; Duchemin was quoting snufffingly
to him the hot licentiousness of the _Trimalchio_ of Petronius;
snuffling into Macmaster's ear. She caught the phrase: _Froturianas,
puer callide_...Duchemin, holding her wrist with the painful force of
the maniac, had translated it to her over and over again...No doubt, that
too, this hateful man beside her would have guessed!

She said: 'Of course we should be all gentlefolk here. One naturally
arranges that...'

Tietjens began to say:

'Ah! But it isn't easy to arrange nowadays. All sorts of bounders get
into all sorts of holies of holies!'

Mrs Duchemin turned her back on him right in the middle of his sentence.
She devoured Macmaster's face with her eyes, in an infinite sense of
calm.



Macmaster four minutes before had been the only one to see the entrance,
from a small panelled door that had behind it another of green baize, of
the Rev. Mr Duchemin, and following him a man whom Macmaster, too,
recognized at once as Parry, the ex-prize-fighter. It flashed through his
mind at once that this was an extraordinary conjunction. It flashed
through his mind, too, that it was extraordinary that anyone so
ecstatically handsome as Mrs Duchemin's husband should not have earned
high preferment in a Church always hungry for male beauty. Mr Duchemin
was extremely tall, with a slight stoop of the proper clerical type. His
face was of alabaster; his grey hair, parted in the middle, fell
brilliantly on his high brows; his glance was quick, penetrating,
austere; his nose very hooked and chiselled. He was the exact man to
adorn a lofty and gorgeous fane, as Mrs Duchemin was the exact woman to
consecrate an episcopal drawing-room. With his great wealth, scholarship
and tradition...'Why then,' went through Macmaster's mind in a swift
pin-prick of suspicion, 'isn't he at least a dean?'

Mr Duchemin had walked swiftly to his chair which Parry, as swiftly
walking behind him, drew out. His master slipped into it with a graceful,
sideways motion. He shook his head at grey Miss Fox who had moved a hand
towards an ivory urn-tap. There was a glass of water beside his plate,
and round it his long, very white fingers closed. He stole a quick glance
at Macmaster, and then looked at him steadily with laughingly glittering
eyes. He said: 'Good morning, doctor,' and then, drowning Macmaster's
quiet protest: 'Yes! Yes! The stethoscope meticulously packed into the
top-hat and shining hat left in the hall.'

The prize-fighter, in tight box-cloth leggings, tight whipcord breeches,
and a short tight jacket that buttoned up at the collar to his chin--the
exact stud-groom of a man of property--gave a quick glance of recognition
to Macmaster and then to Mr Duchemin's back another quick look, raising
his eyebrows. Macmaster, who knew him very well because he had given
Tietjens boxing lessons at Cambridge, could almost hear him say: 'A queer
change this, sir! Keep your eyes on him a second!' and, with the quick,
light tiptoe of the pugilist he slipped away to the sideboard. Macmaster
stole a quick glance on his own account at Mrs Duchemin. She had her back
to him, being deep in conversation with Tietjens. His heart jumped a
little when, looking back again, he saw Mr Duchemin half raised to his
feet, peering round the fortifications of silver. But he sank down again
in his chair, and surveying Macmaster with an expression of singular
cunning on his ascetic features, exclaimed:

'And your friend? Another medical man? All with stethoscope complete. It
takes, of course, two medical men to certify...'

He stopped and with an expression of sudden, distorted rage, pushed aside
the arm of Parry, who was sliding a plate of sole fillets on to the table
beneath his nose.

'Take away,' he was beginning to exclaim thunderously, 'these inducements
to the filthy lusts of...' But with another cunning and apprehensive look
at Macmaster, he said: 'Yes! yes! Parry! That's right. Yes! Sole! A touch
of kidney to follow. Another! Yes! Grapefruit! With sherry!' He had
adopted an old Oxford voice, spread his napkin over his knees and hastily
placed in his mouth a morsel of fish.

Macmaster with a patient and distinct intonation said that he must be
permitted to introduce himself. He was Macmaster, Mr Duchemin's
correspondent on the subject of his little monograph. Mr Duchemin looked
at him, hard, with an awakened attention that gradually lost suspicion
and became gloatingly joyful:

'Ah, yes, Macmaster!' he said. 'Macmaster. A budding critic. A little of
a hedonist, perhaps? And yes you wired that you were coming. Two friends!
Not medical men! Friends!'

He moved his face closer to Macmaster and said:

'How tired you look! Worn! Worn!'

Macmaster was about to say that he was rather hard-worked when, in a
harsh, high cackle close to his face, there came the Latin words Mrs
Duchemin--and Tietjens!--had heard. He knew then what he was up against.
He took another look at the prize-fighter; moved his head to one side to
catch a momentary view of the gigantic Mr Horsley, whose size took on a
new meaning. Then he settled down in his chair and ate a kidney. The
physical force present was no doubt enough to suppress Mr Duchemin should
he become violent. And trained! It was one of the curious, minor
coincidences of life that, at Cambridge, he had once thought of hiring
this very Parry to follow round his dear friend Sim. Sim, the most
brilliant of sardonic ironists, sane, decent, and ordinarily a little
prudish on the surface, had been subject to just such temporary lapses as
Mr Duchemin. On society occasions he would stand up and shout or sit down
and whisper the most unthinkable indecencies. Macmaster, who had loved
him very much, had run round with Sim as often as he could, and had thus
gained skill in dealing with these manifestations...He felt suddenly a
certain pleasure! He thought he might gain prestige in the eyes of Mrs
Duchemin if he dealt quietly and efficiently with this situation. It
might even lead to an intimacy. He asked nothing better!

He knew that Mrs Duchemin had turned towards him-he could feel her
listening and observing him; it was as if her glance was warm on his
cheek. But he did not look round; he had to keep his eyes on the gloating
face of her husband. Mr Duchemin was quoting Petronius, leaning towards
his guest. Macmaster consumed kidneys stiffly.

He said:

'That isn't the amended version of the iambics. Wilamovitz Möllendorf
that we used...'

To interrupt him Mr Duchemin put his thin hand courteously on Macmaster's
arm. It had a great cornelian seal set in red gold on the third finger.
He went on, reciting in ecstasy; his head a little on one side as if he
were listening to invisible choristers. Macmaster really disliked the
Oxford intonation of Latin. He looked for a short moment at Mrs Duchemin;
her eyes were upon him; large, shadowy, full of gratitude. He saw, too,
that they were welling over with wetness.

He looked quietly back at Duchemin. And suddenly it came to him; she was
suffering! She was probably suffering intensely. It had not occurred to
him that she would suffer--partly because he was without nerves himself,
partly because he had conceived of Mrs Duchemin as firstly feeling
admiration for himself. Now it seemed to him abominable that she should
suffer.

Mrs Duchemin was in agony. Macmaster had looked at her intently and
looked away! She read into his glance contempt for her situation, and
anger that he should have been placed in such a position. In her pain she
stretched out her hand and touched his arm.

Macmaster was aware of her touch; his mind seemed filled with sweetness.
But he kept his head obstinately averted. For her sake he did not dare to
look away from the maniacal face. A crisis was coming. Mr Duchemin had
arrived at the English translation. He placed his hands on the
table-cloth in preparation for rising; he was going to stand on his feet
and shout obscenities to the other guests. It was the exact moment.

Macmaster made his voice dry and penetrating to say:

"Youth of tepid loves" is a lamentable rendering of _puer callide_!
It's lamentably antiquated...'

Duchemin chewed and said:

'What? What? What's that?'

'It's just like Oxford to use an eighteenth-century crib. I suppose
that's Whiston and Ditton? Something like that...' He observed Duchemin,
brought out of his impulse, to be wavering--as if he were coming awake in
a strange place! He added:

'Anyhow it's wretched schoolboy smut. Fifth form. Or not even that. Have
some galantine. I'm going to. Your sole's cold.'

Mr Duchemin looked down at his plate.

'Yes! Yes!' he muttered. 'Yes! With sugar and vinegar sauce!' The
prize-fighter slipped away to the sideboard, an admirable, quiet fellow;
as unobtrusive as a burying beetle. Macmaster said:

'You were about to tell me something for my little monograph. What became
of Maggie...Maggie Simpson. The Scots girl who was model for _Alla
Finestra del Cielo_?'

Mr Duchemin looked at Macmaster with sane, muddled, rather exhausted
eyes:

'_Alla Finestra_!' he exclaimed: 'Oh yes! I've got the watercolour.
I saw her sitting for it and bought it on the spot...' He looked again at
his place, started at sight of the galantine and began to eat ravenously:
'A beautiful girl!' he said. 'Very long necked...She wasn't of
course...eh...respectable! She's living yet, I think. Very old. I saw her
two years ago. She had a lot of pictures. Relics of course! In the
Whitechapel Road she lived. She was naturally of that class...' He went
muttering on, his head over his plate. Macmaster considered that the fit
was over. He was irresistibly impelled to turn to Mrs Duchemin; her face
was rigid, stiff. He said swiftly:

'If he'll eat a little: get his stomach filled...It calls the blood down
from the head...'

She said:

'Oh, forgive! It's dreadful for you! Myself I will never forgive!'

He said:

'No! No!...Why, it's what I'm _for_!'

A deep emotion brought her whole white face to life:

'Oh, you _good_ man!' she said in her profound tones, and they
remained gazing at each other.

Suddenly, from behind Macmaster's back Mr Duchemin shouted:

'I say he made a settlement on her, _dum casta et sola_, of course.
Whilst she remained chaste and alone!'

Mr Duchemin, suddenly feeling the absence of the powerful will that had
seemed to overweigh his own like a great force in the darkness, was on
his feet, panting and delighted:

'Chaste!' he shouted. 'Chaste you observe What a world of suggestion in
the word...' He surveyed the opulent broadness of his tablecloth; it
spread out before his eyes as if it had been a great expanse of meadow in
which he could gallop, relaxing his limbs after long captivity. He
shouted three obscene words and went on in his Oxford Movement voice:
'But chastity...'

Mrs Wannop suddenly said:

'Oh!' and looked at her daughter, whose face grew slowly crimson as she
continued to peel a peach. Mrs Wannop turned to Mr Horsley beside her and
said:

'You write, too, I believe, Mr Horsley. No doubt something more learned
than my poor readers would care for...Mr Horsley had been preparing,
according to his instructions from Mrs Duchemin, to shout a description
of an article he had been writing about the _Mosella_ of Ausonius,
but as he was slow in starting the lady got in first. She talked on
serenely about the tastes of the large public. Tietjens leaned across to
Miss Wannop and, holding in his right hand a half-peeled fig, said to her
as loudly as he could:

'I've got a message for you from Mr Waterhouse. He says if you'll...'

The completely deaf Miss Fox--who had had her training by
writing--remarked diagonally to Mrs Duchemin:

'I think we shall have thunder to-day. Have you remarked the number of
minute insects...'

'When my revered preceptor,' Mr Duchemin thundered on, 'drove away in the
carriage on his wedding day he said to his bride: "We will live like
blessed angels!" How sublime! I, too, after my nuptials...'

Mrs Duchemin suddenly screamed:

'Oh..._no_!'

As if checked for a moment in their stride all the others paused--for a
breath. Then they continued talking with polite animation and listening
with minute attention. To Tietjens that seemed the highest achievement
and justification of English manners!

Parry, the prize-fighter, had twice caught his master by the arm and
shouted that breakfast was getting cold. He said now to Macmaster that he
and the Rev. Mr Horsley could get Mr Duchemin away, but there'd be a hell
of a fight. Macmaster whispered: 'Wait!' and, turning to Mrs Duchemin he
said: 'I can stop him. Shall I?' She said:

'Yes! Yes! Anything!' He observed tears; isolated upon her cheeks, a
thing he had never seen. With caution and with hot rage he whispered into
the prize-fighter's hairy ear that was held down to him:

'Punch him in the kidney. With your thumb. As hard as you can without
breaking your thumb...'

Mr Duchemin had just declaimed:

'I, too, after my nuptials...' He began to wave his arms, pausing and
looking from unlistening face to unlistening face. Mrs Duchemin had just
screamed.

Mr Duchemin thought that the arrow of God struck him. He imagined himself
an unworthy messenger. In such pain as he had never conceived of he fell
into his chair and sat huddled up, a darkness covering his eyes.

'He won't get up again,' Macmaster whispered to the appreciative
pugilist. 'He'll want to. But he'll be afraid to.' He said to Mrs
Duchemin:

'Dearest lady! It's all over. I assure you of that. It's a scientific
nerve counter-irritant.'

Mrs Duchemin said:

'Forgive!' with one deep sob: 'You can never respect...

She felt her eyes explore his face as the wretch in a cell explores the
face of his executioner for a sign of pardon. Her heart stayed still: her
breath suspended itself...

Then complete heaven began. Upon her left palm she felt cool fingers
beneath the cloth. This man knew always the exact right action! Upon the
fingers, cool, like spikenard and ambrosia, her fingers closed
themselves.

In complete bliss, in a quiet room, his voice went on talking. At first
with great neatness of phrase, but with what refinement! He explained
that certain excesses being merely nervous cravings, can be combated if
not, indeed, cured altogether, by the fear of, by the determination not
to endure, sharp physical pain--which of course is a nervous matter,
too!...

Parry, at a given moment, had said into his master's ear:

'It's time you prepared for your sermon to-morrow, sir,' and Mr Duchemin
had gone as quietly as he had arrived, gliding over the thick carpet to
the small door.

Then Macmaster said to her:

'You come from Edinburgh? You'll know the Fifeshire coast then.'

'Do I not?' she said. His hand remained in hers. He began to talk of the
whins on the links and the sanderlings along the flats, with such a Scots
voice and in phrases so vivid that she saw her childhood again, and had
in her eyes a wetness of a happier order. She released his cool hand
after a long, gentle pressure. But when it was gone it was as if much of
her life went. She said: 'You'll be knowing Kingussie House, just outside
your town. It was there I spent my holidays as a child.'

He answered:

'Maybe I played round it a barefoot lad and you in your grandeur within.'

She said:

'Oh, no! Hardly! There would be the difference of our ages! And...and
indeed there are other things I will tell you.'

She addressed herself to Tietjens, with all her heroic armour of charm
buckled on again:

'Only think! I find Mr Macmaster and I almost played together in our
youth.'

He looked at her, she knew, with a commiseration that she hated:

'Then you're an older friend than I,' he said, 'though I've known him
since I was fourteen, and I don't believe you could be a better. He's a
good fellow...

She hated him for his condescension towards a better man and for his
warning--she _knew_ it was a warning--to her to spare his friend.

Mrs Wannop gave a distinct but not an alarming scream. Mr Horsley had
been talking to her about an unusual fish that used to inhabit the
Moselle in Roman times. The Mosella of Ausonius; the subject of the essay
he was writing is mostly fish...

'No,' he shouted, 'it's been said to be the roach. But there are no roach
in the river now. _Vannulis viridis, oculisque_. No. It's the other
way round: _Red_ fins...'

Mrs Wannop's scream and her wide gesture: her hand, indeed, was nearly
over his mouth and her trailing sleeve across his plate!--were enough to
interrupt him.

'_Tietjens!_' she again screamed. 'Is it possible?...'

She pushed her daughter out of her seat and, moving round beside the
young man, she overwhelmed him with vociferous love. As Tietjens had
turned to speak to Mrs Duchemin she had recognized his aquiline
half-profile as exactly that of his father at her own wedding
breakfast. To the table that knew it by heart--though Tietjens himself
didn't!--she recited the story of how his father had saved her life, and
was her mascot. And she offered the son--for to the father she had never
been allowed to make any return--her horse, her purse, her heart, her
time, her all. She was so completely sincere that, as the party broke up,
she just nodded to Macmaster and, catching Tietjens forcibly by the arm,
said perfunctorily to the critic:

'Sorry I can't help you any more with the article, but my dear Chrissie
must have the books he wants. At once! This very minute!'

She moved off, Tietjens grappled to her, her daughter following as a
young swan follows its parents. In her gracious manner Mrs Duchemin had
received the thanks of her guests for her wonderful breakfast and had
hoped that now that they had found their ways there...

The echoes of the dispersed festival seemed to whisper in the room.
Macmaster and Mrs Duchemin faced each other, their eyes wary--and
longing.

He said:

'It's dreadful to have to go now. But I have an engagement.'

She said:

'Yes! I know! With your great friends.'

He answered:

'Oh, only with Mr Waterhouse and General Campion...and Mr Sandbach, of
course...'

She had a moment of fierce pleasure at the thought that Tietjens was not
to be of the company: her man would be outsoaring the vulgarian of his
youth, of his past that she didn't know...Almost harshly she exclaimed:

'I don't want you to be mistaken about Kingussie House. It was just a
holiday school. Not a grand place.'

'It was very costly,' he said, and she seemed to waver on her feet.

'Yes! yes!' she said, nearly in a whisper. 'But you're so grand now! I
was only the child of very poor bodies. Johnston of Midlothian. But very
poor bodies...I...He bought me, you might say. You know...Put me to very
rich schools; when I was fourteen...my people were glad...But I think if
my mother had known when I married...' She writhed her whole body. 'Oh,
dreadful! dreadful!' she exclaimed. 'I want you to know...

His hands were shaking as if he had been in a jolting cart...

Their lips met in a passion of pity and tears. He removed his mouth to
say: 'I must see you this evening...I shall be mad with anxiety about
you.' She whispered: 'Yes! yes! In the yew walk.' Her eyes were closed,
she pressed her body fiercely into his. 'You are the...first...man...'
she breathed.

'I will be the only one for ever,' he said.

He began to see himself; in the tall room, with the long curtains: a
round, eagle mirror reflected them gleaming: like a bejewelled picture
with great depths: the entwined figures.

They drew apart to gaze at each other: holding hands...The voice of
Tietjens said:

'Macmaster! You're to dine at Mrs Wannop's to-night. Don't dress; I
shan't.' He was looking at them without any expression, as if he had
interrupted a game of cards; large, grey, fresh-featured, the white patch
glistening on the side of his grizzling hair.

Macmaster said:

'All right. It's near here, isn't it?...I've got an engagement just
after...' Tietjens said that that would be all right: he would be working
himself. All night probably. For Waterhouse...

Mrs Duchemin said with swift jealousy:

'You let him order you about...Tietjens was gone. Macmaster said
absently:

'Who? Chrissie!...Yes! Sometimes I him, sometimes he me...We make
engagements. My best friend. The most brilliant man in England, of the
best stock too. Tietjens of Groby...' Feeling that she didn't appreciate
his friend he was abstractedly piling on commendations: 'He's making
calculations now. For the Government that no other man in England could
make. But he's going...'

An extreme languor had settled on him, he felt weakened but yet
triumphant with the cessation of her grasp. It occurred to him numbly
that he would be seeing less of Tietjens. A grief. He heard himself
quote:

"Since when we stand side by side!"' His voice trembled.

'Ah yes!' came in her deep tones: The beautiful lines...They're true. We
must part. In this world...' They seemed to her lovely and mournful words
to say; heavenly to have them to say, vibratingly, arousing all sorts of
images. Macmaster, mournfully too, said:

'We must wait.' He added fiercely: 'But to-night, at dusk!' He imagined
the dusk, under the yew hedge. A shining motor drew up in the sunlight
under the window.

'Yes! yes!' she said. 'There's a little white gate from the lane.' She
imagined their interview of passion and mournfulness amongst dim objects
half seen. That she could allow herself of glamour.

Afterwards he must come to the house to ask after her health and they
would walk side by side on the lawn, publicly, in the warm light, talking
of indifferent but beautiful poetries, a little wearily, but with what
currents electrifying and passing between their flesh...And then: long,
circumspect years...

Macmaster went down the tall steps to the car that gleamed in the summer
sun. The roses shone over the supremely levelled turf. His heel met the
stones with the hard tread of a conqueror. He could have shouted aloud!



VI


Tietjens lit a pipe beside the stile, having first meticulously cleaned
out the bowl and the stem with a surgical needle, in his experience the
best of all pipe-cleaners, since, made of German silver, it is flexible,
won't corrode and is indestructible. He wiped off methodically, with a
great dock-leaf, the glutinous brown products of burnt tobacco, the young
woman, as he was aware, watching him from behind his back. As soon as he
had restored the surgical needle to the notebook in which it lived, and
had put the notebook into its bulky pocket, Miss Wannop moved off down
the path: it was only suited for Indian file, and had on the left hand a
ten-foot, untrimmed quicken hedge, the hawthorn blossoms just beginning
to blacken at the edges and small green haws to show. On the right the
grass was above knee high and bowed to those that passed. The sun was
exactly vertical; the chaffinches said 'Pink! Pink!'; the young woman
had an agreeable back.

This, Tietjens thought, is England! A man and a maid walk through Kentish
grass-fields: the grass ripe for the scythe. The man honourable, clean,
upright; the maid virtuous, clean, vigorous: he of good birth; she of
birth quite as good; each filled with a too good breakfast that each
could yet capably digest. Each come just from an admirably appointed
establishment: a table surrounded by the best people: their promenade
sanctioned, as it were by the Church--two clergy--the State: two
Government officials; by mothers, friends, old maids...Each knew the
names of birds that piped and grasses that bowed: chaffinch, greenfinch,
yellow-ammer (_not_, my dear, hammer! _amonrer_ from the Middle
High German for 'finch'), garden warbler, Dartford warbler, pied-wagtail,
known as 'dishwasher.' (These _charming_ local dialect names.)
Marguerites over the grass, stretching in an infinite white blaze:
grasses purple in a haze to the far distant hedgerow: coltsfoot, wild
white clover, sainfoin, Italian rye grass (all technical names that the
best people must know: the best grass mixture for permanent pasture on
the Wealden loam). In the hedge: our lady's bedstraw: dead-nettle:
bachelor's button (but in _Sussex_ they call it ragged robin, my
dear): so interesting! Cowslip (paigle, you know from the old French
_pasque_, meaning Easter); burr, burdock (farmer that thy wife may
thrive, but not burr and burdock wive!); violet leaves, the flowers of
course over; black bryony; wild clematis, later it's old man's beard;
purple loose-strife. (That our young maid's long purples call and literal
shepherds give a grosser name. So racy of the soil!)...Walk, then,
through the field, gallant youth and fair maid, minds cluttered up with
all these useless anodynes for thought, quotation, imbecile epithets!
Dead silent: unable to talk: from too good breakfast to probably
extremely bad lunch. The young woman, so the young man is duly warned, to
prepare it: pink india-rubber, half-cooked cold beef, no doubt: tepid
potatoes, water in the bottom of willow-pattern dish. (_No_!
_Not_ genuine willow-pattern, of course, Mr Tietjens.) Overgrown
lettuce with wood-vinegar to make the mouth scream with pain; pickles,
also preserved in wood-vinegar; two bottles of public-house beer that, on
opening, squirts to the wall. A glass of invalid port...for the
_gentleman_!...and the jaws hardly able to open after the too
enormous breakfast at 10.15. Midday now!

'God's England!' Tietjens exclaimed to himself in high good humour. 'Land
of Hope and Glory!--F natural descending to tonic C major: chord of 6-4,
suspension over dominant seventh to common chord of C major...All
absolutely correct! Double basses, cellos, all violins: all wood wind:
all brass. Full grand organ: all stops: special _vox humana_ and
key-bugle effect...Across the counties came the sound of bugles that his
father knew...Pipe exactly right. It must be: pipe of Englishman of good
birth: ditto tobacco. Attractive young woman's back. English midday
mid-summer. Best climate in the world! No day on which man may not go
abroad!' Tietjens paused and aimed with his hazel stick an immense blow
at a tall spike of yellow mullein with its undecided, furry, glaucous
leaves and its undecided, buttony, unripe lemon-coloured flowers. The
structure collapsed, gracefully, like a woman killed among crinolines!

'Now I'm a bloody murderer!' Tietjens said. 'Not gory! Green-stained with
vital fluid of innocent plant...And by God! Not a woman in the country
who won't let you rape her after an hour's acquaintance!' He slew two
more mulleins and a sow-thistle! A shadow, but not from the sun, a gloom,
lay across the sixty acres of purple grass bloom and marguerites, white:
like petticoats of lace over the grass!

'By God,' he said, 'Church! State! Army! H.M. Ministry: H.M. Opposition:
H.M. City Man...All the governing class! All rotten! Thank God we've got
a navy!...But perhaps that's rotten too! Who knows! Britannia needs no
bulwarks...Then thank God for the upright young man and the virtuous
maiden in the summer fields: he Tory of the Tories as he should be: she
suffragette of the militants: militant here on earth...as she should be!
As she should be! In the early decades of the twentieth century however
else can a woman keep clean and wholesome! Ranting from platforms,
splendid for the lungs: bashing in policemen's helmets...No! It's I do
that: my part, I think, miss!...Carrying heavy banners in twenty-mile
processions through streets of Sodom. All splendid! I bet she's virtuous.
But you can tell it in the eye. Nice eyes! Attractive back. Virginal
cockiness...Yes, better occupation for mothers or empire than attending
on lewd husbands year in year out till you're as hysterical as a female
cat on heat...You could see it in her: that woman: you can see it in most
of 'em! Thank God then for the Tory, upright young married man and the
suffragette kid...Backbone of England!...'

He killed another flower.

'But by God! we're both under a cloud! Both!...That kid and I! And
General Lord Edward Campion, Lady Claudine Sandbach, and the Hon. Paul,
M.P. (suspended) to spread the tale...And forty toothless fogies in the
club to spread it: and no end visiting books yawning to have your names
cut out of them, my boy!...My dear boy: I so regret: your father's oldest
friend...By Jove, the pistachio nut of that galantine! Repeating!
Breakfast gone wrong: gloomy reflections! Thought I could stand anything:
digestion of an ostrich...But no! Gloomy reflections: I'm hysterical:
like that large-eyed whore! For same reason! Wrong diet and wrong life:
diet meant for partridge shooters over the turnips consumed by the
sedentary. England the land of pills..._Das Pillen-Land_, the
Germans call us. Very properly...And, damn it: outdoor diet: boiled
mutton, turnips: sedentary life...and forced up against the filthiness of
the world: your nose in it all day long!...Why, hang it, I'm as badly off
as she. Sylvia's as bad as Duchemin!...I'd never have thought that...No
wonder meat's turned to prussic acid...prime cause of neurasthenia...What
a beastly muddle! Poor Macmaster! He's finished. Poor devil: he'd better
have ogled this kid. He could have sung: "Highland Mary" a better tune
than "This is the end of every man's desire"...You can cut it on his
tombstone, you can write it on his card that a young man tacked on to a
paulo-post Pre-Raphaelite prostitute...'

He stopped suddenly in his walk. It had occurred to him that he ought not
to be walking with this girl!

'But damn it all,' he said to himself, 'she makes a good screen for
Sylvia...who cares! She must chance it. She's probably struck off all
their beastly visiting lists already...as a suffragette!'

Miss Wannop, a cricket pitch or so ahead of him, hopped over a stile:
left foot on the step, right on the top bar, a touch of the left on the
other steps, and down on the white, drifted dust of a road they no doubt
had to cross. She stood waiting, her back still to him...Her nimble
footwork, her attractive back, seemed to him, now, infinitely pathetic.
To let scandal attach to her was like cutting the wings of a goldfinch:
the bright creature, yellow, white, golden and delicate, that in the
sunlight makes a haze with its wings beside thistle-tops. No; damn it! it
was worse; it was worse than putting out, as the bird-fancier does, the
eyes of a chaffinch...Infinitely pathetic!

Above the stile, in an elm, a chaffinch said: 'Pink! pink!' The imbecile
sound filled him with rage; he said to the bird:

'Damn your eyes! _Have_ them put out, then!' The beastly bird that
made the odious noise, when it had its eyes put out, at least squealed
like any other skylark or tom-tit. Damn all birds, field naturalists,
botanists! In the same way he addressed the back of Miss Wannop: 'Damn
your eyes! _Have_ your chastity impugned then! What do you speak to
strange men in public for? You know you can't do it in this country. If
it were a decent, straight land like Ireland where people cut each
other's throats for clean issues: Papist versus Prot...well, you could!
You could walk through Ireland from east to west and speak to every man
you met..."Rich and rare were the gems she wore..." To every man you met
as long as he wasn't an Englishman of good birth: _that_ would
deflower you!' He was scrambling clumsily over the stile. 'Well!
_be_ deflowered then: _lose_ your infantile reputation. You've
spoken to strange pitch: you're defiled...with the benefit of Clergy,
Army, Cabinet, Administration, Opposition, mothers and old maids of
England...They'd all tell you you can't talk to a strange man, in the
sunlight, on the links, without becoming a screen for some Sylvia or
other...Then _be_ a screen for Sylvia: _get_ struck off the
visiting books! The deeper you're implicated, the more bloody villain I
am! I'd like the whole lot to see us here: that would settle it...'

Nevertheless, when at the roadside he stood level with Miss Wannop who
did not look at him, and saw the white road running to right and left
with no stile opposite, he said gruffly to her:

'Where's the next stile? I hate walking on roads!' She pointed with her
chin along the opposite hedgerow. 'Fifty yards I' she said.

'Come along!' he exclaimed, and set off at a trot almost. It had come
into his head that it would be just the beastly sort of thing that would
happen if a car with General Campion and Lady Claudine and Paul Sandbach
all aboard should come along that blinding stretch of road: or one alone:
perhaps the General driving the dog-cart he affected. He said to himself:

'By God! If they cut this girl I'd break their backs over my knee!' and
he hastened. 'Just the beastly thing that _would_ happen.' The road
probably led straight in at the front door of Mountby!

Miss Wannop trotted along a little in his rear. She thought him the most
extraordinary man: as mad as he was odious. Sane people, if they're going
to hurry--but _why_ hurry!--do it in the shade of field hedgerows,
not in the white blaze of county council roads. Well, he could go ahead.
In the next field she was going to have it out with him: she didn't
intend to be hot with running: let him be, his hateful, but certainly
noticeable eyes, protruding at her like a lobster's; but she was cool and
denunciatory in her pretty blouse...

There was a dog-cart coming behind them!

Suddenly it came into her head: that fool had been lying when he had said
that the 'police meant to let them alone: lying over the
breakfast-table...The dog-cart contained the police: after them! She
didn't waste time looking round: she wasn't a fool like Atalanta in the
egg-race. She picked up her heels and sprinted. She beat him by a yard
and a half to the kissing-gate, white in the hedge: panicked, breathing
hard. He panted into it, after her: the fool hadn't the sense to let her
through first. They were jammed in together: face to face, panting! An
occasion on which sweethearts kiss in Kent: the gate being made in three,
the inner flange of the V moving on hinges. It stops cattle getting
through: but this great lout of a Yorkshire-man didn't know: trying to
push through like a mad bullock! Now they were caught. Three weeks in
Wandsworth gaol...Oh hang...

The voice of Mrs Wannop--of course it was only mother! Twenty feet on
high or so behind the kicking mare, with a good round face like a
peony--said:

'Ah, you can jam my Val in a gate and hold her...but she gave you seven
yards in twenty and beat you to the gate. That was her father's
ambition!' She thought of them as children running races. She beamed
down, round-faced and simple, on Tietjens from beside the driver, who had
a black, slouch hat and the grey beard of St Peter.

'My dear boy!' she said, 'my dear boy; it's such a satisfaction to have
you under my roof!'

The black horse reared on end, the patriarch sawing at its mouth. Mrs
Wannop said unconcernedly: 'Stephen Joel! I haven't done talking.'

Tietjensns was gazing enragedly at the lower part of the horse's
sweat-smeared stomach.

'You soon will have,' he said, 'with the girth in that state. Your neck
will be broken.'

'Oh, I don't think so,' Mrs Wannop said. 'Joel only bought the turn-out
yesterday.'

Tietjens addressed the driver with some ferocity:

'Here, get down, you,' he said. He held, himself, the head of the horse
whose nostrils were wide with emotion: it rubbed its forehead almost
immediately against his chest. He said: 'Yes! yes! There! there!' Its
limbs lost their tautness. The aged driver scrambled down from the high
seat, trying to come down at first forward and then backwards. Tietjens
fired indignant orders at him:

'Lead the horse into the shade of that tree. Don't touch her bit: her
mouth's sore. Where did you get this job lot? Ashford market: thirty
pounds: it's worth more...But, blast you, don't you see you've got a
thirteen hands pony's harness for a sixteen and a half hands horse. Let
the bit out: three holes: it's cutting the animal's tongue in half...This
animal's a rig. Do you know what a rig is? If you give it corn for a
fortnight it will kick you and the cart and the stable to pieces in five
minutes one day.' He led the conveyance, Mrs Wannop triumphantly
complacent and all, into a patch of shade beneath elms.

'Loosen that bit, confound you,' he said to the driver. 'Ah! you're
afraid.'

He loosened the bit himself, covering his fingers with greasy harness
polish which he hated. Then he said:

'Can you hold her head or are you afraid of that too? You _deserve_
to have her bite your hands off.' He addressed Miss Wannop: 'Can
_you_?' She said: No! I'm afraid of horses. I can drive any sort of
car: but I'm afraid of horses.' He said: 'Very proper!' He stood back and
looked at the horse: it had dropped its head and lifted its near hind
foot, resting the toe on the ground: an attitude of relaxation.

'She'll stand now!' he said. He undid the girth, bending down
uncomfortably, perspiring and greasy: the girth-strap parted in his hand.

'It's true,' Mrs Wannop said. 'I'd have been dead in three minutes if you
hadn't seen that. The cart would have gone over backwards...'

Tietjens took out a large, complicated, horn-handled knife like a
schoolboy's. He selected a punch and pulled it open. He said to the
driver:

'Have you got any cobbler's thread? Any string? Any copper wire? A rabbit
wire, now? Come, you've got a rabbit wire or you're not a handy-man.'

The driver moved his slouch hat circularly in negation. This seemed to be
Quality who summons you for poaching if you own to possessing rabbit
wires.

Tietjens laid the girth along the shaft and punched into it with his
punch.

'Woman's work!' he said to Mrs Wannop, 'but it'll take you home and last
you six months as well...But I'll sell this whole lot for you to-morrow.'

Mrs Wannop sighed:

'I suppose it'll fetch a ten-pound note...' She said: 'I ought to have
gone to market myself.'

No!' Tietjens answered: 'I'll get you fifty for it or I'm no
Yorkshireman. This fellow hasn't been swindling you. He's got you deuced
good value for money, but he doesn't know what's suited for ladies; a
white pony and a basketwork chaise is what you want.'

'Oh, I like a bit of spirit,' Mrs Wannop said.

'Of course you do,' Tietjens answered: 'but this turnout's too much.'

He sighed a little and took out his surgical needle.

'I'm going to hold this band together with this,' he said. 'It's so
pliant it will make two stitches and hold for ever...

But the handy-man was beside him, holding out the contents of his
pockets; a greasy leather pouch, a ball of beeswax, a knife, a pipe, a
bit of cheese and a pale rabbit wire. He had made up his mind that this
Quality was benevolent and he made offering of all his possessions.

Tietjens said: 'Ah,' and then, while he unknotted the wire:

'Well! Listen...you bought this turn-out off a higgler at the back door
of the Leg of Mutton Inn.'

'Saracen's 'Ed!' the driver muttered.

'You got it for thirty pounds because the higgler wanted money bad.
_I_ know. And dirt cheap...But a rig isn't everybody's driving. All
right for a vet or a horse-coper. Like the cart that's too tall!...But
you did damn well. Only you're not what you were, are you, at thirty? And
the horse looked to be a devil and the cart so high you couldn't get out
once you were in. And you kept it in the sun for two hours waiting for
your mistress.'

'There wer' a bit o' lewth 'longside stable wall,' the driver muttered.

'Well! She didn't like waiting,' Tietjens said placably. 'You can be
thankful your old neck's not broken. Do this band up, one hole less for
the bit I've taken in.'

He prepared to climb into the driver's seat, but Mrs Wannop was there
before him, at an improbable altitude on the sloping watch-box with
strapped cushions.

'Oh, no, you don't,' she said, 'no one drives me and my horse but me or
my coachman when I'm about. Not even you, dear boy.'

'I'll come with you then,' Tietjens said.

'Oh, no, you don't,' she answered. 'No one's neck to be broken in this
conveyance but mine and Joel's,' she added: 'perhaps to-night if I'm
satisfied the horse is fit to drive.'

Miss Wannop suddenly exclaimed:

'Oh, _no_, mother.' But the handy-man having climbed in, Mrs Wannop
flirted her whip and started the horse. She pulled up at once and leaned
over to Tietjens:

'_What_ a life for that poor woman,' she said. 'We must _all_
do all we can for her. She could have her husband put in a lunatic asylum
to-morrow. It's sheer self-sacrifice that she doesn't.'

The horse went off at a gentle, regular trot.

Tietjens addressed Miss Wannop:

'What hands your mother's got,' he said, 'it isn't often one sees a woman
with hands like that on a horse's mouth,...Did you see how she pulled
up?...'

He was aware that, all this while, from the road-side, the girl had been
watching him with shining eyes: intently even: with fascination.

'I suppose you think that a mighty fine performance.' she said.

'I didn't make a very good job of the girth,' he said. 'Let's get off
this road.'

'Setting poor, weak women in their places,' Miss Wannop continued.
'Soothing the horse like a man with a charm. I suppose you soothe women
like that, too. I pity your wife...The English country male! And making a
devoted vassal at sight of the handy-man. The feudal system all
complete...

Tietjens said:

'Well, you know, it'll make him all the better servant to you if he
thinks you've friends in the know. The lower classes are like that. Let's
get off this road.'

She said:

'You're in a mighty hurry to get behind the hedge. Are the police after
us or aren't they? Perhaps you were lying at breakfast: to calm the
hysterical nerves of a weak woman.'

'I wasn't lying,' he said, 'but I hate roads when there are
field-paths...'

'That's a phobia, like any woman's,' she exclaimed. She almost ran
through the kissing-gate and stood awaiting him.

'I suppose,' she said, 'if you've stopped off the police with your high
and mighty male ways you think you've destroyed my romantic young dream.
You haven't. I don't _want_ the police after me. I believe I'd
_die_ if they put me in Wandsworth...I'm a coward.'

'Oh, no, you aren't,' he said, but he was following his own train of
thought, just as she wasn't in the least listening to him. 'I daresay
you're a heroine all right. _Not_ because you persevere in actions
the consequences of which you fear. But I daresay you can touch pitch and
not be defiled.'

Being too well brought up to interrupt she waited till he had said all he
wanted to say, then she exclaimed:

'Let's settle the preliminaries. It's obvious mother means us to see a
great deal of you. _You're_ going to be a mascot, too, like your
father. I suppose you think you are: you saved me from the police
yesterday, you appear to have saved mother's neck to-day. You appear,
too, to be going to make twenty pounds profit on a horse deal. You say
you will and you seem to be that sort of a person...Twenty pounds is no
end in a family like ours...Well, then, you appear to be going to be the
regular _bel ami_ of the Wannop family...'

Tietjens said:

'I hope not.'

'Oh, I don't mean,' she said, 'that you're going to rise to fame by
making love to all the women of the Wannop family. Besides, there's only
me. But mother will press you into all sorts of odd jobs: and there will
always be a plate for you at the table. Don't shudder! I'm a regular good
cook--_cuisine bourgeoise_ of course. I learned under a real
professed cook, though a drunkard. That meant I used to do half the
cooking and the family was particular. Ealing people are: county
councillors, half of them, and the like. So I know what men are...' She
stopped and said good-naturedly: 'But do, for goodness' sake, get it
over. I'm sorry I was rude to you. But it is irritating to have to stand
like a stuffed rabbit while a man is acting like a regular Admiral
Crichton, and cool and collected, with the English country gentleman air
and all.'

Tietjens winced. The young woman had come a little too near the knuckle
of his wife's frequent denunciations of himself. And she exclaimed:

'No! That's not fair! I'm an ungrateful pig! You didn't show a bit more
side really than a capable workman must who's doing his job in the midst
of a crowd of incapable duffers. But just get it out, will you? Say once
and for all that--you know the proper, pompous manner: you are not
without sympathy with our aims: but you disapprove--oh, immensely,
strongly--of our methods.'

It struck Tietjens that the young woman was a good deal more interested
in the cause--of votes for women--than he had given her credit for. He
wasn't much in the mood for talking to young women, but it was with
considerably more than the surface of his mind that he answered:

'I don't. I approve entirely of your methods: but your aims are idiotic.'

She said:

'You don't know, I suppose, that Gertie Wilson, who's in bed at our
house, is wanted by the police: not only for yesterday, but for putting
explosives in a whole series of letter-boxes?'

He said:

'I didn't...but it was a perfectly proper thing to do. She hasn't burned
any of my letters or I might be annoyed; but it wouldn't interfere with
my approval.'

'You don't think,' she asked earnestly, 'that we...mother and I...are
likely to get heavy sentences for shielding her? It would be beastly bad
luck on mother. Because she's an anti...'

'I don't know about the sentence,' Tietjens said, 'but we'd better get
her off your premises as soon as we can...'

She said:

'Oh, you'll _help_?'

He answered:

'Of course, your mother can't be incommoded. She's written the only novel
that's been fit to read since the eighteenth century.'

She stopped and said earnestly:

'Look here. Don't be one of those ignoble triflers who say the vote won't
do women any good. Women have a rotten time. They do, really. If you'd
seen what I've seen, I'm not talking through my hat.' Her voice became
quite deep: she had tears in her eyes: '_Poor_ women _do!_'
she said, 'little insignificant creatures. We've _got_ to change
the divorce laws. We've _got_ to get better conditions. _You_
couldn't stand it if you knew what I know.'

Her emotion vexed him, for it seemed to establish a sort of fraternal
intimacy that he didn't at the moment want. Women do not show emotion
except before their families. He said drily:

'I daresay I shouldn't. But I don't know, so I can!' She said with deep
disappointment:

'Oh, you are a _beast!_ And I shall never beg your pardon for saying
that. I don't believe you mean what you say, but merely to say it is
heartless.'

This was another of the counts of Sylvia's indictment and Tietjens winced
again. She explained:

'You don't know the case of the Pimlico army clothing factory workers or
you wouldn't say the vote would be no use to women.'

'I know the case perfectly well,' Tietjens said: 'It came under my
official notice, and I remember thinking that there never was a more
signal instance of the uselessness of the vote to anyone.'

'We can't be thinking of the same case,' she said.

'We are,' he answered. 'The Pimlico army clothing factory is in the
constituency of Westminster; the Under-Secretary for War is member for
Westminster; his majority at the last election was six hundred. The
clothing factory employed seven hundred men at 1_s_. 6_d_. an
hour, all these men having votes in Westminster. The seven hundred men
wrote to the Under-Secretary to say that if their screw wasn't raised to
two bob they'd vote solid against him at the next election...'

Miss Wannop said: 'Well then!'

'So,' Tietjens said: 'The Under-Secretary had the seven hundred men at
eighteenpence fired and took on seven hundred women at tenpence. What
good did the vote do the seven hundred men? What good did a vote ever do
anyone?'

Miss Wannop checked at that and Tietjens prevented her exposure of his
fallacy by saying quickly:

'Now, if the seven hundred women, backed by all the other ill-used,
sweated women of the country, had threatened the Under-Secretary, burned
the pillar-boxes, and cut up all the golf greens round his country house,
they'd have had their wages raised to half a crown next week. That's the
only straight method. It's the feudal system at work.'

'Oh, but we couldn't cut up _golf_ greens,' Miss Wannop said. 'At
least the W.S.P.U. debated it the other day, and decided that anything so
unsporting would make us _too_ unpopular. I was for it personally.'

Tietjens groaned:

'It's maddening,' he said, 'to find women, as soon as they get in
Council, as muddleheaded and as afraid to face straight issues as
men!...'

'You won't, by-the-by,' the girl interrupted, 'be able to sell our horse
to-morrow. You've forgotten that it will be Sunday.'

'I shall have to on Monday, then,' Tietjens said. 'The point about the
feudal system...'

Just after lunch--and it was an admirable lunch of the cold lamb, new
potatoes and mint-sauce variety, the mint-sauce made with white wine
vinegar and as soft as kisses, the claret perfectly drinkable and the
port much more than that, Mrs Wannop having gone back to the late
professor's wine merchants--Miss Wannop herself went to answer the
telephone...

The cottage had no doubt been a cheap one, for it was old, roomy and
comfortable; but effort had no doubt, too, been lavished on its low
rooms. The dining-room had windows on each side and a beam across; the
dining silver had been picked up at sales, the tumblers were old cut
glass; on each side of the ingle was a grandfather's chair. The garden
had red brick paths, sunflowers, hollyhocks and scarlet gladioli. There
was nothing to it all, but the garden-gate was well hung.

To Tietjens all this meant effort. Here was a woman who, a few years ago,
was penniless, in the most miserable-off circumstances, supporting life
with the most exiguous of all implements. What effort hadn't it meant!
and what effort didn't it mean? There was a boy at Eton...a senseless,
but a gallant effort.

Mrs Wannop sat opposite him in the other grandfather's chair; an
admirable hostess, an admirable lady. Full of spirit in dashes; but
tired. As an old horse is tired that, taking three men to harness it in
the stable yard, starts out like a stallion, but soon drops to a
jog-trot. The face tired, really; scarlet-cheeked with the good air, but
seamed downward. She could sit there at ease, the plump hands covered
with a black lace shawl, and descending on each side of her lap, as much
at ease as any other Victorian great lady. But at lunch she had let drop
that she had written for eight hours every day for the last four
years--till that day--without missing a day. To-day being Saturday, she
had no leader to write:

'And, my darling boy,' she had said to him. 'I'm giving it to you. I'd
give it to no other soul but your father's son. Not even to...' And she
had named the name that she most respected. 'And that's the truth,' she
had added. Nevertheless, even over lunch, she had fallen into
abstractions, heavily and deeply, and made fantastic misstatements,
mostly about public affairs...It all meant a tremendous record...

And there he sat, his coffee and port on a little table beside him; the
house belonging to him...

She said:

'My dearest boy...you've so much to do. Do you think you ought really to
drive the girls to Plimsoll tonight? They're young and inconsiderate,
work comes first.'

Tietjens said:

'It isn't the distance...'

'You'll find that it is,' she answered humorously. 'It's twenty miles
beyond Tenterden. If you don't start till ten when the moon sets, you
won't be back till five, even if you've no accidents...The horse is all
right, though...'

Tietjens said:

'Mrs Wannop, I ought to tell you that your daughter and I are being
talked about. Uglily!'

She turned her head to him; rather stiffly. But she was only coming out
of an abstraction.

'Eh?' she said, and then; 'Oh! About the golf-links episode...It must
have looked suspicious. I daresay you made a fuss, too, with the police,
to head them off her.' She remained pondering for a moment, heavily, like
an old pope:

'Oh, you'll live it down,' she said.

'I ought to tell you,' he persisted, 'that it's more serious than you
think. I fancy I ought not to be here.'

'Not here!' she exclaimed. 'Why, where else in the world should you be?
You don't get on with your wife; I know. She's a regular wrong 'un. Who
else could look after you as well as Valentine and I.'

In the acuteness of that pang, for, after all, Tietjens cared more for
his wife's reputation than for any other factor in a complicated world,
Tietjens asked rather sharply why Mrs Wannop had called Sylvia a wrong
'un. She said in rather a protesting, sleepy way:

'My dear boy, nothing! I've guessed that there are differences between
you; give me credit for some perception. Then, as you're perfectly
obviously a right 'un, she must be a wrong 'un. That's all, I assure
you.'

In his relief Tietjens' obstinacy revived. He liked this house; he liked
this atmosphere; he liked the frugality, the choice of furniture, the way
the light fell from window to window; the weariness after hard work, the
affection of mother and daughter; the affection, indeed, that they both
had for himself, and he was determined, if he could help it, not to
damage the reputation of the daughter of the house.

Decent men, he held, don't do such things, and he recounted with some
care the heads of the conversation he had had with General Campion in the
dressing-room. He seemed to see the cracked wash-bowls in their scrubbed
oak settings. Mrs Wannop's face seemed to grow greyer, more aquiline; a
little resentful! She nodded from time to time, either to denote
attention or else in sheer drowsiness:

'My dear boy,' she said at last, 'it's pretty damnable to have such
things said about you. I can see that. But I seem to have lived in a bath
of scandal all my life. Every woman who has reached my age has that
feeling...Now it doesn't seem to matter...' She really nodded nearly off:
then she started. 'I don't see...I really don't see how I can help you as
to your reputation. I'd do it if I could: believe me...But I've other
things to think of...I've this house to keep going and the children to
keep fed and at school. I can't give all the thought I ought to to other
people's troubles...

She started into wakefulness and right out of her chair.

'But what a beast I am!' she said, with a sudden intonation that was
exactly that of her daughter; and, drifting with a Victorian majesty of
shawl and long skirt behind Tietjens' high-backed chair, she leaned over
it and stroked the hair on his right temple:

'My dear boy,' she said. 'Life's a bitter thing. I'm an old novelist and
know it. There you are working yourself to death to save the nation with
a wilderness of cats and monkeys howling and squalling your personal
reputation away...It was Dizzy himself said these words to me at one of
our receptions. "Here I am, Mrs Wannop," he said...And...' She drifted
for a moment. But she made another effort: 'My dear boy,' she whispered,
bending down her head to get it near his ear: 'My dear boy; it doesn't
matter; it doesn't really matter. You'll live it down. The only thing
that matters it to do good work. Believe an old woman who has lived very
hard; "Hard lying money" as they call it in the navy. It sounds like
cant, but it's the only real truth. You'll find consolation in that. And
you'll live it down. Or perhaps you won't; that's for God in His mercy to
settle. But it won't matter; believe me, as thy days so shall thy
strength be.' She drifted into other thoughts; she was much perturbed
over the plot of a new novel and much wanted to get back to the
consideration of it. She stood gazing at the photograph, very faded, of
her husband in side-whiskers and an immense shirt-front, but she
continued to stroke Tietjens' temple with a sublime tenderness.

This kept Tietjens sitting there. He was quite aware that he had tears in
his eyes; this was almost too much tenderness to bear, and, at bottom his
was a perfectly direct, simple and sentimental soul. He always had
bedewed eyes at the theatre, after tender love scenes, and so avoided the
theatre. He asked himself twice whether he should or shouldn't make
another effort, though it was almost beyond him. He wanted to sit still.

The stroking stopped; he scrambled on to his feet.

'Mrs Wannop,' he said, facing her, 'it's perfectly true. I oughtn't to
care what these swine say about me, but I do. I'll reflect about what you
say till I get it into my system...

She said:

'Yes, yes! my dear,' and continued to gaze at the photograph.

'But,' Tietjens said; he took her mittened hand and led her back to her
chair: 'What I'm concerned for at the moment is not my reputation, but
your daughter Valentine's.'

She sank down into the high chair, balloon-like, and came to rest:

'Val's reputation!' she said, 'Oh! you mean they'll be striking
_her_ off their visiting lists. It hadn't struck me. So they will!'
She remained lost in reflection for a long time.

Valentine was in the room, laughing a little. She had been giving the
handy-man his dinner, and was still amused at his commendations of
Tietjens.

'You've got one admirer,' she said to Tietjens. '"Punched that rotten
strap," he goes on saying, "like a gret of yaffle punchin' a 'ollow log!"
He's had a pint of beer and said it between each gasp.' She continued to
narrate the quaintness of Joel which appealed to her; informed Tietjens
that 'yaffle' was Kentish for great green woodpecker; and then said:

'You haven't got any friends in Germany, have you?' She was beginning to
clear the table.

Tietjens said:

'Yes; my wife's in Germany; at a place called Lobscheid.'

She placed a pile of plates on a black japanned tray.

'I'm so sorry,' she said, without an expression of any deep regret. 'It's
the ingenious clever stupidities of the telephone. I've got a telegraph
message for you then. I thought it was the subject for mother's leader.
It always comes through with the initials of the paper which are not
unlike Tietjens, and the girl who always sends it is called Hopside. It
seemed rather inscrutable, but I took it to have to do with German
politics and I thought mother would understand it...You're not both
asleep, are you?'

Tietjens opened his eyes, the girl was standing over him, having
approached from the table. She was holding out a slip of paper on which
she had transcribed the message. She appeared all out of drawing and the
letters of the message ran together. The message was:

Righto. But arrange for certain Hullo Central travels with you. Sylvia
Hopside Germany.'

Tietjens leaned back for a long time looking at the words; they seemed
meaningless. The girl placed the paper on his knee, and went back to the
table. He imagined the girl wrestling with these incomprehensibilities on
the telephone.

'Of course if I'd had any sense,' the girl said, 'I should have known it
couldn't have been mother's leader note; she never gets one on a
Saturday.'

Tietjens heard himself announce clearly, loudly and with between each
word a pause:

'It means I go to my wife on Tuesday and take her maid with me.'

'Lucky you!' the girl said, 'I wish I was you. I've never been in the
Fatherland of Goethe and Rosa Luxemburg.' She went off with her great
tray load, the table-cloth over her forearm. He was dimly aware that she
had before then removed the crumbs with a crumb-brush. It was
extraordinary with what swiftness she worked, talking all the time. That
was what domestic service had done for her; an ordinary young lady would
have taken twice the time, and would certainly have dropped half her
words if she had tried to talk. Efficiency! He had only just realized
that he was going back to Sylvia, and of course to Hell! Certainly it was
Hell. If a malignant and skilful devil...though the devil of course is
stupid and uses toys like fireworks and sulphur; it is probably only God
who can, very properly, devise the long ailings of mental
oppressions...if God then desired (and one couldn't object but one hoped
He would not!) to devise for him, Christopher Tietjens, a cavernous
eternity of weary hopelessness...But He had done it; no doubt as
retribution. What for? Who knows what sins of his own are heavily
punishable in the eyes of God, for God is just?...Perhaps God then, after
all, visits thus heavily sexual offences.

There came back into his mind, burnt in, the image of their
breakfast-room, with all the brass, electrical fixings, poachers,
toasters, grillers, kettle-heaters, that he detested for their imbecile
inefficiency; with gross piles of hothouse flowers--that he detested for
their exotic waxennesses--with white enamelled panels that he disliked
and framed, weak prints--quite genuine of course, my dear, guaranteed so
by Sotheby--pinkish women in sham Gainsborough hats, selling mackerel or
brooms. A wedding present that he despised. And Mrs Satterthwaite, in
negligé, but with an immense hat; reading The Times with an eternal
rustle of leaves because she never could settle down to any one page; and
Sylvia walking up and down because she could not sit still, with a piece
of toast in her fingers or her hands behind her back. Very tall; fair; as
graceful, as full of blood and as cruel as the usual degenerate Derby
winner. Inbred for generations for one purpose: to madden men of one
type...Pacing backwards and forwards, exclaiming: 'I'm bored I Bored!';
sometimes even breaking the breakfast plates...And talking! For ever
talking; usually, cleverly, with imbecility; with maddening inaccuracy;
with wicked penetration, and clamouring to be contradicted; a gentleman
has to answer his wife's questions...And in his forehead the continual
pressure; the determination to sit put; the decor of the room seeming to
burn into his mind. It was there, shadowy before him now. And the
pressure upon his forehead...

Mrs Wannop was talking to him now, he did not know what she said; he
never knew afterwards what he had answered.

'God!' he said within himself, 'if it's sexual sins God punishes, He
indeed is just and inscrutable!'...Because he had had physical contact
with this woman before he married her! In a railway carriage; coming down
from the Dukeries. An extravagantly beautiful girl!

Where was the physical attraction of her gone to now? Irresistible;
reclining back as the shires rushed past...His mind said that she had
lured him on. His intellect put the idea from him. No gentleman thinks
such things of his wife.

No gentleman thinks...By God; she must have been with child by another
man...He had been fighting the conviction down all the last four
months...He knew now that he had been fighting the conviction all the
last four months, whilst, anaesthetized, he had bathed in figures and
wave-theories...Her last words had been: her very last words: late: all
in white she had gone up to her dressing-room, and he had never seen her
again; her last words had been about the child...'Supposing,' she had
begun...He didn't remember the rest. But he remembered her eyes. And her
gesture as she peeled off her long white gloves...

He was looking at Mrs Wannop's ingle; he thought it a mistake in taste,
really, to leave logs in an ingle during the summer. But then what are
you to do with an ingle in summer? In Yorkshire cottages they shut the
ingles up with painted doors. But that is stuffy, too!

He said to himself:

'By God! I've had a stroke!' and he got out of his chair to test his
legs...But he hadn't had a stroke. It must then, he thought, be that the
pain of his last consideration must be too great for his mind to register
as certain great physical pains go unperceived. Nerves, like weighing
machines, can't register more than a certain amount, then they go out of
action. A tramp who had had his leg cut off by a train had told him that
he had tried to get up, feeling nothing at The pain comes back though...

He said to Mrs Wannop, who was still talking:

'I beg your pardon. I really missed what you said.'

Mrs Wannop said:

'I was saying that that's the best thing I can do for you.' He said:

'I'm really very sorry: it was that that I missed. I'm a little in
trouble, you know.'

She said:

'I know: I know. The mind wanders; but I wish you'd listen. I've got to
go to work, so have you, I said: after tea you and Valentine will walk
into Rye to fetch your luggage.'

Straining his intelligence, for, in his mind, he felt a sudden strong
pleasure; sunlight on pyramidal red roof in the distance: themselves
descending in a long diagonal, a green hill: God, yes, he wanted open
air. Tietjens said:

'I see. You take us both under your protection. You'll bluff it out.'

Mrs Wannop said rather coolly:

'I don't know about you both. It's you I'm taking under my protection
(it's your phrase!). As for Valentine: she's made her bed; she must lie
on it. I've told you all that already. I can't go over it again.'

She paused, then made another effort:

'It's disagreeable,' she said, 'to be cut off the Mountby visiting list.
They give amusing parties. But I'm too old to care and they'll miss my
conversation more than I do theirs. Of course, I back my daughter against
the cats and monkeys. Of course, I back Valentine through thick and thin.
I'd back her if she lived with a married man or had illegitimate
children. But I don't approve, I don't approve of the suffragettes: I
despise their aims: I detest their methods. I don't think young girls
ought to talk to strange men. Valentine spoke to you, and look at the
worry it has caused you. I disapprove. I'm a woman: but I've made my own
way: other women could do it if they liked or had the energy. I
disapprove! But don't believe that I will ever go back on any
suffragette, individual, in gangs; my Valentine or any other. Don't
believe that I will ever say a word against them that's to be
repeated--_you_ won't repeat them. Or that I will ever write a word
against them. No, I'm a woman and I stand by my sex!'

She got up energetically:

'I must go and write my novel,' she said. 'I've Monday's instalment to
send off by train to-night. You'll go into my study: Valentine will give
you paper; ink; twelve different kinds of nibs. You'll find Professor
Wannop's books all round the room. You'll have to put up with Valentine
typing in the alcove. I've got two serials running, one typed, the other
in manuscript.'

Tietjens said:

'But _you_!'

'I,' she exclaimed, 'I shall write in my bedroom on my knee. I'm a woman
and can. You're a man and have to have a padded chair and sanctuary...You
feel fit to work? Then: you've got till five, Valentine will get tea
then. At half-past five you'll set off to Rye. You'll be back with your
luggage and your friend and your friend's luggage at seven.'

She silenced him imperiously with:

'Don't be foolish. Your friend will certainly prefer this house and
Valentine's cooking to the pub and the pub's cooking. And he'll save on
it...It's _no_ extra trouble. I suppose your friend won't inform
against that wretched little suffragette girl upstairs.' She paused and
said: 'You're _sure_ you can do your work in the time and drive
Valentine and her to that place...Why it's necessary is that the girl
daren't travel by train and we've relations there who've never been
connected with the suffragettes. The girl can live hidden there for a
bit...But sooner than you shouldn't finish your work I'd drive them
myself...'

She silenced Tietjens again: this time sharply:

'I tell you it's _no_ extra trouble. Valentine and I _always_
make our own beds. We don't like servants among our intimate things. We
can get three times as much help in the neighbourhood as we want. We're
liked here. The extra work you give will be met by extra help. We could
have servants if we wanted. But Valentine and I like to be alone in the
house together at night. We're very fond of each other.'

She walked to the door and then drifted back to say:

'You know, I can't get out of my head that unfortunate woman and her
husband. We must _all_ do what we can for them.' Then she started
and exclaimed: 'But, good heavens, I'm keeping you from your work...The
study's in there, through that door.'

She hurried through the other doorway and no doubt along a passage,
calling out:

'Valentine! Valentine! Go to Christopher in the study. At once...at...'
Her voice died away.



VII


Jumping down from the high step of the dog-cart the girl completely
disappeared into the silver: she had on an otter-skin toque, dark, that
should have been visible. But she was gone more completely than if she
had dropped into deep water, into snow--or through tissue paper. More
suddenly, at least! In darkness or in deep water a moving paleness would
have been visible for a second: snow or a paper hoop would have left an
opening. Here there had been nothing.

The constatation interested him. He had been watching her intently and
with concern for fear she should miss the hidden lower step, in which
case she would certainly bark her shins. But she had jumped clear of the
cart: with unreasonable pluckiness, in spite of his: 'Look out how you
get down.' He wouldn't have done it himself: he couldn't have faced
jumping down into that white solidity...

He would have asked: 'Are you all right?' but to express more concern
than the 'look out,' which he had expended already, would have detracted
from his stolidity. He was Yorkshire and stolid: she south country and
soft: emotional: given to such ejaculations as 'I hope you're not hurt,'
when the Yorkshireman only grunts. But soft because she was south
country. She was as good as a man--a south-country man. She was ready to
acknowledge the superior woodenness of the north...That was their
convention: so he did not call down: 'I hope you're all right,' though he
had desired to.

Her voice came, muffled, as if from the back of the top of his head: the
ventriloquial effect was startling:

'Make a noise from time to time. It's ghostly down here and the lamp's no
good at all. It's almost out.'

He returned to his constatations of the concealing effect of water
vapour. He enjoyed the thought of the grotesque appearance he must
present in that imbecile landscape. On his right an immense, improbably
brilliant horn of a moon, sending a trail as if down the sea, straight to
his neck: beside the moon a grotesquely huge star: in an extravagant
position above them the Plough, the only constellation that he knew; for,
though a mathematician, he despised astronomy. It was not theoretical
enough for the pure mathematician and not sufficiently practical for
daily life. He had of course calculated the movements of abstruse
heavenly bodies: but only from given figures: he had never looked for the
stars of his calculations...Above his head and all over the sky were
other stars; large and weeping with light, or as the dawn increased, so
paling that at times, you saw them; then missed them. Then the eye picked
them up again.

Opposite the moon was a smirch or two of cloud; pink below, dark purple
above; on the more pallid, lower blue of the limpid sky.

But the absurd thing was this mist!...It appeared to spread from his
neck, absolutely level, absolutely silver, to infinity on each side of
him. At great distances on his right black tree-shapes, in groups--there
were four of them--were exactly like coral islands on a silver sea. He
couldn't escape the idiotic comparison: there wasn't any other.

Yet it didn't exactly spread from his neck: when he now held his hands,
nipple-high, like pallid fish they held black reins which ran downwards
into nothingness. If he jerked the rein, the horse threw its head up. Two
pricked ears were visible in greyness: the horse being sixteen two and a
bit over, the mist might be ten foot high. Thereabouts...He wished the
girl would come back and jump out of the cart again. Being ready for it,
he would watch her disappearance more scientifically. He couldn't of
course ask her to do it again: that was irritating. The phenomenon would
have proved--or it might of course disprove--his idea of smoke screens.
The Chinese of the Ming dynasty were said to have approached and
overwhelmed their enemies under clouds of--of course, not acrid--vapour.
He had read that the Patagonians, hidden by smoke, were accustomed to
approach so near to birds or beasts as to be able to take them by hand.
The Greeks under Paleologus the...

Miss Wannop's voice said--from beneath the bottom board of the cart:

'I wish you'd make some noise. It's lonely down here, besides being
possibly dangerous. There might be clicks on each side of the road.'

If they were on the marsh there certainly would be dykes--why did they
call ditches 'dykes,' and why did she pronounce it 'dicks'?--on each side
of the road. He could think of nothing to say that wouldn't express
concern, and he couldn't do that by the rules of the game. He tried to
whistle 'John Peel'! But he was no hand at whistling. He sang:

'D'ye ken, John Peel at the break of day...' and felt like a fool. But he
kept on at it, the only tune that he knew. It was the Yorkshire Light
Infantry quick-step: the regiment of his brothers in India. He wished he
had been in the army; but his father hadn't approved of having more than
two younger sons in the army. He wondered if he would ever run with John
Peel's hounds again: he had once or twice. Or with any of the
trencher-fed foot packs of the Cleveland district, of which there had
been still several when he had been a boy. He had been used to think of
himself as being like John Peel with his coat so grey...Up through the
heather, over Wharton's place; the pack running wild; the heather
dripping; the mist rolling up...another kind of mist than this
south-country silver sheet. Silly stuff! Magical! That was the word. A
silly word...South country...In the north the old grey mists rolled
together, revealing black hillsides.

He didn't suppose he'd have the wind now: this rotten bureaucratic
life!...If he had been in the army like the two brothers, Ernest and
James, next above him...But no doubt he would not have liked the army.
Discipline!...He supposed he would have put up with the discipline: a
gentleman had to. Because _noblesse oblige_: not for fear of
consequences...But army officers seemed to him pathetic. They spluttered
and roared: to make men jump smartly: at the end of apoplectic efforts
the men jumped smartly. But there was the end of it...

Actually, this mist was not silver, or was, perhaps, no longer silver: if
you looked at it with the eye of the artist...With the exact eye! It was
smirched with bars of purple; of red; or orange; delicate reflections:
dark blue shadows from the upper sky where it formed drifts like
snow...The exact eye: exact observation: it was a man's work. The only
work for a man. Why then were artists soft: effeminate: not men at all:
whilst the army officer, who had the inexact mind of the schoolteacher,
was a manly man? Quite a manly man: until he became an old woman!

And the bureaucrat then? Growing fat and soft like himself, or dry and
stringy like Macmaster or old Ingleby? They did men's work: exact
observation: return no. 17642 with figures exact. Yet they grew
hysterical: they ran about corridors or frantically rang table bells,
asking with high voices of querulous eunuchs why form ninety thousand
and two wasn't ready. Nevertheless men liked the bureaucratic life: his
own brother, Mark, head of the family: heir to Groby...Fifteen years
older: a quiet stick: wooden: brown: always in a bowler hat, as often as
not with his racing-glasses hung around him. Attending his first-class
office when he liked: too good a man for any administration to lose by
putting on the screw...But heir to Groby: what would that stick make of
the place?...Let it, no doubt, and go on pottering from the Albany to
race meetings--where he never betted--to Whitehall, where he was said to
be indispensable...Why indispensable? Why in heaven's name! That stick
who had never hunted, never shot: couldn't tell coulter from
plough-handle and lived in his bowler hat!...A 'sound' man: the
archetype of all sound men. Never in his life had anyone shaken his head
at Mark and said:

'You're brilliant!' Brilliant! That stick! No, he was indispensable!

'Upon my soul!' Tietjens said to himself, 'that girl down there is the
only intelligent living soul I've met for years.'...A little pronounced
in manner sometimes; faulty in reasoning naturally, but quite
intelligent, with a touch of wrong accent now and then. But if she was
wanted anywhere, there she'd be! Of good stock, of course: on both
sides!...But, positively, she and Sylvia were the only two human beings
he had met for years whom he could respect: the one for sheer efficiency
in killing: the other for having the constructive desire and knowing how
to set about it. Kill or cure! The two functions of man. If you wanted
something killed you'd go to Sylvia Tietjens in the sure faith that she
would kill it; emotion: hope: ideal: kill it quick and sure. If you
wanted something kept alive you'd go to Valentine: she'd find something
to do for it...The two types of mind: remorseless enemy: sure screen:
dagger...sheath!

Perhaps the future of the world then was to women? Why not? He hadn't in
years met a man that he hadn't to talk down to--as you talk down to a
child: as he had talked down to General Campion or to Mr Waterhouse...as
he always talked down to Macmaster. All good fellows in their way...

But why was he born to be a sort of lonely buffalo: outside the herd? Not
artist: not soldier: not bureaucrat: not certainly indispensable
anywhere: apparently not even sound in the eyes of these dim-minded
specialists...An exact observer...

Hardly even that for the last six and a half hours:

   _'Die Sommer Nacht hat mirs angethan
   Das war ein schweigsame Reiten...'_

he said aloud.

How could you translate that? You couldn't translate it: no one could
translate Heine:

   'It was the summer night came over me:
   That was silent riding...'

A voice cut into his warm, drowsy thought:

'Oh, you _do_ exist. But you've spoken too late. I've run into the
horse.' He must have been speaking aloud. He had felt the horse quivering
at the end of the reins. The horse, too, was used to her by now. It had
hardly stirred...He wondered when he had left off singing 'John
Peel.'...He said:

'Come along, then: have you found anything?'

The answer came:

'Something...But you can't talk in this stuff...I'll just...'

The voice died away as if a door had shut. He waited: consciously
waiting: as an occupation! Contritely and to make a noise he rattled the
whip-stock in its bucket. The horse started and he had to check it
quickly: a damn fool he was. Of course a horse would start if you rattled
a whipstock. He called out:

'Are you all right?' The cart might have knocked her down. He had,
however, broken the convention. Her voice came from a great distance:

'Pm all right. Trying the other side...'

His last thought came back to him. He had broken their convention: he had
exhibited concern: like any other man...He said to himself:

'By God! Why not take a holiday: why not break all conventions?'

They erected themselves intangibly and irrefragably. He had not known
this young women twenty-four hours: not to speak to: and already the
convention existed between them that he must play stiff and cold, she
warm and clinging...Yet she was obviously as cool a hand as himself:
cooler no doubt, for at bottom he was certainly a sentimentalist.

A convention of the most imbecile type...Then break all conventions: with
the young woman: with himself above all. For forty-eight hours...almost
exactly forty-eight hours till he started for Dover...

   'And I must to the greenwood go,
   Alone: a banished man!'

Border ballad! Written not seven miles from Groby!

By the descending moon: it being then just after cockcrow of midsummer
night--what sentimentality I--it must be half-past-four on Sunday. He had
worked out that to catch the morning Ostend boat at Dover he must leave
the Wannops' at 5.15 on Tuesday morning, in a motor for the
junction...What incredible cross-country train connections! Five hours
for not forty miles.

He had then forty-eight and three-quarter hours! Let them be a holiday! A
holiday from himself above all: a holiday from his standards: from his
convention with himself. From clear observation: from exact thought: from
knocking over all the skittles of the exactitudes of others: from the
suppression of emotions...From all the wearinesses that made him
intolerable to himself...He felt his limbs lengthen, as if they too had
relaxed.



Well, already he had had six and a half hours of it. They had started at
10 and, like any other man, he had enjoyed the drive, though it had been
difficult to keep the beastly cart balanced, the girl had had to sit
behind with her arm round the other girl, who screamed at every oak
tree...

But he had--if he put himself to the question--mooned along under the
absurd moon that had accompanied them down the heaven: to the scent of
hay: to the sound of nightingales, hoarse by now, of course--in June he
changes his tune; of corncrakes, of bats, of a heron twice, overhead.
They had passed the blue-black shadows of corn stacks, of heavy, rounded
oaks, of hop oasts that are half church tower, half finger-post. And the
road silver grey, and the night warm...It was midsummer night that had
done that to him..._Hat mirs angethan_.

_Das war ein schweigsame Reiten..._

Not absolutely silent of course: but silentish! Coming back from the
parson's, where they had dropped the little London sewer rat, they had
talked very little...Not unpleasant people the parson's: an uncle of the
girl's: three girl cousins, not unpleasant, like the girl but without the
individuality...A remarkably good bite of beef: a truly meritorious
Stilton and a drop of whisky that proved the parson to be a man. All in
candlelight. A motherly mother of the family to take the rat up some
stairs...a great deal of laughter of girls...then a re-start an hour
later than had been scheduled...Well, it hadn't mattered: they had the
whole of eternity before them: the good horse--really it was a good
horse!--putting its shoulders into the work...

They had talked a little at first; about the safeness of the London girl
from the police now; about the brickishness of the parson in taking her
in. She certainly would never have reached Charing Cross by train...

There had fallen long periods of silences. A bat had whirled very near
their off-lamp.

'What a large bat!' she had said. _Noctilux major_...'

He said:

'Where do you get your absurd Latin nomenclature from? Isn't it
_phalaena_...' She had answered:

'From White...The _Natural History of Selborne_ is the only natural
history I ever read...'

'He's the last English writer that could write,' said Tietjens.

'He calls the downs "those majestic and amusing mountains,"'
she said. 'Where do you get your dreadful Latin pronunciation from?
Phal...i...i...na! To rhyme with Dinah!'

'It's "_sublime_ and amusing mountains," not "majestic and
amusing,"' Tietjens said. 'I got my Latin pronunciation, like all public
schoolboys of to-day, from the German.' She answered:

'You would! Father used to say it made him sick.' 'Caesar equals Kaiser,'
Tietjens said...

'Bother your Germans,' she said, 'they're no ethnologists; they're rotten
at philology!' She added: 'Father used to say so,' to take away from an
appearance of pedantry.

A silence then! She had right over her head a rug that her aunt had lent
her; a silhouette beside him, with a cocky nose turned up straight out of
the descending black mass. But for the square toque she would have had
the silhouette of a Manchester cotton-hand: the toque gave it a different
line; like the fillet of Diana. It was piquant and agreeable to ride
beside a quite silent lady in the darkness of the thick Weald that let
next to no moonlight through. The horse's hoofs went clock, clock: a good
horse. The near lamp illuminated the russet figure of a man with a sack
on his back, pressed into the hedge, a blinking lurcher beside him.

'Keeper between the blankets!' Tietjens said to himself: 'All these
south-country keepers sleep all night...And then you give them a
five-quid tip for the week-end shoot...' He determined that, as to that,
too, he would put his foot down. No more week-ends with Sylvia in the
mansions of the Chosen People...

The girl said suddenly; they had run into a clearing of the deep
underwoods:

'I'm not stuffy with you over that Latin, though you were unnecessarily
rude. And I'm not sleepy. I'm loving it all.'

He hesitated for a minute. It was a silly-girl thing to say. She didn't
usually say silly-girl things. He ought to snub her for her own sake...

He said:

'I'm rather loving it, too!' She was looking at him; her nose had
disappeared from the silhouette. He hadn't been able to help it; the moon
had been just above her head; unknown stars all round her; the night was
warm. Besides, a really manly man may condescend at times! He rather owes
it to himself...

She said:

'That was nice of you! You might have hinted that the rotten drive was
taking you away from your so important work...

'Oh, I can think as I drive,' he said. She said:

'Oh!' and then: 'The reason why I'm unconcerned over your rudeness
about my Latin is that I know I'm a much better Latinist than you.
You can't quote a few lines of Ovid without sprinkling howlers in...It's
_vastum_, not _longum_..."Terra tribus scopulis vastum
procurrit"...It's _alto_, not _coelo_..."Uvidus ex alto
desilientis."...How could Ovid have written _ex coelo_? The "c"
after the "x" sets your teeth on edge.'

Tietjens said:

'_Excogitabo_!'

'That's purely canine!' she said with contempt.

'Besides,' Tietjens said, _longum_ is much better than
_vastum_. I hate cant adjectives like "vast."...'

'It's like your modesty to correct Ovid,' she exclaimed. 'Yet you say
Ovid and Catullus were the only two Roman poets to _be_ poets.
That's because they _were_ sentimental and used adjectives like
_vastum_...What's "Sad tears mixed with kisses" but the sheerest
sentimentality?'

'It ought, you know,' Tietjens said with soft dangerousness, 'to be
"Kisses mingled with sad tears"..."Tristibus et lacrimis oscula mixta
dabis."'

'I'm hanged if ever I could,' she exclaimed explosively. 'A man like you
could die in a ditch and I'd never come near. You're desiccated even for
a man who has learned his Latin from the Germans.'

'Oh, well, I'm a mathematician,' Tietjens said. 'Classics is not my
line!'

'It _isn't_,' she answered tartly.

A long time afterwards from her black figure came the words:

'You used "mingled" instead of "mixed" to translate _mixta_. I
shouldn't think you took English at Cambridge, either! Though they're as
rotten at that as at everything else, father used to say.'

'Your father was Balliol, of course,' Tietjens said with the snuffy
contempt of a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge. But having lived
most of her life amongst Balliol people she took this as a compliment and
an olive branch.

Some time afterwards Tietjens, observing that her silhouette was still
between him and the moon, remarked:

'I don't know if you know that for some minutes we've been running nearly
due west. We ought to be going southeast by a bit south. I suppose you
_do_ know this road...'

'Every inch of it,' she said. 'I've been on it over and over again on my
motor-bicycle with mother in the side-car. The next cross road is called
Grandfather's Wantways. We've got eleven miles and a quarter to do. The
road turns back here because of the old Sussex iron pits; it goes in and
out amongst them; hundreds of them. You know the exports of the town of
Rye in the eighteenth century were hops, cannon, kettles, and chimney
backs. The railings round St Paul's are made of Sussex iron.'

'I knew that, of course,' Tietjens said: 'I come of an iron county
myself...Why didn't you let me run the girl over in the side-car, it
would have been quicker?'

'Because,' she said, 'three weeks ago I smashed up the side-car on the
milestone at Hog's Corner: doing forty.'

'It must have been a pretty tidy smash!' Tietjens said. 'Your mother
wasn't aboard?'

'No,' the girl said, 'suffragette literature. The side-car was full. It
_was_ a pretty tidy smash. Hadn't you observed I still limp a
little?'

A few minutes later she said:

'I haven't the least notion where we really are. I clean forgot to notice
the road. And I don't care...Here's a signpost though; pull in to it...

The lamps would not, however, shine on the arms of the post; they were
burning dim and showing low. A good deal of fog was in the air. Tietjens
gave the reins to the girl and got down. He took out the near light and,
going back a yard or two to the signpost, examined its bewildering
ghostlinesses...

The girl gave a little squeak that went to his backbone; the hoofs
clattered unusually; the cart went on. Tietjens went after it; it was
astonishing; it had completely disappeared. Then he ran into it: ghostly,
reddish and befogged. It must have got much thicker suddenly. The fog
swirled all round the near lamp as he replaced it in its socket.

Did you do that on purpose?' he asked the girl. 'Or can't you hold a
horse?'

'I can't drive a horse,' the girl said; 'I'm afraid of them. I can't
drive a motor-bike either. I made that up because I _knew_ you'd say
you'd rather have taken Gertie over in the side-car than driven with me.'

'Then do you mind,' Tietjens said, 'telling me if you know this road at
all?'

'Not a bit!' she answered cheerfully. 'I never drove over it in my life.
I looked it up on the map before we started because I'm sick to death of
the road we went by. There's a one-horse bus from Rye to Tenterden, and
I've walked from Tenterden to my uncle's over and over again...'

'We shall probably be out all night then,' Tietjens said. 'Do you mind?
The horse may be tired...

She said:

'Oh, the poor horse!...I _meant_ us to be out all night...But the
poor horse...What a brute I was not to think of it.'

'We're thirteen miles from a place called Brede; eleven and a quarter
from a place whose name I couldn't read; six and three-quarters from
somewhere called something like Uddlemere Tietjens said. 'This is the
road to Uddlemere.'

'Oh, that was Grandfather's Wantways all right,' she declared. 'I know it
well. It's called "Grandfather's" because an old gentleman used to sit
there called Gran'fer Finn. Every Tenterden market day he used to sell
fleed cakes from a basket to the carts that went by. Tenterden market was
abolished in 1845--the effect of the repeal of the Corn Laws, you know.
As a Tory you ought to be interested in that.'

Tietjens said patiently: He could sympathize with her mood; she had now a
heavy weight off her chest; and, if long acquaintance with his wife had
not made him able to put up with feminine vagaries, nothing ever would.

'Would you mind,' he said then, 'telling me...

'If,' she interrupted, 'that was really Gran'fer's Want-ways:
midland English. "Vent" equals four crossroads: high French
_carrefour_...Or, perhaps, that isn't the right word. But it's
the way your mind works...'

'You have, of course, often walked from your uncle's to Gran'fer's
Wantways,' Tietjens said, 'with your cousins, taking brandy to the
invalid in the old toll-gate house. That's how you know the story of
Grandfer. You said you had never driven it; but you have walked it.
That's the way your mind works, isn't it?'

She said: '_Oh_!'

'Then,' Tietjens went on, 'would you mind telling me--for the sake of the
poor horse--whether Uddlemere is or isn't on our road home. I take it you
don't know just this stretch of road, but you know whether it is the
right road.'

'The touch of pathos,' the girl said, 'is a wrong note. It's you who're
in mental trouble about the road. The horse isn't...

Tietjens let the cart go on another fifty yards; then he said:

'It _is_ the right road. The Uddlemere turning _was_ the right
one. You wouldn't let the horse go another five steps if it wasn't.
You're as soppy about horses as as I am.'

'There's at least that bond of sympathy between us,' she said drily.
'Gran'fer's Wantways is six and three-quarter miles from Udimore; Udimore
is exactly five from us; total, eleven and three-quarters; twelve and a
quarter if you add half a mile for Udimore itself. The name is Udimore,
not Uddlemere. Local place-name enthusiasts derive this from "O'er the
mere." Absurd! Legend as follows: Church builders desiring to put church
with relic of St Rumwold in wrong place, voice wailed: "O'er the mere."
Obviously absurd!...Putrid! "_O'er the_" by Grimm's law impossible
as "_Udi_"; "_mere_" not a middle low German word at all...'

'Why,' Tietjens said, 'are you giving me all this information?'

'Because,' the girl said, 'it's the way your mind works...It picks up
useless facts as silver after you've polished it picks up sulphur vapour;
and tarnishes! It arranges the useless facts in obsolescent patterns and
makes Toryism out of them...I've never met a Cambridge Tory man before. I
thought they were all in museums, and you work them up again out of
bones. That's what father used to say; he was an Oxford Disraelian
Conservative Imperialist...'

'I know, of course,' Tietjens said.

'Of course you know,' the girl said. 'You know everything...And you've
worked everything into absurd principles. You think father was unsound
because he tried to apply tendencies to life. _You_ want to be a
Nenglish country gentleman and spin principles out of the newspapers and
the gossip of horse-fairs. And let the country go to hell, you'll never
stir a finger except to say I told you so.'

She touched him suddenly on the arm:

'_Don't_ mind me!' she said. 'It's reaction. I'm so happy. I'm so
happy.'

He said:

'That's all right! That's all right!' But for a minute or two it wasn't
really. All feminine claws, he said to himself, are sheathed in velvet;
but they can hurt a good deal if they touch you on the sore places of the
defects of your qualities--even merely with the velvet. He added: 'Your
mother works you very hard.'

She exclaimed:

'How you _understand_. You're amazing: for a man who tries to be a
sea-anemone!' She said: 'Yes, this is the first holiday I've had for four
solid months; six hours a day typing; four hours a day work for the
movement; three, housework and gardening; three, mother reading out her
day's work for slips of the pen...And on the top of it the raid and the
anxiety...Dreadful anxiety, you know. Suppose mother _had_ gone to
prison...Oh, I'd have gone mad...Weekdays and Sundays...' She stopped:
'I'm apologizing, really,' she went on. 'Of course I ought not to have
talked to you like that. You a great Panjandrum; saving the country with
your statistics and It _did_ make you a rather awful figure, you
know...and the relief to find you're...oh, a man like oneself with feet
of clay...I'd dreaded this drive...I'd have dreaded it dreadfully if I
hadn't been in such a dread about Gertie and the police. And if I hadn't
let off steam I should have had to jump out and run beside the cart...I
could still...'

'You couldn't,' Tietjens said. 'You couldn't see the cart.'

They had just run into a bank of solid fog that seemed to encounter them
with a soft, ubiquitous blow. It was blinding; it was deadening to
sounds; it was in a sense mournful; but it was happy, too, in its
romantic unusualness. They couldn't see the gleam of the lamps; they
could hardly hear the step of the horse; the horse had fallen at once to
a walk. They agreed that neither of them could be responsible for losing
the way; in the circumstances that was impossible. Fortunately the horse
would take them somewhere; it had belonged to a local higgler: a man that
used the roads buying poultry for re-sale...They agreed that they had no
responsibilities; and after that went on for unmeasured hours in silence;
the mist growing, but very, very gradually, more luminous...Once or
twice, at a rise in the road, they saw again the stars and the moon, but
mistily. On the fourth occasion they had emerged into the silver lake;
like mermen rising to the surface of a tropical sea...

Tietjens had said:

'You'd better get down and take the lamp. See if you can find a
milestone; I'd get down myself, but you might not be able to hold the
horse...' She had plunged in...

And he had sat, feeling, he didn't know why, like a Guy Fawkes; up in the
light, thinking by no means disagreeable thoughts--intent, like Miss
Wannop herself, on a complete holiday of forty-eight hours; till Tuesday
morning! He had to look forward to a long and luxurious day of figures; a
rest after dinner; half a night more of figures; a Monday devoted to a
horse-deal in the market-town where he happened to know the horse-dealer.
The horse-dealer, indeed, was known to every hunting man in England! A
luxurious, long argument in the atmosphere of stable-hartshorn and slow
wranglings couched in ostler's epigrams. You couldn't have a better day;
the beer in the pub probably good, too. Or if not that, the claret...The
claret in south-country inns was often quite good; there was no sale for
it so it got well kept...

On Tuesday it would close in again, beginning with the meeting of his
wife's maid at Dover...

He was to have, above all, a holiday from himself and to take it like
other men, free of his conventions, his strait waistcoatings...

The girl said:

'I'm coming up now! I've found out something...' He watched intently the
place where she must appear; it would give him pointers about the
impenetrability of mist to the eye.

Her otter-skin cap had beads of dew; beads of dew were on her hair
beneath: she scrambled up, a little awkwardly: her eyes sparkled with
fun: panting a little: her cheeks bright. Her hair was darkened by the
wetness of the mist, but she appeared golden in the sudden moonlight.

Before she was quite up, Tietjens almost kissed her. Almost. An all but
irresistible impulse! He exclaimed:

'Steady, the Buffs!' in his surprise.

She said:

'Well, you might as well have given me a hand. I found,' she went on, 'a
stone that had I.R.D.C. on it, and there the lamp went out. We're not on
the marsh because we are between quick hedges. That's all I have
found...But I've worked out what makes me so tart with you...

He couldn't believe she could be so absolutely calm: the after-wash of
that impulse had been so strong in him that it was as if he had tried to
catch her to him and had been foiled by her...She ought to be indignant,
amused, even pleased...She ought to show some emotion...

She said:

'It was your silencing me with that absurd non-sequitur about the Pimlico
clothing factory. It was an insult to my intelligence.'

'You recognized that it was a fallacy!' Tietjens said. He was looking
hard at her. He didn't know what had happened to him. She took a long
look at him, cool, but with immense eyes. It was as if for a moment
destiny, which usually let him creep past somehow, had looked at him.
'Can't,' he argued with destiny, 'a man want to kiss a schoolgirl in a
scuffle...' His own voice, a caricature of his own voice, seemed to come
to him: 'Gentlemen don't...' He exclaimed:

'Don't gentlemen?...' and then stopped because he realized that he had
spoken aloud.

She said:

'Oh, gentlemen do!' she said, 'use fallacies to glide over tight places
in arguments. And they browbeat schoolgirls with them. It's that, that
underneath, has been exasperating me with you. You regarded me at that
date--three-quarters of a day ago--as a schoolgirl.'

Tietjens said:

'I don't now!' He added: 'Heaven knows, I don't now!'

She said: 'No, you don't now!'

He said:

'It didn't need your putting up all that blue-stocking erudition to
convince me...'

'Blue-stocking!' she exclaimed contemptuously. 'There's nothing of the
blue-stocking about me. I know Latin because father spoke it with us. It
Was your pompous blue socks I was pulling.'

Suddenly she began to laugh. Tietjens was feeling sick, physically sick.
She went on laughing. He stuttered:

'What is it?'

The sun!' she said, pointing. Above the silver horizon was the sun; not a
red sun: shining, burnished.

'I don't see...' Tietjens said.

'What there is to laugh at?' she asked. 'It's the day!...The longest
day's begun...and to-morrow's as long...The summer solstice, you
know...After to-morrow the days shorten towards winter. But to-morrow's
as long...I'm so glad...'

'That we've got through the night?...Tietjens asked.

She looked at him for a long time. 'You're not so dreadfully ugly,
really,' she said.

Tietjens said:

'What's that church?'

Rising out of the mist on a fantastically green knoll, a quarter of a
mile away, was an unnoticeable place of worship: an oak shingle tower
roof that shone grey like lead: an impossibly bright weathercock,
brighter than the sun. Dark elms all round it, holding wetnesses of mist.
'Icklesham!' she cried softly. 'Oh, we're nearly home. Just above
Mountby...That's the Mountby drive...' Trees existed, black and hoary
with the dripping mist. Trees in the hedgerow and the avenue that led to
Mountby: it made a right-angle just before coming into the road and the
road went away at right-angles across the gate. 'You'll have to pull to
the left before you reach the avenue,' the girl said. 'Or as like as not
the horse will walk right up to the house. The higgler who had him used
to buy Lady Claudine's eggs...'

Tietjens exclaimed barbarously:

'Damn Mountby. I wish we'd never come near it,' and he whipped the horse
into a sudden trot. The hoofs sounded suddenly loud. She placed her hand
on his gloved driving hand. Had it been his flesh she wouldn't have done
it.

She said:

'My dear, it couldn't have lasted for ever...But you're a good man. And
very clever...You will get through...Not ten yards ahead Tietjens saw a
tea-tray, the underneath of a black-lacquered tea-tray, gliding towards
them: mathematically straight, just rising from the mist. He shouted:
mad: the blood in his head. His shout was drowned by the scream of the
horse: he had swung it to the left. The cart turned up: the horse emerged
from the mist: head and shoulders: pawing. A stone sea-horse from the
fountain of Versailles! Exactly like that! Hanging in air for an
eternity: the girl looking at it, leaning slightly forward.

The horse didn't come over backwards: he had loosened the reins. It
wasn't there any more. The damndest thing that _could_ happen! He
had known it would happen. He said:

'We're all right now!' There was a crash and scraping: like twenty
tea-trays: a prolonged sound. They must be scraping along the mudguard of
the invisible car. He had the pressure of the horse's mouth: the horse
was away: going hell for leather. He increased the pressure. The girl
said:

'I know I'm all right with you.'

They were suddenly in bright sunlight: cart: horse: commonplace
hedgerows. They were going uphill: a steep brae. He wasn't certain she
hadn't said: 'Dear!' or 'My dear!' Was it possible after so short...?
But it had been a long night. He was, no doubt, saving her life, too. He
increased his pressure on the horse's mouth gently: up to all his twelve
stone: all his strength. The hill told, too. Steep, white road between
shaven grass banks!

Stop, damn you! Poor beast...The girl fell out of the cart. No! jumped
clear! Out to the animal's head. It threw its head up. Nearly off her
feet: she was holding the bit...She couldn't! Tender mouth...afraid of
horses...He said:

'Horse cut!' Her face like a little white blancmange!

'Come quick,' she said.

'I must hold a minute,' he said, 'might go off if I let go to get down.
Badly cut?'

'Blood running down solid! Like an apron,' she said.

He was at last at her side. It was true. But not so much like an apron.
More like a red, varnished stocking. He said: 'You've a white petticoat
on. Get over the hedge; jump it, and take it off...'

'Tear it into strips?' she asked. 'Yes!'

He called to her; she was suspended halfway up the bank:

'Tear one half off first. The rest into strips.'

She said: 'All right!' She didn't go over the quickset as neatly as he
had expected. No take off. But she was over...

The horse, trembling, was looking down, its nostrils distended, at the
blood pooling from its near foot. The cut was just on the shoulder. He
put his left arm right over the horse's eyes. The horse stood it, almost
with a sigh of relief...A wonderful magnetism with horses. Perhaps with
women, too? God knew. He was almost certain she had said 'Dear.'

She said: 'Here.' He caught a round ball of whitish stuff. He undid it.
Thank God: what sense A long, strong, white band...What the devil was the
hissing...A small, closed car with crumpled mudguards: noiseless nearly:
gleaming black...God curse it: it passed them: stopped ten yards
down...the horse rearing back: mad Clean mad...something like a scarlet
and white cockatoo, fluttering out of the small car door...a general. In
full tog. White feathers! Ninety medals! Scarlet coat! Black trousers
with red stripes. Spurs, too, by God!

Tietjens said:

'God damn you, you bloody swine. Go away!'

The apparition, past the horse's blinkers, said:

'I can, at least, hold the horse for you. I went past to get you out of
Claudine's sight.'

'Damn good-natured of you,' Tietjens said as rudely as he could. 'You'll
have to pay for the horse.'

The General exclaimed:

'Damn it all! Why should I? You were driving your beastly camel right
into my drive.'

'You never sounded your horn,' Tietjens said.

'I was on private ground,' the General shouted. 'Besides I did.' An
enraged, scarlet scarecrow, very thin, he was holding the horse's bridle.
Tietjens was extending the half petticoat, with a measuring eye, before
the horse's chest. The General said:

'Look here! I've got to take the escort for the Royal party at St
Peter-in-Manor, Dover. They're laying the Buffs' colours on the altar or
something.'

'You never sounded your horn,' Tietjens said. 'Why didn't you bring your
chauffeur? He's a capable man...You talk very big about the widow and
child. But when it comes to robbing them of fifty quid by slaughtering
their horse...'

The General said:

'What the devil were you doing coming into our drive at five in the
morning?'

Tietjens, who had applied the half petticoat to the horse's chest,
exclaimed:

'Pick up that thing and give it to me.' A thin roll of linen was at his
feet: it had rolled down from the hedge. 'Can I leave the horse?' the
General asked.

'Of course you can,' Tietjens said. 'If I can't quiet a horse better than
you can run a car...

He bound the new linen strips over the petticoat: the horse dropped its
head, smelling his hand. The General, behind Tietjens, stood back on his
heels, grasping his gold-mounted sword. Tietjens went on twisting and
twisting the bandage.

'Look here,' the General suddenly bent forward to whisper into Tietjens'
ear, 'what am I to tell Claudine? I believe she saw the girl.'

'Oh, tell her we came to ask what time you cast off your beastly otter
hounds,' Tietjens said; 'that's a matutinal job...

The General's voice had a really pathetic intonation:

'On a Sunday!' he exclaimed. Then in a tone of relief he added: 'I shall
tell her you were going to early communion in Duchemin's church at Pett.'

'If you want to add blasphemy to horse-slaughtering as a profession, do,'
Tietjens said. 'But you'll have to pay for the horse.'

'I'm damned if I will,' the General shouted. 'I tell you you were driving
into my drive.'

'Then I _shall_,' Tietjens said, 'and you know the construction
you'll put on _that_.'

He straightened his back to look at the horse.

'Go away,' he said, 'say what you like. Do what you like! But as you go
through Rye send up the horse ambulance from the vet.'s. Don't forget
that. I'm going to save this horse...'

'You know, Chris,' the General said, 'you're the most wonderful hand with
a horse...There isn't another man in England...

'I know it,' Tietjens said. 'Go away. And send up that
ambulance...There's your sister getting out of your car...'

The General began:

'I've an awful lot to get explained...' But, at a thin scream of:
'General! General!' he pressed on his sword hilt to keep it from between
his long, black, scarlet-striped legs, and running to the car pushed back
into its door a befeathered, black bolster. He waved his hand to
Tietjens:

'I'll send the ambulance,' he called.

The horse, its upper leg swathed with criss-crosses of white through
which a purple stain was slowly penetrating, stood motionless, its head
hanging down, mule-like, under the blinding sun. To ease it Tietjens
began to undo the trace. The girl hopped over the hedge and, scrambling
down, began to help him.

'Well. My reputation's gone,' she said cheerfully. 'I know what Lady
Claudine is...Why did you try to quarrel with the General?...

'Oh, you'd better,' Tietjens said wretchedly, 'have a lawsuit with him.
It'll account for...for your not going to Mountby...'

'You think of everything,' she said.

They wheeled the cart backwards off the motionless horse. Tietjens moved
it two yards forward--to get it out of sight of its own blood. Then they
sat down side by side on the slope of the bank.

'Tell me about Groby,' the girl said at last.

Tietjens began to tell her about his home...There was, in front of it, an
avenue that turned into the road at right angles. Just like the one at
Mountby.

'My great-great-grandfather made it,' Tietjens said. 'He liked privacy
and didn't want the house visible to vulgar people on the road...just
like the fellow who planned Mountby, no doubt...But it's beastly
dangerous with motors. We shall have to alter it...just at the bottom of
a dip. We can't have horses hurt...You'll see...' It came suddenly into
his head that he wasn't perhaps the father of the child who was actually
the heir to that beloved place over which generation after generation had
brooded. Ever since Dutch William! A damn Nonconformist swine!

On the bank his knees were almost level with his chin. He felt himself
slipping down.

'If I ever take you there...' he began.

'Oh, but you never will,' she said.

The child wasn't his. The heir to Groby! All his brothers were
childless...There was a deep well in the stable yard. He had meant to
teach the child how, if you dropped a pebble in, you waited to count
sixty-three. And there came up a whispering roar...But not his child!
Perhaps he hadn't even the power to beget children. His married brothers
hadn't...Clumsy sobs shook him. It was the dreadful injury to the horse
which had finished him. He felt as if the responsibility were his. The
poor beast had trusted him and he had smashed it up. Miss Wannop had her
arm over his shoulder.

'My dear!' she said, 'you won't ever take me to Groby...It's
perhaps...oh...short acquaintance; but I feel you're the splendidest...

He thought: 'It is rather short acquaintance.'

He felt a great deal of pain, over which there presided the tall,
eel-skin, blonde figure of his wife...

The girl said:

'There's a fly coming!' and removed her arm.

A fly drew up before them with a blear-eyed driver. He said General
Campion had kicked him out of bed, from beside his old woman. He wanted a
pound to take them to Mrs Wannop's, waked out of his beauty sleep and
all. The knacker's cart was following.

'You'll take Miss Wannop home at once,' Tietjens said, 'she's got her
mother's breakfast to see to...I shan't leave the horse till the
knacker's van comes.'

The fly-driver touched his age-green hat with his whip.

'Aye,' he said thickly, putting a sovereign into his waistcoat pocket.
'Always the gentleman...a merciful man is merciful also to his
beast...But I wouldn't leave my little wooden 'ut, nor miss my breakfast,
for no beast...Some do and some...do not.'

He drove off with the girl in the interior of his antique conveyance.

Tietjens remained on the slope of the bank, in the strong sunlight,
beside the drooping horse. It had done nearly forty miles and lost, at
last, a lot of blood.

Tietjens said:

'I suppose I could get the governor to pay fifty quid for it. They want
the money...'

He said:

'But it wouldn't be playing the game!'

A long time afterwards he said:

'Damn all principles!' And then:

'But one has to keep on going...Principles are like a skeleton map of a
country--you know whether you're going east or north.'

The knacker's cart lumbered round the corner.




PART TWO



I


Sylvia Tietjens rose from her end of the lunch-table and swayed along it,
carrying her plate. She still wore her hair in bandeaux and her skirts as
long as she possibly could: she didn't, she said, with her height, intend
to be taken for a girl guide. She hadn't, in complexion, in figure or in
the languor of her gestures, aged by a minute. You couldn't discover in
the skin of her face any deadness: in her eyes the shade more of fatigue
than she intended to express, but she had purposely increased her air of
scornful insolence. That was because she felt that her hold over men
increased to the measure of her coldness. Someone, she knew, had once
said of a dangerous woman, that when she entered the room every woman
kept her husband on the leash. It was Sylvia's pleasure to think that,
before she went out of that room, all the women in it realized with
mortification--that they needn't! For if coolly and distinctly she had
said on entering: 'Nothing doing!' as barmaids will to the enterprising,
she couldn't more plainly have conveyed to the other women that she had
no use for their treasured rubbish.

Once, on the edge of a cliff in Yorkshire where the moors come above the
sea, during one of the tiresome shoots that are there the fashion, a man
had bidden her observe the demeanour of the herring gulls below. They
were dashing from rock to rock on the cliff face, screaming, with none of
the dignity of gulls. Some of them even let fall the herrings that they
had caught and she saw the pieces of silver dropping into the blue
motion. The man told her to look up; high, circling and continuing for a
long time to circle; illuminated by the sunlight below, like a pale flame
against the sky was a bird. The man told her that that was some sort of
fish-eagle or hawk. Its normal habit was to chase the gulls which, in
their terror, would drop their booty of herrings, whereupon the eagle
would catch the fish before it struck the water. At the moment the eagle
was not on duty, but the gulls were just as terrified as if it had been.

Sylvia stayed for a long time watching the convolutions of the eagle. It
pleased her to see that, though nothing threatened the gulls, they yet
screamed and dropped their herrings...The whole affair reminded her of
herself in her relationship to the ordinary women of the barnyard...Not
that there was the breath of a scandal against herself; that she very
well knew, and it was her preoccupation just as turning down nice
men--the 'really nice men' of commerce--was her hobby.

She practised every kind of 'turning down' on these creatures: the really
nice ones, with the Kitchener moustaches, the seal's brown eyes, the
honest, thrilling voices, the clipped words, the straight backs and the
admirable records--as long as you didn't enquire _too_ closely.
Once, in the early days of the Great Struggle, a young man--she had
smiled at him in mistake for someone more trustable--had followed in a
taxi, hard on her motor, and flushed with wine, glory and the firm
conviction that all women in that lurid carnival had become common
property, had burst into her door from the public stairs...She had
overtopped him by the forehead and before a few minutes were up she
seemed to him to have become ten foot high with a gift of words that
scorched his backbone and the voice of a frozen marble statue: a
_chaudfroid_ effect. He had come in like a stallion, red-eyed, and
all his legs off the ground: he went down the stairs like a half-drowned
rat, with dim eyes and really looking wet, for some reason or other.

Yet she hadn't really told him more than the way one should behave to the
wives of one's brother officers then actually in the line, a point of
view that, with her intimates, she daily agreed was pure bosh. But it
must have seemed to him like the voice of his mother--when his mother had
been much younger, of course--speaking from paradise, and his conscience
had contrived the rest of his general wetness. This, however, had been
melodrama and war stuff at that: it hadn't, therefore, interested her.
She preferred to inflict deeper and more quiet pains.

She could, she flattered herself, tell the amount of _empressement_
which a man could develop about herself at the first glance--the amount
and the quality too. And from not vouchsafing a look at all, or a look of
the barest and most incurious to some poor devil who even on introduction
couldn't conceal his desires, to letting, after dinner, a measured glance
travel from the right foot of a late dinner partner, diagonally up the
ironed fold of the right trouser to the watch pocket, diagonally still,
across the shirt front, pausing at the stud and so, rather more quickly,
away over the left shoulder, while the poor fellow stood appalled, with
his dinner going wrong--from the milder note to the more pronounced she
ran the whole gamut of 'turnings down.' The poor fellows next day would
change their bootmakers, their sock merchants, their tailors, the
designers of their dress-studs and shirts: they would sigh even to change
the cut of their faces, communing seriously with their after-breakfast
mirrors. But they knew in their hearts that calamity came from the fact
that she hadn't deigned to look into their eyes...Perhaps hadn't dared
was the right word!

Sylvia, herself, would have cordially acknowledged that it might have
been. She knew that, like her intimates--all the Elizabeths, Alixs, and
Lady Moiras of the smooth-papered, be-photographed weekly journals--she
was man-mad. It was the condition, indeed, of their intimacy as of their
eligibilities for reproduction on hot-pressed paper. They went about in
bands with, as it were, a cornfield of feather boas floating above them,
though to be sure no one _wore_ feather boas; they shortened their
hairs and their skirts and flattened, as far as possible,
their chest developments, which _does_ give, oh, you know...a
_certain_...They adopted demeanours as like as possible--and yet how
unlike--to those of waitresses in tea-shops frequented by city men. And
one reads in police court reports of raids what _those_ are!
Probably they were, in action, as respectable as any body of women;
_more_ respectable, probably, than the great middle class of before
the war, and certainly spotless by comparison with their own upper
servants whose morals, merely as recorded in the divorce court
statistics--_that_ she had from Tietjens--would put to shame even
those of Welsh or lowland Scotch villages. Her mother was accustomed to
say that she was sure her butler would get to heaven, simply because the
Recording Angel, being an angel--and, as such, delicately
minded--wouldn't have the face to put down, much less read out, the least
venial of Morgan's offences...

And, sceptical as she was by nature, Sylvia Tietjens didn't really even
believe in the capacity for immoralities of her friends. She didn't
believe that any one of them was seriously what the French would call the
_maîtresse en titre_ of any particular man. Passion wasn't, at
least, their strong suit; they left that to more--or to less--august
circles. The Duke of A...and all the little A's...might be the children
of the morose and passion-stricken Duke of B...instead of the still more
morose but less passionate late Duke of A...Mr C, the Tory statesman and
late Foreign Minister, might equally be the father of all the children of
the Tory Lord Chancellor E...The Whig front benches, the gloomy and
disagreeable Russells and Cavendishes trading off these--again
French--_collages sérieux_ against the matrimonial divagations of
their own Lord F and Mr G...But those armours of heavily titled and born
front benchers were rather of august politics. The hot-pressed weekly
journals never got hold of them: the parties to them didn't, for one
thing, photograph well, being old, uglyish and terribly badly dressed.
They were matter rather for the memoirs of the indiscreet, already
written, but not to see the light for fifty years...

The affairs of her own set, female front benchers of one side or other as
they were, were more tenuous. If they ever came to heads, their affairs,
they had rather the nature of promiscuity and took place at the country
houses where bells rang at five in the morning. Sylvia had heard of such
country houses, but she did not know of any. She imagined that they might
be the baronial halls of such barons of the crown as had patronymics
ending in schen...stein...and baum. There were getting to be a good many
of these, but Sylvia did not visit them. She had in her that much of the
papist.

Certain of her more brilliant girl friends certainly made very sudden
marriages; but the averages of those were not markedly higher than in the
case of the daughters of doctors, solicitors, the clergy, the lord mayors
and common council-men. They were the product usually of the more
informal type of dance, of inexperience and champagne--of champagne
of unaccustomed strength or of champagne taken in unusual
circumstances--fasting as often as not. They were, these hasty marriages,
hardly ever the result of either passion or temperamental lewdness.

In her own case--years ago now--she had certainly been taken advantage
of, after champagne, by a married man called Drake. A bit of a brute she
acknowledged him now to be. But after the event passion had developed:
intense on her side and quite intense enough on his. When, in a scare
that had been as much her mother's as her own, she had led Tietjens on
and married him in Paris to be out of the way--though it was fortunate
that the English Catholic church in the Avenue Hoche had been the scene
of her mother's marriage also, thus establishing a precedent and an
ostensible reason!--there had been dreadful scenes right up to the very
night of the marriage. She had hardly to close her eyes in order to see
the Paris hotel bedroom, the distorted face of Drake, who was mad with
grief and jealousy, against a background of white things, flowers and the
like, sent in overnight for the wedding. She knew that she had been very
near death. She had wanted death.

And even now she had only to see the name of Drake in the paper--her
mother's influence with the pompous front bencher of the Upper House, her
cousin, had put Drake in the way of colonial promotions that were
recorded in gazettes--nay, she had only involuntarily to think of that
night and she would stop dead, speaking or walking, drive her nails into
her palms and groan slightly...She had to invent a chronic stitch in her
heart to account for this groan, which ended in a mumble and seemed to
herself to degrade her...

The miserable memory would come, ghost-like, at any time, anywhere. She
would see Drake's face, dark against the white things; she would feel the
thin night-gown ripping off her shoulder; but most of all she would seem,
in darkness that excluded the light of any room in which she might be, to
be transfused by the mental agony that there she had felt: the longing
for the brute who had mangled her: the dreadful pain of the mind. The odd
thing was that the sight of Drake himself, whom she had seen several
times since the outbreak of the war, left her completely without emotion.
She had no aversion, but no longing for him...She had, nevertheless,
longing, but she knew it was longing merely to experience again that
dreadful feeling. And not with Drake.

Her 'turnings down' then of the really nice men, if it were a sport, was
a sport not without a spice of danger. She imagined that, after a
success, she must feel much of the exhilaration that men told her they
felt after bringing off a clean right and left, and no doubt she felt
some of the emotions that the same young men felt when they were out
shooting with beginners. Her personal chastity she now cherished much as
she cherished her personal cleanliness and persevered in her Swedish
exercises after her baths before an open window, her rides afterwards,
and her long nights of dancing which she would pursue in any room that
was decently ventilated. Indeed, the two sides of life were, in her mind,
intimately connected: she kept herself attractive by her skilfully
selected exercises and cleanlinesses: and the same fatigues, healthful as
they were, kept her in the mood for chastity of life. She had done so
ever since her return to her husband; and this not because of any
attachment to her husband or to virtue as such, as because she had made
the pact with herself out of caprice and meant to keep it. She _had_
to have men at her feet: that was, as it were, the price of her--purely
social--daily bread: as it was the price of the daily bread of her
intimates. She was, and had been for many years, absolutely continent.
And so very likely were, and had been, all her Moiras, and Megs, and Lady
Marjories--but she was perfectly aware that they had to have, above their
assemblies as it were, a light vapour of the airs and habits of the
brothel. The public demanded that...a light vapour, like the slight
traces of steam that she had seen, glutinously adhering to the top of the
water in the crocodile-houses of the Zoo.

It was, indeed, the price; and she was aware that she had been lucky. Not
many of the hastily married young women of her set really kept their
heads above water in her set: for a season you would read that Lady
Marjorie and Captain Hunt, after her presentation at Court on the
occasion of her marriage, were to be seen at Roehampton, at Goodwood and
the like: photographs of the young couple, striding along with the
palings of the Row behind them, would appear for a month or so. Then the
records of their fashionable doings would transfer themselves to the
lists of the attendants and attachés of distant vice-regal courts in
tropics bad for the complexion. 'And then no more of he and she,' as
Sylvia put it.

In her case it hadn't been so bad, but it had been nearish. She had had
the advantage of being an only daughter of a very rich woman: her husband
wasn't just any Captain Hunt to stick on a vice-regal staff. He was in a
first-class office and when Angélique wrote notes on the young
_ménage_ she could--Angélique's ideas of these things being
hazy--always refer to the husband as the futurc Lord Chancellor or
Ambassador to Vienna. And their little, frightfully expensive
establishment--to which her mother, who had lived with them, had very
handsomely contributed--had floated them over the first dangerous two
years. They had entertained like mad, and two much-canvassed scandals had
had their beginnings in Sylvia's small drawing-room. She had been quite
established when she had gone off with Perowne...

And coming back had not been so difficult. She had expected it would be,
but it hadn't. Tietjens had stipulated for large rooms in Gray's Inn.
That hadn't seemed to her to be reasonable; but she imagined that he
wanted to be near his friend and, though she had no gratitude to Tietjens
for taking her back and nothing but repulsion from the idea of living in
his house, as they were making a bargain, she owed it to herself to be
fair. She had never swindled a railway company, brought dutiable scent
past a customhouse or represented to a second-hand dealer that her
clothes were less worn than they were, though with her prestige she could
actually have done this. It was fair that Tietjens should live where he
wished, and live there they did, their very tall windows looking straight
into those of Macmaster across the Georgian quadrangle.

They had two floors of a great building, and that gave them a great deal
of space; the breakfast-room, in which during the war they also lunched,
was an immense room, completely lined with books that were nearly all
calf-backed, with an immense mirror over an immense, carved, yellow and
white marble mantelpiece, and three windows that, in their great height,
with the spideriness of their divisions and their odd, bulging
glass--some of the panes were faintly violet in age--gave to the room an
eighteenth-century distinction. It suited, she admitted, Tietjens, who
was an eighteenth-century figure of the Dr Johnson type--the only
eighteenth-century type of which she knew, except for that of the beau
something who wore white satin and ruffles, went to Bath and must have
been indescribably tiresome.

Above, she had a great white drawing-room, with fixings that she knew
were eighteenth century and to be respected. For Tietjens--again she
admitted--had a marvellous gift for old furniture: he despised it as
such, but he knew it down to the ground. Once when her friend Lady Moira
had been deploring the expense of having her new, little house furnished
from top to toe under the advice of Sir John Robertson, the specialist
(the Moiras had sold Arlington Street lock, stock, and barrel to some
American), Tietjens, who had come in to tea and had been listening
without speaking, had said, with the soft good nature, rather sentimental
in tone, that once in a blue moon he would bestow on her prettiest
friends:

'You had better let me do it for you.'

Taking a look round Sylvia's great drawing-room, with the white panels,
the Chinese lacquer screens, the red lacquer and ormolu cabinets and the
immense blue and pink carpet (and Sylvia knew that if only for the three
panels by a fellow called Fragonard, bought just before Fragonards had
been boomed by the late King, her drawing-room was something remarkable),
Lady Moira had said to Tietjens, rather flutteringly and almost with the
voice with which she began one of her affairs:

'Oh, if only you _would_.'

He had done it, and he had done it for a quarter of the estimate of Sir
John Robertson. He had done it without effort, as if with a roll or two
of his elephantine shoulders, for he seemed to know what was in every
dealer's and auctioneer's catalogue by looking at the green halfpenny
stamp on the wrapper. And, still more astonishingly, he had made love to
Lady Moira--they had stopped twice with the Moiras in Gloucestershire and
the Moiras had three times week-ended with Mrs Satterthwaite as the
Tietjens ens' _invités_...Tietjens had made love to Lady Moira quite
prettily and sufficiently to tide Moira over until she was ready to begin
her affair with Sir William Heathly.

For the matter of that, Sir John Robertson, the specialist in old
furniture, challenged by Lady Moira to pick holes in her beautiful house,
had gone there, poked his large spectacles against cabinets, smelt the
varnish of table tops and bitten the backs of chairs in his ancient and
short-sighted way, and had then told Lady Moira that Tietjens had bought
her nothing that wasn't worth a bit more than he had given for it. This
increased their respect for the old fellow: it explained his several
millions. For, if the old fellow proposed to make out of a friend like
Moira a profit of 300 per cent--limiting it to that out of sheer
affection for a pretty woman--what wouldn't he make out of a natural--and
national--enemy like a United States senator!

And the old man took a great fancy to Tietjens himself--which Tietjens,
to Sylvia's bewilderment, did not resent. The old man would come in to
tea and, if Tietjens were present, would stay for hours talking about old
furniture. Tietjens would listen without talking. Sir John would
expatiate over and over again about this to Mrs Tietjens. It was
extraordinary. Tietjens went purely by instinct: by taking a glance at a
thing and chancing its price. According to Sir John one of the most
remarkable feats of the furniture trade had been Tietjens' purchase of
the Hemingway bureau for Lady Moira. Tietjens, in his dislikeful way, had
bought this at a cottage sale for £3 10s., and had told Lady Moira it was
the best piece she would ever possess: Lady Moira had gone to the sale
with him. Other dealers present had hardly looked at it: Tietjens
certainly hadn't opened it. But at Lady Moira's, poking his spectacles
into the upper part of the glazed piece, Sir John had put his nose
straight on the little bit of inserted yellow wood by a hinge, bearing
signature, name and date: Jno. Hemingway, Bath 1784.' Sylvia remembered
them because Sir John told her so often. It was a lost 'piece' that the
furnishing world had been after for many years.

For that exploit the old man seemed to love Tietjens. That he loved
Sylvia herself, she was quite aware. He fluttered round her tremulously,
gave fantastic entertainments in her honour and was the only man she had
never turned down. He had a harem, so it was said, in an enormous house
at Brighton or somewhere. But it was another sort of love he bestowed on
Tietjens: the rather pathetic love that the aged bestow on their possible
successors in office.

Once Sir John came in to tea and quite formally and with a sort of
portentousness announced that this was his seventy-first birthday, and
that he was a broken man. He seriously proposed that Tietjens should come
into partnership with him with the reversion of the business--not, of
course, of his private fortune. Tietjens had listened amiably, asking a
detail or two of Sir John's proposed arrangement. Then he had said, with
the rather caressing voice that he now and then bestowed on a pretty
woman, that he didn't think it would do. There would be too much beastly
money about it. As a career it would be more congenial to him than his
office...but there was too much beastly money about it.

Once more, a little to Sylvia's surprise--but men are queer
creatures!--Sir John seemed to see this objection as quite reasonable,
though he heard it with regret and combated it feebly. He went away with
a relieved jauntiness; for, if he couldn't have Tietjens he couldn't, and
he invited Sylvia to dine with him somewhere where they were going to
have something fabulous and very nasty at about two guineas the ounce on
the menu. Something like that! And during dinner Sir John had entertained
her by singing the praises of her husband. He said that Tietjens was much
too great a gentleman to be wasted on the old-furniture trade: that was
why he hadn't persisted. But he sent by Sylvia a message to the effect
that if ever Tietjens _did_ come to be in want of money...

Occasionally Sylvia was worried to know why people--as they sometimes
did--told her that her husband had great gifts. To her he was merely
unaccountable. His actions and opinions seemed simply the products of
caprice--like her own; and, since she knew that most of her own
manifestations were a matter of contrariety, she abandoned the habit of
thinking much about him.

But gradually and dimly she began to see that Tietjens had, at least, a
consistency of character and a rather unusual knowledge of life. This
came to her when she had to acknowledge that their move to the Inn of
Court had been a social success and had suited herself. When they had
discussed the change at Lobscheid--or rather when Sylvia had
unconditionally given in to every stipulation of Tietjens!--he had
predicted almost exactly what would happen, though it had been the affair
of her mother's cousin's opera box that had most impressed her. He had
told her, at Lobscheid, that he had no intention of interfering with her
social level, and she was convinced that he was not going to. He had
thought about it a good deal.

She hadn't much listened to him. She had thought, firstly, that he was a
fool and, secondly, that he _did_ mean to hurt her. And she
acknowledged that he had a certain right. If, after she had been off with
another man, she asked this one still to extend to her the honour of his
name and shelter of his roof, she had no right to object to his terms.
Her only decent revenge on him was to live afterwards with such
equanimity as to let him know the mortification of failure.

But at Lobscheid he had talked a lot of nonsense, as it had seemed to
her: a mixture of prophecy and politics. The Chancellor of the Exchequer
of that date had been putting pressure on the great landlords; the great
landlords had been replying by cutting down their establishments and
closing their town houses--not to any great extent, but enough to make a
very effective gesture of it, and so as to raise a considerable clamour
from footmen and milliners. The Tietjens--both of them--were of the great
land-owning class: they could adopt that gesture of shutting up their
Mayfair house and going to live in a wilderness. All the more if they
made their wilderness a thoroughly comfortable affair!

He had counselled her to present this aspect of the matter to her
mother's cousin, the morosely portentous Rugeley. Rugely was a great
landowner--almost the greatest of all; and he was a landowner obsessed
with a sense of his duties both to his dependants and his even remote
relatives. Sylvia had only, Tietjens said, to go to the Duke and tell him
that the Chancellor's exactions had forced them to this move, but that
they had done it partly as a protest, and the Duke would accept it almost
as a personal tribute to himself. _He_ couldn't, even as a protest,
be expected to shut up Mexborough or reduce his expenses. But, if his
humbler relatives spiritedly did, he would almost certainly make it up to
them. And Rugeley's favours were on the portentous scale of everything
about him. 'I shouldn't wonder,' Tietjens had said, 'if he didn't lend
you the Rugeley box to entertain in.'

And that is exactly what had happened.

The Duke--who must have kept a register of his remotest cousins--had,
shortly before their return to London, heard that this young couple had
parted with every prospect of a large and disagreeable scandal. He had
approached Mrs Satterthwaite--for whom he had a gloomy affection--and he
had been pleased to hear that the rumour was a gross libel. So that, when
the young couple actually turned up again--from Russia--Rugeley, who
perceived that they were not only together, but to all appearances quite
united, was determined not only to make it up to them, but to show, in
order to abash their libellers, as signal a mark of his favour as he
could without inconvenience to himself. He, therefore, twice--being a
widower--invited Mrs Satterthwaite to entertain for him, Sylvia to invite
the guests, and then had Mrs Tietjens' name placed on the roll of those
who could have the Rugeley box at the opera, on application at the
Rugeley estate office, when it wasn't wanted. This was a very great
privilege and Sylvia had known how to make the most of it.

On the other hand, on the occasion of their conversation at Lobscheid,
Tietjens had prophesied what at the time seemed to her a lot of tosh. It
had been two or three years before, but Tietjens had said that about the
time grouse-shooting began, in 1914, a European conflagration would take
place which would shut up half the houses in Mayfair and beggar their
inhabitants. He had patiently supported his prophecy with financial
statistics as to the approaching bankruptcy of various European powers
and the growingly acquisitive skill and rapacity of the inhabitants of
Great Britain. She had listened to that with some attention: it had
seemed to her rather like the usual nonsense talked in country
houses--where, irritatingly, he never talked. But she liked to be able to
have a picturesque fact or two with which to support herself when she
too, to hold attention, wanted to issue moving statements as to
revolutions, anarchies and strife in the offing. And she had noticed that
when she magpied Tietjens' conversations more serious men in responsible
positions were apt to argue with her and to pay her more attention than
before...

And now, walking along the table with her plate in her hand, she could
not but acknowledge that, triumphantly--and very comfortably for
her!--Tietjens had been right! In the third year of the war it was very
convenient to have a dwelling, cheap, comfortable, almost august and so
easy to work that you could have, at a pinch, run it with one maid,
though the faithful Hullo Central had not let it come to that yet...

Being near Tietjens she lifted her plate, which contained two cold
cutlets in aspic and several leaves of salad: she wavered a little to one
side and, with a circular motion of her hand, let the whole contents fly
at Tietjens' head. She placed the plate on the table and drifted slowly
towards the enormous mirror over the fireplace.

'I'm bored,' she said. 'Bored! Bored!'

Tietjens had moved slightly as she had thrown: the cutlets and most of
the salad leaves had gone over his shoulder. But one, couched, very green
leaf was on his shoulder-strap, and the oil and vinegar from the
plate--Sylvia _knew_ that she took too much of all condiments--had
splashed from the revers of his tunic to his green staff-badges. She was
glad that she had hit him as much as that: it meant that her marksmanship
had not been quite rotten. She was glad, too, that she had missed him.
She was also supremely indifferent. It had occurred to her to do it and
she had done it. Of that she was glad!

She looked at herself for some time in the mirror of bluish depths. She
pressed her immense bandeaux with both hands on to her ears. She was all
right: high-featured: alabaster complexion--but that was mostly the
mirror's doing--beautiful, long, cool hands--what man's forehead wouldn't
long for them?...And that hair! What man wouldn't think of it unloosed on
white shoulders!...Well, Tietjens wouldn't! Or, perhaps, he did...she
hoped he did, curse him, for he never saw that sight. Obviously
sometimes, at night, with a little whisky taken he must want to!

She rang the bell and bade Hullo Central sweep the plateful from the
carpet; Hullo Central, tall and dark, looking with wide-open eyes,
motionless at nothing.

Sylvia went along the bookshelves, pausing over a book back, '_Vitare
Hominum Notiss_...' in gilt, irregular capitals pressed deep into the
old leather. At the first long window she supported herself by the
blind-cord. She looked out and back into the room.

'There's that veiled woman!' she said, 'going into eleven...It's two
o'clock, of course...'

She looked at her husband's back hard, the clumsy khaki back that was
getting round-shouldered now. Hard! She wasn't going to miss a motion or
a stiffening.

'I've found out who it is!' she said, 'and who she goes to. I got it out
of the porter.' She waited. Then she added:

It's the woman you travelled down from Bishop Auckland with. On the day
war was declared.'

Tietjens turned solidly round in his chair. She knew he would do that out
of stiff politeness, so it meant nothing.

His face was whitish in the pale light, but it was always whitish since
he had come back from France and passed his day in a tin hut among dust
heaps. He said:

'So you saw me!' But that, too, was mere politeness.

She said:

'Of course the whole crowd of us from Claudine's saw you! It was old
Campion who said she was a Mrs...I've forgotten the name.'

Tietjens said:

'I imagined he would know her. I saw him looking in from the corridor!'

She said:

'Is she your mistress, or only Macmaster's, or the mistress of both of
you? It would be like you to have a mistress in common...She's got a mad
husband, hasn't she? A clergyman.'

Tietjens said:

'She hasn't!'

Sylvia checked suddenly in her next questions, and Tietjens, who in these
discussions never manoeuvred for position, said:

'She has been Mrs Macmaster over six months.' Sylvia said:

'She married him then the day after her husband's death.'

She drew a long breath and added:

'I don't care...She has been coming here every Friday for three years...I
tell you I shall expose her unless that little beast pays you to-morrow
the money he owes you...God knows you need it!' She said then hurriedly,
for she didn't know how Tietjens might take that proposition:

'Mrs Wannop rang up this morning to know who was...oh!...the evil genius
of the Congress of Vienna. Who, by the by, is Mrs Wannop's secretary? She
wants to see you this afternoon. About war babies!'

Tietjens said:

'Mrs Wannop hasn't got a secretary. It's her daughter who does the
ringing-up.'

'The girl,' Sylvia said, 'you were so potty about at that horrible
afternoon Macmaster gave. Has she had a war baby by you? They all say
she's your mistress.'

Tietj ens said:

'No, Miss Wannop isn't my mistress. Her mother has had a commission to
write an article about war babies. I told her yesterday there weren't any
war babies to speak of, and she's upset because she won't be able to make
a sensational article. She wants to try to make me change my mind.'

'It _was_ Miss Wannop at that beastly affair of your friend's?'
Sylvia asked. 'And I suppose the woman who received was Mrs
What's-er-name: your other mistress. An unpleasant show. I don't think
much of your taste. The one where all the horrible geniuses in London
were? There was a man like a rabbit talked to me about how to write
poetry.'

'That's no good as an identification of the party,' Tietjens said.
'Macmaster gives a party every Friday, not Saturday. He has for years.
Mrs Macmaster goes there every Friday. To act as hostess. She has for
years. Miss Wannop goes there every Friday after she has done work for
her mother. To support Mrs Macmaster...'

'She has for years!' Sylvia mocked him. 'And you go there every Friday!
to croodle over Miss Wannop. Oh, Christopher!'--she adopted a mock
pathetic voice--'I never did have much opinion of your taste...but not
_that!_ Don't let it be that. Put her back. She's too young for
you...'

'All the geniuses in London,' Tietjens continued equably, 'go to
Macmaster's every Friday. He has been trusted with the job of giving away
Royal Literary Bounty money: that's why they go. They go: that's why he
was given his C.B.'

'I should not have thought they counted,' Sylvia said. 'Of course they
count,' Tietjens said. 'They write for the Press. They can get anybody
anything...except themselves!'

'Like you!' Sylvia said; 'exactly like you! They're a lot of bribed
squits.'

'Oh, no,' Tietjens said. 'It isn't done obviously or discreditably. Don't
believe that Macmaster distributes forty-pounders yearly of bounty on
condition that he gets advancement. He hasn't, himself, the least idea of
how it works, except by his atmosphere.'

'I never knew a beastlier atmosphere,' Sylvia said. 'It _reeked_ of
rabbit's food.'

'You're quite mistaken,' Tietjens said; 'that is the Russian leather of
the backs of the specially bound presentation copies in the _large_
bookcase.'

'I don't know what you're talking about,' Sylvia said. 'What _are_
presentation copies? I should have thought you'd had enough of the
beastly Russian smells Kiev stunk of.'

Tietjens considered for a moment.

'No! I don't remember it,' he said. 'Kiev?...Oh, it's where we were...'

'You put half your mother's money,' Sylvia said, 'into the Government of
Kiev 12½ per cent. City Tramways...

At that Tietjens certainly winced, a type of wincing that Sylvia hadn't
wanted.

'You're not fit to go out to-morrow,' she said. 'I shall wire to old
Campion.'

'Mrs Duchemin,' Tietjens said woodenly. 'Mrs Macmaster that is, also used
to burn a little incense in the room before the parties...Those Chinese
stinks...what do they call them? Well, it doesn't matter,' he added
resignedly, Then he went on: 'Don't you make any mistake. Mrs Macmaster
is a very superior woman. Enormously efficient! Tremendously respected. I
shouldn't advise even you to come up against her, now she's in the
saddle.'

Mrs Tietjens said:

'_That_ sort of woman!'

Tietjens said:

'I don't say you ever will come up against her. Your spheres differ. But,
if you do, don't...I say it because you seem to have got your knife into
her.'

'I don't like that sort of thing going on under my windows,' Sylvia said.

Tietjens said:

'What sort of thing?...I was trying to tell you a little about Mrs
Macmaster...she's like the woman who was the mistress of the man who
burned the other fellow's horrid book...I can't remember the names.'

Sylvia said quickly:

'Don't try!' In a slower tone she added: 'I don't in the least want to
know...'

'Well, she was an Egeria!' Tietjens said. 'An inspiration to the
distinguished. Mrs Macmaster is all that. The geniuses swarm round her,
and with the really select ones she corresponds. She writes superior
letters, about the Higher Morality usually; very delicate in feeling.
Scotch naturally. When they go abroad she sends them snatches of London
literary happenings; well done, mind you! And then, every now and then,
she slips in something she wants Macmaster to have. But with great
delicacy...Say it's this C.B...she transfuses into the minds of Genius
One, Two and Three the idea of a C.B. for Macmaster...Genius No. One
lunches with the Deputy Sub-Patronage Secretary, who looks after literary
honours and lunches with geniuses to get the gossip...'

'Why,' Sylvia said, 'did you lend Macmaster all that money?'

'Mind you,' Tietjens continued his own speech, 'it's perfectly proper.
That's the way patronage is distributed in this country; it's the way it
should be. The only clean way. Mrs Duchemin backs Macmaster because he's
a first-class fellow for his job. And _she_ is an influence over the
geniuses because she's a first-class person for hers...She represents the
higher, nicer morality for really nice Scots. Before long she will be
getting tickets stopped from being sent to people for the Academy
soirées. She already does it for the Royal Bounty dinners. A little
later, when Macmaster is knighted for bashing the French in the eye,
she'll have a tiny share in auguster assemblies...Those people have to
ask _somebody_ for advice. Well, one day you'll want to present some
débutante. And you won't get a ticket...'

'Then I'm glad,' Sylvia exclaimed, 'that I wrote to Brownie's uncle about
the woman. I was a little sorry this morning because, from what Glorvina
told me, you're in such a devil of a hole...'

'Who's Brownie's uncle?' Tietjens asked. 'Lord...Lord...The banker! I
know Brownie's in his uncle's bank.'

'Port Scatho!' Sylvia said. 'I wish you wouldn't act forgetting people's
names. You overdo it.'

Tietjens' face went a shade whiter...

'Port Scatho,' he said, 'is the chairman of the Inn Billeting Committees,
of course. And you wrote to him?...'

'I'm sorry,' Sylvia said. 'I mean, I'm sorry I said that about your
forgetting...I wrote to him and said that as a resident of the Inn I
objected to your mistress--he knows the relationship, of
course!--creeping in every Friday under a heavy veil and creeping out
every Saturday at four in the morning.'

'Lord Port Scatho knows about my relationship,' Tietjens began.

'He saw her in your arms in the train,' Sylvia said. 'It upset Brownie so
much he offered to shut down your overdraft and return any cheques you
had out marked R.D.'

'To please you?' Tietjens asked. 'Do bankers do that sort of thing? It's
a new light on British society...!

'I suppose bankers try to please their women friends, like other men,'
Sylvia said. 'I told him very emphatically it wouldn't please
me...But...' she hesitated, 'I wouldn't give him a chance to get back on
you. I don't want to interfere in your affairs. But Brownie doesn't like
you...'

'He wants you to divorce me and marry him?' Tietjens asked.

'How did you know?' Sylvia asked indifferently. 'I let him give me lunch
now and then because it's convenient to have him manage my affairs, you
being away...But of course he hates you for being in the army. All the
men who aren't hate all the men that are. And, of course, when there's a
woman between them, the men who aren't do all they can to do the others
in. When they're bankers they have a pretty good pull...'

'I suppose they have,' Tietjens said vaguely; 'of course they would
have...'

Sylvia abandoned the blind-cord on which she had been dragging with one
hand. In order that light might fall on her face and give more
impressiveness to her words, for, in a minute or two, when she felt brave
enough, she meant really to let him have her bad news!--she drifted to
the fireplace. He followed her round, turning on his chair to give her
his face.

She said:

'Look here, it's all the fault of this beastly war, isn't it? Can you
deny it?...I mean that decent, gentlemanly fellows like Brownie have
turned into beastly squits!'

'I suppose it is,' Tietjens said dully. 'Yes, certainly it is. You're
quite right. It's the incidental degeneration of the heroic impulse: if
the heroic impulse has too even a strain put on it the incidental
degeneration gets the upper hand. That accounts for the Brownies...all
the Brownies...turning squits...'

'Then why do you go on with it?' Sylvia said. 'God knows, I could wangle
you out if you'd back me in the least little way.'

Tietjens said:

'Thanks I prefer to remain in it...How else am I to get a living?...'

'You know then,' Sylvia exclaimed almost shrilly. 'You know that they
won't have you back in the office if they can find a way of getting you
out...'

'Oh, they'll find that!' Tietjens said...He continued his other speech:
'When we go to war with France,' he said dully...And Sylvia knew he was
only now formulating his settled opinion so as not to have his active
brain to give to the discussion. He must be thinking hard of the Wannop
girl! With her littleness; her tweed-skirtishness...A provincial
miniature of herself, Sylvia Tietjens...If she, then, had been miniature,
provincial...But Tietjens' words cut her as if she had been lashed with a
dog-whip. 'We shall behave more creditably,' he had said, 'because there
will be less heroic impulse about it. We shall...half of us...be ashamed
of ourselves. So there will be much less incidental degeneration.'

Sylvia, who by that was listening to him, abandoned the consideration of
Miss Wannop and the pretence that obsessed her of Tietjens saying four
words, against a background of books at Macmaster's party. She exclaimed:

'Good God! What are you talking about?...'

Tietjens went on:

'About our next war with France...We're the natural enemies of the
French. We have to make our bread either by robbing them or making
cat's-paws of them...'

Sylvia said:

'We can't! We couldn't...'

'We've got to!' Tietjens said. 'It's the condition of our existence.
We're a practically bankrupt, over-populated, northern country: they're
rich southerners, with a falling population. Towards 1930 we shall have
to do what Prussia did in 1914. Our conditions will be exactly those of
Prussia then. It's the...what is it called?...

'But...' Sylvia cried out, 'you're a Franco-maniac...You're thought to be
a French agent...That's what's bitching your career!'

'I am?' Tietjens asked uninterestedly. He added: 'Yes, that probably
_would_ bitch my career...' He went on, with a little more animation
and a little more of his mind:

'Ah! _that_ will be a war worth seeing...None of their drunken
rat-fighting for imbecile boodlers...'

'It would drive mother mad!' Sylvia said.

'Oh, no it wouldn't,' Tietjens said. 'It will stimulate her if she is
still alive...Our heroes won't be drunk with wine and lechery: our squits
won't stay at home and stab the heroes in the back. Our Minister for
Water-closets won't keep two and a half million men in any base in order
to get the votes of their women at a General Election--that's been the
first evil effects of giving women the vote! With the French holding
Ireland and stretching in a solid line from Bristol to Whitehall, we
should hang the Minister before he had time to sign the papers. And we
should be decently loyal to our Prussian allies and brothers...Our
Cabinet won't hate them as they hate the French for being frugal and
strong in logic and well-educated and remorselessly practical. Prussians
are the sort of fellows you can be hoggish with when you want to...'

Sylvia interjected violently:

'For God's sake stop it. You almost make me believe what you say is true.
I tell you mother would go mad. Her greatest friend is the Duchesse
Tonnerre Château-Herault...'

'Well!' Tietjens said. 'Your greatest friends are the Med...Med...the
Austrian officers you take chocolates and flowers to. That there was all
the row about...We're at war with them and you haven't gone mad!'

'I don't know,' Sylvia said. 'Sometimes I think I am going mad!' She
drooped. Tietjens, his face very strained, was looking at the tablecloth.
He muttered: 'Med...Met...Kos...' Sylvia said:

'Do you know a poem called _Somewhere?_ It begins: "Somewhere or
other there must surely be..."'

Tietjens said:

'I'm sorry. No! I haven't been able to get up my poetry again.'

Sylvia said:

'_Don't_!' She added: 'You've got to be at the War Office at 4.15,
haven't you? What's the time now?' She extremely wanted to give him her
bad news before he went; she extremely wanted to put off giving it as
long as she could. She wanted to reflect on the matter first; she wanted
also to keep up a desultory conversation, or he might leave the room. She
didn't want to have to say to him: 'Wait a minute, I've something to say
to you!' for he might not, at that moment, be in the mood. He said it was
not yet two. He could give her an hour and a half more.

To keep the conversation going, she said:

'I suppose the Wannop girl is making bandages or being a Waac. Something
forceful.'

Tietjens said:

'No; she's a pacifist. As pacifist as you. Not so impulsive; but, on the
other hand, she has more arguments. I should say she'll be in prison
before the war's over...'

'A nice time you must have between the two of us,' Sylvia said. The
memory of her interview with the great lady nicknamed Glorvina--though it
was not at all a good nickname--was coming over her forcibly.

She said:

'I suppose you're always talking it over with her? You see her every
day.'

She imagined that that might keep him occupied for a minute or two. He
said--she caught the sense of it only--and quite indifferently that he
had tea with Mrs Wannop every day. She had moved to a place called
Bedford Park, which was near his office: not three minutes' walk. The War
Office had put up a lot of huts on some public green in that
neighbourhood. He only saw the daughter once a week, at most. They never
talked about the war; it was too disagreeable a subject for the young
woman. Or rather, too painful...His talk gradually drifted into
unfinished sentences...

They played that comedy occasionally, for it is impossible for two people
to live in the same house and not have some common meeting ground. So
they would each talk: sometimes talking at great length and with
politeness, each thinking his or her thoughts till they drifted into
silence.

And, since she had acquired the habit of going into retreat--with an
Anglican sisterhood in order to annoy Tietjens, who hated convents and
considered that the communions should not mix--Sylvia had acquired also
the habit of losing herself almost completely in reveries. Thus she was
now vaguely conscious that a greyish lump, Tietjens, sat at the head of a
whitish expanse: the lunch-table. There were also books...actually she
was seeing a quite different figure and other books--the books of
Glorvina's husband, for the great lady had received Sylvia in that
statesman's library.

Glorvina, who was the mother of two of Sylvia's absolutely most intimate
friends, had sent for Sylvia. She wished, kindly and even wittily, to
remonstrate with Sylvia because of her complete abstention from any
patriotic activity. She offered Sylvia the address of a place in the city
where she could buy wholesale and ready-made diapers for babies which
Sylvia could present to some charity or other as being her own work.
Sylvia said she would do nothing of the sort, and Glorvina said she would
present the idea to poor Mrs Pilsenhauser. She Glorvina--said she spent
some time every day thinking out acts of patriotism for the distressed
rich with foreign names, accents or antecedents...

Glorvina was a fiftyish lady with a pointed, grey face and a hard aspect;
but when she was inclined to be witty or to plead earnestly she had a
kind manner. The room in which they were was over a Belgravia back
garden. It was lit by a skylight, and the shadows from above deepened the
lines of her face, accentuating the rather dusty grey of the hair as well
as both the hardness and the kind manner. This very much impressed
Sylvia, who was used to seeing the lady by artificial light...

She said, however:

'You don't suggest, Glorvina, that I'm the distressed rich with a foreign
name!'

The great lady had said:

'My dear Sylvia; it isn't so much you as your husband. Your last exploit
with the Esterhazys and Metternichs has pretty well done for _him_.
You forget that the present powers that be are not logical...'

Sylvia remembered that she had sprung up from her leather saddle-back
chair, exclaiming:

'You mean to say that those unspeakable swine think that _I'm_...'

Glorvina said patiently:

'My dear Sylvia, I've already said it's not you. It's your husband that
suffers. He appears to be too good a fellow to suffer. Mr Waterhouse says
so. I don't know him myself, well.'

Sylvia remembered that she had said:

'And who in the world is Mr Waterhouse?' and hearing that Mr Waterhouse
was a late Liberal Minister, had lost interest. She couldn't, indeed,
remember any of the further words of her hostess, as words. The sense of
them had too much overwhelmed her...

She stood now, looking at Tietjens and only occasionally seeing him, her
mind completely occupied with the effort to recapture Glorvina's own
words in the desire for exactness. Usually she remembered conversations
pretty well; but on this occasion her mad fury, her feeling of nausea,
the pain of her own nails in her palms, an unrecoverable sequence of
emotions, had overwhelmed her.

She looked at Tietjens now with a sort of gloating curiosity. How was it
possible that the most honourable man she knew should be so overwhelmed
by foul and baseless rumours? It made you suspect that honour had, in
itself, a quality of the evil eye...

Tietjens, his face pallid, was fingering a piece of toast. He muttered:

'Met...Met...It's Met...' He wiped his brow with a table-napkin, looked
at it with a start, threw it on the floor and pulled out a
handkerchief...He muttered: 'Mett...Metter...' His face illuminated
itself like the face of a child listening at a shell.

Sylvia screamed with a passion of hatred:

'For God's sake say _Metternich_...you're driving me mad!'

When she looked at him again his face had cleared and he was walking
quickly to the telephone in the corner of the room. He asked her to
excuse him and gave a number at Ealing. He said after a moment:

'Mrs Wannop? Oh! My wife has just reminded me that Metternich was the
evil genius of the Congress of Vienna...' He said: 'Yes! Yes!' and
listened. After a time he said: 'Oh, you could put it stronger than that.
You could put it that the Tory determination to ruin Napoleon at all
costs was one of those pieces of party imbecility that, etc...Yes;
Castlereagh. And of course Wellington...I'm very sorry, I must ring
off...Yes; to-morrow at 8.30 from Waterloo...No; I _shan't_ be
seeing her again...No; she's made a mistake...Yes; give her my
love...good-bye.' He was reversing the earpiece to hang it up, but a
high-pitched series of yelps from the instrument forced it back to his
ear: 'Oh! _War babies_!' he exclaimed. 'I've already sent the
statistics off to you! No! there _isn't_ a marked increase of the
illegitimacy rate, except in patches. The rate's appallingly high in the
lowlands of Scotland; but it always is appallingly...high there...' He
laughed and said good-naturedly: 'Oh, you're an old journalist: you won't
let fifty quid go for that...' He was breaking off. But: '_Or_,' he
suddenly exclaimed, 'here's another idea for you. The rate's about the
same, probably because of this: half the fellows who go out to France are
reckless because it's the last chance, as they see it. But the other half
are made twice as conscientious. A decent Tommie thinks twice about
leaving a girl in trouble just before he's killed...The divorce
statistics are up, of course, because people will chance making new
starts within the law...Thanks...thanks...' He hung up the earpiece...

Listening to that conversation had extraordinarily cleared Sylvia's mind.
She said, almost sorrowfully:

'I suppose that that's why you don't seduce that girl.' And she knew--she
knew at once from the suddenly changed inflection of Tietjens' voice when
he had said 'a decent Tommie thinks twice before leaving his girl in
trouble!'--that Tietjens himself had thought twice.

She looked at him now almost incredulously, but with great coolness. Why
_shouldn't_ he, she asked herself, give himself a little pleasure
with his girl before going to almost certain death...She felt a real,
sharp pain at her heart...A poor wretch in such a devil of a hole...

She had moved to a chair close beside the fireplace and now sat looking
at him, leaning interestedly forward, as if at a garden party she had
been finding--_par impossible_!--a pastoral play not so badly
produced. Tietjens was a fabulous monster...

He was a fabulous monster not because he was honourable and virtuous. She
had known several very honourable and very virtuous men. If she had never
known an honourable or virtuous woman except among her French or Austrian
friends, that was, no doubt, because virtuous and honourable women did
not amuse her or because, except just for the French and Austrians, they
were not Roman Catholics...But the honourable and virtuous men she had
known had usually prospered and been respected. They weren't the great
fortunes, but they were well-offish: well spoken of: of the country
gentleman type...Tietjens...

She arranged her thoughts. To get one point settled in her mind, she
asked:

'What really happened to you in France? What is really the matter with
your memory? Or your brain, is it?' He said carefully:

'It's half of it, an irregular piece of it, dead. Or rather pale. Without
a proper blood supply...So a great portion of it, in the shape of memory,
has gone.'

She said:

'But _you_!...without a brain!...' As this was not a question, he
did not answer.

His going at once to the telephone, as soon as he was in the possession
of the name 'Metternich,' had at last convinced her that he had not been,
for the last four months, acting the hypochondriac or merely lying to
obtain sympathy or extended sick leave. Amongst Sylvia's friends a wangle
known as shell-shock was cynically laughed at and quite approved of.
Quite decent and, as far as she knew, quite brave menfolk of her women
would openly boast that, when they had had enough of it over there, they
would wangle a little leave or get a little leave extended by simulating
this purely nominal disease, and in the general carnival of lying,
lechery, drink, and howling that this affair was, to pretend to a little
shell-shock had seemed to her to be almost virtuous. At any rate if a man
passed his time at garden parties--or, as for the last months Tietjens
had done, passed his time in a tin hut amongst dust heaps, going to tea
every afternoon in order to help Mrs Wannop with her newspaper
articles--when men were so engaged they were, at least, not trying to
kill each other.

She said now:

'Do you mind telling me what actually happened to you?' He said:

'I don't know that I can very well...Something burst--or "exploded" is
probably the right word--near me, in the dark. I expect you'd rather not
hear about it?...'

'I want to!' Sylvia said.

He said:

'The point about it is that I don't know what happened and I don't
remember what I did. There are three weeks of my life dead...What I
remember is being in a C.C.S. and not being able to remember my own
name.'

'You _mean_ that?' Sylvia asked. 'It's not just a way of talking?'

'No, it's not just a way of talking,' Tietjens answered. 'I lay in bed in
the C.C.S...Your friends were dropping bombs on it.'

'You might not call them my friends,' Sylvia said. Tietjens said:

'I beg your pardon. One gets into a loose way of speaking. The poor
bloody Huns, then, were dropping bombs from aeroplanes on the hospital
huts...I'm not suggesting they knew it was a C.C.S.; it was, no doubt,
just carelessness...

'You needn't spare the Germans for me!' Sylvia said. 'You needn't spare
any man who has killed another man.'

'I was, then, dreadfully worried,' Tietjens went on. 'I was composing a
preface for a book on Arminianism...'

'You haven't written a book! ' Sylvia exclaimed eagerly, because she
thought that if Tietjens took to writing a book there might be a way of
his earning a living. Many people had told her that he ought to write a
book.

'No, I hadn't written a book,' Tietjens said, 'and I didn't know what
Arminianism was...

'You know perfectly well what the Arminian heresy is,' Sylvia said
sharply; 'you explained it all to me years ago.'

'Yes,' Tietjens exclaimed. 'Years ago I could have, but I couldn't then.
I could now, but I was a little worried about it then. It's a little
awkward to write a preface about a subject of which you know nothing. But
it didn't seem to me to be discreditable in an army sense...Still it
worried me dreadfully not to know my own name. I lay and worried and
worried, and thought how discreditable it would appear if a nurse came
along and asked me and I didn't know. Of course my name was on a luggage
label tied to my collar; but I'd forgotten they did that to
casualties...Then a lot of people carried pieces of a nurse down the hut:
the Germans' bombs had done that of course. They were still dropping
about the place.'

'But good heavens,' Sylvia cried out, 'do you mean they carried a dead
nurse past you?...'

The poor dear wasn't dead,' Tietjens said. 'I wish she had been. Her name
was Beatrice Carmichael...the first name I learned after my collapse.
She's dead now of course...That seemed to wake up a fellow on the other
side of the room with a lot of blood coming through the bandages on his
head...He rolled out of his bed and, without a word, walked across the
hut and began to strangle me...'

'But this isn't believable,' Sylvia said. 'I'm sorry, but I can't believe
it...You were an officer: they _couldn't_ have carried a wounded
nurse under your nose. They must have known your sister Caroline was a
nurse and was killed...'

'Carrie,' Tietjens said, 'was drowned on a hospital ship. I thank God I
didn't have to connect the other girl with her...But you don't suppose
that in addition to one's name, rank, unit, and date of admission they'd
put that I'd lost a sister and two brothers in action and a father--of a
broken heart, I dare say...'

'But you only lost one brother,' Sylvia said. 'I went into mourning for
him and your sister...

'No, two,' Tietjens said; 'but the fellow who was strangling me
was what I wanted to tell you about. He let out a number of
ear-piercing shrieks and lots of orderlies came and pulled him
off me and sat all over him. Then he began to shout "_Faith!_" He shouted:
"Faith!...Faith!...Faith!'..." at intervals of two seconds, as far as I
could tell by my pulse, until four in the morning, when he died...I
don't know whether it was a religious exhortation or a woman's name, but
I disliked him a good deal because he started my tortures, such as they
were...There had been a girl I knew called Faith. Oh, not a love affair:
the daughter of my father's head gardener, a Scotsman. The point is that
every time he said Faith I asked myself "Faith...Faith what?" I couldn't
remember the name of my father's head gardener.'

Sylvia, who was thinking of other things, asked: 'What was the name?'

Tietjens answered:

'I don't know, I don't know to this day...The point is that when I knew
that I didn't know that name, I was as ignorant, as _uninstructed_,
as a new-born babe and much more worried about it...The Koran says--I've
got as far as K in my reading of the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_
every afternoon at Mrs Wannop's--"The strong man when smitten is smitten
in his pride!"...Of course I got King's Regs. and the M.M.L. and Infantry
Field Training and all the A.C.I.s to date by heart very quickly. And
that's all a British officer is really encouraged to know...

'Oh, Christopher!' Sylvia said. '_You_ read that encyclopaedia; it's
pitiful. You used to despise it so.'

'That's what's meant by "smitten in his pride,"' Tietjens said. 'Of
course what I read or hear now I remember...But I haven't got to M, much
less V. That was why I was worried about Metternich and the Congress of
Vienna. I _try_ to remember things on my own, but I haven't yet done
so. You see, it's as if a certain area of my brain had been wiped white.
Occasionally one name suggests another. You noticed, when I got
Metternich it suggested Castlereagh and Wellington--and even other
names...But that's what the Department of Statistics will get me on. When
they fire me out. The real reason will be that I've served. But they'll
pretend it's because I've no more general knowledge than is to be found
in the encyclopaedia: or two-thirds more or less--according to the
duration of the war...Or, of course, the real reason will be that I won't
fake statistics to dish the French with. They asked me to, the other day,
as a holiday task. And when I refused, you should have seen their faces.'

'Have you _really_,' Sylvia asked, 'lost two brothers in action?'

'Yes,' Tietjens answered. 'Curly and Longshanks. You never saw them
because they were always in India. And they weren't noticeable...'

'_Two!_' Sylvia said. 'I only wrote to your father about one called
Edward. And your sister Caroline. In the same letter...'

'Carrie wasn't noticeable either,' Tietjens said. 'She did Charity
Organization Society work...But I remember: you didn't like her. She was
the born old maid...'

'Christopher!' Sylvia asked, 'do you still think your mother died of a
broken heart because I left you?' Tietjens said:

'Good God, no. I never thought so and I don't think so. I _know_ she
didn't.'

'_Then!_' Sylvia exclaimed, 'she died of a broken heart because I
came back...It's no good protesting that you don't think so. I remember
your face when you opened the telegram at Lobscheid. Miss Wannop
forwarded it from Rye. I remember the postmark. She was born to do me
ill. The moment you got it I could see you thinking that you must conceal
from me that you thought it was because of me she died. I could see you
wondering if it wouldn't be practicable to conceal from me that she was
dead. You couldn't, of course, do that because, you remember, we were to
have gone to Wiesbaden and show ourselves; and we couldn't do that
because we should have to be in mourning. So you took me to Russia to get
out of taking me to the funeral.'

'I took you to Russia,' Tietjens said. 'I remember it all now--because I
had an order from Sir Robert Ingleby to assist the British Consul-General
in preparing a Blue Book statistical table of the Government of Kiev...It
appeared to be the most industrially promising region in the world in
those days. It isn't now, naturally. I shall never see back a penny of
the money I put into it. I thought I was clever in those days...And of
course, yes, the money was my mother's settlement. It comes back...yes,
of course...

'Did you,' Sylvia asked, 'get out of taking me to your mother's funeral
because you thought I should defile your mother's corpse by my presence?
Or because you were afraid that in the presence of your mother's body you
wouldn't be able to conceal from me that you thought I killed
her?...Don't deny it. And don't get out of it by saying that you can't
remember those days. You're remembering now: that I killed your mother:
that Miss Wannop sent the telegram--why don't you score it against her,
that she sent the news?...Or, good God, why don't you score it against
yourself, as the wrath of the Almighty, that your mother was dying while
you and that girl were croodling over each other?...At Rye! Whilst I was
at Lobscheid...

Tietjens wiped his brow with his handkerchief.

'Well, let's drop that,' Sylvia said. 'God knows, I've no right to put a
spoke in that girl's wheel or in yours. If you love each other you've a
right to happiness and I daresay she'll make you happy. I can't divorce
you, being a Catholic; but I won't make it difficult for you in other
ways, and self-contained people like you and her will manage somehow.
You'll have learned the way from Macmaster and his mistress...But, oh,
Christopher Tietjens, have you ever considered how foully you've used
_me_!'

Tietjens looked at her attentively, as if with magpie anguish.

'If,' Sylvia went on with her denunciation, 'you had once in our lives
said to me: "You whore! You bitch! You killed my mother. May you rot in
hell for it..." If you'd only once said something like it...about the
child! About Perowne!...you might have done something to bring us
together...'

Tietjens said:

'That's, of course, true!'

'I know,' Sylvia said, 'you can't help it...But when, in your famous
county family pride--though a youngest son!--you say to yourself: And I
daresay if...Oh, Christ!...you're shot in the trenches you'll say
it...oh, between the saddle and the ground! that you never did a
dishonourable action...And, mind you, I believe that no other man save
one has ever had more right to say it than you...'

Tietjens said:

'You believe that!'

'As I hope to stand before my Redeemer,' Sylvia said, 'I believe
it:...But, in the name of the Almighty, how could any woman live beside
you...and be for ever forgiven? Or no: not forgiven: ignored!...Well, be
proud when you die because of your honour. But, God, be humble
about...your errors in judgment. _You_ know what it is to ride a
horse for miles with too tight a curb-chain and its tongue cut almost in
half...You remember the groom your father had who had the trick of
turning the hunters out like that...And you horse-whipped him, and you've
told me you've almost cried ever so often afterwards for thinking of that
mare's mouth...Well! Think of _this_ mare's mouth sometimes! You've
ridden me like that for seven years...

She stopped and then went on again:

'Don't you know, Christopher Tietjens, that there is only one man from
whom a woman could take "_Neither do I condemn thee_" and not hate
him more than she hates the fiend!...'

Tietjens so looked at her that he contrived to hold her attention.

'I'd like you to let me ask you,' he said, 'how I could throw stones at
you? I have never disapproved of your actions.'

Her hands dropped dispiritedly to her sides.

'Oh, Christopher,' she said, 'don't carry on that old playacting. I shall
never see you again, very likely, to speak to. You'll sleep with the
Wannop girl to-night: you're going out to be killed to-morrow.
_Let's_ be straight for the next ten minutes or so. And give me your
attention. The Wannop girl can spare that much if she's to have all the
rest...'

She could see that he was giving her his whole mind.

'As you said just now,' he exclaimed slowly, 'as I hope to meet my
Redeemer, I believe you to be a good woman. One that never did a
dishonourable thing.'

She recoiled a little in her chair.

'Then she said, 'you're the wicked man I've always made believe to think
you, though I didn't.'

Tietjens said:

'No!...Let me try to put it to you as I see it.'

She exclaimed:

'No!...I've been a wicked woman. I have ruined you. I am not going to
listen to you.'

He said:

'I daresay you have ruined me. That's nothing to me. I am completely
indifferent.'

She cried out:

'Oh! Oh!...Oh!' on a note of agony.

Tietjens said doggedly:

'I don't care. I can't help it. Those are--those _should_ be--the
conditions of life amongst decent people. When our next war comes I hope
it will be fought out under those conditions. Let us, for God's sake,
talk of the gallant enemy. Always. We have _got_ to plunder the
French or millions of our people must starve: they have _got_ to
resist us successfully or be wiped out...It's the same with you and
me...'

She exclaimed:

'You mean to say that you don't think I was wicked when I...when I
trepanned is what mother calls it?...'

He said loudly:

'_No_!...You had been let in for it by some brute. I have always
held that a woman who has been let down by one man has the right--has the
duty for the sake of her child--to let down a man. It becomes woman
against man: against one man. I happened to be that one man: it was the
will of God. But you were within your rights. I will never go back on
that. Nothing will make me, ever!'

She said:

'And the others! And Perowne...I know you'll say that anyone is justified
in doing anything as long as they are open enough about it...But it
killed your mother. Do you disapprove of my having killed your mother? Or
you consider that I have corrupted the child...'

Tietjens said:

'I don't...I want to speak to you about that.'

She exclaimed:

'You _don't_...!

He said calmly:

'You know I don't...while I was certain that I was going to be here to
keep him straight and an Anglican, I fought your influence over him. I'm
obliged to you for having brought up of yourself the considerations that
I may be killed and that I am ruined. I am. I could not raise a hundred
pounds between now and tomorrow. I am, therefore, obviously not the man
to have sole charge of the heir of Groby.'

Sylvia was saying:

'Every penny I have is at your disposal...' when the maid, Hullo Central,
marched up to her master and placed a card in his hand. He said:

'Tell him to wait five minutes in the drawing-room.' Sylvia said:

'Who is it?'

Tietjens answered:

'A man...Let's get this settled. I've never thought you corrupted the
boy. You tried to teach him to tell white lies. On perfectly straight
Papist lines. I have no objection to Papists and no objection to white
lies for Papists. You told him once to put a frog in Marchant's bath.
I've no objection to a boy putting a frog in his nurse's bath, as such.
But Marchant is an old woman, and the heir to Groby should respect old
women always and old family servants in particular...It hasn't, perhaps,
struck you that the boy is heir to Groby...

Sylvia said:

'If...if your second brother is killed...But your eldest brother...'

'He,' Tietjens said, 'has got a French woman near Euston station. He's
lived with her for over fifteen years, of afternoons, when there were no
race meetings. She'll never let him marry and she's past the
child-bearing stage. So there's no one else...

Sylvia said:

'You mean that I may bring the child up as a Catholic.' Tietjens said:

'A _Roman_ Catholic...You'll teach him, please, to use that term
before myself if I ever see him again...

Sylvia said:

'Oh, I thank God that He has softened your heart. This will take the
curse off this house.'

Tietjens shook his head:

'I think not,' he said, 'off you perhaps. Off Groby very likely. It was,
perhaps, time that there should be a Papist owner of Groby again. You've
read Spelden on sacrilege about Groby?...'

She said:

'Yes! The first Tietjens who came over with Dutch William, the swine, was
pretty bad to the Papist owners...

'He was a tough Dutchman,' Tietjens said, 'but let us get on! There's
enough time, but not too much...I've got this man to see.'

'Who is he?' Sylvia asked.

Tietjens was collecting his thoughts.

'My dear!' he said. 'You'll permit me to call you "my dear"? We're old
enemies enough and we're talking about the future of our child.'

Sylvia said:

'You said "our" child, not "the" child...'

Tietjens said with a great deal of concern:

'You will forgive me for bringing it up. You might prefer to think he was
Drake's child. He can't be. It would be outside the course of
nature...I'm as poor as I am because...forgive me...I've spent a great
deal of money on tracing the movements of you and Drake before our
marriage. And if it's a relief to you to know...'

'It _is_,' Sylvia said. 'I...I've always been too beastly shy to put
the matter before a specialist, or even before mother...And we women are
so ignorant...'

Tietjens said:

'I know...I know you were too shy even to think about it yourself, hard.'
He went into months and days; then he continued: 'But it would have made
no difference: a child born in wedlock is by law the father's, and if a
man who's a gentleman suffers the begetting of his child he must, in
decency, take the consequences: the woman and the child must come before
the man, be he who he may. And worse-begotten children than ours have
inherited statelier names. And I loved the little beggar with all my
heart and with all my soul from the first minute I saw him. That may be
the secret clue, or it may be sheer sentimentality...So I fought your
influence because it was Papist, while I was a whole man. But I'm not a
whole man any more, and the evil eye that is on me might transfer itself
to him.'

He stopped and said:

'For I must to the greenwood go. Alone a broken man...But have him well
protected against the evil eye...

'Oh, Christopher,' she said, 'it's true I've not been a bad woman to the
child. And I never will be. And I will keep Marchant with him till she
dies. You'll tell her not to interfere with his religious instruction,
and she won't...

Tietjens said with a friendly weariness:

'That's right...and you'll have Father...Father...the priest that was
with us for a fortnight before he was born to give him his teachings. He
was the best man I ever met and one of the most intelligent. It's been a
great comfort to me to think of the boy as in his hands...

Sylvia stood up, her eyes blazing out of a pallid face of stone:

'Father Consett,' she said, 'was hung on the day they shot Casement. They
dare not put it into the papers because he was a priest and all the
witnesses Ulster witnesses...And yet I may not say this is an accursed
war.'

Tietjens shook his head with the slow heaviness of an aged man.

'You may for me...' he said. 'You might ring the bell, will you? Don't go
away...

He sat with the blue gloom of that enclosed space all over him, lumped
heavily in his chair.

'Spelden on sacrilege,' he said, 'may be right after all. You'd say so
from the Tietjenses. There's not been a Tietjens since the first Lord
Justice cheated the Papist Loundeses out of Groby, but died of a broken
neck or of a broken heart: for all the fifteen thousand acres of good
farming land and iron land, and for all the heather on the top of
it...What's the quotation: "Be ye something as something and something
and ye shall not escape..." What is it?'

'Calumny!' Sylvia said. She spoke with intense bitterness...'Chaste as
ice and cold as...as you are...Tietjens said:

'Yes! Yes...And mind you none of the Tietjens were ever soft. Not one!
They had reason for their broken hearts...Take my poor father...

Sylvia said:

'_Don't_!'

'Both my brothers were killed in Indian regiments on the same day and not
a mile apart. And my sister in the same week: out at sea, not so far from
them...Unnoticeable people. But one can be fond of unnoticeable people...

Hullo Central was at the door. Tietjens told her to ask Lord Port Scatho
to step down...

'You must, of course, know these details,' Tietjens said, 'as the mother
to my father's heir...My father got the three notifications on the same
day. It was enough to break his heart. He only lived a month. I saw
him...'

Sylvia screamed piercingly:

'Stop! stop! stop!' She clutched at the mantelpiece to hold herself up.
'Your father died of a broken heart,' she said, 'because your brother's
best friend, Ruggles, told him you were a squit who lived on women's
money and had got the daughter of his oldest friend with child...'

Tietjens said:

'Oh! Ah! Yes!...I suspected that. I know it, really. I suppose the poor
dear knows better now. Or perhaps he doesn't...It doesn't matter.'



II


It has been remarked that the peculiarly English habit of
self-suppression in matters of the emotion puts the Englishman at a great
disadvantage in moments of unusual stresses. In the smaller matters of
the general run of life he will be impeccable and not to be moved; but in
sudden confrontations of anything but physical dangers he is apt--he is,
indeed, almost certain--to go to pieces very badly. This, at least, was
the view of Christopher Tietjens, and he very much dreaded his interview
with Lord Port Scatho--because he feared that he must be near breaking
point.

In electing to be peculiarly English in habits and in as much of his
temperament as he could control--for, though no man can choose the land
of his birth or his ancestry, he can, if he have industry and
determination, so watch over himself as materially to modify his
automatic habits--Tietjens had quite advisedly and of set purpose adopted
a habit of behaviour that he considered to be the best in the world for
the normal life. If every day and all day long you chatter at high pitch
and with the logic and lucidity of the Frenchman; if you shout in
self-assertion, with your hat on your stomach, bowing from a stiff spine
and by implication threaten all day long to shoot your interlocutor, like
the Prussian; if you are as lachrymally emotional as the Italian, or as
drily and epigrammatically imbecile over inessentials as the American,
you will have a noisy, troublesome and thoughtless society without any of
the surface calm that should distinguish the atmosphere of men when they
are together. You will never have deep arm-chairs in which to sit for
hours in clubs, thinking of nothing at all--or of the off-theory in
bowling. On the other hand, in the face of death--except at sea, by fire,
railway accident, or accidental drowning in rivers; in the face of
madness, passion, dishonour or--and particularly--prolonged mental
strain, you will have all the disadvantages of the beginner at any game
and may come off very badly indeed. Fortunately death, love, public
dishonour and the like are rare occurrences in the life of the average
man, so that the great advantage would seem to have lain with English
society; at any rate before the later months of the year 1914. Death for
man came but once: the danger of death so seldom as to be practically
negligible: love of a distracting kind was a disease merely of the weak:
public dishonour for persons of position, so great was the hushing-up
power of the ruling class and the power of absorption of the remoter
Colonies, was practically unknown.

Tietjens found himself now faced by all these things, coming upon him
cumulatively and rather suddenly, and he had before him an interview that
might cover them all and with a man whom he much respected and very much
desired not to hurt. He had to face these, moreover, with a brain
two-thirds of which felt numb. It was exactly like that.

It was not so much that he couldn't use what brain he had as trenchantly
as ever: it was that there were whole regions of fact upon which he could
no longer call in support of his argument. His knowledge of history was
still practically negligible: he knew nothing whatever of the humaner
letters and, what was far worse, nothing at all of the higher and more
sensuous phrases of mathematics. And the coming back of these things was
much slower than he had confessed to Sylvia. It was with these
disadvantages that he had to face Lord Port Scatho.

Lord Port Scatho was the first man of whom Sylvia Tietjens had thought
when she had been considering of men who were absolutely honourable,
entirely benevolent...and rather lacking in constructive intelligence. He
had inherited the management of one of the most respected of the great
London banks, so that his commercial and social influences were very
extended: he was extremely interested in promoting Low Church interests,
the reform of the divorce laws and sports for the people, and he had a
great affection for Sylvia Tietjens. He was forty-five, beginning to put
on weight, but by no means obese; he had a large, quite round head; very
high-coloured cheeks that shone as if with frequent ablutions; an
uncropped, dark moustache, dark, very cropped, smooth hair; brown eyes; a
very new grey tweed suit, a very new grey Trilby hat, a black tie in a
gold ring, and very new patent leather boots that had white calf tops. He
had a wife almost the spit of himself in face, figure, probity,
kindliness, and interests, except that for his interest in sports for the
people she substituted that for maternity hospitals. His heir was his
nephew, Mr Brownlie, known as Brownie, who would also be physically the
exact spit of his uncle, except that, not having put on flesh, he
appeared to be taller and that his moustache and hair were both a little
longer and more fair. This gentleman entertained for Sylvia Tietjens a
gloomy and deep passion that he considered to be perfectly honourable
because he desired to marry her after she had divorced her husband.
Tietjens he desired to ruin because he considered Tietjens to be an
undesirable person of no great means. Of this passion Lord Port Scatho
was ignorant.

He now came into the Tietjens' dining-room, behind the servant, holding
an open letter: he walked rather stiffly because he was very much
worried. He observed that Sylvia had been crying and was still wiping her
eyes. He looked round the room to see if he could see in it anything to
account for Sylvia's crying. Tietjens was still sitting at the head of
the lunch-table: Sylvia was rising from a chair beside the fireplace.

Lord Port Scatho said:

'I want to see you, Tietjens, for a minute on business.' Tietjens said:

'I can give you ten minutes...'

Lord Port Scatho said:

'Mrs Tietjens perhaps...'

He waved the open letter towards Mrs Tietjens. Tietjens said:

'No! Mrs Tietjens will remain.' He desired to say something more
friendly. He said: 'Sit down.'

Lord Port Scatho said:

'I shan't be stopping a minute. But really...and he moved the letter, but
not with so wide a gesture, towards Sylvia.

'I have no secrets from Mrs Tietjens,' Tietjens said. 'Absolutely
none...'

Lord Port Scatho said:

'No, of course not...But...'

Tietjens said:

'Similarly, Mrs Tietjens has no secrets from me. Again absolutely none.'

Sylvia said:

'I don't, of course, tell Tietjens about my maid's love affairs or what
the fish costs every day.'

Tietjens said:

'You'd better sit down.' He added on an impulse of kindness: 'As a matter
of fact, I was just clearing up things for Sylvia to take over...this
command.' It was part of the disagreeableness of his mental disadvantages
that upon occasion he could not think of other than military phrases. He
felt intense annoyance. Lord Port Scatho affected him with some of the
slight nausea that in those days you felt at contact with the civilian
who knew none of your thoughts, phrases or preoccupations. He added,
nevertheless equably:

'One has to clear up. I'm going out.'

Lord Port Scatho said hastily:

'Yes; yes, I won't keep you. One has so many engagements in spite of the
war...' His eyes wandered in bewilderment. Tietjens could see them at
last fixing themselves on the oil stains that Sylvia's salad dressing had
left on his collar and green tabs. He said to himself that he must
remember to change his tunic before he went to the War Office. He must
not forget. Lord Port Scatho's bewilderment at these oil stains was such
that he had lost himself in the desire to account for them...You could
see the slow thoughts moving inside his square, polished brown forehead.
Tietjens wanted very much to help him. He wanted to say: 'It's about
Sylvia's letter that you've got in your hand, isn't it?' But Lord Port
Scatho had entered the room with the stiffness, with the odd,
high-collared sort of gait that on formal and unpleasant occasions
Englishmen use when they approach each other; braced up, a little like
strange dogs meeting in the street. In view of that, Tietjens couldn't
say 'Sylvia.'...But it would add to the formality and unpleasantness if
he said again 'Mrs Tietjens!' _That_ wouldn't help Port Scatho...

Sylvia said suddenly:

'You don't understand, apparently. My husband is going out to the front
line. To-morrow morning. It's for the second time.'

Lord Port Scatho sat down suddenly on a chair beside the table. With his
fresh face and brown eyes suddenly anguished he exclaimed:

'But, my dear fellow! You! Good God!' and then to Sylvia: 'I beg your
pardon!' To clear his mind he said again to Tietjens: '_You!_ Going
out to-morrow!' And, when the idea was really there, his face suddenly
cleared. He looked with a swift, averted glance at Sylvia's face and then
for a fixed moment at Tietjens' oil-stained tunic. Tietjens could see him
explaining to himself with immense enlightenment that _that_
explained both Sylvia's tears and the oil on the tunic. For Port Scatho
might well imagine that officers went to the conflict in their oldest
clothes...

But, if his puzzled brain cleared, his distressed mind became suddenly
distressed doubly. He had to add to the distress he had felt on entering
the room and finding himself in the midst of what he took to be a highly
emotional family parting. And Tietjens knew that during the whole war
Port Scatho had never witnessed a family parting at all. Those that were
not inevitable he would avoid like the plague, and his own nephew and all
his wife's nephews were in the bank. That was quite proper, for if the
ennobled family of Brownlie were not of the Ruling Class--who had to
go!--they were of the Administrative Class, who were privileged to stay.
So he had seen no partings.

Of his embarrassed hatred of them he gave immediate evidence. For he
first began several sentences of praise of Tietj ens' heroism which he
was unable to finish and then, getting quickly out of his chair,
exclaimed:

'In the circumstances then...the little matter I came about...I couldn't
of course think...

Tietjens said:

'No; don't go. The matter you came about--I know all about it of
course--had better be settled.'

Port Scatho sat down again: his jaw fell slowly: under his bronzed
complexion his skin became a shade paler. He said at last:

'You know what I came about? But then...

His ingenuous and kindly mind could be seen to be working with
reluctance: his athletic figure drooped. He pushed the letter that he
still held along the tablecloth towards Tietjens. He said, in the voice
of one awaiting a reprieve:

'But you _can't_ be...aware...Not of this letter...

Tietjens left the letter on the cloth, from there he could read the large
handwriting on the blue-grey paper:

'Mrs Christopher Tietjens presents her compliments to Lord Port Scatho
and the Honourable Court of Benchers of the Inn...2 He wondered where
Sylvia had got hold of that phraseology: he imagined it to be
fantastically wrong. He said:

'I have already told you that I know about this letter, as I have already
told you that I know--and I will add that I approve!--of all Mrs
Tietjens' actions...' With his hard blue eyes he looked browbeatingly
into Port Scatho's soft brown orbs, knowing that he was sending the
message: 'Think what you please and be damned to you!'

The gentle brown things remained on his face; then they filled with an
expression of deep pain. Port Scatho cried:

'But good God! Then...'

He looked at Tietjens again. His mind, which took refuge from life in the
affairs of the Low Church, of Divorce Law Reform and of Sports for the
People, became a sea of pain at the contemplation of strong situations.
His eyes said:

'For heaven's sake do not tell me that Mrs Duchemin, the mistress of your
dearest friend, is the mistress of yourself, and that you take this means
of wreaking a vulgar spite on them.'

Tietjens, leaning heavily forward, made his eyes as enigmatic as he
could; he said very slowly and very clearly:

'Mrs Tietjens is, of course, not aware of _all_ the circumstances.'

Port Scatho threw himself back in his chair.

'I don't understand!' he said. 'I do not understand. How am I to act? You
do not wish me to act on this letter? You can't!'

Tietjens, who found himself, said:

'You had better talk to Mrs Tietjens about that. I will say something
myself later. In the meantime let me say that Mrs Tietjens would seem to
me to be quite within her rights. A lady, heavily veiled, comes here
every Friday and remains until four on the Saturday morning...If you are
prepared to palliate the proceeding you had better do so to Mrs
Tietjens...'

Port Scatho turned agitatedly on Sylvia.

'I can't, of course, palliate,' he said. 'God forbid...But, my dear
Sylvia...my dear Mrs Tietjens. In the case of two people so much
esteemed!...We have, of course, argued the matter of principle. It is a
part of a subject I have very much at heart: the granting of
divorce...civil divorce, at least...in cases in which one of the parties
to the marriage is in a lunatic asylum. I have sent you the pamphlets of
E. S. P. Haynes that we publish. I know that as a Roman Catholic you hold
strong views...I do not, I assure you, stand for latitude...' He became
then simply eloquent: he really had the matter at heart, one of his
sisters having been for many years married to a lunatic. He expatiated on
the agonies of this situation all the more eloquently in that it was the
only form of human distress which he had personally witnessed.

Sylvia took a long look at Tietjens: he imagined for counsel. He looked
at her steadily for a moment, then at Port Scatho, who was earnestly
turned to her, then back at her. He was trying to say:

'Listen to Port Scatho for a minute. I need time to think of my course of
action!'

He needed, for the first time in his life, time to think of his course of
action.

He had been thinking with his under mind ever since Sylvia had told him
that she had written her letter to the benchers denouncing Macmaster and
his woman; ever since Sylvia had reminded him that Mrs Duchemin in the
Edinburgh to London express of the day before the war had been in his
arms he had seen, with extraordinary clearness, a great many north
country scenes though he could not affix names to all the places. The
forgetfulness of the names was abnormal: he ought to know the names of
places from Berwick down to the vale of York--but that he should have
forgotten the incidents was normal enough. They had been of little
importance: he preferred not to remember the phases of his friend's love
affair; moreover, the events that happened immediately afterwards had
been of a nature to make one forget quite normally what had just preceded
them. That Mrs Duchemin should be sobbing on his shoulder in a locked
corridor carriage hadn't struck him as in the least important: she was
the mistress of his dearest friend: she had had a very trying time for a
week or so, ending in a violent, nervous quarrel with her agitated lover.
She was, of course, crying off the effects of the quarrel which had been
all the more shaking in that Mrs Duchemin, like himself, had always been
almost too self-contained. As a matter of fact, he did not himself like
Mrs Duchemin, and he was pretty certain that she herself more than a
little disliked him; so that nothing but their common feeling for
Macmaster had brought them together. General Campion, however, was not to
know that...He had looked into the carriage in the way one does in a
corridor just after the train had left...He couldn't remember the
name...Doncaster...No!...Darlington; it wasn't that. At Darlington there
was a model of the Rocket...or perhaps it isn't the Rocket. An immense
clumsy leviathan of a locomotive by...by...The great gloomy stations of
the north-going trains...Durham...No! Alnwick...No!...Wooler...By God!
Woolen! The junction for Bamborough...

It had been in one of the castles at Bamborough that he and Sylvia had
been staying with the Sandbachs. Then...a name had come into his mind
spontaneously!...Two names!...It was, perhaps, the turn of the tide! For
the first time...To be marked with a red stone...after this: some names,
sometimes, on the tip of the tongue, might come over! He had, however, to
get on...

The Sandbachs, then, and he and Sylvia...others too...had been in
Bamborough since mid-July: Eton and Harrow at Lord's, waiting for the
real house parties that would come with the 12th...He repeated these
names and dates to himself for the personal satisfaction of knowing that,
amongst the repairs effected in his mind, these two remained: Eton and
Harrow, the end of the London season: 12th of August, grouse shooting
begins...It was pitiful...

When General Campion had come up to rejoin his sister he, Tietjens, had
stopped only two days. The coolness between the two of them remained; it
was the first time they had met, except in Court, after the
accident...For Mrs Wannop, with grim determination, had sued the General
for the loss of her horse. It had lived all right--but it was only fit to
draw a lawn-mower for cricket pitches...Mrs Wannop, then, had gone
bald-headed for the General, partly because she wanted the money, partly
because she wanted a public reason for breaking with the Sandbachs. The
General had been equally obstinate and had undoubtedly perjured himself
in Court: not the best, not the most honourable, the most benevolent man
in the world would not turn oppressor of the widow and orphan when his
efficiency as a chauffeur was impugned or the fact brought to light that
at a very dangerous turning he hadn't sounded his horn. Tietjens had
sworn that he hadn't: the General that he had. There _could_ not be
any question of doubt, for the horn was a beastly thing that made a
prolonged noise like that of a terrified peacock...So Tietjens had not,
till the end of that July, met the General again. It had been quite a
proper thing for gentlemen to quarrel over and was quite convenient,
though it had cost the General fifty pounds for the horse and, of course,
a good bit over for costs. Lady Claudine had refused to interfere in the
matter: she was privately of opinion that the General _hadn't_
sounded his horn, but the General was both a passionately devoted and
explosive brother. She had remained closely intimate with Sylvia, mildly
cordial with Tietjens and had continued to ask the Wannops to such of her
garden parties as the General did not attend. She was also very friendly
with Mrs Duchemin.

Tietjens and the General had met with the restrained cordiality of
English gentlemen who had some years before accused each other of perjury
in a motor accident. On the second morning a violent quarrel had broken
out between them on the subject of whether the General had or hadn't
sounded his horn. The General had ended up by shouting...really shouting:

'By God! If I ever get you under my command...'

Tietjens remembered that he had quoted and given the number of a succinct
paragraph in King's Regs. dealing with the fate of general or higher
field officers who gave their subordinates bad confidential reports
because of private quarrels. The General had exploded into noise that
ended in laughter.

'What a rag-bag of a mind you have, Chrissie!' he said. 'What's King's
Regs. to you? And how do you know it's paragraph 66 or whatever you say
it is? I don't.' He added more seriously: '_What_ a fellow you are
for getting into obscure rows! What in the world do you do it for?'

That afternoon Tietjens had gone to stop, a long way up in the moors,
with his son, the nurse, his sister Effie and her children. They were the
last days of happiness he was to know and he hadn't known so many. He was
then content. He played with his boy, who, thank God, was beginning to
grow healthy at last. He walked about the moors with his sister Effie, a
large, plain, parson's wife, who had no conversation at all, though at
times they talked of their mother. The moors were like enough to those
above Groby to make them happy. They lived in a bare, grim farmhouse,
drank great quantities of buttermilk and ate great quantities of
Wensleydale. It was the hard, frugal life of his desire, and his mind was
at rest.

His mind was at rest because there was going to be a war. From the first
moment of his reading the paragraph about the assassination of the
Archduke Franz Ferdinand he had known that, calmly and with assurance.
Had he imagined that his country would come in he would not have known a
mind at rest. He loved this country for the run of its hills, the shape
of its elm trees and the way the heather, running uphill to the skyline,
meets the blue of heavens. War for this country could only mean
humiliation, spreading under the sunlight, an almost invisible pall, over
the elms, the hills, the heather, like the vapour that spread from...oh,
Middlesbrough! We were fitted neither for defeat nor for victory: we
could be true to neither friend nor foe. Not even to ourselves!

But of war for us he had no fear. He saw our Ministry sitting tight till
the opportune moment and then grabbing a French channel port or a few
German colonies as the price of neutrality. And he was thankful to be out
of it; for his back-doorway out--his second!--was the French Foreign
Legion. First Sylvia: then that! Two tremendous disciplines: for the soul
and for the body.

The French he admired: for their tremendous efficiency, for their
frugality of life, for the logic of their minds, for their admirable
achievements in the arts, for their neglect of the industrial system, for
their devotion, above all, to the eighteenth century. It would be restful
to serve, if only as a slave, people who saw clearly, coldly, straight,
not obliquely and with hypocrisy only, such things as should deviously
conduce to the standard of comfort of hogs and to lecheries winked
at...He would rather sit for hours on a bench in a barrack-room polishing
a badge in preparation for the cruellest of route marches of immense
lengths under the Algerian sun.

For, as to the Foreign Legion, he had had no illusion. You were treated
not as a hero but as a whipped dog; he was aware of all the
_asticoteries_, the cruelties, the weight of the rifle, the cells.
You would have six months of training in the desert and then be hurtled
into the line to be massacred without remorse...as foreign dirt. But the
prospect seemed to him one of deep peace: he had never asked for soft
living and now was done with it...The boy was healthy; Sylvia, with the
economies they had made, very rich...and even at that date he was sure
that if the friction of himself, Tietjens, were removed, she would make a
good mother...

Obviously he might survive; but after that tremendous physical drilling
what survived would not be himself, but a man with cleaned, sand-dried
bones: a clear mind. His private ambition had always been for
saintliness: he must be able to touch pitch and not be defiled. That he
knew marked him off as belonging to the sentimental branch of humanity.
He couldn't help it: Stoic or Epicurean: Caliph in the harem or Dervish
desiccating in the sand: one or the other you must be. And his desire was
to be a saint of the Anglican variety...as his mother had been, without
convent, ritual, vows, or miracles to be performed by your relics! That
sainthood, truly, the Foreign Legion might give you...The desire of every
English gentleman from Colonel Hutchinson upwards...A mysticism...

Remembering the clear sunlight of those naivetés--though in his blue
gloom he had abated no jot of the ambition--Tietjens sighed deeply as he
came back for a moment to regard his dining-room. Really, it was to see
how much time he had left in which to think out what to say to Port
Scatho...Port Scatho had moved his chair over to beside Sylvia and,
almost touching her, was leaning over and recounting the griefs of his
sister who was married to a lunatic. Tietjens gave himself again for a
moment to the luxury of self-pity. He considered that he was dull-minded,
heavy, ruined, and so calumniated that at times he believed in his own
infamy, for it is impossible to stand up for ever against the obloquy of
your kind and remain unhurt in the mind. If you hunch your shoulders too
long against a storm your shoulders will grow bowed...

His mind stopped for a moment and his eyes gazed dully at Sylvia's letter
which lay open on the tablecloth. His thoughts came together, converging
on the loosely written words:

'For the last nine months a woman...'

He wondered swiftly what he had already said to Port Scatho: only that he
had known of his wife's letter; not when! And that he approved! Well, on
principle! He sat up. To think that one could be brought down to thinking
so slowly!

He ran swiftly over what had happened in the train from Scotland and
before...

Macmaster had turned up one morning beside their breakfast table in the
farm house, much agitated, looking altogether too small in a cloth cap
and a new grey tweed suit. He had wanted £50 to pay his bill with: at
some place up the line above...above...Berwick suddenly flashed into
Tietjens' mind...

That was the geographic position. Sylvia was at Bamborough on the coast
(junction Wooler); he, himself, to the north-west, on the moors.
Macmaster to the northeast of him, just over the border: in some
circumspect beauty spot where you did not meet people. Both Macmaster and
Mrs Duchemin would know that country and gurgle over its beastly literary
associations...The Shirra! Maida! Pet Marjorie...Faugh I Macmaster would,
no doubt, turn an honest penny by writing articles about it and Mrs
Duchemin would hold his hand...

She had become Macmaster's mistress, as far as Tietjens knew, after a
dreadful scene in the rectory, Duchemin having mauled his wife like a
savage dog, and Macmaster in the house...It was natural: a Sadix reaction
as it were. But Tietjens rather wished they hadn't. Now it appeared they
had been spending a week together...or more. Duchemin by that time was in
an asylum...

From what Tietjens had made out they had got out of bed early one morning
to take a boat and see the sunrise on some lake and had passed an
agreeable day together quoting, 'Since when we stand side by side only
hands may meet' and other poems of Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, no
doubt to justify their sin. On coming home they had run their boat's nose
into the tea-table of the Port Scathos with Mr Brownlie, the nephew, just
getting out of a motor to join them. The Port Scatho group were spending
the night at the Macmasters' hotel which backed on to the lake. It was
the ordinary damn sort of thing that must happen in these islands that
are only a few yards across.

The Macmasters appear to have lost their heads frightfully, although Lady
Port Scatho had been as motherly as possible to Mrs Duchemin; so
motherly, indeed, that if they had not been unable to observe anything,
they might have recognized the Port Scathos as backers rather than spies
upon themselves. It was, no doubt, however, Brown-lie who had upset them:
he wasn't very civil to Macmaster, whom he knew as a friend of Tietjens.
He had dashed up from London in his motor to consult his uncle, who was
dashing down from the west of Scotland, about the policy of the bank in
that moment of crisis...

Macmaster, anyhow, did not spend the night in the hotel, but went to
Jedburgh or Melrose or some such place, turning up again almost before
it was light to have a frightful interview about five in the morning
with Mrs Duchemin, who, towards three, had come to a disastrous
conclusion as to her condition. They had lost their nerves for the first
time in their association, and they had lost them very badly indeed, the
things that Mrs Duchemin said to Macmaster seeming almost to have passed
belief...

Thus, when Macmaster turned up at Tietjens' breakfast, he was almost out
of his mind. He wanted Tietjens to go over in the motor he had brought,
pay the bill at the hotel, and travel down to town with Mrs Duchemin, who
was certainly in no condition to travel alone. Tietjens was also to make
up the quarrel with Mrs Duchemin and to lend Macmaster £50 in cash, as it
was then impossible to change cheques anywhere. Tietjens got the money
from his old nurse, who, because she distrusted banks, carried great sums
in £5 notes in a pocket under her under-petticoat.

Macmaster, pocketing the money, had said:

'That makes exactly two thousand guineas that I owe you. I'm making
arrangements to repay you next week...

Tietjens remembered that he had rather stiffened and had said: 'For God's
sake don't. I beg you not to. Have Duchemin properly put under trustee in
lunacy, and leave his capital alone. I really beg you. You don't know
what you'll be letting yourselves in for. You don't owe me anything and
you can always draw on me.'

Tietjens never knew what Mrs Duchemin had done about her husband's
estate over which she had at that date had a power of attorney; but he
had imagined that, from that time on, Macmaster had felt a certain
coldness for himself and that Mrs Duchemin had hated him. During several
years Macmaster had been borrowing hundreds at a time from Tietjens. The
affair with Mrs Duchemin had cost her lover a good deal; he had
week-ended almost continuously in Rye at the expensive hostel. Moreover,
the famous Friday parties for geniuses had been going on for several
years now, and these had meant new furnishings, bindings, carpets, and
loans to geniuses--at any rate before Macmaster had had the ear of the
Royal Bounty. So the sum had grown to £2,000, and now to guineas. And,
from that date, the Macmasters had not offered any repayment.

Macmaster had said that he dare not travel with Mrs Duchemin because all
London would be going south by that train. All London had. It pushed in
at every conceivable and inconceivable station all down the line--it was
the great rout of the 3-8-14. Tietjens had got on board at Berwick, where
they were adding extra coaches, and by giving a £5 note to the guard, who
hadn't been able to promise isolation for any distance, had got a locked
carriage. It hadn't remained locked for long enough to let Mrs Duchemin
have her cry out--but it had apparently served to make some mischief. The
Sandbach party had got on, no doubt at Wooler; the Port Scatho party
somewhere else. Their petrol had run out somewhere and sales were
stopped, even to bankers. Macmaster, who after all had travelled by the
same train, hidden beneath two bluejackets, had picked up Mrs Duchemin at
King's Cross and that had seemed the end of it.

Tietjens, back in his dining-room, felt relief and also anger. He said:

'Port Scatho. Time's getting short. I'd like to deal with this letter if
you don't mind.'

Port Scatho came as if up out of a dream. He had found the process of
attempting to convert Mrs Tietjens to divorce law reform very
pleasant--as he always did. He said:

'Yes!...Oh, yes!'

Tietjens said slowly:

'If you can listen...Macmaster has been married to Mrs Duchemin exactly
nine months...Have you got that? Mrs Tietjens did not know this till this
afternoon. The period Mrs Tietjens complains of in her letter is nine
months. She did perfectly right to write the letter. As such I
approve of it. If she had known that the Macmasters were married
she would not have written it. I didn't know she was going to write it.
If I had known she was going to write it, I should have requested her not
to. If I had requested her not to she would, no doubt, have done so. I
did know of the letter at the moment of your coming in. I had heard of it
at lunch only ten minutes before. I should, no doubt, have heard of it
before, but this is the first time I have lunched at home in four months.
I have to-day had a day's leave as being warned for foreign service. I
have been doing duty at Ealing. To-day is the first opportunity I have
had for serious business conversation with Mrs Tietjens...Have you got
all that?...'

Port Scatho was running towards Tietjens, his hand extended, and over his
whole shining personage the air of an enraptured bridegroom. Tietjens
moved his right hand a little to the right, thus eluding the pink,
well-fleshed hand of Port Scatho. He went on frigidly:

'You had better, in addition, know as follows: The late Mr Duchemin was a
scatological--afterwards a homicidal--lunatic. He had recurrent fits,
usually on a Saturday morning. That was because he fasted--not abstained
merely--on Fridays. On Fridays he also drank. He had acquired the craving
for drink when fasting, from finishing the sacramental wine after
communion services. That is a not unknown occurrence. He behaved latterly
with great physical violence to Mrs Duchemin. Mrs Duchemin, on the other
hand, treated him with the utmost consideration and concern: she might
have had him certified much earlier, but, considering the pain that
confinement must cause him during his lucid intervals, she refrained. I
have been an eye-witness of the most excruciating heroisms on her part.
As for the behaviour of Macmaster and Mrs Duchemin, I am ready to
certify--and I believe society accepts--that it has been most...oh,
circumspect and right!...There has been no secret of their attachment to
each other. I believe that their determination to behave with decency
during their period of waiting has not been questioned...'

Lord Port Scatho said:

'No! no! Never...Most...as you say...circumspect and, yes...right!'

'Mrs Duchemin,' Tietjens continued, 'has presided at Macmaster's literary
Fridays for a long time; of course since long before they were married.
But, as you know, Macmaster's Fridays have been perfectly open: you might
almost call them celebrated...'

Lord Port Scatho said:

'Yes! yes! indeed...I sh'd be only too glad to have a ticket for Lady
Port Scatho...'

'She's only got to walk in,' Tietjens said. 'I'll warn them: they'll be
pleased...If, perhaps, you don't look in to-night! They have a special
party...But Mrs Macmaster was always attended by a young lady who saw her
off by the last train to Rye. Or I very frequently saw her off myself,
Macmaster being occupied by the weekly article that he wrote for one of
the papers on Friday nights...They were married on the day after Mr
Duchemin's funeral...

'You can't blame 'em!' Lord Port Scatho proclaimed.

'I don't propose to,' Tietjens said. 'The really frightful tortures Mrs
Duchemin had suffered justified--and indeed necessitated--her finding
protection and sympathy at the earliest possible moment. They have
deferred this announcement of their union partly out of respect for the
usual period of mourning, partly because Mrs Duchemin feels very strongly
that, with all the suffering that is now abroad, wedding feasts and signs
of rejoicing on the part of non-participants are eminently to be
deprecated. Still, the little party of to-night is by the way of being an
announcement that they are married...' He paused to reflect for a moment.

'I perfectly understand!' Lord Port Scatho exclaimed. 'I perfectly approve.
Believe me, I and Lady Port Scatho will do everything...Everything! Most
admirable people...Tietjens, my dear fellow, your behaviour...most
handsome...'

Tietjens said:

'Wait a minute...There was an occasion in August, '14. In a place on the
border. I can't remember the name...

Lord Port Scatho burst out:

'My dear fellow...I beg you won't...I beseech you not to...'

Tietjens went on:

Just before then Mr Duchemin had made an attack on his wife of an
unparalleled violence. It was that that caused his final incarceration.
She was not only temporarily disfigured, but she suffered serious
internal injuries and, of course, great mental disturbance. It was
absolutely necessary that she should have change of scene...But I think
you will bear me out that, in that case too, their behaviour was...again,
circumspect and right...

Port Scatho said:

'I know; I know...Lady Port Scatho and I agreed--even without knowing
what you have just told me--that the poor things almost exaggerated
it...He slept, of course, at Jedburgh?

Tietjens said:

'Yes! They almost exaggerated it...I had to be called in to take Mrs
Duchemin home...It caused, apparently, misunderstandings...'

Port Scatho--full of enthusiasm at the thought that at least two unhappy
victims of the hateful divorce laws had, with decency and
circumspectness, found the haven of their desires--burst out:

'By God, Tietjens, if I ever hear a man say a word against you...Your
splendid championship of your friend...Your...your unswerving
devotion...'

Tietjens said:

'Wait a minute, Port Scatho, will you?' He was unbuttoning the flap of
his breast pocket.

'A man who can act so splendidly in one instance,' Port Scatho said...'And
your going to France...If any one...if _any_ one...dares...

At the sight of a vellum-coloured, green-edged book in Tietjens' hand
Sylvia suddenly stood up; as Tietjens took from an inner flap a cheque
that had lost its freshness she made three great strides over the carpet
to him.

'Oh, Chrissie!...' she cried out. 'He hasn't...That beast hasn't...'

Tietjens answered:

'He has...' He handed the soiled cheque to the banker. Port Scatho looked
at it with slow bewilderment.

'"Account overdrawn,"' he read. 'Brownie's...my nephew's handwriting...To
the club...It's...'

'You aren't going to take it lying down?' Sylvia said. 'Oh, thank
goodness, you aren't going to take it lying down'

'No! I'm not going to take it lying down,' Tietjens said. 'Why should I?'
A look of hard suspicion came over the banker's face.

'You appear,' he said, 'to have been overdrawing your account. People
should not overdraw their accounts. For what sum are you overdrawn?'

Tietjens handed his pass-book to Port Scatho.

'I don't understand on what principle you work,' Sylvia said to Tietjens.
'There are things you take lying down; this you don't.'

Tietjens said:

'It doesn't matter, really. Except for the child.'

Sylvia said:

'I guaranteed an overdraft for you up to a thousand pounds last Thursday.
You can't be overdrawn over a thousand pounds.'

'I'm not overdrawn at all,' Tietjens said. 'I was for about fifteen
pounds yesterday. I didn't know it.'

Port Scatho was turning over the pages of the passbook, his face
completely blank.

'I simply don't understand,' he said. 'You appear to be in credit...You
appear always to have been in credit except for a small sum now and
then. For a day or two.'

'I was overdrawn,' Tietjens said, 'for fifteen pounds yesterday. I should
say for three or four hours: the course of a post, from my army agent to
your head office. During these two or three hours your bank selected two
out of six of my cheques to dishonour--both being under two pounds. The
other one was sent back to my mess at Ealing, who won't, of course, give
it back to me. That also is marked "account overdrawn," and in the same
handwriting.'

'But good God,' the banker said. 'That means your ruin.'

'It certainly means my ruin,' Tietjens said. 'It was meant to.

'But,' the banker said--a look of relief came into his face which had
begun to assume the aspect of a broken man's--'you must have other
accounts with the bank...a speculative one, perhaps, on which you are
heavily down...I don't myself attend to clients' accounts, except the
very huge ones, which affect the bank's policy.'

'You ought to,' Tietjens said. 'It's the very little ones you ought to
attend to, as a gentleman making his fortune out of them. I have no other
account with you. I have never speculated in anything in my life. I have
lost a great deal in Russian securities--a great deal for me. But so, no
doubt, have you.'

'Then...betting!' Port Scatho said.

'I never put a penny on a horse in my life,' Tietjens said. 'I know too
much about them.'

Port Scatho looked at the faces first of Sylvia, then of Tietjens.
Sylvia, at least, was his very old friend. She said:

'Christopher never bets and never speculates. His personal expenses are
smaller than those of any man in town. You could say he had no personal
expenses.'

Again the swift look of suspicion came into Port Scatho's open face.

'Oh,' Sylvia said, 'you couldn't suspect Christopher and me of being in a
plot to blackmail you.'

'No; I couldn't suspect that,' the banker said. 'But the other
explanation is just as extraordinary...To suspect the bank...the
_bank_...How do _you_ account?...' He was addressing Tietjens;
his round head seemed to become square, below; emotion worked on his
jaws.

'I'll tell you simply this,' Tietjens said. 'You can then repair the
matter as you think fit. Ten days ago I got my marching orders. As soon
as I had handed over to the officer who relieved me I drew cheques for
everything I owed--to my military tailor, the mess--for one pound twelve
shillings. I had also to buy a compass and a revolver, the Red Cross
orderlies having annexed mine when I was in hospital...

Port Scatho said: 'Good God!'

'Don't you know they annex things?' Tietjens asked. He went on: The
total, in fact, amounted to an overdraft of fifteen pounds, but I did not
think of it as such because my army agents ought to have paid my month's
army pay over to you on the first. As you perceive, they have only paid
it over this morning, the 13th. But, as you will see from my pass-book,
they have always paid about the 13th, not the 1st. Two days ago I lunched
at the club and drew that cheque for one pound fourteen shillings and
sixpence: one ten for personal expenses and the four and six for
lunch...'

'You were, however, actually overdrawn,' the banker said sharply.

Tietjens said:

'Yesterday, for two hours.'

'But then,' Port Scatho said, 'what do you want done? We'll do what we
can.'

Tietjens said:

'I don't know. Do what you like. You'd better make what explanation you
can to the military authority. If they court-martialled me it would hurt
you more than me. I assure you of that. There is an explanation.'

Port Scatho began suddenly to tremble.

'What...what...what explanation?' he said. 'You...damn it...you draw this
out...Do you dare to say my bank...' He stopped, drew his hand down his
face and said: 'But yet...you're a sensible, sound man...I've heard
things against you. But I don't believe them...Your father always spoke
very highly of you...I remember he said if you wanted money you could
always draw on him through us for three or four hundred...That's what
makes it so incomprehensible...It's...it's...' His agitation grew on him.
'It seems to strike at the very heart...'

Tietjens said:

'Look here, Port Scatho...I've always had a respect for you. Settle it
how you like. Fix the mess up for both our sakes with any formula that's
not humiliating for your bank. I've already resigned from the club...'

Sylvia said: 'Oh, _no_, Christopher...not from the club!'

Port Scatho started back from beside the table.

'But if you're in the right!' he said. 'You _couldn't_...Not resign
from the club...I'm on the committee...I'll explain to them, in the
fullest, in the most generous...'

'You couldn't explain,' Tietjens said. 'You can't get ahead of
rumour...It's half over London at this moment. You know what the
toothless old fellows of your committee are...Anderson! ffolliott...And
my brother's friend, Ruggles...'

Port Scatho said:

'Your brother's friend, Ruggles...But look here...He's something about
the Court, isn't he? But look here...' His mind stopped. He said: 'People
shouldn't overdraw...But if your father said you could draw on him, I'm
really much concerned...You're a first-rate fellow...I can tell that from
your pass-book alone...Nothing but cheques drawn to first-class tradesmen
for reasonable amounts. The sort of pass-book Hiked to see when I was a
junior clerk in the bank...' At that early reminiscence feelings of
pathos overcame him and his mind once more stopped.

Sylvia came back into the room; they had not perceived her going. She in
turn held in her hand a letter.

Tietjens said:

'Look here, Port Scatho, don't get into this state. Give me your word to
do what you can when you've assured yourself the facts are as I say. I
wouldn't bother you at all, it's not my line, except for Mrs Tietjens. A
man alone can live that sort of thing down, or die. Bue there's no reason
why Mrs Tietjens should live, tied to a bad hat, while he's living it
down or dying.'

'But that's not _right_,' Port Scatho said, 'it's not the right way
to look at it. You can't pocket...I'm simply bewildered...'

'You've no right to be bewildered,' Sylvia said. 'You're worrying your
mind for expedients to save the reputation of your bank. We know your
bank is more to you than a baby. You should look after it better, then.'

Port Scatho, who had already fallen two paces away from the table, now
fell two paces back, almost on top of it. Sylvia's nostrils were dilated.

She said:

'Tietjens shall not resign from your beastly club. He shall not! Your
committee will request him formally to withdraw his resignation. You
understand? He will withdraw it. Then he will resign for good. He is too
good to mix with people like you...' She paused, her chest working fast.
'Do you understand what you've got to do?' she asked.

An appalling shadow of a thought went through Tietjens' mind: he would
not let it come into words.

'I don't know...' the banker said. 'I don't know that I can get the
committee...'

'You've got to,' Sylvia answered. 'I'll tell you why...Christopher was
never overdrawn. Last Thursday I instructed your people to pay a thousand
pounds to my husband's account. I repeated the instruction by letter,
and I kept a copy of the letter, witnessed by my confidential maid. I
also registered the letter and have the receipt for it...You can see
them.'

Port Scatho mumbled from over the letter:

'It's to Brownlie...Yes, a receipt for a letter to Brown-lie...? She
examined the little green slip on both sides. He said: 'Last
Thursday...To-day's Monday...An instruction to sell North-Western stock
to the amount of one thousand pounds and place to the account
of...Then...'

Sylvia said:

'That'll do...You can't angle for time any more...Your nephew has been in
an affair of this sort before...I'll tell you. Last Thursday at lunch
your nephew told me that Christopher's brother's solicitors had withdrawn
all the permissions for overdrafts on the books of the Groby estate.
There were several to members of the family. Your nephew said that he
intended to catch Christopher on the hop--that's his own expression--and
dishonour the next cheque of his that came in. He said he had been
waiting for the chance ever since the war and the brother's withdrawal
had given it him. I begged him not to...'

'But, good God,' the banker said, 'this is unheard of...'

'It isn't,' Sylvia said. 'Christopher has had five snotty, little,
miserable subalterns to defend at courts-martial for exactly similar
cases. One was an exact reproduction of this...'

'But, good God,' the banker exclaimed again, 'men giving their lives for
their country...Do you mean to say Brownlie did this out of revenge for
Tietjens' defending at courts-martial...And then...your thousand pounds
is not shown in your husband's pass-book...'

'Of course it's not,' Sylvia said. 'It has never been paid in. On Friday
I had a formal letter from your people pointing out that North-Westerns
were likely to rise and asked me to reconsider my position. The same day
I sent an express telling them explicitly to do as I said...Ever since
then your nephew has been on the 'phone begging me not to save my
husband. He was there, just now, when I went out of the room. He was
also beseeching me to fly with him.'

Tietjens said:

'Isn't that enough, Sylvia? It's rather torturing.'

'Let them be tortured,' Sylvia said. 'But it appears to be enough.'

Port Scatho had covered his face with both his pink hands. He had
exclaimed:

'Oh, my God! Brownlie again...'

Tietjens' brother Mark was in the room. He was smaller, browner, and
harder than Tietjens and his blue eyes protruded more. He had in one hand
a bowler hat, in the other an umbrella, wore a pepper-and-salt suit and
had race-glasses slung across him. He disliked Port Scatho, who detested
him. He had lately been knighted. He said:

'Hullo, Port Scatho,' neglecting to salute his sister-in-law. His eyes,
whilst he stood motionless, rolled a look round the room and rested on a
miniature bureau that stood on a writing-table, in a recess, under and
between bookshelves.

'I see you've still got that cabinet,' he said to Tietjens. Tietjens
said:

'I haven't. I've sold it to Sir John Robertson. He's waiting to take it
away till he has room in his collection.'

Port Scatho walked, rather unsteadily, round the lunch-table and stood
looking down from one of the long windows. Sylvia sat down on her chair
beside the fireplace. The two brothers stood facing each other,
Christopher suggesting wheat-sacks, Mark carved wood. All round them,
except for the mirror that reflected bluenesses, the gilt backs of books.
Hullo Central was clearing the table.

'I hear you're going out again to-morrow,' Mark said. 'I want to settle
some things with you.'

'I'm going at nine from Waterloo,' Christopher said. 'I've not much time.
You can walk with me to the War Office if you like.'

Mark's eyes followed the black and white of the maid round the table.
She went out with the tray. Christopher suddenly was reminded of
Valentine Wannop clearing the table in her mother's cottage. Hullo
Central was no faster about it. Mark said:

'Port Scatho! As you're there we may as well finish one point. I have
cancelled my father's security for my brother's overdraft.'

Port Scatho said, to the window, but loud enough: 'We all know it. To our
cost.'

'I wish you, however,' Mark Tietjens went on, 'to make over from my own
account a thousand a year to my brother as he needs it. Not more than a
thousand in any one year.'

Port Scatho said:

'Write a letter to the bank. I don't look after clients' accounts on
social occasions.'

'I don't see why you don't,' Mark Tietjens said. 'It's the way you make
your bread and butter, isn't it?' Tietjens said:

'You may save yourself all this trouble, Mark. I am closing my account,
in any case.'

Port Scatho spun round on his heel.

'I beg that you won't,' he exclaimed. 'I beg that we...that we may have
the honour of continuing to have you draw upon us.' He had the trick of
convulsively working jaws: his head against the light was like the top of
a rounded gatepost. He said to Mark Tietjens: 'You may tell your friend,
Mr Ruggles, that your brother is empowered by me to draw on my private
account...on my personal and private account up to any amount he needs. I
say that to show my estimate of your brother; because I know he will
incur no obligations he cannot discharge.'

Mark Tietjens stood motionless; leaning slightly on the crook of his
umbrella on the one side; on the other displaying, at arm's length, the
white silk lining of his bowler hat, the lining being the brightest
object in the room.

'That's your affair,' he said to Port Scatho. 'All I'm concerned
with is to have a thousand a year paid to my brother's account till
further notice.'

Christopher Tietjens spoke, with what he knew was a sentimental voice, to
Port Scatho. He was very touched; it appeared to him that with the
spontaneous appearance of several names in his memory, and with this
estimate of himself from the banker, his tide was turning and that this
day might indeed be marked by a red stone:

'Of course, Port Scatho, I won't withdraw my wretched little account from
you if you want to keep it. It flatters me that you should.' He stopped
and added: 'I only wanted to avoid these...these family complications.
But I suppose you can stop my brother's money being paid into my account.
I don't want his money.'

He said to Sylvia:

'You had better settle the other matter with Port Scatho.' To Port
Scatho:

'I'm intensely obliged to you, Port Scatho...You'll get Lady Port Scatho
round to Macmaster's this evening if only for a minute; before eleven...'
And to his brother:

'Come along, Mark. I'm going down to the War Office. We can talk as we
walk.'

Sylvia said very nearly with timidity--and again a dark thought went over
Tietjens' mind:

'Do we meet again then?...I know you're very busy...'

Tietjens said:

'Yes. I'll come and pick you out from Lady Job's, if they don't keep me
too long at the War Office. I'm dining, as you know, at Macmaster's; I
don't suppose I shall stop late.'

'I'd come,' Sylvia said, 'to Macmaster's, if you thought it was
appropriate. I'd bring Claudine Sandbach and General Wade. We're only
going to the Russian dancers. We'd cut off early.'

Tietjens could settle that sort of thought very quickly. 'Yes, do,' he
said hurriedly. 'It would be appreciated.' He got to the door: he came
back: his brother was nearly through. He said to Sylvia, and for him
the occasion was a very joyful one:

'I've worried out some of the words of that song. It runs:

   "Somewhere or other there must surely be
   The face not seen: the voice not heard..."

Probably it's "the voice not ever heard" to make up the metre...I don't
know the writer's name. But I hope I'll worry it all out during the day.'

Sylvia had gone absolutely white.

'Don't!' she said. 'Oh..._don't_.' She added coldly: 'Don't take the
trouble,' and wiped her tiny handkerchief across her lips as Tietjens
went away.

She had heard the song at a charity concert and had cried as she heard
it. She had read, afterwards, the words in the programme and had almost
cried again. But she had lost the programme and had never come across the
words again. The echo of them remained with her like something terrible
and alluring: like a knife she would someday take out and with which she
would stab herself.



III


The two brothers walked twenty steps from the door along the empty Inn
pavements without speaking. Each was completely expressionless. To
Christopher it seemed like Yorkshire. He had a vision of Mark, standing
on the lawn at Groby, in his bowler hat and with his umbrella, whilst the
shooters walked over the lawn, and up the hill to the butts. Mark
probably never had done that; but it was so that his image always
presented itself to his brother. Mark was considering that one of the
folds of his umbrella was disarranged. He seriously debated with himself
whether he should unfold it at once and refold it--which was a great deal
of trouble to take!--or whether he should leave it till he got to his
club, where he would tell the porter to have it done at once. That would
mean that he would have to walk for a mile and a quarter through London
with a disarranged umbrella, which was disagreeable.

He said:

'If I were you I wouldn't let that banker fellow go about giving you
testimonials of that sort.'

Christopher said:

'Ah!'

He considered that, with a third of his brain in action, he was over a
match for Mark, but he was tired of discussions. He supposed that some
unpleasant construction would be put by his brother's friend, Ruggles, on
the friendship of Port Scatho for himself. But he had no curiosity. Mark
felt a vague discomfort. He said:

'You had a cheque dishonoured at the club this morning?'

Christopher said:

'Yes.'

Mark waited for explanations. Christopher was pleased at the speed with
which the news had travelled: it confirmed what he had said to Port
Scatho. He viewed his case from outside. It was like looking at the
smooth working of a mechanical model.

Mark was more troubled. Used as he had been for thirty years to the
vociferous south, he had forgotten that there were taciturnities still.
If at his Ministry he laconically accused a transport clerk of
remissness, or if he accused his French mistress--just as laconically--of
putting too many condiments on his nightly mutton chop, or too much salt
in the water in which she boiled his potatoes, he was used to hearing a
great many excuses or negations, uttered with energy and continued for
long. So he had got into the habit of considering himself the only
laconic being in the world. He suddenly remembered with discomfort--but
also with satisfaction--that his brother was his brother.

He knew nothing about Christopher, for himself. He had seemed to look at
his little brother down avenues from a distance, the child misbehaving
himself. Not a true Tietjens: born very late: a mother's child,
therefore, rather than a father's. The mother an admirable woman, but
from the South Riding. Soft, therefore, and ample. The elder Tietjens'
children, when they had experienced failures, had been wont to blame
their father for not marrying a woman of their own Riding. So, for
himself, he knew nothing of this boy. He was said to be brilliant: an
un-Tietjens-like quality. Akin to talkativeness!...Well, he wasn't
talkative. Mark said:

'What have you done with all the brass our mother left you? Twenty
thousand, wasn't it?'

They were just passing through a narrow way between Georgian houses. In
the next quadrangle Tietjens stopped and looked at his brother. Mark
stood still to be looked at. Christopher said to himself:

'This man has the right to ask these questions!'

It was as if a queer slip had taken place in a moving-picture. This
fellow had become the head of the house: he, Christopher, was the heir.
At that moment, their father, in the grave four months now, was for the
first time dead.

Christopher remembered a queer incident. After the funeral, when they had
come back from the churchyard and had lunched, Mark--and Tietjens could
now see the wooden gesture--had taken out his cigar-case and, selecting
one cigar for himself, had passed the rest round the table. It was as if
people's hearts had stopped beating. Groby had never, till that day, been
smoked in: the father had his twelve pipes filled and put in the
rose-bushes in the drive...

It had been regarded merely as a disagreeable incident: a piece of bad
taste...Christopher, himself, only just back from France, would not even
have known it as such, his mind was so blank, only the parson had
whispered to him: 'And Groby never smoked in till this day.'

But now! It appeared a symbol, and an absolutely right symbol. Whether
they liked it or not, here were the head of the house and the heir. The
head of the house must make his arrangements, the heir agree or disagree;
but the elder brother had the right to have his enquiries answered.

Christopher said:

'Half the money was settled at once on my child. I lost seven thousand in
Russian securities. The rest I spent...Mark said:

They had just passed under the arch that leads into Holborn. Mark, in
turn, stopped and looked at his brother, and Christopher stood still to
be inspected, looking into his brother's eyes. Mark said to himself:

'The fellow isn't, at least, afraid to look at you!' He had been
convinced that Christopher would be. He said:

'You spent it on women? Or where do you get the money that you spend on
women?'

Christopher said:

'I never spent a penny on a woman in my life.'

Mark said:

'Ah!'

They crossed Holborn and went by the backways towards Fleet Street.

Christopher said:

'When I say "woman" I'm using the word in the ordinary sense. Of course
I've given women of our own class tea or lunch and paid for their cabs.
Perhaps I'd better put it that I've never--either before or after
marriage--had connection with any woman other than my wife.'

Mark said:

'Ah!'

He said to himself:

'Then Ruggles must be a liar.' This neither distressed nor astonished
him. For twenty years he and Ruggles had shared a floor of a large and
rather gloomy building in Mayfair. They were accustomed to converse
whilst shaving in a joint toilet-room, otherwise they did not often meet
except at the club. Ruggles was attached to the Royal Court in some
capacity, possibly as sub-deputy gold-stickin-waiting. Or he might have
been promoted in the twenty years. Mark Tietjens had never taken the
trouble to enquire. Enormously proud and shut in on himself, he was
without curiosity of any sort. He lived in London because it was immense,
solitary, administrative and apparently without curiosity as to its own
citizens. If he could have found, in the north, a city as vast and as
distinguished by the other characteristics, he would have preferred it.

Of Ruggles he thought little or nothing. He had once heard a phrase
'agreeable rattle,' and he regarded Ruggles as an agreeable rattle,
though he did not know what the phrase meant. Whilst they shaved Ruggles
gave out the scandal of the day. He never, that is to say, mentioned a
woman whose virtue was not purchasable, or a man who would not sell his
wife for advancement. This matched with Mark's ideas of the south. When
Ruggles aspersed the fame of a man of family from the north, Mark would
stop him with:

'Oh, no. That's not true. He's a Craister of Wantley Fells,' or another
name, as the case might be. Half Scotch-man, half Jew, Ruggles was very
tall and resembled a magpie, having his head almost always on one side.
Had he been English Mark would never have shared his rooms with him: he
knew indeed few Englishmen of sufficient birth and position to have that
privilege, and, on the other hand, few Englishmen of birth and position
would have consented to share rooms so grim and uncomfortable, so
furnished with horse-hair-seated mahogany, or so lit with ground-glass
skylights. Coming up to town at the age of twenty-five, Mark had taken
these rooms with a man called Peebles, long since dead, and he had never
troubled to make any change, though Ruggles had taken the place of
Peebles. The remote similarity of the names had been less disturbing to
Mark Tietjens than would have been the case had the names been more
different. It would have been very disagreeable, Mark often thought, to
share with a man called, say, Granger. As it was, he still often called
Ruggles Peebles, and no harm was done. Mark knew nothing of Ruggles'
origins, then--so that, in a remote way, their union resembled that of
Christopher with Macmaster. But whereas Christopher would have given his
satellite the shirt off his back, Mark would not have lent Ruggles more
than a five-pound note, and would have turned him out of their rooms if
it had not been returned by the end of the quarter. But, since Ruggles
never had asked to borrow anything at all, Mark considered him an
entirely honourable man. Occasionally Ruggles would talk of his
determination to marry some widow or other with money, or of his
influence with people in exalted stations, but, when he talked like that,
Mark would not listen to him and he soon returned to stories of
purchasable women and venial men.

About five months ago Mark had said one morning to Ruggles:

'You might pick up what you can about my youngest brother Christopher and
let me know.'

The evening before that Mark's father had called Mark to him from over
the other side of the smoking-room and had said:

'You might find out what you can about Christopher. He may be in want of
money. Has it occurred to you that he's the heir to the estate! After
you, of course.' Mr Tietjens had aged a good deal after the deaths of his
children. He said: 'I suppose you won't marry?' and Mark had answered:

'No; I shan't marry. But I suppose I'm a better life than Christopher. He
appears to have been a good deal knocked about out there.'

Armed then with this commission, Mr Ruggles appears to have displayed
extraordinary activity in preparing a Christopher Tietjens dossier. It is
not often that an inveterate gossip gets a chance at a man whilst being
at the same time practically shielded against the law of libel. And
Ruggles disliked Christopher Tietjens with the inveterate dislike of a
man who revels in gossip for the man who never gossips. And Christopher
Tietjens had displayed more than his usual insolence to Ruggles. So
Ruggles' coattails flashed round an unusual number of doors and his
top-hat gleamed before an unusual number of tall portals during the next
week.

Amongst others he had visited the lady known as Glorvina.

There is said to be a book, kept in a holy of holies, in which bad marks
are set down against men of family and position in England. In this book
Mark Tietjens and his father--in common with a great number of
hard-headed Englishmen of county rank--implicitly believed. Christopher
Tietjens didn't: he imagined that the activities of gentlemen like
Ruggles were sufficient to stop the careers of people whom they disliked.
On the other hand, Mark and his father looked abroad upon English society
and saw fellows, apparently with every qualification for successful
careers in one service or the other; and these fellows got no
advancements, orders, tithes or preferments of any kind. Just, rather
mysteriously, they didn't make their marks. This they put down to the
workings of the book.

Ruggles, too, not only believed in the existence of that compilation of
the suspect and doomed, but believed that his hand had a considerable
influence over the inscriptions in its pages. He believed that if, with
more moderation and with more grounds than usual, he uttered denigrations
of certain men before certain personages, it would at least do those men
a great deal of harm, And, quite steadily and with, indeed, real belief
in much of what he said, Ruggles had denigrated Tietjens before these
personages. Ruggles could not see why Christopher had taken Sylvia back
after her elopement with Perowne: he could not see why Christopher had,
indeed, married Sylvia at all when she was with child by a man called
Drake--just as he wasn't going to believe that Christopher could get a
testimonial out of Lord Port Scatho except by the sale of Sylvia to the
banker. He couldn't see anything but money or jobs at the bottom of these
things: he couldn't see how Tietjens otherwise got the money to support
Mrs Wannop, Miss Wannop and her child, and to maintain Mrs Duchemin and
Macmaster in the style they affected, Mrs Duchemin being the mistress
of Christopher. He simply could see no other solution. It is, in fact,
asking for trouble if you are more altruist than the society that surrounds
you.

Ruggles, however, hadn't any pointers as to whether or no or to what
degree he had really damaged his roommate's brother. He had talked in
what he considered to be the right quarters, but he hadn't any evidence
that what he had said had got through. It was to ascertain that he had
called on the great lady, for if anybody knew, she would.

He hadn't definitely ascertained anything, for the great lady was--and he
knew it--a great deal cleverer than himself. The great lady, he was
allowed to discover, had a real affection for Sylvia, her daughter's
close friend, and she expressed real concern to hear that Christopher
Tietjens wasn't getting on. Ruggles had gone to visit her quite openly to
ask whether something better couldn't be done for the brother of the man
with whom he lived. Christopher had, it was admitted, great liabilities;
yet neither in his office--in which he would surely have remained had he
been satisfied with his prospects--nor in the army did he occupy anything
but a very subordinate position. Couldn't, he asked, Glorvina do anything
for him? And he added: 'It's almost as if he had a bad mark against
him...'

The great lady had said, with a great deal of energy, that she could not
do anything at all. The energy was meant to show how absolutely her party
had been downed, outed and jumped on by the party in power, so that she
had no influence of any sort anywhere. That was an exaggeration; but it
did Christopher Tietjens no good, since Ruggles chose to take it to mean
that Glorvina said she could do nothing because there was a black mark
against Tietjens in the book of the inner circle to which--if anyone
had--the great lady must have had access.

Glorvina, on the other hand, had been awakened to concern for Tietjens.
In the existence of a book she didn't believe: she had never seen it.
But that a black mark of a metaphorical nature might have been scored
against him she was perfectly ready to believe and, when occasion
served, during the next five months, she made enquiries about Tietjens.
She came upon a Major Drake, an intelligence officer, who had access to
the central depôt of confidential reports upon officers, and Major Drake
showed her, with a great deal of readiness, as a specimen, the report on
Tietjens. It was of a most discouraging sort and peppered over with
hieroglyphics, the main point being Tietjens' impecuniosity and his
predilection for the French; and apparently for the French Royalists.
There being at that date and with that Government a great deal of
friction with our Allies, this characteristic which earlier had earned
him a certain number of soft jobs had latterly done him a good deal of
harm. Glorvina carried away the definite information that Tietjens had
been seconded to the French artillery as a liaison officer and had
remained with them for some time, but, having been shell-shocked, had
been sent back. After that a mark had been added against him: Not to be
employed as liaison officer again.'

On the other hand, Sylvia's visits to Austrian officer-prisoners had also
been noted to Tietjens' account and a final note added: Not to be
entrusted with any confidential work.'

To what extent Major Drake himself compiled these records the great lady
didn't know and didn't want to know. She was acquainted with the
relationships of the parties and was aware that in certain dark,
full-blooded men the passion for sexual revenge is very lasting, and she
let it go at that. She discovered, however, from Mr Waterhouse--now also
in retreat--that he had a very high opinion of Tietjens' character and
abilities, and that just before Waterhouse's retirement he had especially
recommended Tietjens for very high promotion. That alone, in the then
state of Ministerial friendships and enmities, Glorvina knew to be
sufficient to ruin any man within range of Governmental influence.

She had, therefore, sent for Sylvia and had put all these matters before
her, for she had too much wisdom to believe that, even supposing there
should be differences between the young people of which she had no
evidence at all, Sylvia could wish to do anything but promote her
husband's material interests. Moreover, sincerely benevolent as the
great lady was towards this couple, she also saw that here was a
possibility of damaging, at least, individuals of the party in power. A
person in a relatively unimportant official position can sometimes make
a very nasty stink if he is unjustly used, has determination and a small
amount of powerful backing. This Sylvia, at least, certainly had.

And Sylvia had received the great lady's news with so much emotion that
no one could have doubted that she was utterly devoted to her husband and
would tell him all about it. This Sylvia had not as yet managed to do.

Ruggles in the meantime had collected a very full budget of news and
inferences to present to Mark Tietjens whilst shaving. Mark had been
neither surprised nor indignant. He had been accustomed to call all his
father's children, except the brother immediately next him, 'the whelps,'
and their concerns had been no concerns of his. They would marry, beget
unimportant children who would form collateral lines of Tietjens and
disappear as is the fate of sons of younger sons. And the deaths of the
intermediate brothers had been so recent that Mark was not yet used to
thinking of Christopher as anything but a whelp, a person whose actions
might be disagreeable but couldn't matter. He said to Ruggles:

'You had better talk to my father about this. I don't know that I could
keep all these particulars accurately in my head.'

Ruggles had been only too pleased to, and--with to give him weight, his
intimacy with the eldest son, who certified to his reliability in money
matters and his qualifications for amassing details as to personalities,
acts, and promotions--that day, at tea at the club, in a tranquil
corner, Ruggles had told Mr. Tietjens senior that Christopher's wife had
been with child when he had married her; he had hushed up her elopement
with Perowne and connived at other love affairs of hers to his own
dishonour, and was suspected in high places of being a French agent,
thus being marked down as suspect in the great book...All this in order
to obtain money for the support of Miss Wannop, by whom he had had a
child, and to maintain Macmaster and Mrs Duchemin on a scale unsuited to
their means, Mrs Duchemin being his mistress. The story that Tietjens
had had a child by Miss Wannop was first suggested, and then supported,
by the fact that in Yorkshire he certainly had a son who never appeared
in Gray's Inn.

Mr Tietjens was a reasonable man: not reasonable enough to doubt Ruggles'
circumstantial history. He believed implicitly in the great book--which
has been believed in by several generations of country gentlemen: he
perceived that his brilliant son had made no advancement commensurate
with either his brilliance or his influence: he suspected that brilliance
was synonymous with reprehensible tendencies. Moreover, his old friend,
General ffolliott, had definitely told him some days before that he ought
to enquire into the goings on of Christopher. On being pressed ffolliott
had, also definitely, stated that Christopher was suspected of very
dishonourable dealings, both in money and women. Ruggles' allegations
came, therefore, as a definite confirmation of suspicions that appeared
only too well backed up.

He bitterly regretted that, knowing Christopher to be brilliant, he had
turned the boy--as is the usual portion of younger sons--adrift, with
what of a competence could be got together, to sink or swim. He had, he
said to himself, always wished to keep at home and under his own eyes
this boy for whom he had had especial promptings of tenderness. His
wife, to whom he had been absolutely attached by a passionate devotion,
had been unusually wrapped up in Christopher, because Christopher had
been her youngest son, born very late. And, since his wife's death,
Christopher had been especially dear to him, as if he had carried about
his presence some of the radiance and illumination that had seemed to
attach to his mother. Indeed, after his wife's death, Mr Tietjens had
very nearly asked Christopher and his wife to come and keep house for
him at Groby, making, of course, special testamentary provision for
Christopher in order to atone for his giving up his career at the
Department of Statistics. His sense of justice to his other children had
prevented him doing this.

What broke his heart was that Christopher should not only have seduced
but should have had a child by Valentine Wannop. Very grand seigneur in
his habits, Mr Tietjens had always believed in his duty to patronise the
arts and, if he had actually done little in this direction beyond
purchasing some chocolate-coloured pictures of the French historic
school, he had for long prided himself on what he had done for the widow
and children of his old friend, Professor Wannop. He considered, and with
justice, that he had made Mrs Wannop a novelist, and he considered her to
be a very great novelist. And his conviction of the guilt of Christopher
was strengthened by a slight tinge of jealousy of his son: a feeling that
he would not have acknowledged to himself. For, since Christopher, he
didn't know how, for he had given his son no introduction, had become an
intimate of the Wannop household, Mrs Wannop had completely given up
asking him, Mr Tietjens, clamorously and constantly for advice. In return
she had sung the praises of Christopher in almost extravagant terms. She
had, indeed, said that if Christopher had not been almost daily in the
house or at any rate at the end of the phone she would hardly have been
able to keep on working at full pressure. This had not overpleased Mr
Tietjens. Mr Tietjens entertained for Valentine Wannop an affection of
the very deepest, the same qualities appealing to the father as appealed
to the son. He had even, in spite of his sixty odd years, seriously
entertained the idea of marrying the girl. She was a lady: she would have
managed Groby very well; and, although the entail on the property
was very strict indeed, he would, at least, have been able to
put her beyond the reach of want after his death. He had thus no doubt of
his son's guilt, and he had to undergo the additional humiliation of
thinking that not only had his son betrayed this radiant personality, but
he had done it so clumsily as to give the girl a child and let it be
known. That was unpardonable want of management in the son of a
gentleman. And now this boy was his heir with a misbegotten brat to
follow. Irrevocably!

All his four tall sons, then, were down. His eldest tied for good to--a
quite admirable!--trollop: his two next dead: his youngest worse than
dead: his wife dead of a broken heart.

A soberly but deeply religious man, Mr Tietjens' very religion made him
believe in Christopher's guilt. He knew that it is as difficult for a
rich man to go to heaven as it is for a camel to go through the gate in
Jerusalem called the Needle's Eye. He humbly hoped that his Maker would
receive him amongst the pardoned. Then, since he was a rich--an
enormously rich--man, his sufferings on this earth must be very great...

From tea-time that day until it was time to catch the midnight train for
Bishop Auckland, he had been occupied with his son Mark in the
writing-room of the club. They had made many notes. He had seen his son
Christopher, in uniform, looking broken and rather bloated, the result,
no doubt, of debauch. Christopher had passed through the other end of the
room and Mr Tietjens had avoided his eye. He had caught the train and
reached Groby, travelling alone. Towards dusk he had taken out a gun. He
was found dead next morning, a couple of rabbits beside his body, just
over the hedge from the little churchyard. He appeared to have crawled
through the hedge, dragging his loaded gun, muzzle forward, after him.
Hundreds of men, mostly farmers, die from that cause every year in
England...

With these things in his mind--or as much of them as he could keep at
once--Mark was now investigating his brother's affairs. He would have
let things go on longer, for his father's estate was by no means wound
up, but that morning Ruggles had told him that the club had had a cheque
of his brother's returned and that his brother was going out to France
next day. It was five months exactly since the death of their father.
That had happened in March, it was now August: a bright, untidy day in
narrow, high courts.

Mark arranged his thoughts.

'How much of an income,' he said, 'do you need to live in comfort? If a
thousand isn't enough, how much? Two?'

Christopher said that he needed no money and didn't intend to live in
comfort. Mark said:

'I am to let you have three thousand, if you'll live abroad. I'm only
carrying out our father's instructions. You could cut a hell of a splash
on three thousand in France.'

Christopher did not answer.

Mark began again:

The remaining three thousand then: that was over from our mother's money.
Did you settle it on your girl, or just spend it on her?'

Christopher repeated with patience that he hadn't got a girl.

Mark said:

'The girl who had a child by you. I'm instructed, if you haven't settled
anything already--but father took it that you would have--I was to let
her have enough to live on in comfort. How much do you suppose she'll
need to live in comfort? I allow Charlotte four hundred. Would four
hundred be enough? I suppose you want to go on keeping her? Three
thousand isn't a great lot for her to live on with a child.'

Christopher said:

'Hadn't you better mention names?'

Mark said:

'No! I never mention names. I mean a woman writer and her daughter. I
suppose the girl is father's daughter, isn't she?'

Christopher said:

'No. She couldn't be. I've thought of it. She's twenty-seven. We were all
in Dijon for the two years before she was born. Father didn't come into
the estate till next year. The Wannops were also in Canada at the time.
Professor Wannop was principal of a university there. I forget the name.'

Mark said:

'So we were. In Dijon! For my French!' He added: 'Then she can't be
father's daughter. It's a good thing. I thought, as he wanted to settle
money on them, they were very likely his children. There's a son, too.
He's to have a thousand. What's he doing?'

'The son,' Tietjens said, 'is a conscientious objector. He's on a
mine-sweeper. A bluejacket. His idea is that picking up mines is saving
life, not taking it.'

'Then he won't want the brass yet,' Mark said, 'it's to start him in any
business. What's the full name and address of your girl? Where do you
keep her?'

They were in an open space, dusty, with half-timber buildings whose
demolition had been interrupted. Christopher halted close to a post that
had once been a cannon; up against this he felt that his brother could
lean in order to assimilate ideas. He said slowly and patiently:

'If you're consulting with me as to how to carry out our father's
intentions, and as there's money in it, you had better make an attempt to
get hold of the facts. I wouldn't bother you if it wasn't a matter of
money. In the first place, no money is wanted at this end. I can live on
my pay. My wife is a rich woman, relatively. Her mother is a very rich
woman...'

'She's Rugeley's mistress, isn't she?' Mark asked. Christopher said:

'No, she isn't. I should certainly say she wasn't. Why should she be?
She's his cousin.'

'Then it's your wife who was Rugeley's mistress?' Mark asked. 'Or why
should she have the loan of his box?'

'Sylvia also is Rugeley's cousin, of course, a degree further removed,'
Tietjens said. 'She isn't anyone's mistress. You can be certain of that.'

'They _say_ she is,' Mark answered. 'They say she's a regular
tart...I suppose you think I've insulted you.' Christopher said:

'No, you haven't...It's better to get all this out. We're practically
strangers, but you've a right to ask.'

Mark said:

'Then you haven't got a girl and don't need money to keep her...You could
have what you liked. There's no reason why a man shouldn't have a girl,
and if he has he ought to keep her decently...'

Christopher did not answer. Mark leaned against the half-buried cannon
and swung his umbrella by its crook.

'But,' he said, 'if you don't keep a girl, what do you do for...' He was
going to say 'for the comforts of home,' but a new idea had come into his
mind. 'Of course,' he said, 'one can see that your wife's soppily in love
with you.' He added: 'Soppily...one can see that with half an eye...

Christopher felt his jaw drop. Not a second before--that very second!--he
had made up his mind to ask Valentine Wannop to become his mistress that
night. It was no good, any more, he said to himself. She loved him, he
knew, with a deep, an unshakable passion, just as his passion for her was
a devouring element that covered his whole mind as the atmosphere
envelops the earth. Were they, then, to go down to death separated by
years, with no word ever spoken? To what end? For whose benefit? The
whole world conspired to force them together! To resist became a
weariness!

His brother Mark was talking on. 'I know all about women,' he had
announced. Perhaps he did. He had lived with exemplary fidelity to a
quite unpresentable woman, for a number of years. Perhaps the complete
study of one woman gave you a map of all the rest!

Christopher said:

'Look here, Mark. You had better go through all my pass-books for the
last ten years. Or ever since I had an account. This discussion is no
good if you don't believe what I say.'

Mark said:

'I don't want to see your pass-books. I believe you.' He added, a second
later:

'Why the devil shouldn't I believe you? It's either believing you're a
gentleman or Ruggles a liar. It's only common sense to believe Ruggles a
liar, in that case. I didn't before because I had no grounds to.'

Christopher said:

'I doubt if liar is the right word. He picked up things that were said
against me. No doubt he reported them faithfully enough. Things are said
against me. I don't know why.'

'Because,' Mark said with emphasis, 'you treat these south country swine
with the contempt that they deserve. They're incapable of understanding
the motives of a gentleman. If you live among dogs they'll think you've
the motives of a dog. What other motives can they give you?' He added: 'I
thought you'd been buried so long under their muck that you were as mucky
as they!'

Tietjens looked at his brother with the respect one has to give to a man
ignorant but shrewd. It was a discovery: that his brother was shrewd.

But, of course, he would be shrewd. He was the indispensable head of a
great department. He had to have some qualities...Not cultivated, not
even instructed. A savage! But penetrating!

'We must move on,' he said, 'or I shall have to take a cab.' Mark
detached himself from his half-buried cannon.

'What did you do with the other three thousand?' he asked. 'Three
thousand is a hell of a big sum to chuck away. For a younger son.'

'Except for some furniture I bought for my wife's rooms,' Christopher
said, 'it went mostly in loans.' 'Loans!' Mark exclaimed. 'To that fellow
Macmaster?'

'Mostly to him,' Christopher answered. 'But about seven hundred to Dicky
Swipes, of Cullercoats.'

'Good God! Why to him?' Mark ejaculated.

'Oh, because he was Swipes, of Cullercoats,' Christopher said, 'and asked
for it. He'd have had more, only that was enough for him to drink himself
to death on.'

Mark said:

'I suppose you don't give money to every fellow that asks for it?'

Christopher said:

'I do. It's a matter of principle.'

'It's lucky,' Mark said, 'that a lot of fellows don't know that. You
wouldn't have much brass left for long.' 'I didn't have it for long,'
Christopher said.

'You know,' Mark said, 'you couldn't expect to do the princely patron on
a youngest son's portion. It's a matter of taste. I never gave a ha'penny
to a beggar myself. But a lot of the Tietjens were princely. One
generation to addle brass: one to keep: one to spend. That's all
right...I suppose Macmaster's wife is your mistress? That'll account for
it not being the girl. They keep an arm-chair for you.'

Christopher said:

'No. I just backed Macmaster for the sake of backing him. Father lent him
money to begin with.'

'So he did,' Mark exclaimed.

'His wife,' Christopher said, 'was the widow of Breakfast Duchemin.
_You_ knew Breakfast Duchemin?'

'Oh, _I_ knew Breakfast Duchemin,' Mark said. 'I suppose Macmaster's
a pretty warm man now. Done himself proud with Duchemin's money.'

'Pretty proud!' Christopher said. 'They won't be knowing me long now.'

'But damn it all!' Mark said, 'You've Groby to all intents and purposes.
_I'm_ not going to marry and beget children to hinder you.'

Christopher said:

'Thanks. I don't want it.'

'Got your knife into me?' Mark asked.

'Yes. I've got my knife into you,' Christopher answered. 'Into the whole
bloody lot of you, and Ruggles and ffolliot and our father!'

Mark said: 'Ah!'

'You don't suppose I wouldn't have?' Christopher asked.

'Oh, _I_ don't suppose you wouldn't have,' Mark answered. 'I thought
you were a soft sort of bloke. I see you aren't.'

'I'm as North Riding as yourself!' Christopher answered.

They were in the tide of Fleet Street, pushed apart by foot passengers
and separated by traffic. With some of the imperiousness of the officer
of those days, Christopher barged across through motor-buses and paper
lorries. With the imperiousness of the head of a department, Mark said:

'Here, policeman, stop these damn things and let me get over.' But
Christopher was over much the sooner and waited for his brother in the
gateway of the Middle Temple. His mind was completely swallowed up in the
endeavour to imagine the embraces of Valentine Wannop. He said to himself
that he had burnt his boats.

Mark, coming alongside him, said:

'You'd better know what our father wanted.'

Christopher said:

'Be quick then. I must get on.' He had to rush through his War Office
interview to get to Valentine Wannop. They would have only a few hours in
which to recount the loves of two lifetimes. He saw her golden head and
her enraptured face. He wondered how her face would look, enraptured. He
had seen on it humour, dismay, tenderness, in the eyes--and fierce anger
and contempt for his, Christopher's, political opinions. His militarism!

Nevertheless they halted by the Temple fountain. That respect was due to
their dead father. Mark had been explaining. Christopher had caught some
of his words and divined the links. Mr Tietjens had left no will,
confident that his desires as to the disposal of his immense fortune
would be carried out meticulously by his eldest son. He would have left
a will, but there was the vague case of Christopher to be considered.
Whilst Christopher had been a youngest son you arranged that he had a
good lump sum and went, with it, to the devil how he liked. He was no
longer a youngest son: by the will of God.

'Our father's idea,' Mark said by the fountain, 'was that no settled sum
could keep you straight. His idea was that if you were a bloody pimp
living on women...You don't mind?'

'I don't mind your putting it straightforwardly,' Christopher said. He
considered the base of the fountain that was half full of leaves. This
civilization had contrived a state of things in which leaves rotted by
August. Well, it was doomed!

'If you were a pimp living on women,' Mark repeated, 'it was no good
making a will. You might need uncounted thousands to keep you straight.
You were to have 'em. You were to be as debauched as you wanted, but on
clean money. I was to see how much in all probability that would be and
arrange the other legacies to scale...Father had crowds of pensioners...'

'How much did father cut up for?' Christopher asked. Mark said:

'God knows...You saw we proved the estate at a million and a quarter as
far as ascertained. But it might be twice that. Or five times!...With
steel prices what they have been for the last three years it's impossible
to say what the Middlesbrough district property won't produce...The death
duties even can't catch it up. And there are all the ways of getting
round _them_.'

Christopher inspected his brother with curiosity. This brown-complexioned
fellow with bulging eyes, shabby on the whole, tightly buttoned into a
rather old pepper-and-salt suit, with a badly rolled umbrella, old
race-glasses, and his bowler hat the only neat thing about him, was,
indeed, a prince. With a rigid outline! All real princes must look like
that. He said:

'Well! You won't be a penny the poorer by me.' Mark was beginning to
believe this. He said:

'You won't forgive father?'

Christopher said:

'I won't forgive father for not making a will. I won't forgive him for
calling in Ruggles. I saw him and you in the writing-room the night
before he died. He never spoke to me. He could have. It was clumsy
stupidity. That's unforgiveable.'

'The fellow shot himself,' Mark said. 'You usually forgive a fellow who
shoots himself.'

'I don't,' Christopher said. 'Besides, he's probably in heaven and don't
need my forgiveness. Ten to one he's in heaven. He was a good man.'

'One of the best,' Mark said. 'It was I that called in Ruggles though.'

'I don't forgive you either,' Christopher said.

'But you _must_,' Mark said--and it was a tremendous concession to
sentimentality--'take enough to make you comfortable.'

'By God!' Christopher exclaimed. 'I loathe your whole beastly buttered
toast, mutton-chopped, carpet-slippered, rum-negused comfort as much as I
loathe your beastly Riviera-palaced, chauffeured, hydraulic-lifted,
hot-house aired beastliness of fornication...' He was carried away, as he
seldom let himself be, by the idea of his amours with Valentine Wannop,
which should take place on the empty boards of a cottage, without
draperies, fat meats, gummy aphrodisiacs...'You won't,' he repeated, 'be
a penny the poorer by me.'

Mark said:

'Well, you needn't get shiny about it. If you won't you won't. We'd
better move on. You've only just time. We'll say that settles it...Are
you, or aren't you, overdrawn at your bank? I'll make that up, whatever
you damn well do to stop it.'

'I'm not overdrawn,' Christopher said. 'I'm over thirty pounds in credit,
and I've an immense overdraft guaranteed by Sylvia. It was a mistake of
the bank's.'

Mark hesitated for a moment. It was to him almost unbelievable that a
bank could make a mistake. One of the great banks. The props of England.

They were walking down towards the Embankment. With his precious umbrella
Mark aimed a violent blow at the railings above the tennis lawns, where
whitish figures, bedrabbled by the dim atmosphere, moved like marionettes
practising crucifixions.

'By God!' he said, 'this is the last of England...There's only my
department where they never make mistakes. I tell you, if there were any
mistakes made there there would be some backs broken!' He added: 'But
don't you think that I'm going to give up comfort, I'm not. My Charlotte
makes better buttered toast than they can at the club. And she's got a
tap of French rum that's saved my life over and over again after a
beastly wet day's racing. And she does it all on the five hundred I give
her and keeps herself clean and tidy on top of it. Nothing like a
Frenchwoman for managing...By God, I'd marry the doxy if she wasn't a
Papist. It would please her and it wouldn't hurt me. But I couldn't
stomach marrying a Papist. They're not to be trusted.'

'You'll have to stomach a Papist coming into Groby,' Christopher said.
'My son's to be brought up as a Papist.'

Mark stopped and dug his umbrella into the ground.

'Eh, but that's a bitter one,' he said. 'Whatever made ye do that?...I
suppose the mother made you do it. She tricked you into it before you
married her.' He added: 'I'd not like to sleep with that wife of yours.
She's too athletic. It'd be like sleeping with a bundle of faggots. I
suppose, though, you're a pair of turtle doves...Eh, but I'd not have
thought ye would have been so weak.'

'I only decided this morning,' Christopher said, 'when my cheque was
returned from the bank. You won't have read Spelden on sacrilege, about
Groby.'

'I can't say I have,' Mark answered.

'It's no good trying to explain that side of it then,' Christopher said,
'there isn't time. But you're wrong in thinking Sylvia made it a
condition of our marriage. Nothing would have made me consent then. It
has made her a happy woman that I have. The poor thing thought our house
was under a curse for want of a Papist heir.'

'What made ye consent now?' Mark asked.

'I've told you,' Christopher said, 'it was getting my cheque returned to
the club; that on the top of the rest of it. A fellow who can't do better
than that had better let the mother bring up the child...Besides, it
won't hurt a Papist boy to have a father with dishonoured cheques as much
as it would a Protestant. They're not quite English.' 'That's true too,'
Mark said.

He stood still by the railings of the public garden near the Temple
station.

'Then,' he said, 'if I'd let the lawyers write and tell you the guarantee
for your overdraft from the estate was stopped as they wanted to, the boy
wouldn't be a Papist? You wouldn't have overdrawn.'

'I didn't overdraw,' Christopher said. 'But if you had warned me I should
have made enquiries at the bank and the mistake wouldn't have occurred.
Why didn't you?'

'I meant to,' Mark said. 'I meant to do it myself. But I hate writing
letters. I put it off. I didn't much like having dealings with the fellow
I thought you were. I suppose that's another thing you won't forgive me
for?'

'No. I shan't forgive you for not writing to me,' Christopher said. 'You
ought to write business letters.'

'I hate writing 'em,' Mark said. Christopher was moving on. 'There's one
thing more,' Mark said. 'I suppose the boy is your son?'

'Yes, he's my son,' Christopher said.

'Then that's all,' Mark said. 'I suppose if you're killed you won't mind
my keeping an eye on the youngster?' 'I'll be glad,' Christopher said.

They strolled along the Embankment side by side, walking rather slowly,
their backs erected and their shoulders squared because of their
satisfaction of walking together, desiring to lengthen the walk by going
slow. Once or twice they stopped to look at the dirty silver of the
river, for both liked grim effects of landscape. They felt very strong,
as if they owned the land!

Once Mark chuckled and said:

Us too damn funny. To think of our both being...what is
it?...monogamists? Well, it's a good thing to stick to one woman...you
can't say it isn't. It saves trouble. And you know where you are.'

Under the lugubrious arch that leads into the War Office quadrangle
Christopher halted.

'No. I'm coming in,' Mark said. 'I want to speak to Hogarth. I haven't
spoken to Hogarth for some time. About the transport waggon parks in
Regent's Park. I manage all those beastly things and a lot more.'

'They say you do it damn well,' Christopher said. 'They say you're
indispensable.' He was aware that his brother desired to stay with him as
long as possible. He desired it himself.

'I damn well am!' Mark said. He added: 'I suppose you couldn't do that
sort of job in France? Look after transport and horses.'

'I could,' Christopher said, 'but I suppose I shall go back to liaison
work.'

'I don't think you will,' Mark said. 'I could put in a word for you with
the transport people.'

'I wish you would,' Christopher said. 'I'm not fit to go back into the
front line. Besides, I'm no beastly hero! And I'm a rotten infantry
officer. No Tietjens was ever a soldier worth talking of.'

They turned the corner of the arch. Like something fitting in, exact and
expected, Valentine Wannop stood looking at the lists of casualties that
hung beneath a cheaply green-stained deal shelter against the wall, a
tribute at once to the weaker art movements of the day and the desire to
save the ratepayers' money.

With the same air of finding Christopher Tietjens fit in exactly to an
expected landscape she turned on him. Her face was blue-white and
distorted. She ran upon him and exclaimed:

'Look at this horror! And you in that foul uniform can support it!'

The sheets of paper beneath the green roof were laterally striped with
little serrated lines: each line meant the death of a man, for the day.

Tietjens had fallen back a step off the kerb of the pavement that ran
round the quadrangle. He said:

'I support it because I have to. Just as you decry it because you have
to. They're two different patterns that we see.' He added: 'This is my
brother Mark.'

She turned her head stiffly upon Mark: her face was perfectly waxen. It
was as if the head of a shopkeeper's lay-figure had been turned. She said
to Mark:

'I didn't know Mr Tietjens had a brother. Or hardly. I've never heard him
speak of you.'

Mark grinned feebly, exhibiting to the lady the brilliant lining of his
hat.

'I don't suppose anyone has ever heard me speak of _him_,' he said,
'but he's my brother all right!'

She stepped on to the asphalt carriage-way and caught between her fingers
and thumb a fold of Christopher's khaki sleeve.

'I must speak to you,' she said; 'I'm going then.'

She drew Christopher into the centre of the enclosed, hard and ungracious
space, holding him still by the stuff of his tunic. She pushed him round
until he was facing her. She swallowed hard; it was as if the motion of
her throat took an immense time. Christopher looked round the skyline of
the buildings of sordid and besmirched stone. He had often wondered what
would happen if an air-bomb of some size dropped into the mean, grey
stoniness of that cold heart of an embattled world.

The girl was devouring his face with her eyes: to see him flinch. Her
voice was hard between her little teeth. She said:

'Were you the father of the child Ethel was going to have? Your wife says
you were.'

Christopher considered the dimensions of the quadrangle. He said vaguely:

'Ethel! Who's she?' In pursuance of the habits of the painter-poet Mr and
Mrs Macmaster called each other always 'Gug Gums!' Christopher had in all
probability never heard Mrs Duchemin's Christian names. Certainly he had
never heard them since his disaster had swept all names out of his head.

He came to the conclusion that the quadrangle was not a space
sufficiently confined to afford much bursting resistance to a bomb.

The girl said:

'Edith Ethel Duchemin! Mrs Macmaster that is!' She was obviously waiting
intensely. Christopher said with vagueness:

'No! Certainly not!...What was said?'

Mark Tietjens was leaning forward over the kerb in front of the
green-stained shelter, like a child over a brook-side. He was obviously
waiting, quite patient, swinging his umbrella by the hook. He appeared to
have no other means of self-expression. The girl was saying that when she
had rung up Christopher that morning a voice had said, without any
preparation at all: the girl repeated, without any preparation at all:

'You'd better keep off the grass if you're the Wannop girl. Mrs Duchemin
is my husband's mistress already. You keep off!'

Christopher said:

'She said that, did she?' He was wondering how Mark kept his balance,
really. The girl said nothing more. She was waiting. With an insistence
that seemed to draw him: a sort of sucking in of his personality. It was
unbearable. He made his last effort of that afternoon.

He said:

'Damn it all. How could you ask such a tomfool question?

_You_! I took you to be an intelligent person. The only intelligent
person I know. Don't you _know_ me?'

She made an effort to retain her stiffening.

'Isn't Mrs Tietjens a truthful person?' she asked. 'I thought she looked
truthful when I saw her at Vincent and Ethel's.'

He said:

'What she says she believes. But she only believes what she wants to, for
the moment. If you call that truthful, she's truthful. I've nothing
against her.' He said to himself: 'I'm not going to appeal to her by
damning my wife.'

She seemed to go all of a piece, as the hard outline goes suddenly out of
a piece of lump sugar upon which you drop water.

'Oh,' she said, 'it _isn't_ true. I _knew_ it wasn't true.' She
began to cry.

Christopher said:

'Come along. I've been answering tomfool questions all day. I've got
another tomfool to see here, then I'm through.'

She said:

'I can't come with you, crying like this.'

He answered:

'Oh, yes you can. This is the place where women cry.' He added: 'Besides,
there's Mark. He's a comforting ass.' He delivered her over to Mark.

'Here, look after Miss Wannop,' he said. 'You want to talk to her anyhow,
don't you?' and he hurried ahead of them like a fussy shopwalker into the
lugubrious hall. He felt that, if he didn't come soon to an unemotional
ass in red, green, blue, or pink tabs, who would have fish-like eyes and
would ask the sort of questions that fishes ask in tanks, he, too, must
break down and cry. With relief! However, that was a place where men
cried, too!

He got through at once by sheer weight of personality, down miles of
corridors, into the presence of a quite intelligent, thin, dark person
with scarlet tabs. That meant a superior staff affair: not dustbins.

The dark man said to him at once:

'Look here! What's the matter with the Command Depots? You've been
lecturing a lot of them. In economy. What are all these damn mutinies
about? Is it rotten old colonels in command?'

Tietjens said amiably:

'Look here! I'm not a beastly spy, you know! I've had hospitality from
the rotten old colonels.'

The dark man said:

'I daresay you have. But that's what you were sent round for. General
Campion said you were the brainiest chap in his command. He's gone out
now, worse luck...What's the matter with the Command Depots? Is it the
men? Or is it the officers! You needn't mention names.'

Tietjens said:

'Kind of Campion. It isn't the officers and it isn't the men. It's the
foul system. You get men who think they've deserved well of their
country--and they damn well have!--and you crop their heads...'

'That's the M.O.s,' the dark man said. 'They don't want lice.'

'If they prefer mutinies...' Tietjens said. 'A man wants to walk with his
girl and have a properly oiled quiff. They don't like being regarded as
convicts. That's how they are regarded.'

The dark man said:

'All right. Go on. Why don't you sit down?'

'I'm a little in a hurry,' Tietjens said. 'I'm going out tomorrow and
I've got a brother and people waiting below.' The dark man said:

'Oh, I'm sorry...But damn. You're the sort of man we want at home. Do you
want to go? We can, no doubt, get you stopped if you don't.'

Tietjens hesitated for a moment.

'Yes!' he said eventually. 'Yes, I want to go.'

For the moment he had felt temptation to stay. But it came into his
discouraged mind that Mark had said that Sylvia was in love with him. It
had been underneath his thoughts all the while: it had struck him at the
time like a kick from the hind leg of a mule in his subliminal
consciousness. It was the impossible complication. It might not be true;
but whether or no the best thing for him was to go and get wiped out as
soon as possible. He meant, nevertheless, fiercely, to have his night
with the girl who was crying downstairs...

He heard in his ear, perfectly distinctly, the lines:

   'The voice that never yet
   Made answer to my word...'

He said to himself:

'That was what Sylvia wanted! I've got that much!' The dark man had said
something. Tietjens repeated: 'I'd take it very unkindly if you stopped
my going...'

'I want to go.'

The dark man said:

'Some do. Some do not. I'll make a note of your name in case you come
back...You won't mind going on with your cinder-sifting, if you do?...Get
on with your story as quick as you can. And get what fun you can before
you go. They say it's rotten out there. Damn awful! There's a hell of a
strafe on. That's why they want all of you.'

For a moment Tietjens saw the grey dawn at rail-head with the distant
sound of a ceaselessly boiling pot from miles away. The army feeling
re-descended upon him. He began to talk about Command Depots, at great
length and with enthusiasm. He snorted with rage at the way men were
treated in these gloomy places. With ingenious stupidity!

Every now and then the dark man interrupted him with:

'Don't forget that a Command Depôt is a place where sick and wounded go
to get made fit. We've got to get 'em back as soon as we can.'

'And do you?' Tietjens would ask.

'No, we don't,' the other would answer. 'That's what this enquiry is
about.'

'You've got,' Tietjens would continue, 'on the north side of a beastly
clay hill nine miles from Southampton three thousand men from the
Highlands, North Wales, Cumberland...God knows where, as long as it's
three hundred miles from home to make them rather mad with
nostalgia...You allow 'em out for an hour a day during the pub's closing
time; you shave their heads to prevent 'em appealing to local young women
who don't exist, and you don't let 'em carry the swagger-canes! God knows
why! To prevent their poking their eyes out if they fall down, I suppose.
Nine miles from anywhere, with chalk down roads to walk on and not a bush
for shelter or shade...And, damn it, if you get two men, chums, from the
Seaforths or the Argylls you don't let them sleep in the same hut, but
shove 'em in with a lot of fat Buffs or Welshmen, who stink of leeks and
can't speak English...

'That's the infernal medicals' orders to stop 'em talking all night.'

'To make 'em conspire all night not to turn out for parade,' Tietjens
said. 'And there's a beastly mutiny begun...And, damn it, they're fine
men. They're first-class fellows. Why don't you--as this is a Christian
land--let 'em go home to convalesce with their girls and pubs and
friends and a little bit of swank, for heroes? Why in God's name don't
you? Isn't there suffering enough?'

'I wish you wouldn't say "you,"' the dark man said. 'It isn't me. The
only A.C.I. I've drafted was to give every Command Depot a cinema and a
theatre. But the beastly medicals got it stopped...for fear of infection.
And, of course, the parsons and Nonconformist magistrates...'

'Well, you'll have to change it all,' Tietjens said, 'or you'll just have
to say: thank God we've got a navy. You won't have an army. The other day
three fellows--Warwicks--asked me at question time, after a lecture, why
they were shut up there in Wiltshire whilst Belgian refugees were getting
bastards on their wives in Birmingham. And when I asked how many men made
that complaint over fifty stood up. All from Birmingham...'

The dark man said:

'I'll make a note of that...Go on.'

Tietjens went on; for as long as he stayed there he felt himself a man,
doing work that befitted a man, with the bitter contempt for fools that a
man should have and express. It was a letting up: a real last leave.



IV


Mark Tietjens, his umbrella swinging sheepishly, his bowler hat pushed
firmly down on to his ears to give him a sense of stability, walked
beside the weeping girl in the quadrangle.

'I say,' he said, 'don't give it to old Christopher too beastly hard
about his militarist opinions...Remember, he's going out to-morrow and
he's one of the best.'

She looked at him quickly, tears remaining upon her cheeks, and then
away.

'One of the best,' Mark said. 'A fellow who never told a lie or did a
dishonourable thing in his life. Let him down easy, there's a good girl.
You ought to, you know.'

The girl, her face turned away, said:

'I'd lay down my life for him!'

Mark said:

'I know you would. I know a good woman when I see one. And think! He
probably considers that he _is_...offering his life, you know, for
you. And me, too, of course!...It's a different way of looking at
things.' He gripped her awkwardly but irresistibly by the upper arm. It
was very thin under her blue cloth coat. He said to himself:

'By Jove! Christopher likes them skinny. It's the athletic sort that
attracts him. This girl is as clean run as...He couldn't think of
anything as clean run as Miss Wannop, but he felt a warm satisfaction at
having achieved an intimacy with her and his brother. He said:

'You aren't going away? Not without a kinder word to him. You think! He
might be killed...Besides. Probably he's never killed a German. He was a
liaison officer. Since then he's been in charge of a dump where they sift
army dustbins. To see how they can give the men less to eat. That means
that the civilians get more. You don't object to his giving civilians
more meat?...It isn't even helping to kill Germans...

He felt her arm press his hand against her warm side. 'What's he going to
do now?' she asked. Her voice wavered.

'That's what I'm here about,' Mark said. 'I'm going in to see old
Hogarth. You don't know Hogarth? Old General Hogarth? I think I can get
him to give Christopher a job with the transport. A safe job. Safeish! No
beastly glory business about it. No killing beastly Germans either...I
beg your pardon, if you like Germans.'

She drew her arm from his hand in order to look him in the face.

'Oh!' she said, '_you_ don't want him to have any beastly military
glory!' The colour came back into her face: she looked at him open-eyed.

He said:

'No! Why the devil should he?' He said to himself: 'She's got enormous
eyes: a good neck: good shoulders: good breasts: clean hips: small hands.
She isn't knockkneed: neat ankles. She stands well on her feet. Feet not
too large! Five foot four, say! A real good filly!' He went on aloud:
'Why in the world should he want to be a beastly soldier? He's the heir
to Groby. That ought to be enough for one man.'

Having stood still sufficiently long for what she knew to be his critical
inspection, she put her hand in turn, precipitately, under his arm and
moved him towards the entrance steps.

'Let's be quick then,' she said. 'Let's get him into your transport at
once. Before he goes to-morrow. Then we'll know he's safe.'

He was puzzled by her dress. It was very business-like, dark blue and
very short. A white blouse with a black silk, man's tie. A wide-awake,
with, on the front of the band, a cipher.

'You're in uniform yourself,' he said. 'Does your conscience let you do
war work?'

She said:

'No. We're hard up. I'm taking the gym classes in a great big school to
turn an honest penny...Do be quick!'

Her pressure on his elbow flattered him. He resisted it a little, hanging
back, to make her more insistent. He liked being pleaded with by a pretty
woman: Christopher's girl at that.

He said:

'Oh, it's not a matter of minutes. They keep 'em weeks at the base before
they send 'em up...We'll fix him up all right, I've no doubt. We'll wait
in the hall till he comes down.'

He told the benevolent commissionaire, one of two in a pulpit in the
crowded grim hall, that he was going up to see General Hogarth in a
minute or two. But not to send a bellboy. He might be some time yet.

He sat himself beside Miss Wannop, clumsily, on a wooden bench, humanity
surging over their toes as if they had been on a beach. She moved a
little to make room for him and that, too, made him feel good. He said:

'You said just now: "we" are hard up. Does "we" mean you and
Christopher?'

She said:

'I and Mr Tietjens. Oh, no! I and mother! The paper she used to write for
stopped. When your father died, I believe. He found money for it, I
think. And mother isn't suited to free-lancing. She's worked too hard in
her life.'

He looked at her, his round eyes protruding.

'I don't know what that is, free-lancing,' he said. 'But you've got to
be comfortable. How much do you and your mother need to keep you
comfortable? And put in a bit more so that Christopher could have a
mutton-chop now and then!'

She hadn't really been listening. He said with some insistence: 'Look
here! I'm here on business. Not like an elderly admirer forcing himself
on you. Though, by God, I do admire you too...But my father wanted your
mother to be comfortable...'

Her face, turned to him, became rigid.

'You don't mean...' she began. He said:

'You won't get it any quicker by interrupting. I have to tell my stories
in my own way. My father wanted your mother to be comfortable. He said so
that she could write books, not papers. I don't know what the difference
is: that's what he said. He wants you to be comfortable too...You've not
got any encumbrances! Not...oh, say a business: a hat shop that doesn't
pay? Some girls have...

She said: 'No. I just teach...oh, _do_ be quick...'

For the first time in his life he dislocated the course of his thoughts
to satisfy a longing in someone else.

'You may take it to go on with,' he said, 'as if my father had left your
mother a nice little plum.' He cast about to find his scattered thoughts.

'He _has!_ He _has!_ After all!' the girl said. 'Oh, thank
God!'

'There'll be a bit for you, if you like,' Mark said, 'or perhaps
Christopher won't let you. He's ratty with me. And something for your
brother to buy a doctor's business with.' He asked: 'You haven't fainted,
have you?' She said:

'No. I don't faint. I cry.'

'That'll be all right,' he answered. He went on: 'That's your side of it.
Now for mine. I want Christopher to have a place where he'll be sure of a
mutton-chop and an armchair by the fire. And someone to be good for him.
_You're_ good for him. I can see that. I know women!'

The girl was crying, softly and continuously. It was the first moment of
the lifting of strain that she had known since the day before the Germans
crossed the Belgian frontier, near a place called Gemmenich.

It had begun with the return of Mrs Duchemin from Scotland. She had sent
at once for Miss Wannop to the rectory, late at night. By the light of
candles in tall silver stocks, against oak panelling she had seemed like
a mad block of marble, with staring, dark eyes and mad hair. She had
exclaimed in a voice as hard as a machine's:

'How do you get rid of a baby? You've been a servant. You ought to know!'

That had been the great shock, the turning-point, of Valentine Wannop's
life. Her last years before that had been of great tranquillity, tinged
of course with melancholy because she loved Christopher Tietjens. But she
had early learned to do without, and the world as she saw it was a place
of renunciations, of high endeavour, and sacrifice. Tietjens had to be a
man who came to see her mother and talked wonderfully. She had been happy
when he had been in the house--she in the housemaid's pantry, getting the
tea-things. She had, besides, been very hard-worked for her mother; the
weather had been, on the whole, good, the corner of the country in which
they lived had continued to seem fresh and agreeable. She had had
excellent health, got an occasional ride on the _qui-tamer_ with
which Tietjens had replaced Joel's rig; and her brother had done
admirably at Eton, taking such a number of exhibitions and things that,
once at Magdalen, he had been nearly off his mother's hands. An
admirable, gay boy, not unlikely to run for, as well as being a credit
to, his university, if he didn't get sent down for his political
extravagances. He was a Communist!

And at the rectory there had been the Duchemins, or rather Mrs Duchemin
and, during most week-ends, Macmaster somewhere about.

The passion of Macmaster for Edith Ethel and of Edith Ethel for Macmaster
had seemed to her one of the beautiful things of life. They seemed to
swim, in a sea of renunciations, of beautiful quotations, and of
steadfast waiting. Macmaster did not interest her personally much,
but she took him on trust because of Edith Ethel's romantic passion and
because he was Christopher Tietjens' friend. She had never heard him say
anything original; when he used quotations they would be apt rather than
striking. But she took it for granted that he was the right man--much as
you take it for granted that the engine of an express train in which you
are is reliable. The right people have chosen it for you...

With Mrs Duchemin, mad before her, she had the first intimation that her
idolized friend, in whom she had believed as she had believed in the
firmness of the great sunny earth, had been the mistress of her
lover--almost since the first day she had seen him...And that Mrs
Duchemin had, stored somewhere, a character of an extreme harshness and
great vulgarity of language. She raged up and down in the candlelight,
before the dark oak panelling, screaming coarse phrases of the deepest
hatred for her lover. Didn't the oaf know his business better than to...?
The dirty little Port of Leith fish-handler...

What, then, were tall candles in silver sticks for? And polished
panelling in galleries?

Valentine Wannop couldn't have been a little ashcat in worn cotton
dresses, sleeping under the stairs, in an Ealing household with a drunken
cook, an invalid mistress, and three over-fed men, without acquiring a
considerable knowledge of the sexual necessities and excesses of
humanity. But, as all the poorer helots of great cities hearten their
lives by dreaming of material beauties, elegance and suave wealth, she
had always considered that, far from the world of Ealing and its county
councillors who over-ate and neighed like stallions, there were bright
colonies of beings, chaste, beautiful in thought, altruist and
circumspect.

And, till that moment, she had imagined herself on the skirts of such a
colony. She presupposed a society of beautiful intellects centring in
London round her friends. Ealing she just put out of her mind. She
considered: she had, indeed, once heard Tietjens say that humanity was
made up of exact and constructive intellects on the one hand and on the
other of stuff to fill graveyards...Now, what had become of the exact and
constructive intellects?

Worst of all, what became of her beautiful inclination towards Tietjens,
for she couldn't regard it as anything more? Couldn't her heart sing any
more whilst she was in the housemaid's pantry and he in her mother's
study? And what became, still more, of what she knew to be Tietjens'
beautiful inclination towards her? She asked herself the eternal
question--and she knew it to be the eternal question--whether no man and
woman can ever leave it at the beautiful inclination. And, looking at Mrs
Duchemin, rushing backwards and forwards in the light of candles,
blue-white of face and her hair flying, Valentine Wannop said: No! no!
The tiger lying in the reeds will always raise its head!' But tiger...it
was more like a peacock...

Tietjens, raising his head from the other side of the tea-table and
looking at her with his long, meditative glance from beside her mother:
ought he then, instead of blue and protruding, to have eyes divided
longitudinally in the blacks of them--that should divide, closing or
dilating, on a yellow ground, with green glowings of furtive light?

She was aware that Edith Ethel had done her an irreparable wrong, for you
cannot suffer a great sexual shock and ever be the same. Or not for
years. Nevertheless she stayed with Mrs Duchemin until far into the small
hours, when she fell, a mere parcel of bones in a peacock-blue wrapper,
into a deep chair and refused to move or speak; nor did she afterwards
slacken in her faithful waiting on her friend...

On the next day came the war. That was a nightmare of pure suffering,
with never a let-up, day or night. It began on the morning of the fourth
with the arrival of her brother from some sort of Oxford Communist Summer
School on the Broads. He was wearing a German corps student's cap and was
very drunk. He had been seeing German friends off from Harwich. It was
the first time she had ever seen a drunken man, so that was a good
present for her.

Next day, and sober, he was almost worse. A handsome, dark boy like his
father, he had his mother's hooked nose and was always a little
unbalanced: not mad, but always over-violent in any views he happened for
the moment to hold. At the Summer School he had been under very vitriolic
teachers of all sorts of notions. That hadn't hitherto mattered. Her
mother had written for a Tory paper: her brother, when he had been at
home, had edited some sort of Oxford organ of disruption. But her mother
had only chuckled.

The war changed that. Both seemed to be filled with a desire for blood
and to torture: neither paid the least attention to the other. It was as
if--so for the rest of those years the remembrance of that time lived
with her--in one corner of the room her mother, ageing, and on her knees,
from which she only with difficulty rose, shouted hoarse prayers to God,
to let her, with her own hands, strangle, torture and flay off all his
skin, a being called the Kaiser, and as if, in the other corner of the
room, her brother, erect, dark, scowling and vitriolic, one hand clenched
above his head, called down the curse of heaven on the British soldier,
so that in thousands, he might die in agony, the blood spouting from his
scalded lungs. It appeared that the Communist leader whom Edward Wannop
affected had had ill-success in his attempts to cause disaffection among
some units or other of the British army, and had failed rather gallingly,
being laughed at or ignored rather than being ducked in a horse-pond,
shot, or otherwise martyrized. That made it obvious that the British man
in the ranks was responsible for the war. If those ignoble hirelings had
refused to fight all the other embattled and terrorized millions would
have thrown down their arms!

Across that dreadful phantasmagoria went the figure of Tietjens. He was
in doubt. She heard him several times voice his doubts to her mother,
who grew every day more vacant. One day Mrs Wannop had said:

'What does your wife think about it?'

Tietjens had answered:

'Oh, Mrs Tietjens is a pro-German...Or no, that isn't exact! She has
German prisoner-friends and looks after them. But she spends nearly all
her time in retreat in a convent reading novels of before the war. She
can't bear the thought of physical suffering. I can't blame her.'

Mrs Wannop was no longer listening: her daughter was.

For Valentine Wannop the war had turned Tietjens into far more of a man
and far less of an inclination--the war and Mrs Duchemin between them. He
had seemed to grow less infallible. A man with doubts is more of a man,
with eyes, hands, the need for food and for buttons to be sewn on. She
had actually tightened up a loose glove button for him.

One Friday afternoon at Macmaster's she had had a long talk with him: the
first she had had since the drive and the accident.

Ever since Macmaster had instituted his Friday afternoons--and that had
been some time before the war--Valentine Wannop had accompanied Mrs
Duchemin to town by the morning train and back at night to the rectory.
Valentine poured out the tea, Mrs Duchemin drifting about the large
book-lined room amongst the geniuses and superior journalists.

On this occasion--a November day of very chilly wet--there had been next
to nobody present, the preceding Friday having been unusually full.
Macmaster and Mrs Duchemin had taken a Mr Spong, an architect, into the
dining-room to inspect an unusually fine set of Piranesi's Views of Rome
that Tietjens had picked up somewhere and had given to Macmaster. A Mr
Jegg and a Mrs Haviland were sitting close together in the far
window-seat. They were talking in low tones. From time to time Mr Jegg
used the word 'inhibition.' Tietjens rose from the fire-seat on which he
had been sitting and came to her. He ordered her to bring her cup of tea
over by the fire and talk to him. She obeyed. They sat side by side on
the leather fire-seat that stood on polished brass rails, the fire
warming their backs. He said:

'Well, Miss Wannop. What have you been doing?' and they drifted into
talking of the war. You couldn't not. She was astonished not to find him
so loathsome as she had expected, for, just at that time, with the facts
that were always being driven into her mind by the pacifist friends of
her brother and with continual brooding over the morals of Mrs Duchemin,
she had an automatic feeling that all manly men were lust-filled devils,
desiring nothing better than to stride over battlefields, stabbing the
wounded with long daggers in frenzies of sadism. She knew that this view
of Tietjens was wrong, but she cherished it.

She found him--as subconsciously she knew he was--astonishingly mild. She
had too often watched him whilst he listened to her mother's tirades
against the Kaiser, not to know that. He did not raise his voice, he
showed no emotion. He said at last:

'You and I are like two people...' He paused and began again more
quickly: 'Do you know these soap advertisement signs that read
differently from several angles? As you come up to them you read
"Monkey's Soap"; if you look back when you've passed it's "Needs no
Rinsing."...You and I are standing at different angles, and though we
both look at the same thing we read different messages. Perhaps if we
stood side by side we should see yet a third...But I hope we respect each
other. We're both honest. I, at least, tremendously respect you and I
hope you respect me.'

She kept silent. Behind their backs the fire rustled. Mr Jegg, across the
room, said: 'The failure to co-ordinate...' and then dropped his voice.

Tietjens looked at her attentively.

'You don't respect me?' he asked. She kept obstinately silent.

'I'd have liked you to have said it,' he repeated.

'Oh,' she cried out, 'how can I respect you when there is all this
suffering? So much pain! Such torture...I can't sleep...Never...I haven't
slept a whole night since...Think of the immense spaces, stretching out
under the night...I believe pain and fear must be worse at night...' She
knew she was crying out like that because her dread had come true. When
he had said: 'I'd have liked you to have said it,' using the past, he had
said his valedictory. Her man, too, was going.

And she knew too: she had always known under her mind and now she
confessed it: her agony had been, half of it, because one day he would
say farewell to her: like that, using the inflexion of a verb. As, just
occasionally, using the word 'we'--and perhaps without intention--he had
let her know that he loved her.

Mr Jegg drifted across from the window: Mrs Haviland was already at the
door.

'We'll leave you to have your war talk out,' Mr Jegg said. He added: 'For
myself, I believe it's one's sole duty to preserve the beauty of things
that's preservable. I can't help saying that.'

She was alone with Tietjens and the quiet day. She said to herself:

'Now he must take me in his arms. He must. He must!' The deepest of her
instincts came to the surface, from beneath layers of thought hardly
known to her. She could feel his arms round her: she had in her nostrils
the peculiar scent of his hair--like the scent of the skin of an apple,
but very faint. 'You must! You _must!_' she said to herself. There
came back to her overpoweringly the memory of their drive together and
the moment, the overwhelming moment, when, climbing out of the white fog
into the blinding air, she had felt the impulse of his whole body towards
her and the impulse of her whole body towards him. A sudden lapse: like
the momentary dream when you fall...She saw the white disk of the sun
over the silver mist and behind them was the long, warm night...

Tietjens sat, huddled rather together, dejectedly, the firelight playing
on the silver places of his hair. It had grown nearly dark outside: they
had a sense of the large room that, almost week by week, had grown, for
its gleams of gilding and hand-polished dark woods, more like the great
dining-room at the Duchemins'. He got down from the fire-seat with a
weary movement, as if the fire-seat had been very high. He said, with a
little bitterness, but as if with more fatigue:

'Well, I've got the business of telling Macmaster that I'm leaving the
office. That, too, won't be an agreeable affair! Not that what poor
Vinnie thinks matters.' He added: 'It's queer, dear...' In the tumult of
her emotions she was almost certain that he had said 'dear.'...'Not three
hours ago my wife used to me almost the exact words you have just used.
Almost the exact words. She talked of her inability to sleep at night for
thinking of immense spaces full of pain that was worse at night...And
she, too, said that she could not respect me...'

She sprang up.

'Oh,' she said, 'she didn't meant it. _I_ didn't mean it. Almost
every man who is a man must do as you are doing. But don't you see it's a
desperate attempt to get you to stay: an attempt on moral lines? How can
we leave any stone unturned that could keep us from losing our men?' She
added, and it was another stone that she didn't leave unturned: 'Besides,
how can you reconcile it with your sense of duty, even from your point of
view! You're more useful--you know you're more useful to your country
here than...'

He stood over her, stooping a little, somehow suggesting great gentleness
and concern.

'I can't reconcile it with my conscience,' he said. 'In this affair there
is nothing that any man can reconcile with his conscience. I don't mean
that we oughtn't to be in this affair and on the side we're on. We ought.
But I'll put to you things I have put to no other soul.'

The simplicity of his revelation seemed to her to put to shame any of
the glibnesses she had heard. It appeared to her as if a child were
speaking. He described the disillusionment it had cost him personally as
soon as this country had come into the war. He even described the sunlit
heather landscape of the north, where naïvely he had made his tranquil
resolution to join the French Foreign Legion as a common soldier and his
conviction that that would give him, as he called it, clean bones again.

That, he said, had been straightforward. Now there was nothing
straightforward: for him or for any man. One could have fought with a
clean heart for a civilization: if you like for the eighteenth century
against the twentieth, since that was what fighting for France against
the enemy countries meant. But our coming in had changed the aspect at
once. It was one part of the twentieth century using the eighteenth as a
cat's-paw to bash the other half of the twentieth. It was true there was
nothing else for it. And as long as we did it in a decent spirit it was
just bearable. One could keep at one's job--which was faking statistics
against the other fellow--until you were sick and tired of faking and
your brain reeled. And then some!

It was probably impolitic to fake--to overstate!--a case against enemy
nations. The chickens would come home to roost in one way or another,
probably. Perhaps they wouldn't. That was a matter for one's superiors.
Obviously! And the first gang had been simple, honest fellows. Stupid,
but relatively disinterested. But now!...What was one to do?...He went
on, almost mumbling...

She had suddenly a clear view of him as a man extraordinarily
clear-sighted in the affairs of others, in great affairs, but in his own
so simple as to be almost a baby. And gentle! And extraordinarily
unselfish. He didn't betray one thought of self-interest...not one!

He was saying:

'But now!...with this crowd of boodlers!...Supposing one's asked to
manipulate the figures of millions of pairs of boots in order to force
someone else to send some miserable general and his troops to, say,
Salonika--when they and you and common sense and everyone and everything
else, know it's disastrous?...And from that to monkeying with our own
forces...Starving particular units for political...' He was talking to
himself, not to her. And indeed he said:

'I can't, you see, talk really before you. For all I know your
sympathies, perhaps your activities, are with the enemy nations.'

She said passionately.

'They're not! They're not! How dare you say such a thing?' He answered:

'It doesn't matter...No! I'm sure you're not...But, anyhow, these things
are official. One can't, if one's scrupulous, even talk about them...And
then...You see it means such infinite deaths of men, such an infinite
prolongation...all this interference for side-ends!...I seem to see these
fellows with clouds of blood over their heads...And then...I'm to carry
out their orders because they're my superiors...But helping them means
unnumbered deaths...'

He looked at her with a faint, almost humorous smile:

'You see!' he said, 'we're perhaps not so very far apart! You mustn't
think you're the only one that sees all the deaths and all the
sufferings. All, you see: I, too, am a conscientious objector. My
conscience won't let me continue any longer with these fellows...'

She said:

'But isn't there any other...'

He interrupted:

'No! There's no other course. One is either a body or a brain in these
affairs. I suppose I'm more brain than body. I suppose so. Perhaps I'm
not. But my conscience won't let me use my brain in this service. So I've
a great, hulking body! I'll admit I'm probably not much good. But I've
nothing to live for: what I stand for isn't any more in this world. What
I want, as you know, I can't have. So...

She exclaimed bitterly:

'Oh, say it! Say it! Say that your large hulking body will stop two
bullets in front of two small anaemic fellows. And how can you say you'll
have nothing to live for? You'll come back. You'll do your good work
again. You know you did good work...'

He said:

'Yes I believe I did. I used to despise it, but I've come to believe I
did...But no! They'll never let me back. They've got me out, with all
sorts of bad marks against me. They'll pursue me systematically...You
see, in such a world as this, an idealist--or perhaps it's only a
sentimentalist--must be stoned to death. He makes the others so
uncomfortable. He haunts them at their golf...No; they'll get me, one way
or the other. And some fellow--Macmaster here--will do my jobs. He won't do
them so well, but he'll do them more dishonestly. Or no. I oughtn't to
say dishonestly. He'll do them with enthusiasm and righteousness. He'll
fulfil the orders of his superiors with an immense docility and unction.
He'll fake figures against our allies with the black enthusiasm of a
Calvin and, when that war comes, he'll do the requisite faking with the
righteous wrath of Jehovah smiting the priests of Baal. And he'll be
right. It's all we're fitted for. We ought never to have come into this
war. We ought to have snaffled other peoples' colonies as the price of
neutrality...

'Oh!' Valentine Wannop said, 'how can you so hate your country?'

He said with great earnestness:

'Don't say it! Don't believe it! Don't even for a moment think it! I
love every inch of its fields and every plant in the hedgerows: comfrey,
mullein, paigles, long red purples, that liberal shepherds give a
grosser name...and all the rest of the rubbish--you remember the field
between the Duchemins' and your mother's--and we have always been
boodlers and robbers and reivers and pirates and cattle thieves, and so
we've built up the great tradition that we love...But, for the moment,
it's painful. Our present crowd is not more corrupt than Walpole's. But
one's too near them. One sees of Walpole that he consolidated the nation
by building up the National Debt: one doesn't see his methods...My son,
or his son, will only see the glory of the boodle we make out of this
show. Or rather out of the next. He won't know about the methods.
They'll teach him at school that across the counties went the sound of
bugles that his father knew...Though that was another discreditable
affair...'

'But you!' Valentine Wannop exclaimed. '_You!_ what will _you_
do! After the war!

'I!' he said rather bewilderedly. 'I!...Oh, I shall go into the old
furniture business. I've been offered a job...'

She didn't believe he was serious. He hadn't, she knew, ever thought
about his future. But suddenly she had a vision of his white head and
pale face in the back glooms of a shop full of dusty things. He would
come out, get heavily on to a dusty bicycle and ride off to a cottage
sale. She cried out:

'Why don't you do it at once? Why don't you take the job at once?' for in
the back of the dark shop he would at least be safe.

He said:

'Oh, no! Not at this time! Besides the old furniture trade's probably not
itself for the minute...' He was obviously thinking of something else.

'I've probably been a low cad,' he said, 'wringing your heart with my
doubts. But I wanted to see where our similarities come in. We've always
been--or we've seemed always to me--so alike in our thoughts. I daresay I
wanted you to respect me...'

'Oh, I respect you! I respect you!' she said. 'You're as innocent as a
child.'

He went on:

'And I wanted to get some thinking done. It hasn't been often of late
that one has had a quiet room and a fire and...you! To think in front of.
You do make one collect one's thoughts. I've been very muddled till
to-day...till five minutes ago! Do you remember our drive? You
analysed my character. I'd never have let another soul...But you
see...Don't you see?'

She said:

'No! What am I to see? I remember...'

He said:

'That I'm certainly not an English country gentleman now; picking up the
gossip of the horse markets and saying: let the country go to hell, for
me!'

She said:

'Did I say that?...Yes, I said that!'

The deep waves of emotion came over her: she trembled. She stretched out
her arms...She thought she stretched out her arms. He was hardly visible
in the firelight. But she could see nothing: she was blind for tears. She
could hardly be stretching out her arms, for she had both hands to her
handkerchief on her eyes. He said something: it was no word of love or
she would have held it! it began with: 'Well, I must be...' He was silent
for a long time: she imagined herself to feel great waves coming from him
to her. But he wasn't in the room...

The rest, till that moment at the War Office, had been pure agony, and
unrelenting. Her mother's paper cut down her money; no orders for serials
came in: her mother, obviously, was failing. The eternal diatribes of her
brother were like lashes upon her skin. He seemed to be praying Tietjens
to death. Of Tietjens she saw and heard nothing. At the Macmasters she
heard, once, that he had just gone out. It added to her desire to scream
when she saw a newspaper. Poverty invaded them. The police raided the
house in search of her brother and his friends. Then her brother went to
prison: somewhere in the Midlands. The friendliness of their former
neighbours turned to surly suspicion. They could get no milk. Food became
almost unprocurable without going to long distances. For three days Mrs
Wannop was clean out of her mind. Then she grew better and began to write
a new book. It promised to be rather good. But there was no publisher.
Edward came out of prison, full of good-humour and boisterousness. They
seemed to have had a great deal to drink in prison. But, hearing that his
mother had gone mad over that disgrace, after a terrible scene with Valentine,
in which he accused her of being the mistress of Tietjens and therefore
militarist, he consented to let his mother use her influence--of which
she had still some--to get him appointed as an A.B. on a mine-sweeper.
Great winds became an agony to Valentine Wannop in addition to the
unbearable sounds of firing that came continuously over the sea. Her
mother grew much better: she took pride in having a son in a Service. She
was then the more able to appreciate the fact that her paper stopped
payment altogether. A small mob on the fifth of November burned Mrs
Wannop in effigy in front of their cottage and broke their lower windows.
Mrs Wannop ran out and in the illumination of the fire knocked down two
farm labourer hobbledehoys. It was terrible to see Mrs Wannop's grey hair
in the firelight. After that the butcher refused them meat altogether,
ration card or no ration card. It was imperative that they should move to
London.

The marsh horizon became obscured with giant stilts: the air above it
filled with aeroplanes: the roads covered with military cars. There was
then no getting away from the sounds of the war.

Just as they had decided to move Tietjens came back. It was for a moment
heaven to have him in this country. But when, a month later, Valentine
Wannop saw him for a minute, he seemed very heavy, aged and dull. It was
then almost as bad as before, for it seemed to Valentine as if he hardly
had his reason.

On hearing that Tietjens was to be quartered--or, at any rate,
occupied--in the neighbourhood of Ealing, Mrs Wannop at once took a
small house in Bedford Park, whilst, to make ends meet--for her mother
made terribly little--Valentine Wannop took a post as athletic mistress
in a great school in a not very near suburb. Thus, though Tietjens came
in for a cup of tea almost every afternoon with Mrs Wannop in the
dilapidated little suburban house, Valentine Wannop hardly ever saw him.
The only free afternoon she had was the Friday, and on that day she
still regularly chaperoned Mrs Duchemin: meeting her at Charing Cross
towards noon and taking her back to the same station in time to catch
the last train to Rye. On Saturdays and Sundays she was occupied all day
in typing her mother's manuscript.

Of Tietjens, then, she saw almost nothing. She knew that his poor mind
was empty of facts and of names; but her mother said he was a great help
to her. Once provided with facts his mind worked out sound Tory
conclusions--or quite startling and attractive theories--with extreme
rapidity. This Mrs Wannop found of the greatest use to her
whenever--though it wasn't now very often--she had an article to write
for an excitable newspaper. She still, however, contributed to her
failing organ of opinion, though it paid her nothing...

Mrs Duchemin, then, Valentine Wannop still chaperoned, though there was
no bond any more between them. Valentine knew, for instance, perfectly
well that Mrs Duchemin, after she had been seen off by train from
Charing Cross, got out at Clapham Junction, took a taxicab back to
Gray's Inn after dark and spent the night with Macmaster, and Mrs
Duchemin knew quite well that Valentine knew. It was a sort of parade of
circumspection and rightness, and they kept it up even after, at a
sinister registry office, the wedding had taken place, Valentine being
the one witness and an obscure-looking substitute for the usual pew
opener another. There seemed to be, by then, no very obvious reason why
Valentine should support Mrs Macmaster any more on these rather dreary
occasions, but Mrs Macmaster said she might just as well, until they saw
fit to make the marriage public. There were, Mrs Macmaster said,
censorious tongues, and even if these were confuted afterwards it is
difficult, if not impossible, to outrun scandal. Besides, Mrs Macmaster
was of opinion that the Macmaster afternoons with these geniuses must be
a liberal education for Valentine. But, as Valentine sat most of the
time at the tea-table near the door, it was the backs and side faces of
the distinguished rather than their intellects with which she was most
acquainted. Occasionally, however, Mrs Duchemin would show Valentine, as
an enormous privilege, one of the letters to herself from men of genius:
usually North British, written, as a rule, from the Continent or more
distant and peaceful climates, for most of them believed it their duty
in these hideous times to keep alive in the world the only glimmering
spark of beauty. Couched in terms so eulogistic as to resemble those
used in passionate love-letters by men more profane, these epistles
recounted, or consulted Mrs Duchemin as to, their love affairs with
foreign princesses, the progress of their ailments or the progresses of
their souls towards those higher regions of morality in which floated
their so beautiful-souled correspondent.

The letters entertained Valentine and, indeed, she was entertained by
that whole mirage. It was only the Macmasters' treatment of her mother
that finally decided Valentine that this friendship had died; for the
friendships of women are very tenacious things, surviving astonishing
disillusionments, and Valentine Wannop was a woman of more than usual
loyalty. Indeed, if she couldn't respect Mrs Duchemin on the old grounds,
she could very really respect her for her tenacity of purpose, her
determination to advance Macmaster and for the sort of ruthlessness that
she put into these pursuits.

Valentine's affection had, indeed, survived even Edith Ethel's continued
denigrations of Tietjens--for Edith Ethel regarded Tietjens as a clog
round her husband's neck, if only because he was a very unpopular man,
grown personally rather unpresentable and always extremely rude to the
geniuses on Fridays. Edith Ethel, however, never made these complaints
that grew more and more frequent as more and more the distinguished
flocked to the Fridays, before Macmaster. And they ceased very suddenly
and in a way that struck Valentine as odd.

Mrs Duchemin's grievance against Tietjens was that, Macmaster being a
weak man, Tietjens had acted as his banker until, what with interest and
the rest of it, Macmaster owed Tietjens a great sum: several thousand
pounds. And there had been no real reason: Macmaster had spent most of
the money either on costly furnishings for his rooms or on his costly
journeys to Rye. On the one hand Mrs Duchemin could have found Macmaster
all the bric-à-brac he could possibly have wanted from amongst the things
at the rectory, where no one would have missed them and, on the other,
she, Mrs Duchemin, would have paid all Macmaster's travelling expenses.
She had had unlimited money from her husband, who never asked for
accounts. But, whilst Tietjens still had influence with Macmaster, he had
used it uncompromisingly against this course, giving him the delusion--it
enraged Mrs Duchemin to think!--that it would have been dishonourable. So
that Macmaster had continued to draw upon him.

And, most enraging of all, at a period when she had had a power of
attorney over all Mr Duchemin's fortune and could, perfectly easily, have
sold out something that no one would have missed for the couple of
thousand or so that Macmaster owed, Tietjens had very forcibly refused to
allow Macmaster to agree to anything of the sort. He had again put into
Macmaster's weak head that it would be dishonourable. But Mrs
Duchemin--and she closed her lips determinedly after she had said
it--knew perfectly well Tietjens' motive. So long as Macmaster owed him
money he imagined that they couldn't close their doors upon him. And
their establishment was beginning to be a place where you met people of
great influence who might well get for a person as lazy as Tietjens a
sinecure that would suit him. Tietjens, in fact, knew which side his
bread was buttered.

For what, Mrs Duchemin asked, could there have been dishonourable about
the arrangements she had proposed? Practically the whole of Mr Duchemin's
money was to come to her: he was by then insane; it was therefore,
morally, her own. But immediately after that, Mr Duchemin having been
certified, the estate had fallen into the hands of the Lunacy
Commissioners and there had beno further hope of taking the capital. Now,
her husband being dead, it was in the hands of trustees, Mr Duchemin
having left the whole of his property to Magdalen College and merely the
income to his widow. The income was very large; but where, with their
expenses, with the death duties and taxation, which were by then
merciless, was Mrs. Duchemin to find the money? She was to be allowed,
under her husband's will, enough capital to buy a pleasant little place
in Surrey, with rather a nice lot of land--enough to let Macmaster know
some of the leisures of a country gentleman's lot. They were going in for
Shorthorns, and there was enough land to give them a small golf-course
and, in the autumn, a little--oh, mostly rough!--shooting for Macmaster
to bring his friends down to. It would just run to that. Oh, no
ostentation. Merely a nice little place. As an amusing detail the
villagers there already called Macmaster 'squire' and the women curtsied
to him. But Valentine Wannop would understand that, with all these
expenses, they couldn't find the money to pay off Tietj ens. Besides, Mrs
Macmaster said she wasn't going to pay off Tietjens. He had had his
chance once: now he could go without, for her. Macmaster would have to
pay it himself, and he would never be able to, his contribution to their
housekeeping being what it was. And there were going to be complications.
Macmaster wondered about their little place in Surrey, saying that he
would consult Tietjens about this and that alteration. But over the
doorsill of that place the foot of Tietjens was never going to go! Never!
It would mean a good deal of unpleasantness; or rather it would mean one
sharp: 'C-r-r-unch!' And then: Napoo finny! Mrs Duchemin sometimes, and
with great effect, condescended to use one of the more picturesque
phrases of the day.

To all these diatribes Valentine Wannop answered hardly anything. It was
no particular concern of hers; even if, for a moment, she felt
proprietarily towards Christopher as she did now and then, she felt no
particular desire that his intimacy with the Macmasters should be
prolonged, because she knew he could have no particular desire for its
prolongation. She imagined him turning them down with an unspoken and
good-humoured gibe. And, indeed, she agreed on the whole with Edith
Ethel. It _was_ demoralising for a weak little man like Vincent to have
a friend with an ever-open purse beside him. Tietjens ought not to have
been princely: it was a defect, a quality that she did not personally
admire in him. As to whether it would or wouldn't have been
dishonourable for Mrs Duchemin to take her husband's money and give it
to Macmaster, she kept an open mind. To all intents and purposes the
money was Mrs Duchemin's, and if Mrs Duchemin had then paid Christopher
off it would have been sensible. She could see that later it had become
very inconvenient. There were, however, male standards to be considered,
and Macmaster, at least, passed for a man. Tietjens, who was wise enough
in the affairs of others, had, in that, probably been wise; for there
might have been great disagreeablenesses with trustees and heirs-in-law
had Mrs Duchemin's subtraction of a couple of thousand pounds from the
Duchemin estate afterwards come to light. The Wannops had never been
large property owners as a family, but Valentine had heard enough of
collateral wranglings over small family dishonesties to know how very
disagreeable these could be.

So she had made little or no comment; sometimes she had even faintly
agreed as to the demoralisation of Macmaster, and that had sufficed. For
Mrs Duchemin had been certain of her rightness and cared nothing at all
for the opinion of Valentine Wannop, or else took it for granted.

And when Tietjens had gone to France for a little time Mrs Duchemin
seemed to forget the matter, contenting herself with saying that he might
very likely not come back. He was the sort of clumsy man who generally
got killed. In that case, since no I.O.U.s or paper had passed, Mrs
Tietjens would have no claim. So that would be all right.

But two days after the return of Christopher--and that was how Valentine
knew he had come back!--Mrs Duchemin with a lowering brow exclaimed:

'That oaf, Tietjens, is in England, perfectly safe and sound. And now the
whole miserable business of Vincent's indebtedness...Oh!'

She had stopped so suddenly and so markedly that even the stoppage of
Valentine's own heart couldn't conceal the oddness from her. Indeed it
was as if there were an interval before she completely realised what the
news was and as if, during that interval, she said to herself:

'It's very queer. It's exactly as if Edith Ethel has stopped abusing him
on my account...As if she _knew!_' But how could Edith Ethel know
that she loved the man who had returned? It was impossible! She hardly
knew herself. Then the great wave of relief rolled over her: he was in
England. One day she would see him, there: in the great room. For these
colloquies with Edith Ethel always took place in the great room where she
had last seen Tietjens. It looked suddenly beautiful, and she was
resigned to sitting there, waiting for the distinguished.

It was indeed a beautiful room: it had become so during the years. It
was long and high--matching the Tietjens'. A great cut-glass chandelier
from the rectory hung dimly coruscating in the centre, reflected and
re-reflected in convex gilt mirrors, topped by eagles. A great number of
books had gone to make place on the white panelled walls for the
mirrors, and for the fair orange and brown pictures by Turner, also from
the rectory. From the rectory had come the immense scarlet and lapis
lazuli carpet, the great brass fire-basket and appendages, the great
curtains that, in the three long windows, on their peacock-blue Chinese
silk showed parti-coloured cranes ascending in long flights--and all the
polished Chippendale arm-chairs. Amongst all these, gracious, trailing,
stopping with a tender gesture to rearrange very slightly the crimson
roses in the famous silver bowls, still in dark blue silks, with an
amber necklace and her elaborate black hair, waved exactly like that of
Julia Domna in the Musée Lapidaire at Arles, moved Mrs Macmaster--also
from the rectory. Macmaster had achieved his desire: even to the
shortbread cakes and the peculiarly scented tea that came every Friday
morning from Princes Street. And, if Mrs Macmaster hadn't the pawky,
relishing humour of the great Scots ladies of past days, she had in
exchange her deep aspect of comprehension and tenderness. An
astonishingly beautiful and impressive woman: dark hair; dark, straight
eyebrows; a straight nose; dark blue eyes in the shadows of her hair and
bowed, pomegranate lips in a chin curved like the bow of a Greek boat...

The etiquette of the place on Fridays was regulated as if by a royal
protocol. The most distinguished and, if possible, titled person was led
to a great walnut wood fluted chair that stood askew by the fire-place,
its back and seat of blue velvet, heaven knows how old. Over him would
hover Mrs Duchemin: or, if he were _very_ distinguished, both Mr and Mrs
Macmaster. The not so distinguished were led up by turns to be presented
to the celebrity and would then arrange themselves in a half-circle in
the beautiful arm-chairs; the less distinguished still, in outer groups
in chairs that had no arms; the almost undistinguished stood, also in
groups, or languished, awe-struck, on the scarlet leather window seats.
When all were there Macmaster would establish himself on the incredibly
unique hearthrug and would address wise sayings to the celebrity;
occasionally, however, saying a kind thing to the youngest man
present--to give him a chance of distinguishing himself. Macmaster's
hair, at that date, was still black, but not quite so stiff or so well
brushed; his beard had in it greyish streaks, and his teeth, not being
quite so white, looked less strong. He wore also a single eyeglass, the
retaining of which in his right eye gave him a slightly agonised
expression. It gave him, however, the privilege of putting his face very
close to the face of anyone upon whom he wished to make a deep
impression. He had lately become much interested in the drama, so that
there were usually several large--and, of course, very reputable and
serious--actresses in the room. On rare occasions Mrs Duchemin would say
across the room in her deep voice:

'Valentine, a cup of tea for his highness,' or 'Sir Thomas,' as the case
might be, and when Valentine had threaded her way through the chairs with
a cup of tea, Mrs Duchemin, with a kind, aloof smile, would say: 'Your
highness, this is my little brown bird.' But as a rule Valentine sat
alone at the tea-table, the guests fetching from her what they wanted.

Tietjens came to the Fridays twice during the five months of his stay at
Ealing. On each occasion he accompanied Mrs Wannop.

In earlier days--during the earliest Fridays--Mrs Wannop, if she ever
came, had always been installed, with her flowing black, in the throne
and, like an enlarged Queen Victoria, had sat there whilst suppliants
were led up to this great writer. But now: on the first occasion Mrs
Wannop got a chair without arms in the outer ring, whilst a general
officer commanding lately in chief somewhere in the East whose military
success had not been considered, but whose despatches were considered
very literary, occupied, rather blazingly, the throne. But Mrs Wannop had
chatted very contentedly all the afternoon with Tietjens, and it had been
comforting to Valentine to see Tietjens' large, uncouth, but quite
collected figure, and to observe the affection that these two had for
each other.

But, on the second occasion, the throne was occupied by a very young
woman who talked a great deal and with great assurance. Valentine didn't
know who she was. Mrs Wannop, very gay and distracted, stood nearly the
whole afternoon by a window. And even at that, Valentine was contented,
quite a number of young men crowding round the old lady and leaving
the younger one's circle rather bare.

There came in a very tall, clean-run and beautiful, fair woman,
dressed in nothing in particular. She stood with extreme--with
noticeable--unconcern near the doorway. She let her eyes rest on
Valentine, but looked away before Valentine could speak. She must have
had an enormous quantity of fair tawny hair, for it was coiled in a
great surface over her ears. She had in her hand several visiting cards
which she looked at with a puzzled expression and then laid on a card
table. She was no one who had ever been there before.

Edith Ethel--it was for the second time!--had just broken up the ring
that surrounded Mrs Wannop, bearing the young men tributary to the young
woman in the walnut chair and leaving Tietjens and the older woman high
and dry in a window: thus Tietjens saw the stranger, and there was no
doubt left in Valentine's mind. He came, diagonally, right down the room
to his wife and marched her straight up to Edith Ethel. His face was
perfectly without expression.

Macmaster, perched on the centre of the hearthrug, had an emotion that
was extraordinarily comic to witness, but that Valentine was quite unable
to analyse. He jumped two paces forward to meet Mrs Tietjens, held out a
little hand, half withdrew it, retreated half a step. The eyeglass fell
from his perturbed eye: this gave him actually an expression less
perturbed, but, in revenge, the hairs on the back of his scalp grew
suddenly untidy. Sylvia, wavering along beside her husband, held out her
long arm and careless hand. Macmaster winced almost at the contact, as if
his fingers had been pinched in a vice. Sylvia wavered desultorily
towards Edith Ethel, who was suddenly small, insignificant and relatively
coarse. As for the young woman celebrity in the arm-chair, she appeared
to be about the size of a white rabbit.

A complete silence had fallen on the room. Every woman in it was
counting the pleats of Sylvia's skirt and the amount of material in it.
Valentine Wannop knew that because she was doing it herself. If one had
that amount of material and that number of pleats one's skirt might hang
like that...For it was extraordinary: it fitted close round the hips,
and gave an effect of length and swing--yet it did not descend as low as
the ankles. It was, no doubt, the amount of material that did that, like
the Highlander's kilt that takes twelve yards to make. And from the
silence Valentine could tell that every woman and most of the men--if
they didn't know that this was Mrs Christopher Tietjens--knew that this
was a personage of _Illustrated Weekly_, as who should say of county
family, rank. Little Mrs Swan, lately married, actually got up, crossed
the room and sat down beside her bridegroom. It was a movement with
which Valentine could sympathize.

And Sylvia, having just faintly greeted Mrs Duchemin. and completely
ignored the celebrity in the arm-chair--in spite of the fact that Mrs
Duchemin had tried halfheartedly to effect an introduction--stood still,
looking round her. She gave the effect of a lady in a nurseryman's
hothouse considering what flower should interest her, collectively
ignoring the nurserymen who bowed round her. She had just dropped her
eyelashes, twice, in recognition of two small staff officers with a good
deal of scarlet streak about them who were tentatively rising from their
chairs. The staff officers who came to the Tietjens were not of the first
vintages; still they had the labels and passed as such.

Valentine was by that time beside her mother, who had been standing all
alone between two windows. She had dispossessed, in hot indignation, a
stout musical critic of his chair and had sat her mother in it. And, just
as Mrs Duchemin's deep voice sounded, yet a little waveringly:

'Valentine...a cup of tea for...' Valentine was carrying a cup of tea to
her mother.

Her indignation had conquered her despairing jealousy, if you could call
it jealousy. For what was the good of living or loving when Tietjens had
beside him, for ever, the radiant, kind and gracious perfection. On the
other hand, of her two deep passions, the second was for her mother.

Rightly or wrongly, Valentine regarded Mrs Wannop as a great, an august
figure: a great brain, a high and generous intelligence. She had written,
at least, one great book, and if the rest of her time had been frittered
away in the desperate struggle to live that had taken both their lives,
that could not detract from that one achievement that should last and for
ever take her mother's name down time. That this greatness should not
weigh with the Macmasters had hitherto neither astonished nor irritated
Valentine. The Macmasters had their game to play and, for the matter of
that, they had their predilections. Their game kept them amongst the
officially influential, the semiofficial and the officially accredited.
They moved with such C.B.s, knights, presidents and the rest as dabbled
in writing or the arts: they went upwards with such reviewers, art
critics, musical writers and archaeologists as had posts in, if possible,
first-class public offices or permanent positions on the more august
periodicals. If an imaginative author seemed assured of position and
lasting popularity Macmaster would send out feelers towards him, would
make himself dumbly useful, and sooner or later either Mrs Duchemin would
be carrying on with him one of her high-souled correspondences--or she
wouldn't.

Mrs Wannop they had formerly accepted as permanent leader writer and
chief critic of a great organ, but the great organ having dwindled and
now disappeared the Macmasters no longer wanted her at their parties.
That was the game--and Valentine accepted it. But that it should have
been with such insolence, so obviously meant to be noted--for in twice
breaking up Mrs Wannop's little circle Mrs Duchemin had not even once so
much as said: 'How d'ye do?' to the elder lady I--that was almost more
than Valentine could, for the moment, bear, and she would have taken her
mother away at once and would never have re-entered the house, but for
the compensations.

Her mother had lately written and even found a publisher for a book--and
the book had showed no signs of failing powers. On the contrary, having
been perforce stopped off the perpetual journalism that had dissipated
her energies, Mrs Wannop had turned out something that Valentine knew was
sound, sane and well done. Abstractions of failing attention to the
outside world are not necessarily in a writer signs of failing, as a
writer. It may mean merely that she is giving so much thought to her work
that her outside contacts suffer. If that is the case her work will gain.
That this might be the case with her mother was Valentine's great and
secret hope. Her mother was barely sixty: many great works have been
written by writers aged between sixty and seventy...

And the crowding of youngish men round the old lady had given Valentine a
little confirmation of that hope. The book naturally, in the maelstrom
flux and reflux of the time, had attracted no attention, and poor Mrs
Wannop had not succeeded in extracting a penny for it from her adamantine
publisher: she hadn't, indeed, made a penny for several months, and they
existed almost at starvation point in their little den of a villa--on
Valentine's earnings as athletic teacher...But that little bit of
attention in that semi-public place had seemed, at least, as a
confirmation to Valentine: there probably was something sound, sane and
well done in her mother's work. That was almost all she asked of life.

And, indeed, while she stood by her mother's chair, thinking with a
little bitter pathos that if Edith Ethel had left the three or four young
men to her mother the three or four might have done her poor mother a
little good, with innocent puffs and the like--and heaven knew they
needed that little good badly enough!--a very thin and untidy young man
_did_ drift back to Mrs Wannop and asked, precisely, if he might
make a note or two for publication as to what Mrs Wannop was doing. 'Her
book,' he said, 'had attracted so much attention. They hadn't known that
they had still writers among them...'

A singular, triangular drive had begun through the chairs from the
fireplace. That was how it had seemed to Valentine! Mrs Tietjens had
looked at them, had asked Christopher a question and, immediately, as if
she were coming through waist-high surf, had borne down Macmaster and Mrs
Duchemin, flanking her obsequiously, setting aside chairs and their
occupants, Tietjens and the two, rather bashfully following staff
officers, broadening out the wedge.

Sylvia, her long arm held out from a yard or so away, was stretching out
her hand to Valentine's mother. With her clear, high, unembarrassed voice
she exclaimed, also from a yard or so away, so as to be heard by everyone
in the room:

'You're Mrs Wannop. The great writer. I'm Christopher Tietjens' wife.'

The old lady, with her dim eyes, looked up at the younger woman towering
above her.

'You're Christopher's wife!' she said. 'I must kiss you for all the
kindness he has shown me'

Valentine felt her eyes filling with tears. She saw her mother stand up,
place both her hands on the other woman's shoulders. She heard her mother
say:

'You're a most beautiful creature. I'm sure you're good!'

Sylvia stood, smiling faintly, bending a little to accept the embrace.
Behind the Macmasters, Tietjens and the staff officers, a little crowd of
goggle eyes had ranged itself.

Valentine was crying. She slipped back behind the tea-urns, though she
could hardly feel the way. Beautiful! The most beautiful woman she had
ever seen! And good! Kind! You could see it in the lovely way she had
given her cheek to that poor old woman's lips...And to live all day, for
ever, beside him...she, Valentine, ought to be ready to lay down her life
for Sylvia Tietjens...

The voice of Tietjens said, just above her head:

'Your mother seems to be having a regular triumph,' and, with his
good-natured cynicism, he added, 'it seems to have upset some
apple-carts!' They were confronted with the spectacle of Macmaster
conducting the young celebrity from her deserted arm-chair across the
room to be lost in the horseshoe of crowd that surrounded Mrs Wannop.

Valentine said:

'You're quite gay to-day. Your voice is different. I suppose you're
better?' She did not look at him. His voice came:

'Yes! I'm relatively gay!' It went on: 'I thought you might like to know.
A little of my mathematical brain seems to have come to life again. I've
worked out two or three silly problems...

She said:

'Mrs Tietjens will be pleased.'

'Oh!' the answer came. 'Mathematics don't interest her any more than
cock-fighting.' With immense swiftness, between word and word, Valentine
read into that a hope! This splendid creature did not sympathise with her
husband's activities. But he crushed it heavily by saying: 'Why should
she? She's so many occupations of her own that she's unrivalled at!'

He began to tell her, rather minutely, of a calculation he had made only
that day at lunch. He had gone into the Department of Statistics and had
had rather a row with Lord Ingleby of Lincoln. A pretty title the fellow
had taken! They had wanted him to ask to be seconded to his old
department for a certain job. But he had said he'd be damned if he would.
He detested and despised the work they were doing.

Valentine, for the first time in her life, hardly listened to what he
said. Did the fact that Sylvia Tietjens had so many occupations of her
own mean that Tietjens found her unsympathetic? Of their relationships
she knew nothing. Sylvia had been so much of a mystery as hardly to
exist as a problem hitherto. Macmaster, Valentine knew, hated her. She
knew that through Mrs Duchemin; she had heard it ages ago, but she
didn't know why. She had never come to the Macmasters' afternoons; but
that was natural. Macmaster passed for a bachelor, and it was excusable
for a young woman of the highest fashion not to come to bachelor teas of
literary and artistic people. On the other hand, Macmaster dined at the
Tietjens' quite often enough to make it public that he was a friend of
that family. Sylvia, too, had never come down to see Mrs Wannop. But
then it would, in the old days, have been a long way to come for a lady
of fashion with no especial literary interests. And no one, in mercy,
could have been expected to call on poor them in their dog-kennel in an
outer suburb. They had had to sell almost all their pretty things.

Tietjens was saying that after his tempestuous interview with Lord
Ingleby of Lincoln--she wished he would not be so rude to powerful
people!--he had dropped in on Macmaster in his private room, and finding
him puzzled over a lot of figures had, in the merest spirit of bravado,
taken Macmaster and his papers out to lunch. And, he said, chancing to
look, without any hope at all, at the figures, he had suddenly worked out
an ingenious mystification. It had just come!

His voice had been so gay and triumphant that she hadn't been able to
resist looking up at him. His cheeks were fresh coloured, his hair
shining; his blue eyes had a little of their old arrogance--and
tenderness! Her heart seemed to sing with joy! He was, she felt, her man.
She imagined the arms of his mind stretching out to enfold her.

He went on explaining. He had rather, in his recovered self-confidence,
gibed at Macmaster. Between themselves, wasn't it easy to do what the
Department, under orders, wanted done? They had wanted to rub into our
allies that their losses by devastation had been nothing to write home
about--so as to avoid sending reinforcements to their lines! Well, if you
took just the bricks and mortar of the devastated districts, you could
prove that the loss in bricks, tiles, woodwork, and the rest didn't--and
the figures with a little manipulation would prove it I--amount to more
than a normal year's dilapidation spread over the whole country
in peace time...House repairs in a normal year had cost several
million sterling. The enemy had only destroyed just about so many million
sterling in bricks and mortar. And what was a mere year's dilapidations
in house property! You just neglected to do them and did them next year.

So, if you ignored the lost harvests of three years, the lost industrial
output of the richest industrial region of the country, the smashed
machinery, the barked fruit trees, the three years' loss of four and a
half-tenths of the coal output for three years--and the loss of life!--we
could go to our allies and say:

'All your yappings about losses are the merest bulls. You can perfectly
well afford to reinforce the weak places of your own lines. We intend to
send our new troops to the Near East, where lies our true interest!' And,
though they might sooner or later point out the fallacy, you would by so
much have put off the abhorrent expedient of a single command.

Valentine, though it took her away from her own thoughts, couldn't help
saying:

'But weren't you arguing about your own convictions?' He said:

'Yes, of course I was. In the lightness of my heart! It's always a good
thing to formulate the other fellow's objections.'

She had turned half round in her chair. They were gazing into each
other's eyes, he from above, she from below. She had no doubt of his
love: he, she knew, could have no doubt of hers. She said:

'But isn't it dangerous? To show these people how to do it?'

He said:

'Oh, no, no. No! You don't know what a good soul little Vinnie is. I
don't think you've ever been quite just to Vincent Macmaster! He'd as
soon think of picking my pocket as of picking my brains. The soul of
honour!'

Valentine had felt a queer, queer sensation. She was not sure afterwards
whether she had felt it before she had realized that Sylvia Tietjens was
looking at them. She stood there, very erect, a queer smile on her face.
Valentine could not be sure whether it was kind, cruel, or merely
distantly ironic; but she was perfectly sure it showed, whatever was
behind it, that its wearer knew all that there was to know of her,
Valentine's, feelings for Tietjens and for Tietjens' feelings for
her...It was like being a woman and man in adultery in Trafalgar Square.

Behind Sylvia's back, their mouths agape, were the two staff officers.
Their dark hairs were too untidy for them to amount to much, but, such as
they were, they were the two most presentable males of the assembly--and
Sylvia had snaffled them.

Mrs Tietjens said:

'Oh, Christopher! I'm going on to the Basils'.'

Tietjens said:

'All right. I'll pop Mrs Wannop into the tube as soon as she's had enough
of it, and come along and pick you up!'

Sylvia had just drooped her long eyelashes, in sign of salutation, to
Valentine Wannop, and had drifted through the door, followed by her
rather unmilitary military escort in khaki and scarlet.

From that moment Valentine Wannop never had any doubt. She knew that
Sylvia Tietjens knew that her husband loved her, Valentine Wannop, and
that she, Valentine Wannop, loved her husband--with a passion absolute
and ineffable. The one thing she, Valentine, didn't know, the one mystery
that remained impenetrable, was whether Sylvia Tietjens was good to her
husband!

A long time afterwards Edith Ethel had come to her beside the tea-cups
and had apologized for not having known, earlier than Sylvia's
demonstration, that Mrs Wannop was in the room. She hoped that they might
see Mrs Wannop much more often. She added after a moment that she hoped
Mrs Wannop wouldn't, in future, find it necessary to come under the
escort of Mr Tietjens. They were too old friends for that, surely.

Valentine said:

'Look here, Ethel, if you think that you can keep friends with mother and
turn on Mr Tietjens after all he's done for you, you're mistaken. You are
really. And mother's a great deal of influence. I don't want to see you
making any mistakes: just at this juncture. It's a mistake to make nasty
rows. And you'd make a very nasty one if you said anything against Mr
Tietjens to mother. She knows a great deal. Remember. She lived next door
to the rectory for a number of years. And she's got a dreadfully incisive
tongue...'

Edith Ethel coiled back on her feet as if her whole body were threaded by
a steel spring. Her mouth opened, but she bit her lower lip and then
wiped it with a very white handkerchief. She said:

'I hate that man! I detest that man! I shudder when he comes near me.'

'I know you do!' Valentine Wannop answered. 'But I wouldn't let other
people know it if I were you. It doesn't do you any real credit. He's a
good man.'

Edith Ethel looked at her with a long, calculating glance. Then she went
to stand before the fireplace.

That had been five--or at most six--Fridays before Valentine sat with
Mark Tietj ens in the War Office waiting-hall, and, on the Friday
immediately before that again, all the guests being gone, Edith Ethel had
come to the tea-table and, with her velvet kindness, had placed her right
hand on Valentine's left. Admiring the gesture with a deep fervour,
Valentine knew that that was the end.

Three days before, on the Monday, Valentine, in her school uniform, in a
great store to which she had gone to buy athletic paraphernalia, had run
into Mrs Duchemin, who was buying flowers. Mrs Duchemin had been horribly
distressed to observe the costume. She had said:

'But do you go _about_ in that? It's really dreadful.' Valentine had
answered:

'Oh, yes. When I'm doing business for the school in school hours I'm
expected to wear it. And I wear it if I'm going anywhere in a hurry
after school hours. It saves my dresses. I haven't got too many.'

'But _any_ one might meet you,' Edith Ethel said in a note of agony.
'It's very inconsiderate. Don't you _think_ you've been very
inconsiderate? You might meet any of the people who come to our Fridays!'

'I frequently do,' Valentine said. 'But they don't seem to mind. Perhaps
they think I'm a Waac officer. That would be quite respectable...'

Mrs Duchemin drifted away, her arms full of flowers and real agony upon
her face.

Now, beside the tea-table she said, very softly:

'My dear, we've decided not to have our usual Friday afternoon next
week.' Valentine wondered whether this was merely a lie to get rid of
her. But Edith Ethel went on: 'We've decided to have a little evening
festivity. After a great deal of thought we've come to the conclusion
that we ought, now, to make our union public.' She paused to await
comment, but Valentine making none she went on: 'It coincides very
happily--I can't help feeling it coincides very happily!--with another
event. Not that we set much store by these things...But it has been
whispered to Vincent that next Friday...Perhaps, my dear Valentine, you,
too, will have heard...'

Valentine said:

'No, I haven't. I suppose he's got the O.B.E. I'm very glad.'

'The Sovereign,' Mrs Duchemin said, 'is seeing fit to confer the honour
of knighthood on him.'

'Well!' Valentine said. 'He's had a quick career. I've no doubt he
deserves it. He's worked very hard. I do sincerely congratulate you.
It'll be a great help to you.'

'It's,' Mrs Duchemin said, 'not for mere plodding. That's what makes it
so gratifying. It's for a special piece of brilliance, that has marked
him out. It's, of course, a secret. But...'

'Oh, I know!' Valentine said. 'He's worked out some calculations to
prove that losses in the devastated districts, if you ignore machinery,
coal output, orchard trees, harvests, industrial products, and so on,
don't amount to more than a year's household dilapidations for the...'

Mrs Duchemin said with real horror:

'But how did you know? How on _earth_ did you know?...' She paused.
'It's such a _dead_ secret...That fellow must have told you...But
how on earth could _he_ know?'

'I haven't seen Mr Tietjens to speak to since the last time he was here,'
Valentine said. She saw, from Edith Ethel's bewilderment, the whole
situation. The miserable Macmaster hadn't even confided to his wife that
the practically stolen figures weren't his own. He desired to have a
little prestige in the family circle; for once a little prestige! Well!
Why shouldn't he have it? Tietjens, she knew, would wish him to have all
he could get. She said therefore:

'Oh, it's probably in the air...It's known the Government want to break
their claims to the higher command. And anyone who could help them to
that would get a knighthood...'

Mrs Duchemin was more calm.

'It's certainly,' she said, 'Burke'd, as you call it, those beastly
people.' She reflected for a moment. 'It's probably that,' she went on.
'It's in the air. Anything that can help to influence public opinion
against those horrible people is to be welcomed. That's known pretty
widely...No! It could hardly be Christopher Tietjens who thought of it
and told you. It wouldn't enter his head. He's their friend! He would
be...'

'He's certainly,' Valentine said, 'not a friend of his country's enemies.
I'm not, myself.'

Mrs Duchemin exclaimed sharply, her eyes dilated. 'What do you mean? What
on earth do you dare to mean? I thought you were a pro-German!'

Valentine said:

'I'm not! I'm not!...I hate men's deaths...I hate any men's deaths...Any
men...' She calmed herself by main force. 'Mr Tietjens says that the
more we hinder our allies the more we drag the war on and the more lives
are lost...More lives, do you understand?...'

Mrs Duchemin assumed her most aloof, tender, and high air: 'My poor
child,' she said, 'what possible concern can the opinions of that broken
fellow cause anyone! You can warn him from me that he does himself no
good by going on uttering these discredited opinions. He's a marked man.
Finished! It's no good Guggums, my husband, trying to stand up for him.'

'He _does_ stand up for him?' Valentine asked. 'Though I don't see
why it's needed. Mr Tietjens is surely able to take care of himself.'

'My good child,' Edith Ethel said, 'you may as well know the worst.
There's not a more discredited man in London than Christopher Tietjens,
and my husband does himself infinite harm in standing up for him. It's
our one quarrel.'

She went on again:

'It was all very well whilst that fellow had brains. He was said to have
some intellect, though I could never see it. But now that, with his
drunkenness and debaucheries, he has got himself into the state he is in;
for there's no other way of accounting for his condition! They're
striking him, I don't mind telling you, off the roll of his office...'

It was there that, for the first time, the thought went through Valentine
Wannop's mind, like a mad inspiration: this woman must at one time have
been in love with Tietjens. It was possible, men being what they were,
that she had even once been Tietjens' mistress. For it was impossible
otherwise to account for this spite, which to Valentine seemed almost
meaningless. She had, on the other hand, no impulse to defend Tietjens
against accusations that could not have any possible grounds.

Mrs Duchemin was going on with her kind loftiness:

'Of course a fellow like that--in that condition!--could not understand
matters of high policy. It is imperative that these fellows should not
have the higher command. It would pander to their insane spirit of
militarism. They _must_ be hindered. I'm talking, of course, between
ourselves, but my husband says that that is the conviction in the very
highest circles. To let them have their way, even if it led to earlier
success, would be to establish a precedent--so my husband
says!--compared with which the loss of a few lives...'

Valentine sprang up, her face distorted.

'For the sake of Christ,' she cried out, 'as you believe that Christ died
for you, try to understand that millions of men's lives are at stake...'

Mrs Duchemin smiled.

'My poor child,' she said, 'if you moved in the higher circles you would
look at these things with more aloofness...'

Valentine leant on the back of a high chair for support.

'You don't move in the higher circles,' she said. 'For Heaven's sake--for
your own--remember that you are a woman, not for ever and for always a
snob. You were a good woman once. You stuck to your husband for quite a
long time...'

Mrs Duchemin, in her chair, had thrown herself back. 'My good girl,' she
said, 'have you gone mad?' Valentine said:

'Yes, very nearly. I've got a brother at sea; I've had a man I loved out
there for an infinite time. You can understand that, I suppose, even if
you can't understand how one can go mad merely at the thoughts of
suffering at all...And I know, Edith Ethel, that you are afraid of my
opinion of you, or you wouldn't have put up all the subterfuges and
concealments of all these years...'

Mrs Duchemin said quickly:

'Oh, my good girl.--If you've got personal interests at stake you can't
be expected to take abstract views of the higher matters. We had better
change the subject.'

Valentine said:

'Yes, do. Get on with your excuses for not asking me and mother to your
knighthood party.'

Mrs Duchemin, too, rose at that. She felt at her amber beads with long
fingers that turned very slightly at the tips. She had behind her all her
mirrors, the drops of her lustres, shining points of gilt and of the
polish of dark woods. Valentine thought that she had never seen anyone so
absolutely impersonate kindness, tenderness, and dignity. She said:

'My dear, I was going to suggest that it was the sort of party to which
you might not care to come...The people will be stiff and formal and you
probably haven't got a frock.'

Valentine said:

'Oh, I've got a frock all right. But there's a Jacob's ladder in my party
stockings and that's the sort of ladder you can't kick down.' She
couldn't help saying that.

Mrs Duchemin stood motionless and very slowly redness mounted into her
face. It was most curious to see against that scarlet background the
vivid white of the eyes and the dark, straight eyebrows that nearly met.
And slowly again her face went perfectly white; then her dark blue eyes
became marked. She seemed to wipe her long, white hands one in the other,
inserting her right hand into her left and drawing it out again.

'I'm sorry,' she said in a dead voice. 'We had hoped that, if that man
went to France--or if other things happened--we might have continued on
the old friendly footing. But you yourself must see that, with our
official position, we can't be expected to connive...'

Valentine said:

'I don't understand!'

'Perhaps you'd rather I didn't go on!' Mrs Duchemin retorted. 'I'd much
rather not go on.'

'You'd probably better,' Valentine answered.

'We had meant,' the elder woman said, 'to have a quiet little dinner--we
two and you, before the party--for auld lang syne. But that fellow has
forced himself in, and you see for yourself that we can't have you as
well.'

Valentine said:

'I don't see why not. I always like to see Mr Tietjens!' Mrs Duchemin
looked hard at her.

'I don't see the use,' she said, 'of your keeping on that mask. It is
surely bad enough that your mother should go about with that man and that
terrible scenes like that of the other Friday should occur. Mrs Tietjens
was heroic; nothing less than heroic. But you have no right to subject
us, your friends, to such ordeals.'

Valentine said:

'You mean...Mrs Christopher Tietjens...'

Mrs Duchemin went on:

'My husband insists that I should ask you. But I will not. I simply will
not. I invented for you the excuse of the frock. Of course we could have
given you a frock if that man is so mean or so penniless as not to keep
you decent. But I repeat, with our official position we cannot--we
cannot; it would be madness--connive at this intrigue. And all the more
as the wife appears likely to be friendly with us. She has been once: she
may well come again.' She paused and went on solemnly: 'And I warn you,
if the split comes--as it must, for what woman could stand it?--it is Mrs
Tietjens we shall support. She will always find a home here.'

An extraordinary picture of Sylvia Tietjens standing beside Edith Ethel
and dwarfing her as a giraffe dwarfs an emu, came into Valentine's head.
She said:

'Ethel! Have I gone mad? Or is it you? Upon my word I can't
understand...'

Mrs Duchemin exclaimed:

'For God's sake hold your tongue, you shameless thing! You've had a child
by the man, haven't you?'

Valentine saw suddenly the tall silver candlesticks, the dark polished
panels of the rectory, and Edith Ethel's mad face and mad hair whirling
before them.

She said:

'No! I certainly haven't. Can you get that into your head? I certainly
haven't.' She made a further effort over immense fatigue. 'I assure
you--I beg you to believe if it will give you any ease--that Mr Tietjens
has never addressed a word of love to me in his life. Nor have I to him.
We have hardly talked to each other in all the time we have known each
other.'

Mrs Duchemin said in a harsh voice:

'Seven people in the last five weeks have told me you have had a child by
that beast: he's ruined because he has to keep you and your mother and
the child. You won't deny that he has a child somewhere hidden away?...'

Valentine exclaimed suddenly:

'Oh, Ethel, you mustn't...you _mustn't_ be jealous of me! If you
only knew you wouldn't be jealous of me...I suppose the child you were
going to have was by Christopher? Men are like that...But not of me! You
need never, never. I've been the best friend you can ever have had...'

Mrs Duchemin exclaimed harshly, as if she were being strangled:

'A sort of blackmail! I knew it would come to that! It always does with
your sort. Then do your damnedest, you harlot. You never set foot in this
house again! Go you and rot...' Her face suddenly expressed extreme fear
and with great swiftness she ran up the room. Immediately afterwards she
was tenderly bending over a great bowl of roses beneath the lustre. The
voice of Vincent Macmaster from the door had said:

'Come in, old man. Of course I've got ten minutes. The book's in here
somewhere...'

Macmaster was beside her, rubbing his hands, bending with his curious,
rather abject manner, and surveying her agonisedly with his eyeglass,
which enormously magnified his lashes, his red lower lid and the veins in
his cornea.

'Valentine!' he said, 'my dear Valentine...You've heard? We've decided to
make it public...Guggums will have invited you to our little feast. And
there will be a surprise, I believe...'

Edith Ethel looked, as she bent, lamentably and sharply, over her
shoulder at Valentine.

'Yes,' she said bravely, aiming her voice at Edith Ethel, 'Ethel has
invited me. I'll try to come...'

'Oh, but you must,' Macmaster said, 'just you and Christopher, who've
been so kind to us. For old times' sake. You could not..'

Christopher Tietjens was ballooning slowly from the door, his hand
tentatively held out to her. As they practically never shook hands at
home, it was easy to avoid his hand. She said to herself: 'Oh, how is it
possible! How could he have...' And the terrible situation poured itself
over her mind: the miserable little husband, the desperately nonchalant
lover--and Edith Ethel mad with jealousy! A doomed household. She hoped
Edith Ethel had seen her refuse her hand to Christopher.

But Edith Ethel, bent over her rose bowl, was burying her beautiful face
in flower after flower. She was accustomed to do this for many minutes on
end: she thought that, so, she resembled a picture by the subject of her
husband's first little monograph. And so, Valentine thought, she did. She
was trying to tell Macmaster that Friday evenings were difficult times
for her to get away. But her throat ached too much. That, she knew, was
her last sight of Edith Ethel, whom she had loved very much. That also,
she hoped, would be her last sight of Christopher Tietjens--whom also she
had loved very much...He was browsing along a bookshelf, very big and
very clumsy.

Macmaster pursued her into the stony hall with clamorous repetitions of
his invitation. She couldn't speak. At the great iron-lined door he held
her hand for an eternity, gazing lamentably, his face close up against
hers. He exclaimed in accents of great fear:

'Has Guggums?...She _hasn't_...?' His face, which when you saw it so
closely was a little blotched, distorted itself with anxiety: he glanced
aside with panic at the drawing-room door.

Valentine burst a voice through her agonised throat. 'Ethel,' she said,
'has told me she's to be Lady Macmaster. I'm so glad. I'm so truly glad
for you. You've got what you wanted, haven't you?'

His relief let him get out distractedly, yet as if he were too tired to
be any more agitated:

'Yes! yes!...It's, of course, a secret...I don't want _him_ told
till Friday next...so as to be a sort of _bonne bouche_...He's
practically certain to go out again on Saturday...They're sending out a
great batch of them...for the big push...' At that she tried to draw her
hand from his: she missed what he was saying. It was something to the
effect that he would give it all for a happy little party. She caught the
rather astonishing words: '_Wie im alten schönen Zeit_.' She
couldn't tell whether it was his or her eyes that were full of tears. She
said:

'I believe...I believe you're a kind man!'

In the great stone hall, hung, with long Japanese paintings on silk, the
electric light suddenly jumped; it was at best a sad, brown place.

He exclaimed:

'I, too, beg you to believe that I will never abandon...He glanced again
at the inner door and added: 'You both...I will never abandon...you
both!' he repeated.

He let go her hand: she was on the stone stairs in the damp air. The
great door closed irresistibly behind her, sending a whisper of air
downwards.



V


Mark Tietjens' announcement that his father had after all carried out his
long-standing promise to provide for Mrs Wannop in such a way as to allow
her to write for the rest of her life only the more lasting kind of work,
delivered Valentine Wannop of all her problems except one. That one
loomed, naturally and immediately, immensely large.

She had passed a queer, unnatural week, the feeling dominating its
numbness having been, oddly, that she would have nothing to do on
Friday! The feeling recurred to her whilst she was casting her eyes over
a hundred girls all in their cloth jumpers and men's black ties, aligned
upon asphalt; whilst she was jumping on trams; whilst she was purchasing
the tinned or dried fish that formed the staple diet of herself and her
mother; whilst she was washing-up the dinner-things; upbraiding the
house agent for the state of the bath, or bending closely over the large
but merciless handwriting of the novel of her mother's that she was
typing. It came, half as a joy, half mournfully across her familiar
businesses; she felt as a man might feel who, luxuriating in the
anticipation of leisure, knew that it was obtained by being compulsorily
retired from some laborious but engrossing job. There would be nothing
to do on Fridays!

It was, too, as if a novel had been snatched out of her hand so that she
would never know the end. Of the fairytale she knew the end: the
fortunate and adventurous tailor had married his beautiful and
be-princessed goose girl, and was well on the way to burial in
Westminster Abbey--or at any rate to a memorial service, the squire being
actually buried amongst his faithful villagers. But she would never know
whether they, in the end, got together all the blue Dutch tiles they
wanted to line their bathroom...She would never know. Yet witnessing
similar ambitions had made up a great deal of her life.

And, she said to herself, there was another tale ended. On the surface
the story of her love for Tietjens had been static enough. It had begun
in nothing and in nothing it had ended. But, deep down in her being--ah!
it had progressed enough. Through the agency of two women! Before the
scene with Mrs Duchemin there could, she thought, have been few young
women less preoccupied than she with the sexual substrata, either of
passion or of life. Her months as a domestic servant had accounted for
that, sex, as she had seen it from a back kitchen, having been a
repulsive affair, whilst the knowledge of its manifestations that she had
thus attained had robbed it of the mystery which caused most of the
young women whom she knew to brood upon these subjects.

Her convictions as to the moral incidence of sex were, she knew, quite
opportunist. Brought up amongst rather 'advanced' young people, had she
been publicly challenged to pronounce her views she would probably, out
of loyalty to her comrades, have declared that neither morality nor any
ethical aspects were concerned in the matter. Like most of her young
friends, influenced by the advanced teachers and tendential novelists of
the day, she would have stated herself to advocate an--of course,
enlightened!--promiscuity. That, before the revelations of Mrs Duchemin!
Actually she had thought very little about the matter.

Nevertheless, even before that date, had her deeper feelings been
questioned, she would have reacted with the idea that sexual
incontinence was extremely ugly and chastity to be prized in the egg and
spoon race that life was. She had been brought up by her father--who,
perhaps, was wiser than appeared on the surface--to admire athleticism,
and she was aware that proficiency of the body calls for chastity,
sobriety, cleanliness and the various qualities that group themselves
under the heading of abnegation. She couldn't have lived amongst the
Ealing servant-class--the eldest son of the house in which she had been
employed had been the defendant in a peculiarly scabrous breach of
promise case, and the comments of the drunken cook on this and similar
affairs had run the whole gamut from the sentimentally reticent to the
extreme of coarseness according to the state of her alcoholic
barometer--she couldn't then have lived among the Ealing servant-class
and come to any other subliminal conclusion. So that, dividing the world
into bright beings on the one hand and, on the other, into the mere
stuff to fill graveyards whose actions during life couldn't matter, she
had considered that the bright beings must be people whose public
advocating of enlightened promiscuity went along with an absolute
continence. She was aware that enlightened beings occasionally fell away
from these standards in order to become portentous Egerias; but the Mary
Wollstonecrafts, the Mrs Taylors, and the George Eliots of the last
century she had regarded humorously as rather priggish nuisances.
Indeed, being very healthy and very hard-worked, she had been in the
habit of regarding the whole matter, if not humorously, then at least
good-humouredly, as a nuisance.

But being brought right up against the sexual necessities of a
first-class Egeria had been for her a horrible affair. For Mrs Duchemin
had revealed the fact that her circumspect, continent and suavely
aesthetic personality was doubled by another at least as coarse as, and
infinitely more incisive in expression than, that of the drunken cook.
The language that she had used about her lover--calling him always 'that
oaf' or 'that beast'!--had seemed literally to pain the girl internally,
as if it had caused so many fallings away of internal supports at each
two or three words. She had hardly been able to walk home through the
darkness from the rectory.

And she had never heard what had become of Mrs Duchemin's baby. Next day
Mrs Duchemin had been as suave, as circumspect, and as collected as ever.
Never a word more had passed between them on the subject. This left in
Valentine Wannop's mind a dark patch--as it were of murder--at which she
must never look. And across the darkened world of her sexual tumult there
flitted continually the quick suspicion that Tietjens might have been the
lover of her friend. It was a matter of the simplest analogy. Mrs
Duchemin had appeared a bright being: so had Tietjens. But Mrs Duchemin
was a foul whore...

How much more then must Tietjens, who was a man, with the larger sexual
necessities of the male...Her mind always refused to complete the
thought.

Its suggestion wasn't to be combated by the idea of Vincent Macmaster
himself: he was, she felt, the sort of man that it was almost a
necessity for either mistress or comrade to betray. He seemed to ask for
it. Because, she once put it to herself, how could any woman, given the
choice and the opportunity--and God knows there was opportunity
enough--choose that shadowy, dried leaf, if there were the splendid
masculinity of Tietjens in whose arms to lie. She so regarded these two
men. And that shadowy conviction was at once fortified and appeased
when, a little later, Mrs Duchemin herself began to apply to Tietjens
the epithets of 'oaf' and 'beast'--the very ones that she had used to
designate the father of her putative child!

But then Tietjens must have abandoned Mrs Duchemin; and, if he had
abandoned Mrs Duchemin, he must be available for her, Valentine Wannop!
The feeling, she considered, made her ignoble; but it came from depths of
her being that she could not control and, existing, it soothed her. Then,
with the coming of the war, the whole problem died out, and between the
opening of hostilities and what she had known to be the inevitable
departure of her lover, she had surrendered herself to what she thought
to be the pure physical desire for him. Amongst the terrible, crashing
anguishes of that time, there had been nothing for it but surrender! With
the unceasing--the never ceasing--thought of suffering; with the never
ceasing idea that her lover, too, must soon be so suffering, there was in
the world no other refuge. No other!

She surrendered. She waited for him to speak the word, or look the look
that should unite them. She was finished. Chastity: napoo finny! Like
everything else!

Of the physical side of love she had neither image nor conception. In the
old days when she had been with him, if he had come into the room in
which she was, or if he had merely been known to be coming down to the
village, she had hummed all day under her breath and had felt warmer,
little currents passing along her skin. She had read somewhere that to
take alcohol was to send the blood into the surface vessels of the body,
thus engendering a feeling of warmth. She had never taken alcohol, or not
enough to produce recognisably that effect; but she imagined that it was
thus love worked upon the body--and that it would stop for ever at that!

But, in these later days, much greater convulsions had overwhelmed her.
It sufficed for Tietjens to approach her to make her feel as if her whole
body was drawn towards him as, being near a terrible height, you are
drawn towards it. Great waves of blood rushed across her being as if
physical forces as yet undiscovered or invented attracted the very fluid
itself. The moon so draws the tides.

Once before, for a fraction of a second, after the long, warm night of
their drive, she had felt that impulsion. Now, years after, she was to
know it all the time, waking or half waking; and it would drive her from
her bed. She would stand all night at the open window till the stars
paled above a world turned grey. It could convulse her with joy; it could
shake her with sobs and cut through her breast like a knife.

The day of her long interview with Tietjens, amongst the amassed beauties
of Macmaster furnishings, she marked in the calendar of her mind as her
great love scene. That had been two years ago: he had been going into the
army. Now he was going out again. From that she knew what a love scene
was. It passed without any mention of the word 'love'; it passed in
impulses; warmths; rigors of the skin. Yet with every word they had said
to each other they had confessed their love: in that way, when you listen
to the nightingale you hear the expressed craving of your lover beating
upon your heart.

Every word that he had spoken amongst the amassed beauties of Macmaster
furnishings had been a link in a love-speech. It was not merely that he
had confessed to her as he would have to no other soul in the world--To
no other soul in the world,' he had said!--his doubts, his misgivings
and his fears: it was that every word he uttered and that came to her,
during the lasting of that magic, had sung of passion. If he had uttered
the word 'Come' she would have followed him to the bitter ends of the
earth; if he had said, 'There is no hope,' she would have known the
finality of despair. Having said neither, he said she knew: 'This is our
condition; so we must continue!' And she knew, too, that he was telling
her that he, like her, was...oh, say on the side of the angels. She was
then, she knew, so nicely balanced that, had he said, 'Will you to-night
be my mistress?' she would have said 'Yes'; for it was as if they had
been, really, at the end of the world.

But his abstention not only strengthened her in her predilection for
chastity; it restored to her her image of the world as a place of virtues
and endeavours. For a time at least she again hummed beneath her breath
upon occasion, for it seemed as if her heart sang within her. And there
was restored to her her image of her lover as a beautiful spirit. She had
been able to look at him across the tea-table of their dog-kennel in
Bedford Park, during the last months, almost as she had looked across the
more shining table of the cottage near the rectory. The deterioration
that she knew Mrs Duchemin to have worked in her mind was assuaged. It
could even occur to her that Mrs Duchemin's madness had been no more than
a scare to be followed by no necessary crime. Valentine Wannop had
re-become her confident self in a world of at least straight problems.

But Mrs Duchemin's outbreak of a week ago had driven the old phantoms
across her mind. For Mrs Duchemin she had still had a great respect. She
could not regard her Edith Ethel as merely a hypocrite; or, indeed, as a
hypocrite at all. There was her great achievement of making something
like a man of that miserable little creature--as there had been her
other great achievement of keeping her unfortunate husband for so long
out of a lunatic asylum. That had been no mean feat; neither feat had
been mean. And Valentine knew that Edith Ethel really loved beauty,
circumspection, urbanity. It was no hypocrisy that made her advocate the
Atalanta race of chastity. But, also, as Valentine Wannop saw it,
humanity has these doublings of strong natures; just as the urbane and
grave Spanish nation must find its outlet in the shrieking lusts of the
bullring or the circumspect, laborious and admirable city typist must
find her derivative in the cruder lusts of certain novelists, so Edith
Ethel must break down into physical sexualities--and into shrieked
coarseness of fishwives. How else, indeed, do we have saints? Surely,
alone, by the ultimate victory of the one tendency over the other!

But now after her farewell scene with Edith Ethel a simple rearrangement
of the pattern had brought many of the old doubts at least temporarily
back. Valentine said to herself that, just because of the very strength
of her character, Edith Ethel couldn't have been brought down to uttering
her fantastic denunciation of Tietjens, the merely mad charges of
debauchery and excesses and finally the sexually lunatic charge against
herself, except under the sting of some such passion as jealousy. She,
Valentine, couldn't arrive at any other conclusion. And, viewing the
matter as she believed she now did, more composedly, she considered with
seriousness that, men being what they are, her lover respecting, or
despairing of, herself had relieved the grosser necessities of his
being--at the expense of Mrs Duchemin, who had, no doubt, been only too
ready.

And in certain moods during the past week she had accepted this
suspicion; in certain other moods she had put it from her. Towards the
Thursday it had no longer seemed to matter. Her lover was going from
her; the long pull of the war was on; the hard necessities of life
stretched out; what could an infidelity more or less matter in the long,
hard thing that life is? And on the Thursday two minor, or major,
worries came to disturb her level. Her brother announced himself as
coming home for several days' leave, and she had the trouble of thinking
that she would have forced upon her a companionship and a point of view
that would be coarsely and uproariously opposed to anything that
Tietjens stood for--or for which he was ready to sacrifice himself.
Moreover she would have to accompany her brother to a number of riotous
festivities whilst all the time she would have to think of Tietjens as
getting hour by hour nearer to the horrible circumstances of troops in
contact with enemy forces. In addition her mother had received an
enviably paid for commission from one of the more excitable Sunday
papers to write a series of articles on extravagant matters connected
with the hostilities. They had wanted the money so dreadfully--more
particularly as Edward was corning home--that Valentine Wannop had
conquered her natural aversion from the waste of time of her mother...It
would have meant very little waste of time, and the £60 that it would
have brought in would have made all the difference to them for months
and months.

But Tietjens, whom Mrs Wannop had come to rely on as her right-hand man
in these matters, had, it appeared, shown an unexpected recalcitrancy. He
had, Mrs Wannop said, hardly seemed himself and had gibed at the two
first subjects proposed--that of 'war babies' and the fact that the
Germans were reduced to eating their own corpses--as being below the
treatment of any decent pen. The illegitimacy rate, he had said, had
shown very little increase; the French-derived German word
'_Kadaver_' meant bodies of horses or cattle; _Leichnam_ being
the German for the word 'corpse.' He had practically refused to have
anything to do with the affair.

As to the _Kadaver_ business, Valentine agreed with him, as to the
'war babies' she kept a more open mind. If there weren't any war babies
it couldn't, as far as she could see, matter whether one wrote about
them; it couldn't certainly matter as much as to write about them,
supposing the poor little things to exist. She was aware that this was
immoral, but her mother needed the money desperately and her mother came
first.

There was nothing for it, therefore, but to plead with Tietjens; for
Valentine knew that without so much of moral support from him as would
be implied by a good-natured or an enforced sanction of the article, Mrs
Wannop would drop the matter and so would lose her connection with the
excitable paper which paid well. It happened that on the Friday morning
Mrs Wannop received a request that she would write for a Swiss review a
propaganda article about some historical matter connected with the peace
after Waterloo. The pay would be practically nothing, but the employment
was at least relatively dignified, and Mrs Wannop--which was quite in
the ordinary course of things!--told Valentine to ring Tietjens up and
ask him for some details about the Congress of Vienna at which, before
and after Waterloo, the peace terms had been wrangled out.

Valentine rang up--as she had done hundreds of times; it was to her a
great satisfaction that she was going to hear Tietjens speak once more at
least. The telephone was answered from the other end, and Valentine gave
her two messages, the one as to the Congress of Vienna, the other as to
war babies. The appalling speech came back:

'Young woman! You'd better keep off the grass. Mrs Duchemin is already my
husband's mistress. You keep off.' There was about the voice no human
quality; it was as if from an immense darkness the immense machine had
spoken words that dealt blows. She answered; and it was as if a
substratum of her mind of which she knew nothing must have been prepared
for that very speech; so that it was not her own 'she' that answered
levelly and coolly:

'You have probably mistaken the person you are speaking to. Perhaps you
will ask Mr Tietjens to ring up Mrs Wannop when he is at liberty.'

The voice said:

'My husband will be at the War Office at 4.15. He will speak to you
there--about your war babies. But I'd keep off the grass if I were you!'
The receiver at the other end was hung up.

She went about her daily duties. She had heard of a kind of pine kernel
that was very cheap and very nourishing, or at least very filling. They
had come to it that it was a matter of pennies balanced against the
feeling of satiety, and she visited several shops in search of this
food. When she had found it she returned to the dog-kennel; her brother
Edward had arrived. He was rather subdued. He brought with him a piece
of meat which was part of his leave ration. He occupied himself with
polishing up his sailor's uniform for a rag-time party to which they
were to go that evening. They were to meet plenty of conchies, he said.
Valentine put the meat--it was a godsend, though very stringy!--on to
stew with a number of chopped vegetables. She went up to her room to do
some typing for her mother.

The nature of Tietjens' wife occupied her mind. Before, she had barely
thought about her: she had seemed unreal; so mysterious as to be a myth!
Radiant and high-stepping: like a great stag! But she must be cruel! She
must be vindictively cruel to Tietjens himself, or she could not have
revealed his private affairs! Just broadcast; for she could not, bluff it
how she might, have been certain of to whom she was speaking! A thing
that wasn't done! But she had delivered her cheek to Mrs Wannop; a thing,
too, that wasn't done! Yet so kindly! The telephone bell rang several
times during the morning. She let her mother answer it.

She had to get the dinner, which took three-quarters of an hour. It was a
pleasure to see her mother eat so well; a good stew, rich and heavy with
haricot beans. She herself couldn't eat, but no one noticed, which was a
good thing. Her mother said that Tietjens had not yet telephoned, which
was very inconsiderate. Edward said: 'What The Huns haven't killed old
Feather Bolster yet? But of course he's been found a safe job.' The
telephone on the sideboard became a terror to Valentine; at any moment
his voice might...Edward went on telling anecdotes of how they bamboozled
petty officers on mine-sweepers. Mrs Wannop listened to him with the
courteous, distant interest of the great listening to commercial
travellers. Edward desired draught ale and produced a two-shilling piece.
He seemed very much coarsened; it was, no doubt, only on the surface. In
these days everyone was very much coarsened on the surface.

She went with a quart jug to the jug and bottle department of the
nearest public-house--a thing she had never done before. Even at Ealing
the mistress hadn't allowed her to be sent to a public-house; the cook
had had to fetch her dinner beer herself or have it sent in. Perhaps the
Ealing mistress had exercised more surveillance than Valentine had
believed; a kind woman, but an invalid. Nearly all day in bed. Blind
passion overcame Valentine at the thought of Edith Ethel in Tietjens'
arms. Hadn't she got her own eunuch? Mrs Tietjens had said: 'Mrs
Duchemin is his mistress!' _Is_! Then she might be there now!

In the contemplation of that image, she missed the thrills of buying beer
in a bottle and jug department. Apparently it was like buying anything
else, except for the smell of beer on the sawdust. You said: 'A quart of
the best bitter!' and a fat, quite polite man, with an oily head and a
white apron, took your money and filled your jug...But Edith Ethel had
abused Tietjens so foully! The more foully the more certain it made
it!...Draught beer in a jug had little marblings of burst foam on its
brown surface. It mustn't be spilt at the kerbs of crossings!--the more
certain it made it! Some women did so abuse their lovers after sleeping
with them, and the more violent the transports the more frantic the
abuse. It was the '_post-dash-triste_' of the Rev. Mr Duchemin! Poor
devil! Triste! Triste!

_Terra tribus scopulis vastum_...Not longum!

Brother Edward began communing with himself, long and unintelligibly, as
to where he should meet his sister at 19.30 and give her a blow-out! The
names of restaurants fell from his lips into her panic. He decided
hilariously and not quite steadily--a quart is a lot to a fellow from a
mine-sweeper carrying no booze at all!--on meeting her at 7.20 at High
Street and going to a pub, he knew; they would go on to the dance
afterwards. In a studio. 'Oh, God!' her heart said, 'if Tietjens should
want her then!' To be his; on his last night. He might! Everybody was
coarsened then; on the surface. Her brother rolled out of the house,
slamming the door so that every tile on the jerry-built dog-kennel rose
and sat down again.

She went upstairs and began to look over her frocks. She couldn't tell
what frocks she looked over; they lay like aligned rags on the bed, the
telephone bell ringing madly. She heard her mother's voice, suddenly
assuaged: 'Oh! oh!...It's you!' She shut her door and began to pull open
and to close drawer after drawer. As soon as she ceased that exercise her
mother's voice became half audible; quite audible when she raised it to
ask a question. She heard her say: 'Not get her into trouble...Of
course!' then it died away into mere high sounds.

She heard her mother calling:

'Valentine! Valentine! Come down...Don't you want to speak to
Christopher?...Valentine! Valentine!...' And then another burst:
'Valentine...Valentine..._Valentine_...' As if she had been a puppy
dog! Mrs Wannop, thank God, was on the lowest step of the creaky stairs.
She had left the telephone. She called up:

'Come down. I want to tell you! The dear boy has saved me! He always
saves me! What shall I do now he's gone?'

'He saved others: himself he could not save!' Valentine quoted bitterly.
She caught up her wideawake. She wasn't going to prink herself for him.
He must take her as she was...Himself he could not save! But he did
himself proud! With women!...Coarsened! But perhaps only on the surface!
She herself!...She was running downstairs!

Her mother had retreated into the little parlour: nine feet by nine; in
consequence, at ten feet it was too tall for its size. But there was in
it a sofa with cushions...With her head upon those cushions, perhaps...If
he came home with her! Late!...

Her mother was saying: He's a splendid fellow...A root idea for a war
baby article...If a Tommy was a decent fellow he abstained because he
didn't want to leave his girl in trouble...If he wasn't he chanced it
because it might be his last chance...

'A message to me!' Valentine said to herself. 'But which sentence...' She
moved, absently, all the cushions to one end of the sofa. Her mother
exclaimed:

'He sent his love! His mother was lucky to have such a son!' and turned
into her tiny hole of a study.

Valentine ran down over the broken tiles of the garden path, pulling her
wideawake firmly on. She had looked at her wrist-watch: it was two and
twelve: 14.45. If she was to walk to the War Office by 4.15--16.15--a
sensible innovation!--she must step out. Five miles to Whitehall. God
knows what, then! Five miles back! Two and a half diagonally, to High
Street Station by half-past 19! Twelve and a half miles in five hours or
less. And three hours dancing on the top of it. And to dress!...She
needed to be fit...And, with violent bitterness, she said:

'Well! I'm fit...' She had an image of the aligned hundreds of girls in
blue jumpers and men's ties keeping whom fit had kept her super-fit. She
wondered how many of them would be men's mistresses before the year was
out. It was August then. But perhaps none! Because she had kept them
fit...

'Ah!' she said, 'if I had been a loose woman, with flaccid breasts and a
soft body. All perfumed!'...But neither Sylvia Tietjens nor Ethel
Duchemin were soft. They might be scented on occasion! But they would not
contemplate with equanimity doing a twelve-mile walk to save a few pence
and dancing all night on top of it! She could! And perhaps the price she
paid was just that; she was in such hard condition she hadn't moved him
to...She perhaps exhaled such an aura of sobriety, chastity and
abstinence as to suggest to him that...that a decent fellow didn't get
his girl into trouble before going to be killed...Yet if he were such a
town bull!...She wondered how she knew such phrases...

The sordid and aligned houses seemed to rush past her in the mean August
sunshine. That was because if you thought hard time went quicker; or
because after you noticed the paper shop at this corner you would be up
to the boxes of onions outside the shop of the next corner before you
noticed anything else.

She was in Kensington Gardens, on the north side; she had left the poor
shops behind...In sham country, with sham lawns, sham avenues, sham
streams. Sham people pursuing their ways across the sham grass. Or no!
Not sham! in a vacuum! No! 'Pasteurised' was the word! Like dead milk.
Robbed of their vitamins...

If she saved a few coppers by walking it would make a large pile to put
into the leering--or compassionate--taxicabman's hand after he had helped
her support her brother into the dog-kennel door. Edward would be dead
drunk. She had fifteen shillings for the taxi...If she gave a few coppers
more it seemed generous...What a day to look forward to still! Some days
were lifetimes!

She would rather die than let Tietjens pay for the cab!

Why? Once a taximan had refused payment for driving her and Edward all
the way to Chiswick, and she hadn't felt insulted. She had paid him; but
she hadn't felt insulted! A sentimental fellow; touched at the heart by
the pretty sister--or perhaps he didn't really believe it was a
sister--and her incapable bluejacket brother! Tietjens was a sentimental
fellow too...What was the difference!...And then! The mother a dead,
heavy sleeper; the brother dead drunk. One in the morning! He couldn't
refuse her! Blackness: cushions! She had arranged the cushions, she
remembered. Arranged them subconsciously! Blackness! Heavy sleep; dead
drunkenness!...Horrible!...A disgusting affair! An affair of Ealing...It
shall make her one with all the stuff to fill graveyards...Well, what
else was she, Valentine Wannop: daughter of her father? And of her
mother? Yes! But she herself...Just a little nobody!

They were no doubt wirelessing from the Admiralty...But her brother was
at home, or getting a little more intoxicated and talking treason. At any
rate the flickering intermittences over the bitter seas couldn't for the
moment concern him...That bus touched her skirt as she ran for the
island...It might have been better...But one hadn't the courage!

She was looking at patterned deaths under a little green roof, such as
they put over bird shelters. Her heart stopped! Before, she had been
breathless! She was going mad. She was dying...All these deaths! And not
merely the deaths...The waiting for the approach of death; the
contemplation of the parting from life! This minute you were; that, and
you weren't! What was it like? Oh heaven, she knew...She stood there
contemplating parting from...One minute you were; the next...Her breath
fluttered in her chest...Perhaps he wouldn't come...

He was immediately framed by the sordid stones. She ran upon him and said
something; with a mad hatred. All these deaths and he and his like
responsible!...He had apparently a brother, a responsible one too!
Browner complexioned!...But he! He! He! He! completely calm; with direct
eyes...It wasn't possible. '_Holde Lippen: klaare Augen: heller
Sinn_...Oh, a little bit wilted, the clear intellect! And the lips? No
doubt too. But he couldn't look at you so, unless...

She caught him fiercely by the arm; for the moment he belonged--more than
to any browner, mere civilian, brother!--to her! She was going to ask
him! If he answered: 'Yes, I am such a man!' she was going to say: 'Then
you must take me too! If them, why not me? I must have a child. I too!'
She desired a child. She would overwhelm those hateful lodestones with a
flood of argument; she imagined--she felt--the words going between her
lips...She imagined her fainting mind; her consenting limbs...

His looks were wandering round the cornice of these stone buildings.
Immediately she was Valentine Wannop again; it needed no word from him.
Words passed, but words could no more prove an established innocence than
words can enhance a love that exists. He might as well have recited the
names of railway stations. His eyes, his unconcerned face, his tranquil
shoulders; they were what acquitted him. The greatest love speech he had
ever made and could ever make her was when, harshly and angrily, he said
something like:

'Certainly not. I imagined you knew me better'--brushing her aside as if
she had been a midge. And, thank God, he had hardly listened to her!

She was Valentine Wannop again; in the sunlight the chaffinches said
'Pink! pink!' The seed-heads of the tall grasses were brushing against
her skirt. She was clean-limbed, clear-headed...It was just a problem
whether Sylvia Tietjens was good to him...Good for him was, perhaps, the
more exact way of putting it. Her mind cleared, like water that goes off
the boil...'Waters stilled at even.' Nonsense. It was sunlight, and he
had an adorable brother! He could save his brother...Transport! There was
another meaning to the word. A warm feeling settled down upon her; this
was her brother; the next to the best ever! It was as if you had matched
a piece of stuff so nearly with another piece of stuff as to make no
odds. Yet just not the real stuff! She must be grateful to this relative
for all he did for her; yet, ah, never so grateful as to the other--who
had done nothing!

Providence is kind in great batches! She heard mounting the steps the
blessed word Transport! 'They,' so Mark said: he and she--the family
feeling again--were going to get Christopher into the Transport...By the
kindness of God the First Line Transport was the only branch of the
Services of which Valentine knew anything. Their charwoman, who could
not read and write, had a son, a sergeant in a line regiment. 'Hooray!'
he had written to his mother, 'I've been off my feed; recommended for
the D.C.M. too. So they're putting me senior N.C.O. of First Line
Transport for a rest; the safest soft job of the whole bally front line
caboodle!' Valentine had had to read this letter in the scullery amongst
black-beetles. Aloud! She had hated reading it as she had hated reading
anything that gave details of the front line. But charity begins surely
with the char! She had had to. Now she could thank God. The sergeant, in
direct, perfectly sincere language, to comfort his mother, had described
his daily work, detailing horses and G.S. limber wagons for jobs and
superintending the horse-standings. 'Why,' one sentence ran, 'our O.C.
Transport is one of those fishing lunatics. Wherever we go he has a
space of grass cleared out and pegged and b----y hell to the man who
walks across it!' There the O.C. practised casting with trout and salmon
rods by the hour together. 'That'll show you what a soft job it is!' the
sergeant had finished triumphantly...

So that there she, Valentine Wannop, sat on a hard bench against a wall;
downright, healthy middle-class--or perhaps upper middle-class--for the
Wannops were, if impoverished, yet of ancient family! Over her sensible,
moccasined shoes the tide of humanity flowed before her hard bench. There
were two commissionaires, the one always benevolent, the other
perpetually querulous, in a pulpit on one side of her; on the other, a
brown-visaged sort of brother-in-law with bulging eyes, who in his shy
efforts to conciliate her was continually trying to thrust into his mouth
the crook of his umbrella. As if it had been a knob. She could not, at
the moment, imagine why he should want to conciliate her; but she knew
she would know in a minute.

For just then she was occupied with a curious pattern; almost
mathematically symmetrical. _Now_ she was an English middle-class
girl--whose mother had a sufficient income--in blue cloth, a wideawake
hat, a black silk tie; without a thought in her head that she shouldn't
have. And with a man who loved her: of crystal purity. Not ten, not five
minutes ago, she had been...She could not even remember what she had
been! And he had been, he had assuredly appeared a town...No, she could
not think the words...A raging stallion then! If now he should approach
her, by the mere movement of a hand along the sable, she would retreat.

It was a godsend; yet it was absurd. Like the weather machine of
the old man and the old woman on opposite ends of the stick...When
the old man came out the old woman went in and it would rain; when
the old woman came out...It was exactly like that! She hadn't time
to work out the analogy. But it was like that...In rainy weather
the whole world altered. Darkened!...The cat-gut that turned them
slackened...slackened...But, always, they remained at opposite ends
of the stick!

Mark was saying, the umbrella crook hindering his utterance:

'We buy then an annuity of five hundred for your mother...'

It was astonishing, though it spread tranquillity through her, how little
this astonished her. It was the merely retarded expected. Mr. Tietjens
senior, an honourable man, had promised as much years ago. Her mother, an
august genius, was to wear herself out putting, Mr Tietjens alive, his
political views in his paper. He was to make it up to her. He was making
it up. In no princely fashion, but adequately, as a gentleman.

Mark Tietjens, bending over, held a piece of paper. A bell-boy came up to
him and said: 'Mr Riccardo?' Mark Tietjens said: 'No! He's gone!' He
continued:

'Your brother...Shelved for the moment. But enough to buy a practice, a
good practice! When he's a full-fledged sawbones.' He stopped, he
directed upon her his atrabilarian eyes, biting his umbrella handle; he
was extremely nervous.

'Now you!' he said. 'Two or three hundred. A year of course! The capital
absolutely your own...' He paused: 'But I warn you! Christopher won't
like it. He's got his knife into me. I wouldn't grudge you...oh, any
sum!'...He waved his hand to indicate an amount boundless in its figures.
'I know you keep Christopher straight,' he said. The only person that
could!' He added: 'Poor devil!'

She said:

'He's got his knife into you? Why?'

He answered vaguely:

'Oh, there's been all this talk...Untrue, of course.' She said:

'People have been saying things against you? To him? Perhaps because
there's been delay in settling the estate.'

He said:

'Oh, no! The other way round, in fact!'

'Then they have been saying,' she exclaimed, 'things against...against
me. And him!'

He exclaimed in anguish:

'Oh, but I ask you to believe...I beg you to believe that I
believe..._you_! Miss Wannop!' He added grotesquely: 'As pure as dew
that lies within Aurora's sun-tipped...2 His eyes stuck out like those of
a suffocating fish. He said: 'I beg you not on that account to hand the
giddy mitten to...' He writhed in his tight double collar. 'His wife!' he
said...'She's no good to..._for_ him!...She's soppily in love with
him. But no _good_...' He very nearly sobbed. 'You're the only...'
he said, 'I _know_...'

It came into her head that she was losing too much time in this Salle des
Pas Perdus! She would have to take the train home! Fivepence! But what
did it matter. Her mother had five hundred a year...Two hundred and forty
times five...

Mark said brightly:

'If now we bought your mother an annuity of five hundred...You say that's
ample to give Christopher his chop...And settled on her three...four...I
like to be exact...hundred a year...The capital of it: with remainder to
you...' His interrogative face beamed.

She saw now the whole situation with perfect plainness. She understood
Mrs Duchemin's:

'You couldn't expect us, with our official position...to connive...'
Edith Ethel had been perfectly right. She _couldn't_ be expected...She
had worked too hard to appear circumspect and right! You can't ask people
to lay down their whole lives for their friends!...It was only of
Tietjens you could ask that! She said--to Mark:

'It's as if the whole world had conspired...like a carpenter's vice--to
force us...' she was going to say 'together.' But he burst in,
astonishingly:

'He must have his buttered toast...and his mutton chop...and Rhum St
James!' He said: 'Damn it all...You were made for him...You can't blame
people for coupling you...They're forced to it...If you hadn't existed
they'd have had to invent you...Like Dante for...who was it?...Beatrice?
There are couples like that.'

She said:

'Like a carpenter's vice...Pushed together. Irresistibly. Haven't we
resisted?'

His face became panic-stricken; his bulging eyes pushed away towards the
pulpit of the two commissionaires. He whispered:

'You won't...because of my ox's hoof...desert...'

She said:--she heard Macmaster whispering it hoarsely. 'I ask you to
believe that I will never...abandon...'

It was what Macmaster had said. He must have got it from Mrs. Micawber!

Christopher Tietjens--in his shabby khaki, for his wife had spoilt his
best uniform--said suddenly from behind her back, since he had approached
her from beyond the pulpit of the two commissionaires and she had been
turned towards Mark on his bench:

'Come along! Let's get out of this!' He was, she asked herself, getting
out of this! Towards what?

Like mutes from a funeral--or as if she had been, between the brothers, a
prisoner under escort--they walked down steps; half righted towards the
exit arch; one and a half righted to face Whitehall. The brothers grunted
inaudible but satisfied sounds over her head. They crossed, by the
islands, Whitehall, where the bus had brushed her skirt. Under an archway--

In a stony, gravelled majestic space the brothers faced each other. Mark
said:

'I suppose you won't shake hands!'

Christopher said:

'No! Why should I?' She herself had cried out to Christopher:

'Oh, _do!_' (The wireless squares overhead no longer concerned her.
Her brother was, no doubt, getting drunk in a bar in Piccadilly...A
surface coarseness!)

Mark said:

'Hadn't you better? You might get killed! A fellow just getting killed
would not like to think he had refused to shake his brother by the hand!'

Christopher had said: 'Oh...well!'

During her happiness over this hyperborean sentimentality he had gripped
her thin upper arm. He had led her past swans--or possibly huts; she
never remembered which--to a seat that had over it, or near it, a weeping
willow. He had said, gasping too, like a fish:

'Will you be my mistress to-night? I am going out tomorrow at 8.30 from
Waterloo.'

She had answered:

'Yes! Be at such and such a studio just before twelve...I have to see my
brother home...He will be drunk...' She meant to say: 'Oh, my darling, I
have wanted you so much...'

She said instead:

'I have arranged the cushions...

She said to herself:

'Now whatever made me say that? It's as if I had said: "You'll find the
ham in the larder under a plate..." No tenderness about it...

She went away, up a cockle-shelled path, between ankle-high railings,
crying bitterly. An old tramp, with red weeping eyes and a thin white
beard, regarded her curiously from where he lay on the grass. He imagined
himself the monarch of that landscape.

'That's women!' he said with the apparently imbecile enigmaticality of
the old and the hardened. 'Some do!' He spat into the grass; said 'Ah!'
then added: 'Some do not!'



VI


He let himself in at the heavy door; when he closed it behind him, in
the darkness, the heaviness of the door sent long surreptitious
whisperings up the great stone stairs. These sounds irritated him. If
you shut a heavy door on an enclosed space it will push air in front of
it and there will be whisperings; the atmosphere of mystery was absurd.
He was just a man, returning after a night out...Two-thirds, say, of a
night out! It must be half-past three. But what the night had lacked in
length it had made up in fantastic aspects...

He laid his cane down on the invisible oak chest and, through the
tangible and velvety darkness that had always in it the chill of the
stone of walls and stairs, he felt for the handle of the breakfast-room
door.

Three long parallelograms existed: pale glimmerings above, cut two-thirds
of the way down by the serrations of chimney-pot and roof-shadows! Nine
full paces across the heavy piled carpet; then he ought to reach his
round-backed chair, by the left-hand window. He sank into it; it fitted
exactly his back. He imagined that no man had ever been so tired and that
no man had ever been so alone! A small, alive sound existed at the other
end of the room; in front of him existed one and a half pale
parallelograms. They were the reflection of the windows in the mirror;
the sound was no doubt Calton, the cat. Something alive, at any rate!
Possibly Sylvia at the other end of the room, waiting for him, to see
what he looked like. Most likely! It didn't matter!

His mind stopped! Sheer weariness!

When it went on again it was saying:

'Naked shingles and surges drear...' and, 'On these debatable borders of
the world!' He said sharply: 'Nonsense!' The one was either _Calais
beach or Dover sands_ of the whiskered man: Arnold...He would be
seeing them both within the twenty-four hours...But no! He was going from
Waterloo. Southampton, Havre, therefore!...The other was by that
detestable fellow: 'the subject of our little monograph!'...What a long
time ago!...He saw a pile of shining despatch cases: the inscription
'_This rack is reserved for_...': a coloured--pink and blue!--photograph
of Boulogne sands and the held up squares, the proofs of 'our little...'
What a long time ago! He heard his own voice saying in the new railway
carriage, proudly, clearly and with male hardness:

'_I stand for monogamy and chastity. And for no talking about it. Of
course if a man who's a man wants to have a woman he has her. And again
no talking about it_...! His voice--his own voice--came to him as if
from the other end of a long-distance telephone. A damn long-distance
one! Ten years...

If then a man who's a man wants to have a woman...Damn it, he doesn't! In
ten years he had learnt that a Tommie who's a decent fellow...His mind
said at one and the same moment, the two lines running one over the other
like the two subjects of a fugue:

'Some beguiling virgins with the broken seals of perjury,' and:

'Since when we stand side by side, only hands may meet

He said:

'But damn it; damn it again! The beastly fellow was wrong! Our hands
didn't meet...I don't believe I've shaken hands...I don't believe I've
touched the girl...in my life...Never once!...Not the hand-shaking
sort...A nod!...A meeting and parting!...English, you know...But yes! she
put her arm over my shoulders...On the bank!..._On such short
acquaintance_! I said to myself then...Well, we've made up for it
since then. Or no! Not made up!...Atoned...As Sylvia so aptly put it; at
that moment mother was dying...

He, his conscious self, said:

'But it was probably the drunken brother...You don't beguile virgins with
the broken seals of perjury in Kensington High Street at two at night
supporting, one on each side, a drunken bluejacket with intermittent
legs...'

'Intermittent!' was the word. 'Intermittently functioning!'

At one point the boy had broken from them and run with astonishing
velocity along the dull wood paving of an immense empty street. When
they had caught him up he had been haranguing under black trees, with an
Oxford voice, an immobile policeman:

'You're the fellows!' he'd been exclaiming, 'who make old England what
she is! You keep the peace in our homes! You save us from the vile
excesses...

Tietjens himself he had always addressed with the voice and accent of a
common seaman; with his coarsened surface voice!

He had the two personalities. Two or three times he had said:

'Why don't you kiss the girl? She's a _nice_ girl, isn't she? You're
a poor b----y Tommie, ain't cher? Well, the poor b----y Tommies ought to
have all the nice girls they want! That's straight, isn't it?...'

And, even at that time they hadn't known what was going to happen...There
are certain cruelties...They had got a four-wheel cab at last. The
drunken boy had sat beside the driver; he had insisted...Her little,
pale, shrunken face had gazed straight before her...It hadn't been
possible to speak; the cab, rattling all over the road, had been pulled
up with frightful jerks when the boy had grabbed the reins...The old
driver hadn't seemed to mind; but they had had to subscribe all the money
in their pockets to pay him after they had carried the boy into the black
house...

Tietjens' mind said to him:

'Now when they came to her father's house so nimbly she slipped in, and
said: "There is a fool without and there is a maid within..."'

He answered dully:

'Perhaps that's what it really amounts to...' He had stood at the hall
door, she looking out at him with a pitiful face. Then from the sofa
within the brother had begun to snore; enormous, grotesque sounds, like
the laughter of unknown races from darkness. He had turned and walked
down the path, she following him. He had exclaimed:

'It's perhaps too...untidy...'

She had said:

'Yes Yes...Ugly...Too...oh..._private!_'

He said, he remembered:

'But...for ever...'

She said, in a great hurry:

'But when you come back...Permanently. And...oh, as if it were in
public...I don't know,' she had added. '_Ought we_?...I'd be
ready...' She added: 'I will be ready for anything you ask.'

He had said at some time: 'But obviously...Not under _this_ roof...'
And he had added: 'We're the sort that..._do not_!'

She had answered, quickly too:

'Yes--that's it. We're that sort!' And then she had asked: 'And Ethel's
party? Was it a great success?' It hadn't, she knew, been an
inconsequence. He had answered:

'Ah..._That's_ permanent..._That's public_...There was Rugeley:
The Duke...Sylvia brought him. She'll be a great friend!...And the
President of the...Local Government Board, I think...And a
Belgian...equivalent to Lord Chief Justice...and, of course, Claudine
Sandbach...Two hundred and seventy; all of the best, the modestly elated
Guggumses said as I left! And Mr Ruggles...Yes!...They're
established...No place for me!'

'Nor for _me!_' she had answered. She added: 'But I'm glad!'

Patches of silence ran between them: they hadn't yet got out of the habit
of thinking they had to hold up the drunken brother. That had seemed to
last for a thousand painful months...Long enough to acquire a habit. The
brother seemed to roar: 'Haw-Haw--Kuryasch. 2 And after two minutes:
Haw--Haw--Kuryasch. 2 Hungarian, no doubt!

He said:

'It was splendid to see Vincent standing beside the Duke. Showing him a
first edition! Not of course _quite_ the thing for a, after all, wedding
party! But how was Rugeley to know that?...And Vincent not in the least
servile! He even corrected cousin Rugeley over the meaning of the word
_colophon!_ The first time he ever corrected a superior! Established,
you see!...And _practically_ cousin Rugeley...Dear Sylvia Tietjens'
cousin, so the next to nearest thing! Wife of Lady Macmaster's _oldest_
friend...Sylvia going to them in their--quite modest!--little place in
Surrey...As for us,' he had concluded, 'they also serve who only stand
and wait...'

She said:

'I suppose the rooms looked lovely.'

He had answered:

'Lovely...They'd got all the pictures by that beastly fellow up from the
rectory study in the dining-room on dark oak panelling...A fair blaze of
bosoms and nipples and lips and pomegranates...The tallest silver
candlesticks of course...You remember, silver candlesticks and dark
oak...'

She said:

'Oh, my dear...Don't..._Don't!_'.

He had just touched the rim of his helmet with his folded gloves.

'So we just wash out!' he had said.

She said:

'Would you take this bit of parchment...I got a little Jew girl to write
on it in Hebrew: It's "God bless you and keep you: God watch over you at
your goings out and at..."'

He tucked it into his breast pocket.

The talismanic passage,' he said. 'Of course I'll wear it...'

She said:

'If we _could_ wash out this afternoon...It would make it easier to
bear...Your poor mother, you know, she was dying when we last...'

He said:

'You remember _that_...Even then you...And if I hadn't gone to
Lobscheid...'

She said:

'From the first moment I set eyes on you...

He said:

'And I I...from the first moment...I'll tell you...If I looked out of a
door...It was all like sand...But to the half left a little bubbling up
of water. That could be trusted. To keep on for ever...You, perhaps,
won't understand.'

She said:

'Yes! I know!'

They were seeing landscapes...Sand dunes; close-cropped...Some negligible
shipping; a stump-masted brig from Archangel...

'From the first moment,' he repeated.

She said:

'If we _could_ wash out...'

He said, and for the first moment felt grand, tender, protective:

'Yes, you _can_,' he said. 'You cut out from this afternoon, just
before 4.58 it was when I said that to you and you consented...I heard
the Horse Guards clock...To now...Cut it out; and join time up...It
_can_ be done...You know they do it surgically; for some illness;
cut out a great length of the bowel and join the tube up...For colitis, I
think...

She said:

'But I _wouldn't_ cut it out...It was the first spoken sign.'

He said:

'No it wasn't...From the very beginning...with every word...'

She exclaimed:

'You felt that...Too!...We've been pushed, as in a carpenter's vice...We
couldn't have got away...He said: 'By God! That's it...'

He suddenly saw a weeping willow in St James's Park; 4.59! He had just
said: 'Will you be my mistress to-night?' She had gone away, half left,
her hands to her face...A small fountain; half left. That could be
trusted to keep on for ever...

Along the lake side, sauntering, swinging his crooked stick, his
incredibly shiny top-hat perched sideways, his claw-hammer coat tails,
very long, flapping out behind, in dusty sunlight, his magpie pince-nez
gleaming, had come, naturally, Mr Ruggles. He had looked at the girl;
then down at Tietjens, sprawled on his bench. He had just touched the
brim of his shiny hat. He said:

'Dining at the club to-night?...'

Tietjens said: 'No; I've resigned.'

With the aspect of a long-billed bird chewing a bit of putridity, Ruggles
said:

'Oh, but we've had an emergency meeting of the committee...the committee
was sitting...and sent you a letter asking you to reconsider...

Tietjens said:

'I know...I shall withdraw my resignation to-night...And resign again
to-morrow morning.'

Ruggles' muscles had relaxed for a quick second, then they stiffened.

'Oh, I say!' he had said. 'Not that...You couldn't do that...Not to the
_club!_...It's never been done...It's an insult...

'It's meant to be,' Tietjens said. 'Gentlemen shouldn't be expected to
belong to a club that has certain members on its committee.'

Ruggles' deepish voice suddenly grew very high. 'Eh, I say, you know!' he
squeaked.

Tietjens hid said:

'I'm not vindictive...But I _am_ deadly tired: of all old women and
their chatter.'

Ruggles had said:

'I don't...' His face had become suddenly dark brown, scarlet and then
brownish purple. He stood droopingly looking at Tietjens' boots.

'Oh! Ah! Well!' he said at last. 'See you at Macmaster's to-night...A
great thing, his knighthood. First-class man.'

That had been the first Tietjens had heard of Macmaster's knighthood; he
had missed looking at the honours list of that morning. Afterwards,
dining alone with Sir Vincent and Lady Macmaster, he had seen, pinned up,
a back view of the Sovereign doing something to Vincent; a photo for next
morning's papers. From Macmaster's embarrassed hushings of Edith Ethel's
explanation that the honour was for special services of a specific kind
Tietjens guessed both the nature of Macmaster's service and the fact that
the little man hadn't told Edith Ethel who, originally, had done the
work. And--just like his girl--Tietjens had let it go at that. He didn't
see why poor Vincent shouldn't have that little bit of prestige at
home--under all the monuments! But he hadn't--though through all the
evening Macmaster, with the solicitude and affection of a cringing
Italian greyhound, had hastened from celebrity to celebrity to hang over
Tietjens, and although Tietjens knew that his friend was grieved and
appalled, like any woman, at his, Tietjens', going out again to
France--Tietjens hadn't been able to look Macmaster again in the
face...He had felt ashamed. He had felt, for the first time in his life,
ashamed!

Even when he, Tietjens, had slipped away from the party--to go to his
good fortune!--Macmaster had come panting down the stairs, running after
him, through guests coming up. He had said:

'Wait...You're not going...I want to...' With a miserable and appalled
glance he had looked up the stairs; Lady Macmaster might have come out
too. With his black, short beard quivering and his wretched eyes turned
down, he had said:

'I wanted to explain...This miserable knighthood...'

Tietjens patted him on the shoulder, Macmaster being on the stairs above
him.

'It's all right, old man,' he had said--and with real affection: 'We've
powlered up and down enough for a little thing like that not to...I'm
very glad...'

Macmaster had whispered:

'And Valentine...She's not here to-night...'

He had exclaimed:

'By God!...If I thought..' Tietjens had said: 'It's all right. It's all
right. She's at another party...I'm going on...'

Macmaster had looked at him doubtingly and with misery, leaning over and
clutching the clammy banisters.

'Tell her...' he said...'Good God! You may be killed...I beg you...I beg
you to believe...I will...Like the apple of my eye...In the swift glance
that Tietjens took of his face he could see that Macmaster's eyes were
full of tears.

They both stood looking down at the stone stairs for a long time.

Then Macmaster had said: 'Well...'

Tietjens had said: 'Well...2 But he hadn't been able to look at
Macmaster's eyes, though he had felt his friend's eyes pitiably exploring
his own face...'A backstairs way out of it,' he had thought; a queer
thing that you couldn't look in the face of a man you were never going to
see again!

'But by God,' he said to himself fiercely, when his mind came back again
to the girl in front of him, 'this isn't going to be another backstairs
exit...I must tell her...I'm damned if I don't make an effort...

She had her handkerchief to her face.

'I'm always crying,' she said...'A little bubbling spring that can be
trusted to keep on...

He looked to the right and to the left. Ruggles or General Someone with
false teeth that didn't fit _must_ be coming along. The street with its
sooty boskage was clean, empty and silent. She was looking at him. He
didn't know how long he had been silent, he didn't know where he had
been; intolerable waves urged him towards her.

After a long time he said:

'Well...'

She moved back. She said:

'I won't watch you out of sight...It is unlucky to watch anyone out of
sight...But I will never...I will never cut what you said then out of my
memory...' She was gone; the door shut. He had wondered what she would
never cut out of her memory. That he had asked her that afternoon to be
his mistress?...

He had caught, outside the gates of his old office, a transport lorry
that had given him a lift to Holborn...



THE END





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